In this episode we will have a discussion on the purpose of dreams. We will cover:
- What is the dream state?
- What can the dream state teach us about reality?
- How can dreams help us connect to our soul?
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Welcome to Creative Mind Soul Sessions with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado, founders of Creative Mind. Explore personal growth with us through Jungian psychology, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience in a deep but practical way. Let’s begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:22
Alright, everyone, welcome to our soul session!
Robert Maldonado 00:25
That’s right. Today we’re talking about dreams.
Debra Maldonado 00:27
Today we’re talking about dreams and why we dream and why we need to work with them because they’re pretty amazing.
Robert Maldonado 00:39
It’s definitely within our wheelhouse since we practice Jungian coaching. Jung saw dreams is really giving us a window into the soul.
Debra Maldonado 00:52
So we’re going to talk about, really, why we dream and why it’s so important for us to work with them. And how if you’re not paying attention to your dreams, how you’re missing out on a huge part of your life, especially your spiritual life. So, let’s just start off. Rob, I have a question for you. You studied neuroscience, you know the brain. You’re the Brainiac here. What happens in the brain? Like what really happens biologically when we’re dreaming? A lot of people say that the brain is rearranging something of what happens through the day. What do you think? What would you say happens?
Robert Maldonado 01:33
Yeah, just at the biological level, we know dreams are important. They carry out a lot of house maintenance kind of issues. They clean up the brain, essentially. They store memories that we accumulated during the day, and they kind of put things in their place so that you can recall them later. Anything we learned during the day, for example, if you’re a student and you’re studying, it’s been well documented, if you get a good night’s sleep before the exam, you’ll be able to remember and recall that information a lot better. And if you don’t dream, the dream seems to be kind of about keeping the brain healthy, and kind of getting the trash out of the house.
Debra Maldonado 02:36
So, I know that some people say they don’t dream. We’ve talked to people about that. And so, just because we’re talking about the biology, what I noticed is that my clients, when they would be on certain medications, or they use sleep like Ambien or sleep medications, they would not dream or they’d not remember their dreams as much as some when they were off of it. And I don’t know what’s happening there. And then also, crazily enough, when I worked as a hypnotherapist, I helped a lot of people quit smoking. So, they were on that drug that they give you to quit smoking and I can’t remember the name of it right now. But they said their dreams were out of control like scary, scary, scary dreams. So, I don’t know what that does to the brain, but it opened up maybe the deepest fears they had or something and they were just like I’ve had, I had to stop taking that. So, those medications really do affect your brain and then that affects your ability to process the dream.
Robert Maldonado 03:35
Yeah, anytime you mess with your neurotransmitters through psychotropic medications or recreational drugs, or anything like that, it’s going to change your dreams because the brain is really even more active during REM sleep, which is dreaming, than during your waking life. It’s kind of like in our waking life were a lot of the activities we’re doing, we’re kind of going through them automatically. So, we don’t have to really process them a lot. You know, they’re repetitive events or things that we’ve done before. Whereas in dreams, the brain is experiencing something new. It’s creating its own internal environment, like a 3D simulation. And it’s putting you in the middle of the action most fo the time.
Debra Maldonado 04:30
And that’s the important thing. One thing you taught me that was fascinating… Because we always have these dreams where we’re running, but why doesn’t our body move even though the brain is actually acting as if you are actually doing the activity, but the motors… There’s something that turns off in the brain, that turns off the motor reflexes in the physical body. So, you can be… Your brain can be thinking or running and using the brain power of that simulated reality but the physical body is shut down or in like a paralysis.
Robert Maldonado 05:06
Yeah, it’s in a paralyzed state so you don’t act out the dream. There are some disorders though, that people have where that mechanism doesn’t work. And they end up like wrecking their bedroom. And you know, throwing the furniture around.
