Episode 65: Lauri Loewenberg, Dream Expert
Lauri Loewenberg, Dream Expert
In this episode, Karen explores the science and meaning behind dreams with certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg. A dream expert to the stars, Lauri is also an author, syndicated columnist, popular radio personality, and member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
Lauri Quinn Loewenberg has kept a dream journal since she was a child. One night, at the age of 19, her deceased grandfather visited her in a dream and gave her a life-changing message. It was then that she decided to dedicate herself to finding out what dreaming is, why we do it and what it means.
Lauri is now a professional Dream Analyst and author of Dream on It, Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life (St. Martins Press).
She has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Fox Business, The View, The Steve Harvey Show, Live with Kelly and Ryan and is a recurring guest expert on The Today Show, Dr. Oz and E!s Daily Pop.
She currently resides in Tampa, FL with her handsome husband, son and orange tabby Sigmund.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me? This is You Matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:36
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety Operations at the Department of Public Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Lauri Lowenberg, dream expert to the stars. Lauri is a certified dream analyst, syndicated columnist, author, popular radio personality speaker, and member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Lauri has been featured on many television shows including Good Morning America, The Steve Harvey Show, Fox Business, and she's a recurring guest on the Today Show and Dr. Oz. Lauri has been the featured expert source in Harper's Bazaar, The New Yorker, Esquire, Glamour and Prevention magazines, to name a few. In March of 2011, Lauri released her third book, Dream On It, Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life. Lauri, welcome to You Matter.
Lauri Loewenberg 01:46
Thank you so much for having me. I'm happy to be here.
Karen Ortman 01:49
I'm so happy, I'm very excited to talk to you. Let's start by talking about your role as a certified dream analyst. What does that mean?
Lauri Loewenberg 02:03
Well, what that means is that I have a bevy of clients and I help them to figure out what their dreams are telling them, meaning that their dreams are connected to some issue going on in their waking life. I help them pinpoint the issue, figure out every single part of the dream, how it's connected to the issue, and what they are telling themselves through the dream in regards to the issue. It's important to remember that our dreams, as bizarre as they seem, are actually built in problem solvers, and it's the way we figure things out, and get things right.
Karen Ortman 02:47
So how did you come to pursue this field of study? Is this a degree program at a college or university? And, where does your interest come from?
Lauri Loewenberg 03:03
Okay, so my interest comes from just being a very vivid dreamer my entire life. I can remember my dreams since I was two years old. I would drive my parents crazy in the morning trying to explain my dreams to them. As I got older, I started writing them down and drawing them and just keeping them because I'd wake up in the morning and be very upset that the dream was over.
Karen Ortman 03:12
Wow. Yeah. Wow.
Lauri Loewenberg 03:28
Long story short. I didn't pursue the study of this until after my grandfather died. This is when I was 19 years old, he died. He was the first person close to me to ever die, so the first time I ever really experienced a death. I became very, very depressed, and two weeks after his death I had this dream where I'm walking arm in arm with him through this museum and I'm aware that he has died. I asked him what it's like where he's at. He said, well, I can't tell you that, but what I can tell you is that it's very secure. When he gave me a hug and he started walking up the staircase, and I woke up, I could smell his Old Spice. I could still feel him like he was still in the room. That dream was so real and so much more vivid. It felt so much different than all the other dreams I've had. I wanted to know from that dream what that was. Why do we do this? What is it about? What does it mean? So that's what propelled me to study dream psychology.
Karen Ortman 04:40
So dream psychology is a field of study in an academic Institution?
Lauri Loewenberg 04:44
Yeah, there are quite a few universities now that offer that in their in their site courses. When I studied this, this is way back very early 90s, no colleges offered it so I took it as an extension course under a PhD. Thankfully, now it's becoming more mainstream and more accepted as a very viable form of psychology and self understanding. So what is a dream? What is the scientific explanation? Okay, the scientific explanation is a series of images, emotions, ideas and sensations that happen involuntarily during REM sleep. But what I will tell you that dreams are is that dreams are thoughts. Dreaming is a thinking process, but it is a stream of thought that happens in the subconscious mind instead of the waking literal mind. So, if you think about your day going, you wake up in the morning, you're getting ready for work, you drive to work, you're working, come home, you help your kids do their homework, you're loading the dishwasher, you're doing all these things throughout your day. And, throughout all that you're talking to yourself, right? You have a stream of consciousness and that stream of consciousness continues as we fall asleep at night. It's still going on once we enter REM dream sleep, so that inner dialogue you're having or inner monologue - I don't know which it would be since you're talking to yourself - but it's still happening. Now that you're in REM dream sleep, your brain is working a little differently, certain parts of the brain are dormant and other parts are very active. You're still talking to yourself, that thought process is still happening, but now it's like it's happening in a different language it's a symbolic, metaphoric, emotional language.
Karen Ortman 06:38
So you said REM sleep, what is that?
Lauri Loewenberg 06:41
REM sleep is, it's a lighter stage of sleep that happens every 90 minutes throughout the night. This is when dreaming takes place. It's called REM, because that stands for rapid eye movement. If you watch someone when they're dreaming, their eyes are moving back and forth underneath their eyelids.
