For years, psychologists have wondered if dreams affect reality and if reality affects dreams. The two are definitely connected and countless studies have shown that there is a strong connection between the conscious mind when we are awake and the subconscious mind when we are asleep. Scientists and researchers have worked for decades to find a definitive answer as to whether our dreams impact our reality. What is known with a great deal of certainty is that our dreams are impacted by the reality we live each and every day. Some researchers theorize that if reality impacts dreams, then dreams can just as easily impact our reality.
It has long been known by psychologists that everybody dreams, but not equally. Neurologist Patrick McNamara reaffirmed this in 2001 when he began working on a hypothesis based on the idea that social relationships can have a direct impact on our dreams. His team tested and observed 300 university students . Each student was categorized on their level of attachment security, or how comfortable they were in their relationships and how alone or included they felt in their daily lives. Attachment status was classified as either “secure” or “insecure.” McNamara found that students on the insecure attachment end of the spectrum reported having more dreams every night. Not only this, but the dreams of the students in the insecure group were also reported to be much more morbid, intense, and traumatizing than the other group’s dreams. This brings to question again the idea of whether or not our dreams impact our reality. One could argue that there is somewhat of a cycle going on. Isolation and poor attachment gives rise to these morbid dreams, these in turn could cause trauma and issues for the individual that make it hard to reach out and connect to others, therefore further compounding the problem and keeping the spiraling cycle going.
Another interesting aspect of the connection between dreams and reality can be found in the research and studies conducted by Dr. Robert Stickgold. He had done research on the dreams of amnesiacs and those with involuntary mental disorders such as Tourette’s and created a hypothesis about why the dreams of these individuals were often so bizarre. The theory was that amnesiacs keep memories in their subconscious that are accessed only during sleep, and the dreams are the brain’s attempt to reassemble the puzzle pieces. The same was for those with Tourette’s and other mental disorders; the brain is simply trying to make sense of things and it is the subconscious mind trying to overpower the defective conscious mind. Dr. Stickgold’s theory is that the seemingly bizarre dream is the brain indexing different stimuli to find connections. A dream about your high school girl friend going to the prom with you but your dog being the limo driver is an attempt of your brain to make connections. Your brain, for whatever reason is processing data on your old girlfriend. At the same time it is accessing information about your beloved dog. These bizarre dreams are your brain’s attempt at finding any connections that might exist between the two. Another study found that the sheer bizarreness of dream coincided with increased activity from the right amygdala, an area of the brain that is associated with memory formation. This helps to strengthen the idea that the stranger a dream is, the harder the brain is working at developing a connection. These studies also point to the possibility that dreams can impact our reality. The dreams may be caused by the subconscious mind and while it is most active during sleep, it is still functioning when a person is awake and can still impact their thoughts, actions, moods, and decisions.
Perhaps some of the strongest evidence for the impact dreams can have on our waking reality comes from a study conducted in 2004 by Mark Blagrove, Laura Farmer, and Elvira Williams. They found thast feelings of anxiousness, depression, or feeling neurotic could stem from nightmares. In this study they asked 147 students to fill out a questionnaire every morning when they work up, for two weeks, in order to measure the frequency of their nightmares. At the end of the testing period, the students were given assessments with the EPQ-RS and the POMS-BI tests which help psychologists to evaluate a person’s psychological state. At the end of the research and evaluation, there was a strong connection between the number of nightmares a student had each night during the week and their state of well-being during the day. The more nightmares, the worse their evaluations were. While it is true that nightmares may be the result of the mental conditions and not the cause, it is a strong correlation that cannot be overlooked. Either way, nightmares seem be able to step out of the realm of the sleeping mind and into the realm of the waking mind.
While there may be no conclusive evidence that definitively answers the question of whether or not dreams impact reality, there is evidence that the two are closely related. Our waking moments can impact our sleep and dreams and what we dream can affect us when we awaken. For years, psychologists have wondered if dreams affect reality and if reality affects dreams. The two are definitely connected and countless studies have shown that there is a strong connection between the conscious mind when we are awake and the subconscious mind when we are asleep.