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Columnists

How Thoughts and Emotions Affect our Dreams

October 1, 2022

Every night when we close our eyes, we enter a majestic world of imagery generated by thoughts we carry in our minds. Dreams are a formation of stories and images reflecting our lives and the ones around us. They represent how we perceive the world, others, and even ourselves through an exaggerated perspective. Enigmatic, terrifying, absurd, realistic, threatening, beautiful – our dreams offer endless feelings and emotions difficult to accurately describe.

Rene Magritte, an artist and painter stated, “if the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.”

All that goes on in our mind is interconnected and influenced by our daily exposures and interactions. Negative thoughts stemming from emotional stress or conflict may result in nightmares, as worries and anxieties come to surface. The waking mind may not be able to relax due to consciousness and awareness of the issues present in life, thus it is in dreaming when a scary reality appears.

According to neuroimaging studies, the amygdala – which is an emotional component of the brain – makes dreaming a vastly emotional procedure due to its extensive activity. Therefore, information that is kept suppressed in the brain automatically awakens during dreaming, bringing to life personal emotions and feelings.

Suppressing emotions may seem like a great way to prove that we possess inner strength, but hiding how we really feel can have serious health consequences such as mental fatigue, elevated blood pressure, and sleeping problems.

The brain naturally tries to work out emotions, but it needs our help to do so. When we refuse to acknowledge these negative emotions, the brain is forced to process them alone. While sleeping, memories are refined and stored, thus when we refuse to confront our negative emotions while we’re awake, the brain works on combating the negative emotion without us while we sleep at night. This causes emotions to surface in our unconscious dreaming state.

In essence, researchers discovered that there is a greater tendency for negative emotions experienced during waking hours to manifest within dreams. Especially sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety.

Positive emotions did not significantly manifest in dreams. Also, suppression of feelings is associated with poorer sleep quality and correlates with anxiety, depression, and stress.

Being mindful and aware of our thoughts can help us in dealing with them. Once these thoughts are consciously noted, then they can be let go. Meditation is also a great tool of emotional release as it allows oneself to enter a world of tranquillity.

Sleeping with a clear mind is a tough task to accomplish, especially living in a society which drowns you in anxiety from day to night due to growing responsibilities. Meditation often helps in easing the process, as the body enters a mindset of focusing on the breath instead of the thought. Consciousness, therefore, is a significant variable when discussing dreaming, as it is up to the individual to control what circulates in their brain before falling asleep.

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