“I’m of two minds” is a phrase often heard when someone has not made up their mind about something or believe that something is neither this or that but perhaps a melding of both. But this phrase also describes perfectly the relationship between dreams and waking life.
We know today that the brain functions in a unified way but that its two hemispheres have somewhat different inputs to that functioning. Various modern technologies have shown us that dreaming often takes place in the right hemisphere of the brain, though there are inputs from the left. During REM sleep the rational left hemisphere becomes less dominant and the more metaphorical right side of the brain comes to the forefront.
During wakefulness the left side is involved in language presentation and interpretation while the right brain is more involved in the emotional interpretation of sensory input and the right brain also has language input through the emotions evoked by words e.g. intonation (pitch, rhythm and tone)1.
The left side tends to be linear and concrete in its interpretation of sensory input while the right tends2 to be as I said earlier to be more metaphorical and thus uses images of everyday objects in a different way that often leads to a different perspective on things and provides new and perhaps heretofore unknown information.
Training the brain to interpret sensory information in only one way, such as what we do in our schools, can actually limit the brain’s overall functioning and thus its ultimate usefulness. The logical and often concrete thinking process of the left brain frequently ignores the personal meaning and importance of objects, words and experiences of the individual, the right brain information that often affects our decisions in our waking life, though unconsciously for we tend to be ignorant of their existence in a left-brain dominant world.
Attention to dreams and the openness to their contribution can be transformational to the individual and produce incredible results toward the success of everyday living.
As a diagnostician my work with children in a therapeutic setting literally took off when I started adding their dream material to the mix of standardized psychological testing in my tool-kit. My understanding of what was affecting the kids from their personal perspective of their world took on a whole new dimension that was quite useful in their therapeutic intervention.
Training kids at an early level to be conscious of all the available inputs to their experience and understanding of the world they live in ought to be part of any educational curriculum i.e. there is more internal wisdom in each of us than can be found in a dictionary or on-line encyclopedia or Google search. Standard educational approaches are needed and most useful but sorely limited when an entire resource uniquely individual is ignored.
1This is not necessarily true for all languages in that some do not use pitch to distinguish words.
2I use “tend” because neither side of the brain is all of one way of functioning.