Dreams are but shadows?

By Klaus Döring

“A dream itself is but a shadow.” – William Shakespeare

Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2. Hamlet makes this reply to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who suggest that his dreams are signs of his ambition. His two childhood pals are pretending to be his friend and they inquire what’s troubling him. But Hamlet realizes that they are insincere. They have in fact been sent by Claudius to find out why Hamlet is acting so strangely and report back to the King.

I dream of a better world. A world without war and only peace. Without hunger and thirst. Daydreams.

Dreams at night: At one time, people thought that the figures appearing in  dreams were messengers from Gods. It has been generally believed that dreams came from something outside the persons with special skill.

Today, it is believed that dreams are created by the dreamer himself. And because dreams are something a person creates, they may have a special meaning for the person who dreams them.

Just why you have a particular dream when you do may depend on many things. Your health may have an effect on your dreams. A person who is ill or uncomfortable will have different kinds of dreams than that of a person who is well and happy.

If a person is hungry, or feeling cold, or very tired, his dreams may include these feelings. Many dreams seem to be made up of disguised feelings. Also, the events of the day before may have a lot to do with what one dreams. Often the persons or situations in a dream are those that you met during the day. Or your emotion may make you have the kind of dream you have. Needing or wanting something may be also expressed in a dream, and being frightened may become part of a dream.

The feelings of happiness or disappointment which come out in dreams were probably in the dreamer before.

But, why can’t some people remember their dreams? Do you experience this too? Many of us struggle to remember the details of our dreams. The reasons lie in the complicated cycles of our sleep, as we can learn from Stephen Dowling, a British writer.

Dowling continues: for many of us, dreams are an almost intangible presence. If we’re lucky, we can only remember the most fleeting glimpse in the cold light of day; even those of us who can recollect past dreams in astonishing detail can wake some days with almost no memory of what we had dreamed about.

There is little ethereal about the reasons this might be happening, however. Why we have dreams – and whether we can remember them – are both rooted in the biology of our sleeping bodies and subconscious mind.

Sleep is more complicated than we once thought. Rather than being a plateau of unconsciousness bookended by slipping in and out of sleep, our resting brains go through a roller coaster of mental states, with some parts being full of mental activity.

Indeed, we often blindly accept what is happening in this often nonsensical narrative until the time comes to wake up.

The problem is, the more jumbled the imagery, the harder it is for us to grasp hold of. Dreams that have a clearer structure are much easier for us to remember, psychology professor and author Deidre Barrett said in a recent story on Gizmodo.

Francesca Siclari, a sleep research doctor at the Lausanne University Hospital, says there are clear definitions between our states of wake and sleep – and that is no accident. “It’s probably a good thing that the dream life and the waking life are completely different,” she says. “I think if you remembered every detail like you can do in waking life, you would start to confuse things with what’s actually happening in your real life.”

Fact is: not being able to remember everything about our dreams is important, so that we don’t confuse them with reality. And if you wish to remember your dreams, try to follow Harvard Medical School sleep researcher Robert Stickgold   – that simply repeating to yourself as you drift towards sleep that you want to remember your dreams means you wake remembering them. Stickgold laughs: “It actually works. If you do that you really are going to remember more dreams, it’s like saying ‘There’s no place like home’. It really works.”

Let’s try it. Good night.


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