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Dreams: What They Mean & Psychology Behind Them

A dream can be explained as a succession of sensations, emotions, ideas, and images that occur involuntarily in a person’s mind during certain stages of sleep. It’s not really understood what the purpose and content of dreams are, but they have certainly been the subject of religious and philosophical interest and a topic of scientific speculation throughout recorded history. Interestingly, the scientific study of dreams is known as Oneirology.

When Does Dreaming Occur?

 It’s during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep that dreams mainly occur, because this is when brain activity is high and most resembles that of being awake. It’s the continuous movements of the eyes during sleep that identifies REM sleep; however, dreams can occur during other sleep stages, but these dreams tend to be less memorable and much less vivid. (1)

The Length of Dreams

 Our dreams vary in length: they may last for just a few seconds, and they’ve been known to last for between 20 and 30 minutes. The reason why some dreamers are able to recall their dreams is because they have been woken up whilst in the REM phase of sleep.(2) On average, people have between three and five dreams each night, with some having up to seven; however most of our dreams are quickly forgotten. It seems that our dreams tend to last longer as the night progresses and, when we have a full eight-hour sleep, the majority of our dreams occur in the typical two hours of REM.

Today’s Explanation of DreamsExplanation of Dreams

 Today, many people see dreams as a connection to the unconscious mind. There are varying natures of dreams, such as exciting, frightening, melancholic, magical, adventurous, and even sexual; (3) and our dreams seem to range from normal and ordinary right through to bizarre and completely surreal. With the exception of lucid dreaming, the events that occur in our dreams are normally outside the control of the dreamer. The dreamer is self-aware during lucid dreaming. Sometimes, dreams can implant a creative thought, thus giving the dreamer a sense of inspiration. (4)

Throughout cultures and time, opinions have varied and shifted about the meaning of dreams. It seems that people generally endorse the Freudian theory of dreams, and that is that dreams reveal hidden emotions and desires. Other theories are that dreams help us in problem solving, in memory formation, or that they occur simply due to random brain activation.

Some people have a sleep disorder in which they physically act out their dreams during sleep called REM Behavior Disorder (RBD). In this case, acting out dreams can be dangerous to the individual and bed partner.

The History of Dream Interpretation
The History of Dream Interpretation

 Going back around 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, the earliest recorded dreams were documented on clay tablets. In the Roman and Greek periods, people believed that dreams were messages sent directly from one or more deities, from deceased people, and that they were the predictors of the future. Then there were cultures that practiced dream incubation, their intention being to cultivate dreams of prophecy.

What do Dreams Mean?

What do dreams mean

In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud wrote extensively about the theory of dreams and their interpretations. Freud believed that dreams are a manifestation of our deepest anxieties and desires, often relating to repressed childhood obsessions or memories. In addition, it was his belief that almost every dream topic, irrespective of its content, represented the release of sexual tension. In Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams 1899, he developed a psychological technique whereby dreams could be interpreted; he also devised a series of guidelines to help us understand the motives and symbols that appear in our dreams.


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26 comments on “Dreams: What They Mean & Psychology Behind Them”

  1. I have weird dreams that concern me... that’s not important right now. What IS important is that I’m worried for my friend. She’s having dreams recurring dreams of her boyfriend either vaping or gaming with another girl and then when she confronts him about it, he yells at her and then she wakes up hyperventilating. As time goes on, they get worse and worse. It started out as an argument out of the blue, but then it went to vaping and then cheating on her with another girl. From the looks of it, she’s really scared and worried about her relationship. I’m no expert at dream psychology so I really want to know what this one means. Is there anyone that can help me out with this?

  2. I have strange dreams. Often, I will never have them, and sometimes, I do. My earliest dreams that I remember were nightmares; One in which felt so real that I had believed I went to school and gotten nearly swarmed there by students (slowly walking towards me in a creepy, surrounding manner), and one that felt so real I'm not sure it was a dream (involving the ghostly skeleton of my dad walking towards me with red eyes and a gaping jaw, as well as the ghostly skeleton of my mother waking up. This took place in my house after I thought I went to sleep at the bottom of the stairs). After that, no more dreams. I would daydream, and those were like a story I'd write--I controlled them, in a way. However, when I had actual dreams that I remembered, even partially, they were either strange, nightmares, or strange nightmares. One was about Valentine's Day, was my first gory nightmare, and coincidentally, I had it the night before Valentine's Day. In a few, a crooked tower shows at the end, and in one I had a dog boss. These dreams vary, and rarely ever happen. The latest one I've had that I remember clearly, I was in a camp with friends, and before that, I was in the backseat of a car, trying to hug my friend who was in the front seat. The seat separated us, however. I'd like to know what all of these really mean, and why I'm not really in control. I never am. I want to understand a bit, you could say. Is there anyone that'll help?

  3. My dream is watching a overweight labrador dog on a small ledge over a canal with a massive crocodile lurking in the water

  4. I always dream of a person who has broken my my dream he always wanted.To contact with me why did he loves me

  5. Can you tell why I can't concentrate on studies because of dreams? As thoughts are always revolving in brain due to dreams.

  6. Every night I dream, and when I woke up in morning it feels like I can't get enough clear minded sleep. While sleeping also, my brain works and because of that I am not able to get healthy and proper sleep. After waking up in morning, I still feel sleepy after sleeping 8 hours and also if I sleep for 10 minutes then also I'm dreaming. So, can you please tell why it happening??? Why I am not getting proper sleeping??

