Once upon a dream: the fairy tale comparison

It is said that the dream and the fairy tale have much in common. They share a powerful mythical and symbolic base. They speak an illogical yet rich and insightful language.

The dream as well as the fairy tale should not be taken at face value. Their analysis is at a higher level of consciousness. At first sight, the scenario of the tale as well as that of the dream seem improbable, fantastic or meaningless. What happens in them escapes reason. 

Their interpretation is in fact based on the identification of motifs or symbols that find their meaning through association. In the dream, the interpretation is done at the individual level, in a personal perspective, in the tale, at the cultural level, in a universal point of view.

In the tale, the animals that speak, the buried or hidden treasures, the impossible quests take on universal psychological meanings, whether they are of the order of sexuality or of transformation. The tale generally comes to enlighten troubled periods of the existence by offering a way out, a key of comprehension which makes its underground way and not immediate. In the same way, the meaning of dreams is not instantaneous, it is necessary to work for a long time and sometimes with the help of a specialist around the perceived images to understand the message. This obscure language addresses our Unconscious, the one that rules our emotions and the way we are programmed to be in the world. Ordinary logic is in this case disarmed to address this outlaw.

Beyond the similarities of structures, the correspondences between tales and dreams are found in the scenarios themselves.

Many of the famous tales, for example, have dreams as their underlying motif. In The Princess and the Pea, which features a young girl whose sensitive back reveals her true nature, we can understand this ability to feel the pea, under layers of mattresses and quilts, as the ability of truth to flush under layers of dream.

The Golden Bird is also a fairy tale that involves a dream. In this story, a king is obsessed with a golden bird that appears in his dreams. He offers a reward to anyone who can capture the bird, but all fail. Finally, the king’s youngest son embarks on the quest and succeeds. This shows how children can fulfill the unconscious desires of their parents. 

In Disney, the dream theme is also a compelling motif. In Sleeping Beauty, 1959, Aurora says she has already met her prince in the middle of a dream “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream”. The connection between them precedes the physical encounter. More recently in the film Tangled, 2010, the musical hit “I’ve got a dream”, gives pride of place to desires in contradiction with our public image, to let a touching vulnerability appear.

With catharsis effects, storytelling and dreaming heal by reformulating what has been buried. Here, the hidden resurfaces, just like in nightmares where you can’t run, and you are caught by the monster, you can’t escape what has been said or done before.

In both cases, tale and dream show an alternative, a singular world that escapes the given laws to reinvent them.

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What Dreams Are Made Of

On this site, we are going to talk to you about dreams, smells and perfumes. But to begin with, it was essential to talk to you about the nature of dreams and the matter that composes them, both impalpable and persistent. Definition.

We all dream, and this several times a night: it is estimated that this mental activity occupies at least 25% of our sleep time (Source : « Pourquoi rêvons-nous » d’Isabelle Arnulf, Pour la Science, n°459, décembre 2015). But why and how do we dream? Recent research, carried out in particular thanks to the study of dream banks and the analysis of the cerebral activity of sleepers, has allowed us to advance our knowledge of the causes and mechanisms of our dreams. Contrary to what was thought until recently, dreams occur as much during slow wave sleep as during REM sleep cycles, where brain activity is as intense as when we are awake. As a result, we dream no less than three to six times a night. This figure is higher on average in women and people with heightened creativity, who are probably more attentive to their environment. 

How does our brain build the more or less strange scenarios of our dreams? It is estimated that nearly 90% of them refer to events that we experienced the day before. The brain stem activates certain images from the previous day, which the rest of our brain then completes, which explains the sometimes cryptic aspect of our dreams. This explains the sometimes cryptic aspect of our dreams. However, they are useful, allowing us to optimize the memorization of the previous day’s events and to consolidate our learning. And why do we have nightmares? Dreams contain on average twice as many negative emotions as positive ones. This is particularly the case during REM sleep because the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, is very active. Although they can leave an unpleasant impression when we wake up, these nightmares are a sign of good mental health. Researchers now believe that they serve to simulate dangerous situations so that we can better cope with them when we are awake.

Although scientists are devoting more and more research to it, dreams continue to be a vast continent of exploration and above all a fertile source of inspiration.

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The Meaning of Dreams

From ancient times to the latest advances in science, through psychoanalysis, men have always sought to understand and interpret the content of their dreams.

Dreams have fascinated mankind since its origins: our ancestors have always been interested in dreams and their meaning. In ancient societies, Greeks and Egyptians studied dreams, traditionally considered as messages sent by the gods, sometimes with a premonitory character. When their meaning was not clear, their interpretation was entrusted to priests or diviners, in charge of decoding their symbolism. Subsequently, the monotheistic religions have all granted a special status to dreams. In Islam, dream analysis was considered an art. The Hebrew tradition also gives it great importance: we read in the Talmud that “an uninterpreted dream is like a letter that has not been opened”. Christianity, on the other hand, is much more suspicious. In 314, the Council of Ancyra condemned the interpretation of dreams, considering that they could be false or inspired by evil spirits. Then, with the advent of the Enlightenment and Cartesianism, they were despised for centuries, reduced to extravagances of no interest to an enlightened and rational mind. 

It was only in the 20th century that psychoanalysis took a new interest in dreams and gave them back their letters of nobility. Sigmund Freud recognizes its essential function in psychic life. In The Interpretation of Dreams, he describes them as “the royal road to the unconscious”: their content echoes secret, repressed desires, translated into images and symbols that make them acceptable to the conscience. A few years later, Carl Gustav Jung believes that dreams draw from a “collective unconscious”, a universal fund of images and symbols fed by myths, religions or legends…), to reveal our “true self”. According to him, the symbol present in the dream “does not hide, it teaches”. 

Today, numerous clinical and scientific data attest that dreams often reflect our current concerns and the experiences that have marked us emotionally. They allow us to get in touch with our inner world and to explore it.

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