Dream Theory – The Garden of Terror

Why do dreams come in symbolic form? Why does the unconscious/subconscious (same) mind transmit its knowledge in such an archaic form? Using Darwinian theory – the dream mechanism evolved – it has very primitive roots – perhaps and most likely going back to an epoch prior to the development of language when each individual had their own symbols to try and make sense out of a very confusing and unstable environment. Why are dream symbolic rather than straight forward? Why doesn’t the unconscious just say what it means instead of presenting a confusing language of symbols that most of us do not understand and can’t even remember?

The following theory is of course unproven and without any means of proving or disproving. It is purely theoretical, based on my own logic of what I know about dreams, human nature, evolution and history. It is just an idea I came up with – trying to explain to myself why the unconscious presents us with such a confusing language of symbols when it could just tell us in our own language what it thinks we should be doing.

In the pre-history – man pretty much lived in absolute terror. In 50,000 BC there were probably many societies or tribes who were ruled by tyrants – Hitler’s and Stalin’s of an earlier age who ruled by absolute power and brutality: it certainly would not have been any better than it was in the twentieth century.

But all men seek to obtain power (Adler), at least in their personal lives – without being constantly threatened of having his possessions taken from him or his life at the whim of an absolute dictator. Many countries today live under cruel dictators, so one can only imagine what was going on before 4,ooo BC.

Particularly in the Western world – many of us who started life out as Judeo-Christians were taught to believe in the Garden of Eden – that in the beginning it was paradise – and somehow the image of earlier times was one of peace and being at one with nature (i.e. Rousseau). This image of a peaceful past has not changed or remains blurred even if one’s belief in God has been changed. The brutality would have been horrendous.

Based on the above, man could not express himself freely. It was dangerous to even speak what you really thought. Therefore dreaming in symbols was a way to disguise yet express what was really going on in the individual life. Dreaming symbolically remains this way today because it has over a few hundred thousand years of development – and evolution may take another 100,000 years to change this, if man remains free – and in some countries this hasn’t happened yet.

Each person has learned to develop their own symbolic language to help themselves to cope in their environment. And although we live in a free society – each family has its own structure that each individual must survive or adapt in. Some families have a healthy environment where learning and free thought are encouraged. But others, such as families where addictions to alcohol and drugs are still in a terror or fear stage – where one’s personal views are not are required or wanted and are often met with violence or strong reprimand. The symbolic representations would be more threatening and terrifying in a family where addictions are a dominant factor – most likely the source of nightmares.

A good example of symbolic development similar to this concept would be Plato’s concept of forms, which Jung turned into archetypes. Many people are familiar with Plato and others witnessing the death of Socrates which was ordered by the authorities of Athens. They seemed to forget or not know that 2,000 other Athenians were on the proscription list and executed at this time. Two thousand may not seem like a lot in today’s population terms – however Athens only had about 25,000 citizens at that time (there were more slaves than citizens so the actual population was much higher). The two thousand murdered would not have been random – it would be people of high rank in the oppositional political faction – people with power and those who could think – a class which Socrates and Plato belonged. Socrates was poor, but could think – Plato was both – of high status aristocratically and high intelligence. Plato developed his highly abstract notion of forms, perhaps unconsciously but perhaps out of necessity to voice his inner emotional desire for freedom to express one’s self – in a time of absolute fear and terror – and this was a time when civilization was considered to be at a very high level – therefore it doesn’t take much to deduce that 10,000 years before this – political structures would not have been so civilized and two hundred thousand years before this – perhaps the fear was as if one would have in a jungle with panthers, tigers, snakes and stronger human who may want what little you have including your life.

Therefore – by interpolation each individual creates an internal unique symbolic system to express what they feel is needed for them to achieve the level of freedom they need to be an individual, what Jung calls individuation. However, this symbolic system is in accordance with each person’s environment and the way each individual coped with that environment based on his unique psychological and physical status in his society.

This theory of ‘The Garden of Terror’ is one to help explain why dreams are presented in a symbolic nature. As evolution has shown, any feature that an organism develops is for survival. There are no features that evolve that are not absolutely of necessity. Nature did not design dreams at night to be some type of home entertainment system to entertain us while we sleep. Dreaming is an evolutionary survival mechanism. In fact it is evolution itself in the sense that it is constantly trying to get each of us to adapt – to change in a way that unconscious feels is better for us to survive – because the unconscious is long term oriented and the conscious mind is very short term oriented – wanting immediate satisfaction. Therefore the conscious part tries to suppress the unconscious because it will reduce its immediate gratification. This is why some people think they do not dream or if they do remember when they wake up – the memory quickly disappears if not recorded immediately after waking.

If messages (dreams) came across loud and clear, the conscious mind would know to block it immediately.In the coded or symbolic format the messages can slip by the conscious’s censors – somehow this information must be transmitted to the conscious, even without having to remember or analyize the dream, this leads to a slow, but steady adaptation. The brains evolutionary development went through millions of years of development and adaptations – this wasn’t all done for the sake of hoping that one day psychoanalysts would appear. This capacity for transmission of knowledge through dreams must have developed prior to the evolutionary break-off of species development because so many mammals dreams. Similar to the way we all have two yes, ears, etc. Therefore, the capacity can be over a billion years old – anything that has the capacity to adapt – which would be all living organisms. It now appears that even water has memory. Living organisms all have a built in adaptation system of which dreaming is ‘one tool in the box’ for some life forms. These mechanisms, including dreaming, would be evolution in motion – because it is a constant form of adaptation.

This theory may not be exactly the way things happened, but it beats the competitive theory ‘hands down’ – that is, at least for those who have adapted.