Description: What sorts of dreams are you having these days? Ask your friends in your next Zoom chat what their dreams have been like lately as we are holed up doing our bit to flatten the Covid-19 curve and you will likely find that many people are dreaming more and are having more vivid and weirder dreams. Think about why that might be. Perhaps in one of your Psychology courses you recall hearing that Freudian dream analysis (“the royal road to the unconscious”) was not supported by empirical research and as such should have been relegated to the same historical wastebasket as Phrenology (Personality assessed by reading the bumps on people’s heads) and Hippocrates’ theory of how bodily humors shape personality. As with a LOT if early Psychology, however, simply dismissing an early theory by deciding, for example, that dreams do not mean anything effectively closes off lines of scientific inquiry that could be quite helpful. Luckily, Psychology thinkers and researchers are not so easily shut down. So, think carefully about why people might be experiencing weirder, more vivid dreams these days (and yes, of course, we should first check to see if that is, in fact, happening – as some researchers are actually doing right now) and then read through the two articles linked below. One looks at the question you are consider from a clinical perspective and the other examines it from a neuro-psychological perspective and together they will give you a LOT to think (and dream) about.
Source: The Pandemic is giving people vivid, unusual dreams. Here’s why. Rebecca Renner, Science, Coronavirus Coverage, National Geographic.
Having more vivid dreams in lockdown? We asked the experts why, Daphne Bugler, Lifestyle, GQ Magazine, UK.
Date: April 15, 2020 and April 9, 2020
Even if, or especially if, dreams are the results of random neuronal firing in sleeping, off-line, brains we still wonder what they mean. They happen in our heads and we have a very basic, usually adaptive, drive to make sense out of or find the meaning in things we experience so why not reflect on what our dreams mean? But it may not be a “something to do” random exercise. Some of the research on dreaming brains suggests that normal waking controls over our emotion centers diminishes when we are asleep and what we know for sure is that our emotion centers evolved as major players in how we snap-focus on threats and challenges and as such they are more reactive than creative. So, when wile the higher cognitive control centers snore the more primordial emotions roam a little more freely. That is where the neuro-psychological and clinical approaches to considering dreams meet, in our dreams and in our waking reflections as we try and make sense out of what seemed to be going on in our dreams. Where Freud got it somewhat wrong was in assuming that his clients/patients had no standing or clue in relation to the task of interpreting their dreams. What the neuro-psychosocial work on emotions supports is actually our taking up a Humanist or Rogerian perspective where our therapist could ask, or we could ask ourselves, “what do you think it means?” Perhaps thinking about our dreams is one way we might better understand and figure out how to cope with our current inconveniences, stresses, or demons. What do you think? Or do you want to sleep on it?
Questions for Discussion:
- First a simple question, why do we dream?
- Why might our dreams during the current pandemic be, or seem, more vivid and weirder?
- What things were suggested in the articles linked above that we could try if our dreams are currently beyond weird and towards frightening?
References (Read Further):
Grant, P. C., Depner, R. M., Levy, K., LaFever, S. M., Tenzek, K. E., Wright, S. T., & Kerr, C. W. (2020). Family Caregiver Perspectives on End-of-Life Dreams and Visions during Bereavement: A Mixed Methods Approach. Journal of palliative medicine, 23(1), 48-53. Link
Tempesta, D., Curcio, G., De Gennaro, L., & Ferrara, M. (2013). Long-term impact of earthquakes on sleep quality. PLoS One, 8(2). Link
Vallat, R., Chatard, B., Blagrove, M., & Ruby, P. (2017). Characteristics of the memory sources of dreams: A new version of the content-matching paradigm to take mundane and remote memories into account. PloS one, 12(10). Link
Scarpelli, S., Bartolacci, C., D’Atri, A., Gorgoni, M., & De Gennaro, L. (2019). The functional role of dreaming in emotional processes. Frontiers in psychology, 10. Link
Blagrove, M., Edwards, C., van Rijn, E., Reid, A., Malinowski, J., Bennett, P., … & Ruby, P. (2019). Insight from the consideration of REM dreams, non-REM dreams, and daydreams. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(2), 138. Link
Sterpenich, V., Perogamvros, L., Tononi, G., & Schwartz, S. (2019). Fear in dreams and in wakefulness: evidence for day/night affective homeostasis. Human brain mapping. Link
Scarpelli, S., Bartolacci, C., D’Atri, A., Gorgoni, M., & De Gennaro, L. (2019). Mental Sleep Activity and Disturbing Dreams in the Lifespan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(19), 3658. Link
Delorme, A., & Brandmeyer, T. (2019). When the meditating mind wanders. Current opinion in psychology, 28, 133-137. Link