Spirit-WWW: NewsGateway Article <news:alt.dreams.44272>
From email@example.com (Pamela Ryan):
Subject: Dreams FAQ
All Follow-Up: Re: Dreams FAQ
Date: 15 Mar 1998 03:37:27 GMT
Frequently Asked Questions about DREAMS
Version 1.3, January 31, 1998
(c) Pamela Ryan
PLEASE NOTE NEW/ALTERED SECTIONS:
11.2 SYMBOL AMPLIFICATION: JUNG
12.9 SEXUAL SITUATIONS
This FAQ will be posted about once every two weeks.
In general, the opinions expressed in this FAQ are my own,
although I have tried my best to include other viewpoints
and to present them with fairness and accuracy.
This is not a comprehensive and definitive document,
simply an effort to quickly address some of the most
common questions that are posted in this forum.
If you have suggestions, corrections, additions, etc.
please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Does everybody dream?
2. Is it normal to have dreams immediately upon falling asleep,
without going through the other sleep stages first?
3. How can I increase/decrease my dream recall level?
4. Are dreams really important or meaningful?
5. Is there anything special about recurring dreams?
6. Why do we dream?
7. Do we dream in color?
8. Do blind people dream?
9. Is it possible to smell, taste, or feel pain in dreams?
10. Is it true that you can have an hour's worth of dreams
in just a few seconds?
11. I would like to interpret or analyze my dreams -
how should I do it?
11.1 Free association: Freud
11.2 Symbol amplification: Jung
11.3 Describe it to a Martian: Delaney
11.4 Empty-chair role play: Gestalt
11.5 TTAQ: Kaplan-William et.al.
11.6 Action plot: Reed/Sparrow
11.7 Linguistic analysis
11.9 Group dream work: Ullman
11.10 Archetypes: Jung
11.11 Dream Rituals: Johnson
12. What does [this dream] mean...?
12.1 Teeth falling out
12.2 Unprepared for an exam or performance
12.3 Car out of control
12.6 Inappropriate dress or no privacy in bathroom
12.7 Nuclear explosion/apocolypse
12.8 Inability to run
12.9 Sexual situations
13. Is it normal to have nightmares?
14. How can I cure my nightmares?
15. Is it normal to sometimes feel paralyzed in your bed?
16. Are sleepwalkers "acting out" their dreams?
17. Do people really have psychic dreams?
18. How can you tell whether your dream will come true?
19. Is it true that if you die in your dream, you will die
in real life?
20. Are dreams related to our health?
21. How do substances like drugs and foods affect our dreams?
22. What are the best books about dreams?
23. Is it possible to control your dreams?
24. Is it normal to have a "dream within a dream"?
25. How do we know that we aren't dreaming right now?
1. DOES EVERYBODY DREAM?
It certainly looks that way. Even people who say they do not
dream very much generally do recall dreams if they sleep in a
laboratory and are awakened during REM ("rapid eye movement")
sleep (the phase of sleep most closely linked to vivid dreams.)
The average person experiences REM sleep 3 or 4 times each night,
with each phase longer than the one that preceded it. The last
REM period of the night may last upwards of 45 minutes.
For about 90 minutes before the onset of REM sleep - and for
shorter periods between subsequent REM phases -the body
experiences cycles of a different kind of sleep. If awakened
during these "deeper" sleep stages, the person usually reports
mental activity that is more mundane, more thought-like than
2. IS IT NORMAL TO HAVE DREAMS IMMEDIATELY UPON FALLING ASLEEP,
WITHOUT GOING THROUGH THE OTHER SLEEP STAGES FIRST?
People sometimes report that they experience vivid dreams even
when they fall asleep only for a very short time. (For example,
during the ten minutes between snooze alarms.) How could this
happen, if it takes 90 minutes to progress through the other
sleep stages and arrive at REM sleep? There are five possible
logical explanations for this phenomenon.
First: On the borderline of sleep, there is a phase called
HYPNOGOGIA, during which many people experience bizarre and
dream-like imagery. Based on clinical data, this phase is not
the same as true REM sleep, although hypnogogic dreams may be
indistinguishable from REM dreams.
Second: If a person is sleep deprived, they may experience an
effect called REM REBOUND. For some reason, the body tries to
"make up for" REM time that is lost. So, following a period of
sleep deprivation, a person may experience much higher rates
of REM sleep than usual. The REM cycles would be more frequent,
with shorter intervening sleep stages.
Third: As the night progresses, the rate of non-REM sleep drops
sharply. So if you return to sleep when you are actually very
well-rested, there is a good chance that you will return
directly to REM sleep.
Fourth: Rapid onset of REM sleep could be a symptom of a sleep
disorder called NARCOLEPSY. (For more information about narcolepsy,
see number 15 below.)
Five: It is possible that you experienced a true dream during
a non-REM sleep stage. Many researchers report collecting
dream reports from various stages of non-REM sleep.
3. HOW CAN I INCREASE/DECREASE MY DREAM RECALL LEVEL?
There are wide differences in different peoples' levels of dream
recall. Some people routinely remember three or more dreams every
night; other people almost never recall dreams. Even for
individuals, there are often large fluctuations in recall,
depending upon time, energy, and life circumstances.
