(Note: This is the first in a three-part series on dreams.)
If we lived among the Senoi of Malaysia, where people discuss their dreams each morning, or in Native cultures where the direction of the tribe is guided by dreams, we'd all probably wake up each morning with a clear remembrance of the night's dramas. Most of us, however, live in cultures honoring only that which can be experienced with the waking physical senses. We may discard any experience that doesn't fit inside these limitations.
Thus, we may find ourselves disregarding about one-third of our lives. We pay a price for this neglect on many levels.
While in ordinary waking consciousness, we may not remember our dreams, on a deeper level they leave their impression, and when we don't admit our dreams to full consciousness, that impression may be a disturbing one. The fear of one's dreams may cause insomnia or restless sleep. We may wake up confused, our minds fuzzy and unfocused. During the day we may experience emotions that seem disconnected to the events taking place, feelings that sound the invisible chords of repressed dreams.
Our greatest loss is of the ability to use the rich resources provided to us by our dreams; we deny ourselves the power, creativity, and healing messages they are designed to give us.
Dreams, Emotions, and Healing
Dream researchers have discovered that people may dream of an illness either before it occurs or when it is in an early stage. It also appears evident that studying the emotional content of dreams can help us rebalance ourselves before imbalance deepens to physical expression.
Since the 1980s, the research of Candace Pert, a molecular biologist (featured in the movie "What the Bleep") and other scientists, has demonstrated that the mind and body are one. The glue that joins them is neuropeptides (short-chain amino acid sequences). While a detailed explanation of how they work isn't possible in this article, briefly, this is what happens.
Alert: you don't have to understand the following paragraph in order to follow the rest of the article.
Every emotional state stimulates the part of the brain called the hypothalamus to generate and transmit neuropeptides to the pituitary gland. It in turn delivers them to every body cell, where they connect with receptors and cause chemical changes. Thus, neuropeptides, activated by emotions, connect all body systems, including the immune system.
When you sleep, your mind/body is working to rebalance itself, with the charging of peptides into your system. One of their jobs is to process emotions. If strong emotions aren't dissolved completely, they get stored at a cellular level. In sleep, their release is expressed in dream form.
For example, if you experienced a lot of fear the previous day, that fear will find its way into a dream (the most dramatic form being a nightmare). If you were sad or depressed, you may experience dreams that express this.
When you're aware of your dreams, you can learn what's going on within physically and emotionally. Such awareness can help you to deal with emotions that pose a threat to wellbeing. This is valuable for health on all levels. Scientists have observed that the release of blocked emotions is especially important for the optimal functioning of the immune system.
Dreams' Subtle Messages
Biochemical interactions may provide the framework for our dreams. What we do with this raw material can be very imaginative. In our dreams we're in a world where the rules of physical existence are relaxed and sometimes suspended altogether. We may wander through in a different time period, turn into a different sex. We may meet dead relatives or friends. We may fly.
The opportunity to observe the symbolic ways in which our mind/body is adjusting itself to compensate for emotional and biochemical overload is one of the benefits dreams provide. When we are basically in balance, the dream state becomes an arena in which we try out various possibilities for our lives, eventually choosing the ones that we most want to manifest.
A dream about the deceased grandmother who was always a source of love and support for you may be telling you to love yourself or that you have hidden resources. A flying dream may tell you that you're ready to free yourself from certain restrictions, and a dream that you're a different sex may be urging you to express qualities you keep repressed.
Our dream images can show us not only our deepest feelings and desires, but also the beliefs that may prevent their expression. Suppose you dream about moving into a new place that will cost more in rent than you're paying now. When you turn on the faucet, no water comes out. This could mean that on a psychic level you sense a plumbing problem; it could also mean that you're afraid that paying the higher rent will drain your financial resources.
Reclaiming Our Dreams
Once we decide to welcome our dreams back into our lives it becomes relatively easy to remember them and work with them, if only because each night we have several opportunities to practice. You can gain greater recall when you keep the following guidelines in mind:
Just the sight of that notebook before you go to sleep and when you wake up can serve as a powerful stimulus to dream recall. When you wake up, write your dreams down immediately, as well as your feelings about them.
At first, that may be all you want to do, just to get yourself into the rhythm of dream recording. Later on, though, you will get more benefit from your dreams if you begin to interpret them. This will be the subject of the second article in this series.
Essences and Crystals
I have written about the benefits of essences and crystals in stimulating dream recall. If you're interested in pursuing this, the following articles may help.
Part Two of this series will provide some suggestions for interpreting dreams.
Part Three will focus on interpreting dreams with animal, crystal, or plant/flower/tree images.