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Why We Dream

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

–The Tempest Act 4, scene 1

Dreams have been interpreted for centuries, but we still don’t understand what dreams really are, or their purpose and function.  Some suggest dreams have no real purpose, while others believe that dreaming is essential to our mental, emotional and physical health. One theory suggests that dreams inject material into the memory system to help cope with trauma or stressful events, In the same way music does consciously. Dreams unconsciously fulfill the same needs that music and play does consciously.

Freud’s dream theory suggests that dreams were a “representation of unconscious desires, thoughts and motivations”. Well, he would! According to Freud’s “psychoanalytic process”, our   innate aggressive instincts are repressed in our conscious thinking, but find their way into our consciousness by dreaming; again, filling much the same role as music and play does.  In other words: “disguised fulfillment of repressed wishes or needs.” Freud’s theory created the popular “science” of dream interpretation, but research has failed to demonstrate that dreams have any real psychological significance. We can “interpret” music on a personal level like Freud interpreted dreams, but it is essentially irrelevant. To quote Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message”.

Other theories have been proposed to account for the existence of dreams. One theory suggests that dreams are the result of our brains interpreting external stimuli during sleep.  Another theory says that dreams serve to clean up “clutter” in our memory gathered during the day, refreshing the mind to prepare for the next day. Yet another theory says that dreams are a form of psychotherapy. In other words: we haven’t a clue why we dream.  But we do know why we listen to music.