Debra Maldonado 05:24
I had a friend of mine who is… She had a client once who would wake up in the middle of night sleepwalking, and she would make a whole meal while she was sleeping. And then she wouldn’t even remember the next day. She would go into the kitchen and be like, what the hell? She started gaining weight because she was eating in the middle of the night and making a full meal and she didn’t remember. So yeah, those are rare cases, though. Those aren’t normal. Now, let’s go to the more interesting part. I mean, science is interesting, the brain, but what about psychologically, like what is happening? And so I know Freud and Jung had a very, you know, kind of… they both kind of came together through dreams. But a lot of people think when they have a dream about someone dying or something they’re worried about, it happens. Like boyfriend leaves or financial ruin or whatever. And they think that that’s a premonition or they take the dream literally, it’s a sign or something. And they don’t really understand what’s really going on in the brain. And then another thing that Freud said is, he thinks it’s just the brain working out its suppressed desires or the part of the psyche. And that’s all that’s happening.
Robert Maldonado 06:34
Yeah, in Freud and Jung you kind of see the two branches that kind of blossom from them, from those two ideas, or the two thinkers, into the different schools of dream interpretation and the meaning of dreams. So, from Freud, he was a neurologist initially and trained as a neurologist. And his prediction was that psychology would evolve to really understand the brain as a neurological mechanism and kind of play streams within that context. And sure enough, you have schools nowadays that they see dreams very much like we were talking about biology, that they’re functioning mainly as biological mechanisms to keep the brain healthy. Nothing wrong with that, of course, that is going on. But with Jung we see the branching off into comparative religion, into what do these symbols that appear in the dreams mean, and ultimately, into understanding a little bit of the collective unconscious as it relates to. Dreams have this kind of prophetic quality that some of the people that study religions and spiritual traditions around the world, they see that dreams played a big role in the development of those religions and the spiritual traditions because people were receiving dreams from what they considered their divine spheres of existence…
Debra Maldonado 08:22
Or their ancestors were coming to them in dreams…
Robert Maldonado 08:24
The gods, the ancestors…
Debra Maldonado 08:27
Even the… they talk about animal… The animal totems would come to the dream. Like, an Eagle appeared in my dream and the eagle told me blah, blah, blah, wherever you find a lake and that means/symbolizes this. So, Jung saw that it’s more than just our personal life that we’re working through in dreams. That there’s actually a collective, which we’re going to talk about next week on our soul sessions on the collective unconscious. So, psychologically the… We have these two camps. We’re in the Jung camp. So the Jung camp there’s so much more going on than just our personal life. But from a personal level, let’s start with there. Jung did… He didn’t discount that part.
Robert Maldonado 09:19
Not at all.
Debra Maldonado 09:20
What psychologically… What’s the benefit of someone understanding or paying attention to their dreams, understanding their interpretation?
Robert Maldonado 09:28
Yeah. So, on the individual level, beyond all the spiritual traditions and the religious mythologies… On the individual level, from the Jungian perspective, the dream is taking you through a process of growth and personal development. And he says, if you don’t pay attention to that, your psyche is dragging you along and creating these external events to try to wake you up to that process like what should you be doing psychologically, emotionally at this level in your life or at this stage in your life.
Debra Maldonado 10:09
It’s like almost like pay attention. Pay attention! There’s something that you’re missing here.
Robert Maldonado 10:14
That’s right. And so, if you do pay attention, you have an ally there. You have part of your psyche that he called the unconscious mind or the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. They’re guiding you, it’s guiding you in that developmental growth throughout your life.
Debra Maldonado 10:37
So, again, to go back between Ford and Jung. Freud thought of it as like a computer that’s just spitting out repressed stuff, where Jung sees it, and how we see the unconscious, as alive. It’s not like something to be reprogrammed. It’s actually speaking to us even on a personal level. There’s the personal and the collective. It’s an alive… It’s an energy, psychic energy that’s a part of us. That’s just like our body has all these energies that’s running everything. Psychologically, we have this other machine that’s like more energetic. I don’t know how else to frame it. But it’s a psychic energy that is giving us… It’s creative and it’s giving us help. And for me, I always felt that when I started really working with dreams since I met you, because I had always dreams, I just didn’t know what to do with them. I find that there’s this deep, direct experience I have of that there’s some other part of me that’s bigger than me that’s watching out for me.
