The reality level of dreams varies in terms of time orientation and level of consciousness. Regarding time orientation, dreams earlier in the night contain more themes dealing with the distant past—such as childhood for an adult—while dreams closer toward waking up tend to be richer in content and have more present themes—such as a current concern. The future is emphasized in oneironmancy, the belief that dreams are prophetic and can warn the dreamer of events to come.
The unconscious mind contains material that is rarely accessible or completely inaccessible to awareness. The personal unconscious may resurrect dream images of experiences that a person normally cannot voluntarily recall. For example, a woman may dream about kindergarten classmates about whom she could not remember anything while awake. The psychologist Carl Jung proposed that dreams could sometimes include material from the collective unconscious—a repository of shared human memories. Thus, a dream in which evil is represented by a snake may reflect a universal human inclination to regard snakes as dangerous.
When waking reality, rather than unconscious thoughts, intrude upon dreaming, lucid dreams occur. Lucid dreams are characterized by the dreamer's awareness in the dream that he or she is dreaming. Stephen LaBerge's research has revealed that lucid dreams occur only in REM sleep and that people can be trained to experience lucidity, whereby they can exercise some degree of control over the content of their dreams.
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