Dreams: Routine brain function or window to the soul?

ENCINITAS — Dr. Patricia Ariadne, MFT has been keeping a journal for 35 years to record as much as she can recall of her dreams. She says the average human spends six years dreaming during their lifetime.

Ariadne believes in the power of dreams to the extent that there are times she remembers meeting someone in her dreams that she didn’t meet in the physical world until later.

“I even dreamed that I would be returning to a teaching job when, at the time of the dream, I had no desire or means to do so,” she said.

Dr. Patricia Ariadne, MFT encourages patients in her Encinitas practice to keep a dream journal. She believes that dreams provide spiritual guidance and a means to connect with one’s higher self. Courtesy photo

“Before meeting two men for a potential job interview, I was shown that these men were unreliable and disorganized. This proved to be true.”

Dreams play an important part in her therapy practice, workshops and books she has written including “Drinking the Dragon: Stories of the Dark Night of Soul” and “Women Dreaming-into-Art: Seven Artists who Create From Dreams.”

“Ignoring a dream is like throwing away an unopened letter,” she tells patients, adding that working with dreams promotes self-awareness by revealing the part of ourselves we are least conscious of, while it can be apparent to others.

“Dream work can help us become less conflicted, more integrated, and more whole as persons,” she said. “Dreams also guide us spiritually, providing a means to connect with our Higher Selves, which creates a dependence upon internal guidance, rather than looking for answers outside of ourselves.”

There is another school of thought held widely by the medical community including psychiatrist Dr. Ed Siegel, M.D. that views dreams as no more than an important biological function.

“Dreams are usually a reflection of something that is currently going on in one’s life,” Siegel said. “The biology of the feelings involved in emotions (in the form of neurotransmitters) can still be recognized by the sleeping brain that has no other alternative than to make up a story that will reflect the biological concomitants of those emotions.’

Regarding premonitions, Siegel describes them as “biological concomitants for wishes.”

“Realistic wishes can often come true,” he explained. “Unrealistic wishes can still be expressed in dreams.”

One thing Ariadne and Siegel agree on is the importance of dream journals.

“I often ask patients to keep a dream log for me,” Siegel said. “Dreams can sometimes reveal aspects of the patient’s psyche that might otherwise be relatively inaccessible. Although I can’t claim to be Freud, he famously stated that ‘Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.’ He, as do I, find that dreams can reveal underlying issues that might not be readily apparent to either the dreamer or the dream interpreter.”

While we can’t direct our dreams, Ariadne says we can collaborate on them by asking guidance.

Solana Beach psychiatrist Ed Siegel, M.D. also asks his patients to maintain a dream journal. Like Sigmund Freud, Siegel believes “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.” Photo by Lillian Cox

“Sometimes people write a question on a slip of paper and tuck it under their pillows,” she advises. “Others repeatedly ask a question in a relaxed state before going to sleep. I find that when a question is asked with sincerity, humility and a genuine desire to grow as a person, the answers seem to more readily appear.”

Ariadne suggests designating one night as a dream night where an individual goes to bed early, avoiding alcohol and over stimulation by television and movies.

“When you go to bed, relax and tell yourself that you will remember your dreams,” she said. “Sometimes, you can ‘prime the pump’ by reading a chapter from a book about dreams or journal about something that happened during the day by treating the incident as if it were a dream.”

Ariadne adds that it is important to keep a notepad and pen nearby to record a dream while it is fresh, even a phrase that will tickle the memory later.

“Pay special attention to hynogogic (right before sleeping) and hynopompic (right before waking) imagery,” she said. “We can be attuned to special messages or imagery at this time, even meaningful song lyrics.”

Dr. Ariadne will be offering a workshop, Bridging Night and Day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 20. For more information, visit drariadne.com. Dr. Siegel is the author of “A Spiritual Odyssey To Be with God.” For more information visit edsiegelmd.com.

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