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A Dreamer’s Manifesto

The Contemporary Theory of Dreaming is derived from years of research and clinical experience. Here are its seven key postulates:

  • Dreaming is a form of mental functioning. Mental functioning can be seen as a continuum that runs from focused waking thought, through unfocused waking thought, to daydreaming, to dreaming.
  • Material in the mind is brought together and connected more readily in dreaming than in focused waking thought.
  • The mental connections made in dreaming bypass regions of memory needed for logical “A leads to B leads to C” thinking and for complex tasks such as reading, calculating, and typing that we’ve learned, through endless repetition, to perform almost automatically.
  • The mental connections made in dreaming are guided by the dreamer’s emotions. The dream—especially the dream’s central image—“pictures” the dominant emotion, and the intensity of that image corresponds to the strength of the emotion.
  • The mental connections made in dreaming help us adapt to the conditions under which we must live. In particular, they help us integrate emotionally powerful new experiences into existing memory systems, so that if we encounter these experiences again, they will be less disturbing.
  • The adaptive function of dreaming occurs whether or not a dream is remembered. But if we do remember our dreams, they can be extremely useful in making life decisions, producing works of science and art, and furthering our self-knowledge.
  • The entire continuum that runs from focused waking thought to dreaming also has an adaptive function. It is obviously useful for us to think in a clear, logical fashion at certain times, but at other times, it may be more useful to associate broadly and loosely.
— E.H.
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