Watching children, particularly babies, sleep can be compelling. It seems somehow that while children are asleep their innocence doubles; they seem even more vulnerable and this reinforces the protective instinct in mothers/parents.
And then they dream. Have you ever watched a baby sleep and wonder what they dream of? You can always tell when their dreams begin; their eyelids flutter quickly as if they are about to waken, but it is just that they have drifted into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. If the dream is a bad one, you will notice a frown or hear a little cry. If it is a good dream, the baby smiles and laughs.
Someone once said that our dreams aim at relieving us of the trials we face when we are awake, in effect transporting us to some place outside ourselves. This can only be a good thing, except of course when we have nightmares. But it is also believed that our dreams are linked to ideas and experiences we have had, and which are present in our consciousness; that we dream of what we want or what we have already said, seen or done.
And then there those who believe that dreams foretell real events and therefore place a lot of importance on what they dream and the interpretation of those dreams to the extent that their every action, the day-to-day running of their lives – is dictated by what they dream or do not dream.
Then there are the daydreams. These occur when we are awake and can be seen as the unfettering of our imagination. But unlike night dreaming, which people view as natural, daydreams are seen as fanciful and wishful thinking. Somehow to most people, the idea of someone sitting and staring at nothing while their imagination runs riot is anathema. And this has mistakenly engendered a negative attitude towards daydreaming. How often have we heard these words: ‘Instead of sitting there daydreaming, he/she should get up and go after what he/she wants.’ But is it possible to even know what we want if we do not dream?
Just as there are people who night after night experience dreamless sleep. Or if they do dream, it remains on the periphery of consciousness and they are unable to recall it when they awaken, so too there are people, children included, who do not have a dream.
Can you dream when you have no hope? And wouldn’t it be easy to lose your dream if your life were a constant round of violence and abuse?
If a study were done it would probably be found that people engaged in menial tasks for which no conscious thought is required, or which they have done so often it has become rote often indulge in daydreaming. Which low-income housewife or single parent has not dreamed of coming into an inheritance or winning the lottery and buying a home, car and filling other needs? In fact, while some daydreams are nothing more than fantasy and a means of transporting ourselves out of our mundane lives, in many instances, they are an insight to what our goals are.
Positive daydreaming is healthy. Apart from helping us to set goals, it gives temporary escape from the demands of reality and can be a good way to release pent-up frustrations without physically acting them out. Daydreaming allows us to leave the world behind and ruminate on what can be if we put our minds to it. We must dream and we must encourage our children to dream and try to equip them with the tools they will need to realise their dreams.
American motivational speaker Willie Jolley says: “You gotta dream… Just as everything in life that grows is the result of a seed, the same is true for your dreams. Dreams are the starting point for success, the seed for success. If you can conceive the dream in your mind, plant it in your heart, and water it daily, then it, too, will grow.”