What are dreams?

Excerpt from Calvin and Hobbes, By Bill Watterson

What are Dreams?

Dreams have a special place in popular discourse much more than sleep. Sigmund Freuds contribution to psychoanalytic literature derives inspiration from his view that dreams had a specific purpose as a form of wish fulfilment for repressed urges and desires. He elaborated on this theme in his book, the interpretation of dreams, published in 1899. This was almost a half a century before serious work commenced on sleep and is indicative of the fascination with which dreams were regarded at a time when sleep was ignored as a topic for serious scientific inquiry

An alternate consciousness?

In popular culture, dreams are perceived as something both pleasant and unwanted. The purpose of dreams remains a subject of speculation and hypothesis. There are people who report never having experienced dreams. However, there is something instinctively fascinating about the fact that when we sleep, our brain can recreate images and events that seem inspired but not constrained by our daily reality. The sense of self is present, but the self in the dream may fly unlike the self in the real world. Dreaming is a disconnected state of consciousness that occurs during sleep. A sleeping person cannot be easily aroused by an external stimulus. While some external stimuli can sometimes alter the content of a dream, often the stimulus fails to influence the dream.

Why do we dream?

Does dreaming have a purpose or is it just random. This remains a question without a definitive answer. Many believe that just as there is blocking of sensory input during sleep, it allows brain regions to shut down and roam freely and recycle memories. Since sleep is also a time when memories are being processed, dreams maybe fragment of awareness of data that are being churned and processed during memory consolidation. Dreams are incredibly polymorphic and so it is hard to derive a general theory of dream just by examining their content.

Will we ever know?

Let us ask Calvin, I wonder what they mean? Only time will tell.

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