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The Science and Function of Dreams

A look into our dreams—from sweet to nightmare. What they do for us and how much control we have over them.

Left: Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali and his partner Gala appear at a party they gave in California in 1941. Guests were bidden to dress as bad dreams. (AP); Right: Courtesy of Boston University

We close our eyes at night and dream. Sometimes beautifully, sometimes fitfully, sometimes frighteningly. But why?

The ancients looked for omens. Sigmund Freud saw clues from our past. Some researchers now say dreams help us brace for the future. Ben Franklin advised a light supper, clean sheets, fresh air, and as little dreaming as possible — to avoid painful dreams.

And what about nightmares? Can we, should we, rewrite them? We spend a lot of our lives dreaming. What’s it all about?

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

William “Bill” Domhoff, professor of psychology and specialist in dream research at the University of California Santa Cruz. He’s author of “The Scientific Study of Dreams.”

Ross Levin, a psychologist and sleep researcher in private practice in Manhattan.

Rodger Kamenetz, author and dream therapist who was trained at North of Eden. His books include “The History of Last Night’s Dream.” He is a retired professor of English, philosophy, and religion at Louisiana State University.

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  • Joshua Hendrickson

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one

  • Bill A

    I often have dreams after my alarm sounds and between the snooze alarm. Is it possible that I dream more during this time interval, or is it probably that I just remember them better

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

    Me too, Bill. The only thing I really liked about the movie “Inception” is that the idea of a lot of dream time passing in a relatively short amount of “real” time seems to match up with my experience. I’m curious about whether your consciousness somehow moves faster when you’re dreaming, or if it’s just some sort of weird perception illusion…

  • Tatiana

    Hi Tom! In mornings when I’m just not ready to wake up yet I often “explain” the alarm as part of my dream. The noise becomes contextualized within whatever narrative I’m dreaming of. Does that show we can somehow be in control of our dreams or is it the unconscious mind manipulating the brain into doing what “it” wants?

  • Edward Cheadle

    My father was an brilliant electronic engineer and mathemetician who designed complex computer graphics devices. He once told me he solved his toughest problems by first working through the problem in every way he could imagine. Then at some point after he had made all the calculations, ran all the simuluations, he would somehow know he had done all he could and so he would go home and go to sleep. He told me he expected the answer to come in his dreams and for 30+ years. For 30+ years he would wake up in the night, write the answer to complex technical problems down on a pad of paper he kept beside his bed and go back to sleep.

    I have no idea how much control we have over our dreams, but some ways perhaps not having control is the key to unleashing certain powers of the mind.

  • John

    I find dreams to be fascinating and find it interesting that many people have similar dreams when they are stressed out. My “stress” dream usually entails two similar variants; either (a) I’m just about to graduate from college and realize that I haven’t been to a class all semester long and have completed none of the coursework or (b) involves being in a class where I was particularly weak in like mathematics or a foreign language and I am about to fail.
    Like the earlier posters, my most vivid dreams are those in the early am just before awaking or I am in some half conscious/half unconscious state. I still vividly remember a dream I had one Saturday morning, in the late 1980′s, that was in this just prior to awaking time period, where during the entire dream I was fully aware that I was dreaming and I was walking around the Esplanade/Back Bay/Park Square areas of Boston (but yet it wasn’t quite those areas) and was amazed of the details of the dream and the hundreds of people I was passing by. When I have these extremely vivid or sad dreams, I tend to be somewhat out of sort for a good part of that day.

  • gemli

    I’ve always thought that the brain’s limited short-term memory space had to be emptied during sleep, and the experiences stored there had to be incorporated into the brain’s larger associative memory store. The brain takes each element of the day’s experience and rummages through similar experiences that it has previously stored, trying to find a place to put it. It’s like opening a lot of closet doors, each crammed full of similar concepts, looking for the place to cram the current one. As each door is opened, a flood of related images are accessed. So the office building you walked into earlier that day suddenly becomes the house you grew up in, and one of your co-workers is sitting at your kitchen table, etc. Your brain makes a narrative of these jumbled but related images, much as it makes a narrative of your experiences during waking life.

    It’s interesting that things that happen in dreams can “surprise” you, since it’s all coming out of your own brain. It’s also curious that the strangest things can happen in dreams without causing you to say “Hold on there! That can’t be right!” Why are we so accepting? Just wondering.

  • http://wbur.org Marcia Fredlich

    I have become my own therapist by recording and analyzing my dreams. My only son is going off to college at the end of the week and I have been feeling a lot of emotion and stress around this. I started having dreams that I knew were related to this situation. As I would write the dreams it became clear to me what they are trying to teach me. I am feeling so much better about this because of all that I have worked through in my dreams. It has been a cleansing experience. I recommend it to all.

  • Rob

    the best explanation I’ve heard for interpreting dreaming is by Hugh Brody in his book the Other side of Eden, he says that in a small hunter gatherer community, complex issues of terrain, weather, seasons, herds, etc could be “solved” through dreams. The most important point is that dreams were interpretable within this relatively small group of people, we can’t do that now, dreaming may have a neuro reason for existence but now cannot be interpreted due to the multi-vocal nature of our culture(s)

  • Jackie

    I’m a generally happy person, but every night my dreams are sad or depressing. I wake up feeling a little off and as the morning goes on, I feel better. What does it mean if you always dream sad things?

  • jemimah

    I would love to do some research on this, but perhaps you already have: do creative and/or “crazy” people dream about flying more often or longer into adulthood, than the rest of the population. I’m guessing yes.

