Why and How Do We Dream?

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Dreams can be an incredible mystery; some may remember theirs vividly while others only recall occasional or none at all.

Studies have demonstrated that our emotions and traumatic experiences often manifest themselves through dreams. For instance, PTSD patients commonly have nightmares which mirror their traumatic memories.

The Theory of Imagination

Imagination is an evolving concept in philosophy. It has been invoked in numerous contexts such as thought experiments, modal epistemology, pretense, dreaming, delusion and empathy, as well as our capacity for counterfactual reasoning. Philosophers have also discussed its nature extensively – by drawing distinctions, taxonomies and outlining governing norms; also discussing its relation with belief, desire, mental imagery memory supposition.

Common belief holds that imagining is distinct from believing, though the exact nature of its distinction remains controversial. One approach for distinguishing them can be found by comparing their phenomenological properties: one way is vividness (i.e. imagining is vivid but supposition isn’t). Some philosophers, including Amy Kind (2017) have claimed this method cannot adequately characterize imagination from supposition as philosophically untenable.

Philosophers have often noted the structural similarities between imagining and believing. For instance, they have noted how imagination tends to feature mirroring and quarantining properties (i.e. imagining something occurring and believing it). Other scholars such as Tyler Doggett and Andy Egan (2007) have highlighted functional parallels between them both, claiming that imagination tends to motivate pretense actions while supposition does not.

Others have maintained that there is some essential distinction between imagination and belief, while some twentieth century scholars took Hume’s description of imagining as evidence that one is an active faculty for making believe while the other involves more sophisticated processes and is reflective in nature.

Contemporary philosophers have generally downplayed these distinctions. The current perspective is that there are some important functional similarities between imagining and believing, yet it’s unnecessary to invoke any mental faculty for pretending or making-believe to account for them. Furthermore, special roles need not be given to imaginative phenomena in order to explain some of its most compelling features such as being associated with dreams or significant contributions to art works.

The Theory of Memory

The information-processing theory states that dreams allow our brains to sort through memories stored in our short term memory. Short term memory stores everything that happens throughout a day; it only holds about seven pieces of information at any one time. While sleeping, our minds can use this time to process this short term information into long-term memory stores; discarding those no longer relevant while keeping what remains important – leaving us feeling refreshed when we wake up.

Another theory suggests that dreams are the product of our brain’s attempt to make sense of random electrical signals generated during REM sleep. Their content may result from various factors, including memory consolidation, emotion regulation and exposure to external stimuli. Their often strange or seemingly irrelevant content has inspired theories suggesting we dream to forget spurious associations or extract generalizations from individual memories [68].

Freud’s theory of dreams suggests they contain unconscious desires, thoughts, wish fulfillments and motivations; such as aggressive or sexual urges repressed within us that come out during sleep. He believed dreams contained two main components – manifest content (visuals we encounter while sleeping) and latent content (hidden meaning behind those images).

Research into memory consolidation during sleep over the last century has established that we consolidate memories during rapid eye movement (REM) phases; however, researchers remain baffled as to how this works.

Now we know that normal episodic memories do not surface during REM sleep, yet its cause remains undefined – either because they have been consolidated, or because hippocampal-neocortical communication during this stage of sleep has been disrupted. This could indicate either that new experiences take longer to be integrated into memory circuitry than previously anticipated, or consolidation only partially succeeds. Alternatively, disruption could actually help memory integration by linking loosely associated memories together and inspiring creative insight.

The Theory of Symbolism

Dream symbols serve as the building blocks of our imaginations and help us to understand their deeper significance, playing an integral part in storytelling and telling a tale.

Literature’s symbolism refers to the use of specific objects or images to symbolize general concepts. Symbolism can be found across narrative literature genres, and is an effective way of engaging the reader and conveying larger messages without using words alone. For instance, long wild hair could symbolize youth and innocence for one character while its loss would symbolize their loss of those traits; an author could use sea glass as an analogy for their mother who passed away; symbolism serves an effective function when writing narrative fiction stories that involve characters with strong emotional relationships such as these.

Symbolism can often be found in art. It was an increasingly popular artistic style in the late 1800s, and was closely tied with Romanticism’s emphasis on feelings over reality. Artists like Edvard Munch used symbolism to express his inner emotions through something called Symbolic Naturalism.

As humans, we make frequent use of symbols in everyday life; these often reflect aspects of personal history or relationships in some way. A car may represent your daily life and present circumstances while a boat might represent long-term goals and journeys. Clothing could represent memories or feelings from childhood.

Sometimes these symbols are plain to see while at other times they are more subtle or implied. While some symbols, like red representing love or hate, are universal, others are specific to certain times or places or people; an example being in “The Great Gatsby”, where a green light symbolizes everything unreachable by Jay Gatsby – such as Daisy being out of reach from him attaining wealth and success.

Symbolism plays an integral role in our everyday lives, yet can often be hard to detect. We tend to take for granted how we associate various objects or events with personal experiences without realizing their significance for other people.

The Theory of Stress

Some scientists believe that dreams are an intuitive reaction to stressful or frightening experiences; you might dream of being chased by a bear or falling off a cliff because these events cause real anxiety. On the other hand, others argue that dreaming such events simply serves as a way of processing emotions and learning new information – an experiment in which participants learned a virtual maze before being asked to solve it in their dreams found that those who dreamt about the maze performed 10x better at solving it compared to those who hadn’t dreamt about it at solving it than those who hadn’t dreamed about it at solving it than those who hadn’t dreamt about it at solving it in reality!

Researchers have offered various theories as to why we dream about stressors. One is called the “social threat simulation theory,” which proposes that dreams serve as a way of simulating stressful events in our minds before they happen. Another theory proposes that dreams act as an outlet to fulfill repressed wishes without directly manifesting them, while some scientists consider dreams random activity in the brain.

Stress and emotions play an integral part in dreaming, yet their causes remain complex. Research has demonstrated that some individuals have difficulty dealing with stress effectively compared with others – leading to sleep issues as well as increased risks for health issues.

Another consideration is our sleep reactivity, or how stress and emotions interfere with our restful restful slumber. This can be affected by genetics, neurobiological factors and environmental conditions.

As well as these factors, other influences on dream content also exist, including its emotional tone, waking life stressors, personality characteristics or history of trauma. All of these influence the valence (positive/negative tone) of your dream.

As previously discussed, lucid dreaming can also have an influence on dream content. Lucid dreaming is defined as conscious sleep in which an individual can control the actions of characters in their dreams.