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Whether in ancient or in contemporary times, dreams are a mystery of the mind that everyone has experienced. Quite likely, most individuals have also pondered the meaning of their dreams. Whether these sleep-time adventures are considered voyages of the soul, messages from the gods, the doorway of the unconscious, or accidental byproducts of insufficient oxygen in the brain, down through the ages thoughtful men and women have sought to learn more about this intriguing activity of the sleeping consciousness.

Among the ancients there were the dream incubation temples of Serapis, Egyptian god of dreams; and later, of Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing. Thousands of people made their pilgrimage to these holy places to seek advice and healing from their dreams. After rigorous periods of fasting, prayer, and sacred ritual, they would attempt to induce revelatory nocturnal visions by spending the night in the temple. This practice was commonly employed by the cultic prophets and the kings of the ancient cities of Lagash in Sumer and Ugarit in Syria.

Plato (c. 428348 or 347 b.c.e.) saw dreams as a release for passionate inner forces. In the second century, another Greek, Artemidorous of Ephesus, produced the Oneirocritica, the encyclopedia that was the forerunner to thousands of dream books throughout the ages.

In Hinduism, it is believed that the immortal soul within the physical body is able to leave the "house of flesh" during sleep and to travel wherever it desires. It is also thought that the passing to the next life after death may be compared to a sleeper awakening from a dream. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states that the soul, the "self-luminous being," may assume many forms, high and low, in the world of dreams. "Some say that dreaming is but another form of waking, for what a man experiences while awake he experiences again in his dreams.As a man passes from dream to wakefulness, so does he pass at death from this life to the next" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.3.1114, 35).

The Mesopotamian and Egyptian courts employed skilled professionals who sought to interpret dreams and visions. The Israelites, by contrast, believed that interpretation of dreams could be accomplished only with the Lord's guidance. "For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet a man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when sleep falleth upon men in slumberings upon the bed; then He openeth the ears of men, and speaketh their instructions, that he may withdraw man from his purpose and hide pride from man" (KJV: Job 33:14). The Talmud, the Hebrew sacred book of practical wisdom, reveals that the Jews gave great importance both to the dream and to the one whom the Lord gave the knowledge to interpret the dream. Joseph and Daniel were two Israelites who attained high regard for their skill as dream interpreters.

Dreams, or night visions, might be auditory and present a direct message (as in Job 33:1517, Genesis 20:3,6) or at other times be symbolic, requiring skilled interpretation. Jacob had a dream of a ladder set up on Earth, the top of it reaching to heaven. He beheld in this dream angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder with the Lord standing above it, confirming the covenant of Abraham to Jacob (Genesis 28:12). King Solomon received both wisdom and warning in dreams (I Kings 3:5, 9:2).

The New Testament accounts surrounding the birth of Jesus (c. 6 b.c.e.c. 30 c.e.) record a number of revelatory dreams. Joseph was instructed to wed Mary and was assured of her purity (Matthew 1:20), in spite of the apparent fact that she was already pregnant. Later, Joseph was warned to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13), return to Israel, (2:19) and to go to Galilee (2:22). The Magi (the three wise men) were warned in a dream not to return to their native land along the same route as they had come (2:12) because of Herod's evil intentions. Acts 2:17 contains the prophetic verse: "And it shall come to pass in the last days saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy [preach] and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."

By the late nineteenth century, dreams were being examined from a physiological perspective. The ancient notion that God spoke directly to men in dreams was pretty much dismissed by a culture that was becoming more scientific and materialistic. Then came the groundbreaking work of Sigmund Freud and Carl G. Jung.

In 1899 Sigmund Freud (18561939), a Viennese psychiatrist and the founder of psychoanalysis, brought dreams into the realm of the scientific community with the publication of his monumental work, The Interpretation of Dreams, in which he maintained that the dream is "the guardian of sleep" and "the royal road" to understanding the human unconscious. Freud's theory was basically that the dream was a disguised wish-fulfillment of infantile sexual needs, which were repressed by built-in censors of the waking mind. The apparent content of the dream was only concealing a shockingly latent dream. Through the use of a complex process of "dream work," which Freud developed, the dream could be unraveled backward, penetrating the unconscious memory of the dreamer and thereby setting the person free.

