For thousands of years, humans have tried to find meaning in dreams. We’ve hypothesized that we dream the thoughts in our unconscious and some even believe that dreams can predict the future. Thanks to modern technology, scientists have made a few important discoveries about what our dreams really mean.
Turns out, we probably aren’t tapping into the spirit world when we go to sleep at night. The truth is a little bit less exciting than that, but could point to some interesting developments for mental health.
Brain imaging technology reveals that our dreams probably don’t mean anything. One prominent neurobiological theory called the “activation-synthesis theory” suggests that dreams are merely electrical impulses that pull random memories and imagery from our minds. Most dreams replay a series of moments and events that we’ve previously experienced; flashes of the day pop up in our subconscious as we sleep, which is why we typically only dream with people, places, and things we’ve already seen in reality.
Scientists believe that the notion of a dream sequence or storyline is simply a brain’s way of stringing together a random series of events. If you’ve ever struggled to “remember” a dream, it’s probably because it didn’t actually happen.
Imagine you were handed a series of random videos and photos and asked to piece them together in a cohesive storyline. You might be able to come up with something that makes sense even if those pieces weren’t actually connected. The same is said to be true for dreams.
So what does all of this have to do with writing?
When we recall dreams, we’re actually telling stories. We’re rummaging through a string of thoughts that was once jumbled and disconnected and telling a story. If you’ve ever struggled with creative writing or journaling, it might be worthwhile to look into your dreams.
Keeping a dream journal is an excellent way to spark that creativity you might be searching for. Every morning, before even getting out of bed or having your first sip of coffee, try to create a story out of your dreams. Feel free to make connections that might seem incorrect or inaccurate and see where the storyline takes you. Where do you find yourself going with your story? Are you recognizing thoughts and feelings that you might have previously ignored? Use the mental snapshots trapped inside your mind to create an image of your subconscious.
Your dreams provide a framework for the perfect story. Most writers pull ideas from their personal lives when writing creative fiction, so your dreams are the perfect place to find inspiration. If you’ve ever experimented with a dream journal, you’ve probably found that over time, the recall gets easier and you begin to naturally fill in the blanks. Even if you use this practice as a simple way to inspire yourself and get over writer’s block, the practice itself forces you to think and write like a true storyteller.
We recently wrote an article about stream of consciousness journaling and how it can help writers process emotions more easily. Think of dream journaling as a sort of stream of subconsciousness. Use the wealth of ideas in your subconscious mind to write stories and become a better writer overall!
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