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Most Important Things to Know
about Dreams

 


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Dream Topics
click on the subject below:

*Most-asked Questions About Dreams
*Essential things You Need to Know about Nightmares
*Most Important Things to Know about Dream Symbols
*Common Health Dream Symbols
*Ways Men and Womens Dream Symbols are Different
*Things You Need to Know about Being Awake While Asleep
*Ways to Remember your Dreams
*The Four Main Stages of Sleep


THE 10 MOST-ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DREAMS

Q. DOES EVERYBODY DREAM?

A. Yes. Current research shows that virtually all mammals dream, even though no one is absolutely certain why. Everyone has from four to five dreams every night of our lives, to the tune of about 1,000 or more a year.

Q. I NEVER REMEMBER MY DREAMS. WHAT'S WRONG?

A. First, not remembering dreams is perfectly normal. When an adult no longer remembers dreaming it usually just means one of several things:
As a child, you had particularly vivid dreams, especially nightmares, and at some point you simply told yourself that you weren't going to remember these terrifying dreams anymore.
As an adult, you may have experienced some deep emotional trauma, and you're afraid that if you remember your dreams, the trauma is what you'll dream about. Someone told you dreams are nonsense, so you decided not to waste any time on them.

Q. WHAT'S THE EASIEST WAY TO REMEMBER MY DREAMS?

A. You have to want to remember them more than you don't. It's really that simple. Tell yourself as you're drifting off to sleep, “Tonight I remember a dream”, or “As I wake, I remember a dream”, or something similar -- but all instructions to your subconscious mind must be in present tense terms -- no “I want's” or “I should's”. And keep at it. It has taken some people as long as three or more months to get back into remembering dreams on any regular basis. Joining a dream group can help, too.

Q. DO DREAMS REALLY MEAN SOMETHING, OR ARE MOST OF THEM JUST LEFTOVER PIZZA?

A. All of your dreams have meaning -- nothing is in your dream by accident. While this doesn't mean that all dreams are great cosmic messages from beyond, they really are parts of you trying very hard to communicate with the awake you.

Q. IS IT TRUE THAT PEOPLE DREAM IN COLOR?

A. Yes. Since most of your dreams take place in the alpha brain wave state, your dreams are in color. If you don't remember the color, it most likely just means that the color of something wasn't particularly important to you in the dream. When you do remember color, it becomes an important symbol all on its own. What colors are you most aware of when you're awake? Why? Are they the same or different from the colors in your dreams?

Q. WHEN I WAKE UP FROM A NIGHTMARE I SOMETIMES PANIC BECAUSE I CAN'T MOVE. IS SOMETHING WRONG?

A. No. Feeling unable to move or scream in a dream or as you wake from a bad dream is very common, especially during childhood and adolescence. When you're dreaming you are in stage three sleep; and during stage three your physical body is all but paralyzed. On top of this, your physical brain doesn't know it's dreaming -- it thinks your dream is actually taking place -- so it reacts the same way it would if you were wide awake.

Q. SOMETIMES I WAKE UP EXHAUSTED. CAN MY DREAMS BE INVOLVED?

A. Yes, of course. Research shows that your brain can't tell the difference between a waking event and one that you're dreaming. So if you spend the night running or working or moving furniture in your dreams, you can definitely wake up tired. However, if you wake up tired most of the time, it couldn't hurt to get a good check-up from the medical expert of your choice.

Q. I'VE HAD THE SAME DREAM MANY TIMES. IS THIS COMMON, AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

A. Since dreams are first and foremost about your deep feelings, it makes sense that you'd dream up the same scenes to express the same feelings. Think of the last time before this one that you remember having a recurring dream. What was going on in your life at that time that makes you feel the same way now? And how about the time before that? What do these feelings have in common? What's the main underlying emotion of the dream? And what does it make you think of first? As to what the dream means -- well, that's a whole `nother story.

