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Dream on: Subconscious offers guidance

Charles McPhee, the Dream Doctor, has recorded his dreams, since he was 17. “I became interested in dreams as an avenue to increase my knowledge of the subconscious mind, and increase my psychological and emotional effectiveness,” he says. As host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “the Dream Doctor Radio Show,” Charles interpreted listener’s dreams. But his show went off the air in October, a few months after the 44-year-old was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This is a neurodegenerative disease, so it becomes increasingly difficult for Charles to move — and speak.

As part of TODAY’s segment on Charles’ career, life, and ongoing work — a study on dreams with Marvin Bressler, professor emeritus of sociology at Princeton University, we asked him to interpret some of your dreams. We also asked him to answer a few questions about dreams to give us a better idea of why they are important to our waking lives. Here are his answers:

TODAY: Does everyone dream? Why do some people think they don’t dream?

CHARLES MCPHEE: Everybody dreams, but memory for dreams is famously elusive. Even Sigmund Freud, without the benefit of modern technology’s electroencephalogram, or EEG, did not know that adult humans dream 90 minutes per night, and that newborns spend eight hours per day dreaming (out of their 16 hours of sleep). REM sleep helps grow the brain!

People with poor memory for dreams need to practice waking up slowly. We all dream just before we wake up. Lay in bed with your eyes closed, don’t move or talk to your bed-partner, and concentrate on what you were just dreaming about. Your dreams are in there — you just need to work on your memory.

TODAY: Do men and women dream the same amount? Do they have different types of dreams?

MCPHEE: Men and women dream the same amount. The main difference in dream content relates to biology and life events. Women dream about their fertility, pregnancy and delivery, and have more dreams about children — owing to their role as primary caregivers. Other differences in dreams have been exaggerated. 

TODAY: How are our dreams able to help us resolve issues in our conscious lives?

MCPHEE: Dreams are selfish, in the sense that they always concern issues and events that were weighing on your mind at the time you had the dream. Dreams will warn you about concerns in your career, in your family life, in your relationship with your spouse, and give insight into problems with your children. By understanding the meaning of common dreams, you can identify issues that want your attention in your waking life.  

TODAY: Why do some people think that their dreams are prescient?

MCPHEE: It is more helpful to think of dreams as reflections of the present rather than as pictures of the future. A dream of a car out of control, for example, does not indicate that a car accident will occur in the future. It does mean, however, that the dreamer is feeling out of control in his or her life right now. It is important not to be superstitious about dreams.  Dreams are practical reflections of feelings and concerns that were present in your mind at the time you had the dream. You are smart and practical. So are your dreams.

TODAY: Are our dreams being influenced by images we see in the media? Are our dreams less original? Or personal?

MCPHEE: Dreams are more original than images we see in the media, and are surprisingly unaffected by media. For example, the average person watches several hours of television per day, yet dreams are rarely about shows we have watched or news of the day. Dreams are more personal.  We tend to only dream about issues that impact us directly: our careers, our marriage, our children, our family and friends.

TODAY: Why did you become interested in dreams? How long have you been recording yours?

MCPHEE: Dreams are self-created, but dreamers often do not understand the images that their own minds produce. Therein lays the essential paradox of dreams; dreams reveal that we all possess subconscious ability. Furthermore, our subconscious mind, as it is revealed through dreams, proves itself to be talented, artistic, insightful, perceptive and intelligent. The goal of dream study is to increase one's contact with and access to the abilities of their subconscious mind. I became interested in dreams as an avenue to increase my knowledge of the subconscious mind, and increase my psychological and emotional effectiveness. I have been recording my dreams since I was seventeen.

For more information on Charles McPhee, visit his Web site,

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