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Sunday, 16 January 2011

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Of dreams and dreamers

Dreams are such common experiences that there is scarcely anybody who has not had dreams. From time immemorial, philosophers and psychologists have been trying to define dreams and come to grips with their real characteristics. According to psychologists, dreams are a type of psychological activity or experience which occur during sleep.

Dreams have two basic characteristics. In the first place, when we dream we are oblivious to other people and things around us. Secondly, when the dream is over, we remember very little of our dreams. Some of the dreams we see are so pleasant that we wish to experience them once more. However, we may not see the same dream again.

Leading psychologist Sigmund Freud spent nearly four decades trying to understand the process of dreaming and interpreting the dreams. As dreams represent a very puzzling but common experience more research has to be done to understand them. Modern psychologists are not in total agreement with the Freudian interpretation of dreams. This shows the difficulty of understanding the process of dreaming and interpretation.

As we dream during sleep, we are not conscious of ourselves and our surroundings. However, while dreaming we get the impression that we are conscious of our surroundings. This paradoxical condition led early philosophers and psychologists to believe that dreams represent a special form of consciousness and thought.

Indian thought

According to traditional Indian thought, the dream is a separate form of consciousness. It was known as 'Swapna'. This is closely connected with sleep (Shushupti), Prajna or awareness and Jagrat or alertness. Indian philosophers and psychologists have made a number of attempts to explain the phenomenon of dreaming in subsequent years.

While dreaming is an unconscious activity, daydreaming seems to be a conscious process. The latter occurs when our senses are fully alert though diverted from reality. Daydreams very often reflect our conscious desires and plans to achieve certain goals. For instance, a person who is anxious to become a rich businessman will always daydream of his success. On the other hand, dreams belong to a different category as they do not stem directly from conscious desires or aspirations.

Psychologists say that daydreams are a form of fantasy in which we indulge in most willingly. However, daydreams are different from fantasy. While daydreams are well organised and relate to the consciousness of the individual, fantasy does not fit into that definition. When you daydream, you become the central character of the experience. All the other events and experiences are subservient to you. Most of us daydream about our future. Our focus may be success or failure in life.and its myriad activities.

Daydreams

Today people pay more attention to daydreams than dreams. This is because daydreams are influenced by our wishes, fears and worries.

These elements play a major role when we are free from the constraints of reality. In fact, daydreams act as temporary egocentric holidays from reality. Adults have a greater capacity for daydreaming because of their ego. However, young children do not experience daydreams because their ego remains relatively undeveloped.

Sometimes, we laugh at daydreamers. Daydreaming is supposed to be unproductive and a waste of time. However, modern psychological research shows that daydreams are not always useless. In fact, they are useful in more ways than one. Daydreams provide us with a refreshing and reassuring escape from reality. When we are oppressed by reality, daydreams can instil hope and courage in us. This does not mean that we should replace reality with daydreams.

Setting goals

Those who daydream have the habit of setting goals for their aspirations. As human beings we all have ambitions. Daydreaming helps us to realise our ambitions to a certain extent.

History is full of successful daydreamers. Dick Whittington was a poor boy who daydreamed to be the Mayor of London. In fact, he became the Mayor on three occasions. Although Demosthenes was a stammerer, he was daydreaming to be the greatest orator in the world.

Ultimately, he became what he wanted to be.

Woodrow Wilson said, "We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which come always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true."

Obviously, Woodrow Wilson is not referring to dreams we experience during sleep. His dreams are loaded with philosophical meaning.

 

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