Q. IN MY DREAMS I'M OFTEN RUNNING AWAY FROM SOMETHI NG WHICH TERRIFIES ME. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

A. Running away is one of the most common dream actions. What is going on in your life at the time of the dream that some part of you is afraid of and wants to escape or run away from? What happens if what's chasing you catches you? And, remember, when you run away from something, you are at the same time running toward something else. What would make you feel safe in the dream? What does all of this remind you of going on in your life at the time?

Q. SOMETIMES IN MY DREAMS I'M WEARING CLOTHES I NEVER WEAR WHEN I'M AWAKE. DO CLOTHES HAVE SPECIAL MEANING?

A. Clothes often symbolize the different parts you play, the way you see yourself at the time of the dream -- or the way you'd like to be. So, if you're wearing clothes different from ones you would normally wear, they could be showing you how some part of you would like to appear, or even how some part of you is trying to disguise itself -- from you or others. Specifically how are the clothes different? What kind of person would wear these clothes? How is that the same as or different from the way you are? What level of society would accept this style? Which would not? Remind you of anything?

BONUS QUESTION: WHAT DOES MY DREAM MEAN?

A. Sorry -- nobody really knows the answer to that one but you.

 

 

SIX ESSENTIAL THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NIGHTMARES

YOUR PHYSICAL BRAIN BELIEVES WHAT IT SEES WHILE YOU ARE DREAMING. This is the single most important thing to remember about a dream that scares you. Since your sleeping brain thinks the action showing on your private movie screen is actually happening, it responds in the same way it would if you were wide awake. This turns out to be good news, not bad news, because it means that your brain will release all the right chemicals and hormones necessary to get you out of the situation that is terrifying you -- the real-life situation your nightmare symbolizes. So when you think about it this way, nightmares are one of the best ways to release stored up stress -- anger, fear, anxiety -- that you are probably not releasing or even acknowledging in any other way.

THERE ARE PEAK NIGHTMARE YEARS FOR ALL OF US. Nightmares are more common perfectly natural during childhood, again in the late teens, and sometimes early twenties. And then you will rarely have a fullblown roaring nightmare again. In general, this kind of dream is just reflecting the integration of your inner and outer world, the things going on in your life at the time that can seem bigger than life and more than a little overwhelming.

ALL DREAMS ARE SYMBOLIC -- INCLUDING YOUR NIGHTMARES. Each and every thing in your bad dream is a symbol for something going on in your life at the time of the dream. Action and being unable to take action are also symbols. There's a reason why you cast that specific monster or situation in your Hollywood extravaganza. What does the nightmare remind you of that is going on in your life at the time? What does it immediately make you think of?

YOUR BODY CAN'T MOVE WHEN YOU'RE IN STAGE 3 SLEEP, THE PLACE MOST DREAMS TAKE PLACE. This is what causes the terrifying feeling of being paralyzed, of being unable to run, fight, or shout, and moving in slow motion in your dream. It's also probably one of the reasons you sometimes wake up in a panic or cold sweat. Your brain (believing what it sees) is trying to get your body to move. Simple, huh?

HOW TO WRESTLE YOUR NIGHTMARES TO THE GROUND WHEN YOU ARE WIDE AWAKE AND FEELING SAFE, PRETEND THE THING THAT SCARED YOU IS WEARING A HALLOWEEN COSTUME, HAVE IT UNZIP THE SUIT -- AND SEE WHAT STEPS OUT. You'll often be very surprised, because it won't be what you expect at all. Remember that it's all a symbol.

SEE THINGS FROM THE MONSTER'S POINT OF VIEW. What does it want you to know? If it was writing the script to your private movie, what would it say?

 



THE SIX MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DREAM SYMBOLS

YOU CAN NEVER TAKE A SYMBOL OUT OF THE CONTEXT OF THE WHOLE DREAM OR EXPERIENCE. In other words, you can't just ask “What does a white dog mean?” You have to go beyond that to “What is this white dog doing? What else is going on in the dream or experience in connection to the white dog? How do I feel about that? Is that different from the way I usually respond to the same situation? How is this white dog different from other white dogs?”, etc.

