Oneirology

This is my favourite word in the whole glossary (but then, you knew that, didn’t you? :)). Oneirology is the study of dreaming. The word comes from the Greek for dream, oneiron, and for “the study of”, logia. When I talk about the study of dreaming I don’t just mean laboratory-based experiments in which people come into a sleep lab and get wired up to EEG and tell us their dreams. That is one aspect of oneirology, but it’s much broader than that. Oneirology involves using all the methods at our disposal to find out more about the mystery that is dreaming. We collect dream reports from people over long periods of time, and see what we can figure out from them; we interview our participants, to find out what they dream, how they understand their own dreams, how they use their dreams, and so on; we conduct dreamwork in groups and with individuals, to see what insights and understandings we can reach from exploring our dreams; we conduct surveys and questionnaire studies, trying to find out what kinds of people have what kinds of dreams; and much more. The only thing we don’t really do is dream interpretation. We don’t believe that we have the authority or knowledge to be able to interpret someone’s dream for them. Oneirology is a pursuit for an understanding of what dreams are (content, form, phenomenology, etc.), what they are for or what evolutionary function they may have (e.g. emotion-processing or memory-consolidation), and what we can do with them (e.g. dreamwork, social dreaming, or psychotherapy).

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