Correspondence

The capability to externally influence the contents of dreams with various stimulus during sleep is an ongoing area of study among dream researchers. Experiments have been made to determine which sense has the most power to evoke memory and emotion, and smell has been found to be the most potent stimulus for evoking memory and the emotions associated with it.

In one study, the participants were allowed to drift into sleep, and as they entered the REM phase (the period most associated with dreaming) the strong odor of either rotten eggs or sweet roses was wafted under their noses. A minute later the subjects were woken and asked about the nature of their dreams and how they felt.

It was found that the sleepers hardly ever dreamed of smelling something. Nevertheless, the emotional tone of the dream did change depending on the stimulation. The unpleasant smell changed the emotional content of the dream to mostly negative, while the scent of roses coloured the dreams with a positive glow.

Other studies have found that using smells during sleep can also have a powerful effect on memory. A group of researchers used the scent of roses on volunteers as they studied, and later as they slept. It improved their performance on a memory test by almost 15 per cent.

Condensation

An interobject is a phenomenon of dreams, in which there is a perception of something that is “between” two objects. Interobjects differ from typical dream manifestations in which two objects are fused into one. Instead, the object is incomplete. An example from the literature on dreams includes “something between a record player and a balance scale.” Interobjects are new creations derived from partially-fused blends of other objects.

Interobjects, like disjunctive cognitions, would sound bizarre or psychotic as perceptions in waking life, but are accepted by most people as commonplace in dreams. They have implications for both the theory of dreaming and the theory of categorization. Interobjects show the dreaming mind grouping items together whose connection may not be apparent to the waking mind. “Something between an aqueduct or a swimming-pool” reveals the category of “large man-made architectural objects that contain water.” “Something between a cellphone and a baby” reveals a category combining a relatively new piece of technology and a live infant: both make noise when you don’t expect it, both are held close to your body, and both can give you a feeling of connectedness.

Most adults tend to regularize interobjects when discussing them in waking life. Children are better able to sustain interobjects in their original form. A child told his father a dream in which he was in trouble at sea and a seal swam up to them. They thought it was just a seal, but then they looked and under the water it was a whole boat, it was huge, so they climbed onto the seal/boat, and it brought them to the shore of the mainland. When the boy told his father the dream in the morning, the father, speaking like an adult who cannot tolerate contradictions, said to him: “So really, it was a boat, a big, safe boat.” The child, holding fast to the integrity of his dream, said, “It was a boat, but it was still a big, friendly seal.” This child had not yet learned to regularize his perceptions to fit the way the world works. Adults may learn to reject interobjects in waking life, but still retain them in their dreams.

Interobjects may have an elementary function in human thought. By transgressing the normal mental categories described by Eleanor Rosch, interobjects may be the origin of new ideas that would be harder to come by using only fully-formed, secondary process formations. They may be one example of “Oneiric Darwinism” in which new thought-mutations are created during dream-life and rejected or retained in waking life depending on their usefulness.

Simulation

A false awakening is an event in which someone dreams they have awoken from sleep. This illusion of having awakened is very convincing to the person. After a false awakening, people will often dream of performing daily morning rituals, believing they have truly awakened. A dream in which a false awakening takes place is sometimes colloquially referred to as a double dream, or a dream within a dream.

It may occur either following an ordinary dream or following a lucid dream in which the dreamer has been aware of dreaming. Particularly if the false awakening follows a lucid dream, the false awakening may turn into a pre-lucid dream, or one in which the dreamer may start to wonder if they are really awake and may or may not come to the correct conclusion.

A false awakening has significance to the simulation hypothesis which states that what we perceive as reality is in truth an illusion as evidenced by our minds’ inability to distinguish between reality and dreams. Therefore, advocates of the simulation hypothesis argue that the probability of our true reality being a simulated reality is affected by the prevalence of false awakenings.

Certain aspects of life may be dramatized or out of place in false awakenings. Things may seem wrong. Details, like viewing a painting on a wall, not being able to talk or difficulty reading are often difficult or impossible. In some experiences, the subject’s senses are heightened, or changed.

Another more realistic type of false awakening, is a continuum. In a continuum, the subject will fall asleep in real life, but in the dream following, the brain will simulate the subject still awake.

Memory

The MILD technique (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams) is a technique developed by Stephen LaBerge used to induce a lucid dream at will by setting an intention, while falling asleep, to remember to recognize that one is dreaming or to remember to look for dream signs when one is in a dream.

One easy-to-apply method is to count yours or other people’s fingers during the day, making sure it is done diligently and reaches the expected number. If this is done frequently when awake, similar behavior may continue into the dream, where by some discrepancy from reality, the dreamer would realize he or she is dreaming and the dream could become lucid.

Another method is to look at text (such as a digital clock, or a road sign), turn away, and then look back. If the person is dreaming, the text may change to something else. The dreamer would then realize he or she is dreaming and the dream could become lucid.

A key element in MILD is reviewing in memory the dream from which one has just awoken. When a point is reached in the dream at which an obvious dream sign occurred, individuals performing this technique depart from actual memory and instead imagine they became aware they were dreaming. Upon returning to sleep, these individuals will often find themselves back in the same or similar dreams, sometimes even encountering similar dream signs. This is a situation that can improve the odds they will remember their intention to question whether or not they are dreaming, and thereby achieve lucidity.

