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its not supernatural, clairvoyance, occult or psychic....its science....the psychology of dreams

the unconscious dream
dialog with the inner psyche

Dream Science
Science and the Dreaming Brain

'dream'- from the Middle English word dreme which means
"joy and music"

The Dreaming Brain

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Language of the Dreaming Brain

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Healing Power of Dreams
Wendy Pannier

Dreams are indeed a creative portal to healing! Understanding the connection between dreams and healing started in ancient times and for thousands of years received respect. It later went through a period of benign—and sometimes not so benign—neglect. Today it is resurfacing as a new force in integrative medicine.

In the mid-1900s, Vasily Kasatkin, a psychiatrist at the Leningrad Neurosurgical Institute, studied the content of 10,240 dreams from 1,200 subjects over a 40-year period. He discovered that illness is associated with an increase in dream recall, often with nightmarish images. He found that dreams often call attention very specifically to an illness before it could be medically diagnosed. And, he is quoted as saying that dreams are “sentries that watch over our health. There are nerves coming to the brain from every part of the body—and they relay signals of impending illness that the subconscious translates into dreams.”

Physicians from Hippocrates to Kasatkin to MDs Bernie Siegel and Larry Dossey have found that dreams can often predict illness. The ancient Greeks called them “prodromal” dreams from the Greek words “pro” meaning before, and “dromos” meaning running. Thus, prodromal dreams can tell us what is going on in our bodies before the symptoms become obvious and readily diagnosable.

In the work Tallulah Lyons and I have done with cancer patients, we also have found that many people dream about their cancer before it is diagnosed. The problem, many times, is getting the medical profession to listen. A woman in one of my workshops had a dream she knew was telling her she had breast cancer. She worked for a major hospital in Philadelphia and the next day insisted on tests. When the mammogram showed nothing, they refused to do additional tests. She persisted, pushing the people she worked with until they finally gave in and did additional tests—which showed that she did indeed have breast cancer. An IASD member had a dream there was something wrong with his “neck brain”. The nightmare was so intense that he pressed his doctors for tests. Initially they showed nothing, but he pressed for further tests, which revealed his thyroid cancer.

In fall of 1994 I had a stark dream that my gynecologist called and said, “Wendy, you need a D&C.” That’s not a procedure you generally walk in and request. The dream haunted me, despite routine check-ups. Fourteen months later my gynecologist did call me and, like in the dream, told me that I needed a D & C. This was the procedure that diagnosed my late state cancer.

Candace Pert is a biophysics and physiology researcher, whose discoveries in the 1980s confirmed an intricate biochemical communication network between the body and the mind. Some of you may have seen her in the movie What the Bleep. Pert’s work demonstrates the complex interrelationships among the behavioral, neural, endocrine and immune processes. She has found that even tiny immune cells have receptors for neuropeptides, which she calls the “molecules of emotion.” Neuropeptides are molecular messengers that connect all systems of the body—including the immune system.

At the level of neuropeptides, the body and mind are neurologically connected. Every emotional state involves the release of neuropeptides and other biochemical messengers. Our emotions are thus connected to our physiology. It could be said that the mind/body communication is primarily emotion/body communication, because emotions play a major role in mind/body phenomenon. Pert emphasizes that for maximum functioning of the immune system, it is important to free blocked emotions and to find constructive expression for all emotions.

What does this have to do with dreams and healing?

A function of dreaming appears to be emotional processing. During dreaming these highly activated areas of the brain communicate in different ways than during waking consciousness, and allow for emotions to be processed differently. The limbic system speaks in the language of symbolic imagery. Working with dream imagery in the waking state can help change perceptions and resolve conflicts, which are critical keys for mind/body healing.

read complete article Dreams: A Creative Portal to Healing
Exploring the Unconscious World of Dreams

Science, Language and the Dreaming Brain

Only the executive and sensory functions are off line while the rest of the brain is active. This includes the rational thinking and sensing part). The Limbic system, the part of the brain that associates emotions with sensory information, is highly active while in the dream state. Dreams process unresolved emotions though this process in the limbic system.

Language centers on the left side of the brain are off-line but the same centers on the right side, responsible for processing associations, are active during dream sleep. Therefore the language of dream is that of association, in particular emotional associations, not the literal naming by which we identify things in waking life.

