Do you typically remember your dreams? Should you bother? Beliefs about the meaning and importance of dreams vary widely. Nowadays, if you visit a psychiatrist, you are more likely to be offered a regimen of prescription drugs than to be asked to share your dreams. Some leading neuroscientists see dreams as nothing more than the brain’s attempt to make sense of the random firing of neurons. This scientific trend toward devaluing dreams contrasts notably with the perspectives of the founders of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud saw dreams as important manifestations of repressed or unsatisfied desires, calling them “the royal road to the unconscious”. Carl Jung’s seminal work blended psychology and spirituality. He regarded dreams as important communications from the dreamer’s soul or larger self.
During waking hours, most of us rely heavily upon the logical thinking of the left hemisphere of our brain to get us through the day. In contrast to this, the dreaming brain seems inclined to completely bypass the filter of logical thinking. While this can cause dreams to be bizarre, the absence of logical constraints yields dreams that are highly creative and original in nature. Whatever their source, the creative power of dreams is indisputable and worthy of our attention.
In a recent dream, I was seated in a small circle of people along with Bono from U2. Bono was strumming an acoustic guitar and singing a beautiful song that I had never heard before. I’m not trained as a musician. So, when I awoke from this dream, I had no ability to record Bono’s harmonious guitar chords. But many talented musicians can do this quite easily. For example, Paul McCartney heard the melody of “Yesterday” in a dream, and then rushed to the piano to play it out before the tune escaped his memory. Sting claims that he awoke in the middle of the night with the lyrics to “Every Breath You Take” playing in his head, and then completed in the entire composition in about 30 minutes. Billy Joel once speculated to an interviewer: “My feeling is that all of this stuff exists in a different plane and we tap into it somehow and I think I do it in a dream state.”