What Do Your Dreams Mean?
I went to a lecture once about how to interpret dreams. The famous Dr. Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, along with Dr. Watson, gave it. The lecture wasn’t about how to look into them like tea leaves, but rather how the brain was structured and why dreams have such a disjointed story line to them.
I don’t know if you remember you dreams. I usually do, at least for the first few minutes when I wake up. Unless it’s a particularly strange dream that seems to have obvious symbolic meaning, I’ll usually forget it in a few moments. Usually by the time I get to the bathroom. Sometimes, though, I’ll have a dream that has obvious significance to a problem that I’ve been giving a lot of conscious thought to, and many times the dream will contain a solution. When that happens, it’s pretty lucky.
Some people completely discount dreams as meaningless jumbles of random images that they can’t remember. Others treat dreams with as much respect as Neo treated the Oracle. I once saw this huge book, over a thousand pages, filled with dream symbols and what they mean.
That is another whole discussion in and of itself. If I dream of a purple teapot, and you dream of a purple teapot, do they have the same significance? Do they mean the same thing? I would suggest they don’t, but many think that they do.
The whole of Jungian psychoanalysis is based on the idea of “archetypes.” After listening to many hundreds and perhaps thousands of patients, he noticed they many of the same images appeared when they described their dreams. That led him to his theory of archetypes, or some kind of large, shared symbolic library that all of us have access to. This is the idea of some kind of “superconscious” or “infinite intelligence,” as Napoleon Hill described it in “Think and Grow Rich.”
If you read any work by Joseph Campbell, he comes to the same conclusion, that we all share a similar set of symbols and stories, but his reasoning is different than a “superconscious.”
If you aren’t familiar with Campbell’s work, he studied mythology from several cultures around the world, and discovered that they are all very similar in structure. The stories are the same, the characters are the same, and the underlying messages of the stories are basically the same. His reasoning was that since all humans share similar structures in our brains, and a similar experience of how we come into the world and learn to fight for our survival, we al develop the same stories and symbols, regardless of which culture and time we come from.
A good example would be a pasta machine (A what?). A pasta machine. Imagine you have a pasta machine that is set to produce a certain kind of macaroni. You dump in your pasta mix, hit the start button, and then out comes the macaroni. You put the macaroni in a bag, and stick it in the cupboard to eat later. Then you clean the pasta machine and put it away. Somebody else comes along, and makes another batch of pasta. Except they use completely different ingredients, so it comes out smelling and looking and tasting different. But they don’t change the filter on the pasta machine, so it comes out looking the same as your macaroni. Same length, same shape, same curvature. And then they stick it in the cupboard next to yours.
This happen several different times, until there are about twenty different bags of pasta in the cupboard. Then somebody steals the pasta machine and sells it at a garage sale to gamble on dog racing, or something. A few years pass, and the house I bought buy an amateur scientist. He happens to be from Mars, and doesn’t know a thing about pasta. He notices that despite having different flavors and smells, each pasta is shaped the same way.
So he assumes that all the pasta came from the same source. The same person made all the pasta. There must be some grand wizard that has some mysterious combination of all the different pasta’s. He starts to imagine what he great god of pasta must be like to have create all these different kinds of pasta from the same source. There must be some “super pasta source” or “infinite dough” somewhere to produce all these similar pasta.
Of course, his theory is incorrect. Different people made different pasta using different ingredients that they bought from different stores. They just squeezed them all through the same filter that they were too lazy to change.
Campbell’s conclusion was similar. We are all squeezed through the same filter. Namely the process of being born, struggling for several years learning to walk and talk and wipe our own asses and make money and buy food, and keep people from stealing our stuff. So consequently, we have similar ideas and visions and symbolisms about the world.
To him the idea of a superconscious is merely a placeholder in our minds to describe the confounding fact that despite never having come in contact until the last few hundred years both eastern tradition and western tradition both developed mythologies of giant dangerous dragons, which were both basically huge snakes or lizards.
The Jungian would explain this as some deep superconscious symbolism of a dragon being evil (even in the garden of Eden the snake was the bad guy) because of some metaphysical cosmic reason.
The Campbellian would point out that coming up with a mythology of huge dangerous reptiles would be natural if you live in an area where some seemingly small and harmless animal like a snake could kill you with one bite, hence giving it some mythologically dark properties.
Which brings me back to Dr. Crick. He was explaining that we have such messed up dreams because of the lattice structure of the brain. Everything isn’t neatly stacked into different piles separate from each other. All the information is cris-crossed all over the place. So remembering one thing may cause you to remember something completely different (Just like on Monty Python).
His theory was that dreams are merely a kind of disk defrag that our brains do naturally while we sleep. However, there have been many people throughout history who have solved complex problems, and made breakthrough discoveries by paying attention to their dreams.
It could be the when we have problems, we know the answer on some level, but we just don’t know how to express it. Because our brains are largely based on images, the solutions naturally come to us through all the various pictures and memories that we have stored in our brains.
For example, the guy who invented the sewing machine had a dream he was in the jungle, and the natives were throwing spears at him with holes in the tips. The guy that came up with the structure for benzene, and pretty much started the whole study of organic chemistry dreamed of a snake eating its tale.
Whether our dreams come from some collective intelligence, or they are merely remnants of our evolutionary past, they can give us very powerful messages. You just need to be creative enough to interpret them. A good strategy would be to ask yourself a question while you are falling asleep, and just pay attention when you wake up. Perhaps you dreamed the solution in the form of images and weird story lines.
The bottom line is that whatever you think about dreams, they can be a powerful tool that most people never choose to utilize. Just by asking some good questions as you fall asleep, and paying attention to any answers that may come in the morning, you might find yourself creating all kinds of good things in your life.