“Dreaming is so basic to human existence, it’s astonishing we don’t understand it better. It consumes years of our lives, and no other single activity exerts such a powerful pull on our imaginations. Yet central as dreaming is, we still have no idea why we dream.”
Dreams and dreaming remain mysterious despite many attempts to explain their purpose, and the role our dreams play in our waking lives. Our daydreams guide our actions in ways that we are more aware of, but they may have their roots in our night dreams.
In a recent experiment, dreams were shown to have a biological function. When rats were prevented from dreaming, they proved unable to produce behaviours that would lead them to survive life-threatening situations. Dreams appeared to be a mechanism for rehearsing ways to stay alive, at least for rats.
Most explanations focus on the psychological purpose of dreaming, with the psychoanalytical view that dreams are messages from our unconscious minds. Freud famously said that “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”
Carl Jung developed Freud’s view in a mystical, spiritual direction, defining them as glimpses of the soul: “The dream shows the inner truth and reality of the patient as it really is: not as I conjecture it to be, and not as he would like it to be, but as it is.”
As a person’s awareness of dreams grows, could it be possible to change this “inner truth”? For example, by using the powers of rationality to understand the coded messages in dreams? Or is it simply enough to apprehend your own truth, and come to terms with it?
In Honor’s Shadow, Honor, in her efforts to help Tisi contain her violent emotions, guides her through a creative visualization, a process deemed to be close to a dream state. The unconscious is accessed, and the guided journey is designed to create new understandings, and provide new insights. Honor was attempting to stimulate a change in Tisi’s emotions.
A reader contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me of a dream experience she had during the reading of Honor’s Shadow. She said:
“I’ve just finished reading Honor’s Shadow. I was left feeling very intrigued, and full of questions. After the description of Honor imagining Tisi having a forked tongue, I had a dream about 3 snakes (the 3 furies) so it was clearly working on me at both a conscious and unconscious level. I had interesting reactions as I moved from chapter to chapter: I felt the boundaries got blurred between characters. It took me a while to realise that the dream was alchemical. The colours you used on the cover of your book are the colours of alchemy: black, red and white and I wondered if you had chosen them consciously. I guess that what I would say about your book is: it’s about a woman’s transformation through integrating her shadow and journeying to wholeness. It has led me down that path, and been facilitated by reading your book. Thank you.”
Honor’s Ghost, my novel in progress, is all about dreams and dreaming, with its story about the trials of a new drug for depression and anxiety. (It’s an imaginary drug). Those who take it experience a profound and transformative dream that restores them to their whole and healthy self. The dream seems to tell them who they really are. Would you take a drug that could stimulate such a dream?