Dream Big

Sukhm Kang, Staff Writer

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Do you ever wonder what your dreams say about you? If I dream that I can fly, or that I’m in the same room as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or that I live in a world of unicorns, what are the greater implications on my emotions or mental health? Why do we even have dreams?

To answer this question, we can look to many past examples and we can also apply a few examples of US students and their own dreams.

Many ancient civilizations had different interpretations about the significance of dreams, dating back to even primal societies. According to historian Donald Hughes, “in virtually every primal society,” early humans “treated dreams as a way of receiving messages from the gods.” In the early civilization of Mesopotamia, dreams had a massive influence on government, religion, and the daily life of the people. The king’s dreams were interpreted by priests and professional dream interpreters and they were seen as predictions for the future of the city. In Egypt, those who were able to interpret dreams were revered by society and received special educations from temple priests.

Clearly, dreams have always held an important place in society. In recent years, many scientists have uncovered new data on dreams and their scientific significance using scanning equipment such as PET scans and MRIs.

One of the most well-known theories is Sigmund Freud’s theory about repressed longing. Essentially, he theorized that our dreams are a way of expressing the desires that we aren’t able to achieve in the waking world. For example, Sai Karnati ’20 told me that he often dreams about being tall. He said, “In most of my dreams, I tower over my peers.” Considering Sai is a short individual, his dreams suggest that he has a desire to be taller.

Another theory, put forth by the British Professor Sander van der Linden, is that our dreams are a way of expressing our emotions. “The emotions attached to [our dreams] certainly are” real, she argued. For example, Anish Ganesh ’19 told me that his dreams are almost always positive. “I very rarely have bad dreams,” he said. This is consistent with van Lindens’ theory, as Anish is usually a positive person.

Some theories are much less dramatic or glamorous. Many psychologists believe that dreams are simply a way of consolidating information in order to transfer certain experiences into the long-term memory. As nobel laureate Francis Crick put it simply, “We dream to forget.” Through dreaming, we sort through all the stimuli that we receive throughout the day and get rid of most of the unnecessary information.

No matter which theory is actually correct, dreams play an important part in today’s world and say a lot about who we are.