While many people are satisfied with their personal level of
dream recall, others are not. Some low-recallers feel they
are missing something and would like to recall more dreams;
some high-recallers feel "drained" because of a too-active
dream life and would like to recall fewer dreams. The tips
below are for increasing dream recall (the more common request
in this forum). Do the opposite to decrease recall.
-Pay a lot of attention to dreams. Think about them. Read about
them. Talk about them. Recall generally increases with interest
-Keep paper and pencil (or a tape recorder) at your bedside.
Write down any dream that you remember, even if it is just a
fragment of a dream, or even if it seems silly or insignificant.
Invest some energy into the care and maintenance of your
-Whenever possible, try to awaken naturally, without the
aid of an alarm clock. Each time you awaken from internal
cues (rather than an external stimulus), you are most likely
awakening directly from REM sleep and have the highest
likelihood of recalling a dream.
-When you wake up, stay quiet and still. Keeping your eyes
closed, try to cast your mind BACK ("What was I just thinking
about, a minute ago...?") rather than forward to the coming
-Some people suggest drinking water before bed. The idea is
that the urge to urinate might awaken you in the middle of
the night, directly from a dream! (Of course, you risk having
lots of dreams about oceans, toilets, etc.) =)
-Others suggest setting your alarm clock for odd times during
the night, to try to catch yourself dreaming. Or you could try
waking up a half-hour early and then going back to sleep.
-Be actively involved in waking life. Try new activities.
Learn new things. This gives you more "material" for dreams.
(To decrease dream recall, focus a great deal on outer, waking
reality but avoid too many new and exciting activities, which
may make your dreaming brain work overtime.)
-The power of suggestion can be very strong. Before you fall
asleep, read about dreams, and then state, aloud, your intention
to recall a dream the next morning.
One caution: Don't try TOO hard. Give yourself "a break" from
your efforts, every now and then. Good luck to you!
4. ARE DREAMS REALLY IMPORTANT OR MEANINGFUL?
This subject is open to debate. Most of the people who participate
in this newsgroup feel that their dreams are personally meaningful,
and enjoy exploring them. Some scientists and theorists agree with
this perspective; others do not.
You won't win a lot of popularity contests on alt.dreams if you
constantly opine that dreams are meaningless nonsense. Many of
the participants here would happily engage in abstract, intellectual
discussions about it- but Internet etiquette would require anyone
taking up the banner of debate to be prepared to back up their
position with appropriate evidence, and to avoid personal insults.
Regardless of your personal "take" on the inherent value of dreams,
it is certainly true that many people throughout recorded history
have felt that dreams are meaningful, and that many dreams have
had an important impact upon cultures around the globe. Every
major religion contains references to Divine inspiration through
dreams; many creations and inventions (from fine art & literature
to sewing machines to the theory of relativity) have been based
upon dreams; and many dreams have been historically important
(for example, in changing the course of battles or wars).
5. IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL ABOUT RECURRING DREAMS?
Most people who work with dreams agree that recurring patterns
or themes in dreams deserve special attention. The basic idea
is that there is a long-standing problem or an important message
that the dreamer has not yet fully understood, so the dream keeps
"sending" the same message over and over. These dreams are said
to give us significant clues about our own issues, personality,
6. WHY DO WE DREAM?
This is a real mystery. On the one hand, theorist William Domhoff
states that "the best evidence for now is that dreams have no
physiological or psychological function."
On the other hand, theorists since Sigmund Freud have been
suggesting possible purposes of dreaming: maintaining sleep,
coping with psychological stress, preserving psychological
and physical health, spurring us toward spiritual enlightenment,
integrating new information and skills with stored memories, etc.
This much is clear: Our bodies seem to insist upon a certain
quota of REM time, and REM sleep is apparently linked to important
functions such as learning and memory. However, since the
relationship between REM and dreams is not perfect, we cannot
say that REM functions are necessarily DREAM functions.
It was once believed that sleep/dream deprivation caused hallucinations
and insanity. However, any such symptoms are extremely temporary, and
it is difficult to separate the effects of sleep deprivation
from the effects of dream deprivation.
Perhaps someday we will discover why we dream. Today, we cannot
answer this question.
7. DO WE DREAM IN COLOR?
People who notice color more in waking life (artists, house
painters, etc.) generally notice color more in their dreams,
as well. Sleep lab evidence suggests that most dreams ARE in
color, although people frequently do not supply color information
unless specifically asked for it.
It is likely that color information is often simply forgotten,
especially if the dreamer doesn't think the dimension of color
is particularly important, anyway. Memory of specific aspects
of dreams usually degrades very rapidly after awakening. If
the dreamer does not make note of color information right
away, it just evaporates, and is no longer accessible.
8. DO BLIND PEOPLE DREAM?
As stated in #1 above, everyone dreams. In general, people's
dream experience is similar to their waking experience. That
is, while most sighted people's dreams are primarily visual,
blind people dream more in auditory, tactile, and other sense
People who lose their sight very early (before age five)
apparently experience no visual imagery in their dreams.