Karen Ortman 06:59
Yeah. So if your eyes are not moving, is there a relationship between your eyes moving and dreaming?
Lauri Loewenberg 07:06
Karen Ortman 07:07
So you are dreaming if your eyes are moving?
Lauri Loewenberg 07:09
If your eyes are moving underneath those lids, you are dreaming and your eyes are moving because you're watching what's going on in your dream?
Karen Ortman 07:17
Is it the same with animals?
Lauri Loewenberg 07:19
Karen Ortman 07:20
So when animals eyes are moving or their paws are flinching their clearly dreaming.
Lauri Loewenberg 07:26
Yeah, if you watch your dog or your cat sleep, and then when they start, you know, twitching a little bit, then you can see that their eyes are moving, and sometimes they'll make little noises. Yeah, they're having a dream.
Karen Ortman 07:37
Wow. So you can only dream in REM sleep?
Lauri Loewenberg 07:42
Well, you can have visions and what I call little dream limits and other stages of sleep, but it's not an official certified dream, unless it happens in REM. Those are the ones that have the really good deep meanings.
Karen Ortman 08:00
Okay. Does everyone dream whether they remember the dream or not?
Lauri Loewenberg 08:07
Yes, it is a natural necessary function of the brain. As I mentioned, we dream every 90 minutes throughout the night, whether you remember it or not, there are some people that have had some form of brain damage and don't seem to have REM dream sleep anymore.
Karen Ortman 08:22
Lauri Loewenberg 08:23
Other than that, if you are a warm blooded mammal, you are dreaming every time you go to sleep. Why is it necessary? It's necessary because your thoughts have to keep continuing. It's necessary because we are thinking beings, "I think therefore I am", is it Nietzsche that said that? So it is a form of our existence.
Karen Ortman 08:47
Do we only dream at night?
Lauri Loewenberg 08:53
You mean when we're asleep?
Karen Ortman 08:55
Right? When we're sleeping at night, but there are people that take naps during the day.
Lauri Loewenberg 08:59
Yeah, you definitely dream during a nap. Nap time dreams can be really crazy too. The interesting thing that I have noticed about nap time dreams is that the dream you're having during your nap usually tends to take place in the room that you were actually in.
Karen Ortman 09:19
Lauri Loewenberg 09:20
Yeah. So you may dream, like you're sleeping on your sofa during your nap, and then your dream may take place in the living room.
Karen Ortman 09:28
Lauri Loewenberg 09:30
I think it's because a nap is usually an hour, maybe two. You don't go deep, deep, deep, deep, deep into asleep so you still have a little bit of awareness, conscious awareness about you to know your surroundings.
Karen Ortman 09:46
Interesting. So dreams, are they to be taken seriously or dismissed as is a fantasy, if you will How do we associate ,meaning, if any, with dreams.
Lauri Loewenberg 10:10
So, a lot of people, they wake up from a dream and just assume it was, just a dream. They just shake it out of their head and go about their day. That's a disservice to yourself to dismiss something as just a dream and not give it any attention because that dream, as all dreams are, are messages from you, to you, about you. They're very important, deep, insightful messages about your life right now, about you right now, about your relationships right now. Every single dream you have is a conversation with yourself about you.
Karen Ortman 10:48
How does one learn the meaning of their dreams if they are about the dreamer?
Lauri Loewenberg 10:56
One of the best things you can do to help figure out your dreams is to keep a dream journal in tandem with a day journal. I recommend writing at the end of the day, write down your day on the left side. And you want to keep track of what happened, what was on your mind the most, what you talked about what you struggled with that day, what you accomplished that day, write that all down on the left side, then when you go to sleep at night, have your dreams wake up in the morning and write down your dream or dreams that you remember on the right side. So, then you have your day in your dream right next to each other, and you can more easily connect the dots between what happened in your dream to what happened the day before. If you start doing this you'll notice an awful lot of what happens in your dream, the emotion you had in the dream, whatever activity happened in the dream, the characters in your dream will seem to correlate with your previous day. Your dreams are a commentary on the previous day.
Karen Ortman 12:02
But what about those dreams that are ambiguous or the relevance to your life is unknown to the dreamer? Are there ways in which that sort of dream, about which the meaning is unknown can be sort of dissected and analyzed by the dreamer to figure out what the meaning is or should be?
Lauri Loewenberg 12:38
Yes. Everything in your dream is some aspect of yourself or something that directly affects the self. So,with every object in the dream, every animal in the dream, try to see how that relates to you. If, for example, say you dream about a dog that has been hit by a car.
Karen Ortman 13:10
Lauri Loewenberg 13:11
Yeah, unpleasant symbol, but an important one. What in your life, what area of your life are you feeling run over? What is in danger of ending?
Karen Ortman 13:23
So iit's not about the animal, literally dying? It's not a literal interpretation of what's going to happen.
Lauri Loewenberg 13:30
No, like your dreams are never about the future they're about right now. They are a metaphor for what's going on in your life and in your personal world right now.
