Why is bodily experience also important in dreams?

Pubblished by Bruno Bara Nicoletta Causi on Dream Psychology Dream Research Dreams How To
August 29, 2013

Hi Dreamboarders,

Here’s a new post that explains the importance of one of the tracking fields in Dreamboard – the one that refers to body presence.
You surely know that when you track your dreams with Dreamboard, you are asked if you were bodily present in your dream. Well, if you don’t know exactly what this means, read below and everything will be a lot clearer.

 The link between the body and emotions

It is now widely recognized in scientific literature that our mind is intimately connected with our body.

For example, our thoughts and above all our emotions are accompanied by specific bodily experiences, although we are not always aware of them. When we feel anger, in fact, our heart rate tends to increase, breathing becomes labored and more frequent, muscles (in our hands, legs, shoulders, etc.) become more tense, and sometimes we assume a contorted facial expression, blush, or experience burning sensations or heaviness or tension in various parts of the body (in the abdomen, the solar plexus, etc.). Emotions, therefore, have a significant visceral and somatic component (see for example the physiological reactions to fear), and the body is their preferred channel of expression: often, in fact, we discover just how strong an emotion is by noticing how our body is reacting (for example, we recognize we are sad because we want to cry).

That is why DB believes that to help people discover themselves through dreams and the emotions they arouse, it is very useful to explore the dream experience from the perspective of the body.

 The link between the body and memories

It is a fact that every dream we remember, just like all other memories, is woven across multiple sensory registers: somatic, olfactory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic, visceral… Every dimension of our inner world and the external environment can become part of an episode stored in our memory, and, usually, among the most important memories that each of us conserves are those of the physical interaction we have had with the people to whom we are emotionally tied, in which sensations are too complexly intertwined to be effectively translated into words. Taking a newborn daughter in your arms, sitting at the bedside of a dying parent, playing erotic games with the person you love – these experiences become memories that doubtlessly transcend translation into language…

The difficulty of translating feelings and experiences into words is well known to all, and in fact when you have something emotionally significant to convey, unless you are a poet you generally resort to extra-linguistic communication: to acquaintances we say that we are happy or sorry about something, but we would much rather hit or hug the people we care about most.

That’s why it is important, through DB, to consider not only the narrative aspects of the dream, but also to analyze the dream from the body’s perspective, examining all the bodily sensations it contained (e.g. what the “soundtrack” was, any special fragrances, the visceral state, etc.), and the way in which we represented and related to our body, or to the body of other characters.

Analyzing the bodily experience of the dream through DB

Analyzing the bodily experience of the dream is a technique similar to analyzing the colors that DB uses to help the dreamer gain access to the original and embodied emotional dimension of dreams: this goal is very difficult to reach due to both the censorship that consciousness tends to perform on this experience – in order to make it fit our mental patterns  – and because, as we have just seen, this dimension is very difficult to express in language.

To overcome these obstacles, it is useful to retrieve information about the somatic and visceral state during the dream, patiently going back to examine all the sensory channels – sight, sound, touch, smell, taste – taking a look at them one at a time, but without expecting them to provide coherent information. For example, in the dream we might have moved a motorcycle with the sensation that it was as light as plastic, or ate a lemon that tasted like pizza, or kissed a sweaty pig that smelled as sweet as jasmine in bloom… These sensations will allow us to draw closer to the emotional dimension of the dream without rationalizing, without immediately applying our thought patterns and without judging … just listening to our body as it is.

In addition to investigating the various sensations we experienced, it is also interesting to ask whether our body was present, how it felt, and how it moved during the dream, whether our body was experienced in the first person (I perceived from the inside that my body was moving) or in the third person (I observed my body move from the outside). Did you fly, breathe underwater, were you heavy or light, did you perceive things from the inside or from the outside, were you in your own body or in the body of someone else, were your hands different or were they your own, or perhaps you should ask yourself: was there a garden growing on your back?

In this way we might discover, for example, that we tend not to represent our body in our dreams, we tend not to feel it, or on the contrary, that we have very intense sensations, or else new or discordant sensations compared to those we have when we are awake… All of these observations, when compared with each other and with those taken from various other dreams, not only enable us to draw closer to our original dream experience and emotions, but also provide us with valuable information about how we function (or how we might be able to function) both in dreams and in everyday life…

Previous and next posts: keep on following us

In order to explain more clearly what the scientific bases of Dreamboard, we are publishing in this blog different articles written by Professor Bruno Bara and Dr. Nicoletta Causi:

Introduction to the theory of dreams and Dreamboard 
Emotions in dreams
The meaning of colors in dreams
Why is bodily experience also important in dreams
The weirdness of dreams
People, places, things


comments powered by Disqus