Volume 95, Issue 81

Thursday, March 7, 2002
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Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream so I can take it to Charles McPhee

Nightmares and dreamscapes: Exorcising your personal bogeyman

Tidbits on dreams

Nudity, death, fire and pregnancy: A guide to common dream symbols

How to remember your dreams

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream
so I can take it to Charles McPhee

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

While we're sleeping, our brain is trying to tell us something. The message might seem as incoherent as a rant by President George Dubya Bush, but with the right help, we can gain important insights into the language of our dreams.

Lucky for us, the doctor is in.

The doctor in this case is Charles McPhee, a Princeton University graduate who assumes the role of "Dream Doctor" on his interactive website named "Ask the Dream Doctor" (www.dreamdoctor.com).

On his website, McPhee helps people interpret the meanings behind their nightly adventures. The good doctor has written a book on the topic of dream interpretation and also hosts a radio call-in show in Santa Barbara, California.

McPhee is by no means the first to dive into the dream world. "There is a Western tradition [that began] with the Greeks," McPhee said, adding a Greek philosopher named Artimadorus penned one of the first dream dictionaries in approximately 400 BC.

Dating back even further, McPhee said the people of Tibet have been analyzing their dreams for about 10,000 years. "They're far more advanced than we are in understanding what consciousness is, how to lucid dream and how to maintain consciousness during dream sleep," McPhee said.

According to McPhee, dream interpretation has become an increasingly respected practice. This is partially due to the doors opened by the Internet, he explained, noting information technology allows people from all over the world to share and analyze each other's dreams.

McPhee said the dream bank on his website holds over 350,000 dreams, giving the doctor a wide array of material to work with.

Dreaming occurs over five separate stages of sleep, with each stage incurring longer dream cycles, McPhee said. The average time an individual spends dreaming each night is approximately 100 minutes, he added.

"Dreams are reflections of thoughts, feelings and awareness that we have inside of us. What's confusing about dreams to people who aren't familiar with the language they speak is that they speak in metaphors," McPhee said.

Our dreams are not prophecies. Just because a person dreams about winning the lottery does not mean they should reclaim their tuition and drop five grand on lottery tickets, he said. There are common symbols however, that do hold meaning in dreams.

According to McPhee, death, fire, water, houses and even pregnancy (gulp) indicate very concrete emotions in a person. Death, for example, can represent anxiety over separation.

For all the young ladies on campus who have had a dream about being pregnant, woke up and promptly swallowed a box of birth control pills, you will be relieved to know that it is very common for women to dream about being pregnant and it does not mean there will be diapers in their near future.

"Pregnancy and birth in dreams are very common among women," he said. "Pregnancy is a metaphor for being full of hope or [having] expectations for the future. You've got something inside you and you want to give birth to it."

Many of the dreams he encounters are student-based, he said, noting there are common themes in the dream descriptions he hears from students.

"Something that students have a lot as they're graduating is end of the world dreams," McPhee said. "You're leaving college, you're leaving a community you're familiar with and you're leaving friends and you're going in a billion different directions. The end of the world is a functioning metaphor for instability in the future."

Of course, some students are a little more anxious than others.

McPhee relayed the exceptional dream of one female graduate who felt her parents were trying to control her future and had those anxieties manifest themselves in the dream world.

She dreamt her parents lopped off her head with a guillotine, he explained. Her severed head managed to maintain sight, at which point her mother began to consider ways to remove her optic nerves, he added.

According to the good dream doctor, analyzing our dreams can help us understand the inner-complexities of our lives, often revealing things we are not willing to admit to our conscious selves.

Sleep tight, Western – explore your dreams, but don't let the guillotine bite.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002