Visual imagery is variable for those who lose their sight
between ages five and seven. People who lose their sight
after age seven almost always have some level of visual
imagery present in their dreams.
9. IS IT POSSIBLE TO SMELL, TASTE, OR FEEL PAIN IN DREAMS?
While sight is the most common sense represented in dreams,
it is possible to experience any of the senses in dreams.
How frequently do dreams involve various senses?
Different studies show different results:
Sight/visual imagery = 63 - 85 %
Auditory/hearing = 26 - 68 %
Tactile/touch = 8 - 11 %
Olfactory/smell = 1 - 7 %
Gustatory/Taste = 1 - 6 %
While I am unaware of any experimental data on pain
in dreams, a wealth of anecdotal evidence demonstrates
that it is possible to experience physical pain in
dreams. Dream-pain is often (but not always) linked
to actual pain or discomfort that the sleeper is
experiencing. (For instance, post-surgical pain or
circulation problems in a limb due to sleeping position.)
10. IS IT TRUE THAT YOU CAN HAVE AN HOUR'S WORTH OF DREAMS
IN JUST A FEW SECONDS?
Although there are quite a few anecdotes about this phenomenon,
research evidence suggests that time is NOT distorted in dreams.
Rather, our dreams seem to take place in real time.
For example, if we experience a five-minute REM period and
are then awakened and asked to report a dream, we report
about five minute's worth of activities. And furthermore,
we estimate that the dream lasted about five minutes.
In cases where the dreamer claims to have experienced time
compression in a dream, the effect can usually be explained
by "time lapses." Just as a one-hour television show can depict
events that take place over several days, weeks, or even YEARS
through techniques such as "fade outs/fade ins" that represent
leaps forward in time, so may our dreams employ similar
techniques to designate discontinuous events in time.
11. I WOULD LIKE TO INTERPRET OR ANALYZE MY DREAMS -
HOW SHOULD I DO IT?
First, a disclaimer of sorts:
Rev. Jeremy Taylor asserts that "All dreams come in the
service of health and wholeness," even (especially?) the
ones that may initially upset or confuse us. Even so,
dreams can be powerful experiences, and dreams do have
the potential to unleash some very deep and raw emotions.
If you think it would probably be fun and spiritually
uplifting to try your hand at dream analysis/interpretation,
by all means go ahead. If, on the other hand, you actually
suspect that you have a serious emotional disturbance and
you are hoping that dream work would really be a form of
do-it-yourself psychotherapy, please consider picking up
the phone and calling in a professional person to guide
you through the process.
Recent studies (Hill et. al., 1997) suggest that people
may gain greater benefits, and get more enjoyment, from
dream work that is led by a qualified and caring professional.
If you do decide to go it on your own, I think it is wise
to follow Taylor's advice, and consciously seek to identify
(and actualize) dream messages that facilitate a more
positive, loving, and healthful life. Don't EVER allow
your dreams to encourage you to do anything destructive
to yourself or others. If you find that your dreams are
interfering significantly with your waking life, it would
certainly be a good idea to seek professional psychological
Assuming you're still with me after that warning...
There are a dizzying array of methods and techniques of
dream analysis! Which one(s) you choose is(are) largely a
matter of personal preference. A method that provides
profound, earth-shaking revelations to one person may
seem trite and hokey to another. Let your own feelings
(and your own common sense!) be your guide. Here are a
few of the more popular and/or time-honored methods
(consult books for additional ones):
11:1 FREE ASSOCIATION: FREUD
Sigmund Freud suggested that the dreamer create a "chain"
of associations to each important object or element of the
dream, by saying the first word that popped into mind when
prompted by a cue word. The dreamer's response to one cue
became the next cue word. For example:
Shoes => Clothes, Clothes => Closet, Closet => Hidden,
Hidden => Secrets .... Etc.
Freud believed that this technique of speaking-without-
thinking might lead the dreamer to uncover some repressed
material (latent, or hidden content; probably sexual)
that might have been encoded into the dream.
11:2 SYMBOL AMPLIFICATION: JUNG
Carl Jung liked Freud's idea of associations, but disagreed
with Freud's desire to lead the dreamer farther and farther
away from the actual dream image. Instead, he advocated
returning each time to the image itself as the cue word.
Shoes => Clothes, Shoes => Feet, Shoes => Pair,
Shoes => Ground ..... Etc.
Jung believed that this technique of "mining" each image
to unearth all its possible associations might lead the
dreamer to discover which associations were actually
In addition to personal associations, Jung emphasized
cultural and mythological associations (of which the
individual dreamer might be unaware.) He asserted that
all human beings are connected by means of a "collective
unconscious." So in his opinion, if the dreamer dreamed
of shoes, it would be important to discover not only what
the DREAMER thought about shoes, but also how people
throughout history regarded shoes. For example:
Shoes => Cinderella, Old Mother Hubbard, Chinese practice
of binding feet, etc.