  • Erin in Salt Lake City

    I am prone to hypnic jerks — the annoying sensation of falling in a dream and waking with a jolt just as you “land.” Are there ways to reduce the occurrence of hypnic jerks? Are there known triggers?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I often dream I’m flying, and I know it’s from bicycling. This isn’t about “overcoming physiological” whatever the panelist is saying, of walking through water or whatever. It’s exultation. Bicycling the way I do, I stand up, so my arms put in energy that pushes me back up (flying). It’s great.
    I also have the “explaining my alarm clock” dream, or used to. As a child, I wet my bed regularly, a result of a food allergy in part, I have learned. But I would almost always dream about going to the bathroom, every step of the process; okay, now pee. And then I’d get a wet warm feeling and be terribly upset at myself.

  • Rob

    there is an adaptive function for dreams, but for hunter gatherers, they can interpret dreams for small, intact groups, clearly adaptive for making decisions about their lives, we don’t have that anymore

  • Dianna

    Does sleep walking and night terrors factor into dreaming?

  • Rebecca

    I’d like to hear what the guests have to say about lucid dreaming. I love it when I realize I am dreaming and decide to fly…..it is so much fun! I wish it happened more often. Can we train ourselves to have lucid dreams?

  • Wool

    Often just before death the elderly will call out the name of loved one. Are these the minds last recolections or are they dreams

  • Bruce Davidsmeyer

    The caller speaking about apnea made me think about my similar experience. I use a CPAP machine and have found when I do not use it I dream a great deal more and the dreams are more frightening.

  • jim thompson

    Tom:

    Love today’s discussion. I’ve had this recurring dream over the years that I’ve hit the lottery and have become very wealthy, living a wonderful life poolside in some tropical local. Then I wake up & it all ends. Now that stinks!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I suppose there are electronic graphings available to show what you’re dreaming about, and I believe it’s been discovered (by Alan Alda — what is his show on PBS) that the brain is most active when it’s focused on nothing at all, sort of the yogic state of Om, which is actually a sort of tornado of activity. Whatever.
    But I think sleep is restorative because of that background activity, best when it’s very loud noise, recreating sanity out of a lot of disparate experiences. Isn’t tiredness exactly the need for that sort of unconsciousness recontextualizing?
    The specific dreams that break out of that background seem to me less crucial to sanity.

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    A Peruvian sociologist did a study about 15 years ago contrasting the dreams of upper class kids in Lima and working class kids. A statistically significant number of rich kids had positive dreams, including dreams of success in sports or life, while a significant number of poor kids dreamed about difficulties or problems faced by themselves or their family. Very interesting and saddening study.

  • claire wagner

    I can make myself aware that I’m dreaming and change the outcome of recurring dreams that disturb me. Is this common?

  • Mike Arnott

    I have been very near-sighted my entire life. I can remember being a kid and having nightmares in which I was out in the wild (we were active campers and canoe-ists) and lost my glasses. In real-life, that would have been a disaster…maybe life-threatening. I always thought that was so pitiful!

  • gemli

    Well, it didn’t take long to divert the conversation into taking inner voyages and exploring the soul. It should be remembered that virtually all animals with brains dream. This includes household pets, mice, and even fruit flies. Are they going on inner voyages? We habitually turn everything that we don’t fully understand into metaphysical claptrap. Grow up, for god’s sake.

  • Ryan

    Is there any proven method to return to a dream after waking? I have had many happy dreams that were interrupted for one reason or another and I wanted nothing more than to get back to that state of mind.

  • Susan B. Jones

    Two comments:
    1. I often dream that my late ex-husband, Richard M. Jones, comes back to life and asks to stay with us for a while. His alzheimers is gone and he always has some reasonable excuse for why he’s not dead, but along the way everything starts going wrong again…

    2. I often find myself in the middle of a dream rewriting the dream both the content and also editing the text. I will often try several different endings.

  • katy

    When I can’t run or move in dreams, I remember that if I dance in the direction I want to go, I have no problem moving.

  • Cyndi

    Dreams have both encouraged and terrorized me thru my life. There was a lot of “chaos” in my upbringing so I can usually identify when I’m going to have those dreams or who the “boogie man” is in those dreams. However, they are terrifying even at my current age.

    I turned the radio on a little late and am now wondering if they’ve discussed dreams that come true. I’ve had that happen about a dozen times and it’s never anything wonderful or horrific or the winning lottery numbers but just mundane but unusual moments in my life. Usually 6-8 months before the moment happens. Any one touching on this?

  • Ed

    Great topic; I am from West Africa, and let me say flat out that I put not weight at all on my dreams; so as a West African, this makes me outlier.

    If this conversation were happening in my community, there will be “God” or the “Devil” in every second sentence. For example, if a 28-yr old unmarried female had a nice, sexual dream, her pastor will tell her she possibly has a “spiritual husbands” who is also driving away potential husbands. The exploitation is unmaginable!!

  • Liz

    Hi, I have had a horrible Waking Vision a few times, but the first time was the worst of all.

    I “wake up” and see a huge robotic arm coming from the corner of the room, it’s reaching for me, it’s so real. I sit up in bed, I stare right at it, and scream at the top of my lungs out loud, like I’m awake, but I still see this thing. It feels like its after my soul.

    It diminishes after about a minute, and I realize it was a dream.

    What is that?

  • C. Dawson

    I have had dreams where I was able to walk on air as the characters do in Asian-inspired movies. I think there was one recently called Last Airbender? I wonder how common that type of dream is. It is one of my favorite dreams!

  • Ellen Dibble

    So I’m hearing, don’t suffer, go to a psychotherapist; somebody can actually help.
    For a veteran’s PTSD, that would be great. But I’m thinking children are all helpless, and likely all children have nightmares exactly because they are helpless. As they grow into the role of being in charge, they dreams of NOT being in a position to take charge will go away.
    A soldier is NOT in charge, generally, so.