People in Dreams

If we see something when we are awake, we use language to identify it by name. Lets say you see a person you know – you immediately identify them by name – say Joe for example. This identification or naming is performed primarily by a center in the left hemisphere that processes speech. There is also an unconscious emotional identification, and associated feelings, images and memories, that takes place with objects we see in waking life. For example with Joe: seeing him triggers memories of past encounters with Joe and we have an emotional reaction to Joe (lets say we fear and avoid him because of his verbally abusive manner). This emotional identification of Joe takes place unconsciously in the right hemisphere and other parts of the brain such as the limbic system which associates emotion with sensory input as an instinctual protection mechanism.

When we DREAM the speech center is off line so when we see Joe in our dreams – it is NOT Joe – the name is meaningless to the dreaming sleeping brain. The other parts of the brain, however, that process the emotional memories associated with Joe in waking life become active while dreaming (centers in the right hemisphere and limbic system). So the Joe we see in a dream is the memories and emotions we associate with the image of Joe. Our brain borrows the image of Joe to represent an emotion (in this example perhaps the fear of verbal abuse).

What a dream does is process unresolved emotional events of the day. It is this limbic system that associates imagery with emotion that creates the dream image to represent emotions being processed. If as in this example the event happens to relate to the fear of verbal abuse –then your brain looks for some image to relate to that fear and so it picks the image of Joe to represent that emotion.

The language of dreams (or identity of a dream image) is thus the emotions and memories we associate with that image in waking life.

To analyze the dream we therefore use techniques to determine the dreamers associations with the dream image. I use a role-play approach.
COLORS in Dreams

Color in dreams appears to relate to emotions associated with that dream image. Dreams seem to be stimulated somewhat by the limbic system – which is a part of the brain that associates emotion with incoming visual stimulus (including color) as a part of our instinctual response system to alert us to dangerous situations. So that part of our brain, which is active during dreaming, assigns emotions to color and thus creates color in our dreams to represent those emotions.

Research shows that our autonomic nervous systems react unconsciously to color in pretty much the same way in all Humans - red increases and blue decreases heartbeat, breathing, and other automatic functions.

*Blue: calm and relaxation = cooler emotions, tranquil, calm, sensitive, belonging, focus inward {I need to relax}

*Red: (sympathetic) alerting and arousal = desire, excitement, aggressive, passion, energy, focus outward.

*White:awareness, newness, rebirth.

*Grey: barrier, shielding, isolation, detachment, non-involvement.

*Black: unconscious, unknown, death of the ego

For more about color symbolism in dreams read Colors in Dreams

Sleep and Dreaming

Sleep Cycles

The image below illustrates the cycles of sleep in a normal human that occur every night.

The horizontal scale is sleep time in hours, and the vertical the stages of sleep. In simple terms, it shows that we cycle between deep NREM sleep and shallow dreaming REM sleep multiple times per evening. These cycles continue throughout the night, in approximate 90-minute periods. We typically go through four to six dream periods in an eight-hour night, which might be surprising since we are often unable to recall even one of these dreams.
Sleep and Dream Stages

The above image illustrates a night of sleep. Dream sleep or REM sleep is also known as D (for desynchronized or dreaming), stage 1 sleep, or “slow wave” sleep. Non-REM or NREM sleep is also known as S sleep (for synchronized sleep) or stage 4 sleep. Often at sleep onset we awake with a jerk, sometimes recalling some dream-like images. This is known as a period of hypnogogic sleep, or light sleep where we have entered REM sleep and re-awakened. Normally at sleep onset there is a rapid movement from stage 1 sleep to stage 4, i.e., we go right into the deep NREM sleep. Pulse, respiration rate and blood pressure are lowered and no eye, facial or body movements are noted. The brain waves are more regular and lower frequency (1 to 4 cycles per second). Muscles relax, although whole body jerks may be observed. In this deep sleep stage it becomes more difficult to arouse the person. If awakened, dream reports, if any, tend to be more thought-like and devoid of imagery.

About 90 minutes later, the sleeper will begin REM sleep and vivid dreaming. As we continue through the night, we enter deep S sleep less often, and after about 6 hours remain between stages 1 and 2. The REM sleep stage is characterized by: eye movement, small movement in the muscles of the face, faster and more irregular pulse and respiration, and higher blood pressure. An EEG reading, called a PGO spike, often marks the onset of REM and many of these spikes appear during REM. Resting muscle potential is almost non-existent (we can’t move). It is easier to arouse someone from this stage. When aroused, dream reports are full of vivid imagery and content, more so at the end of the sleep period than at the beginning.