EVERYTHING IN YOUR DREAM OR EXPERIENCE IS SYMBOLIC OF SOMETHING DEEPER WITHIN YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND PERCEPTION. While all cars are vehicles, for example, cars are very different from one another. Why do you drive the make, model, and color you do? Why do you prefer one transmission over another? What kind of person usually owns this car? What kind of person likes it? What kind of person doesn't? What does this say about how you see yourself at the time?, etc.

SYMBOLS ARE ABLE TO CARRY MUCH MORE INFORMATION AND EMOTION THAN WORDS EVER CAN -- AND OFTEN TOTALLY SUBLIMINALLY. You learned to think in pictures long before you learned to think in words. Symbols are not only universal, they are deeply individual. No one else has had exactly the same experiences you have had or thought exactly the same thoughts you have, in the same sequence. Which daily symbols of yours are your personal favorites? What emotions do they express? Which symbols make you uncomfortable? Why?

EVERYONE RESPONDS TO SYMBOLS - ALL OF THE TIME. Symbols are just forms or containers to hold enormous levels and quantities of feelings and thoughts. Everyone reacts to symbols every day, usually without being aware of what triggered the response at all, or that they have reacted to what was really just a symbol for something else.

SYMBOLS CAN BE QUESTIONED IN THE SAME WAY YOU WOULD ASK QUESTIONS OF A PERSON (and of course people are symbols, too). Have a conversation with the symbol. If it could speak, what would it say? If it could write its own lines, how would they change? How does it feel about being in your dream or experience? What does all of this remind you of first?

UNIVERSAL SYMBOLS ARE JUST SYMBOLS THAT HAVE THE SAME UNDERLYING OVERALL MESSAGE FOR ALMOST EVERYONE ON OUR PLANET. For instance, water is a “universal” symbol and has the same underlying meaning, but your water symbol will also have your own unique twist to it. How do you feel about water? What kind of water is it? Is it clear or murky? Calm or agitated? Do you like water? Why or why not?, etc.





NINE COMMON HEALTH DREAM SYMBOLS

BEING VIOLENTLY ATTACKED, WHETHER BY A PERSON, ANIMAL, OBJECT, OR THE ELEMENTS. Someone trying to break into your house or vehicle is one of the strongest warnings that some bacteria or virus is trying to invade, break into, your body. Beef up on your rest, nutrition, etc. immediately -- couldn't hurt.

DRIVING OR RIDING IN A VEHICLE AND SUDDENLY REALIZING THERE ARE NO BRAKES. This is a common dream symbol and usually means your emotions are running deeper than you think they are, that you feel in danger, out of control, and are afraid you're headed for a crash -- a crash you aren't able to stop. So in your dream, make the decision to STOP. And then when you're awake, immediately find out where this feeling of helplessness is coming from. (Couldn't hurt to have your brakes checked either).

CLINGING TO THE SIDE OF A CLIFF OR LEDGE OR FEELING YOU ARE ABOUT TO FALL FROM ANY GREAT HEIGHT. Another common dream symbol, it means pretty much what you think it does. What is going on in your life that would stir up this kind of feeling? It's not true, by the way, that if you see yourself go splat! that you die.

SPEEDING IN ANY TYPE OF VEHICLE, ESPECIALLY IF THE DRIVER DOESN'T SEEM TO BE HANDLING THE VEHICLE WELL. Often a clear message that some part of you feels you are moving too fast and perhaps recklessly. What does this remind you of that is going on in your life at the time?

A VIOLENT STORM APPROACHING. While this is a symbol of many other things, it can also be warning you about an approaching illness. What does the storm remind you of? How can you avoid it?

WATER BACKED UP, MUDDY, OR AGITATED. Water is an ancient universal symbol and often symbolizes deep emotions, life itself, consciousness, and the spirit -- and that's just for starters. So in a health context, backed up, muddy, or water in violent motion usually symbolizes emotions you aren't recognizing or dealing with efficiently -- emotions that are now in danger of causing physical symptoms. Specifically what type of water is backed up, etc., and what does that make you think of first?

A DESTROYING FIRE. This one is especially common just before or after surgery. Your physical body doesn't care much if the surgery is ultimately in its best survival interests -- it just knows it's being hurt. What specifically was destroyed by your dream fire?

PLANTS OR ANIMALS SICK OR DYING. What species of plant or animal is it? Why is it sick? What would make it better? There's a reason why your subconscious picked the specific plant or animal it did.

A BLOODY DEATH OR ACCIDENT OF ANY KIND. Another common pre- or post-surgery dream, and in most cases is just the body's response to what is about to or already has happened to it. Obviously, all of these symbols also mean many, many other things -- but that does not mean they aren't also trying to give you early health warnings -- almost always in plenty of time to fix it before it breaks.



SIX WAYS MEN & WOMEN'S DREAM SYMBOLS ARE DIFFERENT

ANIMALS. In general, women tend to dream smaller, safer animals than men do, but any dream aggression in women's dreams may be coming from animals, not people. Men, on the other hand, tend to dream more about large, powerful, even mythical animals. So if you're a woman and all of a sudden you start dreaming about elephants, elephant as a symbol will have a slightly stronger symbolism than it might for a man who dreamed it -- and, of course, vice versa. If you're a man who typically dreams about large or dangerous animals and all of a sudden start dreaming about kittens and small birds, you have some changes in symbols going on.


COLOR. Everyone dreams in color, but since many men have some level of color blindness, some colors may not show up. For instance, men in general tend to favor white, oranges, reds, and pastel colors, while purple, blues, and blue-greens show up much more rarely. But anytime you remember color in a dream, it's a strong symbol -- don't just take it for granted.


THE OPPOSITE SEX. In general, men tend to have more men than women in their dreams, while women usually dream more of both men and women. And men tend to be more concerned with their relationship to the other men in their dreams than with dream women.


DREAM SEX. Even though women mature approximately two years before men, men experience more erotic dreams and dream experiences at an earlier age than women. Men's sexual dreams tend to be more realistic, while women's are more “romantic” and quite often purely symbolic and won't look like sexual dreams at all. For example, men tend to dream more nudes while women tend to dream about the romantic stranger.


VIOLENCE. In general, men have more aggressive and violent scenes in their dreams than women, and often these dreams will be exceptionally strong and “real”. And as a man ages, he may have more violent dreams -- not necessarily something to be concerned about. Since the physical brain believes what it sees while you're sleeping, dreams are one of the safest places to act out suppressed frustration and anger. So if you want to strangle someone, do it in a dream -- nobody gets hurt, but you feel great.


WHO'S BETTER AT REMEMBERING DREAMS? It's probably no surprise to you that on the average, women are naturally better at remembering dreams -- and that we take more words to describe them.



  
NINE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING AWAKE WHILE YOU'RE ASLEEP

  BEING “AWAKE” WHILE YOU'RE ASLEEP IS CALLED LUCID DREAMING. Everybody experiences lucid dreaming, frequently during a nightmare when they decide to change something, or even to wake up.


LUCID DREAMING HAS BEEN AROUND A LONG, LONG TIME. Many ancient teaching systems, including Tibetan, place exceptional importance on becoming a master of lucid dreaming. Special temples were built for the express purpose of dreaming and dream interpretation, including lucid dreams.