11:3 DESCRIBE IT TO A MARTIAN: DELANEY
Gayle Delaney (among others) advises the dreamer to amplify
the dream images in a slightly different way. Instead of
generating free-floating associations, she suggests describing
each image in simple, powerful terms, as if explaining its
purpose and outstanding features to a Martian who knows
nothing about life on Earth. For example:
Shoes => These protect our feet (from cold, damp, dirt, etc.)
when we walk. We can walk farther wearing these than we could
without them. Sometimes, they are more stylish than
11:4 EMPTY-CHAIR ROLE PLAY: GESTALT
Frederick Perls, founder of the Gestalt psychology movement,
popularized "encounter" groups. He recommended that the
dreamer hold imaginary conversations with dream characters/
objects, in order to give them a "voice" to communicate
their meaning. He had the dreamer sit opposite an empty
chair, imagining the dream character/object sitting across
from them. The dreamer would ask questions of the character,
and then would switch chairs to answer them, trying to express
the attitude of the dream character as much as possible.
=> Dreamer: "Shoes, why did you rain down on me like that?"
=> Shoes: [yelling] "You idiot! Can't you see that you aren't
walking in the right direction?"
He urged the dreamer to see each character, object, and
action in the dream as some (possibly alienated) aspect
of the dreamer's own personality.
11:5 TTAQ (TITLE, THEME, AFFECT, QUESTION): SAVARY, BERNE,
and KAPLAN-WILLIAMS (From DREAMS AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH, 1984)
This is a four-step process. First, the dreamer gives the
dream an appropriate TITLE. "Let it come to you spontaneously
or ask yourself, 'What title does the dream want itself to
have?'" Next, identify any THEME or THEMES. Next, identify
the AFFECT (emotional aspects) of the dream. Last, the dreamer
formulates an important QUESTION that the dream is addressing:
"What is the dream asking of me? What is the dream trying to
help me be conscious of?" For example:
TITLE: "Barrage of Shoes"
THEMES: spirituality/religion, self-image
AFFECT: fear, helplessness
QUESTION: "In what areas of my life do I feel pelted,
attacked, beaten down?"
Philosophically, this technique asserts that dreams should
be regarded as questions to spur thinking, rather than as
puzzles to be successfully "solved".
11:6 ACTION PLOT: REED/SPARROW
Most dreams focus on the objects (nouns) in dreams. In his
book, DREAM REALIZATIONS (1984), Henry Reed describes a
method (which he attributes to Gregory Scott Sparrow) of
paying particular attention to the action (verbs) in the
dream. Reed writes, "An action plot is a short statement
of what transpires during the course of the dream. In order
to emphasize the structure of the action, all mention of
specific symbols is avoided." For example,
"Someone feels attacked by something, yet does nothing
11:7 LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS
A majority of dream workers would doubtless agree that
the "language" of dreams is (visual) metaphor. (Other
folks, such as Bert States, would assert that dreams
use a much wider range of literary devices, including
metonymy, synecdoche, and irony.)
Often, the same metaphorical analysis techniques that
are applied to works of literature may also be applied
to dreams. Some people also find it useful to look for
standard literary devices such as setting, dramatic
structure, etc. in their dreams. It may also be helpful
to look specifically for verbal or visual "puns."
METAPHOR: Shoes as outer expression of "direction"
and purpose? ... Or "groundedness"?
SETTING: Old rustic church (ancient, earthy spirituality?)
in stormy weather (turbulent emotions?)
POSSIBLE PUNS: Rain => reign or rein? Sole => soul?
It may be instructive to try to identify glaring "opposites"
in your dreams. These oppositional forces often underline
important conflicts, imbalances, or concerns. For example:
Aggression vs. Passivity
Style vs. Function
Heaven vs. Earth
11:9 GROUP DREAM WORK: ULLMAN
Jungian therapist Montague Ullman developed a highly-
structured group method of exploring dreams. The basic
premise is that each group member imagines the dream as
their own dream, and then tries to "interpret" its message
FOR THEM, rather than for the dreamer. This alleviates any
suspicion of negative judgement against the dreamer, and
has the additional advantage of leading to personal insights
among ALL participants, even when their own dream is not the
current topic of discussion.
It is a 4-phase process: 1) A dreamer volunteers and
tells a dream in detail. Others may only interrupt to
ask clarifying (non-interpretive) questions. 2) Others
take the dream as their own, speaking of it as if they
had actually dreamed it. They suggest what the dream
might mean for them. The dreamer listens without
participating. 3) The dream is officially returned to
its original creator. The dreamer may respond to everyone
else's input, and may share her/his own insights.
4) The dreamer thinks further about the dream, and
reports (at a later time) any additional insights.
It may be possible to join a dream group in your area --
or you can start your own, if you can't locate a pre-
existing one. These groups are often leaderless peer
groups without professional participation.
There are also some on-line dream-groups that follow
a similar format. Look for the notices of "Dream Wheels"
which are frequently posted in alt.dreams.
11:10 ARCHETYPES: JUNG
One of the most popular techniques in dream analysis is
searching for "archetypes", mythic figures which Carl
Jung believed were present in everyone's dreams. Classic
Jungian archetypes include The Hero, the Wise Old Man,
the Shadow (darker side of our own personality), and
Anima/Animus (aspects of the opposite sex present in
our own personal psychology).