According to Dr. Stanley Krippner (1932 ), former director of the Dream Laboratory at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, contemporary experiments in sleep laboratories have confirmed many of Freud's speculations and cast doubt upon others. Some psychiatrists, including Lester Gelb, argue that the concept of the unconscious should be totally abandoned in explaining human behavior. Gelb feels it would be more useful to recognize several states or types of consciousnessworking, sleeping, dreaming, daydreaming, trance, and so fortheach of which can be productively studied by behavioral scientists. Krippner stated that possible confirmation of Freud's emphasis on sexual symbolism does occur occasionally in modern electroencephalographic dream research, but he further observed that human thought processes are too varied to allow any single, unitary explanation of dreaming to be adequate.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (1875 1961), a student and later dissenter of Freudian techniques, added new dimensions to the understanding of the self through dreams. From Jung's perspective, Freud expressed a contempt for the psyche as a kind of waste bin for inappropriate or immoral thoughts. In Jung's opinion, the unconscious was far more than a depository for the past; it was also full of future psychic situations and ideas. Jung saw the dream as a compensatory mechanism whose function was to restore one's psychological balance. His concept of a collective unconscious linked humans with their ancestors as part of the evolutionary tendency of the human mind. Jung rejected arbitrary interpretations of dreams and dismissed free Freudian association as wandering too far from the dream content. Jung developed an intricate system of "elaborations," in which the dreamer relates all that he or she knows about a symbolas if he or she were explaining it to a visitor from another planet.

Jung found startling similarities in the unconscious contents and the symbolic processes of both modern and primitive humans, and he recognized what he called "archetypes," mental forces and symbology whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual's own life, but seemed to be "aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind." Jung believed that it is crucial to pay attention to the archetypes met in dream life. Of special importance is the "shadow," a figure of the same sex as the dreamer, which contains all the repressed characteristics one has not developed in his or her conscious life. The "anima" is the personification of all the female tendencies, both positive and negative, in the male psyche. Its counterpart in the female psyche is the "animus."

The most mysterious, but most significant, of the Jungian archetypes is the self, which M. L. von Fram describes in Man and His Symbols (1964) as the regulating center that brings about a constant expansion and maturing of the personality. The self emerges only when the ego can surrender and merge into it. The ego is the "I" within each individual. It is the thinking, feeling, and aware aspect of self that enables the individual to distinguish himself or herself from others. In psychoanalytic theory, the ego mediates between the more primitive drives of the "id," the unconscious, instinctual self, and the demands of the social environment in which the individual must function. (Jung saw the self as encompassing the total psyche, of which the ego is only a small part.) Jung called this psychic integration of the personality, this striving toward wholeness, the process of "individuation."

Many authorities consider Dr. Nathaniel Kleitman (18951999) to be the father of modern scientific dream research, for he pursued the subject when his colleagues dismissed the area as having no value. As a professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, Kleitman asked a graduate student, Eugene Aserinsky, to study the relationship of eye movement and sleep; and in 1951, Aserinsky identified rapid eye movement (REM) and demonstrated that the brain is active during sleep, thus establishing the course for other dream researchers to follow. Although discussions of REM are now commonplace in the conversations of informed laypeople, it should be noted that prior to the work of Kleitman and Aserinsky most scientists maintained that the brain "tuned down" during sleep.

Pursuing the REM research, Kleitman and another of his medical students, William C. Dement, found what may be the pattern for a "good night's sleep." They discovered a nightly pattern of sleep that begins with about 90 minutes of non-REM rest during which brain-waves gradually lengthen and progress through four distinct stages of sleep, with Stage Four the deepest stage. It is then that the first REM episode of the night begins. Rapid eye movement is now observable, but the body itself remains still. The central nervous system becomes extremely active during REM. It becomes so intensely active that Dr. Frederick Snyder, of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), termed the activity "a third state of earthly existence," distinct from both non-REM sleep and wakefulness.

The breathing is even in non-REM sleep. During the REM episode breathing may accelerate to a panting pace. The rhythm of the heart may speed up or slow down unaccountably. Blood pressure can dramatically fall. Other physiological changes also occur during REM. The flow of blood to the brain increases about 40 percent. Then the individual stirs and returns to the non-REM sleep cycle. This pattern repeats itself throughout the night.

Dreaming, in Dr. Stanley Krippner's estimation, is a primary means of brain development and maturation. Newborn infants spend about half of their sleeping time in the rapid eye movement or dream state. Although such dreams probably are concerned with tactile impressions rather than memories, he believes that these dreams probably prepare the infants' immature nervous systems for the onslaught of experiences that come with the maturation of vision, hearing, and the other senses. To further support this theory, Krippner cites studies done with older subjects that indicate that young adults spend 25 percent of their time dreaming while the proportion decreases to 20 percent among the elderly. It seems that the brain, once it is functioning well, does not need as much dream time.

