Inside our dreams: Why do we dream? What do they mean?
Dreams offer great insights into our emotional lives and those of our children. Dream expert Delwyn Armstrong explains why they should be encouraged. Sleep becomes a subject of great interest once you become a parent. We all know how important sleep is to the health of your own body and that of your children. What is not so widely recognised is the great importance of what happens while we are slumbering. Babies dream, children dream, adults dream - especially when life is about to take a major readjustment, like the birth of a baby.
Dreams are the keepers of our inner world and remarkably important to good mental wellbeing. Dreams tell what they know, there seems to be no way to stop them talking, they let us see behind the curtain, into the inner world of our unconscious.
When you're pregnant it's not uncommon to have some vivid and even bizarre dreams. I sent a message to my Facebook friends while writing this article to get some feedback on the dreams they experienced while pregnant. One girlfriend responded, "You mean nightmares!" Raina M. Paris, author of The Mother-to-Be's Dream Book, writes: "Pregnancy dreams are nature's way of assisting the woman through the process of transformation from woman to mother."
Some of what you dream while pregnant can be the result of excitement, natural anxiety, hormones, or your world changing.
The emotion in the dream can be very obvious. For example you may experience a very common recurring dream that you are in a public place naked. The dream is revealing to you that you feel vulnerable and not prepared enough or equipped. You need to tell yourself that you are prepared or take the necessary steps to make yourself feel ready.
Another common dream can be your teeth falling out. The message may be that you require more understanding of what you are going through. Or it may mean that the process is moving too fast for you and you just require more time to chew things over.
It's common for pregnant women to dream about being chased, which although frightening and exhausting, can strangely enough be positive about your destiny chasing you.
Jim Driscoll wrote in his book, Dreams, on how often pregnant woman have "falling dreams". Falling dreams are not informing you that you are about to get clumsy as you increase in size! It's more likely a reflection of the way you might be feeling - that things are getting out of control. Obviously this emotion will make you feel insecure, just remember it is a new season in your life and the end result will be good.
One expectant mum posted her dream on a dream website. She dreamed she was pregnant a few weeks before she found out that she actually was. It was extremely vivid and she even felt nauseous. Back in real life she told her husband about the dream. "He decided that I should take a test. I didn't know what test he was going to buy but the exact test he picked up in real life was the exact one I used in my dream!"
So here we have an example of the unconscious speaking through a dream telling her what she didn't know yet. This does happen in dreams and is one of the functions of dreams.
By the third trimester you can be dreaming of not making it to hospital in time for the delivery, giving birth in the strangest of places or even about giving birth to an alien.
Just remind yourself that dreaming in this way is very normal. Whether you are a first-time mum-to-be or on to your sixth pregnancy giving birth is mentally daunting.
Women may wonder why during pregnancy they appear to be dreaming so much more. Everyone dreams every night but it is thought that the increase of hormones during pregnancy causes pregnant women to have longer periods of REM sleep and it is during REM sleep that we dream.
Remembering the dreams can be tricky, but you may find that it's easier to do so while you're pregnant - one of the few benefits of interrupted sleep during pregnancy! I encourage you to keep a dream journal and write your dreams down while they are still fresh in your mind. Later on, you can look back over your journal and gain some insight that you may have dismissed.
When I was pregnant, I remember once waking up, thinking, "Wow, that would make a brilliant movie." The dream was so different from my normal dreams and such a great story. It had all the elements of an action movie, chasing, shooting, with high adventure - all the things that boys enjoy in a good story. Perhaps this was a time in my pregnancy when the testosterone levels were elevated, and maybe this could have been an indicator of carrying a boy, or even an indication of the future character of our now adventurous son.
Dreams have layers to them and symbols in our dreams are personalised for the dreamer. For me, the interpretation I put on that dream is that having sons (we have four) was going to add to my life adventure, challenges and crazy good fun.
Some dreams during pregnancy may help you prepare in unexpected ways. One night a pregnant friend dreamt about having a baby with the name of Honour. This was not a name the expectant parents had ever contemplated and they did not know the gender of the baby, yet the name really gelled with them. When their little girl arrived they named her Honour.
I recommend that 30 minutes before you go to bed you relax completely and unwind. Listen to calm music and allow yourself the time to rest. This can be very helpful for not only having a peaceful sleep but to enhance your dream life which can be a powerful tool.
Dreams help us prepare for birth by revealing to us what is going on at the deepest levels of our consciousness. Your dream life can help you through the transition to parenthood. Not only do dreams help us face our fears, they can show us that we have the strength we need and are fully equipped for the parent role, so don't shy away from your dreams.
About 80% of the time babies are sleeping they are dreaming, and scientists believe babies' dreams are full of feelings, colour and sound, but no pictures. It is hard to know at what age children start to dream in pictures.
Dreams give us access to the dark recesses of our children's unconscious world and give us important and obvious clues to how they are progressing and what things in their world are troubling them. If you take the time to find out what they are dreaming, you will be amazed at what they can tell you.
If your child dreams that she is holding and cuddling then you know you have a nurturer. If she dreams she is being chased then you may have a strong-willed individual who has a wonderful destiny ahead and the capacity to overcome great obstacles. If you have a child who has complicated dreams with lots of detail you might have a story-teller who has potential in years to come to be an author or film-maker. These are just a few of the dreams children have that give us clues to "the way they should go".
One of my sons is very visual and goes into a lot of detail when he describes something of interest to him. He once dreamt that aliens were standing in random spots and he was shooting at them and they would disappear. One alien he approached ran off. He was trying to catch it but it ran too fast. It ran to the shower, and when the shower curtain was pulled back it revealed a very large alien. He started shooting it and it got smaller and smaller to the point where it shrivelled up and died. Then our son's dream changed to one where he was flying above buildings and having a great time. This dream revealed to us that our son has the ability to overcome and rise above difficult situations.
Sometimes dreams that trouble your children are not necessarily indicators of problems. I mentioned earlier that a chasing dream, which can be quite scary, can indicate a strong character, or powerful destiny that is pursuing the dreamer. It is often necessary to encourage the dreamer to turn and face whatever it is that is chasing her. In doing this she will learn that the thing that chases is not as scary as it seems once it is confronted. The lessons learned in a dream can later be applied to life.
So take the time to listen to your children no matter how young they are. Learn about them through their night journeys. You will gain insights that otherwise can be missed. Getting on the right path early in life is a rare thing but always leads to greatness. Dreams are the missed clues of most people's experience.
Delwyn and her husband Glenn are proud parents of four boys and dream experts working in the corporate world encouraging creativity and morale among staff. People say they are a couple of dreamers and they wholeheartedly agree. Go to www.oraclesinc.co.nz for more.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 19 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW