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Go Big or Go Home

Go Big or Go Home

So where does reality begin? That seems like that is an easy question, one that should have an easy answer. But don't fool yourself, reality is unknown to many. I often hear stories about a patient's family member experiencing an altered reality. They range from hearing mysterious voices talking to them and only them to seeing things that simply are not there. Hallucinations can take many forms, but hearing voices and seeing things are probably the most common.

When a patient experiences these out-of-world phenomena, they become most often frightened. Sometimes the voices tell them to act out behaviors that are destructive to themselves or others. Sometimes they are told that they are being poisoned by the government or that the government is listening to their thoughts. Acute psychosis is strange. But more disturbing, it is a very difficult medical problem to treat effectively.

Dreams are another experience that can alter our worldly understandings. I keep a dream diary, a handwritten journal of my dreams, at least the ones I can remember when I awaken in the morning. I tried to write them down during the night just after they occurred, but that process contributed to a fair amount of sleep deprivation. The compromise was to record the ones that lingered in my mind's memory when awakening. I have had some strange and bizarre dreams. We probably all have.

Some medications can simplify our dreams. Other medications can make dreams more vivid and real. Some medications can illicit nightmares. There is no doubt that medications can alter our unconscious thoughts which percolate to our consciousness during sleep.

Dreams tend to invite our curiosity about their metaphorical meaning. If we have the same dream more than once, a recurrent dream, we tend to believe that there is a message coming to us from another dimension, something that is important to our present or future situation. Much of Carl Jung's fame as a psychiatrist was a result of his devotion to dream interpretation.

He created his standardized interpretations from a number of archetypal symbols that seemed to be recurrent thematically in most of his patients' dreams. He believed that there were a number of primitive symbols that were common to all mankind, regardless of their socioeconomic standing or cultural background. For example, if someone had a snake in their dream, depending on the circumstance of its presence, it would symbolize the same thing in every one. He proposed that the metaphor of the snake was a primitive, inborn archetype and when it presented itself in a dream, it meant the same thing. Always.

There are hundreds of dream interpretation manuals that have been created world wide as a result of Carl Jung's archetype and symbol theories. I think the majority of people who attempt to interpret another person's dream tend to use much of Jung's classical symbol theory. And in most cases, the interpretation by a professional or an amateur dream expert tends to sound rather farfetched to the person having the dream. Why?

Because the person experiencing the dream has their own personal symbology which is not necessarily shared by others. The idea of an archetype was just that, an idea or theory. Sometimes people of similar religious beliefs or similar ethnocentricities have common symbols. A classic symbol of Christianity is the fish, another is the cross. But not all fish are symbolic of Christ. But to many who interpret dreams, if a fish is present in a dream, there must be a Christ connection of some kind. Salvador Dali may take quarrel with those who have that worldview as do I.

Fish can symbolize the Underworld, the cyclical birth and rebirth, the simultaneous savior and instrument of revelation, life and fertility and a fish can symbolize prosperity, just to name a few. The particular kind of fish makes a difference also: a shark is very different than a large mouth bass or a gold fish.

People experience dreams. The brain is very active during sleep while it is in the REM stage. The most important variable of dream related sleep is that our frontal and prefrontal cortices are off-line. We have no executive function while dreaming. We can fly, skip on water and leap tall building in a single jump. We are divergent in the world of slumber. Are dreams important? I believe so. My son has dreams, and many of them are clairvoyant. Some dreams come true. We probably have all had dreams that precede a life experience and wonder how that could happen. But most dreams do not foretell the future. Dreams are a glorious figment of our imagination.

If you have a dream and it disturbs you, it probably is wise to look within yourself to find some answer to its emotional shockwave to your psyche. Asking a professional dream therapist to interpret your dream is just inviting someone to project their personal worldview onto your personal world. Dreams are personal and are meant to arouse the unarousable.

If you dream, I hope you dream big: go big or go home.

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 12:00 PM
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