ONE OF THE BIGGEST TIP-OFFS THAT YOU ARE HAVING A LUCID DREAM IS THAT COLORS ARE EXCEPTIONALLY VIVID AND YOU MAY EVEN BE AWARE OF SMELLS. FLYING IN A DREAM IS ALSO ONE OF THE LEVELS OF LUCID DREAMING. So the next time you fly in a dream, tell yourself "This is a dream" -- and then go for it! You are absolutely limitless in a lucid dream, but absolutely perfectly safe while doing it.


WHILE EVERYONE LUCID DREAMS SPONTANEOUSLY, YOU CAN LEARN TO ENTER THE LUCID DREAM STATE ON COMMAND. Like everything else, dedicated practice is the key.


TO TELL IF YOU ARE IN A LUCID DREAM, FIND SOMETHING TO READ. Now turn away from it, then turn back and read it again. If what you read has changed, you are probably in a lucid dream. Test this by changing the text back to what it was the first time you read it.


WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO LUCID DREAM AT ALL? Lots of reasons, like rehearsing a conversation, interview, sport, trying out different approaches to just about anything -- without making any embarrassing bloopers trying them out when you're awake.


IF YOU'RE SERIOUS ABOUT LUCID DREAMING, IT IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL THAT YOU BEGIN RECORDING YOUR DREAMS. In other words, you have to become more conscious of what you are dreaming, why you are dreaming it at the time you are, and what your own personal symbols are. Go back through your dreams and circle or highlight your strongest and most frequent dream symbols. Once you sort them out, you can use any one of these symbols as a trigger or signal that you are in a dream. Tell yourself as you are drifting off to sleep, “The next time I dream about a _____________, I want to know that I'm dreaming”, or some similar phrase. At the moment you realize you are dreaming, you become lucid. It's that simple.


GREAT RESOURCES:


Lucid Dreams In 30 Days: The Creative Sleep Program
Keith Harary, Ph.D. & Patricia Weintraub, St. Martin's Press.

Lucid Dreaming: The Power Of Being Awake And Aware In Your Dreams
Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D., Ballantine Books.

Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming
Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D., Ballantine Books.


 


TEN SURE FIRE WAYS TO REMEMBER YOUR DREAMS

REALLY, REALLY, REALLY WANT TO. You can't have cross-purposes or hidden agendas saying you are afraid of what you might dream, while consciously saying you want to remember your dreams.


PAY MORE ATTENTION TO WHAT GOES ON WHILE YOU'RE AWAKE. You don't usually remember everything that happens during the day, so why do you expect to automatically remember what goes on while you're asleep? Practice noticing things -- especially little things, details.


BECOME MORE INTROSPECTIVE. Take nothing for granted. Why do you react the way you do? How do you really feel about things? Where are your hidden agendas and cross-associations? What makes you who you are -- you know -- small stuff like this.


ASK YOURSELF SEVERAL TIMES A DAY WHEN YOU'RE AWAKE, “IS THIS A DREAM?” How can you prove you aren't dreaming right now? Obviously your mind knows when it's awake that it is not dreaming, but when you're dreaming, your mind usually isn't aware it isn't awake. So -- is this a dream? How do you know?


BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP OR AS YOU'RE GETTING READY FOR BED, RUN YOUR DAY THROUGH YOUR MIND. This both clears the decks for letting some good solid dreaming come through and lets you practice remembering.


AS YOU DRIFT OFF TO SLEEP, SAY TO YOURSELF “TONIGHT I REMEMBER A DREAM”, OR “AS I WAKE I REMEMBER A DREAM”, or some other phrase you like. The trick is to keep the words you use in the present -- NOW. Your subconscious doesn't respond well to future events, only to right now. There are very simple exercises to prove it to your doubting mind if you don't believe this.


WHEN YOU WAKE, IMMEDIATELY WRITE DOWN ANYTHING YOU REMEMBER ABOUT A DREAM, OR USE A VOICE-ACTIVATED TAPE RECORDER. Move around as little as possible, and just get what you can.