11:11 DREAM RITUALS: JOHNSON
Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson advocates going beyond
understanding dreams at an intellectual level, and "acting
consciously to honor dreams." His idea is that by doing
a physical act which actualizes he dream's message, you
move toward truly integrating the dream's meaning in your
waking life. In choosing an appropriate ritual, Johnson
advises us that correct ritual is "symbolic behavior,
consciously performed." He recommends choosing rituals
that are small-scale, inexpensive, private, and safe.
So if the shoe dream seemed to be emphasizing the need
to be "grounded," to value function over style, and to
consciously and assertively pursue a positive direction
in life, the dreamer might for example:
=>Solemnly (and privately) arrange several pairs of shoes
on the floor, labeling them with signs that said "Style,"
"Function," etc. The dreamer could ceremoniously sweep the
"unwanted" shoes aside and put on the "desirable/positive"
12. WHAT DOES [THIS DREAM] MEAN...?
Among people who are interested in dream interpretation/analysis,
the current thinking is that dream symbols are highly individual.
If you dream of a bull, it probably means something different
depending on whether you are a bullfighter, the owner of a china
shop, or an Illinois basketball player. If someone tells you with
apparent absolute certainty what your dream means, be very wary.
Likewise, be skeptical about the definitions that you find in
most dream dictionaries.
So, how can you ever possibly figure out what your dreams mean?
The usual advice is to pay careful attention to your own intuition.
If you run across a "correct" interpretation, the common wisdom
suggests that you will feel something "click" - there will be an
"aha!" of recognition.
I'm not sure this is ALWAYS the case. Often, I think we may resist
confronting issues that we are not yet ready to face. Nevertheless,
the "internal barometer" seems to be a good rule of thumb.
Another pervasive idea about dreams is that they may have multiple
"correct" interpretations - that there might be many layers of
meaning embodied in a single dream. Rev. Jeremy Taylor says that
no dream ever comes to tell you something that you already knew.
So even when a dream's meaning may seem very obvious, it is often
helpful to seek additional explanations.
Here are some of the most frequently-mentioned dreams, and some
of the suggestions of alt.dreamers as to potential meaning. (To
suggest an additional alternative, please e-mail me. I would be
happy to give individual credit for specific "interpretations"
but have not done so thus far - sorry, but my memory is poor and
I do not currently keep records of such things.)
12.1 TEETH FALLING OUT
-Perhaps you are passing to a stage of greater maturity (and are
reminded of when you lost your "baby teeth" as a child.)
-Maybe you are feeling old and decrepit, unattractive, thinking
of the possibility of someday losing your teeth.
-Or perhaps you are subconsciously aware of serious dental
problems that could lead to loss of your teeth. Are you overdue
for a check up?
-Maybe you simply feel guilty about your poor dental hygiene.
-Have you said something(s) that you now regret? If so, maybe it
feels as though you had a "loose tongue" and the words just
"fell out" of your mouth.
-Maybe you grind your teeth at night (this phenomenon, called
BRUXISM, is quite common) which leads to a strong dream-
awareness of dental discomfort, which triggers teeth-
-Perhaps you feel a lack of strength and assertiveness/
aggression (there are "no teeth" to your personality).
-Or perhaps you recently saw, heard, or read something
about loose teeth, which made a powerful enough impression
to spark a dream.
12.2 UNPREPARED FOR AN EXAM OR PERFORMANCE
-Maybe you have a sense of "incompleteness" about some
important aspect of your life (NOT necessarily the one
that is presented in the dream.)
-Perhaps you are currently anxious and feel "under
pressure to perform" in some way.
-Do you tend toward worrying, and over-preparation? This
dream could both demonstrate the practicality of your
worrisome nature, and help you release some of your
-Maybe you fear that you are (or might be) unfairly
judged or evaluated by someone.
-Or perhaps you are simply "practicing" coping with a difficult
situation. (Research shows that people who suffer anxiety
dreams prior to a stressful event actually cope better than
people who did not have any such negative dreams!)
12.3 CAR OUT OF CONTROL
-Are you trying to do too much at once? The dream could
be demonstrating a need to "put on the brakes."
-Maybe something in your life feels out of your control.
-Perhaps you need to take greater control over your own
life, and steer it in a better direction.
-Do you ever fear that something in your life (such as a
relationship) may "crash" and be destroyed?
-Maybe you and are under a great deal of pressure and
stress, and you need to "slow down and relax".
-Or perhaps your "vehicle" (general attitude/outlook on
life) is taking you in some dangerous directions.
-Are you falling in love? Perhaps you feel deeply frightened
by the loss of control this implies...
-Maybe you have pushed something past its limit - it has gone
right "over the [figurative] edge."
-Perhaps you are aware at some level of the fact that
you are "falling" asleep.
-If you believe in astral travel, maybe this dream is conveying
the sensation of falling back into your sleeping body after
you have traveled beyond your physical body.
-Maybe you feel degraded, as though you are "dropping" in
status, esteem, character, etc.
-Do you believe in reincarnation? Maybe in a previous life,
you met your death by falling from a great height, and the
feeling impressed itself strongly upon your psyche before
-Or maybe you just feel that things are "out of control"
in some way.
