Dreaming in the News & Links

Exceptional links about Dreams and Nightmares:

Brain basics: Understanding Sleep and Dreams – 9 articles which cover the basics of sleep and dreaming.

Dream facts – 22 facts about dreaming including trivia as well as debunking popular myths.

Your Child’s Top 10 Nightmares and Dreams Explained – An extremely valuable resource for parents. While these explanations make sense, understand that not everyone is going to go by the “books” when interpreting the complex language of dreaming, but this site nails a lot of the most common explanation for the most common dream and nightmare-oriented experiences that children face.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful day! Articles will post with much more regularity starting next week.

- K. Kennedy

Alfred Adler on Dreams

Alfred Adler, an Austrian doctor with psychoanalytic theories (though he is known as the forefather of Cognitive Theory) and a great contributer to many realms of psychology is most well known for coining the phrase “inferiority complex.” While the bulk of his work involved self actualization as well as various methods of reaching goals (note that these goals are not simply career oriented, but any kind of goal unique to that person from buying those cute black heels to getting the promotion, to simply seeing someone smile), insecurity and superiority, survival (both literally and within social constructs), he was also very well established as a particularly philosophical dream analyst who looked carefully into the makeup of the unconscious vs the conscious reality and proposed new ideas and applications to dream analysis focusing equally on the individual as well as the social environment of the individual to create a more specialized and accurate approach to understanding dream languages.

Key Ideas to Adler’s approach on Dream Interpretation

  • Mastering your life – Dreams clue the dreamer into the problems they face during waking life, both internally and externally. If the dreamer wishes to examine the dream for better understanding, they will find answers to many of their problems, and see where the focus is most needed in any sort of problematic situation.
    Bottom Line: Examining and learning from your dreams is important to problem solving.
  • What Drives Human Behavior? – Freud is famous for his theories that sex drives human behavior. However, Adler looks at motivation and emotions as what drives humans to act the way they do as a person strives for self-actualization or “perfection” and alleviating anxiety in favor of feeling and being in control. Adler postulates that behavior in dreams is no different than behavior in waking life. Exaggerated, confused by symbolism, yes, but the same motivation that one may have to dream is the same motivation one has to achieve.
    Bottom Line: Dreams can help clue the dreamer into their motivations and goals.
  • Dreaming and Emotions – Adler argued strongly that true feelings – the ones that some people do not allow themselves to face – are revealed through dreams. Dreams are a safe way to examine the extremes of the spectrum of emotions that the dreamer has. This is not to say that these dreams mean that the dreamer is that way, however it does point to the idea that the dreamer has either neglected those feelings, has not come to terms with those feelings or healed from them, or is so afraid of their feelings that they would rather not feel them in waking life and instead examine them in dreams (consciously or not).
    Bottom Line: A dream about a feeling that is exaggerated or something that simply is not you, according to Adler’s theory, these are the very emotions that you are uncomfortable with and least likely to act on in waking life. However, these feelings can help the dreamer become more in-tuned to their underlying feelings and come to understanding of them for healing and self awareness.
  • Dreams and Insecurity – Adler placed a lot of focus on success vs failure, where a person falls on the spectrum of self esteem, and defense mechanisms (over compensation) commonly used for insecurity or the feeling or idea (whether true or false) that a person can not succeed in any given situation in waking life. Therefore, interpretation of dreams where superiority and inferiority come into play are either very literally looked at or are looked at as wish-fulfillment or a fantasy dream to turn an uncomfortable situation around. For Adler, to dream of paralysis indicates feeling hopeless and incapable. To dream of traveling indicates the dreamer’s travel through life. To dream of falling is to indicate loss or a social failing of any kind while dreaming of flying (according to Adler) signifies the dreamer’s certainty and happiness over reaching a goal, knowing they are capable, and knowing they have the ability to succeed.
    Bottom Line: Dreams can also be tools for glimpsing into our insecurities and our ability to complete tasks. How a dreamer reacts to these experiences can indicate how they are currently reacting to these things in waking life.

Alfred Adler and Self Betterment
The greatest part of Adler’s work was the examination of an individual to come to completion through self actualization or completing goals and feeling the rewards of those completions. A person can become “whole” through many methods: knowledge, setting reasonable goals for themselves, being who they are, through self-esteem boosting exercises, and by examining their dreams. Adler’s description of the insecure person (a person who has not yet “leveled up” through adulthood) is very close to today’s clinical definition of depression. While modern medicine and research can certainly debunk this by exploring chemical imbalances that cannot be helped, personal tragedies, and learned behavior (among many other reasons why a person my experience any sort of mood disorder), it is interesting to note that becoming complete is a universal expression of a person’s life. Perhaps self-actualization is not the key to happiness or lack of mood disorders, but it is a path by which some may choose to examine deeper to find relief from some of the symptoms a mood disorder or unhappiness brings.

Further Reading on Self Betterment:
Books by Alfred Adler
Self Discovery Workbooks

“The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.” – Alfred Adler

- K. Kennedy

A practical approach to Lucid Dreaming

After going over the basics of lucid dreaming, let’s step things up a notch and focus on the one aspect of lucid dreaming that is universally accepted: during a lucid dream, both sides of the brain are at work. While it’s easier to say that your right hemisphere and left hemisphere are working at the same time the truth is that there has never been any documentation of both sides simultaneously working at the same time. Rather, when both sides are at work, there is a rapid fraction of a second switch between both sides of the brain that utilizes both hemispheres seemingly simultaneously.

Knowing this can help a lucid dreamer or anyone who wants to have a lucid dream have much higher incidents of lucidity by doing very simply activities in waking life that have shown to induce this rapid nearly simultaneous brain state. Every time a musician picks up his or her instrument, they are entering into a “zone” where technique meets creativity and improving communication between both hemispheres of the brain, which was backed up again recently with this study. Athletes also enter into this “zone” because both sides of the brain need to communicate to not only move the body, but also to combine quick strategic decisions with creativity. But there is a far more simple and less demanding activity that can get you right into this seemingly elusive “zone.”

The activity that I’m talking about is something you might have done about 15 years ago on your old Nintendo or Nintendo “brick” gameboy. The activity is Tetris. It is common knowledge in scientific communities that puzzle games boost the communication between the right and left side of the brain immensely. So whether your puzzle game of choice is Tetris, Bejeweled, Dr. Mario, or the many other puzzle games out there – most of which can be played for free online – this creates an ideal way to work out your brain and get the left and right side communicating quicker. Another benefit to playing puzzle games was one that most gamers knew already, but something that the scientific community has just now started to look into. It has been observed that puzzle games cause people to feel more relaxed. Tetris shines above all the others, though and is currently being tried out right now as a possible “cure” for anxiety, post traumatic stress, and other stress-related disorders. You can read about the research here or, you can read an “opinion” article about it (with a lot of scientific back-up) here.

Besides picking up a new instrument or becoming a world-famous athlete, or even playing a puzzle game, other activities that stimulate right brain/left brain communication are: jigsaw puzzles, strategy games like chess or checkers, any activity that uses both hands, or finding out which side of the brain is your dominant side and then exercising your recessive side with games or activities. Another, very simple exercise (or seemingly so) is just tuning out. Meditation is one way to go which will yield many positive results, not just for lucidity but in other areas, but so is anything a person does where there is high focus and attention. Perhaps it might be shooting pool or fishing. Maybe going for a walk. Whatever it is that gets you into your version of “the zone” – that place where you’re thinking but not – go for it. Not only will it improve your incidence of lucidity in dreams, but it will also have a calming effect and boost brain activity as well. Also, reading while listening to music uses both sides of the brain. Many people have told me that crossword puzzles get them in “the zone”, but if you’re as bad at them as I am, it might not be a very calming thing to do unless it’s your thing. And then, the most obvious way to tap into right brain/left brain communication is doing anything that involves both of your hands: typing, knitting, you name it – it’s activating both sides of the brain.

While lucid hreams are documented to be most common between 2 AM and “wake up” time during the sleep cycle of a dreamer who goes to bed at 10 PM, an activity that can greatly enhance lucidity in dreams is getting into the habit of doing a right brain/ left brain activity before going to bed. If it’s a puzzle game of some sort, a crossword puzzle, listening to music while reading, or playing an instrument, whatever you decide is something you’d like to invest in, it is best to do this activity for at least 10 – 20 minutes before going to bed.

