Everybody dreams. Some people think they don’t, but they are mistaken. Research shows that people who claim not to dream undergo the same REM sleep patterns as everyone else. What is really the case is that they simply do not remember their dreams.
I hate it when I don’t remember my dreams. I especially hate it when I wake up with a dream on my mind, only to have it slip away while I’m in the act of recalling it. I feel cheated, because I believe my dreams have significance and meaning. I need to remember them.
I’ve been keeping a dream journal for 17 years. At present I have 664 records of detailed dream memories. I also spent 12 years participating in a dream exploration group. These activities have allowed me to discover patterns in my dreams. Things like places, objects, events and themes that recur over and over again.
These patterns are the principle reason why I think my dreams are meaningful. Frequently a dream reflects a spiritual state I’m currently experiencing, some set of inner changes I’m undergoing, allowing me to explore what psychologist Carl Jung called archetypes, myth-like symbols reflecting subliminal states of consciousness common to all of humanity. Studying these dreams allows me to recognize a path I may currently be following (and otherwise might miss), and to respond more directly to that path. Such dreams allow me to more fully incorporate the changes the path requires.
Dreaming may actually be necessary to our health and well-being. This is definitely true of sleep itself, the container of our dreams. We can sleep for long periods of time without experiencing detrimental effects. In some cases—such as serious illness—that elongated sleep is just what we need in order to heal. But the contrary is not true: If we go too long without sleep, we are subject to many mental and physical aberrations, including muscle fatigue, irregular organ functioning, diminished mental capacity and hallucinations. Eventually our bodies will shut down and fall asleep—even if it’s against our will. Simply put, we do not have to be awake, but we must sleep.
I suggest that one reason for this is that we must dream.
But why? Here’s a thought:
What if dreaming is actually our real lives, and our waking existence is mere invention, an illusion created by a meaningless and pseudorandom physical functioning of a conscious organ? It has been demonstrated that human decision making—what we call “free will”—is actually accomplished by the subconscious mind without our awareness. Only after the decision to do something is completed does the conscious mind become involved, and that involvement is largely just a story we concoct in order to justify that decision. This makes me wonder if maybe, as many ancient religions teach, we are just dreaming our conscious lives.
Or, perhaps, having them dreamt for us.