  • Ellen Dibble

    As to shamans and dreams for interpretative (story-telling purposes): As long as we can repress and suppress, we will also need to un-bury stuff, and dreams do have keys.

  • Ryno

    If you stare at an image for a minute or two, then stare at a white wall, you’ll see that image in your field of vision as the neurons in your eyes neutralize. I believe dreams are the result of this happening in your mind and brain cells.

  • Jennifer

    Before 911 I would often dream about tornadoes. The tornadoes ranged from comical to threatening, but I was never actually ‘IN’ or hit by the storm – I was on the outside looking in. A week after 911 I went all the way through the storm and crashed my car in a ditch. I even dreamed about the scene of the accident that I survived. I have only dreamed about tornadoes a couple of times since the week following 911. I actually miss the tornado dreams – they were very interesting!

  • Ryno

    Jennifer– I, too, have reoccurring tornado dreams. They are rarely scary and, indeed, evoke a curiosity. I also have reoccurring plane crash dreams that are not scary.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    I have had a few experiences of lucid dreaming. Once I have some control over the dream, I usually engage in an activity that, to the best of my knowledge, I have never experienced in a “regular” dream: flying! There is nothing like it.

    Sometimes I think I am becoming addicted to sleep, to dreams. One third of our lifetime doesn’t seem nearly enough!

  • Mark

    Before we go too far into the reasons for dreaming, lets not forget that it is essentially a BIOLOGICAL process. This is evidenced as dreaming is not exclusive to humans. I’ve seen my dogs dream for years, and my wife claims to have observed cats dreaming as well.

    Whatever they are, and for whatever reason we experience dreams, they are either much larger in significance, or for that matter possibly much less important, than we humans have made them to be.

  • Brett

    I have been fascinated by dreams my whole life (I can remember a nightmare I had at age four and a half). It’s a good thing I see them this way, as I have always had an active dream life filled with dreams both wondrous and horrific. The state of dreaming while asleep is an interesting one, to say the least, and some of my impressions regarding dreams are as follows.

    I believe we can have even an epic dream experience in just a few short minutes, and we can dream in all phases of sleep. I find the most interesting dream states to be the ones when I have been awakened, suddenly, then have fallen back to sleep; I am in sort of a half sleep-half waking state. In this dream state I can control what happens in my dream (for the most part).

    I have always been amazed at how vibrant my sensory perceptions come across in dreams. In my dream-state, tactile experiences are always perfectly what they would be in my waking state, my olfactory system conjures aromas and odors with very precise detail, visually I can imagine very intricate scenes, etc. I even have experienced what I would consider quintessential food delights on par with any cuisine I’ve had in my waking life. Music can be the most heavenly experience in dreaming.

    I also find it interesting that I have an internal dialogue going on in my dreams that is very similar to my thought processes in my waking state; as I go about in my dream I am always thinking and processing my perceptions. I often remember more of what I have thought in a dream than of what I have said in a dream.

    There seem to be primary breaks in the dream world with this waking reality we consider the proper reality, though. Physical properties seem defied in dreams, at times. Who among us in dreams hasn’t ever flown overhead without benefit of a flying machine? Sometimes, I will seem to move along by sheer magic, without having to walk. There are times when the scenes I am processing visually in a dream seem straight out of an M.C. Escher print. Time, also, seems bent in strange ways, in dreams, beyond the ways our perceptions bend time in our waking states.

    I used to wonder how I could visualize entire landscapes, architecture, several people as characters, etc., in my little passion play and, at the same time, get the physical properties of nature a little askew? I now think that—-aside from how those illusions of perspective often seem designed to present an otherworldly ambience, and to provide symbolism (e.g., flying might represent freedom, escape)—-our subconscious minds process so quickly that some details are rather like an artist sketching or painting impressionistically.

    In making comparisons to painting, of course the Surrealists come to mind, and they have really explored how our minds process when we dream. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Surrealism.

    I am also reminded of meditating and how we work to quiet our inner voice in the practice of meditation. Dreaming is almost the diametric opposite of meditating (yet it does take us to another place). When we dream, we process every bit of that inner voice we are trying to quiet in meditation, as if we are listening to every uttered thought in our mind’s ear. And, as that inner voice blathers on and on each night, our subconscious catches phrases and ideas and instantaneously makes a decision to stage a little play based on those, sometimes to explore stresses, a fear, a desire, a frustration, etc., and (I believe) sometimes purely for entertainment purposes.

    Our subconscious mind pores over file after file of material every night, marks files for retrieval, makes a split-second decision to create a play, manufactures all of the work to produce the play, including scene painting, costume design, story/plot-line development, and so on. Editing can be problematic in dreaming, though, and I think this is because it is all happening so fast. Perhaps this is why things can appear inexplicably out of context or there can be abrupt shifts in theme or scene?

    Anyway, if dreaming indicates anything, it is that our subconscious minds are very powerful, and perhaps it is a necessary bridge to connect our conscious and subconscious.

    I’ll have to listen to the program; I’ll also have to read the comments. I did notice one of Ellen Dibble’s about control and nightmares as I was about to post this…I’ll have to return…blasted music lessons! ;-)

  • Rae

    Rebecca:
    To hone your lucid dreaming skills, try this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Exploring-World-Dreaming-Stephen-Laberge/dp/034537410X

    Tom’s guest was right to say lucid dreaming isn’t easy, but he was wrong to belittle it because of that. Learning to lucid dream takes time and effort. But, then, so does learning to play a musical instrument, or to play tennisl.