-Perhaps you feel overjoyed; "soaring."
-Or maybve you feel free and unfettered.
-Could the dream be emphasizing an over-active ego?
Maybe possessing the special power of flight indicates an
overly-inflated sense of your own powers/ importance.
-Are you "flighty" or otherwise not grounded in reality?
-If you accept the possibility of Out-of-Body-Experiences,
maybe you are experiencing astral travel.
-Perhaps you are an escapist, living in a fantasy world.
-Or maybe you feel spiritually uplifted; closer to the
heavenly or Divine.
12.6 INAPPROPRIATE DRESS OR NO PRIVACY IN BATHROOM
-Maybe you feel "exposed" to others in a way that makes
you feel very unprotected and vulnerable.
-Perhaps you feel unprepared; not properly equipped
for some task or duty.
-Maybe you fear that your deepest, most internal
"business" will be examined by others.
-Perhaps you worry that others will see the "real you"
without any facçade - even the messiest aspects of you.
-Do you repress the full release of your emotions?
-Maybe you fear that you are "making a mess of things"
with lots of other people watching.
12.7 NUCLEAR EXPLOSION/ APOCOLYPSE/ END OF THE WORLD
-Are you worried and concerned about nuclear armament
in waking life? or...
-Have you recently seen media programming about an
apocolypse? This could be spilling over into your
-Have you experienced (or do you fear that you might
experience) a painful loss (death, loss of job, end
of a significant relationship), which would greatly
alter your life?
-Is there some kind of (figurative, not literal)
"bombshell" waiting to explode (or recently
exploded) in your psychological/emotional life?
-From: email@example.com (Jason919)
if i had a dream about the apocalypse, i would take
it as meaning there were conflicts in my life i wasn't
addressing, aspects of myself i was repressing, that
i need to face. its hard to do this, but in the end
it is rewarding.
12.8 INABILITY TO RUN
-Is there a situation from which you cannot escape?
-Perhaps your dream is pointing out that it is ineffective
to try to run away from your troubles; better to confront
-Many scientists would suggest that these dreams are
triggered by a subconscious awareness of the fact that,
during REM sleep, our bodies ARE paralyzed!
-Do you feel "heavy", burdened or "slow" in waking life?
12.9 SEXUAL SITUATIONS
-Do you feel a deep level of intimacy and "connection"
with another person?
-Perhaps you feel violated, exploited, or abused?
-Maybe the dream is just a healthy expression of your
own sexual feelings and impulses...
-Do you have a deep desire to be *like* the person with
whom you are involved in your dream? Your dreaming mind
may be expressing a desire to MERGE with positive
qualities the other person possesses.
-Perhaps the dream is expressing a positive union between
the feminine and masculine aspects of your own personality.
-Do you feel some sort of overwhelming ("orgasmic") bliss
in waking life, which the dream might be translating into
a sexual context?
13 IS IT NORMAL TO HAVE NIGHTMARES?
First off, we should probably distinguish between
NIGHTMARES (frightening REM dreams; associated with
awareness of scary imagery) and NIGHT TERRORS (terror
attacks that occur during non-REM sleep; often involve
movement and screaming; usually no dream recall or later
recollection of the experience.)
Psychoanalyst and sleep researcher Ernest Hartmann
estimates that the average person experiences one or
two nightmares each year. About 5 percent of people
experience "frequent" nightmares (one or more per week).
Hartmann notes that nightmare sufferers tend to be more
open, trusting, and sensitive than other people. To use
his terminology, they have "thin boundaries" between
themselves and the world.
Sometimes, frequent, disturbing nightmares may be a
symptom of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia,
but this is certainly NOT always the case. In fact,
nightmares seem to be a natural response to trauma,
stress, or inner conflict. Even people with "thick
boundaries" get nightmares under such conditions.
14 HOW CAN I CURE MY NIGHTMARES?
Following a few simple rules (such as avoiding heavy
meals near bedtime and making sure to sleep in certain
positions) may successfully prevent nightmares for some
people. Other nightmare sufferers find that their bad
dreams are harder to control.
Doctors Barry Krakow and Joseph Neidhardt recommend
consciously imagining a different ending to the nightmare
scenario. First, they say, you should visualize the
nightmare in detail (unless you find it too distressing
to do so.) Next, imagine - and repeatedly practice
visualizing - a transition to a more pleasant and
positive scene, replacing the nightmare imagery.
Tinker with the altered scenario until it seems
The doctors instruct: "...for every night you suffer
a nightmare, you want one practice session to imagine
a new dream. You can do this as soon as you wake up
from the bad dream or later the next day. Either way,
practice at least three successive days after any night
you've had bad dreams. When you go a few days without
nightmares, you can schedule fewer sessions."
Many people who try this, or other similar techniques,
soon experience a LUCID DREAM (a dream where they are
actually aware, during the dream, that it is in fact a
dream.) Because they know that it is a dream, and
therefore an illusion created by their own minds,
they are able to change the dream in exactly the
way they have been practicing!
Even people who never manage to reach full lucidity
usually do reduce the frequency and severity of their
nightmares through techniques like these.
