Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 4, 1976 · Page 55
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 55

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 4, 1976
Page 55
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Plugging into Another World Although we spend one-third of our lives asleep, alt oj those nighn are not spent in idle slumber. To find out what goes on when we sleep, science writer William Cromie went to the University of Illinois Sleep Laboratory in Chicago to have his dreams monitored. In the first of two articles, Cromie reports on his experiences with the dream machine and what it can tell us about the elusive world of our unconscious. By William J. Cromie Copyright 1976 Field Enterprises, Inc. I was alw. ys getting lost and missing train.-. Night after night I couldn't find the train, or I knew where it was but couldn't get there. On some nights I'd make it, only to, discover that ii was the wrong train. . This happened in my dreams, but I felt it was connected in some way to my waking life. That's why I welcomed an opportunity to spend two nights dreaming under the security of researchers at the University of Illinois Sleep Laboratory in Chicago. The first night, Judi Brown, a senior majoring in psychology, guided me into a small, cell-like room. After gently scratching away the top layer of skin in a small area, she glued two electrodes to the top of my head, one to my forehead, one on the side of each eye and one behind each ear. I thought of Count Dracula wiring up Frankenstein to energize him for a night of horror. Brain activity and eye movements generate minute electrical impulses that would be picked up. by the electrodes and sent to a machine that recorded what went on in my head and eyes as I slept and dreamed. Sitting in another room watching.automatic pens wiggle and twitch across a roll of paper, Judi could tell if I was relaxed or nervous, awake or asleep, dreaming or not. Research involving thousands of sleepers has revealed that the rapid eye movements, or REM, usually signal that a person is dreaming. Some people dream without REM and others have REM without dreaming, but 85 per cent of the time the two go together. These experiments, conducted over many years at dozens of labs, proved that everyone dreams every night. Every person tested experiences at least three dreams a night and spends an average of 90 minutes watching a fantasy of his or her production. Typically, three to five dreams alternate with stages of deep sleep. The first dream starts about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and lasts less than 10 minutes. Succeeding acts in the nightly drama occur about 90 minutes apart and gradually lengthen to 50-60 minutes. The curtain goes up on the present. ''Whatever feelings and concerns State Magazine. -July -I, 197(i are still active from the day's events often appear in the first dream of the sequence," explains Rosalind "TJymond Cartwright, the professor of psychology who heads the sleep lab. Later come examples from the past that trigger the same emotions. This may be followed by a projection into the future--a wish fulfillment or a fantasy solution to a problem, Before we awake, we usually come back to the present again. Such a pattern exemplifies what researchers call a continuous . dream--one in which there is overall forward motion toward a solution, Cartwright explains. A repetitive dream usually signals trouble, she says, because it often involves a problem for which the dreamer can find no solution. If the dream distresses you and you can't work it out, then you should seek professional help. Dr. Cartwright interpreted my missing train as an expression of inadequacy feelings. Although my rational mind denied this, I realized I was setting increasingly harder--and sometimes unrealistic- goals for myself to cover up the feeling. Not accomplishing what I wanted reinforced my anxiety about being inadequate. My unconscious or intuitive mind was using missed trains to warn me about the situation. Hundreds of experiments, such as the one in which I participated, and thousands of completed questionnaires have produced a general picture of what people dream about. It shows unpleasant dreams are more numerous than pleasant ones: fear, anger, and sadness appear twice as often in the nocturnal world of fantasy as joy and happiness. In about 15 out of every 100 dreams, the dreamer is the sole' character. In the other 85, he or she has the company of one or more characters. We dream about people with whom we are emotionally involved, particularly when tension or a conflict is present in the relationship. Those in their teens and early 20's dream most frequently about their mothers and fathers. In the nocturnal dramas of middle-aged people their spouses, lovers, and children play major roles. In The New World of Dreams, Herbert Greenhouse points out: "If a person wants to know who is dreaming about him, he will find the answer in his own dreams. The people in his dreams are likely to be those who are dreaming about him." About four of every 10 people in our dreams are strangers. A stran- · ger could represent a part of the personality that we repress, or a thought or aspect of ourselves of which we are not consciously aware. A man who dreams he is being cheated by a stranger may unconsciously suspect a business colleague of being dishonest. Casual acquaintances, or those we have not seen for many years, may enter our nighttime fantasies as a symbol of a person with whom we are presently involved, or because they remind us of a past conflict rising to the surface again. A long-forgotten lover may represent a present sexual tension. "Most dream imagery comes from everyday experiences," points out Dr. Cartwright. "You have to learn your own picture language to interpret them. Search for symbols in places such as your favorite television or movie characters and shows, books you liked, newspapers, songs, plays, fairy tales,.and even puns. One student who underwent psychotherapy here kept dreaming of himself as a midget. This was a dream pun referring to his seeking 'Shrinks' and being "shrunk 1 by them." Dreams should be studied in se- ries to obtain the complete message. This is best done by keeping a dream diary. Have a pencil and paper, or a tape recorder, by your bed. When you awake from a dream, remain quiet and lying ' down. Record all the details you can remember and your emotions at the time. "People are in a light stage of sleep at the end of dreams and often turn over then," she continues. "You can train yourself to wake up at this time and write down your dreams." To help you do this, dream scholars suggest saying over and over to yourself before you fall asleep : "I shall awake from my dreams tonight." If this doesn't work, set a soft alarm for 90 minutes after you normally fall asleep, and thereafter for every 90 to 120 minutes. "One simple test to discover hidden aspects of ourselves in our dreams," notes Ann Faraday, a British dream researcher, "is to ask what we dislike in other people, 1 for we are almost sure to find the same thing simmering away in ourselves." i By finding out what these aspects are, you can learn a great deal deal from your nightly journeys into fantasy. NEXT: "Things That Go Bump in the Night" CHARLESTON:

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