Karen Ortman 13:40
So is it accurate to say that the objects in your dream, whether it's an animal, or a microphone, the interpretation should not be literal to those objects or animals? Maybe that microphone has meaning to something else, or the animal has meaning something else? It's not really about the animal or the microphone.
Lauri Loewenberg 14:05
Right. You don't look at it literally, it is symbolic. I've been studying this for years and years and I do have a book Dream On It, Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, which will help you learn how to figure out all the different parts of your dream. There's a whole chapter and animals and dreams, a whole chapter on the people you dream about and how to figure it out. What you want to do to figure out, you mentioned a microphone, so say you dreamt about a microphone. What is its purpose? It's not about the microphone, but what is the purpose of a microphone? So, answer that. What is the purpose of a microphone?
Karen Ortman 14:42
To amplify your voice?
Lauri Loewenberg 14:47
Okay. Why would you want to amplify your voice?
Karen Ortman 14:50
To be heard?
Lauri Loewenberg 14:51
Okay. That's what the microphone would represent in your dream. Probably something you needed to speak up about, something you need to communicate to someone else in your life.
Karen Ortman 15:02
Does your brain ever quiet down and sleep, or is it always active?
Lauri Loewenberg 15:07
When we are in the deep delta stage of sleep, that is the lowest activity of brain work. That is because that's the restorative part of sleep. Your brain settles during that point so that your body can restore. We fragment during that stage.
Karen Ortman 15:30
Okay. Can sleep be interrupted by the need to get up and go to the bathroom fpr example?
Lauri Loewenberg 15:36
Yeah, for sure. It will tend to play into your dream a little bit. We call this outside interference dreams when something going on with the body like you gotta pee really bad, there’s a dog barking outside...
Karen Ortman 15:49
And you're standing in a stream.
Lauri Loewenberg 15:51
Yeah, yeah, exactly. The dreaming mind has this really amazing way of flawlessly incorporating outside interference into the storyline of the dream. Then that pressure on the bladder is strong enough that it does eventually, thankfully, wake you up, you can take care of business.
Karen Ortman 16:12
How does food or alcohol affect dreams?
Lauri Loewenberg 16:18
Alcohol will make you dream less, because it'll mess up your sleep patterns. Instead of slowly going into the stages of sleep, if you go to bed snockered you're going to hit right into deep delta, you're going to conk out. Okay, so that's going to mess up your ability to dream and then you'll also tend to wake up about two hours into sleep, and then you'll have a really hard time getting back to sleep, so it will suppress your dreams. Other foods can greatly affect your dream; spicy foods, lasagna, tacos, something really spicy can cause nightmares. If you eat it within like two hours of bedtime.
Karen Ortman 17:05
What about spicy food causes nightmares?
Lauri Loewenberg 17:09
It affects a lot of things going on in your body. Your blood sugar level will rise rapidly and then drop rapidly, you're also having to fight heartburn, which is even harder when you're horizontal than when your vertical, also it's harder to digest spicy food. You've got all these things going on internally, which competes with a peaceful sleep and REM. When you've got all this going on, it will affect what's going on in your REM. So you might have, because your body's working so hard, you might have a very frustrating or upsetting dream caused by that.
Karen Ortman 17:48
You spoke of blood sugar. So I'm assuming foods high in sugar.
Lauri Loewenberg 17:53
Yes. A negative impact too. You don't want anything too sugary too close to bedtime. A good rule of thumb is just don't eat anything at all within two, three hours of bedtime.
Karen Ortman 18:05
And that's just for a restful sleep not necessarily for dreaming?
Lauri Loewenberg 18:09
Also for weight control as well.
Karen Ortman 18:12
How does medication affect dreams?
Lauri Loewenberg 18:14
Some over the counter as well as prescription medications can really mess with your dreams. A lot of them will tell you on the package that it can affect REM sleep. For example, if you take one of the Nicorette, or one of those medications that help you to quit smoking, that will cause crazy dreams and you'll actually dream more when you're on that medication. Some hormones like progesterone, if you put on that for, say trying to get pregnant, or for whatever other reason, that causes really - and I was actually on that one time - and I had the craziest most hilarious dreams of my life. I woke up laughing.
Karen Ortman 19:02
How about mental health issues. How are dreams affected by someone who suffers from mental health concerns?
Lauri Loewenberg 19:14
They're the biggest. In my experience in research, this isn't saying all across the board, this is within my experience and research on the mental health issue, what seems to affect dreams the most is depression.
Karen Ortman 19:30
Yeah. How so?
