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Why do people see dreams?
It is a scientific fact that all people (and even animals) see dreams while sleeping. When we went through three stages of NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and enter the fourth one (REM), then we can watch, like a movie, a sequence of some events, which can be vivid, colorful or black-and-white, etc., or be one of its characters. While we are still in this stage, we remember our dream in detail. But as soon as we go back to NREM sleep stage, often we cannot say what it was about. The image is obscure and fuzzy.
But the answers for the questions like why people see dreams; what they can give us; whether they carry a hidden meaning; whether they useful, neutral or unfavorable for us, are still not given. However, many scientists work on this issue, they cannot come to a single distinct version.
They can comfort us with such theories:
1. Sigmund Freud’s approach.
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways”
According to S. Freud’s theories, our dreams are the way of expressing and fulfilling our desires, sometimes even the ones we don’t know about or try to keep to ourselves. Almost always, they have an underlying idea of a sexual nature because, as Freud considered, people are driven exclusively by aggressive and sexual instincts. They are the explanation of all our deeds whether in waking life or sleep.
Sigmund Freud devoted a lion’s share of his life and work to developing and proving this theory. His contribution to psychology, medicine, anthropology and some others branches of science is invaluable. Although, there was and still is much criticism in the address of his point of view.
2. J. Allan Hobson and Robert McClarley’s theory
As we know, a man can see dreams being in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. In 1977, J. Allan Hobson and Robert McClarley suggested that a reason why people have dreams while sleeping is that at this very stage the areas of a human brain which are responsible for emotions, memories, thinking and sensation become active. That is why we can see logical as well as illogical and ridiculous dreams. Generally speaking, dreams are only one of the abilities of a human brain. They don’t carry any hidden meaning which can help us to change our life. There is no need to try deciphering them.
3. Dreams are the result of a brain’s remembering process
It is also considered that we have dreams while sleeping because our brain is analyzing the information we have got to know during the day. It is categorizing our impressions, thoughts, feelings, fears, shocks and deciding what to remember and what to delete. Dreams are a side-effect of a brain’s function to convert out short-term memory in long-term one.
When you were a student or pupil, did you practise putting a notebook or a book under your pillow for a night to remember a learnt material better? This method is rather effective. Magic? No, just one of million abilities of a human brain. You did not even have to carry out the whole ritual – hard books under a pillow are obviously unnecessary. Just provide your brain and body with sufficient sleep at night.
4. Dreams help us to solve problems
Deirdre Barrett is a psychologist at Harvard University who has been studying the nature and a social function of human dreams for more than a decade. Her theory is that people see dreams to solve the problems they cannot cope with in reality.
She has conducted an experiment on this theme. There was a group of students who were given some problems they didn’t deal with before. Their task was to concentrate on them before going to bed. It showed that a half of the students were tackling the problem in their dreams, and a quarter managed to solve it.
However, the problem was rather easy, Barrett’s investigation proved that this theory has a right to exist.
Then, there comes out a question: if dreams are designed to help us with our life problems and dilemmas, why most people do not remember them in the morning. Due to the mechanism of our brain work, this theory becomes useless, doesn’t it?
5. Dreams are our brain’s reaction to the environment
Some scientists adhere to the opinion that a man sees dreams because it is the way in which our brain reacts to external factors: noise, sensations, etc. It perceives them and analyzes. We see this process in the form of dreams.
6. Dreams are a reaction to a trauma
Each physical trauma causes a psychological one. As we know, the last one can be even more dangerous for a person’s further development for it leaves an indelible imprint on our souls. It stays here forever even if we think that we don’t remember it. Its traces can find themselves in our dreams. Their meaning may be hidden behind the symbols which can be different but their definition is the same.
7. “Playing dead” mechanism
Many investigations affirm that people fall asleep because of an inherited brain’s habit. The scientists equal a man’s need to sleep to animals’ defense technique: to escape a threat of being caught and killed by their enemies, some animals are playing dead to trick them. While sleeping, a human brain remains active almost to the same degree as when a man is awake. However, the muscles are totally relaxed and immovable. Such characteristics of this state allow to compare people’s need to sleep with animals’ ancient defense trick.
8. A Threat rehearsal
A philosopher-neuroscientist Antti Revonusuo from Finland holds to a view that people have dreams with the only aim: to rehearse possible scenarios of potentially dangerous life situations. His theory refers, however, only to nightmares and unpleasant dreams. Here, we often find ourselves in the unwanted situations we are afraid of in reality. In spite of the stress we experience in such dreams, we can be prepared to them in waking life if they ever happen to us. That is why sometimes we sign with relief after such dreams in the morning.
As we can see, there are theories of very different nature – both psychological and physiological – and each of them has a right for existence. However, even with such a high level of technological development that we have nowadays, experts cannot come to the one definite reason why a man sees dreams in his/her sleep.