Some Revealing Myths About Dreams, Part II

Sweet myths about dreams are made of these, and who are we to disagree? Mythbusters, of course!

In Part II of our scholarly treatise on myths about dreams, we took a look at ideas ranging from the superstitious (that dreams about death will seal your doom) to the reasonable (that you only dream when deeply asleep). Of course, we demolished all such myths in our Myths About Dreams, Part I. We provided you with the tasty truth instead.

This time we’ll run a similar gamut, discussing myths on both sides of the scientific fence, starting with the least likely and working our way toward ideas that might seem true if not too closely examined. We’ll begin with one of the oldest dream myths there is: the prophetic dream.

Myth 1: Some dreams foresee the future.

While this myth about dreams has been popular since ancient times, there’s no hard evidence that dreams are a gateway into the supernatural — fantasy fiction and Hollywood to the contrary. Many people have claimed to have had dreams that were prophetic, but the evidence is always either flimsy or anecdotal.

Anecdotal evidence isn’t scientifically acceptable, and in any case it often turns out that the dreams weren’t reported until after the event occurred. Even when a dreamer is absolutely certain they’ve had a psychic hit, these dreams are often explainable as selective memory; after all, how often are misses remembered?

Myth 2: Dream imagery has the same meaning for everyone.

It would be ideal to be able to draw up a universal dream codex, but that’s well actually impossible. One dream symbol can mean different things to different people. If you dream you’re falling through deep water, does it mean you feel you’re in a situation way over your head — or that you really want to go scuba diving?

Seriously, you have to remember that dreams don’t necessarily mean anything. Yes, a dream of nuclear war or surviving a tornado may spring from some deep-seated anxiety, but what does a dream of spinning a child’s top or eating someone’s hair like cotton candy mean? That’s harder to say.

Remember, modern theories about dreaming usually hold that most dreams are just the brain’s way of dealing with the day’s anxieties by throwing out sensory impressions that don’t need to be retained. If that’s the case, the idea that there’s any type of documentable universal imagery is just another myth about dreams.

Myth 3: Daydreaming is counterproductive.

Let’s be honest here: daydreaming usually looks like a waste of time, and sometimes it is — but not always, and not even usually. According to several studies, when you’re daydreaming, your conscious mind may go into standby mode, but your subconscious is still alert.

As a result, taking the occasional moment to daydream may ultimately help you become more innovative and productive. Therefore, while this myth about dreams may be seem logical, the reality is that it’s usually no more accurate than assuming that your dreams are prophetic.