The wake-back-to-bed technique is often the easiest way to encourage a lucid dream. The method involves going to sleep and waking up five to six hours later, focusing all thoughts on lucid dreaming while staying awake for an hour, and going back to sleep while practicing the MILD method. This technique has had a 60% success rate in research. This is because the REM cycles get longer as the night goes on, and this technique takes advantage of the best REM cycle of the night. Because this REM cycle is longer and deeper, gaining lucidity during this time may result in a lengthier lucid dream.

Being

The “dream argument” is the postulation that the act of dreaming provides preliminary evidence that the senses we trust to distinguish reality from illusion should not be fully trusted, and therefore any state that is dependent on our senses should at the very least be carefully examined and rigorously tested to determine if it is in fact “reality.”

While people dream, they usually do not realize they are dreaming. This has led philosophers to wonder whether one could actually be dreaming constantly, instead of being in waking reality, or at least that one can’t be 100% certain that he or she is not dreaming. In the West, the philosophical puzzle is referred to in writings as early as Plato and Aristotle. Having received serious attention in René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, the dream argument has become one of the most popular skeptical hypotheses.

In the East, this type of argument is well known as “Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly”. It relates that one night Zhuangzi dreamed that he was a carefree butterfly flying happily. After he woke up, he wondered how he could determine whether he was Zhuangzi who had just finished dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly who had just started dreaming he was Zhuangzi. This was a metaphor for what he referred to as a “great dream.”

He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake, busily and brightly assuming they understand things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman ‑ how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming, too. Words like these will be labeled the Supreme Swindle. Yet, after ten thousand generations, a great sage may appear who will know their meaning, and it will still be as though he appeared with astonishing speed.

Hallucination

The psychosomatic theory of dreams proposes that dreams are a product of dissociated imagination, which is dissociated from the conscious self and draws material from sensory memory for simulation, with sensory feedback resulting in hallucination. By simulating the sensory signals to drive the autonomous nerves, dreams can affect mind-body interaction.

In the brain and spine, the autonomous “repair nerves”, which can expand the blood vessels, connect with pain and compression nerves. These nerves are grouped into many chains called meridians in Chinese medicine. While dreaming, the body also employs the chain-reacting meridians to repair the body and help it grow and develop by sending out very intensive movement-compression signals when the level of growth enzymes increase.

This theory was proposed by Y.D. Tsai as part of his psychosomatic theory of dreams. Inside each brain, there is a program ” I ” (the conscious self) which is distributed over the conscious brain and coordinates mental functions (cortices), such as thinking, imagining, sensing, moving, reasoning … etc. “I” also supervises memory. Many bizarre states of consciousness are actually the results of dissociation of certain mental functions from “I”.

Forgetting

Reverse learning is a neurobiological theory of dreams. It is like a computer that is off-line during dreaming or the REM phase of sleep. During this phase, the brain supposedly sifts through information gathered throughout the day and throws out all unwanted material. According to the theory, we dream in order to forget and this involves a process of unlearning.

The cortex cannot cope with the vast amount of information received throughout the day without developing parasitic thoughts that would disrupt the efficient organisation of memory. During REM sleep, these unwanted connections in cortical networks are supposedly wiped out or damped down by the process making use of impulses bombarding the cortex from sub-cortical areas.

Reverse learning eliminates unwanted modes of neural network interaction acquired in the adult mammal’s learning and also in the process of fetal brain growth. Therefore, there is a possibility that abnormalities of reverse learning in the fetal brain might explain some aspects of the autistic syndromes or other neurodevelopmental disorders.

The theory is a variant upon the activation-synthesis hypothesis that a brain stem neuronal mechanism sends pontine-geniculo-occipital (or PGO) waves that automatically activate the mammalian forebrain. By comparing information generated in specific brain areas with information stored in memory, the forebrain synthesizes dreams during REM sleep.

One problem for reverse-learning theory is that dreams are often organized into clear narratives or stories. It is unclear why dreams would be organized in a systematic way if they consisted only of disposable parasitic thoughts. It is also unclear why babies sleep so much, because it seems they would have less to forget.

Relaxation

Yoga Nidra refers to yogic sleep and yogic lucid dreaming. It has been practiced as a spiritual practice for millennia by ascetics and yogic practitioners. Of the three states of consciousness of waking, dreaming and deep sleep refer specifically to the conscious awareness of the deep sleep state, referred to as “prajna”. This is the third of the four levels of consciousness relating to the state represented by the M of AUM. The four states are waking, dreaming, sleep, and turiya, the fourth state. The state of Yoga Nidra, conscious deep sleep, is beyond or subtler than the imagery and mental process of the waking and non-lucid dreaming states. As a state of conscious deep sleep, Yoga Nidra is a universal principle, and is not the exclusive domain of any specific tradition.

The practice of yogic relaxation has been found to effectively reduce tension and improve psychological well being of people suffering from anxiety. The autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating and abdominal pain respond exceptionally well to yoga nidra. Practicing yoga nidra successfully decreases the time required to fall asleep, thereby curing insomnia.

