Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Do You Dream?

Do you dream?  I certainly hope so, for several reasons.  If not, you are missing out - again for several reasons.

What do I mean by dreaming?

There are at least two very different types, and possibly three depending on how wide you define them.

Most people who are asked the question "do you dream?" immediately think about what happens when they are asleep.  Dreaming while you sleep performs an important function.  According to Dr Rosalind Carter, the founder of the Sleep Disorder Service and Research Centre in Chicago, dreams "help us process new, emotionally important information and add it to our conceptual memory system.  As I pointed out in an earlier article, scientists have discovered that most mammals (and perhaps all) use this process while they sleep to experiment and sort out which strategies should work and which probably won't.  We are no exception to this principle.  Dreams are a safe "sandbox" we can use to try out different things, to see how we might react emotionally to changed circumstances, to condition ourselves to and be ready to accept change.

If you believe you do not dream while asleep you are probably wrong.  There have been a number of scientific studies of the "non-dreaming" phenomenon, and most have reached the conclusion that those who claim not to dream simply do not remember their dreams when they wake up.  You probably still gain the benefits of your dreams, as your subconscious will have integrated the experience whether or not you remember it.

One way to begin recalling your dreams is to have a pen and paper by your bedside and to write down anything you can remember about your dreams the moment you wake up.  I can hear your objection loud and clear - how can I write down anything about my dreams if I don't remember them?  Humour me and try it anyway.  Many people still have a memory of their dreams when they first wake, but within just a few seconds completely forget they even had any dreams.  Those people adamantly state that they never dream, but if they try recording their dreams the moment they wake they find they really did dream.

Dreams don't just occur when we are sleeping though.  We also daydream.  You can think of a daydream as being very similar to a dream while you are asleep, and it can fulfil the same function.  As long as it is done appropriately this is a very good thing.  Clearly you should not daydream when driving a car or operating heavy machinery!  It may also not be appropriate to daydream when you are being paid to work or in the middle of a school lesson, or a college or university lecture!  On the other hand, sometimes in such cases a daydream can be very creative and help you do a better job or get a better grip on the subject you are studying.  Just don't expect your boss, teacher or lecturer to agree unless they are very open minded!

If you don't already daydream I encourage you to do so.  Choose an appropriate time to do this, ideally when you are on your own and will not be disturbed.  As with the technique to recall night dreams, have a pen and paper by you so that immediately after your daydream session you can note down anything that appeals, or any insights you may have had.

There is another meaning of "dream", of course.  Your hopes and wishes for the future.  To some people this is akin to daydreaming, and they believe it is enjoying an esperience they will never have in the "real" world.  This is a very shortsighted view.  The distinction between the imaginary and real worlds is nowhere near as great as you may believe.  When you dream in the "imaginary" world you are actually starting to bring those dreams closer to what most people define as "reality".

This meaning of "dream" is very important.  We should all have dreams.  We should all have something we truly wish to achieve, and the start of the journey that ends in achievement is a dream.

In 1963 a great American stated "I have a dream!"  The dream he had has not yet fully come to pass, but the America of today is certainly very much closer to Martin Luther King's dream just over 50 years ago.  Some may argue that this would have happened even if King had not had that dream.  Probably that is true, but only because the same dream would have passed through another person equally empassioned by it.  I truly believe the world is a better place as a direct result of that dream.

So I hope you DO dream!  I hope you dream for a better future for yourself but also for all around you.  If you do, then the world will be a better place simply because you chose to dream!

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