What is a Dream?

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Dreams: To Sleep, Perchance to Surf the Internet

If you've ever wondered why you dream or what your dreams mean, you’re not alone; entire schools of thought have been dedicated to exploring human psychology using the images that travel through our unconscious minds. Theories on the biological purpose of dreams, the interpretation of dream content, and the nightmares so many of us experience are some of the issues explored in this guide.

What is a Dream?

Dreams are literally thoughts, images, or emotions that occur during sleep, but why we dream and what our dreams mean are still subjects of research and debate. The sites in this section introduce the debate by exploring scientific approaches used to understand dreaming.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • The most reliable information you find on the Web about dreaming will come in the form of scientific, philosophical, or psychological discourse on theories behind the function and meanings of dreams. Because even the most advanced information is merely reasoned and argued theory, the best you can do is keep yourself updated on contemporary scholarship.
  • Many sites and articles on the Web are dedicated to an unproven, New Age phenomenon called lucid dreaming. In lucid dreams, the dreamers supposedly attain awareness of their existence in the dream and, in doing so, gain the ability to manipulate the course of the dream (among a host of other seemingly bizarre characteristics). There’s a burgeoning community of lucid dreamers connecting on the Web.

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For an introduction to dreams …
For an overview for teens ...
For information on lucid dreaming …
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Dream Interpretation

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were two of the most influential dream interpreters. Freud’s theories created psychoanalysis, while Jung’s ideas illustrated the archetypes we dream in. Both of these doctors were instrumental in identifying the symbols and meanings behind dreams. The following sites inform you of the basics of modern dream theory as developed by Freud and Jung.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Although only two theorists are featured here, there are many other dream interpreters whose ideas might pique your interest: visit major research indexes or encyclopedias to find more obscure dream theorists. For a survey of the history of dream research and dream interpretation theories, read the article “Understanding Dreams: Perspectives From the Ancients Through Modern Times."
  • Anyone, even someone without psychological training, can call himself a psychoanalyst, according to the American Psychoanalytic Association. If you want to verify whether a person or program is licensed in your state, visit its official psychologist regulatory board’s Web site. Most have resources that allow users to search for licensees.

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For Sigmund Freud …
For Carl Jung …
To find a psychoanalyst …
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Nightmares and Night Terrors

Nightmares happen to everyone. However, some are more serious than others. If you suffer from nightmares that reoccur, and are so terrifying that they prevent you from sleeping or feeling rested throughout the day, this guide can help you find respite. Use these sites to learn more about the significance of nightmares and how you can treat them at home or with professional care.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • If nightmares are taking a debilitating toll on your personal or professional life, you may suffer from “Nightmare Disorder,” a condition that may reflect psychological issues that deserve counseling.
  • Nightmares and night terrors are two different conditions. Nightmares usually happen earlier in the sleep cycle than night terrors. People tend to remember nightmares, but they usually don’t remember experiencing night terrors.

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For general overviews …
For kids who suffer from nightmares …
For information on night terrors …
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Discussing Dreams

Part of the fun of dreaming is describing your surreal, nonsensical visions to others. The Web makes this easier by allowing dreamers to connect on forums and add their dreams to archives.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Consider keeping a dream journal if you are interested in learning more about your dreams. Not only will this help you recall the dreams you’ve had, but you’ll also be more aware of patterns and repeated symbols you might otherwise have overlooked or forgotten.
  • When dealing with dream interpretation, there’s a definite distinction between legitimate, professional interpretation, conducted for the purposes of psychoanalysis, and friendly, informal interpretation that is done for sport. If you are seriously interested in interpreting your dreams, contact a professional using the resources provided in the “What are the basic approaches to dream interpretation?” section of this guide.

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For a dream discussion forum …
For dream collections …
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