Dreaming out loud

By Amy Grace Drinkwater

Dream catcher blowing in the wind. Photo by Amy Grace Drinkwater

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night or early in the morning from a vivid dream? Did you wonder if the dream meant anything? 

Harvard Health Publishing reports that we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping and that also entails dreaming. 

So it stands to reason that many people for thousands of years have been curious about what dreams are and if they have significance during waking hours. 

Dr. Patrick McNamara, a neuroscientist who specializes in dreams and sleep, once theorized that dreams evolved in order to make social attachment bonds, especially between children and their parents.

Another dream theory postulates that dreams evolved to help the human population in solving their everyday problems, according to Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a Harvard Medical School psychologist. The National Sleep Foundation suggests dreams are a subconscious way of “data dumping.”

NSF scientists believe one reason humans dream is due to the hippocampus, the learning and memory part of the brain, which communicates with the neocortex controlling thought and then forms it into stories to make use of the information. 

Vivid dreams occurring during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep might also serve as a coping mechanism, enabling the mind to “develop cognitive capabilities.” 

Many musicians, engineers, scientists and artists have imagined inventions, music and ideas through their dreams.

Dmitri Mendeleev attributes his discovery of the periodic table and Period Law to a dream he had according to the Khan Academy. It has been said that the well-known scientist and philosopher René Descartes, creator of the Scientific Method, claimed to have gotten the basis of the method from a dream.

Paul McCartney attributes writing the famous song, “Yesterday,” to a tune he heard in a dream. 

Dreams have also played a major role in different cultures and religions since the beginning of time. According to the Bible, dreams were used in foretelling the future or prophesying, and also as a way for God to speak to his people, such as Joseph, the son of Jacob and Mary, Jesus’s mother. 

The ancient Egyptians believed the gods communicated to them through their dreams.

In Shamanic culture, dreams represent a door to different realms. Shamans use different rituals and techniques to understand the meaning behind their dreams. 

Hindus understand dreams as communication from the gods or memories from past lives. 

Whatever category dreams fall in for you, you have the ability to interpret your own dreams. 

Some material, written by self-proclaimed dream interpreters, doctors, and prophets, include “Understanding Dreams and Visions,” by John Paul Jackson and “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming,” by Dr. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rhinegold. 

There are also many videos on YouTube by Jackson teaching the concepts of dream interpretation as well as videos from Ted Talks and Ted Ed of Dr. Christopher Kerr called, “Dreams and Visions Before Dying” and “Why Do We Dream?” by Amy Adkins. 

According to research, many people report that dreams have caused strong emotional reactions upon waking, leading to positive or negative mood changes depending on the dreams.

Experts further believe that determining the meaning of the dream depends upon the dreamer, ongoing events in their life, emotions, and overall feelings in the dream.

Jordan Baxter daydreams as she sits by Marsh Creek Lake. Photo by Amy Grace Drinkwater

Anyone can use research from the dream experts, as well as an assessment of objects, places, or people and intuition to interpret the meaning behind dreams. 

By looking at two different dreams from two different people, you are able to break down the possible interpretation.

The first dream is from a woman named Jill Augustine, who sent her dream into The Communitarian asking for an interpretation.

 In the dream, Augustine was driving near a toll booth on the road and she needed to pull over to figure out the direction she was traveling, on her phone. She turned off the road and she couldn’t figure out where she was or where she was headed. As she pulled over, she parked right in someone’s office, in her car, in the building. 

Augustine proceeded to get out of her car carrying tons of luggage, feeling confused. Then clarity started setting in and she realized she was on a trip. Everything started to make sense. 

As she was on her way out, she noticed a shelf with her favorite little cookies on it.

She took a few of the cookies, feeling like she had to be discreet about it, as she felt herself being watched by a man in the office. Augustine didn’t want him to think she was stealing even though they were placed out for anyone to take. 

There were two things that Augustine mentioned were important to her and overwhelming while having the dream. First, she didn’t know where she was going, while in reality she never has this problem as she calls herself a “control freak.” 

Next, she felt completely overwhelmed with all her luggage and stuff she was carrying in the dream. 

Dream analysist say the first step to interpretation is to examine the three most significant moments in the dream, in this case, Augustine’s car, the office and the cookies. 

A car usually symbolizes transportation and a place a person is journeying in their life, or a certain ride they are taking metaphorically.

The office can represent a place of work, or, in this case, a stop on the way to a destination. The cookies, represent a desire and a treat, especially since they are Augustine’s favorite. 

Next, focus on the emotion of the dream. 

The feeling of not having control symbolizes that, in Augustine’s waking life, there are going to be occurrences where she will feel everything is out of control, but she will soon realize the purpose of it and then find herself back on track. 

The luggage is a symbol of her carrying metaphoric baggage in her life that may be weighing her down emotionally, but she finds comfort in the cookies. This can mean Augustine will encounter positive gifts in life that she is deserves.

Her suspicion of being watched while taking the cookies represents her not feeling like she is deserving of positivity coming her way. 

The second dream comes from a former DCCC student. She wrote to The Communitarian anonymously describing a reoccurring dream. 

“I’ve been having a dream about my boyfriend and me in our later 20’s, laughing together in this white kitchen with subway tiles, a marble island, and red bar stools,” she said. “It looks as though it’s in a sky rise, but it’s open concept so it feels very spacious.” 

She further states that they own a brown, short-haired dog and some “really cute knick-knacks.” 

“We’re always laughing, dancing, ‘booping’ each other on the nose,” the dreamer said. “But, the dream never takes place in first-person. It always takes place as if I’m watching us living together through the window. There is always a window-tint too, like I’m literally someone else just watching future versions of him and me living together.” 

What appears to be understood in the dream is that she feels like she is playing a part in the relationship, but may not be fully present in it because she is peering in from the distance. 

Dream analysts may speculate that her subconscious mind may be revealing that she isn’t completely invested and unsure about the relationship in the future and which direction it’s headed towards because she isn’t actually in the room. From the outside looking in, the dreamer doesn’t seem to be her future self yet. 

The tinted window could represent a clouded view of oneself. The joyous relationship and perfect home with a pet could represent the place she desires for herself and can work toward. A window or door can represent a metaphorical entry. 

The dreamer could use this as a possible path for her to take by simply opening the “door” to this destination within their reach. 

Each dream is unique to each person. Feelings play an important role when assessing a dream. How did you feel in the dream? What emotions were you experiencing? How did you feel when you awoke from the dream? 

All of these questions are worth asking when trying to interpret a dream. Jackson discusses these in detail in a few of his dream interpretation books as well as Stase Michaels in her book, “A Little Bit of Dreams: An Introduction to Dream Interpretation.”

Different objects in the dream are going to represent something different to each person as well. Was there a father present? The dreamer’s relationship with their father could reveal some meaning behind the dream. 

Or, was there a spider? Most people dislike spiders, so this could be a warning. Or, maybe the dreamer has a passion for spiders, so this could mean something positive for the individual. 

Did a number keep popping up? Depending on this person’s thoughts on that number, or how it relates to a particular time for them, specific numbers can reveal meaning in the interpretation process.

In short, experts recommend the next time a dream occurs, notice the feelings and symbols that arise and begin placing the puzzle pieces together to see what the dream, brain and subconscious are trying to communicate. 

Contact Amy Grace Drinkwater at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

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