Dreaming is still a mystery to us, scientists are still not entirely sure how we do it, nor do they know much about why we dream. Dreaming is one of the strangest aspects of the human condition. While there are a number of competing theories on why we dream, none have been proven to date.
Dreams are a central part of our lives. Our language is infused with the idea of the dream, yet we know very little about this strange and surreal state. The more scientists have tried to understand this phenomena the less they seem to know. There are a number of competing theories on the purpose of dreaming but thus far none have been shown to be true.
Before we examine the various theories, here is a quick introduction on what a dream is. Dreams are made up of images, thoughts and emotions, all experienced while we sleep. Dreams can be vague or precise, they can be joyous or positively frightening. They can seem to last forever or be over in an instant. They occur during a number of different stages of sleep though the most powerful and memorable occur in the rapid eye movement phase. Finally, one thing scientists have shown is that everyone dreams, so no matter what naysayers who claim not to dream say, they do, they just cannot remember them.
The first theory of dreaming is that it is our brain’s way of sorting out our memories. By processing the day’s events, cataloguing and discarding, storing and sorting all that has gone on. It enables us to file them in a way that is more accessible. This theory is one of the oldest; it is one that many philosophers have pondered over for centuries.
Sigmund Freud was a famous dream analyst. His theory of this state was that it was our unconscious desires and thoughts let lose. Dreams were a place where our underlying mental state could roam free, which is why he used symbolic analysis to try and decode the true meaning.
A third theory of dreaming is that they serve as a testing ground for us, where the consequences of trial and error are limited. This theory sees dreams as a safe place for our brains to experiment with potential actions and outcomes.
Finally, one theory is that our dreams are purely random. They serve no higher purpose and they are simply what happens when a body needs rest. This theory holds that the brain randomly fires neurons during sleep and these accidently create dreams.
While we do not know why we dream, there are a number of different theories. They range from the seemingly logical, such as it serves as a way for the brain to process the day’s events, through to the more incidental, that they serve no purpose at all.
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