Our dreams set our hearts thumping, our pulse racing, and cascades of adrenaline priming us for a fight to the death. And yet when we wake up all this passion seems to be distant, “like a dream”. So what’s it all about?
Scientists are increasingly acknowledging the vital role dreams can play in our lives – in laying down memory, preparing us for a difficult situation, healing trauma, providing solutions, discoveries and breakthroughs. Dreams enable us to think outside the box because brain areas that restrict our thinking to the logical and familiar are much less active during REM sleep. This disinhibition is a crucial part of creative thought which allows us to make all sorts of connections through the dream-images, leading to the famous AHA experience.
So, how do we get the most out of this altered state of consciousness? In our dreams, our sensations, emotions and raw perceptions are transformed into symbols. The business of consciousness now goes on in visual form – immediate, vivid, sensuous and intense. We say that a picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, the visual areas of the brain are even more active in sleep than they are in waking thought. This allows us visualize solutions more readily in dreams than in waking thought.
The miracle is that the imagery in our dreams is uniquely tailor-made for us – a perfect fit for our innermost needs and development. Drawn from our deeply subjective experiences, the images in our dreams captivate us because they speak a language known best by the dreamer. It's the language we formed trying to make sense of the world around us, before we could even speak, when our newly formed senses communicated the wonders of touch, colour, sound and scent to our developing brains. To this richness pouring in from the outer world, we added the wonders of our newly forming self – its brand-new sensations, feelings, and responses. Together, our senses and psyche knit together our subjective reality – through symbols which give us not only the sweetness of life but also the thrill of knowing the world.
Cooking these symbols with the heat of consciousness releases their original meaning and charge, giving us access to the wisdom, power and energy of the core Self.