  7. Your dreams are never about the person who is in the dream. It is your minds way of working on it's problems. Dreams are always exaggerated reality. For instance, You may dream of dying when actually in reality you have just moved or changed jobs. There is a great book called creative dreaming. It tells you how to go back and remember your dreams. It works. The dream people, the Senoi of Malaysia are very interesting. They are a tribe of 10,000 who from infancy learn how to relate with their dreams. I believe the author's name is Patricia Shaw, but I am not exactly sure of the last name.

  8. I dream frequently about airports and missing flights because I get lost or stop to eat even though I know it jeopardizes making my flight. Also, I dream frequently about being in plane crashes in which no one gets hurt or that the airplane is flying low over a freeway. When there is a crash the impact is very soft and slow.

  9. My husband and I had 28 yrs, he passed away 11/2 yrs ago, we were very happy.
    How ever I have been plagued with nightmares since he died. Of him not wanting to be with me, cold and unfeeling. I dont want to sleep because of it.

  10. Ok so I was on a walk with some people, a family who I think I know but I can't remember their faces. We're walking up a muddy hill and picking up cutlery. Then we are in a church but I'm not with the family I'm with what I think we're my friends and this woman is setting jelly beans on fire and throwing them at us, but it's only the blue and black ones. Then she throws a bomb at me but an old friend who I have a long history with moves me out of the way, later in making a coffee with them and we are going to get a shower... together
    It felt so real and is really want to knoe if it means anything even the slightest detail.

  11. can you help me with my dream it was about me swimming in a giant body of water and on the shore there was trees dark green spruce trees and there were two deer and a doe the water was choppy but no white caps and im not sure what it mean

  12. Hi can you please help me, I'm always dreaming my boyfriend together with someone else he's happy no they were happy the worst thing is im always around whenever that sitauations happening. I'm confused because my boyfriend and I were happy and hes always showing me he will never do that and telling me it will never happen. But every time I woke up dreaming him with someone else's arm makes me feel pain.We are Long distances relationship from the very beginning, because he's a seaman.. however he is so kind and sweet and we always had a communications as indaily were having a video call.

  13. I got in trouble over the summer and I homeschool now. My parents don't let me talk to anyone. I've been having dreams where I throw a party and invite a bunch of people from my old school. My dream even has events in it that are happening within the week. They always leave me waking up confused and sad overall.

    1. Hi can u tell me what this means ...when I'm sleeping I can feel my duvet being moved of me or someone or something is at my shoulder fixing the duvet,it has scared me every nite b4 I go to can I get it to stop has happened 3 times did week.

  14. Hi, so I keep having this dream of making it out with one of the guys at my school. the weird thing is that we are not even friends and he low key hates me. I want them to stop but also want to know what it means, and why the only guy that hates. I am dreaming of.?

  15. For some reason i dream about a game thats called Glory of generals pacific and i am a general then some of my allies were some of my friends and we were americans then the japanese were some of my other friends.Can you explain my dream or does it have no meaning

    1. Hi , I had this weird dream just yesterday and ever since I have been going through the scene trying to memorize it but yet I still get lost at the middle, in my dream I saw myself in heaven and i saw God too, he welcomed me and scored me but then he told me to go back to EARTH and payback people I was owing and i collected some edible flowers etc.. but am owing nobody and that's exactly where am confused am like did i actually die and resurrected? or was that just a dream. pls I need an answer!

  16. I have been having these dreams over and over for about 2 weeks and was wondering if someone could tell me if they know what it means. So I am in this video game with my friends from my old school that I recently moved away from, and the video game is kind of a hide and seek sort of layout and when someone was caught ( This is how I knew I was in a game ) there was a game over. The seeker was a "Spider Person" I don't really know how to describe it. My best friend was caught by the seeker and I really didn't do anything, I just stood there. Eventually I make it out not really thinking about anyone else and the last thing I saw was the seeker almost congratulating me for my escape, like a smile and a wave, and I wake up after that normally, just confused.

    1. I have thought that this may indicate that you are helping the "Spider Person" to catch your best friend.This can be a danger to your best friend . this only a though please don't completely rely on this.

    2. Okay hi so I'm just someone whoes interested and to be honest I'm probably not 100% sure but .. so I think your dream is the way it is because u either feel as if your not being a true friend and feel guilty about something to do with ur friend or in general. Or it might be just signaling a need of seperation and just maybe u need to let go of ur old friends and try and seek new ones in as u have moved recently. And as for the seeker congratualting u maybe its ur own sub concious saying to "break free" and let go and leave (btw.. idk honestly just a wild guess.)

  17. I don't see dreams that often.Some of my dreams are predictors of the near future (up to 6 months future). Some of them are just from thinks or things that we discuss in the last week through the day before we sleep. Some of my dreams that I don't remember well are just nothing it means that the scientist are a proofing. Usually the dreams that you remember very well after you wake up have the meaning. And as you are saying not all dreams are base on brain activation. I am a big politician but I have never seen any politician dream or sexy dream or religious or whatever. I wish your space to comment in here will be larger at same time being larger will be boring to read from readers.

  18. No not always,bt those wishes which are being repressed or which are left unfulfilled they reveal those wishes in dreams

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