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What Do Our Dreams Mean? Psychologists Have Different Answers

What Do Our Dreams Mean? Psychologists Have Different Answers

Are dreams pathways of realms into the ‘beyond’?

Are dreams the subconscious mind relaying special messages?

Are dreams an artifact of the brain on ‘night shift’ duty?

For a long time, dream has been under the radar of many scientists. It has been such a mythical phenomenon that many would like to know more about. More importantly, many of us are curious about the answer to the question “Why do we dream?”.

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There is no certainty about the actual function of sleep or dreams. And everybody dreams, yet memories of dreams remembered varies.

What do dreams do to us? Do they serve any purposes at all?

This is a question that remains unanswered. The speculations and theories continue.

A common theory is that sleep and dreams work as a team, helping the brain to refresh and restore after capturing millions of inputs each day. The inputs are sensory details that may be minor like colours and major mind boggling details like those in seminars or presentations. While sleeping, the brain sifts through the information and refines it, keeping what is needed and disposing content into the recycle and trash compartments. Researchers have speculated that dreams are a tool in this process.

Dreaming is the protoconscious state. This occurs during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. It also occurs at other stages including the fourth stage of sleep ( Slow Wave Sleep-SWS). This is the deepest stage of sleep. Studies shown dreams vary according to sleep stage they occur in. Most dreams are reported during the REM stage. [1]

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    Emerging neuroscience views insinuate that dreams are linked to memory consolidation that occurs during sleep. These many include recording and organising memories according to emotional drives as well as transferring memories between regions in the brain.

    Daytime episodic memories are stored in the hippocampus region. This is the long term memory section of the brain that is for quick learning. At night they get transferred to the processing, knowledge and cognition section, the cerebral cortex. [2]

    Studies have revealed that hippocampus neural activity replays day events. This is faster than real time and happens in a reverse motion. The replay activity correlates with neutral patterns of activity in the prefrontal (goals planning and strategy) and the visual cortex (visual experiences).[3]

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    This memory replay occurs during the REM sleep stage where dreaming occurs. [4]

    Is there Association between dreams and the Subconscious?

    About the subconscious and dreams…..let us look into the bizarre realm of dreams. Question is, is it the brain attempting to make sense of signals that are generated in the memory consolidation phase, the model of activation-synthesis as Alan Hobson (Harvard) suggests?

    Do dreams mean anything at all?

    Searching for the meaning of dreams has been an ongoing venture through many ages. A random cacophony of memory fragmentation is not satisfying and unlikely for many.

    Interpretations of dreams are usually coded in terms of beliefs, motivations and symbols that have to mean to the dreamer. Imagine that the process of memory consolidation is not actually random, it is focused on experiences in the past and then goals that are biologically determined. Motivational tensions then surface content of dreams [5]

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    “People who hold dream experiences in great esteem may be correctly affirming the importance of affective information that is encoded through our ancient emotional urges for the proper conduct of our waking activities… the REM system may now allow ancient emotional impulses to be integrated with the newer cognitive skills of the more recently evolved brain waking systems. This could help explain many striking attributes of REM sleep, ranging from its heavy emotional content to its apparent functions of enhancing learning and solidifying memory consolidation.” [6]

    So dream content may not be our subconscious relaying messages to us. Dream analysis may reveal an underlying structure of motivational forces that drive our vision of choices and life strategy.

    “reflect an attempt, on the part of the brain, to identify and evaluate novel cortical associations in the light of emotions mediated by limbic structures activated during REM.” In other words, the brain is trying to interlink our experiences of the world with our emotional drives”. [7]

    Dreams may be a tool for the brain to explore situations that are hypothetical in an abstract way to refine strategies for future action. The images in dreams could be a result of the sense making program that processes signals that are generated by internal systems of motivation that are not constrained by any sensory input.

    In simple terms, the imagery of dreams could the brain making sense of the ” test patterns” generated by the brain.

    Reference

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    Nena Tenacity

    Screenwriter ∕ Filmmaker

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    Last Updated on January 6, 2019

    Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

    Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

    No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

    People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

    But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

    If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

    Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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    Pain Is Our Guardian

    Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

    In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

    Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

    While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

    Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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    No Pain, No Happiness

    You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

    In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

    In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

    This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

    Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

    Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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    This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

    Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

    Allow Room for the Inevitable

    Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

    Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

    “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

    Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

    The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

    While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

    Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

    Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

    To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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    You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

    [1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
    [2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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