Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater
 
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  Minus Button which collapses the expandable menu You're in Charge: A Guide to Becoming Your Own Therapist
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You're in Charge: A Guide to Becoming Your Own Therapist
Chapter 6 (an excerpt)                    2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9         p.1

On Dreaming

God created the dreams to point out the way to the sleeper whose eyes are in darkness.

--- Ancient Egyptian text

Sigmund Freud said that dreams were the royal road to the unconscious. Fritz Perls called them the royal road to integration--- meaning, a method of reclaiming previously disowned parts of the personality. Kilton Stewart described an uninterpreted dream as being "like an unopened letter from God." And according to Edgar Cayce, dreams are visions that can be crystallized. People have been fascinated with dreams and have regarded them as significant since ancient times. Remember how Joseph saved himself from a long term in jail and got himself established as Pharaoh's steward by his successful dream interpretations, first for the Pharaoh's butler and baker, and then for the Pharaoh himself?

With this long-standing historical interest in dreams, it's intriguing to me that the hard, scientific data on dreams came only in the last half of this century. In 1953, Aserinsky and Kleitman, working in the department of physiology at the University of Chicago, observed that sleeping subjects have periods of rapid eye movements (called REMs in the trade) and that these REM periods are associated with dreaming. Subsequent research, as reported by William C. Dement, established that everyone dreams (although not everyone remembers those dreams), that a typical adult will have four or five dream sequences per night (or 20 per cent of sleeping time), that people taking barbiturate sleeping pills, idiots and senile people dream far less, and that premature babies spend up to 75 per cent of their sleep-time in REM-sleep.

Dreaming is somehow essential to the organism. Subjects in a dream laboratory were awakened at the beginning of each REM period, allowed to go back to sleep, and always obtained their full baseline quota of sleep for the night. They were deprived only of their dreams. By the fifth night, when they were having 20 to 30 aborted REM periods per night, they had become tense, anxious, and irritable during the day and found it increasingly difficult to concentrate. A control group that was awakened as frequently during the night (but during non-REM or nondreaming periods) did not develop these symptoms. The experimental group's symptoms disappeared when they were permitted their normal sleep, and for the first few nights their REM periods were four times their normal frequency.

So the data are in and conclusive: We all dream and our dreaming performs some necessary function.

There are still a few people, however, who swear that they don't dream because they have never recalled having a dream upon awakening. And many more recall their dreams so infrequently that they believe that they must dream less often than other people.

The data on dream recallers (i.e., people who recall at least one dream per month) compared to the nonrecallers are interesting. Goodenough and others found that the nonrecallers have more rapid REMs and make looking-away type of eye movements (almost as if they don't wish to see what's happening during the actual dream itself). They also tend to be more inhibited, more conformist, more self-controlled, and more apt to deny or avoid unpleasantness and confrontations in their daily lives than the dream recallers.

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This site was last changed November 28, 2001. It was created on March 20, 1997.

© Janette Rainwater 1997-2001

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