The meaning of a dreams
The Interpretation of Dreams

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The meaning of a dreams

For most of this century, psychologists have plumbed the murky depths of patients' dreams in search of answers that the patients' conscious minds cannot offer. Dream interpretation has hit the mainstream, too, with dream workshops and interpretation groups forming in many communities throughout the United States and elsewhere. But this has not always been the outlook regarding dreams. In the nineteenth century, scientists considered dreams the result of indigestion or anxiety, and denied that they had any meaning at all. And in centuries previous to that one, dreams were infused by meanings that were outside the control of the dreamer: Gods or demons supplied the dreams, people believed. There is renewed interest in the theory that dreams are meaningless, as scientists research potential physical causes of dreaming that have nothing to do with unresolved conflicts or hidden meanings. As early as the 1920s, one doctor guessed that there might be a correlation between the sleep "disturbances" we now know to be REM sleep and the incidence of heart attack. We know today that most heart attacks during sleep occur in the early morning hours, when the longest period of REM sleep takes place. Given that heart and breathing rates increase and become more erratic during REM sleep, sometimes reaching levels not seen during waking life, it makes sense that a diseased heart might one night fail to withstand the strain. No one knows for sure whether dream content or emotion plays a role in nighttime heart attack, or to what extent the heart attack is merely the result of the high physical demands of the REM period.

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