Dreaming FAQ

I was interviewed by a middle school student last year, and recently found the manuscript. I”m going to publish it here because she asked so many great questions about the current state of dream studies. The interview was a real education for me about how young people have the keen ability to seek out the blind spots in our theories and knowledge about dreams.

When are you interested in dream for the first time and why?
I wrote my first dream down at age 11, and have had a consistent interest in dreams since age 15. My early dreams were both exciting and scary, and I was not satisfied with most people’s answer “it’s just a dream, it doesn’t matter.”

Do people always dream when they are in sleep or can there be someone who doesn’t dream at all?
Current research suggests that everyone dreams every night, but not everyone remembers these dreams. However, there are many sleep disorders that makes it difficult to get much dreamtime, as well as conditions where dreamers act out their dreams violently while they sleep. The average sleeper has about 90 minutes of dreams a night, but if they live in a culture that does not appreciate these dreams, they are less likely to remember them.

I heard that some people have dreams in black and white? Why is that so while life around us is always in color?
This is a confusing matter. It is difficult to discern because dream recall is unreliable about color in dreams. However, recent laboratory research indicates that about 80% of dreams have some significant, or “striking” color. Check out Robert Hoss’s research for more on dreams and color:www.dreamscience.org

Can blind people dream when they do not see anything but dark?
The congenitally blind (those who have been blind since birth) report narrative dreams with specific content but it is difficult to tell if this content is “seen” or “known.” They also report imageless dreams as well. (There is some interesting related research about blind sight during near death experiences).

What is the cause of the nightmare? I heard that some parents said the nightmare is one of processing for children’s growth” If it is true, is it good for having nightmare or bad?
This is a highly debated topic in dream science! I believe that nightmares are important, even though they are unpleasant. I would agree that they are part of psychological growth, as a way of getting us to pay attention to something that needs resolution or healing. Jeremy Taylor, a dream researcher often jokes, “You had a nightmare” How lucky!” He means that this is an opportunity for psychological growth.

About the lucid dream: Could you intentionally have lucid dream in which you can control its contents or it is just unexpected when you have lucid dream?
Many people can decide to have lucid dreams on specific nights (known as “dream incubation”) and others have them spontaneously. Control of the dream is over-rated in lucid dreaming ” it is impossible to fully control every aspect of a dream. Really lucid dreaming is about being self-aware that “this is a dream!” and having more self-control and decision-making power. Manipulating dreams is still possible, but difficult to regulate.

So, someone can decide to dream a new setting, or meet a new dream figure of their choosing, but they don’t always anticipate what comes next! That is the beauty of lucid dreaming ” it is a balance between making thoughtful decisions (such as facing something scary) and being open to the unknown of the dream.

There are dream journals people talk about, how could people write about dream that they don’t remember after waking” Why can some people remember their dreams while others can’t?
Keeping a dream journal is the best way I know to start remembering more dreams. Select one that you like and use it only for dreams. Keep it private, and next to your bed. When you wake up in the middle of the night, use a light pen or a small book lamp and write down the aspects of the dream that you remember.

If you don’t remember many dreams, sometimes at first these are just feelings (sad, anxious, safe, etc) or vague feelings of being somewhere familiar (an old house you lived in as a child, school, etc) or even just a bit of color or a single image. Start here and don’t worry that these aren’t huge elaborate dreams that other people tell. Over time, you are training your waking mind to remember dreams and you will remember more of them.

Personally, I have kept a dream journal since I was 15. I don’t always write down my dreams, because I have so many that I”d be writing all day! So I pick the ones that are most unusual, or emotional.

We read a lot of story in novels that people have premeditation through dream. Can dream predict the future? Is that what other call d j vu?
Great question! There is lots of research on dreams and premeditation and telepathy. Many people have had predictive dreams, but it is difficult to isolate it in a way that has been accepted by the scientific community. Some dreams play out future scenerios that are likely, so they aren’t necessarily evidence of psi. I recommend looking into the work of Stanley Krippner, Robert van de Castle, and the Maimonides Project on Paranormal Dreams.

D j vu is may be a related topic ” the experience of feeling like “I”ve been here before, this has happened before. This could be a memory of a similar dream, but it is difficult to prove! Many cultures around the world (and throughout history) accept that dreams warn of the future, connect people who are separated by large distances, and allow contact with ancestors and the deep past.

So at the end of the day, it may be about what you believe and think is possible. If you keep an open mind, there is a great chance of experiencing some of these things.

A lot of dream interpretation books in bookstore say things like “Whenever you take an oath in your dream, prepare for dissension and altercations on waking.” Where do these interpretation come from” Do you think dream interpretations are reliable or are they just for fun?
I would be wary of easy dream interpretations from a book, although dream dictionaries are a good starting place. Different cultures interpret dream symbols in different ways, so it depends on the individual’s culture.

There are some reliable “universal” dream symbols that seem to be consistent across the world ” check out Patricia Garfield’s book The Universal Dream Key: The 12 Most Common Dream Themes Around the World. Other dream symbols can be very personal and individual, so no book can tell you their significance. That is a mystery best left only to you and those who know you best.

In the future, do you think it is possible that there could be computers that show what peoples” dream like which we can see in the movies (example: Minority report)?
To be honest, I hope not!! Watch the Japanese anime film “Paprika” for a great example of how this could be a bad idea. Science so far has had great success at describing and locating the “exteriors” of thoughts, by which I mean the physical and electrochemical signs of thoughts, but science still can not get “inside” a person’s thoughts or dreams. Partially, this is because many scientists do not believe there is an “inside.”

This is what makes consciousness research so interesting to me. At the end, only we as individuals can “see” the world as we see it.



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