Tag Archives: psychology

A lot has been said and to be said about dreams

In my last blog, I spoke about my last summer’s travel experience.  Things are moving, however, I’m afraid I’ve nothing substantial to report yet.

What have you been dreaming?

It was a cold and rainy Monday; right after I got out of my residence, I realised I was underdressed but couldn’t go back because I was running late for work and didn’t want to miss my bus. I thought of buying a jumper, then again, didn’t manage to find time to do it. Tuesday was also cold and raining; my bus was late by 40 minutes; moreover, I had to walk for nearly two kilometres because there was no tram due to technical problems. When Wednesday came, I needed a shopping therapy and my purchases included polenta. I still felt the soreness of my legs on Thursday. On Friday at 7 AM, I was woken up by my husband’s hug and a narration of his dream. I giggled as I, too, had just dreamt. In my dream, it was raining hard and I was in an open market covered with plastics and parasols looking at clothes. I passed by a food stand of Italian products where it was selling the same polenta I bought on Tuesday.  Next to the Italian food stall was a table of jumpers. While browsing, I felt a hand on my shoulder; when I turned around, it was my husband. Why did I dream about things that really happened?

A fortnight ago, my Irish friend told me that she dreamt about having difficulty breathing. The day after that, she received worrying news about her long-time colleague’s ill health.

Dreams can be happy, funny, scary or sad. Nightmares, which are frightening dreams that awake us from sleep sweating, moaning or crying, are rare (statistics put it at around 5% only).

The BBC correspondent Sean Coughlan has reported research findings by the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the University of Wisconsin in the US that bad dreams improved the effectiveness of the brain in reacting to frightening experiences when awake and that dreams could be used as a form of therapy for anxiety disorders. (https://www.bbc.com/news/education-50563835 seen 30/11/19). On the other hand, “once a dream became a very upsetting nightmare the benefits were lost and instead it was likely to mean disrupted sleep and a ‘negative impact’ that continued after waking”.

Some dream experts reckon that our health, food, experience, activities and biological processes during sleep influence what we dream.  

My dream wasn’t lucid because I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was dreaming until I was awoken by a hug. Research studies have linked lucid dreaming to high levels of brain activity and increased busyness in the frontal lobe, which is involved with language, memory, and self-awareness.

Dr Michael J. Breus, a clinical psychologist and member of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, has stated that based on research, a significant percentage of people who appear in dreams are known to the dreamer (e.g. one study found more than 48% of dream characters were recognisable by name to dreamers). He further said that there is a body of study indicating that our waking life, which is beset by joy, success, grief, fear, loss, and emotional or physical pain, are replayed in dreams. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/sleep-newzzz/201501/why-we-dream-what-we-dream#targetText=Theories ).

My Aussie friend, like many people, are fascinated by interpreting dreams.  She has given a seminar on dreams and is currently writing a book about it. I didn’t have time to contact her before writing this article, but I’m interested to know about her findings because examining the content of dreams is one way to answer the most basic yet fundamental question, i.e. why do we dream?

How often do you dream? What do you dream about? Do you have theories on why you dream? Do animals dream?

Psychology of feedback

Our highly competitive world requires good and service companies, organisations and employees to improve constantly to stay on the top of their game. Giving feedback, which is information provided regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding, is part of this “room for improvement” business.

Employees undergo appraisals periodically. Clients and customers have access to online reviews. During a birthday dinner party last June 15, I sat next to a lady who advised me to get into our city government’s website and expose my displeasure with their inaction regarding the pigeons’ invasion of my neighborhood that has caused financial and health anguish. 

Since we are all either employees, employers, consumers, clients, or mere citizens, we do give or/and receive feedback regularly. As well, we get and give remarks, comments and advice from our family and friends, which are actually receiving and providing feedback.

Feedback, if not positive, should only be constructive criticism. Positive feedback can be manifested in many ways. Above is a photo of flowers given to me by a language school where I have been working for 10 years. I consider this as a positive feedback – a show of appreciation and encouragement to continue performing well.

My students fill in mid and end-of-course evaluation forms, which can be awkward doing it in my presence, particularly in a diverse environment where cultures and personalities come into play. Nevertheless, I insist on going through this as I am adamant that giving and receiving feedback helps me aid them achieve their goals and maximise their potential.

I value my students’ feedback as when done in an objective and fair manner and with the right intentions, it improves my performance.  I have to know what I am doing well and not so effective. However, with voluntary feedback, you get the extremes – those who quite like you and think you’re so marvelous and those who are naturally critical and cynical. Those in between often don’t bother doing it. I had been told by a friend that there’s this teacher whose entire lesson involved watching films that his students hardly understood, but he always got positive feedback because his “favourites” (term they used to describe his friend-students) followed him in his courses and gave him comments that were the opposite of reality. Whereas, his colleague who’s a valued teacher received a lower score.  Thus, should we take feedback seriously?

Emotions, such as anger, envy, fear, friendship, indignation, happiness and sadness affect individuals’ perceptions, judgments and behaviours.  As such, their feedback – whether positive or negative – is  also about them. Online surveys have anonymity but do not guarantee honest responses. Should feedback be done face-to-face to have an opportunity for both parties to air their views? This is time consuming and has limitations due to power imbalance, as in employer-employee and teacher-student relationship. As well, even face-to-face or focus group feedback is not free from biases, which can be cognitive, confirmation or attribution.

According to Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/bias seen 21/06/19), cognitive biases are repeated patterns of thinking that lead to inaccurate or unreasonable conclusions; confirmation biases refer to the brain’s tendency to search for and focus on information that supports what someone already believes while ignoring facts that go against those beliefs, despite their relevance; and attribution biases occurs when the person tries to attribute reasons or motivations to the actions of others without concrete evidence to support such assumptions. These biases help feedback givers make decisions and comments, which may not always be accurate. Therefore, when giving and receiving feedback, it’s important to be aware of these biases, particularly cognitive ones, and try to redress these. If you are the receiver of an unfair feedback, be open-minded and do not let this experience (which sometimes can be attributed to the critic’s bias or inadequacy to give feedback) damage your confidence and self-esteem.