Lauri Loewenberg 19:32
It will change the content of your dreams. You will find that you dream your dreams will be the colors will be muted or in shades of gray, that's a telltale sign of depression. Or, you'll have a lot of the color blue in there because it symbolizes the blues. You'll have storms, rain, you'll dream of shadowy figures, which is kind of the way your subconscious embodies the depression as a dark shadowy presence in your life. I've also found that people who suffer from anxiety get storm dreams as well. In particular, tornado dreams are rampant with people who suffer from anxiety. That's super interesting to me, because I love the way dreams give form to things in our life, to behaviors, to situations, to issues. The tornado is the way the subconscious gives form to the anxiety that's spinning out of control. Also, a tornado is a very destructive force, as anxiety is very destructive to the psyche. When you are having depression, anxiety or other mental health issues pay attention to your dreams, because they can give you a heads up when you're about to go into an anxiety attack, when you're about to have another bout of depression. Dreaming of falling is a warning dream your subconscious will give you when you're about to fall into another bout of depression. It can give you a heads up so you can prepare.
Karen Ortman 21:13
So that's what a falling dream can mean?
Lauri Loewenberg 21:17
It can be, it's very common for people who suffer from depression, but people who don't and get the falling dream, in that case, it typically means you have had some sort of let down in real life recently, plans fell through, someone let you down, something didn't work out, hopes were dashed. That typically is what we'll call the cause the fallen dream.
Karen Ortman 21:42
Are dreams mostly in color, with the exception of what you just spoke of, where if someone has a mental health issue they could potentially be dreaming in black and white...
Lauri Loewenberg 21:58
...and shades of gray and muted colors. Yeah, if you see in color, you're going to dream in color. It's actually a myth that we dream in black and white. That myth seems to have been born in the 50s, the age of black and white television, before that people didn't seem to report that their dreams were in black and white.
Karen Ortman 22:20
Right, wow. So dreams are symbolic and not literal, right?
Lauri Loewenberg 22:30
They're not literal, yeah. So don't look at your dreams literally, don't look at them as predicting the future. They are symbolic of something right now. If you look at it literal you're not going to get the message and you might freak yourself out.
Karen Ortman 22:40
Yeah. Let's talk about types of symbolism in dreams and their meaning. What sort of examples can you share based upon your practice and your experience?
Lauri Loewenberg 22:58
Gosh, there's so many, and what are some common ones? The car, okay, your car or a car will typically, now of course, you always want to put your own personal associations to it, but typically - these are what we call archetypes, symbols that we all tend to dream about that tend to have the same meaning. These are called archetypes. For example, the car, the car will typically represent your ability to progress and move forward because the car moves us forward. So, you want to pay attention to what's going, who's driving the car, are you behind the wheel? Good, that's a good indication you're in control of your life right now. Has the car broken down? Where are you feeling rundown in your life, what forward movement in your life seems to have stopped? Have you lost your car? You're trying to find your car. Ask yourself, have you lost your drive your motivation?
Karen Ortman 23:52
How about lost car keys? Would that be the same? Like if you're in a parking lot at a mall and you dream and you can't find your car? Or your car keys? Or your key?
Lauri Loewenberg 24:02
Yes, okay, so the key is a little different, because the key allows us to open up and also allows us to start. Ask yourself, are you having a hard time finding a way to open up about something? So, that's a key. A key speaking of keys, a key to remember, in order to figure out your dreams, always ask yourself, what is the nature of this object? What is the purpose of it and then correlate that definition to your real life right now?
Karen Ortman 24:36
How about death in dreams? Your own death. Where you know that if you jump over that cliff, you're going to die and you can jump over that cliff, and some people I've heard say, I know that I'm going to wake up, but I can jump off that cliff and feel as if I've died.
Lauri Loewenberg 24:56
Okay, so it sounds like you're talking about being aware that you're in a dream.
Karen Ortman 25:01
Lauri Loewenberg 25:02
Yeah. Okay. That's called lucid dreaming when you are within the dream, and then have the awareness that it is a dream. That's actually one of the coolest experiences you can ever have. It is such a cool state of consciousness, because you're awake and you're asleep at the same time, which means you are in your conscious mind and your subconscious mind at the same time. A lot of people become lucid within a nightmare, and they use that lucidity to wake themselves up and get out of the nightmare, which is a shame, it's a waste, because you can actually turn to that axe murder and say, what do you represent and the expert will answer you!
Karen Ortman 25:43
Lauri Loewenberg 25:44
Yes. That's what I always tell my clients. When you become lucid ask a question, because then you're conversing with your subconscious. It's really cool.
Karen Ortman 25:54
What about teeth falling out?
Lauri Loewenberg 25:56
Okay, teeth. Do you get this one?
Karen Ortman 25:58
I don't have teeth falling out, but the next one I'm gonna ask you about I do.
Lauri Loewenberg 26:01
Okay, the teeth falling out is really common, probably in the top five dreams. I'm surprised you don't get it because it is particularly common for people in the radio industry. So, anything having to do with the mouth in a dream; the mouth, the lips, the tongue, the throat area is going to be commenting on your communication in real life. These are what we use to communicate. If your teeth are falling out in a dream, that's usually caused by the fact that you've allowed something out of your mouth that should have remained in there permanently.
Karen Ortman 26:37
Thankfully, that's not me.
Lauri Loewenberg 26:40
People who don't have a filter get that dream, people who tend to say things and then regret it and wish they'd said it differently get that dream.