You should know before embarking upon a nightmare-eradication
campaign that some dream workers don't think it is such a
good idea. They assert that nightmares are our brain's way
of calling our attention to a particularly important problem
of conflict in our lives, and they fear that trying to erase
these dreams may also erase the dreamer's potential to work
through these issues.
They would advise being very careful about the ways that you
consciously change your dreams. For example, they think it
would be better to try to engage the monster in your dream
in a thoughtful conversation, or embrace it, rather than trying
to destroy or kill it.
These methods DO work if you are patient. Good luck to you!
15 IS IT NORMAL TO SOMETIMES FEEL PARALYZED IN YOUR BED?
This phenomenon, called "Sleep Paralysis" or an "Old Hag"
experience, can be quite frightening. It usually occurs on
the borderline between sleep and waking. Sufferers describe
feeling totally mentally awake, yet feeling unable to move
or call out, and often, feeling a heavy weight pressing down
on their chests. Sometimes, these sensations are coupled with
the vague perception of an "evil presence" in the room.
Scientists theorize that such experiences are probably caused
by the brain and body being slightly "out of sync" with regard
to sleep/wake functions. Normally, during REM sleep, the body
is paralyzed (which is a darn good thing, else you'd go around
acting out all your dreams!) Usually, when the brain wakes up,
it switches off the body paralysis and you get up and go about
But in these cases, the brain neglects to flip the switch (or
else the switch doesn't work quite right) and the body remains
paralyzed even though the mind is now wide awake.
It is usually reassuring simply to know what is going on in
these cases - it can really help reduce the anxiety factor.
You might be surprised to learn that some people actually
SEEK this anomalous state, and try to prolong it when it
occurs. Why? Some say it is a good springboard to out-of-
body-experiences, and/or lucid dreams.
Raymot (firstname.lastname@example.org) notes:
Frequent sleep paralysis with hallucinations can also
be a major symptom of a disorder of REM sleep control called
Narcolepsy. Other symptoms of narcolepsy are abnormal
daytime sleepiness, early onset of dreaming/REM during sleep,
and sudden episodes of muscle weakness/paralysis while awake
The "nightmares", if sufficiently troublesome can be reduced
significantly in some people with Tricyclic Antidepressants
(eg. imipramine), which suppress REM sleep.
16 ARE SLEEPWALKERS "ACTING OUT" THEIR DREAMS?
According to sleep researcher William Moorcroft: "Contrary
to common belief, sleepwalking is not the acting out of a
dream." During REM sleep, when our most vivid dreams occur,
our bodies are in fact paralyzed. (See explanation above.)
So sleepwalking episodes occur in the deeper or "slow-wave"
phases of sleep.
Moorecroft states that: "It has been estimated that 10 to 20
percent of people have had at least one incident of
sleepwalking which usually occurs during childhood,
although sleepwalking is more common in adulthood than
generally realized (2.5 percent).... There seems to be
a genetic base for the tendency to sleepwalk." He also
notes that: "Contrary to common wisdom, there is no danger
in awakening a sleepwalking person."
There is a rare disorder, most common among elderly men,
where the REM sleep-paralysis mechanism may be ineffective.
In these cases, the dreamer does act out his dreams, often
injuring his bed-partner. This disorder, called REM Behavior
Disorder (RBD) is usually treated with medication.
By the way, sleepTALKING is somewhat different than
sleepwalking, in that it does sometimes occur during REM sleep.
17 DO PEOPLE REALLY HAVE PSYCHIC DREAMS?
This question is open to debate. While reports of such
dreams are amazingly common (2 out of 3 people surveyed
by researchers David Ryback and Letitia Sweitzer claimed
to have personally experienced a psychic dream), many of
these are probably "false positives."
For instance, let's say that you dream of a tornado one
night, and then awaken to hear news reports of a destructive
tornado that touched down the previous evening. Chances are,
you are likely to feel a bit spooked by this correlation
between your dreams and outer, waking reality. Was it just
a coincidence, or was your dream "psychic"?
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself before
deciding that your dream came true:
-Were there tornado warnings on the weather before I went
to bed, which might have triggered my dream?
-Could I have subconsciously incorporated external noises
I heard while I was asleep (such as wind, tornado sirens,
etc.) into my dream?
-Have I ever dreamed of a tornado before? (Perhaps tornados
are a common theme for you. If so, the odds dictated that
sooner or later your dreams were bound to coincide with an
actual tornado, by mere chance.)
-Were there any unique details of the dream which identified
the tornado in my dream as the specific tornado that actually
On any given night, hundreds or even thousands of people
may dream of tornados, airplane crashes, earthquakes, floods,
etc. Scientists would be very surprised indeed if no one ever
dreamed of these disasters on nights when they actually
occurred. Simply put, the laws of probability would predict
a fairly large number of these coincidences.
On the other hand, there are many compelling examples of dreams
whose details match those of actual events so closely that it
would be hard to attribute it to chance alone.
And there are some very interesting studies of dream telepathy,
which suggest a weak (and highly individual) psychic effect.
These studies are difficult to refute from any methodological
18 HOW CAN YOU TELL WHETHER YOUR DREAM WILL COME TRUE?
Unfortunately, I am not aware of any way to separate or
identify psychic dreams until after the fact.