  • Roy Merritt

    Some years back during trying personal conflicts I had a series of dreams concerning something and the idea of what the dream portended became such a vivid thought in my mind that I became to believe it was real. There was a schedule to be met and as it came closer and closer I was anxious about being able to meet it. I wondered how I would explain this drastic change to my wife and relatives. And then upon some day I was confronted by the thought that it was something that had been born upon my dreams. It’s strange it was so real to me that I often made detailed plans as to the move I would have to make. After the realization that it was my mind playing tricks on me I never had anymore similar dreams. I suppose I was just coping with my troubles when having dreams these dreams, but I’ll never know for sure.

  • Katherine

    I was in an anthropology class this year and we spent a lot of time discussing the importance of dreams to certain cultures. I find it interesting that some cultures revolve around dreams; their creation is completely involved with dreaming and even spend most of their time trying to learn how to “lucid dream”. While our culture here in America (and I’m sure other places) is trying to get away from dreaming or pass it off as a natural part of life. It is really neat to see how one culture explains dreaming in comparison to another.

  • Peter Fischer

    Dreams provide a powerful, precise and individual key to the unfinished soul work of realizing the potential of living fully in the present with a profound experience of divine love. This is my own perspective based on my own experience with Archetypal Dreamwork here in Vermont at North of Eden. This is not provable by intellectual argument. It has to be lived into step by determined step. I leave it at that.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Brett, about nightmares and control, I’ve been thinking more about PTSD among veterans. Soldiers are probably doubly afflicted; they are given orders, then are subjected to unexpected and dangerous, often foreign and inexplicable conditions. They are helpless to The Command, the hierarchy, and helpless to The Enemy. They are also fully functional human beings, designed to be on the cusp of full self-determination. It seems like the Perfect Storm or Perfect Recipe for nightmares.
    What we did not hear — I’ve heard that dreaming is squelched by neurotropic drugs (sedatives) and I’m thinking maybe by alcohol. Certainly by recreational drugs. I almost don’t have to ask. If they hijack the pleasure centers, they probably hijack all the dynamics around pleasure seeking too, the creative impulse behind sleeping brain action that tries to make meaning and symmetry out of all of our inputs.
    Hey, Brett, how about that…
    Then they say older people don’t dream as much. Being over 60, I for one say that. I’ll start the rumor. The early sign of Alzheimer’s would be flagging dream life (or unwillingness to wake and take notice). One more part of reality I don’t need to know.
    By the way, I don’t credit any of those theories. And the idea that “One or two percent of the population dreams they are flying” (paraphrase, that I believe I heard from one of the guests, in retort to a caller who said he could make himself dream of flying), I think the entire quota of dream-flyers have posted on this thread. I am one; I do think it comes from bicycling, because the years I had a car I did not dream-fly. My mode is as natural as bicycling, except no bike. I don’t go high, just a bit off the ground. Animals too; you can see dogs running around in their sleep as well, or they have restless leg syndrome really bad.

  • Laurel Dryland

    I loved the show; I would love to hear another show on this. There are even more types of dreaming, possibly involving different brain processes and psychological purpose than those discussed in today’s show. The dream at the time of the alarm clock ringing seems worth discussion. Also, some people dream immediately when they close their eyes. Or are still dreaming when they wake in the morning for a few seconds. This is not just imagination (day dreaming). It is like the dream the sleepy driver experiences while on the highway for real. Also, reports of prophetic dreams are so historical and prolific that I would love to hear from anyone who as attempted scientific study with serous claims of that type.

  • http://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/dreamforum.html Jerry Gifford

    I was only able to listen to just part of this program but I did come away with the impression there is a lot of ‘Jung’ verified in the comments from the guest commentators, especially Dr. Levin. Some of that verification is as follows:

    Dreams are important, are therapeutic and expose patterns of emotional behavior in the dreamer’s life.

    The dream is about the dreamer’s emotional state of being at the time of the dream

    Dreams speak in a language of symbol and metaphor.

    Dreams do provide ‘clues’ to emotional behavior and can be specific in some aspects.

    To better understand the language of dreams one need only study mythology. Symbol and metaphor is the common denominator.

    My belief is there are ‘secrets’ to be found within the dream. Those secrets are focused on the psychological and emotional condition of the dreamer. And yes, dreams can provide ‘clues’ to physical conditions to the body long before the conscious mind makes the discovery. Marion Woodman does a great service in providing insights to this aspect of the dream.
    Jung got it right and all the new science pretty much verifies this. Even the physical science of the mind is in line with Jungian philosophy.

    “The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego- consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends.”…..
    Carl Jung

  • http://www.northofeden.com Christa Lancaster

    I was struck by my colleague Rodger Kamenetz’s wise understanding of the dream as a way to find your way back to the truth of who you really are. Dreams come to shift our consciousness, to advance the evolution of our understanding of ourselves and to bring our outer, ego driven selves into alignment with our deep inner soul self. I found it odd and disturbing the emphasis placed in the discussion on the outer mechanics of dreaming as if the dream was a kind of car rather than an instrument of potential enlghtenment.
    It was a sad reflection to me on the lack of interest in the soul in twenty first America.
    And made me realize how crucial it is for those who want to know more about depth, the soul and the dream as a means of radical transformation to be able access the resources to do so. To learn more about personal growth through Archetypal Dreamwork go to: http://www.northofeden.com

  • Robin Chase

    Dreams come to us nightly to speak through our unconscious, to show us in a profoundly felt way both the truth of who we are in our deepest self and who we are not. Roger Kamenetz’s writing and learning through Marc Bregman and North of Eden, an organization dedicated to the felt experience of dreams called Archetypal dreamwork, is spot on.

