Emotional Health and the Role of Dreaming
In order to have clear perception, we need emotions that run clear. As emotions are the main influencer of perception, much of becoming a spiritually clear person is involved with the ability to release emotions productively and creatively. Let’s talk about some of the methods available to accomplish this.
There are many joyful ways of releasing emotions, and they are just as beneficial and healing as many of the traditional therapies and counseling. Initially, therapy and counseling are certainly beneficial because they give you a language to begin understanding your emotions, as well as the ability to begin reframing your emotions to experience them differently, or change them when you don’t like what you feel. These tools may also teach you how to have a better relationship with your emotions, so that they are not so overpowering or all consuming in a negative way. Good friends sometimes are able to play this role, if they are especially astute, intelligent, and not invested in an outcome. In the role of listener/questioner, they can help you delve deeply into your emotions to begin understanding them better. Reading material on developing emotional clarity can also be tremendously helpful.
But you already know this, and hopefully have made some use of those forms of emotional healing. So we’ll discuss what it takes to maintain emotional health. Every day you accumulation emotions from yourself and others that, unless processed, ejected, or transformed in some way, stick within the body on a cellular level, remaining dormant to be dealt with at another time. Let’s talk about various ways to keep current in releasing this accumulation.
There are many enjoyable ways of releasing emotions. Because emotions tend to get stuck in the body, they often need a clearly directed means of exit. Singing songs can release and set free different kinds of emotions. You don’t need a great singing voice. You don’t need to go join a singing group or chorus, although that would be advantageous. But singing at the top of your lungs occasionally is very cathartic and healing. It allows room for great joy to fill the body. It can also trigger great sadness to be released from the body, depending on the song you are singing. Playing an instrument can help retune the emotional vibrational rate of the body. A simple instrument, such as a recorder or harmonica, that doesn’t require years of practice, can serve well here. Also dancing can help to physically release certain kinds of emotion. It is the combination of the musical vibration with the physical movement that releases the stored cellular emotions.
Substances such as alcohol and drugs hinder emotional release and trap negative emotions. These should not be part of the releasing in singing or dancing. But unfortunately, all too often, they are part of these activities because these activities often take place at night when people are looking for ways to have fun, but also ways to wind down and relax. Of course, in the way that we’re talking about releasing emotions, for obvious reasons, drugs and alcohol play no constructive role.
Anything done at full tilt can play a role in releasing emotions and tension within the body, whether it’s riding a bicycle all out, or hiking up a mountain, or working up a sweat in an aerobics class, or any sporting activity that you enjoy.
The dream state (which, nightly, fulfills its purpose, requiring no practice and no learning) is also a means that’s readily available to everyone. Every time you go to sleep and enter into the dream state, the dream’s purpose is to help process and release unnecessary and unwanted emotions. This happens with or without you. But if you wanted to use this as a tool for greater understanding, and speeding up the process of emotional release, it’s very easy to do. By keeping a dream journal every night, and writing as much of each dream as you can recall after you wake, after a period of several weeks, you will begin seeing a pattern emerge.
Before you go to sleep, it’s also useful to jot down notes to yourself about the main emotional triggers and the emotional content of the day. You can correlate it to the specific situations that triggered the emotions, but mostly what we’re looking for is just a record keeping of how the emotions have an ebb and flow in the waking and dreaming life. After several weeks, even without reading any books on dreams, the connection of the dreaming life to the waking life would still become obvious. The patterns would be too huge to miss. But reading on the subject of dreams helps to make these connections more quickly and more often. This can act to speed up the process of gleaning useful understanding from the dreams as applied to your waking life.
So, the first step is to keep a faithful record of your dreams, and not worry about content or understanding. Doing this won’t cause you to have more dreams, but it will cause you to remember more of the dreams you have. Thus, it will give you more material to work with. Once you have enough dreams where you can begin making connections and associations, you can begin consciously working with the dreams to release very specific kinds of emotions and information. You’ll also notice that there’s a high degree of intuitive knowing in much of the dream content. These kinds of dreams can offer spiritual guidance, as you begin seeing how your dreaming life precedes your waking life. Such dreams can give you pointers and directions, and a head’s up on what’s coming in your future.
Many dimensional states are entered into in the dreaming time. Though, in the beginning, it’s not easy to know whether the dream is just a release of an emotion, or if it has intuitive or spiritual content, or is an actual part of you that’s living in another dimension somewhere else. Over time, you will begin to be able to tell the difference. In the beginning, it’s best to look at each dream as though its most important purpose is to reveal the state of your emotional self to your spiritual self. Once you become proficient at understanding that, then you can begin exploring these other lives you’re living and entering through the dream state.
Q: How does interpreting dreams actually release emotions?
Interpreting dreams doesn’t necessarily release emotions. Having the dream releases the emotion. Interpreting the dream gives intellectual and spiritual understanding of the emotion. It can help you grow in that way.
Q: So the emotions are being released through the dreams whether we pay attention to them or not?
Yes. This is why dreaming is so critical to mental health. Without the dream state, the emotions are prevented from release, which begins a toxic buildup that starts to break down the chemistry in the brain, which, if left unchecked, can ultimately lead to insanity and death.
