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Metamorphic Insight into Dreams

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Dreams play a large role in many people's lives. They can reflect and pertain to all aspects of life, and can have a deeper meaning than might immediately be realized. The following paper contains an in depth look at and the meaning that dreams have for many individuals and how they have affected people both in the past and present. Many dreams have are really symbols representing significant influences and events in the lives of those who have them. The following paragraph is an example of a dream that a young boy or girl, or anyone for that matter, might experience. A cool breeze flows gently through the trees while the hot summer sun shines down on a gathering of family members. A young boy happy with excitement finds himself surrounded by the people he loves at a family reunion. While the adults reminisce on past times, the children are found enjoying a game of kickball in the field. As the little boy becomes a spectator absorbing all of the joy and warmth from his family's party, he awakes from his night's sleep to find out that he has been dreaming. This pleasant dream is just one example of the many different types of night visions people encounter. Was this boy imagining a life with his family that might not really exist? Is this child abused or neglected and using dreams as an escape, or is this reality and the child is simply reliving pleasant experiences? The metamorphic process of paralleling the symbolism of our dreams to our everyday lives has contributed to learning more about our individualistic personalities. Over the years, the mysteries of why and how we dream have captured the imagination of everyone from playwrights and poets to psychologists and scientists. However, the main objective of this paper is to illustrate that there are significant purposes to dreams. From laboratory experiments to primitive cultures, the interpretation of dreams is a powerful tool used to help understand ourselves. Rosalind Cartwright, a dream expert, separates the significance of dreams into four categories. According to Cartwright, dreams serve to review, revise, rehearse, and repair ourselves. To fully grasp the importance of these four R's and the understanding of dreams, researchers must first study sleep patterns. In order to study the stages of sleep, patients are tested with a device called an electroencephalograph (Myers 210). This machine measures brain wave activity, eye movements, and muscle tension through electrodes. Other similar devices are used to record heart rates, respiration rates, and the degree of genital arousal during sleep. After collecting all of this data, researchers are able to analyze patients' dreams. According to David G. Myers, a professor of psychology at Michigan's Hope College, there are four stages associated with sleep prior to Rapid Eye Movement, REM sleep. In Stage 1, breathing rate slows and brain waves slow down even further. During this light sleep, fantastic images similar to hallucinations are experienced. Sensations such as falling or floating are usually felt during this two- minute stage. Soon after Stage 1, a greater sense of relaxation settles in. This is the beginning of Stage 2. This stage, lasting about twenty minutes, is characterized by bursts of rapid brain-wave activity. Because of this sudden surge of brain waves, sleep talking becomes prevalent. Stage 3 and 4 are often linked together because of their similarities. They last for about thirty minutes and are called slow-wave sleep because of the slow delta waves the brain emits during these stages. Delta waves have a frequency of 3.5 cycles per second, which makes them much slower than the beta wave of fifteen cycles per second. Because of these slow delta waves, it is especially difficult to wake the sleeping person from the third and fourth stages of sleep. Children may also wet the bed or begin sleepwalking at these stages. About twenty percent of 3 to 12-year-olds have at least one episode of sleepwalking, usually lasting two to ten minutes; some 5 percent have repeated episodes (Myers 212). As Stage 4 comes to a close, the patient begins the important rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep, genitals become aroused even when the dream's content is not sexual (212). Myers states that a typical 25-year-old man will have an erection lasting 30 to 45 minutes on an average throughout this particular time of sleep. As the night continues, this sleep cycle repeats itself about every 90 minutes; and the REM period progressively gets longer. REM sleep may even grow to an hour in length at the end of the night. By the morning, 20 to 25 percent (100 minutes) of an average night's sleep have been REM sleep (212). In fact, if we sleep between six to nine hours a night, we can expect to have anywhere from four to six REM periods. This translates to mean that we may be dreaming anywhere from one hour and a half to two hours a night (Koulack 40). One might ask, what causes us to dream the way we do during the night? First of all, there are many influential factors that combine to make up our dreams. From Dr. David Koulack's pre-sleep experiments, one can see how activities taken place right before sleep can have a direct affect on a patient's dream. In Koulack's experiment, a film depicting the birth of a baby with the aid of a Malmstrom Vacuum Extractor was shown to his male patient just before sleep (65). First, the film introduced the machine about to be used on the pregnant woman. Then the scene switched and the subject witnessed the painful birth of the baby by the foreign instrument (66). After the bloody infant was placed on the mother's stomach, the video ended, and Dr. Koulack's patient began his sleep. The buzzer rang for the awakening of the subject and Dr. Koulack began directing questions about the man's night sleep. The patient dreamt about young college girls wearing white gloves and carrying flowers. A group of signing boys was also present in his dream. These boys were off in the distance catching bees and carrying the insects over to the girls' flowers. The doctor analyzed the dream very carefully and came to the conclusion that the boys were having the bees pollinate the girls' flowers. The pollination of the flowers is a symbol of birth, much like the birth of the baby in the film shown to the patient prior to his sleep (65-67). As one can see, pre-sleep exercises can affect the content of an individual's dream. The film, demonstrating the unusual birth of a baby, was a direct link to the patient's dream later on that night. However, all dreams are not initiated by pre-sleep experiments. Most dreams occur because of frustrations and problems in one's life. People go to bed with their problems hoping to resolve them through their dreams. The conscious mind runs into the unconscious looking for guidance to everyday problems. A majority of dreams are



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