dreams Articles

You Needed Last Night’s Dream: Research and Re-thinking

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Whereas there is increasing recognition of the importance of sleep, there is less awareness that one of the reasons we need to sleep is that we need to dream.

Even though you may not remember them, you dream several times a night.  In a typical lifetime, we spend about six years dreaming.

Throughout time and across cultures man has ascribed importance to dreams. Recognized for his seminal contribution of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud considered dreams as the royal road to the unconscious. According to him, dreams represented instinctual aggressive and sexual drives pressing for discharge. Disguised by the primary process of symbols, displacements and condensations, the dream was believed to represent hidden instinctual wish fulfillment.

While dreamers still make important use of the metaphors and symbolic representations in their dreams, the royal road has been expanded and repaved.

Evolving psychological theory and research from Brain Science reveal that well beyond wish fulfillment, we need and use dreams in the organization of data, the consolidation of memory, the integration of skills and the regulation of psychological functioning.

Matt Wilson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells us “ Dreaming is a process, and not only is it useful, it may be essential for making sense of the world.”

Important in understanding the function of dreams are the new findings on sleep cycles:

  • Early dream studies had found that at those times when sleepers were deeply asleep with muscle tone at zero, they were exhibiting rapid eye movement (REM). When awakened, they reported dreaming. This was termed REM Sleep.
  • We now understand that most people sleep in 90 minute cycles in which they descend from light sleep, stage 1, without rapid eye movements (non-REM) to deep non-REM sleep (stages 3 and 4, also known as “slow-wave sleep”), then begin a return journey; but don’t quite make it. Just before waking, we enter REM sleep after which we repeat the cycle four or five times a night.
  • Lab studies reveal that we have dreams in both phases of sleep and that non-REM dreams and REM dreams actually serve different functions.

The …

Couple Dream Sharing

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Last week, we began discussing dreams. (If you missed those two blog posts, you can check them out here and here.) Now that we have considered the function of dreams, the feelings of the dreamer, symbols, shapeshifters, and the displacement of time and place in the “night theater” of dreams, it is time to ask the question:

Should all dreams be Shared?

Although we consider that all dreams, even nightmares, are opportunities for growth and development, not every dream must or should be shared. Like the best of other dynamics between partners — the choice — to share a dream, do a favor, be sexually intimate … is what makes the action authentic and consciously and unconsciously important to your partner.

Making Sense of Dreams: A First Step Toward Sharing

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Earlier this week, I wrote a post entitled “Should You Tell Your Partner Your Dreams?” Today, I continue that discussion by offering insight into how you can understand your own dreams — an important step toward sharing them with your partner.

You don’t have to be a trained expert to understand your dreams — after all, you are the writer, director, actor, lighting expert and stage hand of your  night theater.” Recognizing this and taking a look at the nature of dreams will give you a way making sense and utilizing your dreams. Once you can begin to understand your own dreams you can expand that understanding by sharing with your partner.

Should You Tell Your Partner Your Dreams?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

It is quite possible that you have said or heard your partner say:

“You will never believe the dream I had last night!”

“You were screaming in your sleep – are you okay?”

Dreaming and the use of dreams have been recorded from Biblical times and across many cultures. While we credit Freud with his contribution of The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900 and still marvel at his formulations, the royal road to the unconscious has been greatly expanded.

Whereas Freud understood dreams primarily in terms of wish fulfillment, later theorists like James Fossage (1997) built upon psychoanalytic theory with cognitive theory and dream research to suggest that dreams serve an important organizing mental function. They help us process feelings, cope with traumatic events, solve problems and develop a sense of ourselves and our relationships with others.

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Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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