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What is a dream?
Dream formation is a rather complex process. Dreaming reflects human information processing and consolidation of memory, especially regarding emotional relationships. The information that forms the dream comes from everyday interactions with other people, in the past, but also may be preparing you for future interactions. Usually these interactions involve significant people in your life, for example, family, peers, etc. Dreams form in the unconscious part of your mind. To learn more about the unconscious, read Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Otto Rank, Karen Horney, or Erich Fromm, among others.
Why do we dream?
Dreaming forms an evolutionary adaptive strategy, common to all mammals. There are many “functions” to dreaming. Simply stated, dreaming allows us to think, feel and play with thoughts and ideas without the constraints of everyday consequences. It is a very creative process. By consolidating our memory (autobiography-life history) we create ourselves in all developmental dimensions: social, thought, feeling, physical (the body). My theory is that dreaming facilitates the growth and maturation of thought and language, especially in its emotional and motivational (self control) aspects.
How can we learn to understand our dreams?
Dreams are the royal road into the unconscious. They are structured like a language, and therefore can be studied as such. Their structure includes syntax, semantics, pragmatics, dramatics, rhetoric and semiotics. Dreams have a grammar, therefore have syntax (rules that order meaning). Dreams have meaning, and therefore the semantics of the dream can be studied. Since we place value on anything with application to everyday life, the pragmatics of the dream is vital. For example, dreams can solve, illustrate or clarify a problem that is experienced in everyday life. This is the study of semiotics. The best way to understand your dreams is to start remembering them, and sharing them with others in the search for common meaning.
Do nightmares reveal emotional disturbances?
Yes they can reveal emotional conflicts.
Yes they do. Studies have shown that only about 15-20% of people do dream in color. You can train yourself to dream in color by concentrating consciously on colors during the day. There are a number of other techniques and reasons why people dream in color.