It’s not even the full moon and I’ve been having some complicated dreams lately.
These dreams are work related and feel like practice for something I might be doing in the future.
Which is pretty cool.
I once heard that dreams are supposed to be a way of working through problems in our waking lives, but these recent dreams seem to be more than working through problems, so I decided to do a little research. Before I get to that, however, let me explain more about my recent dreams.
There were two that stood out in particular. In the first I was working with two large classes of students modeling some teaching strategies. The interesting part is that my mind had created two classes of students with faces, personalities, names – people not at all from my waking life – instead people that my mind created. Sure, it’s likely they are based on the hundreds of students I’ve known over my 30 years of teaching, but still – new names and faces? All created in a few minutes/hours of dreaming. I find that incredibly amazing.
In the other dream I was collaborating with a varied group of adults, and again, these were people I did not know in my waking life, but rather new faces, new personalities, apparently created for this dream and this dream alone. Again, amazing.
The other amazing idea from these dreams is that what I was doing in them was sound. I’m sure you all know that sometimes we wake up from dreams wondering what the heck was going on because the dreams seem so strange, or even incredibly bizarre. You know, riding an old fashioned big wheeled tricycle through dense forest that suddenly turns into a tropical beach filled with talking Komodo Dragons. (not that I’ve had that dream, ever.) Yet, these recent dreams I’m having result in me waking up and thinking, that was good. That is something I could actually utilize in my work.
So back to the dream research.
It seems that while I’ve been busy dreaming some new theories about dreams have been identified.
One is the Psychoanalytic Theory of Dreams. This theory is the one I was familiar with – the Sigmund Freud theory. Freud’s belief about dreams was that “people are driven by aggressive and sexual instincts that are repressed from conscious awareness. While these thoughts are not consciously expressed. . .dreams are disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes.” He also described two different components of dreams: manifest content and latent content. Manifest content is made up of the actual images, thoughts and content contained within the dream, while the latent content represents the hidden psychological meaning of the dream.
Another dream theory is the Activation- Synthesis Model of Dreaming. The activation-synthesis model of dreaming was first proposed by J. Allan Hobson and Robert McClarley in 1977. According to this theory, circuits in the brain become activated during REM sleep, which causes areas of the limbic system involved in emotions, sensations and memories, including the amygdala and hippocampus, to become active. The brain synthesizes and interprets this internal activity and attempts to find meaning in these signals, which results in dreaming. This model suggests that dreams are a subjective interpretation of signals generated by the brain during sleep.
While this theory suggests that dreams are the result of internally generated signals, Hobson does not believe that dreams are meaningless. Instead, he suggests that dreaming is “…our most creative conscious state, one in which the chaotic, spontaneous recombination of cognitive elements produces novel configurations of information: new ideas. While many or even most of these ideas may be nonsensical, if even a few of its fanciful products are truly useful, our dream time will not have been wasted.”
A third set of theories are the Information-Processing Theories.One of the major theories to explain why we sleep is that sleep allows us to consolidate and process all of the information that we have collected during the previous day. Some dream experts suggest that dreaming is simply a by-product or even an active part of this information-processing. As we deal with the multitude of information and memories from the daytime, our sleeping minds create images, impressions, and narratives to manage all of the activity going on inside our heads as we slumber.
These recent dreams seem to be a combination of the Activiation-Synthesis Model and the Information-Processing Model. Much of what was happening in my dreams – the work I was doing with students and the collaboration with adults was based on previous learning – practices I have used in the past and know to be good educational practices.
What I don’t understand, still, is why these creative yet realistic dreams have come to me recently. What has happened to the bizarre dreams where miraculous and strange things happen? Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I am actually kind of astounded by these new dreams because they seem like they might prove very useful in my waking life. I simply want to point out that a shift is happening, and my curious mind is wondering. . .