Why do we dream? This is a fun question to ponder, because no one really knows.
I've heard a number of theories as to why we dream, such as dreams are the mind's way of working out problems or that they are simply part of a random process that allows the brain to rest. Neuroscientist Mark Solms, in Hara Estroff Marano's Psychology Today article Why We Dream postulates a different idea. Solms thinks that dreaming provides a distraction for the brain that allows the body to rest.
I have my own theory. I think that dreaming allows us access to other dreaming people so that we can work together to solve problems. Think about it. How many times do you wake up with a solution to a problem that seems to come from nowhere? Do you ever dream about things that you'd never think about during your waking hours?
Last night, I was scanning an Internet discussion board about a current missing child case. Two women commented that they had had the same dream: the missing little girl was surrounded by women, but ran to them when they knelt down and held out their arms to her. Why were these women independently having the same dream?
I offer these anecdotal (and totally personal and biased) dream experiences for you to ponder:
Recently, I dreamt about a former co-worker that I haven't seen in over 10 years. I doubt I've even thought of him once during that time. Yet, upon waking, I felt as though we had spent time together and reacquainted ourselves.
Another time, I had a falling out with a close friend. We weren't speaking and I found the situation terribly frustrating. I had two dreams around this time where I met my friend in what I can only call dreamspace. Not only were we still friends, we seemed to understand each other's side of the conflict and held no bitter feelings toward each other. Both times, I woke up confused and disoriented. I still wonder if she had the same dream.
And finally, last night I dreamt about another former co-worker, a friend I've simply lost touch with. In my dream, he was having problems with a current co-worker. I woke up listing solutions for his problem in my mind: "Now, what you need to do is get this guy some guidance counseling. You need to build up his self-confidence. It sounds like he's made progress on the job, but you're still so frustrated with him from before that you can't acknowledge it. And why are you still going to bars with him after work? You can't expect ... Wait a minute. What am I doing?"
Why do you think that we dream? Your guess is as good as mine!