As I was going through my undergrad psychology program I got really interested in finding out about myself. I wanted to know everything I could about me. Why am I like this? Who am I? Why is this group of things important to me but not to other people? Why are some things of great importance to other people not important to me at all? What is my intelligence? What is the ultimate goal of life? Why are we here as human beings?
I began devouring books on western philosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Hare Krishna movement, transcendental meditation, Vipassana meditation, Hatha Yoga, Chakras, hypnotism and many other subjects. I also began meditating at this time which I’ve talked about a little bit in my posts here but that’s covered more in-depth in my bio.
I knew some of the “why” questions about life were unanswerable but I wanted to find the answers I could about me. That was the most important thing I thought – figure myself out. In a short time it became apparent that I had to do whatever was possible to eliminate the negatives I was carrying around as baggage. If I got rid of my baggage I could begin to fully optimize my consciousness. Apparently there was negative material in the conscious and the unconscious (subconscious) and it was apparent that the subconscious was the place to start, it being the more primary level.
In the psych program I was learning a lot about the mind and Freud’s interpretation of how the subconscious (unconscious) affects our lives.
Freud said, “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.”
We had some classes about dream interpretation and I realized I really needed to start looking closely at my dreams to find some of the answers I was looking for. In particular, the dysfunctions show up rather overtly in dreams. I knew from my studies that dreams were really important as indicators of what’s going on underneath the conscious mind and that they could help me become a better person. Less stressed. Less dysfunctional.
Dreams happen while parts of our brain are active during sleep. Dreams are both psychological and physiologically based.
Physiologically, states of sleep are measured using an electroencephalograph (EEG) attached to the scalp by small electricity sensing electrodes. Using the EEG tiny amounts of brain activity called “waves” are recorded. There are two distinct types of brain wave activity during sleep: Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and Rapid eye movement (REM).
NREM sleep consists of four stages the sleeper enters progressively, passing deeper states as larger and slower brain waves prevail. Stage 1 marks the transition between being awake and Stage 1 sleep. In this stage brain wave activity goes from beta waves indicating wakefulness, to alpha waves. Stage 2 is light sleep. The body prepares for deep sleep by moving through theta waves to delta waves. Stages 3 and 4 are deep sleep stages characterized by prominent delta waves with Stage 4 being the most intense.
In REM sleep, brain activity is heightened, similar to the awakened stage 1 state with some differences. The eyes remain closed, but move back and forth from left to right, sometimes rapidly. The muscles of the body are usually paralyzed during REM sleep. This is a good thing because during a bad dream the dreamer is prevented from harming himself or others. Heart rate and respiration increase. Dreams are most easily recalled while woken up in this state of REM sleep.
I noticed I remembered my dreams the most clearly on nights when I woke up around 5am for a restroom trip. When I awoke again later after falling asleep again I had a lot of trouble recalling the details of my dreams. It seemed that 5am was about the best time for me to recall them.
I bought a mini-digital voice recorder so I could record my dreams as soon as I woke up, enabling a much better recall and in-depth analysis later that same day.
Your subconscious mind is incessantly throwing dysfunctional thoughts around like a hurricane full of popcorn. Occasionally some of that popcorn blows up out of the subconscious and into the conscious mind where you might think about it or ignore it all within a fraction of a second. If your subconscious is filled with fear about different issues, then the “fear popcorn” flies up into your conscious mind often and is able to influence your thoughts and decisions there. This fear popcorn can then influence your present actions, plans, future actions and your entire life really. It’s nothing to ignore, you need to take strong action to resolve whatever dysfunctional popcorn your brain is continually cooking up.
I’m a strong believer in removing all the major types of popcorn flying around in your subconscious so you can have a conscious life that is almost entirely uninterrupted by negative subconscious influences.
Subconscious material is usually based around fear, anger and sadness. In graduate study my practicum professor, Dr. Barry Naster (Hamid) shared with me his theory about treating people with mental disability. He used the acronym, “FLASH” to designate the 5 basic feelings every person has. Fear. Love. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Notice there are 3 negative and 2 positive emotions?
