January 14, 2010


"Whether or not we view ourselves as creative in our working lives, our dreaming psyche revels in its own seemingly unlimited creative potential."
                                                    - - Montague Ullman

For centuries, creativity was seen as beyond mankind, a gift from the gods. If dreams played a role, they were considered as divine messages, externally imposed from gods. This belief remained a long period of time until in the nineteenth century, Johann Goethe and Friedrich Schiller proposed that creativity was connected to the unconscious mind (“Goethe and Schiller connected creation with the unconscious”.)(1) Moreover, there was a quote of Sigmund Freud which emphasized on dreaming as “the royal road to the unconscious”(2). This produced an assumption to link creativity, unconscious and dream together.

a) Four reasons why dream is connected with creativity.
Why is dream connected to creativity? According to Dr. Montague Ullman, at the “Discussion: Dreaming – a creative process” at the American Journal of Psychoanalysis 24, 1964, he presented four reasons to explain why dreams played a role in creativity. Firstly, he mentioned the dream’s originality. Secondly, he proposed that dream is just like the creative process, it is spontaneous, and it is experienced without the control of the will. Thirdly, he defined dream as symbolic and metaphoric which both are also the expressions of creativity. Finally, the ability in which humans produce dream spontaneously indicate dream detains potential to creativity.(3) 

b) Affects on Dreams.
Romanticism offers a theory in which related emotion with the creative process: “it is the personal exploration and authentic expression of the emotions”(4). Also, according to neuroscience, it is observed that “many people who are very creative have a higher incidence of mood and addiction disorders”(5). Furthermore, Freud suggested that dream affects emotion. In his book The Interpretation of Dream, it presents the testimony of the emotional affects in dreams. “If I am afraid of robbers in my dreams, the robbers, to be sure, are imaginary, but the fear of them is real"; and the same thing is true if I rejoice in my dream. According to the testimony of our feelings, an effect experienced in a dream is in no way inferior to one of like intensity experienced in waking life, and the dream presses its claim to be accepted as part of our real psychic experiences, by virtue of its affective rather than its ideational content.”(6) 

Therefore, if dreams affect our mood, dreams can be influential in the creative process, both directly and indirectly, due to the fact that emotion is related with creativity.  

c) Dreams form our way of thinking.
“Dreams hold great potential for creativity because dreams are better at relaxing and thinking outside the box”, says Dr. Deirdre Barrett. It is believed that images of dreams can shape a person’s way of thinking. Thought or thinking is defined as “a mental process in which allows beings to model the world, and so to deal with it effectively according to their goals, plans, ends and desires. Thinking involves manipulation of information, as when we form concepts, engage in problem solving, reason and make decisions.”(7) Can dreams influence what and how we think? Questionnaires have been conducted from June 2006 until October 2006 in order to collect information either supportive or skeptic for this thesis. The following is a quote extracted from a questionnaire conducted on 5th of September, 2006, of an artist: “Since your subconscious takes over when you sleep, it creates random ideas or situations that appear lifelike, but only for about three seconds, however long they might feel like. Some of these three seconds clips stay lodged in your memory, and are recalled when you create something”. Also, another quote extracted from a questionnaire conducted on 17th of September, 2006, of a graphic designer who mentioned that dream form his design thinking: “I'm sure at some points I've pictured projects of mine (I always find it difficult to get any given work at any given time out of my head, I think about it too much) while dreaming, which has then formed my design thinking”.

Do dreams really affect our emotion and shape our way of thinking? I personally interviewed with a neurologist about the topic. I asked: “Dream does affect emotions, but what about our thoughts? If a dreamer doesn't remember his/her dream, will the images of dreams somehow press in his/her memory and then affect his/her way of thinking in waking life? Is that possible?”

Neurologist says: “I'd say not only possible, but virtually certain. Researchers have repeatedly shown that subliminal imagery - imagery that the recipient has no conscious awareness of - can profoundly effect behavior. Imagery from dreams not consciously recalled falls in the same "subliminal" category, and will have an effect either directly, or indirectly, through emotional affect. After all, how we feel has a large effect on what we think - ask anyone who has experienced depression.” 

Whether or not we consider dream as a portal to creativity, dreams have always inspired artists and other creative professionals to create throughout the human history. In the following chapter, it presents evidences which shows that dream not only contributes to the worlds of art but also to literature, music, architecture, invention and science, all it relies on the connection between dreams and reality.

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