Using dreams to solve problems
Dream incubation, a form of using dreams to solve problems, has an ancient history.
Jewish mystics would sleep on the grave of a rabbi they revered to call up his wisdom in a dream. Devout Moslems, to this day, practice ishtikara. Before a major life decision, like marriage or a new job, a Moslem will ponder the issue he faces as he is about to fall asleep. He will ask for divine guidance, in a dream.
Modern science has confirmed the problem-solving power of dreams.
In a study by the Harvard dream researcher, Deirdre Barrett, college students identified a personal issue. They repeated it to themselves at bedtime and encouraged themselves to dream about it. After a week, two-thirds of the students involved in the study reported dreaming about the problem and one-third reported having dreamt of a solution. What Barrett actually developed is a experimental trial of dream incubation (Barrett, 2017). Remember that incubation is not ruminating on a problem but turning it over to the unconscious and “sleeping on it.”
How do we solve problems while dreaming? What goes on in the brain? The task-oriented part, what therapists call the ego, of the brain is shut off during dream sleep. Other parts of the brain that are usually quiet light up. Parts of the brain that normally don’t talk start chattering. Creative problem solving probably comes from these new connections, that the ego isn’t there to criticize and reject; and this wider chatter that the ego isn’t there to hush.
5 steps for dream incubation
Create a calm contemplative space in your mind before going to bed. Perhaps read something, especially something that leads your mind inward.
When you are in bed and ready to sleep think about the problem you are trying to solve or work through. Think about the problem, don’t try to come up with a solution. Think about the problem but turn it over to God, or if you don’t like religious language, turn it over to your deeper self or a higher powered within you.
Trust. Trust is at the basic core of all mystical beliefs and practices. Trust and faith are closely related. Trust the wisdom within you. You, your ego doesn’t have all the answers, but the higher and deeper You that is within you does.
Listen for the answer. Don’t dismiss a dream that might come because it seems meaningless, think about it, maybe talk about it with someone you trust.
Be patient. An answer may not come right away. If you are not used to paying attention to your dreams, develop that skill by recording your dreams when you do remember them. This is not a one-night stand, this is a long-term relationship tha requires honor, respect and patience.