Meaning and Purpose of Dreams Research Paper

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Dreams, Why Do We Have Them and What Do They Mean

Origins and Significance

The main causes of dream have been assigned to two major thoughts-natural and supernatural. The natural cause has further been categorized as psychological and physiological.

Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley have in 1970, during the sleep period called Rapid Eye Movement suggested that the visual as well as emotional brain parts get into action. Any other sensation, whether physiological or pertaining to the sensory organs get together with this front lobe activation to create into a wholesome dream sequence or event. For example a banging sound of any kind in the real-time world around him along with an associated recapitulation of distant past happening where the person was in a school even as he enters his REM stage in sleep combine and may engender a dream of observing a parade along with the same rhythmic banging as if, of drums in the parade. Hobson has actually chosen to dissociate dreams from any other psychological relevance that to augment memories. Amongst the earliest proponents known, of this line of physiological connection of dreams is Aristotle, the philosopher. He chose to call dreams as a later rendition of the perceptions of the senses.

The other line of thought under the natural category of dream theory, psychological, is earliest recorded to have been proposed by Plato who suggested that a dream of a person can be an indicator of his character.

In more modern studies, psychological angle further branches off into two schools of thought. One, that dreams are harbingers of things to come, or that they connote a certain possibility, and two, that assert that dreaming is only thinking on a different plane. There is nothing more to it than that. According to Sigmund Freud (Die Trautumtung, 1900; The interpretations of Dreams, 1913), the content of the dream has to be analyzed to find the meaning it seeks to make in real life situation. David Folulkes (dreaming: A Cognitive-Psychological Analysis, 1985) refuse to render any meaning to the content of the dream whatsoever. He categorically sates that dreams are an amalgamation of sensory perceptions experienced during wakefulness. It has been surmised by him that the association of the cognitive experiences are linked in a way so as to make a more whole comprehensible sequence or chain of events tied loosely together.

One of the most commonplace understanding or explanation of dreams that was dominant in ancient times was that of spirits, Gods or any other supernatural visit to a person in his dream and providing freedom from any physical or other ailment or malice. This form of healing was sought by imbibing a dream with a dream and was purely spiritual in nature. The most evident proofs have been found to be in the existence of vast number of shrines and worship places built to enable practicing of this study and proliferation. As long as dreams are concerned, the Biblical references including Bible itself abound in treating it as a supernatural, spiritual healing device of the Gods. In almost a score of chapter's more than 100 verses enumerate and relate to dreams as an explicitly spiritual healing process. Physical healing associations with dreams have been stoutly denied. The Bible, also at the same time cites instances of contradictory views with Abimelech being spoken to by God as can be seen in the First Testament (Genesis 20:6) as also with Josephin as described in New Testament's first book itself Matthew, 1:20). The exact opposite that there is nothing divine in the occurrence of a dream can be seen both by Solomon (Ecclesiastes5:7) and Jeremiah (23:25-32) (Chara, 2014).

Current Studies and Findings

According to an Australian researcher, Prof Dew Dawson, it is wholly possible that dream is an important piece of mental exercise or device that effectively sieves information collected by cognitive process and chooses to store selectively the important ones and discard redundant ones. This point-of-view of Dr. Dawson of the famed Centre for Sleep Research, University of South Australia was found in The Daily Telegraph. In the same breath it has been further explained that by preventing a person from dreaming during his sleep after being asked to carry out a formidable mental assignment, we could be, depriving him of the rest that sleep achieves. Dr. Dawson cautions not to mistake Rapid Eye Movement for deep sleep. Quite on the contrary, he goes on to suggest that Rapid Eye Movement follows deep sleep. The sleeping cycle has been explained as a cycle of a period of deep sleep followed by dreams. There could be many such cycles with alternating sleep and dream periods during a normal sleep duration of a person, it was said.

The patterns of the waves of the brain studied during a dream and while awake were found to be alike. Using this it came to be believed in academic circles that dreaming was a survival instinct mechanism. That Dreaming is an activity to keep the brain alert and responsive, it was inferred. Aiding this theory, Dr. Dawson stated that sleeping deeply the whole night may prevent people from responding to any eventuality and interspersed dreaming helps break the elongated deep sleep stretch. Most of the mammals were found to dream in a study. However it was uncertain, he says, that cats and dogs, however, dreamt visual images. It simply can't be ascertained he opined.

To add to this knowledge, Dr. Stuart Baulk that dream period in the sleep cycle is accompanied by altered muscle toning that effectively renders man paralytic and incapable of movement.

The distinction between real life and cognition and dream images gets blurred when a person experiencing sleep paralysis wakes up during the dream-sleep period (this was published by HT Syndication courtesy Asian News International, 2010).

Similarities between Dreaming and Waking

The workings of the brain when in a state of dream-sleep and when fully awakened need to be evaluated for their similarities and the way in which they may differ. These observations then be applied to the respective activities and responses of the neural arrangement in the two sates of consciousness- wakeful and dream can establish the interrelations between the two. It is but obvious that dreams are manifested by the cognitive and neural apparatus of the brain.

Most of the dreams are influenced by the wakeful cognitive sensations and experiences. The dreams are full of those very objects and environment as well as feelings that are felt in wakefulness. All the senses that can be perceived during wakeful consciousness like smell, touch, taste sight and sound can and do appear in some scale or the other during the dream consciousness. As such it can be safely concluded that dreams are not to be taken as an abstract happening. Fear, pleasure, joy and sadness can all be experienced in a dream.

The various tests that were carried out during Rapid Eye Movement state and compared with those of the same Electroencephalogram (EEG) tests performed during wakefulness showed no apparent difference in the activity of the brain. The similarities of the two sates of consciousness were supported by these studies. As a further proof of likeness of brain activity in the two states, Positron Emission Test (PET) the metabolism of the brain isn't much separated when in wakefulness and in REM state. In REM sleep the occipito-temporal visual cortex is as highly activated as should be given the fact that dreams are so visually rich.

The rendering of the cognitive as well as sensory perceptions during waking period and dreaming are also found to be quite in agreement. The cognitive escalation in children is seen to be accompanied by a similar growth in their dream experiences. Likewise those afflicted with brain injury and with reduced cognitive capabilities have been found to have a corresponding shift in their dream pattern, too.

The most common things that can be found to influence dreams are the ones that most influence the real lives led. Some of the prominent ones being, state of mind, vision and imagination power, people they show interest in (either way) and the most important things that dominate their thinking in real life. Dreams of people have been found to be in agreement with their real life aptitudes, attitudes, likings, and disliking. Anxieties and concerns of trivial or serious nature that may also involve social interaction issues like reaching late for an exam, getting lost in a crowd or separated from family etc., have been found to find their way into dreams. It has been found that during adulthood across all barriers, the dreams are more or less stable and of similar nature. That dreams do differ very largely from real life experiences, despite the innumerable similarities is a fact that cannot be denied. And that dreams are pleasurable. This variety too is reflected in the neuro-physiological domain (Nir & Giuilo, 2010).

Synthesis

In as much as dream experiences vary so do the types of dreams. It is however not possible…

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