    It is my belief, and the premise of North of Eden, that dreams come to us with an intention to show us profound truths through our unconscious. Why would we want to manipulate that intention with our conscious minds? That manipulation could be a violation to our very soul. Trauma can clearly evoke terrifying dream experiences. Yet it is through the feelings dreams bring us that we can begin to heal from past hurts. This has been true in my life. Trained dreamwork therapists with North of Eden are dedicated to the dream, truths that speak to us nightly.

  • http://www.northofeden.com Susan Marie Scavo

    I have been working with my dreams for over 13 years through Archetypal Dreamwork, the work mentioned by Rodger Kamenetz on the show, and working with others with their dreams for 6 years (see our website at http://www.northofeden.com)

    For me, my dreams are an invitation from my unconscious, from my soul, from the Archetypal Realm to come into conversation with my waking consciousness. The dreams want to teach me, through the lived experience of the dreams, through my awareness and through my sensual body, too, who I am. They also want to teach me who I am not, challenging what I believe about myself and about who I am at the core of my being.

    When I turned and entered the conversation the dreams offered, I turned and entered into a journey. A journey home to myself. Each dream offering a thread, each dream offering me something I have needed to learn.

    What I love about this way of working with dreams, is that the direction comes from within, comes from my particular language, comes from my particular connection with Divine, the unconscious, whatever it is we want to call it. It’s from me, using images and experiences that resonate with me and challenging me to keep going deeper. Even the scary dreams.

    For me, the question is not why do we dream, why do we have nightmares. The question is – what is my soul trying to tell me right here and right now about where I am in my life or what I am doing? Why is my unconscious trying this hard to get my attention? What is it that I need to feel and know that I do not feel and know now?

    And it is about the lived experience – we learn best when we have the experience. Our unconscious knows that as well. I am also a writer, a poet – the dreams are like poetry to me in some way. Creating the space within which an experience can happen, within which I am changed in some way. If I allow mywelf to be changed, if I allow the transformation.

  • http://www.northofeden.com Ben Newman

    When I was seven I had a terrifying dream of an enormous blimp covering the sky. That dream stuck with me — I can still feel it — and for years I wondered what it could possibly be, why such an image would even be scary, let alone frighten me to my core.

    I started working with Marc Bregman fifteen years ago and began having similar dreams again, terrifying, enormous buildings. What I learned and began to feel more about was these buildings and the terror I felt were projections of trauma I had as a small boy with my father, who I experienced as enormous, rageful, and terrorizing. I was projecting this terror into the world and was left frozen by it, barely able to function in the world.

    Over the course of working with the dreams, of feeling into the terror instead of running from it, I have been able to move through that trauma with my dad. In my dreams the buildings started to crumble, topple, even disappear, be stripped to their foundations in order to be rebuilt.

    Through stepping in, through being guided deeper into my dreaming experience, I have been able to move into a place of a boy, not terrorized and frozen, but energized by the fear and able to feel the love that I also had for my dad.

  • Bob M

    Dreams are indeed the key that can unlock the soul-child in all of us. My own experience has been just that. By way of Archetypal Dreamwork, the parts of myself that are false have been unmasked, revealed, exposed. And beneath that facade I have discovered, perhaps even remembered, the real self in me–the one who is not tethered and burdened by self-consciousness, shame, guilt, responsibility. North of Eden’s Archetypal Dreamwork, the same process that Rodger Kamenetz referred to, has done that for me, and I am filled with a mixture of gratitude and grace as a result. I would invite any and all to check it out. What do you have to lose but your false persona?

  • Dorothy Korshak

    Rodger Kamenetz speaks about going deeper in our souls with dreams. Having worked with Rodgers teacher Marc Bregman for many years, I have experienced what Rodger speaks about in doing my ‘homework’. By staying with and feeling my pain or fear I have been able to go to a deeper level of feelings including joy and love. Listening to the dreams intention gives me the truth about who I really am – and who I am not. Why not travel deeper into our hearts and souls and live a life of vulnerability?

  • http://www.northofeden.com Seth Mullins

    I’ve spent several years working with my dreams with the folks at North of Eden. My recent novel, “Song of the Twice Born” was directly inspired by the overall life-changing experience of moving through the journey that dreams invite us into. I think of dreams as the Mirror of the soul. The Mirror always presents us with a choice: and typically, that choice is between staying where there is familiarity and suffering, or leaping into what must be – for the moment – unknown, because it hasn’t yet been lived. For such a twilight quest as that, there is no surer guide than dreams. The psyche is its own best physician.

  • http://northofeden.com Annie Wattles

    In working with my dreams for over twenty years with Marc Bregman and North of Eden I was asked by the dreams to turn towards toward the difficult and frightening elements as well as the loving and nurturing images. In doing this I have been shedding a persona that was created to be highly functioning and ‘looking good’ while covering the truer me that lay underneath. I have faced into what had happened to me in my life and who I had become to compensate for that. I have discovered what it is like to live with my feelings, however difficult or glorious they are. I am now living in a deeper seat in myself, one that is closer to how my soul sees me. Thanks to NPR and to Rodger Kamenetz and your other guests for illuminating how important dreams are to our self discovery.

  • Cathy Caron

    The panel spoke of the how vulnerability is not valued, is seen as a weakness. I have worked my dreams with Marc Bregman, Roger Kamenetz’s mentor teacher as well as mine, and the North of Eden group for many years. And yet it is opening to the strength of my own vulnerability that has opened up in me the breaking down of everything that gets in the way of knowing my soul self, the child that knows love and joy. It is through staying with the feelings that come up in the dream (doing what Roger referred to as my homework) listening to what the dreams brings me, what it wants me to know, the dreams intention, that I get to be on this incredible journey. What could be better?

