Monday, September 29, 2014

How Dreaming Can Lead to Amazing Creative Breakthroughs


Sometimes people spontaneously generate creative solutions to difficult problems through non-traditional methods, such as through epiphanies, intuitions or dreams. Psychologists use the term Eureka! Effect to describe the process in problem solving when a previously unsolvable puzzle becomes suddenly clear and obvious.

While these types of Aha! moments do happen during conscious waking states, the ones that occur in dreams are particularly fascinating. While we sleep, we become connected to the unconscious creative aspects of ourselves. The dream state is an important, vital time where expressions of the self can come through without judgment and flow with clarity and honesty. By gaining access to the unconscious mind, we can begin to pull heavily from intuition and our deeper self-knowledge that might be concealed or suppressed during our day-to-day life.

Indeed, research has shown that dreaming makes you smarter and more creative. While there is no official consensus from scientists about why dreams can lead to such profound moments of inspiration and creativity, or where these moments are localized in the brain,psychologists have argued that sleeping facilitates insight by allowing time for the brain to restructure information and consolidate memories, changing their representational structure.

Throughout history there have been a fascinating breakthroughs in science, medicine, art, literature and even sports that were inspired by dreams. Here are some of my favorite Eureka! dream moments: 

The Sewing Machine

In the 1840’s Elias Howe had invented the first sewing machine, but he struggled and struggled with the design of the needle. One night, he had a dream where he was kidnapped by cannibals and told that he must design the needle to his machine correctly, or be murdered. In the dream, he looked at the cannibal’s spears and noticed that each point had a tiny hole inside of it. He woke up with the epiphany that by putting a hole at the front of the needle, his invention would work. And in 1845, the sewing machine was born. 

The Molecular Structure of Benzene

Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz’s discovered of the molecular structure for benzene in a dream. Scientists had spent years trying to figure out the molecular structure of benzene with no success, but during von Stradonitz’s fireside nap one afternoon, he dreamed he was surrounded by snakes eating their own tails, thus forming themselves into hexagonal shapes. He woke up with anAha! moment realizing this was the exact shape of the molecule he had been trying to crack. And he was right.

For the rest of the story:

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