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Last Updated Wednesday July 26 2017 09:39 AM IST

Exploring the wilderness of dreams and its hidden meaning

Dr Robin Mathew
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Dreams

Despite centuries of scientific researches and studies, the world of dreams still remains a mystery. In early days, dreams were considered as a celestial communication between man and God. The Romans and the Greeks held a belief that dreams were prophetic.

Today, scientists and researchers can explain the reasons behind dreaming. But, people still cling to the notion that dreams are celestial and prophetic.

Also read: The truth behind pop psychological concepts

A recent study conducted in South Korea, India and the USA reveals that 56-74 percent of the population believes that there are hidden meanings behind their dreams. And of course, nightmares are considered as ominous signs of danger and misery.

Psychological views on dreams

According to Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, dreams convey certain meanings, which are related to our inner suppressed thoughts. Perhaps his book,

The Interpretation of Dreams, would be the single most celebrated book on the subject. By virtue of Freud’s popularity, his theories about dreams were thought to be accurate. But modern science has refuted most of the theories he proposed in the book.

Neurobiological views

One of the main modern neurobiological theories about dream is activation-synthesis hypothesis proposed by Harvard University psychiatrists John Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley.

Their theory states that dreams are not just a passive activity that happens during our sleep; it requires a lot of effort. The lower levels of brain are very much active during the sleep. These parts are responsible for the basic biological activities. The activities of the lower brain are then interpreted by the areas responsible for information processing (forebrain). So, most of our dreams are merely nonsensical while some gets us fanciful ideas.

Dream contents

There are certain emotions that keep recurring in our dreams, viz., happiness, fear, anxiety and anger.

Most of the time, our dreams are influenced by the emotions that control us during the daytime, our hidden anxieties and even our physical conditions. But they may not be always coherent, and would be nonsensical.

In essence, what we see in our dreams could be a combination of randomly chosen emotions or memories, which are not at all related to one another. Hence, they may not have any specific meaning at all.

(The author is a behavioral psychologist)

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