Now that this general understanding of sleep has been achieved, along with a basic understanding of what dreams are, we can discuss the current theories regarding dreams.
The field of psychology is divided when it comes to the topic of dreams because there are those who believe it is merely a necessary function that is executed in the brain, and those who believe that it holds true significance for interpretation. Although both sides are being investigated, neither side can be proven nor disproven due to unexplainable phenomena and cognitive functions.
There are a number of theories concerning dreams:
- Dreams help to practice life-threatening responses for real life
- Dreams allow us to create wisdom
- Dreams help to forget the unimportant
- Dreams deal with our emotions
- Dreams are randomness without meaning
- Dreams express out desires and wishes
These are the most precedent theories currently being investigated. But let’s break each one down rather quickly.
Dreams help to practice life-threatening responses for real life
Some researchers and neuropsychologists believe that the purpose of dreaming is to help humans practice preparing for possible life-threatening situations. This theory is directed from an evolutionary standpoint, in which dreaming might have become developed in response to this need. This theory stands between supporting mere physiological needs and psychological analysis.
Dreams allow us to create wisdom
Certain psychoanalysts believe that dreams allow for our brains to process experiences we’ve encountered in our waking life, as well as hypothetical experiences, in order to become more efficient at dealing with these situations in our waking life.
Dreams help to forget the unimportant
This theory argues that dreams are only manifestations of memories, feelings and information which our brains deem unnecessary. Therefore, we dream about what is unimportant and when we awaken, the unimportant dream begins to fade as dreams naturally do.
Dreams deal with our emotions
This theory argues, from a psychoanalyst standpoint, that we dream to process and come to terms with our feelings, whether repressed in our unconscious mind or apparent in our waking life. In this way, this theory argues that dreams are a form of psychotherapy.
Dreams are randomness without meaning
Other neuropsychologists believe that psychoanalysis has no grounds due to lack of sufficient evidence. They believe that dreams therefore are simply the conjuring of the random firings of the brain synapses. These firings only help to keep the brain and body functioning while we sleep, and all other interpretation is based on the illogical nature of these firings.
Dreams express our desires and wishes
This theory harks back to Sigmund Freud, who believed that dreams allowed the unconscious to disclose the true wishes and desires of the sleeper. These wishes and desires would be quite socially unacceptable or risky and that’s why they would only be realized in dreams, where they weren’t censored.
Now, we understand the grounds upon which research into dreams is being conducted as well as argued. However, before we can open up a can of worms, we must address the other vital part of the main question: the unconscious.
In order to understand what the “unconscious” is, we must familiarize ourselves with Freudian ideas; after all, Sigmund popularized the idea of the unconscious and did much work into its investigation and workings.
Freudian studies tell us that our overall consciousness is broken up into 3 parts: conscious, subconscious, and the unconscious. The conscious is the part of consciousness we are most familiar with because we use it constantly in our waking lives. It’s the part of our mind that makes decisions with full understanding and purpose. The subconscious is the level of consciousness just below the conscious. It’s the part of our mind that holds thoughts which we may not process right away but can access given a little time to process what we experienced. It also serves as a filter to prevent certain thoughts from emerging from the unconscious.
The unconscious, would hold all of our primal and sexual thoughts and desires (as Freud would say.) Those thoughts would be socially unacceptable if acted out. It also is the part of consciousness that we cannot readily access. Although, according to newer research, it is believed that not only does the unconscious hold these thoughts but it also does much of the simple processing for ordinary tasks. The reason is, is because if we had to think about all normal things we do daily with our conscious mind, we would have difficulty doing more complex tasks.