Excerpt from Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge (1985)
Why do we have dreams and what do they mean? These questions have for centuries been the subject of a debate that has recently become the center of a heated controversy. In one camp we have a number of prominent scientists who argue that we dream for physiological reasons alone and that dreams are essentially mental nonsense devoid of psychological meaning: “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The idea that dreams are nothing more than “meaningless biology” sounds absurd and rather blasphemous to the opposing camp, a coalition of Freudians and other dream workers committed to the view that we dream for psychological reasons and that dreams always contain important information about the self or some aspects of one’s life which can be extracted by various methods of interpretation. This camp takes its credo from the Talmudic aphorism that “an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter.” There is also a third camp occupying the middle ground, that believes both of the extreme positions on the function and meaning of dreams to be partly right and partly wrong. Its proponents argue that dreams may have both physiological and psychological determinants, and therefore can be either meaningful or meaningless, varying greatly in terms of psychological significance.
This middle position is where I find myself most comfortable. I agree with Sir Richard Burton that
“Truth is the shattered mirror strown in myriad bits; while each believes his little bit the whole to own.”
I find this last quote simply stunning. BTW, you can read more of this section of chapter eight at this site.
This is a debate I’ve followed for awhile. I probably fall somewhere along the lines of that middle camp myself. I’ve always wanted to know why we dream. While I don’t believe dreams are messages from a higher power, I’m not sure I believe they’re nothing more than meaningless biology either.
I tend to forget most of my dreams, but there have been a few that stayed with me long enough to be useful. I’ve written a couple of short stories from some–one that took a first place award.
I tend to dream more “harshly” during times of heavy stress. It’s during those times, some of my inner fears play out in macabre settings that have me jerking awake in a panic some mornings.
There are very few tangible things that scare me–most of my fears have to do with not realizing a dream, not having a business make it, someone hurting my kids… things like that. But during the times I’m worrying about such things, I tend to take the two tangible things that scare me and twist them into nightmares. What are those tangibles? Heights and Sharks. Yeah, I know–kind of a strange combination.
I used to study reincarnation. Believed in it for a period of time–in fact, I was sure these two things had caused early, painful deaths in former lives.
Now, I think maybe I was a bit young when I saw JAWS and it left an impression. <bg>
I used to believe that my dreams were telling me answers to problems. But then, most of them were so bizarre and made very little sense.
Has anyone found a way to harness their dreams to make them work in their writing?
I was a complete skeptic when it came to this practice until a writer I’ve known for more than ten years, Sharon Sala, told me she dreams each one of her books. Beginning to end.
Her dreams put her on best-seller lists.
Now, if there was a way to harness my dreams, I’d go for that way. 🙂
ADDED: I actually wrote this the other night, knowing I’d be busy with my sister and her new baby–it’s always good to plan ahead, right? <g> But, I thought I’d add last night’s dream.
I’m sick of water. Sick of storms. Normally love them, but these have been loud and make travel difficult and then, there’s all the damned tornadoes! We had no power for nine hours yesterday. Last night, I went to bed knowing another storm was coming during the night, so I had trouble sleeping. I did finally nod off but the funniest thing happened. I was sleeping in a t-shirt and dreamed that a tornado came through my bedroom, snatched me and took me miles away. What did I do? I got up and put on a pair of pajama pants.
For some reason, in my half-sleep state, getting caught in a tornado with my pants on was the better choice. What would be the other? Sleeping somewhere else maybe??? Heh heh
Oh and one of the joys of too much water on the ground are the lovely things that move to higher ground. I just reached into my mailbox and had a tarantula crawl over my fingers!!!!!!!!!!! And another storm is about to hit in the next two hours. Sheesh.