E-Mail to a Young Dream Researcher
Often I receive requests from those wanting help with their school projects or research. Here then are questions sent by a young man researching the nature of dreams.
Thank you very much for your help! The questions are listed below:
1. What do you think about Freud's initial assessment of dreams as revelations of subconscious desires? Do you agree with Freud in his findings (i.e. The Interpretation of Dreams)?
2. Some studies argue that the body paralyzes its ambulatory muscles in order to allow us to dream safely; that is, to prevent us from physically acting out our dreams in our sleep. Do you believe there is a link between muscle paralysis during REM sleep and dreams? If so, why do you think our bodies facilitate safe dreaming?
3. What do you believe is the best counterargument to those who argue that dreams are random and have no meaning?
4. Why do you believe that we forget such an astounding portion of most of our dreams within minutes of waking up?
5. What do you believe is the significance of recurring dreams?
6. The thesis statement for my research paper is: "Dreams are not simply meaningless manifestations of random neuron impulses and memories; rather, they are profound attempts of the subconscious mind to communicate with the conscious mind."
Mr Hagen's Reply: E-Mail to a Young Dream Researcher
As a young man attending the University of Zurich, I was for a while going out with an attractive law student. We often talked about our dreams. She once made mention during our various conversations that I sounded at times like Rainer Maria Rilke. At the time of the conversation I did not know Rilke's work, today I do. It is in this poetic voice of Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" that I answer the questions that you ask.
1. Freud's real insight into understanding dreams was twofold; first he understood that dreams have a meaningful structure. The counterargument of many is that dreams are meaningless. Second, that dreams could be studied from a scientific and medical perspective. Freud's medical idea that dreams were primarily driven by unconscious desire was a result of his researches into his own and his patient's dreams. Carl Jung admits in his autobiography; "As early as 1900 I had read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams. I had laid the book aside, at the time, because I did not grasp it yet." For me, Freud's "Interpretation" is a veritable gold mine of insight into what lies below the tip of the iceberg of psychological processing. With only a few exceptions like Karl Pribram, and Morton Gill, (1976) "Freud's 'Project' re-assessed" have researchers seriously reviewed Freud's pioneeding work. Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" provides a rudimentary understanding of neural networks 50 years before Donald Hebb published Organization of Behaviour. In my opinion, dreams reorganize our neural networks . William Domhoff Scientific Study of Dreams provides a clear direction in researching this scientific paradigm.
2. If our muscles were not inhibited we would physically "act out" our dream. The ocular muscles are not inhibited, that's why we call it REM. There are sleep disorders where the musculature is not inhibited, you can imagine the resultant complications in bed. Some people awake while there body musculature is still inhibited (watch video) which can be a very scary experience. As the video mentions dreaming is an evolutionary process. You can read my thoughts on the evolution of dreaming.
3. For those that think that dreams have no meaning or function, I would love to take them to a sleep lab for one week. I would deprive them of REM sleep for that week. While it would give me no pleasure to watch them slowly turn psychotic, it would in fact probably make me feel sad, because so many are so arrogant when it comes to their failing knowledge and misunderstandings surrounding dreams and the process of dreaming. I guess ignorance is bliss, it took me a long time to accept that people have a right to be ignorant. Of course there are limits to that idea as you can imagine.
4. Forgetting is necessary, so we do not spend our day in the surreal world of dreams as much as that might be appealing. Lost in the fantasy of Wonderland or Neverland is the stuff childhood is often made of. Most likely artists spend a great deal more time than most ruminating about their dreams.
5. If you go to the IIDR website you can find many recurring dreams. The film Groundhog Day (read IIDR interpretation) starring Bill Murray provides an archetypal clue.
6. A thesis provides the basis for the philosophical process. The keyword that I find in your sixth question is the word "profound", as an adjective the word means "extending below the surface", as a noun it means, "the vast depth of the ocean or the mind". I believe from a philosophical perspective that the dream provides a profound unified model of the mind and nature.
In closing, I provide a quote from Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet";
"So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty-describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember."
Sounds very profound to me.