The father of modern dream analysis is Freud. But the first one to think about dreaming and dream consciousness was Aristotle some 2,500 years ago. Which was at the heyday of world dream culture with no less than 250 dream temples being frequented by people seeking relief and counsel from the deity of dreams, Asclepius.
The recorded history of dream consciousness represented in pictorial form goes back some 18,000 years, as can be seen in the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux.
In my view the interpretation of dreams in the group setting and in individual psychotherapy is the primary method of change and recovery from emotional suffering. Dreams are the link between our unconscious motivations and what we call conscious identity. Dreams bring to the fore symbols, metaphors, and autobiographical fictions around which the renewal of life can take place. Dreams are building futures from the raw and once ruinous material of past events.
I believe that dreaming is the most productive state of mind from which all creative activities and projects stem from. Adrian Stokes called architecture 'a solid dream'. Mozart composed entire orchestral pieces from dream-like states. The molecular structure of DNA, the double helix, was discovered with the help of dream images of intertwined snakes. The mathematical prediction of the Higgs boson particle some fifty years ago, experimentally verified last year, was conceived in dream-like states of mind. The 'God particle' proved that matter is being created in the invisible Higgs field all over the universe.
We are sitting on a goldmine. And tend to forget to mine it. The process of dreaming not only is at the root of human creation and inspiration, it also brings order to the chaos of internal life. The psyche, like the dynamic systems of brain function, weather conditions, and the formation of planetary systems, is governed by chaos theory with its inherent tendency to create order out of chaos.
The psyche tends to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sensory impressions, unintegrated feelings, and headless thoughts in search of a thinker. During states of dreaming, REM states, the brain is working overtime to restore the body and the psyche, so that the dreamer will find physical renewal and peace of mind. That is the dreams' restorative psychosomatic function.
Not only that. Dreams also serve memory. They easily walk on the time line of past, present, and the future, and bring out of concealment unresolved issues with the purpose of healing up old wounds. The same way the body heals up a broken bone, or and open, bleeding wound. As it is dreaming serves the restoration and return of soul life.
So what's about nightmares? Why are we submitted to such tormenting dreams? In a plea in defense of nightmares I would say that the sheer power of the dreams of darkness has to do with the lack of integration of unwanted parts of the psyche. Say the dreamer had experienced childhood traumatization. The dream mind, in its intention to healing, brings into the conscious mind the stuff which needs looking at, and worked upon. So that the dreamer eventually might find freedom from the tyranny of bad felings. Most surpriosingly, however, nightmares, if invited in, do entail human beauty, the search for the spiritual, and the good stuff of the human condition, that is loving kindness and a sense of belongingness to the world we live in.
For instance, mothers who suffered from a tsunami of nightmares just before giving birth, and postnatally, tend to experience easier emotional transitions in the task of bonding with the new arrival and modifying its emotional ups and downs of joining the human race.
Otto M Rheinschmiedt
Staff Relations &
The Study of Dreams
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