Karen Ortman 26:49
Okay, one dream that I continue to have to this day, and I've been out of college and graduate school a long time, I still have that nightmare that I haven't handed in a final paper or completed a final exam, and I'm going to fail.
Lauri Loewenberg 27:06
Okay, I got that one night before last. The school dream is definitely in the top five dreams that we all tend to get. It's interesting because we'll get the back at school dream 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years after we graduated. What I have found is that dream is typically connected to job stress. School is our first job and it's where we learn the dynamics of what a job entails, you need to be on time, you need to be prepared, have done your homework, you're being tested and judged, you want to fit in, you want to move on out to the next level, the same dynamics as your job. Pay attention to what the stress or the issue is in your school dream because it will likely correlate with a very similar stress or issue at your job. The one where you're not prepared for the test, and you always have the awareness that you're going to fail if you don't pass the test, when was the last time you had the dream?
Karen Ortman 28:16
Um, it's been a while. Okay. It's just one of those that has been happening very sparingly, but still consistent throughout my adult life.
Lauri Loewenberg 28:28
Okay, so we take tests in order to prove that we've learned what we have been taught. You may get the stream as something's going on in your job or career where you feel you need to show you've got what it takes, we need to prove your skills.
Karen Ortman 28:45
Yeah. Okay, that works.
Lauri Loewenberg 28:48
It's gonna happen with the evaluation time or maybe you're up for promotion, or you're learning a new skill, you can get the being tested dream.
Karen Ortman 28:56
Yeah. How about the one where you're holding a phone in your dream, and you your fingers can't press the buttons to dial the number?
Lauri Loewenberg 29:12
This also would be a communication issue in your real life, because we use phones to communicate with each other. If you can't dial that means in real life with someone you must be having a hard time. Well, you in general. So, if you can't dial you must be having a hard time in some area of real life where you just aren't getting through to someone, they're just not hearing what you're trying to say and communicate to them.
Karen Ortman 29:42
Lauri Loewenberg 29:43
A common one is where you try to call 911. I hear this one all the time...
Karen Ortman 29:47
Yeah, me too.
Lauri Loewenberg 29:47
...and you can't get the phone. That would mean, in some area of your life you need help, but you're not asking for it. Help could be in the form of advice, it might be financial help, it could be a helping hand. A lot of people just don't want to ask for help. They don't want to look weak or like they can't handle something.
Karen Ortman 30:08
Death, you know a parent, a loved one, anybody that you care about, their death in your dream, what does that mean?
Lauri Loewenberg 30:19
Or even your own death?
Karen Ortman 30:21
Lauri Loewenberg 30:21
So death, again, it is symbolic. Don't let a death dream freak you out. Death is the end of life however to the dreaming mind, death is the end of life as you now know it. So, death in a dream will represent some kind of ending or change this taking place in your real life. A really common death dream is parents that dream their child dies. That's a horrific dream to have because it feels very, very real. But, as parents we get those dreams when our child has reached some sort of milestone, they're learning to crawl, now they're walking, they can feed themselves, they learn to ride a bike, or going to school, they're learning to drive. All these milestones represent the end of a phase of life. The death dream is the way the subconscious mourns the passage of time and how fast they grow.
Karen Ortman 31:21
So let's switch gears a little bit. Deja vu?
Lauri Loewenberg 31:26
Yes. What is Deja vu? Deja vu is still a bit of a mystery, but it is when you are going about your day and suddenly get that familiar feeling. Oh, I know what you're going to say this has happened before!
Karen Ortman 31:40
Or you've been at a certain location before.
Lauri Loewenberg 31:43
Yeah, yeah, I've seen this house before. I bet I know what it looks like on the inside. A lot of research shows that Deja vu is connected to something we have dreamed previously and that's why it feels so familiar when we experience Deja vu in real life. I have had probably hundreds of people who have told me that they're able to remember the dream that they had when they experienced Deja vu, so a lot of people are able to connect the Deja vu experience to an actual dream they had. But I mean, really, what causes it? Who knows? You know, time isn't really linear. You know we could go into a whole time space continuum conversation, it's a fascinating subject, Deja vu.
Karen Ortman 32:41
It really is. What about sleep paralysis?
