Do Electric Sheep Dream of Androids?
Science fiction fans will recognise my reversal of Philip K Dick’s famous book “Do androids dream of Electric sheep” that became the much more famous film Blade Runner. I mention it in the context of some new research that could be highly relevant as we could be on the brink of recording our dreams electronically, allowing them to be interpreted. This work has been reported in the journal Nature, and lead scientist Dr Moran Cerf from UCLA, California believes they have developed a system capable of recording higher level brain activity.
“We would like to read people’s dreams,” he says and “the aim is not to interlope, but to extend our understanding of how and why people dream.” I could suggest a creative exercise here using the word interlope as he has done – but I will refrain – let me know if you get anywhere with it.
He suggests that the activity of individual brain cells, or neurons, are associated with specific objects or concepts. He found in the study that, for example, when a volunteer was thinking of Marilyn Monroe, a particular neuron lit up – no surprise there then.
The interpretation of dreams is something that is as old as mankind: for instance where would Joseph have been without his ability to interpret his dreams as described in Genesis in the Bible? In our society dream interpretation is widely used as a tool in the personal development world and it is often encouraged that you keep a notepad by your bed, or a small recording device to record your dreams as soon as you wake up. Dream analysis has been used by psychologists as a tool to understand the unconscious mind and certainly both Freud and Jung were big fans of it. However, the drawback for them, and us, is that the only way to interpret dreams is to ask people about the subject of their dreams after they have woken up.
There are many schools of thought about dream interpretation and there are plenty of books you can buy on the subject to help you interpret your dreams by looking at the various symbols within them. It’s rather like the way that symbols are interpreted in classical paintings so that an expert can look at the way a hand is placed and deduce from that what the painter is trying to tell you.
Personally, I take a different view. Universally we accept that the white dove is a symbol of peace and so if it appears in our dreams we can interpret it in that way. However, it may mean something very different to you and the view I take of dream interpretation is one I was given by a psychologist that I respected who showed me how to look at dreams in a completely different way. Her name is Joy Bruce and when I would talk to her about dreams I had had and give her my interpretation because basically that is the only one in her view and certainly in mine, that has real relevance she would show me another way to look at it.
It’s something I would like to offer you in first of all stressing that your dream is exactly that — yours — and the only one truly knows how to interpret it is you. Sometimes an external person can offer you a view which may help trigger an insight for you, but it is your dream that has come from your experience, your fears, your hopes and that has always got to be the first level at which you look at it.
Secondly, when people, or animals, appear in your dream they represent some aspect of you. This for me certainly was the hardest thing to accept, particularly if someone in my dream was behaving badly, inappropriately, or in a way I could never imagine myself behaving. It is another truth of personal development that whatever you find most irritating or provoking in someone else has to be related back to where in yourself you can see either that attitude or behaviour. This is not always a comfortable process, as we usually have difficulty in accepting for instance that the pompous irritating bore we were stuck with at the party could have anything to do with us. However, it is certainly an invitation to look at where in a conversation you do not keep the balance between listening and speaking!
If you are interested in interpreting your dreams, my suggestion is that you do keep a dream log or journal– the recording technology for brainwaves not yet being available in a bedroom near you — and write down the salient points from your dream in a notebook as soon as you wake up or record onto a handheld device next to your bed. Many mobile phones now have this option, although it comes with video usually so you might want to just listen and avert your eyes from the tangle headed monster on the screen – sorry, that’s probably just me. Keep looking/listening at what you have remembered and spend time reflecting on it, and see where it might have something to offer you.
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