Decoding Dreams

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | BINDU GOPAL RAO
Published Nov 24, 2021, 11:04 pm IST
Updated Nov 25, 2021, 1:27 pm IST
Dreams are often called gateways to the unconscious mind, and can have myriad interpretations, experts explain
Psychotherapists have long believed that dreams provide insights into feelings and internal struggles of which we may not always be aware.(Photo: Pixabay)
 Psychotherapists have long believed that dreams provide insights into feelings and internal struggles of which we may not always be aware.(Photo: Pixabay)

Dreams are fascinating and mysterious experiences, and understanding the psychology behind them could lead to a better understanding of sleep and the mind. Psychotherapists have long believed that dreams provide insights into feelings and internal struggles of which we may not always be aware.
Have you ever woken up from a vivid dream, wondering what it meant? Most of us are fascinated by dreams, and psychiatrists continue to debate their importance and meaning. Dr Satish Ramaiah, Consultant Neuro-psychiatrist and Sleep Disorders Specialist, People Tree Maarga, says, “Dreams can be varied, vivid bizarre and discrete. The lack of boundaries, framework and patterns is at the core of their nature and this makes them more interesting and unique. Dreams in the deep sleep stage (scientifically referred to as slow wave cycle or NREM Stage 3) are not retrievable, whereas we can usually recall dreams from REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Early morning dreams which tend to occur during the REM period, are commonly recalled. However, the REM proportion in the first half of the sleep cycle tends to be small. In some pathological states, due to disruption in sleep stages/cycles, dream recall can increase, resulting in less restful sleep.”

Tracking Dreams
Dreams are a part of our unconscious reality and are connected to the most primitive part of our brain, called the Hind Brain. Maintaining a dream record is essential for analysing dreams. Using a dream diary or an app is a great way to record dreams. “It is important to write down everything you can remember in detail (setting, shape, sounds, colours, symbols) as soon as you wake up, while still in bed. It is important to note down the details or images without trying to weave a plot. The next step is to identify any associations/emotional significance the images or elements of the dream hold. Try to remember how you were feeling in the dream. Happy? Anxious? Uncomfortable? Identify any recurring themes,” says Dr.Gautami Nagabhirava, Senior Psychologist, Kamineni Hospitals.

 

Dr Preeti Parakh, Psychiatrist and Head, MPower the Centre, Kolkata, says, “To some extent dreams can reflect what our deepest fears and desires are. Our recent experiences and emotions also influence our dreams. Some researchers even believe that it is possible to draw a psychological portrait of an individual if there is sufficient information about his dreams.”

Some common dreams decoded:

Seeing the dead
When you see a near one who has passed away, as a living person in your dream, it indicates wish fulfilment. “After my father passed away, I used to dream of him getting better, being weaned off the ventilator and the family having a jovial time together. Somewhere, my mind wanted him to be alive even after he passed away, that was my wish, and dreams obey the command of wish fulfilment which sometimes is not possible,” says Dr. Pallavi Joshi, Consultant Psychiatrist, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru.

 

Internationally renowned psychologist Dr Ishita Mukerji adds, “Dreaming about the death of a loved one could mean you want to embody a trait this loved one represents or that you have unresolved feelings about them. Dreaming of your own death signifies a transition and new beginning.”

Being Chased
Dreams about being chased by someone, an animal, or a terrifying figure indicate worry or terror in the real world. “If you have a dream about being chased, you may be trying to avoid dealing with certain troubles in your life. Such dreams suggest that instead of confronting an unpleasant circumstance, you want to avoid it. They could also suggest that you don’t want to consider new ideas or possibilities, or that you don’t want to face a part of yourself that has been suppressed. Being chased suggests facing anxieties or seeing individuals you don’t want to see. On the other hand, it’s a sign of ambition if you are the one chasing something or someone,” says Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Director, Poddar Wellness.

 

Naked truths
Psychologically, being naked in front of the public brings shame. “This dream refers to some situation in your life that you are ashamed of, bringing certain impurities or secrets to light in your familiar circle, and being scared about what people might think,” says Dr.Zimpple, Dream Analyst & Nadi Astrologer, Astrozimple. Being naked reveals that you are scared to show your imperfections or shortcomings.

Falling into an abyss
If fear is experienced during a dream of falling into an abyss, it could signify a fear of losing control or of failure, a lack of confidence, loss of identity, and also fear of death. “Lack of confidence and fear of failure will obviously hamper performance while dealing with difficulties — represented by the abyss. If there is no fear, it could mean the readiness to take risks without fear of any eventuality, including death. An abyss or a void could represent non-duality and falling into it could mean a longing to surrender to the concept of the non-duality of existence,” says Indroneil Mukerjee, Certified Bach Flower Therapist & Certified Gestalt Psychotherapist.

 

Dr. Girishchandra, Sr. Consultant-Psychiatry, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru adds, “Dreams of falling can be interpreted negatively as a feeling that you are out of control about what is going on in life, and positively as an act of letting go.”

Snakes in your sleep
A common dream archetype, snakes represent the presence of someone in the dreamer’s life who is toxic, evil or manipulative. Since snakes shed their skins, they are also associated with metamorphosis or rebirth. “The question is whether the dream was terror-inducing or had an element of pleasantness. The former indicates you should get rid of the toxic person in your life, and the latter may represent health and healing. Some dream interpreters like Lauri Quinn Loewenberg believe that the species of snake that appears in your dream is also significant. He says snakes mostly represent people in your life. A boa constrictor in your dream may represent someone who is suffocating or draining you physically, mentally, emotionally or financially,” says Garima Juneja, Psychologist, Founder, Lightroom Therapy & Counselling.

 

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