I discovered this remarkable resource recently: DreamBank, where you can search for what we dream about on your own. The University of California, Santa Cruz, search engine-equipped database of over 16,000 dream reports is compiled from people who call the research center and, apparently, our dreams typically feature mundane day-to-day activities.
I’ve always been intrigued by the whole concept of dreams. What do they mean? Are they real? What exactly is a dream? Do they help me? Am I crazy because I dreamed that ______________?
I took courses in college that enabled me to dive more deeply into the world of dreams and have done some reading on my own, but I haven’t cracked open a book on the topic for at least five years. I have always wondered why this ubiquitous sleep experience exists, but I think my interest in dreams is fueled by the fact that I rarely remember my dreams. I enjoy hearing the dreams of others and live vicariously through their memories of that “other” state of being. The only dream that I consistently remember is the common chase scene where I spend a seemingly endless amount of time running from a group of people. Typically all the people coming after me are part of the same group; yet, the group is never the same. I’ve been pursued by Italian mobsters, urban gangsters, the KKK, Simpsons characters, the CIA, the FBI, the PTA, the police, the Muppets, historical figures, Greek and Roman Gods, etc. The strange thing is that I can never remember why they’re hunting me down. All I know is that I can’t let ’em get me!
So, why my recent interest in dreams? I was in class the other day, discussing the Olympics with my 8th grade students. I asked them if they’ve ever heard of synchronized diving. Only a couple of them knew what it was, but one student made an interesting comment. In response to my question, a boy in my class said, “Yeah, I dreamed I was doing it with my sister.” Taken out of context, the comment alone could make any young teen, especially boys, burst out in a fit of side-busting laughter. The words, “doing it,” alone can amuse these kids. Luckily the students who were in earshot of this comment were facing me and I gave them the “you don’t even need to think about laughing right now” look. Anyway, the reason why his dream about synchronized diving with his sister was totally fascinating is because they’re fraternal twins.
What could this possibly mean? Synchronized diving with a fraternal twin…who’s of a different gender. Hmmmmmmm?
Thus, began my venture into the world of dream research. I only made it through a couple resources before I stumbled across DreamBank.
Now, keep in mind that this is not the panacea of dream research. You cannot just type in a description of your latest dream and expect to have a dream interpretation report pop up. You have giant log of dreams that you may explore at your leisure. It’s more like visiting a medical library than seeing your doctor.
Although I felt I knew about more about the study of dreams a few year back, I haven’t really kept up with the times. The FAQ page by the creators of Dreambank did a marvelous job of concisely responding to key questions about dreams, though they do know when to say when. If they’re not completely sure, they’ll state so. Interestingly, they end the well-stated twelve sentence definition of dreams with this:
“So, to sum it all up, we can think of a “dream” as a report of a memory of a cognitive experience that happens under the kinds of conditions that are most frequently produced in a state called “sleep.” But if you want it to be more simple, you can think of dreams as the little dramas our minds make up when the “self” system is not keeping us alert to the world around us.”
I recommend perusing DreamBank when you have an opportunity to journey into a world of dreams. Read what people dream about with the search engine or get a quick answer on the FAQ. You may be impressed or maybe you won’t. Either way, your perception of dreams will never be the same again.