Of these, fear, love and sadness tend to really influence our dreams. Our dreams arise from material in the subconscious that hasn’t been dealt with adequately in the conscious mind. The subconscious will cook up popcorn around this material for 72 years until you die if you never deal with it.
“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives,” said William Demen. This view comes from the idea that dreams are formed as a way for us to deal with unresolved issues in our minds. Things that we’d dare not do socially in front of people can be acted out in the safe environment of dreams. Those with a lot of these socially unacceptable desires will have more dreams of this nature.
I think most of my dreams are of the fear, sadness and anger variety. But I can see that some of them had unresolved desire components that couldn’t be acted out socially too. Dreams appear to offer a safe place to let your mind question everything and do everything that it needs to do to resolve the desires and questions it has. If the dream is especially emotional it will push that content to the conscious mind in the form of memory when you wake up or it might even wake you up as you’re dreaming about it.
For many years I had dreams about walking through the woods and seeing bears unexpectedly. In this case, it was actually BEARS that I was afraid of due to some horror stories I was told while camping by my uncles and my mom’s friend. Alligators were a big thing too, though that was based on something else. Then there were the tornado dreams. Of course I had the common falling off a cliff dream occasionally too.
I began interpreting each dream so I could rid myself of the subconscious popcorn and live a more free, balanced life that was uninfluenced by fears, sadness and anger from the past. Here’s how.
If you are currently able to remember your dreams when first waking up then you’re ready to go. Or maybe you are like me and the early morning restroom trip is an almost nightly occurrence and you remember your dreams then. Great. If you don’t remember your dreams when you wake up, no matter because you’re probably having them, you just need to change when you wake up. Try setting your alarm to wake earlier, don’t worry you’ll probably be able to return to sleep after dictating your dreams – if not, no harm done because you’re awake at an early hour when everyone is sleeping! It can be a very productive time of day! What you’re doing is important enough that you must make yourself wake up. Think like that. Act like that. Make it happen.
If you normally wake at 7am, set your alarm for 6am. Do you remember your dreams when you wake up? If not, try 5am. If not, try 4am. If not – and so on. People dream most heavily during the last stages of sleep so you shouldn’t have to wake up much before 4am! I notice If I wake at 5:30am I’m able to remember the most clearly. Usually I’m sleeping by 10:30 – 11pm at night.
Before you sleep set your alarm and put the recorder close to your bed and within a short reach. If you’re using your phone to record, as I did for a while, make sure you find the voice recording program in your list of applications and set it up before you sleep. In the early hours you don’t want to be fumbling around clicking 16 buttons to get started recording. You should be able to roll over, grab the recorder and click once or twice to start recording.
You may notice during recording that you’re making NO sense at all. That’s OK. Sometimes that happens and it will be even more bizarre later when you listen to it awake, believe me. It’s hilarious actually.
After you wake up and you have some time to begin analyzing your dream(s) get a pad of paper and pen and make sure you’ll be free of distractions. Start playing the first bit from your recorder. When one sentence has passed STOP the recorder and write it down. Leave a few spaces and play and stop again after one sentence, writing it down exactly as you said it into the recorder.
Once you’ve copied down the entire dream you shouldn’t go on to the next one which might be influenced by what you just heard and wrote down from the first dream.
Start reading over your first sentence. Look at the words you used. Bear? Dog? Honolulu? I always look at the nouns first and as I say them I might realize the word means something more than what it does at face value. Dreams are made of symbols. The word is a symbol for something else. Dreams are built on these symbols. The mind puts together a story based on symbols and what words really mean – to create the dream. It’s what the word means to you that’s important, not the face value of the word. However, some words might mean exactly what they are – you know? Sometimes certain symbols in your dream mean the same as they do for other people. Sometimes your symbols are unique. Don’t let someone tell you what your symbols mean. Dream interpretation should be phenomenologically based (specific to each person).
