Earlier this year, I received an email through my website, www.thedreambridge.com. It was from three middle school students who were working on a class project about dreams. I want to share their questions about dreams with you, and how I answered them. I have changed their names, and withheld the name of their school for their privacy.


 


When you read how I responded to their questions, please notice that


 


1) my answers were thoughtful to the age and development of the students asking the questions, and


 


2) they were presented not to be too definitive or narrow, but rather to spark further interest and inquiry into the study of dreams as these students


grow and develop.


 


If one of their questions… or one of my answers… piques your interest, please comment. Your feedback might inspire my next Blog entry!


 


They wrote:


 


Hello,


 


Our names are Ann, Ruby and Josef. We are from (Name) Middle School in


(State), and we are wondering if you can answer a few quick questions that we have concerning dreams. This interview will be featured in our Project Based Learning class project on how dreams affect people.


 


Here are the questions:


1. How do dreams affect people?


2. What causes people to dream?


3. What causes people to dreams certain dreams?


4. What is the connection between dreams and real life?


5. What is a nightmare?


6. Does everyone dream?


7. Why do people have trouble remembering their dreams?


8. How can I improve my dream memory?


9. Do dreams have meaning?


10. How can I learn to interpret my dreams?


11. What does it mean when I have the same dream multiple times?


12. Is it normal to have nightmares?


13. Can dreams predict the future?


14. Is it possible to control your dreams?


15. Why do we have nightmares?


 


We greatly appreciate your valuable time and your effort in helping us, and we hope to hear from you soon.


 


Sincerely,


Ann, Ruby and Josef


 


 


I replied:


 


Dear Ann, Ruby, and Josef,


 


I must say, your "few quick questions" are Great Questions--but they are not few and quick! I will do my best to briefly answer them, not knowing your exact ages and grade, but that you are in middle school. I am guessing you have been given clearance from your teacher and permission from your parents to email me. I will answer your questions in blue.


 


1. How do dreams affect people?


 


Dreams are experiences during sleep. They affect people in as many different ways as experiences that affect people when they are awake.


 


Dream researchers have different ideas about this question, and they do not always agree.


 


 


2. What causes people to dream?


 


There are many different kinds of dreams. Dream researchers don't know (or agree about) what causes dreaming exactly, which makes it an intriguing and mysterious field.


 


On the other hand, simply sleeping causes people to dream. There are different cycles of sleep, and different kinds of dreaming can occur during those different cycles.


 


There is a shift in our brain chemistry that happens when we are dreaming. Dream experts do not all agree whether the brain is the source of dreams, but


they all seem to agree it plays an active part with them.


 


 


3. What causes people to dream certain dreams?


 


Waking life events cause people to dream about those events, or their feelings about those events. Sometimes people solve problems in dreams, or get creative ideas in dreams.


 


The most common dreams are usually connected to what people are experiencing and feeling in their waking life. Usually dream content runs deeper than what a dreamer is aware of in waking life. These kinds of dreams tend to be symbolic, and if a dreamer writes down a dream and investigates the symbolism,the cause of the dream may reveal itself in an 'aha!' moment.


 


However, there are as I said before, many different kinds of dreams. Each dreamer has a unique life story, and each dream is unique to each


dreamer's story.


 


It used to be thought that dreams happened only during REM sleep (rapid eye movement) but now it is understood other kinds of dreams happen during other sleep cycles.


 


 


4. What is the connection between dreams and real life?


 


Dream life and waking life are cyclically connected, because we go back and forth between them daily. Most everyone dreams when they sleep, an average of 2 and a half hours per night.


 


Just as waking life influences dreams, dreams also influence waking life. A great dream can make someone feel great the next day, and a gloomy dream can linger into the next day as well. Some dreams include details from the previous day carried over into the dream. Some dreams are more creative and inspiring, perhaps helping the dreamer solve problems or generate ideas. Some dreams can help people make decisions that are in tune with their feelings in waking life.


 


 


5. What is a nightmare?


 


There are different opinions about nightmares in the field of dream studies.


 


One idea is that nightmares happen when there is distress in waking life. However, that is not always obviously the case.


 


There are different kinds of nightmares.


Returning veterans suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) often redream traumatic events they've experienced. On the other hand, nightmares are very common with children, and are a healthy part of development.


 


Some dream experts believe nightmares help prepare people for stressful


situations in waking life. Some believe they are the best kind of dream to aid people to learn lucid dreaming. Some believe they may contain important warnings for the dreamer to pay attention to.


