Connect with your inner self by analysing your dreams
All of us dream, whether you wake each morning to recall some kind of strange storyline having gone on in the night or hardly ever remember what was going on in your head as you slept.
However, have you ever stopped to think carefully about your dreams and what they actually mean? If not, it might be worth starting to, as dreams can offer a unique insight into your sub-conscious mind and even your goals and aspirations.
Below, you'll find our brief guide to dream interpretation and some further information you might find useful in starting you on your journey towards investigating your night-time self.
What is the science behind dreaming?
We thought it might be useful to include the biological background of dreaming, since it isn't something that just happens – it's the result of complex interactions in our brain, the most complex organ there ever was. So, here comes the science part.
During sleep, the primary visual cortex is disabled because your eyes are closed and so no messages are coming in that way. However, the secondary visual cortex – which is the interpreter – remains active as it tries to make sense of the pictures your brain is making.
Meanwhile, the hippocampus and fornix are hugely active because they deal with your emotions – that's why you can feel things like sadness and joy in dreams to the extent that they seem real.
At the same time, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is in a dormant state. This is important because that's the part of the brain that deals with logic. We don't have logic activated during dream-time, which is why we can dream about bumping into Colin Firth in the local supermarket and think nothing of it at the time – it's only when we wake up that these things appear weird.
Contrary to popular belief, we can dream during non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep, but we're less likely to remember those dreams because they don't usually occur close to waking up.
Why do we dream?
What we're more interested in for the purposes of this article is why we might dream about marrying a celebrity – and unfortunately, this is something psychologists and other experts are still theorising about.
Sigmund Freud thought dreams were all about wish fulfilment, while Carl Jung felt they were more about expressing repressed desires.
Today, we tend towards the school of thought that dreams are an opportunity to mull things over and communicate between the conscious and unconscious mind – they mean we can test potentially painful experiences or emotions while in a safe place.
That's why dream analysis can help to give you a better insight into your thoughts – you can spot common themes and topics that might be playing on your mind during the day and start to address them.
How to interpret your dreams
It's really easy to begin dream analysis – all you need is a notebook to keep beside your bed. It might also be useful to provide yourself with a few extra moments of recollection time each morning by setting your alarm slightly earlier than usual.
As soon as you wake up, take your notebook, write the date and then jot down anything you recall about your dreams the night before. Write down how they made you feel, who was in them and any other details you can remember. This usually has the effect of opening the floodgates and helping you to recall more than you thought – it aids the 'breaking' of dreams you sometimes experience randomly in the daytime as something or someone jogs your memory.
It may also help to make another column alongside your dream diary to record any significant events during your waking life. For example, you could record important meetings at work, family occasions or obligations you might have to meet.
This can help you link up your dreams with things that have been on your mind in the daytime, even if they aren't immediately obvious as being related.
Next, you can go back over your dream diary and look for common themes and any recurring dreams, as these are the ones that are most likely to have meanings. For instance, if you frequently dream of pursuing someone but being unable to catch up, are you worried about having too much on your plate and too little time in which to do it?
Trust your instincts
Many people will reach for a dream dictionary at this point and while they might be useful, they're no substitute for trusting your instincts and interpreting your dreams based on the context of your own life.
Universal symbols do exist and these can be looked up if you're not sure about what a particular item or person symbolises, but you're better off looking at the bigger picture to get information that could really help you.
To give you an example, our dream dictionary lists witnessing a plane crash as feeling a loss of control. This doesn't mean too much on its own, but if you take it in the context of being snowed under at work and wondering idly about holiday childcare, then it suddenly acquires much more meaning.
Also, don't assume your dreams mean the same thing as your colleagues' or friends' – their background and context could be completely different, so trust your own instincts and take it with a pinch of salt when they confidently assure you what last night's message indicates.
Get help if you need it
Dream interpretation can be difficult, so don't worry if you get a bit stuck – you can always contact one of our experts here at PsychicsOnline for a little extra guidance.