Recent experiments demonstrate that simple forms of mental functioning go on at night even when the individual is not dreaming. The brain appears to require constant stimulation even during sleep and may use dream periods to "keep in tune" and to process information that has accumulated during the day.

In the mid-1950s, Drs. William Dement and Charles Fischer, working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, asked a group of volunteers to spend several nights in the laboratory. When the volunteers fell asleep, they were awakened throughout the night each time the electroencephalographs indicated the start of a dream period. These volunteers got all of their regular sleep except for their dream time. After five nights of dreamlessness, they became nervous, jittery, irritable, and had trouble concentrating. One volunteer quit the project in a panic.

Another group of volunteers in another part of the hospital was awakened the same number of times each night as those in the first group, but they were awakened when they were not dreaming. In other words, they were allowed approximately their usual amount of dream time. These volunteers suffered none of the troubles and upsets that afflicted the first group.

For the first time, the Dement and Fischer experiment presented evidence that regular dream sleep is essential to physical well-being. Some of the volunteers went as long as 15 nights without dream sleep, at which point they tried to dream all of the time, and the researchers had to awaken them constantly. When their dream time was no longer interrupted, the volunteers spent much more time than normal in dream sleep and continued to do so until they had made up their dream loss.

Dement summed up the results of their experiment by concluding that when people are deprived of REM sleep, a rebound effect occurs. If individuals are not getting their proper share of REM and non-REM rest and are feeling sleepy, they can become a menace. People who have accumulated a large sleep debt are dangerous drivers on the highway, for example.

Krippner believes that dreaming is as necessary to humans as eating and drinking. Not only does dreaming process data to keep the brain "in tune," but there is also evidence that a biochemical substance that accumulates during the day can only be eliminated from the nervous system during dream periods. Individuals should be just as concerned about receiving adequate dream time at night as they are about receiving adequate food during the day. Any disturbance that interrupts sleep will interfere with dream time, thus leaving the individual less well preparedphysically and psychologicallyto face the coming day. Alcohol, amphetamines, and barbiturates depress the amount of dreaming an individual can experience during the night, and users of these drugs should be aware of the fact. Coffee, however, does not seem to depress dream time.

Today there are at least 170 sleep clinics operating in the United States, and their analyses cite more than 50 sleep disorders. A general consensus of the researchers at such clinics expresses the opinion thatsecond only to the common coldsleep disorders constitute the most common health complaint. In March 2001, the National Sleep Foundation released the results of a poll that revealed that 51 percent of adults complained of insomnia, the inability to fall into a restful sleep, a few nights per week over the period of a year; 29 percent said that they had experienced insomnia almost every night over a year's time.

Researchers also have noted a mysterious kinship between mental illness and sleep and even longevity and sleep. Daniel Kripke, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, led a study that tracked the sleeping habits of 1.1 million Americans for six years and concluded that, contrary to popular belief, people who sleep six or seven hours per night live longer than those who sleep eight or more. The controversial study, the largest of its kind, was published in the February 15, 2002, issue of Archives of General Psychiatry and provoked criticism from other sleep experts who stated that the main problem with America's sleep habits is deprivation, not oversleeping.

Dr. Patricia Carrington, a Princeton University psychologist, has expressed her hypothesis that humankind would be better served if it followed the natural rhythms, the biological alternation of rest and relaxation that is seen in animals. Only in human beings is there such a thing as 17 hours of constant wakefulness.

Many sleep and dream researchers have theorized that one of the reasons why humans use drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and other means of altering states of consciousness may be to somehow manipulate the body-mind structure into obeying the schedule forced upon it rather than permitting it to follow the natural cycles and rhythms of life itself. Dr. Jurgen Zulley, psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, has found evidence for a four-hour sleep-wake cycle with nap periods at approximately 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Zulley feels that individuals shouldn't try to combat their natural drowsiness at these times with coffee breaks or with exercise. In his opinion individuals should seek to be biologically correct. It would be better for human health, Zulley advises, if individuals took a short nap or just leaned back in a chair for a bit of relaxation rather than reaching for a soft drink or a cup of coffee to keep the mental motors running.

Dream researchers also have learned that environment appears to have a marked effect on dreams. One may have unusual dreams when spending the night in a friend's home or in a motel room. In their series of studies at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory, the research team found that the subjects' dreams often contained references to the electroencephalograph and to the electrodes on their heads, especially during the first night in which they participated in the study. Charles Tart, one of the nation's most eminent sleep and dream researchers, suggests that dream content also will differ with the demands placed upon the dreamer; dreams that are written down at home and given to a researcher will differ from dreams given to a psychotherapist, because in the latter instance the emphasis is on the person's inner life and his or her attempts to change his or her behavior.

