We all know that our large brains were critical for us to become the dominant species on Earth, allowing us to form language, solve problems, and understand the world around us. But do we truly know what our minds do for us? The complexity of our brains is only starting to be uncovered, as new theories about our dreams come into play.
After waking up from a nightmare this morning, I decided to write my blog on dreams - how important they are to survival, and what they could mean to our daily lives. Many people wake up from especially odd or frightening dreams wondering if the imagined occurrences have anything to do with the issues faced in their current lives. This is why radio shows and newspaper articles with "the dream doctor" can become so popular and why it is easy to search for explanations on typical dreams and nightmares over the internet such as in this website.
Our dreams have always been a mystery to the individual as well as in science. Some think of dreams as being a connection to a mystical world, while others believe there is no rhyme or reason to them at all.
This article interested me specifically as I researched more about dream interpretations, with psychologist Antti Revonsuo arguing that dreams help us to stay sharp, because dreams safely stimulate extremely stressful situations and train the mind to take the appropriate steps necessary for survival. The article brings up reports of people who had just survived a life-or-death situation, saying they entered "a mode of calm, rapid response, reacting automatically, almost without thinking. Afterward, they often say the episode felt unreal, as if it were all a dream. Threat simulation, Revonsuo believes, is why." The psychologist even claims that 2/3 of all dreams are threatening, supporting the theory that threat simulation indeed plays an extremely important role while we sleep. This is especially true when we look to the past, where many of these simulations actually happened, such as being chased by an animal or getting lost in the forest. This certainly shows how our brain is always working to protect us from our worst fears, by coming up with solutions should they ever happen in real life. In our dreams, the brain simulates what we fear most, going over and over again what might happen and what we can do to get out of the situation safely. While it may be a little traumatizing to dream about our worst fears so often, we can be assured that if it ever were to happen, we could use our dreams to get out of the mess in the most efficient way possible - which can be a relief when you really think about it.
This article is very interesting and I encourage anyone to read it for themselves. Of course, we still cannot confidently say we know exactly why we dream, as the mystery of the brain becomes ever more complex with further studies. However, this theory offers quite an interesting argument.