Robert Maldonado 11:41
Absolutely. You know, if you look at any culture, any tradition, they have a rich culture of dreams. At least somebody in the tribe understood dreams and was able to interpret them or to give people at least some guidance into what those messages meant. In some periods of time where people were, let’s say a little bit more open about the unconscious mind. They might have called it something different, of course. They called it the gods or the realm of the gods or the magic. But they were in tune to what the dreams were talking about. And they use them very proficiently to live a more balanced life. Because ultimately, that’s what Jung says, is that what happens to us at the conscious level needs to be balanced out by what’s going on in the unconscious. The unconscious serves as a balancing, the counterpoint of balance, to help us live a more complete life.
Debra Maldonado 12:53
So, an example of that would be if you are on a conscious level, trying to hold it all together, and you’re at work and you’re just trying… or even a mother or a parent and you’re trying to keep the chaos from ensuing, not allowing yourself to feel certain things, anger or frustration and you’re just pushing it aside on a conscious level, you would tend to have dreams where you’re running or angry or something that’s counter to your own personality, to balance out basically the shadow that you’re pushing away. And so, it’s a way for that part of your shadow basically, that you’re not aware of, to integrate. And it’s like an invitation. And so, you have the conscious and unconscious, and then the dream is a way for you to merge the two. It’s like a meeting place between. It’s like you’re half awake and half asleep in that. And if you look at the brain and how it processes when you’re in REM, that REM state, you are in that kind of almost awake, but you’re not. And that’s really you’re getting that glimpse of that. And when I was a hypnotherapist, that’s kind of what we did. We put people in an active state of visualization where the merging, you start to see bleeding, the conscious and unconscious. But I think in dreams, it’s deeper because it’s like a part of your mind is shut off, that logical mind. So, you can really start to explore a deeper part of… It’s unchained in a way. It’s unregulated by that executive functioning of that logical brain and you’re able to explore in a way, because it has to be partly conscious because we remember them when we wake up. So, there has to be a conscious element interacting with the dream.
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Robert Maldonado 15:22
It is very much, let’s say the individuation process or the process of growing beyond your, let’s say the socialization part… We all get socialized by our culture. But beyond that, right, there has to be a creative element in the individual that allows you to become an individual, apart from the group. So Jung says the herd mentality is like the group. if you live only at that level, you’re missing out on The rest of it, the deeper part of it. And that deeper part comes from being in touch with that individual connection that you have to your unconscious mind. Because that gives you clues as to what is your purpose here on Earth, what are you doing here in your individual life right now, instead of just going by what the society tells you – here’s your role and here’s your job and just do it. The individual connection with dreams, or through dreams, gives you that deeper message of you’re here to do something special and here’s what you’re meant to be doing.
Debra Maldonado 16:42
So, Jung’s quote, “He who looks outside, dreams. And he who looks inside, awakens.” And so, the dream is the doorway to your own awakening. And so we need to figure out how to do that. Now, the last question of this podcast is really we talked about the biological, the neurological brain processing of dreams. We talked about the psychological part. But there is really… I mean, we’re kind of touching on this because the psychological and spiritual blend together if you’re Jungian. It’s a spiritual psychology. So, from a spiritual’s perspective, why do we dream? What do you think the wise, universal power, whatever we want to call it, the self created this mechanism for dreaming? What do you think the purpose of it is?
Robert Maldonado 17:39
Yeah, it’s a good question. We know, for example, that we need to dream. First of all, we need to sleep. And almost every animal on the planet sleeps in one form or another. And so, it’s deeply ingrained in the creation. It’s not only human beings, it’s part of the whole system. We need to go into that inner space. And we do it every night, every 24 hours. We spent a pretty good chunk of time, seven or eight hours sleeping. And then within that then we experienced these things called dreams. At the spiritual level, we know that the shamanistic traditions, the spirit guides, the connection with medicinal plants and power plants, hallucinogenic plants, came through dreams. From the ordinary point of view, you would think well, people learn to use medicinal plants simply by trial and error. But that’s not actually how it happens. People that have studied Traditional tribes, what they say is that no, the plant came to me in a dream and it told me try me this way or prepare me this way. And I will guide you in, in that that spiritual process. So, it’s a different very different way of seeing history, that it’s not just this trial and error that we’re going through but there’s a living psyche going on…
Debra Maldonado 19:29
Beyond personal, individual human experience. So, even Paul McCartney, he… That song Let It Be, it says, “Mother Mary came to me speaking words of wisdom.” He had a dream about his mother who’s named Mary. And she told him to let it be because he was struggling with the Beatles breaking up. And so, songs come through dreams. I think there’s a lot of artists that say they had a dream about a painting and then they painted it. And so, I mean, this is why we call ourselves The Creative Mind, because it is this. It’s easy to just replicate and repeat and learn basically how to function in the world. But there’s this other element of the human spirit that’s unlimited, that brings new ideas, that inspiration. This is how we move humanity forward. So, the dream world can actually give us that wisdom to change the world. And maybe it’s a solution to bring world peace, or in your life, that you haven’t thought of before that no one else on the planet can tell you how to do something, but then the dream, it’s like your inner wisdom speaking to you.
