Few dreams are, by themselves, problem solving or creative. The few exceptions are usually very clear. Example: ‘My mother-in-law died of cancer. I had watched the whole progression of her illness, and was very upset by her death. Shortly after she died the relatives gathered and began to sort through her belongings to share them out. That was the climax of my upset and distress, and I didn’t want any part of this sorting and taking her things. That night I dreamt I was in a room with all the relatives. They were sorting her things, and I felt my waking distress. Then my mother-in-law came into the room. She was very real and seemed happy. She said for me not to be upset as she didn’t at all mind her relatives taking her things. When I woke from the dream all the anxiety and upset had disappeared. It never returned (told to author dunng a talk given to the Housewives Register in Ilfracombe).
Although in any collection of dreams such clearcut problem solving is fairly rare, nevertheless the basic function in dreams appears to be problem solving. The proof of this lies in research done in dream withdrawal. As explained in the entry science, sleep and dreams, subjects are woken up as they begin to dream, therefore denying them dreams. This quickly leads to disorientation and breakdown of normal functioning, showing that a lot of problem solving occurs in dreams, even though it may not be as obvious as in the example. This feature of dreaming can be enhanced to a marked degree by processing dreams and arriving at insights into the information they contain. This enables old problems to be cleared up and new information and attitudes to be brought into use more quickly. Through such active work one becomes aware of the self, which Carl Jung describes as a centre, but which we might think of as a synthesis of all our experience and being. Gaining insight and allowing the self entrance into our waking affairs, as M L. Von Franz says in Man and His Symbols, gradually produces a wider and more mature personality’ which emerges, and by degrees becomes effective and even visible to others’.
The function of dreams may well be described as an effort on the part of our life process to support, augment and help mature waking consciousness.
A study of dreams suggests that the creative forces which are behind the growth of our body are also inextricably connected with psychological development. In fact, when the process of physical growth stops, the psychological growth continues. If this is thwarted in any way, it leads to frustration, physical tension and psychosomatic and eventually physical illness. The integration of experience.
which dreams are always attempting, if successful cannot help but lead to personal growth. But it is often frozen by the individual avoiding the growing pains’, or the discomfon of breaking through old concepts and beliefs.
Where there is any attempt on the pan of our conscious personality to co-operate with this, the creative aspect of dreaming emerges. In fact anything we are deeply involved in, challenged by or attempting, we will dream about in a creative way. Not only have communities like the American Indians used dreams in this manner—to find better hunting, solve community problems, find a sense of personal life direction— but scientists, writers, designers and thousands of lay people have found very real information in dreams After all, through dreams we have personal use of the greatest computer ever produced in the history of the world—the human brain.
1- In Genesis 41, the story of Pharaoh’s dream is told—the seven fat cows and the seven thin cows. This dream was creative in that, with Joseph’s interpretation, it resolved a national problem where famine followed years of plenty. It may very well be an example of gathered information on the history of Egypt being in the mind of Pharaoh, and the dream putting it together in a problem solving way. See dream process as computer.
2- William Blake dreamt his dead brother showed him a new way of engraving copper. Blake used the method successfully.
3- Otto Leowi dreamt of how to prove that nervous impulses were chemical rather than electncal. This led to his Nobel prize.
4- Friedrich Kekule tned for years to define the structure of benzene. He dreamt of a snake with its tail in its mouth, and woke to realise this explained the molecular formation of the benzene ring. He was so impressed he urged colleagues, ‘Gentlemen, leam to dream.’
5- Hilprecht had an amazing dream of the connection between two pieces of agate which enabled him to translate an ancient Babylonian inscription.
6- Elias Howe faced the problem of how to produce an effective sewing machine. The major difficulty was the needle. He dreamt of natives shaking spears with holes in their points. This led to the invention of the Singer sewing machine.
7- Robert Louis Stevenson claims to have dreamt the plot of many of his stories.
8- Albert Einstein said that during adolescence he dreamt he was riding a sledge. It went faster and faster until it reached the speed of light. The stars began to change into amazing patterns and colours, dazzling and beautiful. His meditation on that dream throughout the years led to the theory of relativity.
To approach our dreams in order to discover their creativity, first decide what problematic or creative aspect of your life needs ‘dream power’. Define what you have already leamt or know about the problem. Write it down, and from this clarify what it is you want more insight into. If this breaks down into several issues, choose one at a time. Think about the issue and pursue it as much as you can while awake. Read about it, ask people’s opinions, gather information. This is all data for the dream process. If the question still needs further insight, before going to sleep imagine you are putting the question to your internal store of wisdom, computer, power centre, or whatever image feels right. For some people an old being who is neither exclusively man nor woman is a working image.
In the morning note down whatever dream you remember. It does not matter if the dream does not appear to deal with the question; Elias Howe’s native spears were an outlandish image, but nevertheless contained the information he needed. Investigate the dream using the techniques given in the entry dream processing. Some problems take time to define, so use the process until there is a resolution. If it is a major problem, it may take a year or so; after all, some resolutions need restructuring of the personality, because the problem cannot disappear while we still have the same attitudes and fears. See secret of the universe dreams; dream processing.