The phenomenology of dreaming

Dreaming is more than random neural nonsense. It’s a creative and meaningful process driven by the imagination while we sleep.

Dream researchers Marisa C. Hayes and Franck Boulegue consider current knowledge about the phenomenology of dreaming:


“Dream logic embraces embodied instinct and cosmic self-awareness, our lowest animal desires and our highest spiritual aspirations, our darkest fears and our brightest joys. It governs a much wider range of experiences and realities than is normally recognized by waking consciousness.

Dreaming is clearly an integral aspect of human existence and a hardwired feature of healthy brain/mind functioning. But the autonomous otherness of dreaming makes it a disturbing phenomenon for many people. Dreaming is both me and not-me, and it’s the latter element that makes people uncomfortable. They don’t like the sense of an alien intelligence dwelling within their own minds. It’s an insult to the sovereignty of the waking ego, an unwanted intrusion of strange memories and unsettling emotions into their awareness. This wary, ego-protecting attitude is then confirmed when people hear prominent scientists dismissing dreams as neural garbage.

According to multiple studies using a variety of methods, dreaming is fundamentally hyper-associational, perpetually veering between order and chaos, beauty and bizarre- ness, memories of the past and anticipations of the future. Dreaming involves a wide- ranging network of neural systems that are not bound by the strictures of waking consciousness, allowing for the emergence of novel ideas and solutions to problems that have eluded the waking mind. As many researchers from Freud onwards have shown, dreaming is deeply rooted in the instinctual nature of our species and the primal emotions that unconsciously drive our thoughts and actions. Jung and many other clinicians have highlighted conflicts of binary oppositions in dreams as symptomatic of failed psychological integration, while dreams of union and coincidentia oppositorum symbolize growth, healing and the emergence of wholeness.
Every night we go to sleep, we enter into a truly surrealistic realm of paradox, magic and ambiguity, where we learn that our waking reality is only made possible by a beautiful yet precarious balance of mysterious, amoral cosmic forces.”

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