These techniques are not the more conventional advice given to induce lucid dreaming, but these techniques will greatly prepare yourself for the more conventional activities which will be discussed next Wednesday and will prepare your brain to be pushed a little harder so that it’s ready to take on the challenge (or simple act) of lucid dreaming.

Tetris – If you don’t already have one, you can get a copy of Tetris here.
Left Brain Right Brain – A game designed to exercise both hemispheres.
Brain Age 2 and Big Brain Academy – Other popular puzzle games that exercise your brain.

- K. Kennedy

What does it mean when I dream about …

Falling

Falling is among the most common dream symbols, making the #1 spot of most of the “top 10″ lists of dream experiences. Most falls in dreams occur at a very quick speed through air coupled with acute anxiety of the immanent impact. Other versions are falling through air (or another medium) at various paces with the anxiety of the falling sensation itself, but without the fear of the impact, the anxiety of being stuck in a free-fall with no impact, and also, some falling dreams include a welcoming feeling toward whatever the impact may be.

The anxiety of a falling dream points to situations in waking life that the dreamer is feeling out of control, a feeling of failure or insecurity, or not having the right support. To dream of yourself falling indicates that you have “lost ground” in a situation, have run out of backup solutions, feel alone and possibly abandoned with no one to take care of your fall. If you have been pushed, perhaps you feel “pushed over the edge” in a situation that has turned overwhelming or, you may feel as though someone else has pushed you to this point, reinforcing the lack of support. If the dream starts with another person pushing you, it could mean that the person represents the situation where you are feeling out of control or where you need the most support. The distance that you fall indicates how large the situation or feelings about the situation are.

This dream can also be interpreted as falling away from God or the moral dogma that the dreamer is connected to. The reasoning here is that heaven, a higher power, the spirit is up, in the sky and falling away from that is representative of feeling disconnected from spirit or going down – possibly towards a “hell.” However, be assured if there is a falling dream related to a poor decision, morally or otherwise (this can apply to other situations including a work environment or any situation where the dreamer recognizes that a poor decision has led to a chain of events that have greatly upset their waking life) can also indicate the desire to just let go and face the consequences of the poor decision. In this case, the impact may be frightening or welcoming, depending on the dreamer’s view of how this would play out in waking life. If a person is having this kind of falling dream, it’s important in waking life to look at areas where there is guilt or where the dreamer has felt that they have failed themselves or their morality in some way and to repair that situation in a way that the dreamer feels comfortable.

If the falling is slow, the dreamer may either want to slow down the situation or the dreamer believes that the situation is going to play out over a long period of time. If the falling is fast, the speed perpetuates the anxiety of the impact which is a measure to the dreamer to what extent of anxiety they might feel about the subject. If the distance is a small one, like falling from a step-stool to the ground, it might be a message that the dreamer needs a little push to get back on track. If the falling is a steep fall, it can also indicate how far from “level ground” the dreamer feels. In some situations, the dreamer welcomes the impact which is a sign of a situation that is out of the dreamer’s control but has been accepted. Another indication of welcoming the fall indicates that the dreamer knows or is being shown that it is time to do what’s needed in a situation in order to put it to rest.

Sometimes people report the sensation of falling which wakes them from a dream. The experience has an eerie feeling like that of Déjà vu and is sometimes described as “feeling out of my skin” or “slamming back into my body”. The sensation of “falling awake” in this case is scientifically explained that when the person goes to sleep, their body is tense. Upon falling asleep, the body (tense or not) will relax completely, all at once. If a person is extremely tense while going to sleep and their body relaxes completely, it creates the illusion of falling say scientists. It is possible that during the night, a dreamer with lucidity can enter into various states of tense sensations with their waking body and thus induce this feeling through-out the night. Perhaps this physical reaction can cause the dream of falling as well as the eerie sensation upon waking, but in most cases I think not. Another popular theory about “falling awake” is that the dreamer was beginning an Astral Projection and, due to whatever circumstances during sleep – the dream, a loss of control of the Astral Projection, the astral body’s desire to return to the physical one – it falls back into the body, thus waking the person up with a strange sensation.

- K. Kennedy, available for dream interpretations starting in late July.

