Do you enjoy your dreams? Do you remember them well enough to recount them? Do you interpret them? Consider them? Extract a personalized guide to dealing with life’s thornier challenges?
In “Three Fascinating Facts About Dreams,” Margarita Tartakovsky, editor of Psych Central, references psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber, debunking a myth or two and presenting interesting points concerning our sleeping journeys.
Myths and Facts About Dreaming
It seems that people with disabilities dream as though they don’t have disabilities at all, which certainly came as a surprise to me. Then again, though I am not disabled, reflecting on my own dreams I realize that I function at my younger full and unencumbered capacity: I can run quickly, I dance joyfully, I play tennis, I occasionally swim.
And nothing hurts.
On the contrary, pain from injuries and the typical complaints of growing older all disappear, as my 25-year-old mobility and strength are instead accessible. I even enjoy a little supernatural style by slipping in and out of bodies not my own!
I will add that lucid dreaming enhances my experience allowing me to direct the script of my slumbering scenarios.
Age Differences in Dreaming
Another fact Ms. Tartakovsky offers?
Studies show that those under 30 have more dreams in color, while over that age we’re more likely to dream in black and white, or both color and black and white.
That tidbit surprises me. To the best of my recollection, all my dreams are gloriously colorful. Yet the article cites Jeffrey Sumber who suggests that when we think we’re dreaming in monochrome, that may be our waking perception or recollection. He offers a number of reasons for that possibility.
Reading on, I was hoping to discover answers to issues like dreaming about strangers versus people we know. While those who have passed away visit me in dream (always pleasantly), most often my dreams involve strangers, and sometimes celebrities. To add to the intrigue, until the age of 50 or so, those populating my reveries and nightmares typically had no faces! It was as though a blur effect had been applied to protect their identity, though their words and actions generally revealed exactly who they were.
Interpret as you will, but around age 50, it was as if a switch had flipped. The appearance of a fuzzy-featured countenance is now the exception.
Types of Dreams
We know there are many types of dreams and to name just a few – problem-solving dreams, recurring dreams, scenarios in which we act out of character (or just act out), and wish fulfillment dreams (hello, Paris!).
There are those we would generically term “nightmare,” along with sexual dreams, anxiety dreams, and some I simply think of as a mini-vacation. Who wouldn’t love skipping off to the islands for the night, or time travel with all your current knowledge intact?
Recurring dreams are a fact of life as well; mine include two from childhood – a treasure hunt in which the prizes are just out of reach, and flying to elementary school with arms extended like a graceful, gliding bird – always along the same walking path.
While the “naked” dream may be extremely common, my anxiety dreams typically include: a dance performance where I’ve forgotten the steps; a public speaking gig and I’ve lost my notes; that one last final exam to get through in college or grad school – though that nightmare, thankfully, has all but disappeared.
My anxiety dreams since divorce are commonly themed around homelessness, and have persisted for years though presented in a variety of guises. Happily, my dreaming life of late has been more adventurous, though between locales in New York and Paris, still reflecting uncertainty about where to light next.
Gender Differences in Dreaming
Among the issues not touched by the Psych Central article are gender differences. However, Psychology Today provides some food for thought in “The Dreams of Men and Women” by Dr. Patrick McNamara.
Women tend to recall their dreams more often than men and women tend to report more frequent and more intense nightmares than men… Men tend to dream about aggressive encounters with other men (typically strangers) while women tend to dream about interactions with familiar others…
While he gives a nod to the roles of culture and socialization, he goes on to say:
… the dream recall and dream content patterns of men and women differ because the biologies of men and women differ.
I recall asking my younger son about his dreaming; he does recall some of his dreams. He’s a teenager. I did not pry in asking their content. As for the adult men I’ve known in my life – hardly a scientific sample – I realize that generally they didn’t seem to speak of their dreams or have much to recount when I would ask what they remember.
Interpreting Dreams: Identity and Insight
Returning to the first article, Ms. Tartakovsky quotes her expert resource again, explaining the role of dreams in revealing issues of identity and potential for discovery:
… dreams can actually lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves. Sumber added, “Dreams represent the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and our path in life. Dreams are typically the unconscious mind attempting to bridge understanding with the conscious mind.”
As for that particular bridge, while I have struggled with sleeping challenges most of my life (left to my own variations on counting sheep), I am delighted with the vivid nature of my dreams, the ability to recall them, and their power to provide specific solutions to problems as well as words that direct me to pick up the pen and write.
Generally, I find dreams to be enjoyable or at least instructive. As to those faceless players, or other questions to do with sexual dreams, we’ll leave a little something for another day.
In the meantime, I am encouraged to pursue the pleasures and revelations of my dreamier selves, mining that fertile terrain for insight.
- Are you aware of dreaming in color versus black and white?
- What locations or time periods recur in your dreams?
- If you have a chronic health condition, pain, or you’re simply tired, do those states disappear when you dream?
- In your sexual dreams, are you more often with your current partner or do others also play a role – strangers or acquaintances?
- Do you find yourself interpreting dreams, and using their clues to make changes in your life?
- As a man or woman, are your dreams consistent with the gender differences referenced above?
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