RUN THE DREAM BACKWARDS. Don't try to fast forward it to the beginning scene. What is the last scene you remember? And the next? And the next? If you remember nothing, how did you feel as you pried your eyes open? Did you hear anything, smell anything?


TRY TO RECAPTURE THE DREAM BY DAY DREAMING OR MEDITATING. Symbols are symbols -- just don't put in anything you don't remember being there before.


START A DREAM GROUP, OR TEAM UP WITH A DREAM BUDDY. Read books, listen to tapes, or watch videos and TV programs about dreams and symbols. Sooner or later your subconscious will cooperate and want to play show-and-tell with the other guys.


THE TRUTH IS, YOU WILL PROBABLY NEVER REMEMBER EVERY SINGLE DREAM YOU HAVE. Dreams don't always use the same neuro pathways waking memory does, for instance. And since you'll have on average 1,000+ dreams a year, you're absolutely guaranteed to have more than enough to work with. Just keep at it -- you won't be sorry.


 


THE FOUR MAIN STAGES OF SLEEP

THE LIGHTEST OF ALL FOUR STAGES. Your EEG waves during this cycle resemble those of your brain while you are wide awake. Your body is very busy during Stage One -- your brain temperature rises, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to fluctuate, your breathing is irregular, and your brain uses more oxygen. You return to Stage One several times during your sleep cycle after going through the first four stages of sleep, approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep.

STAGE TWO SLEEP Stage Two begins very soon after you fall asleep, usually within the first 5 to 10 minutes. Sleepwalking and sleeptalking often occur in this stage of sleep, but you are not really in a true dream state yet. The time you spend in Stage Two gets shorter and shorter with each 90 minute sleep cycle.

STAGE THREE SLEEP - REM You are breathing very slowly and evenly, your heart rate has slowed down, and your body temperature has dropped. Stage Three sleep means you are in the Alpha brain wave state, and Alpha images are in color. One of the more interesting parts of Stage Three sleep is that your brain generates stronger electrical impulses than the impulses it produces while you're awake. When awake, your brain generates approximately 60 micro volts of electricity, but during Stage Three it can generate up to 300 micro volts. Part of this is probably accounted for because the brain no longer has to deal with outside sensory stimuli, but the rest...? Stage Three is the stage you are in when it takes a lot to wake you up. Stage Three sleep is the one in which you really get serious about dreaming. Both eyes usually move from side to side, giving this stage of sleep the name REM for "Rapid Eye Movement", but this eye movement seems to have no connection to what is actually going on in the dream. Although researchers have now discovered what they call "Non-REM" dreams, most of your dreams take place in Stage Three. During Stage Three your body is all but paralyzed, it cannot move. And since the sleeping brain believes what it sees, this is one of the reasons why you sometimes feel you can't run or yell in a nightmare -- you can't. But at least now you know why. The first REM period of your sleep cycle is usually your shortest, lasting only 10 to 15 minutes at the most. But by the end of the night your REM sleep can last from 40 to 60 minutes. With each 90-minute sleep cycle, your REM period will get longer, and your Stage Four sleep will get shorter, or even disappear altogether. Your last REM period before you wake probably produces your most vivid and most easily remembered dreams, especially if you're lucky enough to wake up just as you're completing Stage Three.

STAGE FOUR SLEEP Stage Four sleep is the deepest level of sleep, and your brain during this period will show large, slow EEG waves. You will normally spend approximately 20 minutes or more in Stage Four during your first 90-minute sleep cycle, but the more exhausted your body is, the more Stage Four sleep you will need. Stage Four is the only time certain hormones and chemicals are released into the body, growth hormones being just one of these. So teenagers need more Stage Four sleep and spend much more time sleeping and napping than older people, including their parents. But by the time you are over 70, Stage Four sleep may have all but disappeared from your sleep cycle -- leaving you a very cranky individual. Stage Four sleep time gets shorter and shorter as your rest cycle continues, and by the end of your cycle you may not be spending any time in Stage Four at all.


 


 

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