by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC
“I had the dumbest dream last night,” is usually how the conversation begins. Funny how we minimize something that we spend an average of 1,850 hours a year doing. Studies into dreams and dream work have been either embraced or dismissed by psychology and psychiatry. However, most in our profession tend to agree that dreams, especially when coupled with sleep research, serve a vital purpose. Some recent findings even demonstrate a link between dreaming and learning/memory.
Dream research could have major clinical implications down the road. Dr. Allan Hobson, a sleep researcher at Harvard Medical School, argues that dreaming may help scientists understand the nature of consciousness, and therefore could greatly impact our knowledge of mental illness. Even studies into severe disturbances that affect self-awareness, such as schizophrenia, would benefit.
Freud, for all his fiercely debated ideas, was not always wrong. In fact, he believed dreams were the royal road to the unconscious, and I believe he was correct. Someone once asked me in passing, “I always dream about cats. What does that mean?” I wish I could have told her what those dreams about cats meant - but in the end I could not. Learning the language of dreams is something that takes time and practice, and in the end my view is that the meaning of dreams varies greatly from person to person.
I have spent a great deal of time studying dreams and dream work from the psychological theories to the cutting edge neurocognitive research. My conclusion? Write that “dumb” dream down in a journal and ask yourself this simple question, “What does it mean for me?”