Today’s special guest is Cecilia Dominic. She has a new book releasing today, Tangled Dreams. It is part of a her new series, Dream Weavers and Truth Seekers, which is near and dear to the author’s heart. Want to know why? Read on.
Where do dreams come from?
by Cecilia Dominic
Thank you so much for hosting me today, Riley!
I’ve always been a vivid dreamer, and as a sleep psychologist, I sometimes talk with my patients about their dreams. My new urban fantasy series, Dream Weavers & Truth Seekers, allowed me to bring some of my knowledge into one of my imaginary worlds, which was so much fun!
In this series, including today’s release, some of my characters enter the Collective Unconscious, or dream world. Just as with regular dreams, it’s a strange place filled with magic, legends, and weird juxtapositions like skyscrapers on top of medieval storefronts. Sometimes there are rules, and sometimes there aren’t which keeps my characters guessing.
So where do dreams come from? This is a question that humanity has been trying to figure out for a long, long time. Due to their bizarre imagery, people have associated our nocturnal wanderings with supernatural occurrences. One example of this is the stories in ancient texts such as the Bible about divine beings communicating with people through dreams.
Then, in the early twentieth century, Carl Jung came along. He was a student of Sigmund Freud and, some would say, father of dream psychology. He is the one most associated with the term Collective Unconscious. He writes:
Naturally, if we ask someone why he had such and such a dream, what are the secret thoughts in it, he cannot tell us. He will say that he had eaten too much in the evening, that he was lying on his back; that he had seen or heard this or that the day before – in short, all the things we can read in the numerous scientific books about dreams. (C.G. Jung, Dreams, p. 6 – full reference below)
He goes on to say that, per Freud, the dreams are a reflection of psychic “constellations,” or images that have the most connections to other images because they have the strongest emotions associated with them. They’re also a reflection of “repressed wishes.” You know there had to be repression in there somewhere. So, the dreams are going to be expressions of things you want, but don’t want to admit you want because it’s too painful to think about not getting them, and your brain is going to use images that are emotionally meaningful to get your attention.
So what, exactly, does the brain do during dreaming? Imaging studies have shown that as the brain goes to sleep and into REM sleep (our primary dreaming sleep stage, although it can happen at other times, too), the frontal cortex powers down. You can think of it as the logical, strict parent going to bed and leaving the teenagers awake with an unlocked liquor cabinet, or even better, with Pandora’s Box.
When the sleeping brain opens Pandora’s Box and starts dreaming, what happens? The more advanced parts of the brain that cause movement turn off so you won’t act stuff out or respond physically to what you’re dreaming about, but some of the ones deeper in the brain turn on, which contributes to the feeling of movements in dreams. This is also what happens when your dog or cat starts dreaming since we share some of these “less advanced” structures.
The imagery itself is likely coming from an area called the visual association cortex. During the day, it gets its input from sight and imagination, but at night, it’s all about memory and imagination, which explains why it pulls in images you saw during the day but also makes up weird stuff. This may also be why dream imagery fades as we get competing input through our morning. The theory is that the visual association cortex communicates with the anterior limbic structures, which contribute to the experience of emotions. And anyone who’s woken from a nightmare or stress dream is very aware that emotions are involved in dreaming.
As you can see, dreaming is a complex process that involves several different parts of the brain. I think it’s interesting that so many of the structures that cause and interpret our daytime experiences are doing the same in our dreams, but without us being aware of it or remembering most of it. As for messages, it’s likely that our brains sometimes use our dreams to get our attention, but the meanings of specific images will differ between individuals.
I love hearing about dreams, so please tell me… Are you a vivid dreamer? What’s the weirdest one you can remember?
Note: The Jung quote comes from a translation of a compilation of a bunch of his works. Or maybe it’s a compilation of a translation of his works. Either way, here’s the reference:
Jung, C.G. (1974). Dreams. (R.F.C. Hull, Trans.). New Jersey: Princeton/Bollingen. (Original works published 1916-1945).
About Tangled Dreams
When the walls between reality and the dream world crumble, sleeping with the lights on won’t save anyone from their nightmares.
Restaurant reviewer Audrey Aurora Sonoma’s life is like a steakhouse meal: utterly predictable, comfortable, and just exciting enough to satisfy her independent streak. But when odd characters from her dreams show up during daylight hours – were-bats and a vegetarian dragon, of all things! – the menu goes from familiar to fusion. When she learns the job she accepted in her dream is real, well… Who would have guessed the goddess Persephone exists? Finding her – and figuring out why the walls between reality and the Collective Unconscious are slipping – seem to be impossible tasks for a mere mortal.
Damien Lewis turned down promotions to keep his life orderly and predictable. He has enough challenge with real-life hassles like eating regular meals. And forget dating. But after encountering three naked, delirious Jane Does on consecutive nights, he suspects more than drugs are behind their appearances, and he soon becomes much more involved than he’d like.
As the walls between the Collective Unconscious and real world continue to erode, vampires, demons, and, of course, were-bats come through to prey on those who get in the way of the god who is masterminding it all with human help. Can Audrey and Damien face their biggest fears and work together to stop the waking world from being overrun by creatures that no human has dared to dream of? Or will their nightmares become real – and permanent – when the pathways open for good?
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About the Author
By day, clinical psychologist Cecilia Dominic – her pen name – helps people cure their insomnia. By night, this urban fantasy and steampunk author writes fiction that keeps her readers turning pages past bedtime. She prefers the term “versatile” to “conflicted” and has been published in short story and novel-length fiction. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with one husband and two cats.