How are dreams and reality connected?

From dream to reality

"Wiener Zeitung": "The dream is a fleeting object. After it has become present in the sleeping consciousness, it disappears again after waking up", you clarify in the program for your conference in Vienna today: The dream remembered while awake is not the same as the one experienced in sleep. Why is that so?

Fritz Lackinger: While dreaming, we experience the dream as an external reality and after waking up as an internal reality. This has to do with the way the brain works during dreaming. Computer scans have shown that dreams stimulate those parts of the brain that are associated with associations and sensory perception, at least as strongly as when they are awake. However, in dreams one has no access to motor skills and external perception. Logical, intentional, critical, reality-based thinking has also been reduced to almost zero. That is why we cannot see that the pictures are not realistic, but believe that we are right in the middle.

Why we forget our dreams is less easy to explain. Experiments show that Sigmund Freud's assumption that things come through in dreams that we don't even want to remember plays a certain role. In addition, you dream five to six times every night, so three to four dreams will practically always be forgotten. By nature, dreams do not seem to have been created to be stored in long-term memory, but to assume a temporary function in the organization of the psyche.

But dreams are sometimes so beautiful that one would like to remember them.

The memory does not have to be primarily related to what the dream shows on the surface. Even something beautiful can remind us of something sad. So a person whom we love in dreams can actually have died. The dream of meeting him again is wonderful, but in waking consciousness we would know that we have lost him, which we don't like to think about.

Is a dream a kind of purification through processing?

The theory that the memory is scrolled through and the crap flashes again before it is virtually discarded could not be substantiated. Rather, it seems to be the case that dreams process feelings - on the one hand from the day before, on the other hand from repressed aspects within. We know from dream psychology that dreams contribute to solving emotional problems. In particular, traumatic and emotionally stressful events occur frequently. Sleep only advances the processing of such emotional content if there are enough REM phases in which most dreams take place.

In ongoing therapy, dreams not only reflect emotional issues, but also how they are dealt with. The dream tries to construct a story, like in a simulation, into which the experience fits. This narrative environment is very varied.

How can one imagine the emotional processing in sleep?

When a person experiences a car accident, for example, dreams emerge immediately afterwards that reproduce the event and are often very similar to the real situation. Usually the next dream already brings a slight variation: So if a child is mistakenly locked in a room and has to stay there for a day and night, in the first dream after its liberation the room could look like the real one. The second dream may include other rooms, but the feeling of being locked in remains. After that, the child could dream of being locked in the fire, then of rooms without parents. It is like the dream working through despair, distress, panic and fear in different stories. A successful therapeutic process is when the trauma is incorporated into numerous emotional contexts, and this is exactly where dreams can help.

Could one dream of being mentally healthy?

If the same images are repeated in a dream, such as a stuck record, there is trauma. In this case there are two possibilities: Either the healthy emotional parts manage to slowly bring the encapsulated "trauma chunks" back into the processes of psychological processing: In this sense, one can very well "dream oneself healthy". But if the trauma remains resistant to the natural "dreaming" of bad experiences, or if someone has a repressed complex from childhood and is going through a neurotic development, then dreaming as a "health elixir" is not sufficient. In psychoanalysis we try to have the unconscious complexes re-enacted so that the patients express them in some form. The old complexes and traumas also come up again in dreams - whereby the dream work tries to ensure that the fear does not become too great.

Why do some people dream more, some less? Do frequent dreamers have certain predispositions, are they strongly visual?