Dreams have been intriguing for us for thousands of years. We’ve always tried to find a way to understand them, either by seeking the answer in science or in the occult. People have explored religion, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience in attempts to decipher the dream realm, what goes on there and why. Along the way of understanding them, people have created five dream theories that might give us some answers.
There are other theories as well, but these five give us the closest to what we seek as an answer.
- Pragmatic Prophecies
When Siddhartha Gautama was born, his mother, Queen Maya, had a dream which foretold that her baby boy would grow up to become one of the most important people on the planet – Buddha. In her prophetic dream, she saw a white elephant entering her side.
Another example is written in the Book of Genesis where it is written how Joseph affirms Pharaoh’s dreams of what would lead to a seven-year nationwide famine.
If you accept this theory, then it can make you feel prepared for what’s to come.
If we include science to this theory, then evolutionary psychology suggests that our dreams include people, objects, situations, etc. that can pose threats to us.
When you wake up immediately from a dream, it’s a bit hard to give meaning to what you just dreamed of. But, Sigmund Freud’s and Abraham Lincoln’s dreams supposedly urged each of them to take certain actions in life.
In Freud’s case, the night before his father’s funeral, he saw a sign in his dream that read “You are requested to close the eye(s).” This urged him to write The Interpretation of Dreams. According to this text, dream interpretation allowed access to knowledge of the unconscious part of the mind.
In Lincoln’s case, he had a bad dream about his sons and their guns. While nothing happened, the dream affected him in real life.
This doesn’t mean that you should base everyday decisions around your dreams, but rather see them as instructions.
- Subconscious Communications
Carl Jung extended Freud’s theories about dreams a bit more. According to Jung, the meanings of our dreams took form in universal, yet personal symbols. These symbols would send a message to our conscious self about certain aspects of our lives that are likely important to us.
Let’s say you dream about someone taking your favorite childhood item away. It would mean that either you are worried about losing out on time with your children, or longing for your own youthful years.
Ever since the twentieth century, scientist have been studying the REM phase of dreaming, i.e. the rapid-eye-movement stage. They have scanned and studied the brains of over twenty-thousand voluntary dreamers, and they started to identify psychological themes. A couple of these themes are rarely being alone and often dreaming of someone with whom they have deep emotional ties.
The more data becomes available on dream patterns, symbols, and themes, the better they can understand the dreams.
Sleeping improves the learning process and promotes long-term memory. While dreaming, you may see kaleidoscopic imagery or semi-familiar pictures which neuroscientists attribute to the memory-making process. This means that the brain sorts out images from earlier in the day, your past, or random thoughts you may have had.
A hypothesis has been confirmed by an independent study that studied the link between episodic memory encoding and what we dream about. According to Faculty of Humanities Professor Sue Llewellyn from the University of Manchester, our memories are at work when we dream. Somehow, the memories we dream about further solidify themselves or other memories we have. But the question of how reliable those memories are remains.
Why Do We Have Similar Dreams?
The various dream dictionaries may give you the answer to this question. We constantly experience similar events, types of people, and places. The similarities appear to be so common, that a certain image or experience (e.g., teeth falling out) can generally mean the same thing from person to person.
Some other reasons include:
- Having close or intimate relations with another person (e.g., a best friend or spouse).
- Being connected to someone via a previous life, if you believe in the idea of karma.
- Your subconscious trying to tell you and a friend, family member, or stranger of something that may happen in the future.
How to remember your dreams better:
If you want to remember your dreams better, or even have control over them, then keeping a dream journal can help the case.
When you try to remember your dream, don’t pressure yourself. Also, make sure you write in your journal every day and to stick to your dream the best you can. Write your dreams as soon as you wake up and make sure your journal and pen are close to your bed. It’s also important to describe what you felt during the dream. If you want to take this one step further, you can note how you felt before going to sleep and after waking up. And last, it might sound strange, but try to give titles to your dreams. This way you can notice a pattern and be able to connect them.