So, I do a quick free-association for each noun and see what else comes up as a possible meaning. For ‘bear’ maybe “Professor Sanocki” comes to mind. For ‘dog’ maybe “taking care of” comes to mind. For ‘Honolulu’ – maybe it means “home” to me. And so on. Write down what each noun means to you – really means to you in your mind.
Once you go through the sentence for nouns, check the other words and phrases. See if they might mean something other than what they appear to be. Maybe they won’t. Finish one sentence before going to the next. When the dream interpretation is finished then read over it and try to get the overall feeling about the dream. Was it fear about something? Anger? Sadness?
Then, define more clearly what fear, sadness, anger or combination of these the dream was really about. What is the issue that needs dealt with about these feelings? Can you name it? That’s the goal, name exactly the situation, the memory, the ongoing problem that is going to keep making subconscious popcorn until you address it.
Different problems in the subconscious require more or less thought about them before they disappear. If the major feeling in your dream was fear that you’d forget your combination lock at school – then it wouldn’t take much more than writing it down on the side of your rubber soled shoe in order to stop that dream. For me in high school this was one of my fears. I refused to write down the combination and I had many locks. One for my bike, one for my soccer locker, and one for my regular school locker. I had the dream all through high school and even into college about forgetting the combination to my locks. I could have taken care of it back then and it would have vanished if I’d just given it some thought and created a solution.
Freud’s idea was that the meaning of all dreams was about unfulfilled sexual desire and impulses. He might interpret my dream about failing to remember my locker combination as really meaning I was impotent. You might guess that I don’t put much credence in that line of thinking. Freud had some incredible ideas and much of it is still in use today. However, his head seemed to be planted firmly in his crotch as he attributed the meaning of everything to be of a sexual nature.
Your dream might be as simple to resolve as my combination lock dream. Even as simple as it was, it caused me bad dreams and stress for a long time. The feeling of dread as I went up to my soccer locker and tried many number combinations that didn’t work, and the soccer bus was leaving without me because I couldn’t get my uniform was a really sick feeling. Something so simple created so much negative energy over years of time.
So even the small issues are worth fixing quickly. If you have some major issue that you need to resolve you might need to spend a lot of time thinking about it consciously and working out the reality of it. Reality kills the power that fear, anger and sadness have. You might have had a bad experience years ago and you dream about it. Getting over it so it doesn’t have the power to affect your life anymore might take a couple days. It might take a week or month of counseling. It might take refocusing your mind on other areas. It might take talking to the person you had the bad experience with – or role playing talking to the person and getting it out out of your system. It might take hypnosis, aversive therapy, or behavior modification.
Whatever it takes – get it the hell out of your system and stop letting it affect your life. If you don’t, the most ridiculous and the most devastating experiences will have the power to be relived over and over as the subconscious pops the corn day after day and night after night.
Dream interpretation can help you resolve nearly every issue in your life because dreams are like a peek into your own private world of dysfunction – and all of us have one.
Once you can interpret the real meaning to the symbols in the dream and get at the feelings, eventually being able to define the exact problem that’s causing the bad dreams you’re on your way to a much more fulfilling, stress free, happy life!
USE your bad dreams to fix you. It’s not brain surgery and you probably don’t need to see a psychologist. Put the time in to do some dream work and get to know all your dysfunctions and go about systematically resolving them through dream interpretation one by one.
Though I don’t believe in the Scientologists’ game plan for living their lives or that the e-meters they use have any credence at all, I do believe that they’re on the right track with attempting to become free of subconscious and conscious garbage that stays in the mind until we do something about it.
Ideally we need to identify all our conscious and subconscious dysfunctional thoughts, memories, habits, superstitions, and then work on getting rid of every one of them.
So, you can go about things this way as one method to become self actualized or move to a higher consciousness that is less affected by the subconscious… or there’s another way. I don’t know if I’d call it easier for everyone, but for me it was much easier.
That will be the next article…
Quieting Recurring Subconscious Popcorn Through Meditation
Best of Life!