Why Do We Dream?

Robert A. Berezin, MD


May 18, 2018

Eddie's Dream

The following passage is from the Dr Berezin's book Psychotherapy of Character: The Play of Consciousness in the Theater of the Brain.[1]

It was gloomy and cloudy. The forest was filled with darkness. A grotesque ogre was chasing me through a primordial forest. I was running down a dirt path surrounded by gnarled trees and overhanging vines. The misshapen giant took one step to my three. Fortunately, I was faster and more cunning. It was certain if he caught me, I'd be torn apart.

The chase went on and on and on. There were several close calls and narrow escapes. I sped up to put some distance between us and got out of sight. I spied a tree with an enormous branch overhanging the path and climbed up. I positioned myself on the branch and prepared to pounce on the ogre when he came running by. I had with me a broomstick to be used as a spear. Soon enough, he lumbered up the path after me. Holding on to the branch, I swung down, kicked him with all my might, and knocked him over. I stood over him and clasped my hands together on the broomstick. I raised it above my head and plunged it through his chest into the earth.

At that point I awakened, my heart pounding out of my chest. I was sitting up in bed with my hands outstretched in front of me in the spearing position. The muscles of my hands and arms were taut and tense from the violence.

I felt a surge of triumph, having killed him in hand-to-hand combat. I was so relieved to be safe from the monster. Despite the fact I sort of knew it was a dream, I was sure I had actually done it. In the next moment, I thought, Oh my God, I've just killed someone. What kind of person am I? What's going to happen to me? Will I go to prison?

In a while, the lingering reality of the dream dissipated. It became more fully clear that it was "just a dream." I noticed that the anxiety I had felt before I went to sleep had disappeared. And I felt enormous relief to just feel good again.

Eddie, the dreamer, was a quiet, studious, even-tempered senior in college. That afternoon he had an argument with his professor. Although the professor was in error, Eddie was forced to submit to his authority. For the rest of the evening he was subject to a nameless anxiety that he felt gnawing away in his chest. He had a hard time falling asleep that night.

How is it that Eddie went to bed that night and was awakened 8 hours later by killing a monster in a dream? How did this alive drama get created? Where did this cast of characters, the landscape, set design, costumes, props, relationship, and plot come from?

Magical Thinking  About a Biological Process

Dreams have fascinated people from the beginning of time. People believe that dreams foretell the future; that they have psychological meanings, allow us to commune with sprits and the dead, or visit with ancestors ; and that they are filled with omens, prophesies, and auguries. They are steeped in mystery, as if written in a secret code decipherable to a special few.

In fact, dreams are not about any of the above. Their function is a biological application to clean out the residues of yesterday's play of consciousness in order for the brain to prepare and be at its best for the upcoming day.

Its work takes place during REM sleep. All of its operations utilize the imagination in the theater of consciousness, which is organized as a living drama in the brain. It is an entire representational world that consists of a cast of characters who relate together by feeling, as well as scenarios, plots, set designs, and landscape.

The reason why dreams have meaning to us is because they are written from our plays of consciousness. The plays define our character. And, as we shall see, there is much we can learn from them.


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