Functions Of Dreams in dream

Over the years many theories to ex­plain the ‘why’ of dreams have been put forward. These range from dreams being messages from spirits; being results of food eaten prior to sleep; the mind freewheeling nonsensi­cally; the garbage disposal system of the mind; suggestions from waking experience; a computer reprogramming for the brain; to Freud’s wish fulfilment and Jung’s compensation theory.

If we do not argue any particular theory, however, then perhaps we see dreams as having a much wider function.

The most primal drives observable are survival, growth and repro­duction. Other urges, such as eating, social position, curiosity, are secondary.

The human animal appears to have survived and reproduced more capably after the development of self awareness, language and reasoning. With or without these, we remain an animal with a psychobiological nature. All ani­mals are known to dream. All animals share a certain situa­tion. They have an internal world out of which arises im­pulses (to eat, to mate, to avoid danger) and feeling reactions (anger, fear, anticipation). And they have an external world which confronts them with real survival dangers, sources of food, a mate, changes in environmental conditions.

A dream lies somewhere between these two worlds.

We can think of the human personality as being like a special son of cavity into which all these influences are dropped or are thrown. Physical sensations, internal drives and emotions, language, social rules, religious ideas; prompts to make decisions; news of war, massive media and advertis­ing information, are all dropped in.

The cavity has to deal with it, but as it is a mixture of things, many of which are in opposition, some sort of balance has to be kept. But how? And it cannot be simply a matter of throwing out all of one sort or aspect of things. Eradicating the memory of criticism might make us more calm, but it would limit the process of psychological growth, which has survival value.

Dreams can be seen to be connected with our survival and self regulating process. Because this involves all aspects of oneself and one’s experience, one cannot give dreams a single definition. They probably have many secondary functions, such as an interface to balance the internal and external influ­ences, to compensate between the inner needs and outer real­ity—a baby may miss its feed so, to cope with this primal need, it may dream of being fed. Traumatic or exterior danger­ous events, which cannot be processed immediately, can be stored and dealt with (experimented with or abreacted) while asleep. In higher mammals, infant traumas can be stored and dealt with in sleep when, or if, a stronger ego develops.

To meet the loneliness and isolation of consciousness’ or fears of death, the dream can link the waking self with its unconscious sense of unity or God.

To meet survival needs of primitive human beings prior to rational thought, the dream probably acted as a computer, synthesising experience and information, giving rise to creative solutions to hunting or social situations, presented as sleeping or waking imagery. This may explain why many pnmitive people say skills such as farming, weav­ing, writing, were told them by a vision of a god or goddess.

If we realise that the dream is an end product of a process which produces it, it enables us to see that the process’ (the survival function which regulates, compensates, links, prob­lem solves) can be accessed without meeting the dream. See sleep movements; dream process as computer; Adler; Freud; Jung.


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