It’s the same with different stages of sleep; each one is absolutely mandatory for the survival of the body. Deep sleep is required for physical rejuvenation. If you don’t spend enough time in deep sleep, then the physical body begins breaking down and causes nerve damage, arthritic conditions, and other ailments of the physical body. Yes, sleep is very important, but it is each stage of sleep that’s very important. No stage can be left out in the process if you want to remain healthy and whole.
But for the purposes of our conversation on maintaining emotional health, dreaming is critical to releasing the emotional accumulation of the day. This should be allowed to occur unimpeded. Alcohol and drugs play a detrimental role, because they interfere with this particular cycle of sleep.
Q: How do we help ourselves to get good sleep?
That’s a very important question, because the quality of sleep plays a major role in the quality of health in our waking state. There’s most definitely a circular connection between our waking and sleeping health.
Good quality of sleep is dependent on enough oxygen being taken into the system during the day, which facilitates the chemical bath in the brain. This allows complete sleep to take place at night. In order to accumulate enough oxygen, it’s important to spend some time outside each day breathing in fresh air. Also, natural daylight plays an important role in healthy sleep. This helps to set the circadian clock in the body so it can tell day from night, and the need for waking and sleeping. Obviously, exercise is also very important. A physically tired body sleeps much better. So physical exercise is critical to proper sleep.
Diet can affect the sleep states tremendously. Depending on each person’s chemistry, certain foods will cause restless or poor sleep. You should not eat within three hours of bedtime, and preferably should not eat foods high in sugar content or foods that cause you to have nervous or restless energy. By combining some breathing, exercise, and diet, you’ll accomplish a very full, complete sleep. By experiencing a complete and restful sleep, you’ll wake with more energy to pursue the healthy cycle that leads you back into a deep and complete sleep.
Q: Can you say a little bit more about how somebody figures out what the right diet is that will help them to sleep better? Does that change from person to person?
It can change from person to person. This requires some experimentation, and record keeping of foods eaten and the quality and ease of falling asleep. If you eat high sugar, especially within three hours of sleeping, you’ll find it somewhat more difficult to fall asleep quickly, because the body has too much nervous energy to completely relax well to fall asleep well. On the other hand, if you have enough physical exercise, even if you’re inclined to be mentally restless and agitated, and repetitive with worry or other negative thinking before falling asleep, the physical tiredness of the body will pull the body into sleep. If the body is overactive from lack of exercise or from high sugar intake, you can use meditation to relax the mind and then the mind can pull the body into sleep. But the natural progression and the easiest way to fall asleep is through the tired body.
Q: So we hurt our sleep by eating a lot of snacks at night?
Yes. Eating snacks is usually out of restless boredom, and not because you’re hungry or because you particularly like the taste of what you’re eating. Eating is often a nervous release of physical energy at nighttime. This, then, becomes a habit developed in association with TV watching.
Many people have acquired this habit of snacking while watching television, and it becomes self-reinforcing, so that whenever you turn on the TV, you find yourself becoming hungry, even if you’ve just eaten a full meal. Once you become aware of this, you can begin breaking the food association to television by replacing it with drinking water or herbal tea, or finding something else with which to keep your hands busy. This would be more beneficial to the body. If you must eat before bedtime, it’s better to have some raw vegetables, or seeds or nuts where the fat content will tend to relax and satiate the appetite. Though, because of the high fat content, a little goes a long way.
Also, be watchful of what you read before bedtime, because you may be taking in someone else’s emotions to be processed in your dream state. If you are reading a murder mystery, you may find that this somehow gets taken into your dream state to be released from the physical body. Any book with strong emotional content may cause tension in the body in the initial stages of falling asleep. You must remember that everything you see, hear, taste, touch, feel, smell all day long gets taken into the body and stored. Sleep is the time to release all of these sensory stimulations.
So pay attention to what you are allowing into your conscious and subconscious being. After a while you’ll learn to become protective of what you bring in. It’s not that you will shut out or ignore or deny, but you’ll be selective to what you expose yourself. Eventually, by working out the emotional content of the dreams long enough, well enough, thoroughly enough, you’ll begin to open the spiritual dimensions of sleep. Then the sleep and the dreams become these alternate spiritual states of teaching and learning, traveling to other dimension, meeting other beings, and gaining spontaneous knowing and wisdom. This can bring a great peace and understanding, which can then be carried forward throughout the day.
It’s not important to control your dreams. Lucid dreaming is a fun activity to try to do, but this is not to turn dreaming into one more compulsive activity of self-growth. Instead, just let your dreams be a great tool for healing and release of the emotional accumulation. It is with this approach that dreaming may offer a greater doorway into spiritual growth and the feeling of connection and oneness. This can only improve the quality of the waking life.
Again, this all becomes a circular energy that feeds on itself. A healthy waking life creates a healthy sleeping life, creates a more healthy waking life, and so on. In time, it becomes a very self-rewarding and self-gratifying activity, and affords one a level of self-confidence and self-knowing, so that one can handle the bumps in the road much more easily without becoming flustered or feeling the need to overreact because one is continually, moment to moment, keeping up with one’s emotional state.
Over time, you’ll become expert at recognizing emotions as they come in. Because you will have worked with them in this dream state for so long, you will begin to catch them in the waking state, where you will be able to process them right then and there. This, again, will ultimately affect the quality and type of dreams one experiences in the dream state—and the circle becomes complete.