Robert Maldonado 20:41
Yeah. So essentially, we would have to rewrite history to see it from this other perspective, that it’s not only people making conscious decisions about what they’re going to do in their life. If you see the important role that dreams played throughout history, you see that dreams intervened in wars -w hat kings and generals were going to do in battles. It intervened in religious ideas. St. Paul was persecuting Christians. He had a vision which is essentially like a waking dream that woke him up to something different.
Debra Maldonado 21:28
And isn’t Joseph the Technicolor dream coat?
Robert Maldonado 21:33
Yeah, he was a dream interpreter that changed history, the Egyptian history through his dream interpretations. But at the individual level, a big dream can change our life. It can give us some insight that we had never thought of before consciously. And it comes through that dream in the night.
Debra Maldonado 21:58
I think, for me… I think the number one thing that gives for me spiritually is the direct experience of my own divine nature. A direct experience. So, for me, when I have these… when I’m struggling with something or I want/need to know which way to go and the certain thing like I’m battling with should I do this or that, I would have a dream. And it would almost tell me… You see, I tell you my dreams all the time. You’re like, they’re so obvious! Like what is in the way of me getting what I want, even simple things with our business or our life. I’ve even had dreams about, before I met you, they gave me clues as to what I needed to do. And I think you had a dream, too. I came to you in a dream. But for me, it’s understanding that there’s something alive in me that is not just me. And so, it’s this other me, this other wise entity or wisdom that’s in me that I’m connected to. And just having that experience and understanding dreams helps me feel more solid instead. Even though the world is changing, it’s like you can read spiritual knowledge, you can intellectually understand how the mind works and consciousness and understand them all intellectually. But the dream understanding it gives you that direct experience. Because when you’re in the dream, it’s like, oh! Especially when you start lucid dreaming, you’re really seeing this, wow, what am I? What is life about? What is my perception? You start to really get a deeper sense of the power that you have. So that, for me, is the dream benefit itself. Not just helping me make decisions, but just having that direct experience of who I am beyond the personal.
Robert Maldonado 23:55
Absolutely. It works at all levels. It works on the everyday level of solving problems at work, giving you insight about relationships, as well as the deeper elements of what are the spiritual questions? What is the meaning of your life? What is your purpose and all that. Dreams can address those things because what they do is they match your conscious mind, what are you up to in the waking world.
Debra Maldonado 24:28
I feel like someone’s like, I have a secret like spy listening to everything I say and everything I think. And then it’s in the dream. It’s like throwing it back at me. It’s like my secret ally in a way. That’s sort of like the witness mind that’s always paying attention. And you don’t feel alone. You don’t feel like you’re this little tiny… the Lego floating around in the world and trying to find security. You feel like you’re coming connected to something so much bigger.
Robert Maldonado 25:02
Well, we know from the yoga traditions, of Vedic traditions, that dreams were seen as an important element to understand consciousness. If you understand the nature of dreams, you’re that much closer to understanding the fundamental nature of consciousness. What is your awareness? How does it arise in your mind? And how does your mind work from that? And dreams give you great insight into that because, in essence, what it’s saying is that this reality, this external waking reality, is very much dreamlike where our mind is giving order to it and creating it in its meaningful ways. It’s finding the patterns. It’s looking at what do I pay attention to and why do I pay attention to that? And it creates for us this coherent sense of reality in ourselves. And in the dream, we see, we get a glimpse of the backstage, what’s going on underneath that in the unconscious mind.