It has been noted that patients who go to Freudian psychotherapists eventually begin to incorporate Freudian symbols into their dreams while patients who see Jungian analysts do the same with Jungian symbols.

Opinions on the degree to which external events influence dreams vary widely. Some dream researchers contend that all dreams are the result of presleep experiences, while Freudian psychoanalysts emphasize the internal determinants of dream content (i.e., one's unconscious drives and defenses). Others argue that the presleep experiences of one's daily activities may be used by the unconscious, but they are not of major significance in dream interpretation.

In 1967, Tart presented a list of the various items that influence dreams. Tart's list included the dreamer's actual life history; the dreamer's memories of what has happened to him or her, especially during the past week; the "day residue," which includes immediate presleep experiences; and currently poorly understood factors such as atmospheric concentration, barometric pressure, and paranormal stimuli such as telepathic messages.

Dream researchers are not sure how the visual dimensions in dreams compare with the visual dimensions in everyday life. Dream reports indicate that most often the dream is on a "cinemascope screen" rather than on a small "television screen." People usually are seen full-length and in about the same dimensions as they appear during waking hours.

One reason REMs (rapid eye movements) are associated with dreams may be that the eyes scan the visual scene just as they do during the waking state. On the other hand, eye movements also occur when subjects report no movement in their dreams, suggesting that the relationship between rapid eye movements and dreams is highly complex.

There is not a one-to-one relationship between waking time and dream time. However, extreme time distortion rarely occurs in dreams despite the fact that many psychologists used to believe that dreams lasted only a second or two.

The subjects at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory recalled the visual elements in their dreams most clearly, but auditory (sound) and tactile (touch) impressions also were common. While subjects in the dream laboratories report auditory and tactile impressions in addition to vivid visual dreams, some individuals stubbornly insist that they "never dream." Since researchers have established that dreaming is as necessary to mental and physical health as eating and drinking, it becomes apparent that individuals who claim that they never dream simply are not remembering their dreams, or are having dreams they wish to forgetthe nightmares.

Delving Deeper

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Basic Books, 1955.

Hall, Calvin S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Jung, C. G., ed. Man and His Symbols. London: Aldus Books, 1964; New York: Dell Publishing, 1968.

Kramer, Milton, ed. Dream Psychology and the New Biology of Dreaming. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1969.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Perls, Frederick S. Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Lafayette, Calif.: Real People Press, 1969.

Sechrist, Elsie. DreamsYour Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Stekel, Wilhelm. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Washington Square Press, 1967.

Tart, Charles, ed. Altered States of Consciousness. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1969.

Vedantam, Shankar. "Study Links 8 Hours' Sleep to Shorter Life Span." Washington Post, February 15, 2002. [Online]

Creative and Lucid Dreaming

Data currently being researched indicates that dreams provide a fertile field for the examination of creative processes. The act of dreaming, that most personal and subjective experience, may well be a key to humankind's hidden powers. Many artists, writers, inventors, musicians, and other creative people have received inspiration in their dreams or have used their dreams as problem-solving catalysts.

All through Easter Day in 1920, Dr. Otto Loewi, research pharmacologist at the New York University College of Medicine, pondered a strange dream that revisited the details of an experiment that he had discarded 17 years before. Acetylcholine, the chemical that he had used in the experiment, had first been isolated by Dr. H. H. Dale, Loewi's close friend, in 1914, but the new test inspired by Loewi's dream brought about an abrupt change in the theory of muscle stimulation. Loewi and Dale shared the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine in 1936.

Although the experiment itself had a striking effect on the academic world of physiology, the manner in which the idea came to Loewi is perhaps even more astounding. It is conceivable that ideas can be transferred from one mind to another during sleep, but when such ideas are not in the mind of another person, from where could they possibly arise? Before his death in 1961, Loewi stated that he could not possibly answer this question. Perhaps no one can, but it is certain that Loewi's dream provided the key to subsequent research that eventually gained him the Nobel Prize.

Solving problems via the dream state is as old as humankind itself. Thomas Edison (18471931), the "Genius of Menlo Park," it is said, had the habit of curling up in his roll-top desk to catch brief naps that sometimes constituted his entire sleep schedule. After such a nap he would emerge with the answers to problems that had plagued him during his waking state.