The Legend and History of the Dream Catcher

Native Americans looked to their dreams with great reverence and respect. Dreams from spirit and guidance messages acquired through dreams shaped and influenced their culture in so many ways that it’s impossible to do justice to Native American culture in just one article. While we will certainly go over Native American culture and dreams in as many ways possible, today we will be talking of one of the most fascinating and prevalent effects of Native American culture today: the dream catcher. It is so prevalent that it has wound up in homes across America and other Countries and become a widely-accepted decoration in the bedroom. But where did these come from? And, more importantly, why are they used?

History of the Dream Catcher

In Native American culture, dreams are thought to be spirits moving through the night sky. In some tribes, the “Great Dream” or life path of the dreamer is forgotten at birth and thus needs to be remembered to carry out their spiritual gifts. Children are encouraged to explore their dreams to carry out their life’s mission. The hoop is thought to have originated from the sacred circle. In ceremonies, Native Americans make a sacred circle around one person, to capture the messages from the dream spirits and focus these messages to the center of the circle where a young man awaits to receive important guidance for his life or for the tribe.

But, it all really started with children and nightmares. Well, sort of. A mobile created by a “Sacred Hoop” was hung above the cradle or bed of a baby or child. A baby would watch the dancing feathers and adornments and be charmed into sleeping. Newborns had a charm or feather in the center of their sacred hoop to focus their dreams and so that their innocence would be preserved rather than fall into the hands of the “trickster” of the night. One feature of a child dream catcher is the feather or charm in the center which is removed in the adult version. The feather, meaning “breath” or “life” is replaced by other adornments special to the adult’s life path to aid in wisdom and understanding. The basic principle of a dream catcher is that good dreams pass through the hoop, while the bad dreams become caught in it to evaporate at morning’s light.

Dream Catcher Legends
The Legend of the Dream Catcher varies from tribe to tribe (dream catchers were passed to different tribes with trading). Through extensive studies, Anthropologists believe that the dream catcher was first used by the Ojibwe or Chippewa tribe. The dream catcher legend, according to this tribe, is as follows:

“Beside the sleeping space of Nokomis, the grandmother, a spider was quietly spinning a web. Each day, Nokomis marveled at the spider’s work. One day as she was watching him, her grandson came in and saw the spider. Thinking his grandmother was in trouble, he picked up a shoe and started towards the spider to hit it. The grandmother said to the boy, “don’t hurt it!” The boy was confused and asked why she protected the spider, but the grandmother gave no answer. When the boy left, the spider thanked the woman her for saving its life and said to her, “For many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving my life, I will give you a gift.” The spider went to work, “see how I spin? Learn, for each web will snare bad dreams. Only good dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad dreams will become hopelessly entangled in the web and perish at the beginning of each new day.”

The Lakota dream catcher legend is a bit different, but also involves a spider:

Long ago when the world was young an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In this vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi the spider picked up the elder’s willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it, and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life; how we begin our lives as infants, move on through childhood and onto adulthood. Finally, we go to the old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle. “But,” Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, “in each time of life there are many forces; some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But, if you listen to the bad forces, they’ll steer you in the wrong direction, and may hurt you. So these forces can help or can interfere with the harmony of Nature.”

While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web. When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, “the web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, make good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will catch your good ideas and the bad ones will go through the hole.”

The elder passed on his vision to the people, and now many Indian people hang a dream catcher above their bed to sift their dreams and visions. The good is captured in the web of life and carried with the people, but the evil in their dreams drops through the hole in the center of the web and are no longer a part of their lives. (courtesy of snowwowl.com)

Dream Catchers in Modern Culture
Today, the dream catcher is appealing to parents of children with nightmares or are afraid during the night. It is a very common way to solve this seemingly universal problem and it is also effective. It is recommended to tell the child the dream catcher legend and, upon waking, to encourage the child to physically shake out the bad dreams either into the wastebasket or outside. The ideal placement for dream catchers for the act of protection is to place them above the bed, or in the window. Adults also use dream catchers to enhance dream recall, gain more empowering messages, to affect the landscape and directions of the dreams or in the same way that they were traditionally used: to help achieve a higher understanding of self and to find one’s journey in this life. Whatever purpose one might use to catch a dream, the dream catcher is a fashionable and intimate way to connect with the dream world. A person’s dream catcher should be unique to the dreamer and should involve colors and symbols meaningful to them.

