Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam once said "You have to dream before your dreams can come true." This started to make me think, what if it is not just applicable to thinking big and achieving what you want? What if just normal dreams too work this way? Think about it, has it not happened that you are in some place and you just realize that it all had happened in a dream before? Kind of like déjà vu but not quite the same.
Déjà vu, is the experience of thinking that a new situation has occurred before. I am not talking about this but am talking about the phenomenon where we know we’ve been through the same situation in a dream.
It is common to dream about the past and relive some of the emotional moments that we’ve had until now, but is there any sense in thinking about dreaming about the future? Do we really dream about what will happen in a day or week or year and does it really happen?
We all know that when we’re in a dream, we do not really know that we’re in that dream. It is thus quite possible that we’re thinking that we’ve already been in a place in a dream when we’re in a dream. But all this becomes too much like inception (the movie, of course). Let’s just stay away from the dream inside a dream inside a dream thing.
If we look at what is happening objectively, there are plenty of reasons why we may come across this phenomenon. One possible explanation is that we may just be thinking that we’ve been there in a dream whilst never having such a dream ever before. This is quite possible since our brains are quite unreliable in terms of memories, especially when it comes to dreams. It is quite well known that we cannot remember clearly what we dreamt about even just after waking up. We may just remember pieces of it and this too is fast fading. Is it not possible then, that the mind, when in some situations, can trigger partial recall and patch up pieces from different unrelated dreams into a dream coherent with the current reality?
This’d then mean that the phenomenon would just be a post hoc thing that the brain does and that predicting the future is not really possible.
However, consider the following scenario. You are late for work, and you know the boss is going to scream at you. It is no surprise then that s/he screams at you for being late. Your mind “predicted” the future. Is it not possible that the mind, in dreams, is doing something similar? It is known that the mind has quite a high amount of activity even when we sleep and this increases significantly during dreams. We can say that when awake, our conscious mind is in power, but when dreaming, it’s the unconscious.
The unconscious mind may, in fact, have the ability to think rationally when the conscious mind cannot. It thus may be able to piece together clues that the conscious mind may be ignorant of or may be ignoring and might be able to construct possible case scenarios. Showing the scenarios in dreams may be a way of the brain letting us prepare for what’s about to come. When we realize that a certain situation occurred in a dream, we may even realize what we did in the dream and be able to take the same course of action, if it was helpful, or take a different action if otherwise.
A third possibility exists, however. That the “real world” is affected in a much more powerful way by dreams. A dream may have the capacity to affect real world decisions to such an extent that we may not really have any free will. We may be forced to take decisions that’ll eventually lead us to fulfilling those dreams. A scary thought to those who have nightmares! Lazy people, however, would like this scenario since it’d mean that they’d just have to dream big to achieve big.
We may never know the true nature of dreams and whether they present windows to the future or affect it. However, we know that dreams present windows to another world that is sometimes filled with possibilities that may not be possible in reality.
Dreams are and continue to remain a fascinating, captivating, mesmerising and enchanting way to see the countless possibilities that exist in our universe and any others beyond. They continue to be a source of endless debates and a source of creative ideas for both art and the sciences. Just ask Kekulé who figured out that benzene must have a cyclic ring structure by dreaming of a snake biting its own tail!