Spirit-WWW: NewsGateway Article <news:alt.dreams.44272>

From pryan@prairienet.org (Pamela Ryan):
Newsgroups: alt.dreams,

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


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 pryan@prairienet.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
   11.8 Dualities
   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
   12.4 Falling
   12.5 Flying
   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?


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 


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.


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 
and involvement.

-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 
dream journal.

-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 
day's events.

-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!


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). 


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, 
and/or behavior.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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):


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.


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. 
For example:

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 
most important.

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.


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 


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. 
For example:

=> 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. 


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".


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 
about it."


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." 
For example:

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


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.


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).


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" 


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.) 


-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-
problems dreams.
-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.


-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 
pent-up worries.
-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!)


-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 
you died.
-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.


-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.


-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
dream life.
-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: jason919@aol.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.


-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?


-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?


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.


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 
just right. 

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! 


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 
your business.

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 (rmottare@powerup.com.au) 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.


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.


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 
touched down?

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 


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.


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.


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 
of control.) 

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 
or distress. 


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 
enough quantities.

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. 


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 
books include:

Robert Bosnak
Kelly Bulkeley
Gayle Delaney
G. William Domhoff
Ann Faraday
Jayne Gackenbach
Patricia Garfield
Ernest Hartmann
J. Allan Hobson
Strephon Kaplan-Williams
Stanley Krippner
Stephen LaBerge
Patricia Maybruck
Henry Reed
Jeremy Taylor
Montague Ullman
Robert Van de Castle
Marie Louise Von Franz

Your local librarian or bookstore clerk can help you 
locate good books. Good luck!


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, 
or scenes.

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 


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.


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

Comments, suggestions, ideas, additions? 
Email pryan@prairienet.org.


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