Some new research shows rats responding well to a new treatment for paralysis.
June 04, 2012
Standing naked in front of a classroom? Being chased by a one-legged man? Trapped in a reality show and can’t get out? A giant eye is preying on you?
To save on therapy fees, you might peruse "Field Guide to Dreams," Kelly Regan's well-grounded manual for making sense of one the most universal and puzzling aspects of being human. (Or warm-blooded, for that matter. Apparently all mammals and birds dream. Even, perhaps mollusks.)
Research on dreams is still surprisingly inconclusive. There seem to be as many theories of why we dream as there are theorists.
Jewish mystics thought they were messages from God. "A dream not interpreted is like a letter unread," declares the Talmud.
Freud, of course, thought they were a way to deal with repressed sexual urges, but he thought that about everything. His former student Carl Jung thought dreams were symbolic guides to cultural beliefs and the dreamer's ego, a viewpoint more salubrious to modern psychology.
Film directors think dreams are a great way to experiment visually, such as Alfred Hitchock's Dali-designed dream sequence in "Spellbound" or Fellini's heated visions in "8½."
From the Greek oneirous, Oneirology is the scientific study of dreams. In case you wondered, a person that studies oneirology is called an oneirologist. (Makes sense.) And recent scientific research suggest dreams may have something to do with the process by which the brain decides what items get transferred from short-term memory to long-term.
One thing we do know is that there are definite patterns in dream content. For starters, dreams that involve being chased or falling are pretty much universal, experienced by nearly everyone at one time or another, regardless of cultural, educational or ethnic background. (For the record, the thing chasing you is probably a problem in your conscious life you've been trying to avoid, and falling is all about fear of losing control.)
Age is also important in determining what we dream.
As children, wild animals and monsters are always present (your little brain's way of dealing with disturbing and poorly understood emotional impulses).
In adolescence, raging hormones and unfamiliar emotions produce dreams of drowning and committing crimes. That naked in public thing is a way, studies say, of revealing fears of social anxiety. (Public nudity dreams are particular to modern Western culture since people in other times and other places routinely went around with little more than a thong.)
In old age, you can take solace in the fact that dreams about teeth falling out have been recorded on Egyptian scrolls going back to 2,000 B.C.
One more thing: To interpret dreams, it’s wise to know what they are. Before going to sleep, dream recall specialists suggest a mantra like, "I wish to to awaken fully from my dream and remember it." That may be all it takes. Then, write them down on a pad you’ve kept handy. (Okay, you’ll try.)
Surely a lot as creative and thoughtful as our readers must have dreamt some doozies. Care to share? If your dream is particularly “imaginative,” you can always attribute it to a friend, and we’ll believe you.