Psychological Self-Help

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daytime experiences, and associations influence our dreams (just like
Freud). Researchers have noted that even though a dream contains
lots of visual images, the occipital lobe (where we see) is not as active
as the frontal lobe (where higher thinking, emotions and personality
are located). Also, if you wear red glasses all day for several days,
your dreams start to be in red, suggesting that day-time experience
becomes part of your dreams. On the other hand, a person who loses
his/her sight may take 25 years before dreaming they are blind. Since
most of us do not use smell and taste very much, perhaps that is why
our dreams contain very few such images but lots of visual images.
There is a lot we don't know. 
Theories about the functions of dreams are contradictory. Recent
studies have found that dreaming and learning are connected: people
think better after a good night's sleep; they remember complex skills
(Choller, 1989) and bedtime stories (Begley, 1989) better. However,
another theory is that dreams have to do with forgetting or, more
specifically, with dumping useless information from our brain during
sleep, like "purging" the big computers (Milnechuk, 1983). The exact
connection between dream images and erasing or enhancing our
memory is unclear. Once out of REM sleep, it is hard to remember the
dream we just had. So hard that even extremely vivid and traumatic
or unusual dreams are quickly forgotten. If you were really in a
horrible auto accident or really had a torrid sexual affair, you wouldn't
forget it within 15 minutes, would you? So dreams and forgetting (or
repressing) are connected somehow. Maybe, as Freud said, the
connection is because dreams are laden with nasty sexual and
aggressive drives which our conscious mind wants to forget. However,
new born infants spend 50% of their sleeping time in REM sleep (and
they are learning and forgetting a lot) but I doubt if 3-week-olds are
overwhelmed with taboo sexuality and hostility. Moreover, like babies,
my Irish Setter spends hours in REM sleep and, yet, seems totally
unashamed of her sexual impulses! 
These puzzles and theories are interesting but they don't tell us
much about the meaning of dreams. Clearly, dreams are not totally
random chaotic neural activity but they may not be windows to the
soul either. Robert Cartwright and Lamberg (1992) have a very
different notion, namely, that our dreams reflect our major conscious
emotional concerns. In effect, our dreams underscore our current
problems, rather than hide or erase them. Also, according to
Cartwright and Lamberg, the dream content, while symbolic, can, with
a little thought, be easily associated with the things that are
consciously worrying us tonight. The mind supposedly searches our
past to find a person, situation, or symbol that fits the feelings that are
pressuring us during our sleep. It is as though bad dreams are telling
us: HEY, PAY ATTENTION TO THIS PROBLEM! 
Langs (1994) has another idea; he believes that dreams are giving
us solutions for important but repressed problems. He says the
conscious mind, busy with coping, often passes on difficult emotional
problems to the unconscious mind for solving. Dreams are a way for
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