Modern Medicine

Are dreams a window into our unconscious?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Do you ever wake up from a dream in disbelief that what you just experienced was only, well, a dream? But it seemed so real! Sigmund Freud thought that dreams were a peek into the unconscious thoughts of humans, and there have been studies to indicate he could have been onto something.

    In one study, for example, a group of amnesiacs reported dreaming about things that happened before they went to sleep, even though they did not have any conscious memory of those events happening in real life. Some scientists believe that dreams are built from the networks of memories in our minds that we don't often access, and they might reflect moods or feelings that we aren't normally conscious of. However, because the brain is working to connect disparate thoughts, a dream is not necessarily a reflection of how you really feel [source: Stickgold].

    If dreams are a window into the unconscious, some feel that we should be able to use them as therapeutic tools. For example, if you remember a particular dream, and the emotions connected to that dream, can it help you understand your real-life emotional conflicts? Maybe. Looking at it scientifically, cognitive neuroscience would indicate that your emotions are just one part of all the memories that your brain is processing at night, and it may (or may not) place them in a helpful context that then shows up in a dream [source: Stickgold].

    If you want to analyze your dreams, some psychologists recommend writing them down in a journal so you don't forget them. Then you can look for patterns that may reveal any unconscious ambitions, desires or fears that you might not have the time or energy to recognize while you're awake [source: Fisher].

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