Elias Howe (18191867) failed at the conscious level to perfect a workable sewing machine. Then one night he dreamed that a savage king ordered him to invent a sewing machine, and when he was unable to comply, the spear-armed natives raised their weapons to kill him. At that exact moment, he noticed that each spear had a hole in it just above the point. This vision gave him the much-needed clue to the commercial perfection of the sewing machine.

Another famous scientist who used his dreams to solve problems was Niels Bohr (18851962), who one night dreamed of a sun composed of burning gas with planets spinning around it, attached by thin threads. He realized that this explained the structure of the atom, which eventually led to the field of atomic physics and, ultimately, atomic energy.

William Wordsworth (17701850) credited dreams for the many poems he wrote. "Kubla Khan" was the result of a dream by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (17721834). The classic novel Jane Eyre (1847) was spun from the dreams of Charlotte Brontë (18161855).

Some of the world's most successful business executives never make a decision until they have a chance to allow it to pass through their minds during the hours of sleep, permitting solutions to come during dreams. Once this practice of "sleeping on a problem" becomes habit, these successful individuals find that there is really nothing magical about the process of dreaming solutions. Creative dreaming simply appears to be a matter of training the mind to do certain things. The subconscious level of the mind does the work, rather than the intellectual level. The subconscious understands symbols far better than words, and, in general, can be likened to an electronic computer. Material must be fed into it or it cannot produce effective answers. To the intellect, a particular plan may sound silly, but to the subconscious it may make a lot of sense.

The concept of the dream as a creative tool may be somewhat alien to Western thought, but numerous Eastern writings, including the ancient Hindu Upanishads, speak of this aspect of the dream. One of the Upanishads says that "Man in his dreams becomes a creator. There are no real chariots in that stateno blessingsno joys, but he himself creates blessings, happiness and joys." Psychologists Montague Ullman, Joseph Adelson, Howard Shevrin, and Frederick Weiss have done much to advance the thesis that dreams basically are creative.

Psychoanalyst Ullman cites four creative aspects of dreaming:

  1. the element of originality;
  2. the joining together of elements into new patterns;
  3. the concern with accuracy;
  4. the felt reaction of participating in an involuntary experience.

Ullman concedes that the final product of a dream's creativity may be either dull or ecstatic, but he insists that it is an act of creation to have the dream in the first place.

Lucid dreaming is simply the technique of dreaming while knowing that one is still dreaming. The word "lucid" is used to indicate a sense of mental clarity. A lucid dream usually occurs while one is in the midst of a dream and suddenly realizes that the experience that he or she is undergoing is not happening in physical reality, but in the framework of a dream scenario. Often the dreamer notices some impossible occurrence in the dream, such as having a conversation with a deceased relative or having the ability to fly, which prompts this awareness. While experiencing lucid dreaming is not quite the same thing as exercising control over one's dreams, the dreamer who realizes that he or she is dreaming may greatly influence the course of the events in the dream scenario. Some practitioners of lucid dreaming promise extended creativity, the ability to overcome nightmares and other sleep problems, the healing of mind and bodyand even spiritual transcendence.

Those who teach lucid dreaming state that the two essentials are motivation and effort. Lucid dreaming techniques allow the individual dreamer to focus intention and to prepare a critical mind. The exercises taught by those conducting lucid dreaming workshops range from ancient Tibetan techniques to modern programs developed by dream researchers.

Delving Deeper

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Hall, Calvin S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Krippner, Stanley, with Montague Ullman and Alan Vaughan. Dream Telepathy: Experiments in Nocturnal ESP. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Publishers, 1989.

LaBerge, Stephen. Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine, 1986.

Lucidity Institute. [Online]

Sechrist, Elsie. DreamsYour Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Van de Castle, Robert L. Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine, 1994.


A nightmare differs considerably from a frightening dream. The terror of a nightmare is more intense and does not present an image or a dream sequence. Dreamers in the throes of a nightmare cry out while in deep sleep. They sweat, have difficulty in breathing, and often appear as if paralyzed.

In 1968 Dr. R. J. Broughton compiled considerable evidence that indicates that bed-wetting, sleepwalking, and nightmares occur during periods of deep sleep rather than during periods of dreaming, as the layperson often assumes. Bed-wetting is common among unstable individuals, and the sleepwalker, in about 25 percent of the cases, is also a bed-wetter. Dream researcher Dr. Stanley Krippner agrees that nightmares, bed-wetting, and sleepwalking rarely coincide with dream periods.

Psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann of Tufts University believes that the nightmares of people who seem physically healthy but who regularly suffer from "bad dreams" are reflecting their personalities rather than a traumatic past or a present struggle with health problems. Hartmann found evidence of "thin boundaries" in people prone to recurrent nightmares. In his assessment they were men and women who tended to be more open and sensitive than the average. They were, he discovered, people with a tendency to become quickly and deeply involved in relationships with other individuals. At the same time, paradoxically, they also tended to be "loners," people who did not identify strongly with groups of any kind.

Hartmann developed a 138-item "Boundary Questionnaire" that he administered to more than a thousand people, including a wide range of students, nightmare sufferers, and naval officers. The findings supported earlier studies that suggested that many of the men and women who endure nightmares are artistic or otherwise creative people. Naval officers, not surprisingly, most often turned up on the opposite end of the scale with rather "thick boundaries." Hartmann speculates that "boundary thickness" may reflect a basic organizational pattern of the brainone that is genetically determined or established early in life. The general openness of "thin-boundaried" people may predispose them to creativity, but it also binds them to a childlike vulnerability that leaves them at the mercy of the night creatures that go "bump" in the darkness.

Nightmares, then, just might be the price that some otherwise healthy and untroubled people pay for their sensitivity and creativity. The nightmare may work out the vulnerability, Hartmann states, especially if the sufferer learns to maneuver the frightening dream from a place of vulnerability to a place of control.

On October 2, 2001, clinical psychologist Alan Siegel, editor of Dream Time magazine, told Mike Conklin, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, that the people of the United States had entered a "national epidemic of nightmares" brought on by the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11. "Nightmares are a cardinal symptom of something traumatic in [One's] life," Siegel said. "In this case, we've lost our sense of security, and this is something more traumatic than most Americans have really experienced before."

Dr. Michael Friedman, a sleep specialist at Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, agreed that there was no question that they had begun treating many patients with sleep problems and nightmares related to the incidents of that terrible event. Deirdre Barrett, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical Center who supervised counselors at Boston's Logan Airport following the hijackings of the jets that crashed into the Twin Towers, cautioned that in some cases it might be six months or a year before certain people would begin having traumatic dreams of the series of events that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Siegel went on to explain that such nightmares should be considered the brain's natural means of dealing with the trauma, dispelling it through the subconscious while people are sleeping. Although people tend to think of nightmares as a kind of mental poison, Siegel said that, in reality, "they are a form of vaccine."

Delving Deeper

Conklin, Mike. "Plague of Nightmares Descend on Elm Street." Tribune, October 2, 2001. [Online]

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Hall, Calvin, S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Kramer, Milton, ed. Dream Psychology and the New Biology of Dreaming. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1969.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Sechrist, Elsie. DreamsYour Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Tart, Charles, ed. Altered States of Consciousness. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1969.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a condition that occurs in that state just before falling to sleep (hypnagogic state) or just before fully awakening from sleep (hypnopompic state). Although the condition may last for only a few seconds, during that time a person undergoing sleep paralysis is unable to move or speak and often experiences a sense of fear that there is some unknown presence in the room. Along with such hallucinations as seeing ghosts, angels, devils, and extraterrestrial beings, many individuals undergoing sleep paralysis also report the sensation of being touched, pulled, or feeling a great pressure on the chest.

A general consensus among researchers links sleep paralysis with rapid eye movement (REM), the dream state. While in the normal state of dreaming, the muscles relax and the brain blocks signals that would permit the limbs to move, thus preventing the body from acting out its dreams. In the case of sleep paralysis, the usual barrier between sleeping and wakefulness temporarily drops and certain sleep phenomena, of which immobility is one, enter into wakefulness. Some individuals, momentarily paralyzed, suffer feelings of dread, helplessness, and become convinced that they have been visited by some supernatural presence.

The 1990 International Classification of Sleep Disorders reports that sleep paralysis may occur to 40 to 60 percent of the population once or twice in a lifetime, but happens quite frequently to people who suffer from narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Research has also determined that instances of sleep paralysis usually begin around the ages of 16 and 17, increases through the teen years, and generally declines during the 20s. Although the condition is comparatively rare during the 30s, roughly 3 to 6 percent of the general population may continue on occasion to experience sleep paralysis throughout their lives, especially if they undergo sleep deprivation or experience frequent sleep disruption.