If you feel that you frequently experience psychic dreams,
you may be able to identify some personal patterns if you
pay close enough attention.
Documenting your dreams, and telling them to other people
before the event takes place in reality, can lend
credibility to assertions of psychic dreaming ability.
19 IS IT TRUE THAT IF YOU DIE IN YOUR DREAM, YOU WILL
DIE IN REAL LIFE?
Absolutely not. Many of us in alt.dreams would be happy
to share examples of dreams in which we clearly died.
And I promise that I am, as of this writing, still alive
to tell about it! =)
Many people dream of falling, but wake up before hitting
bottom. Perhaps our minds, even while asleep, have such a
strong survival instinct that they often simply do not
permit us to dream about the actual phenomenon of death.
People who do dream their own death and live to tell about
it may be more curious about death, so much so that their
curiosity overcomes their natural fear of it.
20 ARE DREAMS RELATED TO OUR HEALTH?
Dreams have always enjoyed a special relationship with
the area of physical health. In ancient Greece, sick
people slept in special temples designed to incubate
diagnostic or curative dreams. Later, famous psychic
dreamers such as Edgar Cayce suggested a link between
dreams and information about our physical health.
Some scientists suppose that, during sleep, we may have
greater access to information about the state of our
bodies, which may be incorporated into our dreams.
(For example, germs loose in the body may be represented
as insects or other pests running loose in our house.
Or a high fever may be depicted as a fire raging out
When we are awake, there are hundreds of external
stimuli competing for our attention. While we sleep,
on the other hand, we may shut out the external
stimuli in favor of internal ones. Maybe this allows
us to pick up on very subtle signs of bodily infection
21 HOW DO SUBSTANCES LIKE DRUGS AND FOODS AFFECT OUR
It is a fact that many substances affect dream recall.
Laboratory studies suggest that depressants such as
alcohol, marijuana, sleeping pills, and sedatives tend
to reduce REM sleep and therefore reduce dream recall.
(Some people report the opposite. This is probably due
to an effect called REM rebound. For more information
about REM rebound, see number 2 above.)
Some drugs, such as certain anti-depressants, greatly
increase dream recall. Some people enjoy these strong,
vivid dreams; to others, they may be upsetting or
disturbing. People should discuss such drug side-
effects with their doctors.
Some people say that products such as Ginko, Choline,
B vitamins, and/or Zinc may increase dream recall.
Others have no success at all with such products.
In any case, a word of caution is certainly advised -
some substances may be toxic when ingested in large
Certain foods, such as milk and turkey, contain a
substance which may increase drowsiness.
Lastly, it is probably a good idea to follow the
common wisdom, to avoid heavy and/or spicy meals
near bedtime. When our bodies are very busy with
digestion, it may negatively affect our dreams.
22 WHAT ARE THE BEST BOOKS ABOUT DREAMS?
Alt.dreamers are sure to disagree on this subject!
Some people would prefer books from a scientific perspective;
others would like a more psychological approach; still others
would want a spiritual emphasis.
Most of us agree that "dream dictionaries" usually have
very limited usefulness.
Some of the more prolific authors who write dream
G. William Domhoff
J. Allan Hobson
Robert Van de Castle
Marie Louise Von Franz
Your local librarian or bookstore clerk can help you
locate good books. Good luck!
23 IS IT POSSIBLE TO CONTROL YOUR DREAMS?
Yes, at least to some extent. Dreams have been shown
to be quite responsive to presleep stimuli. Some
people are able to "incubate" dreams that address
certain issues or involve certain places, characters,
It is also possible to develop a skill called "lucid
dreaming," which means an awareness DURING SLEEP, that
a dream is occurring. To learn techniques for developing
this skill, consult books by Stephen LaBerge or visit
24 IS IT NORMAL TO HAVE A "DREAM WITHIN A DREAM"?
These dreams, called "false awakenings" (or, less commonly,
"nested dreams" or "recursive dreams") seem to be linked
to the ability to experience lucid dreams. Some people
enjoy these odd muddlings of dream life and waking reality;
other people find them very disturbing.
25 HOW DO WE KNOW THAT WE AREN'T DREAMING RIGHT NOW?
Good question. =) Lucid dreamers are famous for
constantly "checking" reality, to see whether they
are dreaming at that moment!
One "reality check" might be to attempt complicated
mathematical equations, which seem to be very difficult
to perform in dreams (although this effect is less true
for mathematicians than the rest of us.)
Most people also find that text tends to shift and change
in un-natural ways in dreams. So you might try reading a
passage of text, looking away, and then re-reading it to
see if it still says the same thing it did a moment ago.
But to be honest, this question is one of the great
conundrums of history. Chinese philosopher Chuang-Tzu
reportedly said in the 3rd century B.C., "One night I
dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither,
content with my lot. Suddenly I awoke and I was Chuang-Tzu
again. Who am I in reality? A butterfly dreaming that I
am Chuang-Tzu or Chuang-Tzu imagining he was a butterfly?"
(c) 1998 Pamela C. Ryan
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