Adherents of the Yoga Nidra as guided visualisation technique hold that half an hour of Yoga Nidra may yield the benefit of up to three hours of standard sleep, although the regular engagement of this practice as a sleep substitute is contraindicated as the bodymind still requires sufficient rest through standard sleep. This tradition of Yoga Nidra should not be conflated with techniques of autosuggestion and autogenous training, though there is a palpable commonality in process if not in application.

Through practice of Yoga Nidra, one achieves true relaxation. During the practice of yoga nidra, one appears to be sleeping, but the consciousness is functioning at the deeper level of awareness. It is sleep with a trace of deep awareness. It is a state of mind in between wakefulness and dream. Normally when we sleep, we loose track of our self and cannot utilize this capacity of mind. Yoga nidra enables the person to be conscious in this state and nurture the seed of great will power, inspire the higher self, and enjoy the vitality of life.

With constant practice of Yoga Nidra people have found that the technique restructures and transforms the whole personality from within. With every session of yoga nidra, one is actually burning the old habits and tendencies in order to be born anew. This process is quicker than other systems that work on an external basis. It is a most powerful method for reshaping the personality.

Repetition

A false awakening is an event in which someone dreams they have awoken from sleep. This illusion of having awakened is very convincing to the person. After a false awakening, people will often dream of performing daily morning rituals, believing they have truly awakened. A dream in which a false awakening takes place is sometimes colloquially referred to as a double dream, or a dream within a dream.

It may occur either following an ordinary dream or following a lucid dream, one in which the dreamer has been aware of dreaming. Particularly if the false awakening follows a lucid dream, the false awakening may turn into a pre-lucid dream, in which the dreamer may start to wonder if they are really awake and may or may not come to the correct conclusion.

A false awakening has significance to the simulation hypothesis which states that what we perceive as true reality is in fact an illusion as evidenced by our minds’ inability to distinguish between reality and dreams. Therefore, advocates of the simulation hypothesis argue that the probability of our true reality being a simulated reality is affected by the prevalence of false awakenings.

Certain aspects of life may be dramatized or out of place in false awakenings. Details like being able to see a painting on a wall, not being able to talk or difficulty reading are common. In some experiences, the human senses are heightened or changed. For instance, one may be able to see things in greater detail, or lesser detail, or one may feel an intense burst of fear and anxiety, or possibly pleasure.

Because the dreamer is still dreaming after a false awakening, it is possible for there to be more than one false awakening in a single dream. Often, dreamers will seem to have awakened, begin eating breakfast, brushing teeth, and so on and then find themselves back in bed, begin daily morning rituals, believe that they have awakened again, and so forth. The French psychologist Yves Delage reported an experience of his own of this kind, in which he experienced four successive false awakenings. The philosopher Bertrand Russell claimed to have experienced about a hundred false awakenings in succession while coming round from a general anaesthetic.

Examination

Dream interpretation is the process of assigning meaning to dreams. In many of the ancient societies, including Egypt and Greece, dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention, whose message could be unravelled by those with certain powers. In modern times, various schools of psychology have offered theories about the meaning of dreams.

The ancient Greeks constructed temples they called Asclepieions, where sick people were sent to be cured. It was believed that cures would be effected through divine grace by incubating dreams within the confines of the temple. Dreams were also considered prophetic or omens of particular significance. In ancient Egypt, priests also acted as dream interpreters. Joseph and Daniel are recorded as having interpreted dreams sent from God, and indeed the Bible describes many incidents of dreams as divine revelation. Hieroglyphics depicting dreams and their interpretations are evident. Dreams have been held in considerable importance through history by most cultures.

Dream interpretation was taken up as part of psychoanalysis at the end of the 19th century; the perceived, manifest content of a dream is analyzed to reveal its latent meaning to the psyche of the dreamer. One of the seminal works on the subject is The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.

In 1953, Calvin S. Hall developed a theory of dreams in which dreaming is considered to be a cognitive process. Hall argued that a dream was simply a thought or sequence of thoughts that occurred during sleep, and that dream images are visual representations of personal conceptions. For example, if one dreams of being attacked by friends, this may be a manifestation of fear of friendship; a more complicated example, which requires a cultural metaphor, is that a cat within a dream symbolizes a need to use one’s intuition. For English speakers, it may suggest that the dreamer must recognize that there is “more than one way to skin a cat”, or in other words, more than one way to do something.

In the 1970s, Ann Faraday and others helped bring dream interpretation into the mainstream by publishing books on do-it-yourself dream interpretation and forming groups to share and analyze dreams. Faraday focused on the application of dreams to situations occurring in one’s life. For instance, some dreams are warnings of something about to happen – e.g. a dream of failing an examination, if one is a student, may be a literal warning of unpreparedness. Outside of such context, it could relate to failing some other kind of test. Or it could even have a “punny” nature, e.g. that one has failed to examine some aspect of his life adequately.

Faraday noted that “one finding has emerged pretty firmly from modern research, namely that the majority of dreams seem in some way to reflect things that have preoccupied our minds during the previous day or two.”