Debra Maldonado 26:14
So, when we think about… Some people will say, well, how do I increase my dream recall? One thing I would do is keep a pen and paper by your bed. And every night before you go to sleep, set the intention that you’re going to remember your dreams. Very simple. I’m going to remember my dream. Or ask your dream a question. I would like to know what I would need to know. And then the next morning, if you don’t get an answer, you just write down, I had a good night’s sleep or I’m a little tired today or just write something down. And it starts that loop of you inviting the dream and then you’re saying, I’m paying attention. And it seems odd but something happens and the mind starts to start producing dreams. Then usually, it just takes a few days of doing this and you’ll start to remember. It’s important to get a full night’s sleep. Don’t stay up too late if you go to bed early. I always find too, that if you set your alarm an hour before you’re supposed to wake up, wake up and then go back to sleep, you’ll remember that dream, that last… If you can do that… Some people can’t fall asleep. They’re like, Oh, I can’t fall back asleep after that. But you could try that. And for me, the best dream time is right before I wake up because I remember it right away. So that would be a trick. And then afterwards, you don’t really need… it’s great to have a dream. You don’t want to use a dream interpretation dictionary, right? You can look at the symbols.
Robert Maldonado 27:43
I have yet to find a good one so maybe we can write one.
Debra Maldonado 27:47
That’s true. You could look up what symbols mean. But really, truly, it’s a very individualized experience of what that symbol means to you depending on where you’re at, and what the context of the dream is. So, it’s really complex. So, if you don’t have a coach, or Jungian coach, to help you with interpreting your dreams, you can just simply do this: read your dream out loud. As you write it down, read it out loud. And just by you reading it out loud, you’re bringing the dream into the waking life. Something happens psychically Jung recommended this. If you just do that, you will start to see a shift. And as far as dream interpretation, one of the things is don’t take it literally. Don’t take your dreams literally. Every once in a while, depending on how your intuitive skills are, you may have pre-cognitive dreams. But not all dreams are pre-cognitive. And so, I think a lot of people say oh, this happened, my parent got in an accident. I’m really worried now about my parent getting in an accident. It’s like, no, it’s something about the father archetype, and the accident could be a collision of two ideas. It’s not as literal as we think it is.
Robert Maldonado 29:04
Yeah, that’s always the temptation, to just interpret the dream literally. But that’s the wrong approach. It is symbolic language that the unconscious speaks. I see it as like the original language that we developed all our languages from that original language of symbolism.
Debra Maldonado 29:29
And so, definitely try that. Another thing that dreams can do is it gives you guidance. It tells you where you are in your own individuation process, basically, where you’re holding yourself back. And I know a lot of people think, well, if there’s something external that’s stopping me from getting what I want, but it’s all psychological. It’s all something in you that’s… It’s basically we’re conditioned to create the same pattern we’ve always have, that the ego set up. It’s molded us. And to break that, we have to figure out why that pattern’s in place and step outside of that pattern, that identity, in order to have the things that we never had before. We have to become someone new. And so, the dream gives us clues as to what aspects of our personality and psyche are inhibiting that process. So, maybe we’re not expressing ourselves, maybe we feel trapped. Maybe there’s a path and we keep getting lost. A very common dream is I keep looking for something but I never find it. And it’s a sign that you are asking the question, but you’re not connecting. So how do we… Your psyche’s hungry for knowledge or hungry for change. Okay! Well thank you, everyone, for joining us. It’s been a great talk. I love talking about dreams. And we’ll see you next week. We’re going to talk about the collective unconscious – what is it, why do we need it, and how do you get there.
Robert Maldonado 31:08
How do you get there. How do you find a good sandwich in the collective unconscious? See you next time!
Debra Maldonado 31:13
Thank you very much!
Robert Maldonado 31:14
Debra Maldonado 31:15
Thank you for joining us. And don’t forget to subscribe to Creative Mind Soul Sessions. And join us next week as we explore another deep topic where you can consciously create your life with Creative Mind Soul Session. See you next time.