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Dreams, Lucid Dreaming and Out of Body Experiences

By Rhys Chisnall

We all dream, every night, although we may not always remember them. Dreams occur in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) state of consciousness that occurs in sleep. This is when the brain activity is high and resembles being awake. Apparently dreams can also occur in other stages of sleep but these dreams tend to be less vivid and so less likely to be remembered. Dreams, when they occur, can last between a few seconds and 20 minutes or so and the average person has between 3 to 5 dreams a night, although some people have up to 7. This works out that in 8 hours of sleep, 2 hours are spent dreaming. Most dreams are the sorting out of information from the day’s events. According to a recent article in the New Scientists, sleeping is essential for laying down long-term episodic memories in the hippocampus. Crick and Mitchison argue that dreams work as a defragging system of the brain, as a way of ‘unlearning’ useless information while a study in 2001 argued that dreams strengthen semantic memory, i.e. memories about facts.

So why are Witches concerned with dreams? At another level of analysis, the famous Austrian Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud argued that dreams were the ‘royal road to the unconscious’. Dreams, in his view, give us an insight into our psyche, our inner world through which we make meaning and experience the outer one. Therefore dreams help us to understand ourselves and how we interact with the rest of the world. For Freud, dreams represent unconscious desires and anxieties (usually sexually based) . For example, he tells the story of a patient who dreamt that she throttled a little white-haired dog. Obviously this was a traumatic dream for the dreamer, but Freud interpreted it that he patient wanted to throttle a white-haired relative who was a constant source of annoyance.

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