The Purpose of Past-Life Dreams
In my independent study of dreams over the last decade, I’ve come to believe that some dreams are memories of events we have already experienced, but we don’t consciously remember experiencing. These memories sometimes arrive to us intact in dreams, as precisely the interaction we had, but don’t consciously remember. In such cases, we dream in the first person “I” perspective, and we are the age we were at the time of the event, even if we don’t realize it inside the dream.
The reactions to these dreams vary depending on the feelings aroused, but all of them share a common feature in that we relate to the dream experience as novel, as new. We don’t remember it ever happening to us, even though it did. It does not feel like memory or remembering.
Other times, dreams of the past arise as composites. For example, we may dream of an interaction we had with a teacher when we were in preschool, but our confused sleeping brain may project an identity of someone we know now in our waking life onto the teacher because the emotional resonance matches the one we felt for the teacher when we were little.
If we adored the teacher, for instance, the character in our dream may appear to be someone we feel fondness for in current waking life. If we related to the teacher as strict or frightening, the character “playing the part” of teacher in the dream may be a current-day co-worker or a colleague who, in waking life, causes us distress at work.
Again, this kind of dream, when we recall it, will not have the texture of a memory. It will likely be one of those dreams after which we say to a friend, “It’s so weird, I dreamt last night I was in my old preschool classroom, sitting at a table trying unsuccessfully to color in the lines. I got yelled at by my teacher, but the teacher was Tracey from H.R.!”
With all the stimulation we have to receive, process, and integrate on any given day, it’s easy to understand why the brain doesn’t consciously remember everything that had an impact on us during waking life hours across the years of our life, and why an event may appear again later in a dream to help us process a matching feeling arising now. For instance, frustration in waking…