 


 


6. Does everyone dream?


 


Almost everyone dreams. There are some rare disorders that prevent some people from dreaming. Usually, people who think they haven't dreamed simply haven't remembered dreaming.


 


Some researchers have written about how animals dream too!


 


 


7. Why do people have trouble remembering their dreams?


 


This is a very good question. I think it is because in our culture we haven't made it a priority to remember them. Most people are too busy getting ready for school or work and getting on with a busy day. Remembering dreams requires a dedicated intention to do so.


 


Also, many medications prevent dream recall, and our society is quite medicated. Not getting enough sleep is another societal problem that prevents dream recall.


 


 


8. How can I improve my dream memory?


 


It really helps to write your dreams down in a journal, preferably the moment you wake up. Choose or make a journal that you love the look and feel of it in your hands. Keep a pen with it that also feels good and flows well, and you will probably use it more. Even in the middle of the night, if you wake up briefly, you can write down one or two words. When you read those words in the morning, more from the dream will often be more easily remembered to write down.


 


Also, talking about your dreams with other people you feel safe with and trust improves dream memory. The trust part is very important especially at your age, so you will want to choose carefully who you share with. The fact that there are three of you interested in dreams already is a good start!


 


 


9. Do dreams have meaning?


 


Yes.


 


 


10. How can I learn to interpret my dreams?


 


Avoid most dream dictionaries that claim to have all the answers. Dream dictionaries and other books about symbolism can be used as tools, but be careful. Remember that every dreamer is unique, and every dream story is related to that person's background.


 


In many dream groups in the U.S., sometimes it is helpful when others say, "If it were my dream, it would mean..." However, it is understood in these kinds of groups that the dreamer can always accept or reject these suggestions. It is also understood that the dreamer gets the final say about what his or her dream means. It can be very fun to be dream detectives!


 


Other ideas: try acting out, painting or drawing your dream and see if that helps you understand its meaning. If you like to write, try turning a dream into a story or a script. If you play an instrument, try composing the dream. Dream-Arts are fun ways to discover dream meanings.


 


 


11. What does it mean when I have the same dream multiple times?


 


A reoccurring dream is very important. The dream wants the dreamer to pay attention to its message. When a dream reoccurs there is often something that needs to be resolved on a deep level. An important dream will often repeat until the dreamer has a grasp of its meaning.


 


 


12. Is it normal to have nightmares?


 


Yes, most nightmares are normal. Especially, they are normal for growing young people, going through many changes. Something that might seem negative or scary, can often symbolize these changes and growth, and be quite positive. It's not always apparent that this is the case, but often it is.


 


That said, remember every dream, and every dreamer is different. A nightmare is a great case for a dream detective. It also might help to have an adult to talk to that is educated about dreams.


 


 


13. Can dreams predict the future?


 


Yes. This kind of dreaming has its own category; it is called pre-cognitive dreaming. Although it is not the main kind of dreaming that most people usually have, it happens more than most people are aware of.


 


Answering this question from a slightly different angle:


Dreams can have a direct affect on the future if someone has an idea in a dream and acts on it. For example, Larry Page (co-founder of Google) had a dream when he was 23 with the idea that eventually became Google.


 


 


14. Is it possible to control your dreams?


 


'Lucid dreaming' and 'dream control' often get confused. The gift of lucid dreaming is knowing one is dreaming while dreaming. As a lucid dreamer develops, he or she learns to make choices within the dream rather than passively experiencing environments, relationships and events. So yes, it is definitely possible to develop awareness in dreams and become able to 'control' and change variable degrees of dreaming by participating imaginatively.


 


The idea of dream control gained popularity because it empowered dreamers and countered the idea that dreamers were left to feel powerless in dreams.


However, it is incorrect to assume that even the most advanced lucid dreamer will always be able to control everything. Lucid dreaming is interactive and participatory. Complete 'dream control' is more possible in daydream type situations.


 


 


15. Why do we have nightmares?


 


As I wrote before, it depends on the person and her or his life story. I'm sure


you've probably heard by now, "Knowledge is power." Nightmares offer great


opportunities for dreamers to learn about themselves. Once meaning is


discovered, nightmares can help people stretch and grow more than other kinds of dreams. Once they are understood, nightmares often develop courage, and the ability to face life's challenges.


 


 


I hope my answers will be helpful to your project-- I think it's great that you are


interested to learn more about dreams.


 


Best dreams,


 


Angel K. Morgan, Ph.D.