Lauri Loewenberg 32:45
Sleep paralysis is also fascinating topic. A lot of people that experience it and don't know what it is think that they're being haunted, or they're being possessed by the devil. Some people think that it's an alien abduction that they've experienced because it feels very, very, real. Right? When you have it, you are in your bed, and you think you're awake, but you're not 100% sure. A lot of people can't move, they feel pressure on their chest, they experience some sort of dark, sinister presence in the room. Sometimes it feels like the presence is sitting on the bed or even sitting on them it's a very frightening experience. But, usually all of a sudden, boom, you wake up just like that. Here's what is happening physiologically when we experience sleep paralysis; when we go to sleep and enter REM dream sleep, the brain releases a chemical through our brainstem and into our bodies which paralyzes our skeletal muscles. It's a built in safety mechanism so that we don't act out our dream, we are literally paralyzed while we're dreaming. Sometimes, when we've had a fitful night of sleep or our sleep routine is just off we'll start to wake up before the brain can reactivate our skeletal muscles. It's important understand that the falling asleep and waking up process is actually very complicated. There's tons of things going on in the brain, things are turning on things are going dormant. It's a very complicated process, and sometimes we get stuck before the brain can reactivate our skeletal muscles so we are literally paralyzed once we wake up. We're stuck in this in between state called hypnagogia, you're awake and asleep at the same time. It is a hallucinatory state. That's why you will think there's someone in the room and you will sometimes hear things. You can hallucinate auditorily as well. The pressure on the chest, I believe is caused by the paralysis that you're still experiencing. It's such a frightening experience, because in this state, the very center of the brain, the fear center, the amygdala is highly active. That's why it's so scary, but it's perfectly harmless. If you give yourself just a moment, you'll snap out of it in no time. I like to tell my clients when they have this experience, to turn it into a lucid dream, because it is it is very close to a lucid dream. You can realize what's happening; this is sleep paralysis, and then you can will yourself to, like, float out of bed. Or, you can just ask questions, see what kind of answer you get. You can have fun with it once you understand what's going on. The fear seems to go away.
Karen Ortman 35:52
So you've had clients who have actually spoken to the object, person, or animal in their dreams and gotten a response?
Lauri Loewenberg 36:03
Yes. One client of mine, he was getting sleep paralysis episodes a lot, he was a morning show. host, so he had to get up at three in the morning and his sleep was very off. He would get sleep paralysis episodes, he would see a dark sinister presence in the room, and his experiences were always the little Sandmen from Star Wars. I told him next time it happens, ask a question. So he did. He asked, who are you? They answered him, and they said, we are your sins.
Karen Ortman 36:42
Wow. And what was his response?
Lauri Loewenberg 36:47
Oh, he was like, oh shiz! And then he woke himself up.
Karen Ortman 36:54
And then he woke up. What is the relationship between sleep paralysis and sleep walking?
Lauri Loewenberg 37:01
Okay, so sleep walking is a parasomnia and it it tends to be hereditary. It tends to run in families. It doesn't happen during dream sleep, because you are able to get up and walk around. It is a malfunction in the the sleep stages. We're not 100% sure what causes it, but typically we go through all the different stages of sleep smoothly and when there's disruptions in that process, we can get parasomnias like sleep talking, sleepwalking, night terrors, that sort of thing. It seems to be more common in children and tapers off as we get older, but can present again and adulthood when we're going through stressful times and our sleep pattern gets disrupted.
Karen Ortman 38:07
You've probably heard, I've probably seen it in movies or heard it in movies, where you're warned not to disrupt somebody who sleepwalking because you could get injured or something.
Lauri Loewenberg 38:18
Yeah, it's more for your safety than it is for them, because you don't know how they're gonna react. They can flail their arms and punch you in the face.
Karen Ortman 38:25
okay, so you're not hurting or or potentially injuring the sleepwalker?
Lauri Loewenberg 38:31
No,it's okay for them just not for you. I tell people, if they if they get bouts of sleepwalking, there's a couple things you can do. One is put a bell on your doorknob so that would typically wake you up before you get outside your room and fall down the stairs, or like, put aluminum foil on the floor by your bed so stepping on that can wake you up.
Karen Ortman 38:55
One of my kids, who will be nameless for the purposes of this podcast, but used to sleepwalk all time, and it used to scare us.
Lauri Loewenberg 39:04
Karen Ortman 39:06
So we did that, put a bell on the door.
Lauri Loewenberg 39:10
Okay. And that helped?
Karen Ortman 39:11
It helped us to know that we had a child that was up and about walking around potentially, so yeah. You mentioned earlier that waking up is a complicated sort of function. How does hitting the snooze repeatedly on your alarm clock effect, whatever this process is, that is probably more scientific than I understand.
Lauri Loewenberg 39:48
So, the snooze button actually can be a magical little thing, because that can help you lucid dream. If you ever want to experience lucid dreaming, I cannot tell you what an amazing experience it is to be able to control your dream because you can jump up and fly, you can have conversations with the caterpillar, you know, you can do anything. If you want to experience a lucid dream, I suggest setting your snooze button for about 20 to 30 minutes before you have to really get up, so when your snooze goes off go ahead and hit it and then fall back asleep, and in that little window of time it's enough time to fall back asleep, but not deep sleep. You'll stay in the lighter stages of sleep, you are likely to get back into a light dream sleep, and you're more easily able to retain enough consciousness as you enter into that light dream stage to be aware that this is a dream.
Karen Ortman 41:03
I think that is when I have many of my lucid dreams, because I do hit the snooze alarm probably, at least at least five times.
Lauri Loewenberg 41:14
Oh, that's a lot. In your lucid Jews, what do you do?
Karen Ortman 41:19
Um, I am very aware that I'm in a dream and if I confront something that's disturbing, I can I tell myself, this is a dream, and just wake up.
Lauri Loewenberg 41:34
Okay. Don't do that anymore, talk to it.
