Dreaming of the dead

The New York Times has an eye-opening article on research that has looked at how contents of dreams can be linked to emotional concerns – particularly when they relate to lost loved ones or turbulent life events.

‘Dream interpretation’ has got a bad name, partly due to the proliferation of books that claim to ‘decode’ dreams on a seemingly random basis (e.g. lemon = unrequited love), and partly because of its importance in the history of Freudian psychotherapy, which is now deeply unfashionable in some quarters.

Unfortunately, this has meant that research on the content of dreams has also fallen out of favour, despite the fact that it remains an interesting scientific topic and is still of clinical concern.

Modern psychotherapists will occasionally get into discussions about dreams, but, these days, will tend to avoid a strictly Freudian approach of trying to ‘interpret’ them.

Instead, they might use them as a point of discussion to make sense of real life concerns.

For example, if you’ve been particularly disturbed by a dream about work, it might be an opportunity to reflect on how you’ve been dealing with work-related stress, particularly if your reaction to the dream was quite a surprise in itself.

The NYT article looks research on the content of dreams, particularly ‘big dreams': those of a more profound nature, often concerning deaths or other significant losses.

“Back to life” or “visitation” dreams, as they are known among dream specialists and psychologists, are vivid and memorable dreams of the dead. They are a particularly potent form of what Carl Jung called “big dreams,” the emotionally vibrant ones we remember for the rest of our lives.

Big dreams are once again on the minds of psychologists as part of a larger trend toward studying dreams as meaningful representations of our concerns and emotions. “Big dreams are transformative,” Roger Knudson, director of the Ph.D. program in clinical psychology at Miami University of Ohio, said in a telephone interview. The dreaming imagination does not just harvest images from remembered experience, he said. It has a “poetic creativity” that connects the dots and “deforms the given,” turning scattered memories and emotions into vivid, experiential vignettes that can help us to reflect on our lives.

Link to article ‘Winding Through ‚ÄòBig Dreams‚Äô Are the Threads of Our Lives’.

5 Comments

  1. M00nray
    Posted August 11, 2008 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Since I was a little girl I dream with people who I or my family knew but after those dreams I would find out that was a way for them to let me know they were dead.
    I always kept it a secret but now I am 45 years old and I am not afraid of my dreams anymore. (I never understood why) but now I realize I have some kind of way to know.
    Am I just crazy or can it be true?

  2. Posted August 11, 2008 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Since I was a little girl I dream with people who I or my family knew but after those dreams I would find out that was a way for them to let me know they were dead.
    I always kept it a secret but now I am 45 years old and I am not afraid of my dreams anymore. (I never understood why) but now I realize I have some kind of way to know.
    Am I just crazy or can it be true?

  3. moila mercy
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    i’v bin dreaming about dead people or dreaming about 1 of my family been dead now am dreaming about my late couzin wanting to come bake with me. he ask me to go with him to home.since he died i never dream about him asking me to take him home. can you help me please

  4. alicia
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    hello, so yeah…. i started googling this topic because for many years now ive been dreaming of the deceased. but heres the catch…. i dream of my dead family members talking to me AND those of my friends as well but some i never met them befor to even have them in my subcontious. so, if dreaming of the deceased means something else then why or how could i be dreaming of a dead person i dont even know? i only find out who thier family is when they tell me thier name in the dream and i can describ what they look like. I talk openly about my dreams to others and it has helped because i eventualy find out who that dead person was in my dream. how ever, some messages are clear, but most are not. most of the time i dont remember what we talked about, it is frustrating and at this point i would like to know if there is a pill u can take so u dont dream. im not understanding the point of all this! im a pisces and im sure because im sooo sensative that this is one reason im able to expierence this. im going to look in to hypnosis to be put asleep, maybe then i might be able to remember what was said in some of thses important spiritual dreams….

  5. MELISSA
    Posted April 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    since my grandfather died this is the first time i have dreamed about him. he has been dead about 10 yrs. he came to me in my dream and told me my mother was going to tak a trip and i said where to Memphis……….then i woke up


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