Counseling and Enrichment Center - O'Neill, Norfolk, Verdigre, Sioux City, Kearney, Northeast Nebraska

                                        "Keep On Dreaming"

Those beautiful, wacky and sometimes scary nighttime scenarios have powerful magic.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans spend more than two hours dreaming each night (with the most vivid dreams occurring during REM sleep). Dreams serve an important role in our mental health.

For instance, research has revealed that dreams can:

Help you understand new experiences. REM dreams link new events to old ones, putting them in context. For example, if you’re feeling anxious about your job, you may dream about another anxious time, like when you were taking a test in college. “It’s almost like the old card-catalog system in libraries,” says David Linden, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore. “Dreams consolidate our recent memories and cross-reference them with older ones so that we can better understand what’s going on. This explains why dreams so often incorporate elements from our past.”

Prepare you for change. Dreams can be a rehearsal for new challenges. When a person in love dreams about weddings or an athlete dreams about competitions, this helps the dreamer mentally prepare for the future. Says Cartwright, “Your brain is taking this ‘emotionally hot’ material and helping you process it so that you can better deal with it when you’re awake.”

Help you cope with trauma or loss. Cartwright studied people going through divorces and found that those who were the most depressed in their waking lives had the flattest, least emotional dreams, while those who were managing well had highly expressive, furious dreams, complete with scenes of throwing objects at their soon-to-be exes.

Be a form of self-therapy. Dreams mitigate stress. Dreaming is like having your own internal therapist because you associate, through your dreams, to previous similar feelings and your brain works through the emotions related to the new stressor so that it is reduced by morning.

The following are some common dreams that most humans have experienced and their interpretations. 

The Dream - you are flying:  When you feel exuberant and in command of your destiny, you fly far above the landscape.  People universally report such flying dreams as enjoyable.

The Dream - you are being chased:  Being stalked or chased by a malevolent person or animal is the single most common bad dream among children and adults. It can mean you are afraid of others who have bad intentions or fear of a part of your own personality you are avoiding.

The Dream – you missed the exam.  You show up in a classroom for a test, but everyone else is leaving and you’re too late, or you never studied and are unprepared, or you haven’t been to the class all semester.  Such dreams are common among people who care about achievement and most often mean internally, you feel you didn’t live up to your potential.

The Dream – you are naked in public.  Nude dreams may represent shame or worry about social acceptance or a performance evaluation at school or work.  They can also indicate a memory of something you are embarrassed about or wish you could take back.

Not all dreams are life-changers.  Surprising insights can and will hit you after an inspiring or crazy dream, however some dreams, just like waking thoughts, are mundane and trivial.  You can unlock the clues to your dream by:

1) Remembering it – Dream images live only in short term memory and are easily lost so as soon as you realize you are waking up, you must review the plot and images of your dream before you think about anything else to store it in long-term memory.

2) Write it down – Keep a small notepad and by the bed and just jot down the most vivid images.

3) Let it simmer – reread your descriptions and think about what your internal therapist might be telling you and 4) Follow your heart – Your dreams can help you resolve issues and solve problems.  Ask others for their opinions if desired, but don’t be swayed by their interpretations.  Your own insight is the only one that matters for you.

From The Desk of Julie Lingenfelter