Today, we’re talking about dreams.
Specifically – When you have vivid dreams about things you “shouldn’t”, is your brain teasing you, or giving you a gift?
Show notes & links
More on the Threat Simulation theory: “The threat simulation theory of the evolutionary function of dreaming: Evidence from dreams of traumatized children”.
Scientific American “The Science Behind Dreaming”
Full episode text
Search Amazon for “dream interpretation” and you get well over 25,000 results. Dreaming has long fascinated humans (and possibly other species), because it’s a process that is, well, fascinating. Freud theorized that it’s where everything repressed was expressed – teasing you with what your ego didn’t let you otherwise feel. The threat simulation* theory, however, suggests that dreaming is an ancient biological defence mechanism where your brain re-creates threats over and over again, creating an evolutionary advantage.
A new thread of recent research, however, is also exploring the idea that dreams have a much more important evolutionary purpose – creating a way for our brain’s emotional center and memory center to connect and sort the complex emotions and interactions of daily life. By processing emotions and turning them into memories, dreams may actually reduce stress and anxiety by taking the bite out of emotions that we may not otherwise process – which feels still, somehow, Freudian.