Why do we dream and what do dreams mean? It’s a debate we’ve had for thousands of years and I talk about this more in my book Answers in the Dark.
We know this, because over 3000 years ago, people were writing about them. The Chester Beatty Papyrus #3 was dated to 1220 BC, and contained a manuscript of dream theory and interpretation. In fact, it’s where the theory of opposites came from – that if you dream of death (for example) it means there is a birth on the horizon.
A Greek gentleman called Artemidorus (who lived around the second century AD), created the Oneirocritica, the next large piece of work which attempted to understand, explore and explain fully what dreams meant.
After that, the most influential work came from Sigmund Freud in the early 19th century, although even his work was influenced by his mentors and peers before him. He was then followed by his student Carl Jung, who approached his theory from a different angle than those that Freud became famous for. But there were many more, less famous theorists like Alfred Adler, John Kappas and Nerys Dee, all who approached dreams and their meanings differently. Joe Griffin, a 21st century dream theorist approaches his work from the Human Givens theory. All of these people have played an important part in understanding what dreams mean and why we have them.
Culturally, dreams play an important part in the lives of people around the world. There are many different approaches to dreams and interpretation amongst native american, aboriginal and african tribes for example. Shamanic and Alchera beliefs are just two examples of how cultures involve dreaming in their traditions and way of life. In some Buddhist traditions there is a focus on lucid dreaming (article coming soon).
What is important, is to remember that scientifically we’ve only really been scratching the surface of dreams and sleep during the last century. We are still a long way from knowing for sure where dreams come from, why we have them and what they mean. We know for certain that we need to sleep and we need to dream. Various studies including this one (reported on the BBC website and originally published in Science Magazine) have concluded that without dreams and sleep, we become ill and our memory is affected.
If you’re starting the process of exploring your dreams you may find the articles and services here useful as a resource to start your journey – but remember you are unique and so are your dreams; only you can decide ultimately what they mean.
I talk about common and recurring dreams in my book Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal. The book aims to join the dots between our sleep, dreams and our mental health, specifically how grief shows up, even if no one has died. I explore some of the big myths of sleep, offer a Sleep Cycle Repair Kit including mindfulness activities as well as some top tips to help you decode your dreams.
You can find out more in the video below or order on Amazon.
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