Available on our outside resources page, the Catch A Dream shop is an ideal place to shop for custom made dream catchers, “adapted to any style and taste” at a perfect price.

- K. Kennedy

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Does Cheese Cause Nightmares?

Does Cheese cause nightmares? The answer is “no”. But what is more fascinating is if we were to re-word the question just a bit.

Does Cheese affect our dreams? The answer is a BIG “yes”. Cheese contains tryptophan – an amino acid which has been found to lower and relieve stress and also acts as a mild sedative that induces sleep. People who eat food high in tryptophan yield a higher dream recollection rate and more vivid dreams. The incidence of nightmare in any given number of people who have eaten high amounts oftryptophan before sleep is the same as a given number of people who do not eat tryptophan before sleep.

A popular British Study done in 2005 came back with conclusions leading the research team to believe that certain kinds of cheese does affect what subject matter a dreamer might dream about. The findings were this:
Cheddar – Increases dreams about celebrities.
Red Leicester – Increases dreams about the past.
Lancashire – Increases dreams about the future.
Cheshire and Red Leicester – Improves sleep quality.
Stilton/Blue Cheese – Increases the effects of particularly bizarre dreams (especially in women).

It can easily be argued that this study, in order to be conclusive, would need to test on much larger scales, for a longer period of time (the study lasted a week) and with more varieties of cheese. But, strikingly enough, it should be noted that out of all 1,400 potential (not everyone remembered their dreams) “cheese dreams” there were no reports of nightmares. And given the amount of cheese (and thus, tryptophan), there is enough evidence to say that this old wives’ tale is most likely myth.

However, given that cheese is high in tryptophan and eating cheese more than doubled dream recollection in the above study (67% recalled dreams while, on average 30% of Americans recall their dreams frequently), it is worth while to look at tryptophan and the human body rather than cheese in particular. Tryptophan forms 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) which is marketed in the many countries, including the United States as an over-the-counter supplement for mood disorders (especially depression and anxiety) and as a sleep aid (it is also marketed to be used as an appetite suppressant). Why would it be affective for these areas? Because 5-HTP creates mood – enhancing Serotonin as well as the drowsy at-ease neurotransmitter Melatonin (which is also used holistically as a sleep aid). In fact, some studies have found a Tryptophan depletion in insomniacs, leading Tryptophan to be a semi-common suggestion from a nutritional standpoint to help people with Insomnia.

Whether one would like to use this information to enhance vivid dreams, dream recollection, or as a sleep aid, the best way to get these types of amino acids is simply to eat food rich in them (especially since many of these foods are part of a balanced diet). Here is a list of food high in Tryptophan for your very own at-home studies. From highest to lowest: Egg White, Spirulina, Atlantic Cod, Raw soybeans, Parmesan Cheese, Caribou, Sesame Seeds, Cheddar Cheese, Sunflower Seeds, Pork Chops, Turkey, Chicken, Beef, Salmon, Lamb Chop, Atlantic Perch, Eggs, Wheat Flour, Milk, White Rice, Russet Potatoes, and Bananas.

For further reading check out:
The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep
Mind Boosters: A Guide to Natural Supplements that Enhance Your Mind, Memory, and Mood
5-HTP: The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity, and Insomnia

- K. Kennedy

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Dreaming in the news & Links

Slowwave.com – A fun comic. People submit their dreams which are put to pictures, creating amusing stories. Hit “back” or “forward” to scroll through the archives. While these might get a laugh (which they will), also use this time to consider how universally bizarre dreams can be. (Includes an RSS feed)

Daydreaming in the news – When the mind wanders, it ignites goal-oriented behaviors. 2 page article.

Ecological Niche May Dictate Sleeping Habits

An Interesting Read on Sleep Apnea – Anyone going through unexplained fatigue may find this article helpful (note: the unexplained fatigue that women get around and during menses can be greatly improved with an iron supplement).

Quality Marriage affects Sleep and Vice Versa

Letting baby cry to sleep: Does Research say it’s safe? – Research might, but our instincts don’t. Most parents (especially mothers) are hard-wired to respond to their own crying baby.

Change of Sleep Position Stopped Heartburn – At least in this case.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful day! Back to articles starting tomorrow.

- K. Kennedy

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