Because the experience is extremely frightening for many who suffer from sleep paralysis, they may be reluctant to discuss the problem because they have become convinced that they have witnessed a supernatural visitation or because they fear they are going insane. Researchers insist that while the condition of sleep paralysis may be unpleasant and unsettling, it is not indicative of any serious long-term psychological problem. Those enduring severe sleep paralysis have been successfully treated with certain antidepressants that inhibit REM sleep. Even more effective, many sleep researchers maintain, is to understand more about what the condition is and learn not to fear it.

Delving Deeper

Hellmich, Nanci. "When Sleep Is But a Dream." USA Today, March 27, 2001. [Online]

Hufford, David J. The Terror That Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.

Krippner, Stanley, with Joseph Dillard. Dreamwork: How to Use Your Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving. Buffalo, N.Y.: Bearly, 1988.

Rowlands, Barbara. "In the Dead of Night." The Observer, November 18, 2001. [Online],6903,596608,00.html.

Symbology of Dreams

Fritz Perls (18931970), the founder of Gestalt therapy, believed that dreams were "the royal road to integration." In his view the various parts of a dream should be thoroughly examined and even role-played to gain self-awareness and to integrate fragmented aspects of the personality into wholeness. According to Perls, the different parts of a dream are fragments of the human personality. To become a unified person without conflicts, one must put the different fragments of the dream together.

The Gestalt approach to learning about oneself through dreams lies in a concerted attempt to integrate one's dreams, rather than seeking to analyze them. This can be accomplished by consciously reliving the dreams, by taking responsibility for being the people and the objects in the dream, and by becoming aware of the messages contained in the dream.

Perls found that in order to learn from dreams, it is not essential to work out the entire dream structure. To work even with small bits of the dream is to learn more about the dreamer. In order to "relive" a dream one must first refresh one's memory of it by writing it down or by telling it to another person as a story that is happening now, in the present tense.

Perls used the present tense in all of Gestalt dream work. In his view, dreams are the most spontaneous expression of the existence of the human being. One might perceive dreams being much like a stage production, but the action and the direction are not under the same control as in waking life. Therefore, Perls advised, it is helpful to visualize a dream as a script from one's own internal stage production.

Each part of the dream is likely to be disguised or to bear a hidden message about the dreamer. When the message comes through, the individual will feel that shock of recognition that Gestalt called the "Ah-ha!"

Perls concluded that every dream has a message to reveal to the dreamer. Like most dream researchers, he recommends that one keep a paper and pencil at bedside in order to record the important points of one's dreams as they are remembered.

Dr. Stanley Krippner (1932 ), formerly of the Maimonides Dream Laboratory in New York City, said if one were to lie quietly in bed for a few moments each morning the final dream of the night would often be remembered. In Krippner's opinion, no dream symbols carry the same meaning for every person. Despite certain mass-produced "dream interpretation guides," the research in the dream laboratories indicates that only a skilled therapist, working closely with an individual over a long period of time, can hope to interpret dream symbolism with any degree of correctness. Even then the therapist's interpretations would hold true for only that one subject.

Krippner points out, however, that certain dreams do occur with great frequency among peoples all over the world. Dr. Carl G. Jung (18751961) spoke of "archetypal images" in humankind's "collective unconscious." In this part of the mind, Jung believed, were images common to all people everywhere. People living in different times and different places have dreamed of "wise old men," "earth mothers," "mandalas" (circles within a square), and other "archetypes."

Jung's theories are rejected by many psychologists and psychiatrists as being too mystical, but Krippner believes Jung's hypotheses really are not in conflict with what the dream researchers call "scientific common sense." There must be something structural in the brain comparable to the structural form of other body parts. If so, this structure would develop along certain general lines even though an individual were isolated from other human beings.

According to a general consensus among dream researchers, the number one rule in understanding one's dreams is to understand oneself. It is only by knowing oneself as completely as possible that any individual will be able to identify and fully comprehend the dream symbols that are uniquely his or her own. Here are a number of symbols commonly seen in dreams and general meanings that have been applied to them by certain researchers:

  • Angel. Contact with Higher Self or superconsciousness. Guidance. Wisdom. Truth.
  • Bathing. Spiritual cleansing. Need to "clean up" one's life.
  • Cat. Universal symbol for woman. May refer to gossip; beware of gossip. The mysterious. Independence.
  • Church. The realm of Inner Awareness. Higher Self. Spiritual need.
  • Desert. Spiritual thirst. Emotional barrenness. Sterility.
  • Devil. Unpleasant person. Authoritarian figure of negative emotions. Parent figure for unhappy childhood. Search for forbidden knowledge.
  • Earthquake. Inner turmoil. Old ideas and problems coming forth. Literal or prophetic. Changes.
  • Falling. A natural fear and common to children. Falling from grace or higher spiritual realms. Defeat.
  • Hair. If soft and clean: spiritual beauty; if matted and dirty: spiritually unclean; if thinning or bald: a man may feel consciousness of his age, or of aging. Gray or white represents wisdom. A haircut may represent loss of vitality.
  • Island. Seclusion. Desire to get away from it all. Security. A place of inhibitions.
  • Judge. Authority figure. One who views objectively and fairly. Need for Self-discipline. Hidden guilt.
  • Key. The answer to a problem. Opening new doorways of opportunity. Gaining of new knowledge or wisdom.
  • Lake. Water symbol for spirit. Peace if placid or smooth.
  • Mirror. Reveals one's true Self. good, bad, or indifferent. A reflection of the truth. Can also represent illusion, that which is not real, only a reflection.
  • Needle. Sewing indicates repairing errors of the past or may be someone giving someone the "needle."
  • Ocean. Spirit, God, Higher Self. Peace, unless a rough sea, then turmoil, strife, etc.
  • Pig. Selfishness.
  • Relatives. Relatives often represent parts of the dreamer's Self playing various roles of his or her life.
  • Suitcase. Prosperity. Desire to travel. Prestige. Subconscious desire for someone else to go away.
  • Sun. Spiritual light and awareness.
  • Teeth. The loss of a tooth or teeth may foretell the loss of something of value.
  • Water. Source of Life. Spirit, God, Universal.

Delving Deeper

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Basic Books, 1955.

Hall, Calvin S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Jung, C. G., ed. Man and His Symbols. London: Aldus Books, 1964; New York: Dell Publishing, 1968.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Krippner, Stanley, with Mark Waldman. Dreamscap ing: New and Creative Ways to Work with Your Dreams. Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1999.

Perls, Frederick S. Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Lafayette, Calif.: Real People Press, 1969.

Sechrist, Elsie. DreamsYour Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Stekel, Wilhelm. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Washington Square Press, 1967.

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Casual Fridays

Casual Fridays

As computer software began to receive more and more media attention in the late 1980s, informal office situations and casual, even eccentric, clothes became identified with the wealth and creativity of the highly successful computer executives. Managers of other successful businesses began to wonder if this informal atmosphere could work to improve their own offices.

In 1991 Levi-Strauss, manufacturer of blue jeans and other casual wear, joined with the United Cerebral Palsy Association (UCPA) to launch a nationwide fund-raising event. "Casual Day," as it was called, would allow employees to buy the privilege of dressing more informally for the day by making a charitable contribution to UCPA. Many businesses joined in the project, and it was very successful, leading not only to more fund-raising casual days, but also to many businesses establishing a regular casual day, usually on Fridays.

Casual Fridays steadily increased in popularity. By 1996 a Levi-Strauss study found that 90 percent of American office workers were allowed to dress casually on Fridays, as opposed to 47 percent in 1993. Many business owners and managers found that allowing their employees one day of informality did increase their productivity and gave the office a more welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. Some noted that fewer workers were absent on Fridays than before the introduction of the casual day. Many banks expanded the policy, introducing casual summers. Some clothing manufacturers introduced new lines of clothing just for casual work dress.

Others did not approve of the new policy, however. In 1995 a group called Dress Right formed to ban casual Fridays, and some business magazines spoke out against the policy as bad business practice. In addition, the definition of casual was often open to debate, and this frequently led to endless office memos, forbidding items considered too casual, such as ragged blue jeans and halter tops. For the employee, choosing the appropriate clothes for casual days could be more difficult than dressing for a regular work day. For many men, whose regular office wear was a fairly simple dark suit and white shirt, casual Friday was the only work day where they were required to think about what to wear.

Casual Fridays originated in the often-informal United States, but in the late 1990s the idea was successfully exported to other countries as well. Office workers in Japan and Great Britain, for example, welcomed the occasional chance to dress more informally, and the new sales of casual business clothes gave a boost to some clothing manufacturers. By the late 1990s many businesses moved to an entirely "business casual" dress code.


"Dressing Down: At the Firm, Casual Friday Is Anything But Relaxing." Los Angeles Daily Journal (May 14, 1999): 8.

Kemp, Kristen. "Casual Friday Clothing Fiascoes." Cosmopolitan (November 1999): 227.

Mannix, Margaret. "Casual Friday, Five Days a Week." U.S. News and World Report (August 4, 1997): 60.

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