We tend to dream in metaphors about things in our lives which are unsettled and frustrating. This is quite the opposite of what we tend to say about dreams, which tends to be positive in the sense of "you're in my dreams," "I can dream about it if I can't have it," or "I was just daydreaming."
In fact, the dreams we tend to remember as adults are very often the ones which are closest to nightmares. The more plagued we are with the stressful components of our lives and either our point of view or our actual environment (the two are never quite the same), the more we dream, and the greater the percentage of our dreams which are perceived as nightmares.
In curious contrast, when our conscious minds are at rest after struggling at a perplexing problem for some time, our subconscious, operating through metaphor and unbridled free association, continues to work on these problems in our dreaming states and occasionally solves them. Much of our "Breakthrough Thinking" occurs while we are asleep. At times, these breakthroughs are so powerful that we are awakened as if by some mystical revelation. In this way dreaming is similar to some forms of meditation.
Many of our species' greatest thinkers, artists, scientists, inventors and other creative individuals have done their most creative work inspired by revelations born of either dreaming or meditation. Various drugs, some legal and some of them illegal, can enhance the parameters within which we dream; they seem to enliven our imagination with synesthesia and other 'special effects'. But it is important to note that any of these effects or changes is still, in the end, a product of our own mind's initiation.
It is worthwhile to note that our brains (or our minds) are never fully at rest -- they are always vigorously at work.
- Douglas E. Castle
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