  • http://ncpr.org stillin

    Oh dreaming, how great is it to dream. I have dreamt of heaven and hell and I am not religious, although I am spiritual. Heaven. It was so beautiful I was saying out loud in my dream, how am I going to be able to tell people about this, there are no words, it was candles and dripping water in caves in a quarry. Gorgeous. Hell, people walking single file down a road with their possessions over their backs hobo style, on the side of the road were a couple of boys, taking a burning rod to a dog’s snout that was tied shut. They were on the road to hell. Lastly, my last spiritual dream was I met the disciples…and they had me drink from a bag that was made from an organ of an animal, and when I did, it was mushy sweet stuff and they told me it was “sustenance”…the words in that dream that I never use, never say, were disciples and sustanance. Lastly, one trick for remembering a dream if you can think to do this, is to not turn over in bed, don’t move, when you find yourself waking, sometimes you can retrieve your dream. I looooooove to dream.

  • Nancy Mosher

    Listening to this broadcast, I was struck how difficult it is to define and explain dreaming through strictly a scientific psychological framework. Gnats may dream, but my dream journey, assisted by the able guidance of Marc Bregman and the North of Eden Archetypal Dreamwork community has led me to experience love in a way that I could never imagine possible. Wading through the layers of hard lessons the dreams bring to me has honed my courage, my resolve, and my hunger for what lies deep beneath. The more I confront my own useless paradigms, my calcified responses to old traumatic experiences, and my own barriers to intimacy, with the steady guidance of the dreams, the more I open to joy in the present moment. My dreams have led me to an energetic experience of love- loving and being loved- that is at the center of all human yearning.

    Is it psychological? Yes. Is it spiritual? Yes. Is it evidence-based? Only in the unfolding epic of my own experience. Enough for me.

  • http://www.northofeden.com Jordan Martin

    Im fortunate enough to call Marc Bregman my grandfather. “my pa”. I have grown up with his teaching and guidance. we recently reconnected and my soul is thriving.

  • http://northofeden.com Amy N

    I have been in Archetypal Dreamwork therapy for 20 years. I very much appreciated yesterday’s discussion and different perspectives. Much of it is still ruminating in me. What I want to comment on is Rodger talking about avoiding feelings of fear and pain, feelings which our dreams sometimes (or often) bring.
    It just sounds so crazy, right? Why would I WANT to feel such “bad” things? So uncomfortable!!! So unpleasant.
    The truth is, it wasn’t until I faced into and moved through these uncomfortable feelings, which are brought to me in my dreams, that my life could change.
    Avoiding my feelings was keeping me prisoner in a life where I was depressed, always a victim, angry and passive aggressive.
    Gradually, my dreams brought me difficult feelings and I was able to, bit by bit, accept them and begin to really feel the feelings. By God, it wasn’t that bad!! In fact, I felt freed somehow, and my whole life felt expanded somehow.
    If someone would have said that I would one day welcome feelings of pain and fear and true regret, I would have laughed or told them to sod off. But here I am, loving my fear and loving my pain and experiencing a deep, unending love through it all.

    I never would be at this place were it not for the wisdom my dreams hold and for the strength of Mr. Bregman’s(North of Eden) integrity in standing in the truth of my dreams, delivering me their message again and again.

  • http://northofeden.com sarah lyda

    As Roger so beautifully articulated, listening to and following the call of the soul via ones dreams, absolutely can and will profoundly change the dreamer – After doing this inner work myself, within the North Of Eden container, I believe this is exactly the dreams purpose IF we chose to hear the voice of the soul that comes to us in every dream.

    Roger spoke about the importance of feeling in the dream. I was someone who did not feel with any depth or substance before I began my work with North Of Eden. I was quite competent, capable and successful in the world, with an enviable lifestyle. But with this strength of personal structure and rigidity came an unconscious disconnect and coldness in me too that was certainly not the idealized self I thought I was and was indicative of the separation from my heart. My capacity to feel was very small, and, without connection to my feelings, my life may have looked good but in essence was very meaningless.

    It was painful for me to hear the dream refereed to with such detachment. Although working with my dreams has not been easy – for I have not wanted to be vulnerable to my feelings for good reason – what I do know is that doing this particular kind of dreamwork is spiritually and otherwise the most important thing in my life – It has brought me meaning and most of all real love where there once was none.

  • Bill St.Cyr

    I love what Rodger said about the book “Dreaming Metaphysical” and the idea of facing into the fear that comes up in dreams and learning to facing into these fears as a doorway deeper into our selves. It is an awesome book that in many ways revolutionizes our ideas about what dreaming is all about. The book is available here: http://amzn.to/aYmzXR

  • http://www.northofeden.com Janean Barva

    I have been a self proclaimed “self help guru” for most of my adult life. Constantly searching for a way to “fix” myself and nothing had really worked until I found North of Eden, Marc, Christa and others within this work. I have always been a dreamer. I have talked about my childhood and adulthood dreams for all my life. I knew there was something very powerful there but all the books on dreams fell flat for me, they just did not seem right. All the studies, the history of dreaming, the “interpretations” did not resonate with me. When I heard Roger Kamenetz on Oprah’s Soul Series, I felt something jumped alive inside of me and I begin my journey in the world of dreams. I have been working with my dreams for almost two years now, learning how to read the dream and do what it is asking of me. There have been painful things to look at but I am learning how to feel, to be vulnerable, and open up to my soul self (who is jumping for joy) and God. Within these two years, I have grown in more ways and at an extremely higher rate than I did with 15 years of self help books and counseling. The anger, anxiety, and depression that I suffered from are diminishing. And I no longer feel the need to “fix myself.” I am healing. I fell more alive, more present, more self love and more in touch with myself and God. I have no doubt that dreams are here to help us, to guide us, and to give us unlimited gifts. I will forever walk with the dream as IT leads me where IT wants me to go. I am so grateful for the gift of that.

