NLP for Dreams and Dreaming

Filed Under (NLP life coaching) on 01-06-2014

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What NLP perspectives are useful for working with dreams and dreaming?

What’s dreaming for?

There’re many theories about why we dream.  Dreaming is purposeful, not the result of random brain activity while we sleep.  Dreaming is the unconscious mind’s way of processing the day’s events, sorting through memories, learning from what happened, and planning the future. Some people function on 5 hours of sleep a night, others require 10 hours.  The average length of sleeping time for an adult is 7 and a half hours.  Although some people claim to need almost no sleep, this has not been substantiated.  Everyone seems to need at least 5 hours of sleep, albeit they may get them through catnapping.

We have four or five dreaming cycles during an average sleeping period. Each cycle has a number of stages.  Two clearly distinguishable stages of sleep exist.  NREM [nonrapid eye movement] sleep occupies most of the sleeping period.  We have relatively low pulse and blood pressure, low activation of the automatic nervous system, and few or no reports of dreaming.  REM [rapid eye movements] sleep occurs at intervals of about 90 minutes while we sleep.  The automatic nervous system is active and we have rapid eye movements.  Every REM phase follows an NREM phase, each progressively longer. Dreams take place during the REM periods of sleep whether we remember them or not.

How does dreaming work?

Dreaming constitutes about 25% of a period of sleep and as much as 50% in a newborn child. We dream for up to two hours each time we sleep for a long period of time.  The final REM period immediately before we wake lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. And it is the dream at the end of this last cycle that we most often recall.  Although many people say that they do not dream, there’s no difference in REM sleep of dreamers and professed nondreamers.  If we awaken professed nondreamers during REM sleep, they’ll usually report some dreaming. So it is truer to say that they don’t remember their dreams.

While dreaming we’re protected from gross physical movement, because the brain paralyses the motor neuron system.  Eye movements continue, because they don’t interfere with sleeping.  When scientists inhibited this protective mechanism in animals, they witnessed sleeping cats leaping and attacking nonexistent objects.  When researchers wake people up and deprive them of REM sleep, people have difficulty remembering key events in the day.  And if this continues over several days, people may have trouble learning and suffer serious physical and psychological changes. This is another one of a million reasons why sleep is immensely important.

What do our dreams mean?  How does their content connect with our waking lives?

There’re many theories and formulae for interpreting dreams.  Using dreams as tools of divination seems to be as old as human culture. Freud saw the interpretation of dreams as a royal road to the unconscious. He assumed that dreams dealt with the passions and unwanted thoughts that the conscious mind would not be able to handle. Jung’s legacy in this area also applies today. The content of our dreams directly relates to our waking life, albeit it is often symbolic or coded in other ways. One suggestion is that dreams come from a part of the brain that is primarily prelinguistic, thus presents its messages in pictures rather than words. When we begin to decode our dreams in words, we often lose a lot in translation.   

Research into the nature of dreams is neverending.  One NLP way of looking at dreaming is that dreaming enables us to deal with emotionally arousing events of the day that remain unresolved.  Dreaming deactivates the emotion and leaves the brain rested and ready to handle the next day’s emotionally arousing onslaught as it plays out any unfinished business to conclusion through metaphoric images.  The idea that dreams are a way to process emotionally arousing experiences has interesting implications.  When things are more emotionally charged for you, your dreams will be more vivid about what happened, and often also in anticipation of what may happen.  How much something matters to you determines this, not the external magnitude of any event.  If the events of your waking life are highly emotionally charged, you may be restless or feel like you’re endlessly dreaming. Or you may have trouble remaining asleep.

NLP for working with dreams and dreaming

You won’t find the meaning of your dreams in dream dictionaries. It makes sense to assume that your dreams are highly individual creations which have personal significance for your waking life rather than being interpreted according to standardized meanings. It is better to reflect on a dream’s impact on you, translate it into a coherent story, and find connections between the stories of your dreams and waking life.

Paying attention to your dreams and dreaming will create a better link between your conscious and unconscious. Noting reference experiences and imagining your future and your actions in future situations are devices of your conscious mind to enhance what your unconscious mind does anyway.  You can think of dreaming as a way of learning from your experience and futurepacing yourself.

Have you had a weird dream? Have you lately been dreaming crazy dreams that you can’t explain? Or do you often dream the same dream? Let’s talk about how NLP can help you interpret and work with your dreams.

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