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Understanding the Meaning of Dreams
It is sometimes puzzling to understand why dreams occur and why they are about what they’re about. The scientific study of dreams is called oneirology.
It is during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that the most vivid dreams occur. This is due to high brain activity that most closely resembles being awake. Dreams during slow wave sleep (SWS) are less memorable and visceral.
Dreams can last for seconds at a time or up to 30 minutes. It is most easy to recall the content of your dream when waking up in the middle of REM sleep. On average, we experience three to five dreams a night, but most of them are immediately forgotten.
Most perceive dreams to be a connection to the unconscious mind. They can be adventurous, frightening, and even sexual. Some are as ordinary as everyday life, while others are completely surreal. Events in our dreams generally are outside of the control of the dreamer. Sometimes, they can be a source of inspiration for creative thought.
Opinions on the meaning of dreams has shifted throughout culture and history. In ancient Greek and Roman times, it was believed that dreams were messages sent directly from the gods, from the deceased, or that they foreshadowed the future. Other theories argue that dreams occur to improve our problem solving or memory formation, or they are simply a result of random brain activity.
Today, the average person seems to accept the Freudian view on dreams, that they reveal hidden emotions and desires that we’d otherwise suppress during the day. In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud wrote that dreams are a manifestation of our innermost anxieties and fears, usually relating to repressed childhood obsessions.