Why We Dream

?????nI’ve ridden atop an African elephant, with Whoopi Goldberg as my guide, through an endless labyrinth of pan continental portals… Through which any place in the world, nay the universe, was accessible. I’ve played table tennis in Hyde park against Jessica Rabbit. And I’ve waltzed with Kate Middleton as an orchestra, consisting of various primates, filled the room with there sweet bongo rhythms. And I did all these things without leaving the warm embrace of my ever loyal duvet.

I know what you are thinking dear reader and no, I have not taken leave of my senses. I have in fact done all these things and many more, though in truth I was not awake to see them.

The realm of dreams has fascinated some of the most inspired minds of our age, not to mention the likes of you and I. Whether Freudian, Yungian or the multi-coloured maps of a day modern neurologists, theory’s of dreaming have come in many different forms. From the sublime to the ludicrous, these attempts to explain dreams have impacted us all.

Approaching Slumberland

It has always been understood that dreams are important but why? In truth, every academic field has its own theory as to dreaming’s purpose, be it a narrative we should follow or an expression of our hidden psychosexual urges, theories are as numerous and varied as the dreams they seek to explain.

With so much choice then, in which academic field do we pitch our dreaming tent? For me, and indeed many clinical hypnotherapist, the work of Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell (co-creator of the Human Givens approach) is by far the best reasoning behind dreaming and its purpose.

Why were we given dreaming

According to the Human Givens approach, dreaming is a by product of evolution that serves to resolve what they call emotional arousal. Put simply as we go through our day to day lives, we encounter things, people or events that cause us to want to react in a way that is un-befitting of a decent member of society. When we fail to respond the way our emotional mind wishes to, it causes unresolved emotional arousal which we store in our minds (running in a loop in the background) until we sleep. When our sleep cycles takes us to the golden state of ‘rapid eye movement’ or REM sleep, our mind begins to resolve these aroused emotions by playing them out as a metaphorical story and ends said story in a way that satisfies our emotional mind. These stories are dreams.

Here’s an example: Let’s imagine that someone at work is, for what ever reason, rude to you. You’re initial urge maybe to punch them on the nose and be done with them. You wisely decide to refrain from perfectly justifiable assault and choose instead to rise above it. Yet behind the self congratulations of your grown up reaction lies a glimmer of violent reprisal. As you continue your day you might think back to that moment, reliving it in your imagination but this time you crush your cocky colleague with an Oscar Wilde worthy witticism or punishing upper cut. Despite how much of the day has past since the incident, you keep catching yourself returning to that moment. Even after you arrive home, the image of your colleague haunts you during ad breaks or as you brush your teeth. That night you sleep and, whether you remember or not, you dream. You dream, maybe, of a thunderous chariot race against Amy Childs then eating dinner in your old French class. In the morning you wake as fresh as morning dew. When you see the offending colleague, you may still dislike them but the sting of your previous encounter has gone. That is the power of dreams. They seldom retell the event as it was but the story it tells closes down the emotional arousal and leave you open for the day ahead.

So why not just dream about punching your boss

It has long been accepted that the mind has real trouble differentiating between what is imagine and what actually happened. Take false memory syndrome for example; as acclaimed psychologist Elizabeth Loftus demonstrated, it is more than possible to implant a false memory in someone’s mind by having them tell the story of a made up even in their lives over and over. After a couple of years the person will actually convince themselves that the story is either entirely real or at least based in some truth. Imagine, if you will, that three nights a week you actually dream about punching your boss. The end result would be believing that you had actually done so. And imagine how embarrassed you’d be if, after apologising to them for the numerous beatings you’d administered, they told you no such thing had happened. Or how red faced a teenaged boy would be, talking to his teacher after believing the ‘special’ dream about her was a real event, only to find he wasn’t her ‘snuggle bunny’ after all .

So what happens when the dreams don’t satisfy the emotional arousal

REM sleep (when we dream) is limited to around 10% of our sleep cycle. As such, in those time when we are over aroused (emotionally speaking) and under slept then the emotional arouse can start to build up. This build up, depending on how far it gets, is often called stress or anxiety. Which in turn, of course, leads to depression, anxiety and all manor of other well being related issues. This is why sleep is so important. Not only does it allow your body time to heal but your mind and emotions too.

How can I stop all that bad stuff then

The best cure is always prevention. Get yourself into a good sleeping routine (for help on that check out our better sleep articles 1,2 and 3). If things get to bad then hypnotherapy can not only help you sleep but also help deal with any excess emotional arousal.

On that note dear read I bid you good night and wish you the sweetest of dreams.

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