  • Cynthia Liepmann

    My work with Marc Bregman (Rodger Kamenetz’s teacher) and the teachers of North of Eden has given me what I had searched for for 50 years, a relationship with the Divine. My dreams reveal the ways that I protect myself from feeling the great Love that is available to me. And they give me experiences of that Love. But first I had to learn how to feel. The way I had learned to cope with life was to be numb to my feelings, to think that I had it all together. With the help of Archetypal Dreamwork I have learned to accept, welcome and even embrace feelings of fear, vulnerability and pain. The more I do this work, the more playfulness and joy I have in my life. I have a more honest, meaningful and intimate relationship with my husband. I feel less anxiety, more accepting of myself and less judging of others.

    It is a journey that I cherish – learning about my true soul self that is free and filled with love.

  • http://www.jeremiahmclane.com Jeremiah McLane

    Every morning when I wake, I ask myself: what did I dream last night? What I’m asking is “who am I really? What do I really think and feel?” As Roger Kamenetz said so well, the Archetypal dreamwork of Marc Bregman and North of Eden offers the possibility of uncovering parts of our selves by listening to what dreams have to say, regardless whether they are ‘feel good’ dreams or nightmares. I don’t want to change how I feel in my daily life by controlling my dreams, I trust that my dreams will come with the feelings I need to feel, and not present me with something that I’m not ready to face.

  • Deb DeGraff

    I was interested to hear Bill Domhoff and Ross Levin speak about the thematic continuity that is found when you look at a dreamers dreams over the course of time. In my experience similarly themed dreams recur until I get the message those dreams are trying to make me aware of. Once I have understood and integrated the message into my waking life I don’t get those dreams anymore, but others, the next thing that my unconscious wants me to know about. Perhaps thematic continuity reflects a lack of listening to the inner voice that is trying to reach us. I listen to my dreams each night and I have found there is a journey that they are taking me on. I began writing down my dreams 30 years ago – knowing they were speaking to me. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I met someone I trusted to bring my dreams to to help me understand them and that was a woman named Christa Lancaster. It is a rare gift to find someone who deeply honors the integrity of each dream and who is also taking the inner journey guided by their own dreams. Two such people are Christa Lancaster and Marc Bregman who co-founded North of Eden, an organization of dreamwork therapists and educators. If you are interested in getting a taste of this style of working with dreams you can submit a dream on our website where we have a one time free submit a dream project. Maybe thematic continuity is really an invitation towards an evolution of consciousness. Are we brave enough to listen? http://www.northofeden.com

  • Phillip in NC

    I haven’t listened to the program yet, but I’m about to listen to it on my computer. So this isn’t a comment particular to the show, but, more generally, I’m curious about the nature of the dreams of people who have been blind since birth. My dreams (and I suppose most) are heavily visual. What would you dream if you didn’t have visual images logged in your brain from the non-dreaming world? Would you dream exclusively in audio? I find dreaming fascinating, but that’s one dream topic I’ve never heard a researcher discuss.

    • Wm. James from Missouri

      This is a great question ! Looking at individuals with unusual handicaps and talents can provide powerful clues as to how the brain works. What do those that have synesthesia, autism or aphasiacs dream about ?

  • http://northofeden.com Ellen Keene

    Thank you Tom Ashbrook for bringing Rodger Kamenetz into the conversation about dreams. He is an eloquent advocate for the dream as a path to the soul. I loved when he said that every dream has a door–a feeling–that if felt allows one to go deeper. I have worked with Marc Bregman, Rodger’s teacher, for 16 years and I have practiced walking through the door offered by my dreams. The deeper I have gone into the inner feeling life of my soul (versus the surface world of my ego) the more I have encountered the loving intention behind each dream that I have come to know as the Divine. Indeed, Marc teaches that through our dreams there is a portal to the other side, to the spiritual realm. I first felt the truth of this in a dream of a man helping me across a train track. I looked into his eyes and felt pierced by a love like I have never known before, completely unconditional, a feeling not of this world. That one drop of Divine love touched my suffering like a healing balm. I believe many people are searching for that kind of personal transformation. I hope you will continue exploring the spiritual aspect of dreaming in subsequent programs, Tom Ashbrook. Thank you.

  • kristin Kehler

    My memories of childhood dreams are as powerful as memories of real world events, and my current dreams have the same importance to me. I wake up in the morning and scan my inner landscape for messages, for images, for what I believe to be the communication between worlds. I have been a psychotherapist for over 30 years, so it was with great excitement that I discovered Marc Bregman’s work with dreams, referred to by Roger Kamenetz. Have you ever wished that you understood your own guidance better? Have you ever wished there was a great combination of deep psychological exploration with a spiritual journey? Here it is! Check the website at http://www.northofeden.com.

  • Michael Keene

    Tom, thanks for the show on dreams. I’ve been drawn into and writing down my dreams for about 35 years, always sensing that there’s something wild and true about them. In the past I used my dreams as points of departure for creative writing and performance pieces but it wasn’t until I began working with Marc Bregman, Roger’s teacher, 15 years ago that I found the best use of my dreams. I don’t know anything about the “science and fuction of dreams” as this program is called but I do know that through following the messages of my dreams I’m moving down and into places I have avoided for most of my life, moving down and into my soul and true self, and that nothing else I’ve done in my 53 years is as important as this work with my dreams. Thank you Tom for your program, Roger for your graceful presentation of the work we do, and Marc for being my teacher and guide.

