Behind Closed Eyes: A Journey from the Dreams of Prophets to Cognitive Processes

When night falls and we close our eyes, a vibrant world awakens. It’s a world unbound by reality, directed by the whispers of our unconscious mind. Here, dreams unfold, echoing our hopes, fears, and memories. These dreams have been a source of fascination for mankind throughout history, sparking insights among philosophers, scientists, and artists. Today, […]

Behind Closed Eyes: A Journey from the Dreams of Prophets to Cognitive Processes
Behind Closed Eyes: A Journey from the Dreams of Prophets to Cognitive Processes
  • Yayınlanma13 July 2023 06:43
  • Güncelleme13 July 2023 06:52

When night falls and we close our eyes, a vibrant world awakens. It’s a world unbound by reality, directed by the whispers of our unconscious mind. Here, dreams unfold, echoing our hopes, fears, and memories. These dreams have been a source of fascination for mankind throughout history, sparking insights among philosophers, scientists, and artists. Today, we’ll embark on a journey, starting from ancient prophetic dreams, moving through the psychoanalytical theories of Freud and Jung, and landing in the realm of modern neuroscience. Together, we’ll trace the evolving understanding of dreams and their intriguing role in human experience.

Dreams have always been a big deal for us. The ancient civilizations saw dreams as divine messages or doors into a mystical world. The Egyptians thought that dreams were like text messages from God. Greek philosophers like Heraclitus saw dreams as an alternative reality that we could experience while sleeping. The holy books, like the Qur’an and the Bible, tell stories of prophets like Joseph, who was able to understand dreams and use that knowledge to make important decisions. Ancient Chinese people thought of dreams as a gateway to the land of the dead. As civilizations grew and changed, so did the interpretation of dreams.

During the Enlightenment, thinkers like René Descartes and John Locke had a lot to say about dreams. Descartes suggested that we can’t really tell reality from dreams, because while we’re dreaming, it all feels very real. Locke, on the other hand, felt that dreams didn’t have the same importance as our waking experiences, because they were created by our mind without any control from us. It was during this period that dreams were often seen as just fleeting and pointless. But by the 19th and 20th centuries, when psychoanalysis came on the scene, people started to become more curious about the dream world.

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, two big names in psychology, really got the ball rolling when it came to understanding dreams. Freud came up with the idea that dreams were a way for us to express desires that we had suppressed. He wrote a book called “The Interpretation of Dreams” where he said that dreams acted like a bridge to our unconscious mind. To illustrate this, he talked about a woman who dreamt of going to the candy store she used to visit as a child. Freud suggested that the candy in her dream symbolized the desires she had when she was a child and her wish to feel pleasure as an adult.

Jung, who was initially a student of Freud, had a slightly different view. He believed that dreams were not just a window into our suppressed desires but also a catalyst for personal growth and self-discovery, a process he referred to as “individuation”. In Jung’s theories, the “shadow” represents the unconscious parts of our personality that we often see in our dreams. If a man dreams about another aggressive man, Jung might say that this reflects anger or resentment that he has suppressed. Jung thought it was crucial to acknowledge these feelings to grow as a person. While there was some disagreement over these ideas, they laid the groundwork for how we understand dreams today.

Fast forward to today, with advancements in neuroscience and cognitive science, we have a deeper understanding of dreams. Dreams usually occur during a stage of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) when our brain is almost as active as when we’re awake. Modern theories suggest that dreams help with memory processing, consolidation, and even creative problem-solving. Dreams have become seen as an integral part of our cognitive life.

A painting of Salvador Dali

Research has shown that people who dream about a problem they had trouble with before often perform better on the same problem after dreaming about it. This suggests that dreams help support our memory and learning processes.

But what actually shapes the content of our dreams?

Most of the time, our dreams are echoes of our daily experiences, relationships, fears, and desires. Dreams tell stories from our own personal, social, and cultural viewpoints and are generally made up of metaphors and symbols. For instance, if you dream about failing an exam or being late for a flight, it might reflect feelings of inadequacy. A dream of flying could symbolize a desire for freedom.

And what about our furry friends, do they dream too?

Research seems to suggest that animals do dream. Studies on rats show that their brain activity during sleep is similar to when they’re exploring their surroundings while awake. This might mean that rats dream about their daily activities.

Throughout history, dreams have influenced cultures and times. From Native Americans seeing dreams as spiritual guidance to the surrealist paintings of Salvador Dali, dreams have been a source of inspiration for creativity, healing, and exploration. They’ve also played a big part in our quest to understand the mysteries of the mind.

The way we interpret and understand dreams can give us insight into our deepest thoughts, fears, and desires. As we become more aware of who we are, we can improve our understanding of dreams. They can even play a key role in addressing big societal and cultural issues. And with new technologies that can decode and analyze our dreams, we’re on the brink of a new era in the science of dream interpretation.

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