In addition to the differences in dream reports, there are differences in brain activity observed between NREM and REM sleep. The medulla of the brain appears to regulate NREM sleep, whereas it is the pontine brain stem that regulates REM.1 Single neurons in the brain have been seen to reduce their activity during NREM sleep and then increase during REM to a level as high or higher than when awake. During REM, a section of the forebrain is in a state similar to that of alert waking, and high levels of activity are found in the visual associative cortex and parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion. The central brain is also active, suggesting learning and memory processing.

Do Dreams Have a Function?
Some studies have shown that sleep and dreaming are linked to learning and to repair of the body and mind.1,38 If we deprive ourselves of dream or REM sleep, the body recovers by increasing dream sleep first, recovering the loss of REM almost precisely. This suggests that dreaming is important. It has been observed that sleep and dream deprivation causes effects such as: waking dreams (visual and auditory hallucinations); interference with memory and learning; a loosening of associations; impaired waking ability to do tasks requiring focused attention; or difficulty maintaining a straight line of thought, creating irritability and suspiciousness. It has therefore been suggested that REM or dream sleep is associated with restoring mental well-being.

Dream sleep seems to play a key role in revitalizing new and old experiences so that they become more permanently etched in long-term memory. Alan Hobson, at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, shows that dreaming rehearses memory patterns, either to create new memory connections or to strengthen older fading connections (based on brain wave activity in the hippocampus).38 For example, one study demonstrated that the exact neuronal firing patterns present when rats explored a maze, were repeated precisely when the rats were in the dream sleep.38 In Israel, researchers at the Weizmann Institute found that consistently interrupting dream sleep in a night completely blocked learning, whereas similarly interrupting non-dream sleep did not.38

Different types of memory tasks seem to respond to different parts of the sleep cycles, with visual and perceptual tasks relating more to dream sleep. The Weisman researchers found that “procedural memory,” or tasks requiring practice (as opposed to “declarative memory” or fact recall), was directly tied to quantity of dream sleep. Further research by Stickgold and Walker indicated that those learning a task in the evening, who were retested after a good night’s sleep, were 15% to 20% faster and 30% to 40% more accurate than those simply tested twelve hours after learning the task at other times of the day. cited in 66

There is some evidence of this learning effect in the dream experience itself. On the occasions when we recall multiple dreams from the same night, it is often observed that a similar theme runs through each dream segment, but that each segment approaches that theme with a slightly different storyline, or set of characters and outcome. Could it be that dreams act as our testing ground for practicing various scenarios on a situation, in order to find and reinforce the best solutions (strengthening the best neural paths)?

Some research supports the hypothesis that dreams help us adapt to stressful waking events by activating habitual defense mechanisms, and by integrating the stress situation with earlier solutions to a similar problem.2 A critical step in the memory cycle is the step that matches representations of new experiences with the representations of closely related past experiences. This is observed to take place during dreaming.3 It is as if the dreams are helping us adjust to new threats and experiences, by comparing them to an internal model of how we dealt with similar situations in the past, and then making those slight reprogramming or learning adjustments that are needed to better accommodate the experience. Thus the old saying, “better sleep on it.” Sleep and dreaming appear to play critical roles in memory and learning, as well as in stress reduction and generally keeping our mental state in good repair.

Are Dreams Meaningful?
In the dream state, our dreams appear similar to normal waking-life adventures. Upon waking, however, that perception changes dramatically. We notice a lack of continuity between scenes, irrational cause and effect relationships, and a host of bizarre or irrational combinations of dream elements or activities.

We are conscious in our dreams, but it is a different state of consciousness from waking life. The synchronizing signals that are signs of consciousness (firing signatures of the intralaminar nuclei from various neural paths) are present, but unlike the waking state, these nuclei are not firing in response to outside stimulus.38 Instead, the brain is activating itself purely from within. But to what purpose? Some researchers, such as Hobson and McCartney, cited in 67 contend that dreams result from our higher brain centers attempting to make sense of the activity in the lower centers that generate the dreams. From this viewpoint, dreams could be simply be an attempt to make a rational story out of random neural activity.

Although not totally certain at this point, some very important processing may be taking place in the dream state. As discussed above, some studies show that dream sleep plays an important role in memory and learning. The brain centers that are active in dream sleep are also active when we are awake, but are processing experiences coming in from the external world. These centers process our perception of the external world in relationship to our internal model of that world. They orient our physical and social perception of self to that external world, so that we can deal with it. They stimulate our emotions in order to draw our attention to what is important and to prepare us for action in the face of a threat. They contribute meaning and inflection to our speech. Could it be that these same brain centers also perform a similar function in the dream state?

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