It is amazing how much progress we made in the changing the world around us and how little we understand about seemingly obvious and common thing within us like dreams.
Within one generation the person was born with the horse and the boggy and dies with the space shuttle tourism. Many dreams of scientists were realized: splitting of the atom, sequencing of DNA, walking on the moon, but we are still puzzled with simple questions: Why, for what purpose we are dreaming? Where dreams are made? What dreams mean? Some researches still believe that dreams are just an artifact, meaningless noise of the sleeping brain. What we do know now is that many dreams contain intense emotions. We remember some dreams precisely because of the passions and intense feeling they elicit. Some of such dreams might affect your life.
I do not remember many of dreams but one dream did change my life. I had this dream on the night of my sixteenth birthday. All family members wished me to be a doctor. I did not want to go to medicine. I hated medicine. Three generations of physicians in my family made medicine sound trivial to me. Constant talk about medicine
was boring to me. Parents excuses to leave me for emergency during my sport competition made me angry. Just thinking about disorders, dirty wounds and smelly infections made me nauseous. I wanted to be a marine explorer and an artist. I was going to bed angry at my family for “pushing me around”.
That night I had a dream that I am walking by the lake and drawing a beautiful painting in my mind. With my peripheral vision I saw a pregnant women with a big belly walking toward me. Suddenly, a few feet from me she fell. Being completely involved with mind painting I stepped over her and continued walking.. In a moment I realized what a horrible sin I did. I looked back. The woman was dying. She threw her arm toward me and cried: “Why didn’t you help me? Why you do not want to help people? Never in my life before or after had I experienced such intense feelings of guilt, fear and anger at myself.
I woke up sweaty and shaky. I knew that I woke up to be a doctor..
Later, I learned many examples of dreams that change the persons life as well as life of many people. My professor in medical school at St. Petersburg told us story about a school teacher Mendeleev who had intensely emotional dreams related to chemical elements fighting with each other and finally self-organized into the famous Periodic System. This System changed his life and the science. Sleep science step by step uncovering the mystery of dreams.
We know now that the amigdala, that bite-sized knob of neurons in the middle of the brain with so called limbic forebrain responsible for emotions and memory are extremely activated during REM stage sending powerful emotional massages to the higher level of brain influencing our awakening mind to change motivations and decisions, for good or for bad. Sleep medicine deals with negative aspects of sleep.
Recently I was involved in the case of a fourteen year old student who had a dream that her teacher who used to tease her all the time was attempting to kill her in the class in front of other children. She saw the dream in many vivid details with strong emotional turmoil. She became convinced that the teacher was really planning to kill her. Next morning when she saw the teacher wearing exactly the same dress as in her sleep, with the same strange hairdo, saying the same words, the girl badly stroked the teacher thinking of self-defense.
In another case a woman who had an emotional dream that her husband was having an affair attacked her husband in the morning.
Emotional dreams could reflect our body problems or even cause them. Physicians know about emotional dreams specifically as a sign of potential heart attack or stroke. There are also reliable data showing that if the person falls asleep extremely angry, he or she might have “angry” dreams with such intense emotions and body turbulence that could induce heart attack.
we also know about healing dreams. A dying person has sudden change in the course of illness for recovery and it manifested first by intensely emotional happy dream. Discovery of lucid dreaming has a promise to develop practical methods to control your dreams. Sleep Medicine is learning more and more about the nature of dreams and the way to induce recovery dreams as therapy.