Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Can Dreams Tell Us?

From the time I was 18 till I was about 28, I had a recurring nightmare in which my teeth were falling out.  The nightmare would take a variety of forms:  often I'd be frantically calling a dentist but be unable to get through, sometimes it would be one tooth, sometimes many.  I mentioned this to my dentist and he said, not helpfully, "All my patients have that dream."

Dream dictionaries were equally unhelpful:  fear of death, fear of change, fear of embarrassment.  None of that felt right.

Discussing dreams with a biofeedback therapist, I was told to focus on an object in my dream - "as everything in the dream is a part of you."  She said to get into a deep relaxation state and go back into the dream.  Become the object, then ask yourself, as the object, "What do you need?"

A few weeks after this discussion, I had the nightmare again.  The following day, I went back into the dream and became my tooth, experiencing the world from the tooth's point of view.  I asked my toothy self, "What do you need?"

My tooth said, "I need to have deeper roots."

I never had that nightmare again.

1 comment:

  1. Professor Geoff Hinton (of the artificial neural network fame) said that dreams are what our mind would like to believe, in the absence of reality.

    He said that the brain has (at least) two layers - the sensory layer, and the hidden layer. When a person is awake, he receive (real) sensory input and it shapes an internal model of the world in the hidden layer. When he's asleep he has no sensory input, but the brain works in reverse and the hidden layer drives the sensory layer. The hidden layer has a model of the world, but an imperfect one.

    So what we see and feel in our dreams are what our minds would like to believe is true. As a result, dreams are eerily similar to our real situations, yet subtly incorrect. Dreams reflect our shallow understandings, beliefs, fears, and such, but not our deep rational thinking.