Karen Ortman 41:37
You know, it never even dawned on me that I should talk to it, whatever is there.
Lauri Loewenberg 41:41
It's really it's one of the coolest things, to have a conversation within a lucid dream, because the answers you get! Let me share, if we have time, a lucid dream I have that changed my life.
Karen Ortman 41:53
Oh, please do.
Lauri Loewenberg 41:57
In addition to being a professional dream analyst, I'm also an artist, I was an artist. I came out of the womb drawing, I've been drawing my whole life. I put my art aside in order to build my career as a dream analyst. I went about 18 years without really doing any art whatsoever. I would continue to get these recurring dreams that I knew were telling me, you're neglecting your art, you're neglecting art. It was streams of fish dying. So, one night I had a dream and I became lucid, I was in my childhood home. I saw this short square woman that had no really distinct features and just sort of had indentions for eyes, not really even a mouth or anything. I went up to her and I said, what do I need to know? She said to me, you need to paint and I need to sow. I woke up from that and I was thinking about it, and I realized she didn't mean sew with the thread and needle, she meant, reap what you sow. So, if I start painting again, I can reap what I sow, and she represented my art, it had become a very small part of me and it was not a distinct part of me anymore, which is why she was so had no distinguishing features. After that lucid dream, I said, okay subconscious, I get it. The very next day I bought canvases and paints and pencils, and brushes, and drawing pads. I started painting and drawing, then I would post it on Facebook just to show people, look I'm painting again! One thing I like to paint is women, Marilyn Monroe, little fairies and things. One of my Facebook friends saw one of my women and said, would you paint me as a pinup girl for my wine label? I said sure. So I did that. Her friend saw it and they wanted one. From there it just exploded. Now I have a very thriving successful career as a pinup artist as well. I'm booked out for months, with a waiting list.
Karen Ortman 44:06
Wow. So you paint everyday women as pinup artists, or I mean as a pinup girl?
Lauri Loewenberg 44:12
Yeah. All my clients, I paint them or their wives or girlfriends as a pinup model.
Karen Ortman 44:20
Did you paint the Marilyn Monroe that I see?
Yeah, I painted that.
It is beautiful. Wow.
Lauri Loewenberg 44:25
Karen Ortman 44:26
You very talented.
Lauri Loewenberg 44:27
This is the one I'm working on right now; I don't know if you can see it. I just have her hair done.
Karen Ortman 44:32
Wow, you're so talented. I can I learn to do that. Seriously, I would love that. I'm a frustrated painter. I can't paint at all, but I always say that if I could have a talent, it would be painting.
Lauri Loewenberg 44:47
It's good for the soul. Even if you don't think you're good at it, you should just do it anyway because it's really good for the soul. It's creation, and it's soothing.
Karen Ortman 44:56
Yeah, I love creating. I should look into that. You're right. They're beautiful, though. Thank you. You ought to be very proud of yourself. Is every aspect of a dream relevant, you know, colors of shirts, the weather, well you already spoke about weather, the activity, it all means something?
Lauri Loewenberg 45:16
Everything. Nothing in a dream is unimportant or random. A dream can certainly seem random, seem like it came out of nowhere and things in the dream can seem random, but they're not. Every little piece of the dream down to the color of the shirt you're wearing is a piece of the puzzle, of the big picture your subconscious is giving you. Everything is carefully put together by your very wise subconscious mind in order to give you a message about you right now that you need to know.
Karen Ortman 45:46
Our dreams interpreted differently in different countries.
Lauri Loewenberg 45:52
Yeah, there's interesting wives tells in different countries, like for example, in Italy, dreaming of a hat is bad luck.
Karen Ortman 46:05
Yeah. Wow. Okay, so the dreams have different meanings in different countries? Well, I would assume we dream the same.
Lauri Loewenberg 46:17
The art of dreams psychology is universal, but different cultures will have different things that are prominent in their culture that they'll dream about, as well as different wives’ tales to their culture.
Karen Ortman 46:35
Yeah, sure. What makes a dream different than a nightmare?
Lauri Loewenberg 46:42
A nightmare is a dream that is so disturbing and frightening that you're jolted awake. Whereas, a dream, you'll just continue to sleep through it.
Karen Ortman 46:56
So do nightmares have meanings similar to a dream?
Lauri Loewenberg 47:01
They absolutely have meaning similar to a dream, but they are connected to an upsetting, or disturbing, or unresolved issue, or a mishandled issue. That's why nightmares are so disturbing, because they're connected to something in your life that's upsetting. But, nightmares are good for you, because they're shining a light on this issue that needs to be corrected. I like to say that it's the way your subconscious is slapping you in the face and saying, enough already, we have to correct this.
Karen Ortman 47:34
Are nightmares literal, and dreams...
