Introduction to the Theory of Dreams and Dreamboard

Pubblished by Bruno Bara Nicoletta Causi on Dream Psychology Dream Research
June 5, 2013

Dreamboard dream journal on an iPad screen

What happens when we dream?

In our brain …

When we dream (REM sleep), structures in our brain related to emotionality are activated, while the areas associated with the development of rational functions and self-monitoring decrease greatly in activity. Emotions thus play a fundamental role in dreams.

Why are the perceptual-cognitive frames deactivated when we dream?

Perceptual-cognitive frames, are special filters of our consciousness that in everyday life allow us to predict what is going to happen, gathering important information about the surrounding environment very quickly and ignoring insignificant information. In the complex world in which we live, they make it possible to act very fast, quickly identifying potential risks or opportunities, without having to wait a long time for reasoning processes to be completed. They are useful, for example, for getting us ready to run away as soon as we hear a sudden noise behind us, even before we have realized if the source is a friend or a wild beast: if we take time to think about it, in fact, even a single, dramatic delay could seriously endanger our very survival.

During wakefulness, these patterns increase our efficiency, enabling us to predict and understand the world around us, but, at the same time, they also make it harder to be completely open to new experiences, which we sometimes interpret as something we are already familiar with, even rejecting them a priori (if we are hunting for mushrooms, we might not notice any flowers along the way).

While dreaming, however, these filters are deactivated because they are not necessary: when we are sleeping, we do not run any real risk, nor must we fulfill any important task for our life (like earning our daily bread, finding a mate, caring for our children, etc.). And it is precisely this absence, in dreams, that lets the unusual unfold in a world where nothing is taken for granted and all forms of prediction are impossible. Indeed, because these patterns are deactivated in our dreams, we go back to being like children, looking at reality for the first time, with new eyes and without prejudice, free from any limitation imposed by rationality … Anything can happen, and, in fact, in dreams, everything does happen!

What happens when we wake up…

If, when we dream, we experience something extraordinary, something completely unpredictable and emotionally involving, when we wake up our consciousness and cognitive-perceptual filters are fully reactivated, and they actively modify both the contents and the unconscious processes of the dream.

Consciousness, by preferring a single perceptual filter and interpretative frame, manages to inhibit everything in the dream that does not match the selected pattern, removing it from the sensory registers and rendering it unrecoverable. It applies, in fact, its interpretative patterns to our memory of the dream, normalizing the experience automatically: the abnormal details tend to be eliminated (shoes are put on the people who, in the dream, were barefoot), inconsistencies are normalized (we no longer feel any dislike for a person who is officially well-liked, or any attraction to something that is unacceptable), the story is made to conform to a well-known and verifiable script (the surprising elements are reduced, the usual ones are emphasized), although not all the peculiarities and anomalies are eliminated.

After consciousness has done its job, there remains a trace of the original dream, but no more. Only by transcribing the dream immediately, and trying to use special techniques such as those used by Dreamboard, can an attempt be made to recreate an experience as similar as possible to what was actually experienced in the dream.

The theory on which Dreamboard is based

Dreamboard is based on the the theory that dreams are determined primarily by the active emotions of the dreamer, and they can therefore be used as a tool to know these emotions more directly than during wakefulness. Furthermore, gaining access to emotions not only through dreams, but also during wakefulness, can lead the dreamer to greater degrees of freedom. Our proposal, then, is to take advantage of the volatility of dreams, abandoning the search for their original meaning, and using them instead as a tool to raise the dreamer’s awareness of how we function: they are a window through which to observe ourselves, to better understand who we are and at the same time access new dimensions of our experience, giving us greater freedom from our own pre-conceptions and ways of thinking.

How Dreamboard works

Through Dreamboard you can get to know and understand yourself better by analyzing your dreams, focusing on your subjective emotional, cognitive and physical experience, trying to bypass as much as possible the circuits of rational thinking/judgment, which can be considered at a later time.

Analyzing your feelings and emotions one by one when you wake up, for example by asking yourself which colors were present in your dream, but also if your body was there and what condition it was in, is useful to loosening the normal tendency to apply cognitive frames, and facilitates the expression of things experienced in the dream that are very inconsistent or even conflicting with each other, or else with things we usually experience during the day (think, for example, of an impeccably caring father who dreams of spanking both his children with exaggerated violence: by observing his dream experience, he can become aware of his natural ambivalence towards his beloved offspring, and thereby try to accept it).

All this information, when cross-referenced with data related to the bizarre aspects, to the characters present, to the associations that are made and to the most important issues of the dream, can help the dreamer to make sense of the dream experience, supplying information that in that moment might be very important.

Furthermore, by regularly tracking dreams and all the various information related to them, the dreamer can also make comparisons with other dreams over a period of time, thus obtaining even more important information. You may find, for example, that in this particular period of your life the emotion most present in your dreams is fear, even though no signs of this have emerged in daily waking life. The analysis of an individual dream and a comparison with other dreams of the same period create the opportunity to become aware of very important emotions that in everyday life you tend not to recognize, and you therefore acquire greater freedom of action: if I discover I am afraid of something, I can look for the causes of that fear and try to act on them.

So let’s analyze our dreams using Dreamboard: we will not only know and understand ourselves better, but we will also open up to new ways of being that until now we have not allowed ourselves to try.

Next posts: keep on following us

In order to explain more clearly what the scientific bases of Dreamboard, we will publish in this blog different articles written by Professor Bruno Bara and Dr. Nicoletta Causi:
Emotional theory: 6 basic emotions
The meaning of colors in dreams
Physical presence in the dream
The weirdness of dreams
People, places, things


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