Reading Into dreams
During one of our class discussions on chatter, Shanya mentioned that dreams could be interpreted as chatter of the mind, an experiment in determining reality. Another aspect of our minds (that have very much to do with dreams) could be seen this way: the imagination […] Our imaginations are our tools for musing over the "what if". To me, the most striking feature of dreams(even more impressive, than their having potentially complex symbolic meanings)-is the simple fact that the dream as presented or experienced in the form of a coherent story or adventure. Oftentimes, stories are composed and presented to us without any contribution from "us". The dream is further from our 'will" than any other form of conscious thinking, further away than the intermediate and quasi-autonomous activities of creative thinking and day-dreaming. In both these situations, even though the thoughts clearly have a direction and life of their own, the thinker oversees the process and shapes and embellishes the ideas. In dreaming, however, the dreamer is merely a spectator who does not have control over thought; the dream seems to be composed apart from the will of the dreamer.
William Dement, “dean of modern-day dream researchers", tries to preserve traditional views on dreams. He believes that dreams occur during periods of rapid eye movements(REM), and that the "subjective duration" of the dream experience correlates with the length of the relevant REM period. According to his theory, it would take as long to dream an adventure as it would to think through or daydream the same story. Sigmund Freud, renown psychoanalyst, believes that a dream "is like a firework, which takes hours to prepare but goes off in a minute." While Freud breaks free from traditional views: he believes that “unconscious thinking” can operate in way allows one to instantly recall events, he does not believe that this can extend to unconscious dream composition. Yet, this remains controversial. Some dreams may take time to compose in that the components of the dream may be taken from yesterday, or even years before, but this does not mean that the dream itself took years to construct(Mullane 157).
To this day, dreams are one of the most mysterious mental activities. If we could get in touch with the dream-composing apparatus we would not know what to do, no matter how much time we spent trying to conjure it up. Thus it is more practical to think of dreams composed in seconds or split seconds of "computer-like" sorting and mixing of ideas and images. First, they operate mechanically and, as the examination of dreams gives reason to believe, with "astonishing" speed. Furthermore, the "calculations and maneuvers of dreamwriters are not only unconscious, they are not even capable of becoming conscious. For example, something happens unconsciously when a "hysterical paralysis" \is produced, and what is produced has a sense; but the act of producing it is not a mental act in the unconscious that, like the repressed fear of father, can be brought to consciousness(Dement 237).
Scholar Harvey Mullane focuses on dream composition and how misleading it can be to think even metaphorically or anthropomorphically of unconscious thinking as a unconscious replica of conscious thinking. Mullane argues that this process is similar to Freud's definition of repression. Repression is a defensive reflex; it is an operation that is beyond the control of the conscious will, it is unexperienced and it functions automatically in an "attempt" to keep conscious anxiety and distress at a tolerable level .However, Bert States, rejects the notion of repression and censorship. According to States' unconscious refers to the thought that we do not know we are thinking as when one suddenly recalls a name that has temporarily eluded an individual. For example, someone blurts out "james! his name wast james!" Five minutes later, without having consciously thought about it in the process(Mullane 122).
According to Bert States, basic difference between dream and fiction is that “fiction is designed for objective understanding according to rules of communication shared by a community of readers; dreams, on the other hand, have no such aim; a dream develops by a kind of catalytic conversion, each image affecting the character and duration of the others with no thought of Aristotelian unity” (States 197). The dream may be "realistic" or not, but there is no reason to believe that dreams are different from any natural dynamic process that move from stability to near disorder. Dreams could be thought of as what the mind creates in response to what it has already created. For example, when dreamer is confronted by new events or persons they are "automatically" integrated into the dream by the dreamer who molds their relevance to the dream.
Moreover, dreams are notorious for avoiding what you think you should be dreaming about. Most dreams involving a potential problem will replicate the structure or frustration of the problem and substitute something "ridiculous" as the objective. A possible explanation for this is that what is being processed isn't to be found in the content of the dream but in the process of dreaming itself; regardless of the content. This raises an alarming question, such as what if the biological work of the dream-isn't to be found in the narrative itself but in the very making of narratives?
So perhaps, fictional narrative and dreams are more similar than one might think. It is not so much that one "composes" a story as one stumbles upon it by trial and error. Moreover, it is difficult to make sense out of something that does not make sense, because sense in itself is something that depends on the sub-assumptions that one would use to determine sense. We are constantly writing new stories about the same models, and never seem to run out of variations. Perhaps dreams are similar to novels, in that we are constantly updating our memories in which each new dream verifies and confirms what we already know to be "true". Dreaming and fiction may allow us to enjoy thrilling experiences in a safe rather than dangerous environment. In dreams you can drive off a cliff into the sea, a dozen times and more whereas you can do it only once in the waking world. Perhaps, it is this air of "invincibility" that captivates, sustains, and intrigues readers and dreamers.
Dement W: “An Essay on Dreams: The Role of Physiology in Understanding Their Nature’, Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, Inc., New York 135-237.
Freud S: “Project for a Scientific Psychology(1985) in The Origins of Psychoanalysis, Imago
Publishing co., Ltd., London, 347-445.
Mullane, Harvey: “Dreams and Rationality. Syntheses, Vol. 57, No. 2, Rationality and Objectivity: Philosophical and Psychological Conceptions, Part 1(Nov, 19830 pp.187-204.