Lauri Loewenberg 47:37
No, they're all symbolic, unless you're experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder nightmares, where you've been through something very traumatic, and then you relive it in the nightmare. Those can be a useful tool in helping you overcome the post-traumatic stress by, and this is something that's been very effective with veterans who have been through war and are having post-traumatic stress nightmares, reliving their horrible experience in the nightmare. What you can do, and this works with any kind of trauma you've been through that's causing you to have post-traumatic stress dreams, you can take the dream and rewrite it. I suggest doing this at bedtime before you go to sleep. You write down the dream, and then remember that you're giving it to yourself, it is a creation of your mind. Even if it is an actual event that happened that you seem to be reliving, you're still giving it to yourself in your mind recreating it every night. You want to rewrite it. Write out the dream, and then when it gets to the end keep writing, where you take control. You can be creative with it if you like and turn yourself into Xena Warrior Princess and kick ass, you can pull out a magic wand, your Harry Potter wand. You rewrite the ending, but you have to be consistent. This is something that you'll need to do night after night after night. I've had clients that the dream changes within the very first night, some people take quite a bit longer, but repetition is the key to learning. Same is true with the subconscious, if you keep telling the subconscious nope, this is how it's going to end, it will eventually get the message. Basically you're reprogramming your subconscious mind by writing out a positive outcome. You take control and you get your power back.
Karen Ortman 49:44
And this works for veterans of war who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Lauri Loewenberg 49:51
Yeah. I believe it was first used in therapy with combat veterans, and it'll work with any person who has been through trauma. One of my clients, their house burned down and the little girl in it died. She was reliving that over and over. I taught her the technique, and the very first night the dream started to change.
Karen Ortman 50:15
Wow. That's good to know. Did you ever discover the meaning of the dream you had about your grandfather?
Lauri Loewenberg 50:27
I didn't think I needed a meaning. I think it was him. now. I do. You know there's no conclusive proof that those that have passed on can communicate while we're in the dream state. I do believe that they can because of my own personal experiences, as well, of all the people that have told me their dreams and their experiences with it. Contact dreams is what we call them, they tend to happen very shortly after the death of the loved one. These dreams, they all seem to have similar elements, the person that has passed on looks absolutely radiant and healthy, the best they've ever looked, they tend to come with a message that says, I am still here, I am fine. When you wake up from the dream, it feels different. You don't remember it like a dream. You remember it like just a moment ago? It stays with you. A lot of people still feel the presence of their loved one for a little while after waking up, and it just feels different. It's a different experience than a dream experience.
Karen Ortman 51:37
Can you have contact dreams years after a loved one has passed?
Lauri Loewenberg 51:43
Yeah, I think so. Yes. My grandfather came to me again in a dream when my brother in law committed suicide. He came just to hug me.
Karen Ortman 51:54
Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.
Lauri Loewenberg 51:56
Karen Ortman 52:00
Do you believe that we can communicate with any deceased loved one through our dreams?
Lauri Loewenberg 52:09
I do. I think it's not really up to us, it's up to them. Here's why I think it happens, science shows us that anything that exists travels in waves, it's a vibration, and it travels in waves, you got radio waves, sound waves, light waves, the brain works in waves. Our brainwaves slowdown in frequency with each stage of sleep. REM sleep seems to be that perfect frequency, a brainwave pattern that allows us to connect or tune in, like a radio, to that vibration of consciousness, the consciousness of our loved one. If we die, and consciousness survives bodily death and continues to exist, it will travel in waves, it will exist in a vibration. So, perhaps we can tune in during REM to that wave.
Karen Ortman 53:17
I'd love to think that we can.
Lauri Loewenberg 53:19
Karen Ortman 53:21
What do you love about what you do?
Lauri Loewenberg 53:24
That it's life changing for my clients. That the aha moments they get when I help them understand what they are telling themselves through the dream, and the way it absolutely changes their life. The answers, the advice, the guidance, even the warnings that they get from their dreams after an interpretation session is actually very, very clear to them.
Karen Ortman 53:53
That must feel really good when you help somebody make sense of what's going on?
Lauri Loewenberg 53:59
Yeah. I'm just telling them what they're telling themselves, I'm helping them. In a dream analysis session, I'm not telling you this means this, this means that, I ask you questions that lead you to your understanding.
Karen Ortman 54:18
Fascinating. Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven't asked you?
Lauri Loewenberg 54:24
I would just add a takeaway for your listeners so that they can start tapping into their own dream power. The first thing you need to be able to do is remember your dreams in order to tap into that power. In order to start remembering them, and this is like the easiest thing in the world, is whenever you wake up, whether it's in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, or you're waking up for good in the morning, stay put, stay in the exact same position you woke up in, because that's the position your body was in when you were dreaming. If you roll over you're unplugging yourself from the dream, you're adjusted. Just give yourself three to five minutes of quiet still time in that exact same position. Don't think about anything. Let the dream come back to you. Make this a habit every morning when you wake up, and you will be surprised how much you're going to start remembering your dreams every single morning.
Karen Ortman 55:25
Great advice. Thank you so much. A lot of fun talking to you. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast.
Lauri Loewenberg 55:33
Well, thanks for having me. I enjoyed our conversation.
Karen Ortman 55:36
Thank you again to my guest, Laurie Loewenberg, and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like, and subscribe to You Matter on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Tune in or Spotify.