Very often, waking up, we remain for a long time at the mercy of strange, bizarre, and sometimes frightening images, pictures or events experienced in a dream. Who are these characters that inhabit our dreams? Aliens of the otherworldly, unknown to us world or part of our internal structure, our “I”? And the dreams themselves – do they have any reasonable basis or are they complete nonsense? The desire to answer these and many other questions made dreams not only the subject of philistine interest, but also an important area of application of scientific methods of cognition.
To the question: do they dream? many would answer in the negative. However, in reality this is not so: it would be more correct to answer that they do not remember their dreams. Most people have several dreams during sleep, regardless of whether they retain their memory or not. Scientific evidence accumulated over the past decades suggests that everyone sees dreams.
The analysis of dreams cannot be approached as something independent, not related to the state of the body and the characteristics of mental activity. The study of dreams allows us to consider them as an “indicator” of a person’s state, sensitively picking up the slightest manifestation of any ill-being in the state of health or a psychological problem. At the same time, the nature of dreams changes, and the direction of these changes depends on the specifics of the disease. This makes dreams a valuable clinical tool for diagnosis. The next important conclusion to which scientific research has led is that dreams are an active process that carries a number of important functions for a person. The most important of them is the function of psychological protection. Experimental deprivation of healthy people from the phase of REM sleep leads to pronounced changes in the mental sphere of the personality, close to neurotic ones (irritability, tearfulness, high susceptibility to stress). In this regard, it is believed that dreaming is critical for emotional release and adaptation to stressful situations. In contrast to the perception of wakefulness, a complex multifaceted world perceived during sleep arises within us, and not outside. Therefore, various elements of dreams (symbols, events) are nothing more than projections of certain aspects of a person’s personality and reality directly perceived by him, including those that are rejected and not recognized by waking consciousness. Consequently, our dreams give us the most complete picture of our multifaceted personality.
By integrating and processing the received emotional information, knowledge and experience, dreams are also important in solving creative problems. The diverse experiences of inventors, artists, and scientists clearly show the role that dreams can play in the creative process. Suffice it to recall the numerous scientific discoveries made in a dream (Mendeleev, Kekule , Einstein , Bor), the ingenious products of sleep-making of many figures in literature (Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol) and art (Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, Goya, Bosch). Z. Freud called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious”. As already mentioned, dreams concentrate in themselves information that affects the most important personal experiences and weed out other, insignificant for a person. This opens up wide opportunities for the use of dreams not only in diagnosis, but also in the treatment of a number of diseases. Since dreams are a kind of “transcript” of the patient’s personally significant experiences, the therapist has the opportunity not only to “touch” the patient’s actual problem through dreams, but also to purposefully influence it.
Dreams are always full of symbolism and meaning, and this meaning is individual for each person. The path to comprehending the meaning of dreams is a complex and creative process carried out in the joint work of the therapist and the patient. Behind each character in the dream there is a whole chain of associations and emotional experiences associated with the individual experience of a person. That is why the interpretation of dreams using the “dream books” that appear in abundance on book shelves is at least a thankless and useless task. Moreover, the information obtained from dream books, creating incorrect predictions for the future, can disorient a person and form an incorrect, inappropriate style of behavior, which in itself is fraught with adverse consequences. Analysis of the content and meaning of dreams is a complex process that requires a professional approach.
Psychic activity in a dream “The morning is wiser than the evening,” says a popular saying. Each of us can remember situations when, falling asleep with a feeling of confusion and helplessness in front of piled up problems, he wakes up in the morning with the feeling that the problems have been solved. One of the widespread myths that have existed until now is the perception of sleep as a rest for the human body and psyche. Modern scientific research has refuted these misconceptions and provided irrefutable evidence that sleep is an active process, and mental activity exists permanently throughout sleep. This was done thanks to the development of electroencephalographic technology, which, specifically for the study of sleep, was turned into a polygraphic record, where electroencephalography (registration of the bioelectrical activity of the brain) is only one of its components, and the activity of muscles, eye movements, and the functional state of internal organs (respiratory rate , heart rate), etc. Now we can say that sleep is a complex state during which active processes are carried out in the brain. During sleep, there is an alternation of phases of “slow” and “REM” sleep, which, cyclically alternating with each other, are repeated several times (from 4 to 6) during the night. During the phase of REM sleep, which makes up 25% of the entire sleep cycle, the activation of autonomic activity is noted and rapid movements of the eyeballs are recorded. If, during a polygraphic recording of sleep in laboratory conditions, a person is woken up during the stage of REM sleep, then he will definitely remember and tell about the dream. Experimental deprivation of a person from the phase of REM sleep led to changes in their psyche, close to neurotic. This made it possible to assume that the human psyche at the time of “REM sleep” is aimed at the implementation of psychological adaptation to stressful influences. At present, there is no doubt about the presence of mental activity in deep NREM sleep. Despite the fact that when a person wakes up from NREM sleep, dream stories are noted less often, during the period of NREM sleep, objective mental phenomena are noted (for example, sleepwalking , dreaming ), which indicate active mental activity during this period of sleep. The consequences of deprivation (deprivation) of slow wave sleep are apathy, asthenia, decreased performance, memory and spontaneous activity. The role of the mental activity of slow wave sleep is assumed in the assimilation of fundamentally new information, memorization.
Thus, during the entire sleep, the human psyche carries out active work, which at various stages of sleep performs certain functions that are important for the subsequent fruitful wakefulness.