  • Ellen Dibble

    It is wonderful people can restore their emotional/spiritual wholeness through focusing on dreams and that books and people are there to help, as so many comments here reveal. I posted above that I, over 60, haven’t noted a lot of dreamlife. It seems to me a parallel would be the way we learn to see, and that an infant has vision but needs to make sense of the visual world. It would start with a familiar face. If one suddenly gains vision at age 40, it might not be so easy to learn the interpretive “seeing” that infants take to in good order. Someone at home with their emotional realities might be at home with the import of dreams right along, while to someone whose world has sort of robotified them, disconnected them, this vision has to be “allowed” and discovered, thereby reconnecting them not only to dreams in their amazing breadth but to self.
    I am thinking of the last dream I really focused on, a year ago at age 62, and it happened I was trying to start a writing “group” (writing for children), and had a woman over 70 as my groupie. I wrote up the dream longhand and gave it to her, and she has it. I had viewed the lens with the lens that would just suit her, though it had preceded our meeting. Nonetheless, the reason I enjoyed the dream was because of what I call its Gestalt, the various ways the dream had combined and layered many meanings and experiences and feelings, full of pre-informed music/feeling, and slung like an arrow — swift, sharp, memorable. I would say I learned to mine my dreams not from Jung or any spiritual or psychological guidance but rather from focusing on the role in our lives and culture of story-telling, of meaning-making, in which dreaming seems to show the way. I look for HOW a dream conveys this or that, to the same extent (or more) as WHAT it conveys.
    Now I suppose I “think” dream-recall is a requirement to spend a day or so capturing the shape (a-la Monet or a-la Munch or a-la Mary Cassatt…) writing the whole thing down and sharing it, which I don’t have time to do, so I probably avoid remembering them. I wouldn’t put it beyond my unconscious.

  • http://www.beccar.wordpress.com Eugenia Renskoff

    Hi, Tom, For years I have had dreams about a man I loved in the 80s. He was a priest and therefore Forbidden Love. I always remember these recurrent dreams, but not the other dreams I have. Eugenia Renskoff

  • Ellen Leonard

    Wow! This is a fascinating topic leaving me hungry for more! I really liked what Roger said about how dreams can open the door to our deeper selves. There is a wealth of info on the northofeden.com website and so many interesting comments from people doing Archetypal Dreamwork. How about inviting Marc Bregman on your show?

  • http://www.therhino.net Sharon Reinbott

    People don’t suffer from “bad dreams”. They suffer from the spiritual or emotional condition deep within them that the dreams point to. I hear the compassion in this talk that, by the time people turn for help, they are suffering deeply and often are in a great deal of pain. But to treat the suffering by treating the dream (as if a nightmare were a very bad sore throat) is to miss the point at best, and to mask the symptoms at worst. It’s like trying to treat alcoholism without a deep immersion in the Twelve Steps.

    References were made to the fact that indigenous cultures often relied on dreams interpreted by the shamans. But to relegate the function of these dreams as pointing to good hunting grounds is to miss the need for communal and individual healing that dreams often expose. That spiritual healing aspect is and was the primary function of the shaman; food (of course) is important, but finding it was only one of the preservative activities of those gifted individuals.

    And so, I wonder at the stance that looks upon dreams as something that can be objectified, manipulated, and redirected. I wonder why people don’t consider dreams as revelatory. I wonder about “treating” a nightmare. I’d hesitate to stand outside the nightmare and try to make it go away, or manipulate it into a happy ending. I wonder how it would be if Bill Domhoff and Ross Levin walked humbly with their clients into their dreams, felt into the situation the dreams were pointing to, and with each client, descended into both of their souls and worked from there for healing? I’d guess that both client and therapist would be transformed.

    My sense from this talk is that Roger Kamenetz and those he works with have a lot to teach people who want to “cure” nightmares.

    I don’t want people to suffer either. And I long for a healing that lasts, one that happens from the inside out.

  • Missy F

    There has been loads of research on dreams using laboratory subjects (checking the brain activity of people why they are dreaming).

    There are many different theories about why people dream. Some information can be found at http://www.meaningofdreams.org/dream_theory/

  • Jane Kunin

    Thank you for your attention to this subject!
    I am deeply grateful for my dreams and for the extraordinary healing I have experienced by working both in my personal therapy with Marc Bregman, and at the Dream Work retreats North of Eden offers. Rodger Kamanetz spoke about how dreams “…tell the truth about our feelings.” For me, learning the truth of my feelings (however painful and/or frightening) has opened me to my heart and to my capacity to know love.

  • Wm. James from Missouri

    Years ago I read “ Creative Dreaming”, by, Patricia Garfield. I practiced her techniques for awhile and found them to work, for the most part. I have since read that the human body produces most of its’ HGH ( human growth hormone) when we sleep and that interference in sleep patterns can limit this very important and healthful hormone. Can anyone comment on this issue ?

    Comment and question 1 : One of the most interesting things I can remember from this book, is the fact that a person can not say their full name in a dream without waking up ! This is a very important tool for children who are plagued by nightmares. Saying their full name becomes a tool to control the “bad guys” ! Might this phenomena be useful in identifying ,via MRI scans, the location of the so called “seat of consciousness “ ?
    Comment and question 2 : About 5 years ago I tapped into the visual images known as ( hypno-gogic) (sp) images. They are very intricate and very beautiful. They occur right before you fall asleep. Can anyone speak with some authority or add something useful that I may use ?

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Pallbearers carry a coffin out of a military transport plane during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Eindhoven, Netherlands, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP)

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