Why Hypnosis and Dreams ?

The combination of dream work and hypnosis is truly a profound and transforming experience where the healing nature of dreams, and the potential of hypnosis as a therapeutic and personal growth tool, comes to the fore. This type of regression is recommended to anyone wishing to seek self-knowledge and actualisation. Even a sliver of a memory of a dream can be useful in this work. This is an exciting and ever so personal exploration of your subconscious mind where you get to unlock and know the secrets of your dreams.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Use your Dreams to Find Solutions

Often inspiration comes when least expected: in the shower, when you're doing your grocery shop or when taking a walk. One place we never seem to expect it is in our sleep. Some of us think of sleep as if we were computers: we switch off during the night and that's it. This comparison however is very incorrect.  When you sleep you simply enter a different mode of thinking.

When your eyes are closed and your body cannot move your subconscious comes up with ideas that your conscious mind would not have considered during your waking state: under these circumstances your creativity is freed and your problem solving capacity increases.

Sometimes it is even possible to change the course of a dream: you can willingly fly towards your favorite destination or your could use this ability to overcome anxiety or make a major life decision.  Seems too good to be true? Think again.

There is an array of famous people who is known to have found inspiring answers and solutions to problems in their dreams.  In 1950 the mathematician Don Newman had a breakthrough during sleep which gained him the Noble Price in medicine; modern Engineers Paul Horowitz and Alan Huang found inspiration in their dreams for their laser telescope controls and laser computing designs; Mary Shelly dreamed of Frankestein and Stevenson Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, while Beethoven, Paul McCartney and Billy Joel found musical ideas came to them in dreams; even Gandhi's idea for a non violence approach to the liberation of India came to him in a dream.

So how does this work when some dreams seem to be so inspiring and others so trivial and non sensical? Why do some of us, at least some of the time, dream of amazing art projects or technical innovations in detail while others are lost in dreams that don't make any sense at all? Research suggests that dreams can seem bizarre or strange because when we sleep the biochemistry of the brain changes and can affect how we think but while we sleep we continue to focus on the same kind of issues that concern us during the day. So if we spend our waking hours worrying about work chances are we will dream  about that too, and if we spend that time trying to solve a complicated puzzle chances are our dreams will be related to that too.

Sometimes people ask "why dream at all? what' s it for? " but we never hear the same people ask "why do we think during the day?" So, why should we try to find a simplistic function for our dreaming state since we wouldn't do that for our waking state? Waking thought is for everything, so why reduce dreaming to one function only?

 We could write page after page recounting the different dream theories offered by psychologists since Freud expounded his idea that dreams express repressed sexual impulses from our unconscious and it certainly would be a fascinating endevour but none of these theories offer a comprehensive view of all types of dreams. Just as waking thought has different functions such as planning, reminiscing, ruminating, imagining etc dream cognition encompasses different modes of thinking.

It is well known that we all dream more than we think we do: this is because we can more easily  remember the dreams we have had  when we wake up right after a REM phase. Sleep researchers Aserinsky and Klietman discovered that human slumber goes in 90 minute cycles , each one of which contains a period of REM (rapid eye movement) during which we dream.

 In the past twenty years PET scans (positron emission tomography) have made it possible for us to see which areas of the brain get activated when we dream and it has been discovered that parts of the cortex associated with visual imagery, emotion, and the perception of movement are even more activated during REM than when we are awake, while the areas associated with logic and socially appropriate behavior are less engaged. This makes sense when we think that most dreams involve visual imagery, movement, emotion but not particularly logic or socially acceptable behavior.

Why would this make sense from an evolutionary perspective? During normal waking hours we filter out of our consciousness scenarios that are illogical or abnormal because it would be unsafe to not do so , while during sleep this is not necessary; on the other hand tackling problems in a creative way when in the safe state of dreaming could prove very insightful.

During the nineties more and more studies came to the conclusion that sleep is important for the consolidation of new learning: having a nap just after learning something makes it much more likely we will remember it afterwards. It seem that REM sleep has a role in memory in that the more REM sleep you get after learning the better you will recall  emotionally charged material. Another finding was that REM sleep in correlated with  problem solving, heightened performance and the capacity to articulate what has been grasped before sleep.

The next major breakthrough in research came when in 1972 sleep researcher William Dement of Standford University decided to conduct an experiment in which he tried to seed people's dreams with a specific problem . The findings suggested that, given the problems had relevance to the subject's life he or she would find the most interesting solutions during sleep especially when major life decisions were involved. It was also found that such solutions would present themselves even just after 1 week of   "incubation practice" during which the subjects would think about the problem right before going to sleep.

 This makes sense when we think that the areas of the brain that restrict our thinking to the logical and familiar are inhibited during REM sleep and such lack of activity is crucial when it comes to creativity. With this in mind it is easy to see how it is possible to train your dreams for problem solving. In my next article I will give you a simple exercise that will allow you to train yourself to do just that: find new creative solutions to specific problems you have and get inspired in your sleep!

For further reading try these books and articles:

The committee of sleep: how artists, scientist and athletes use dreams or creative problem solving. B
Deirdre Barrett, Crown (Random House) 2001

REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks
D.J. Cal, S.A. Mednick, E.M. Harrison, J.C. Kanady and S.C>Mednick in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Vol 106, No25. Pages 10130- 10134 , June 23, 2009

Sleep Enhances Category Learning
Ina Djonlagic et al, in Learning and Memory, Vol 16, No12, pages 751-755; December 2009

Dreaming and Offline Memory Processing
Erin J. Wamsley and Robert Stickgold in Current Biology, Vol 20, No 23, pages R1010-R1013, December 7, 20120

Stuff that dreams aren't made of
1993 paper by Donal Symons, University of California, Santa Barbara

Answers in your dreams
Deirdre Barrett

Unlocking the lucid dreams
Ursula Voss

The International Association for the study of dreams