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JOHN PETROZZI: Hi and welcome to Living is Easy with John and Josh on 89.7FM Eastside Radio. I’m John Petrozzi.

JOSH HARPER:               And I’m Josh Harper.

JOHN PETROZZI: And this week, we’re really lucky to have Suzana Dekanovic, clinical psychologist. And we’re going to talk about a topic which we all hold dear to our hearts because we all do it, and it’s dreams. We’re going to talk about dreams today.

Welcome to our show, Suzana.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

JOHN PETROZZI: So what is it about dreams? Do we all dream?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Well, dreaming is a very normal and a natural phenomenon and Carl Jung spent most of his life studying and understanding dreams. He was a psychoanalyst. He said that the purpose of dreaming was to actually help restore our general psychological functioning. As he started and researched dreams, which was, you know, most of his life, he actually reached a conclusion and said that dreams are not meaningless, and in fact, they provide the most interesting information for those who take the trouble to understand their symbols.

So what he was saying and what we can understand today is that if we listen to and understand our dreams, they can actually offer us guidance. It’s actually a way of the subconscious trying to tell us messages about what is going on for us in our life at a particular time.

But just another interesting explanation of dreams is that they can actually serve a physiological function as well; that’s just another theory. It’s thought that dreams, or the associated brain activity of REM sleep, which is the sleep stage associated with dreaming, provide periodic stimulation that develops and then preserves the brain neuropathways.


JOSH HARPER:               And what does that mean?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Well, I think basically what it means in simple terms—because it is a bit wordy—but what it means in simple terms is it helps the brain kind of rejuvenate. It’s like in the same way that you need to sleep physically to rest your body, your brain also needs some rest.

JOSH HARPER:               Right.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: If that makes sense.

JOSH HARPER:               Yeah. And does it sort of sort things out from the day and then get rid of –

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Yeah, well, that’s more difficult to answer, Josh. I think what happens is that we tend to incorporate material, maybe, from the day, and what also happens is that the brain then consolidates some of that material to help you remember that material in the future, so it kind of facilitates remembering as well. I think that could be another function of sleeping. I think that actually is another theory of why we dream or, you know, and sleep.

JOHN PETROZZI: So Suzana, with dreaming, do we all dream?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Yes, look, we all tend to dream unless somebody has an acquired brain injury. It’s just that, not everyone tends to remember dreaming, because dreaming is actually associated with the REM sleep or the stage of sleeping, which is Rapid Eye Movement. Research has shown us that if you’re actually woken up during that stage of sleep, 80-90% of people would actually remember what they dream; whereas, if they’re not woken up, they will think that they didn’t dream because they actually don’t remember dreaming.

JOHN PETROZZI: So if there’s someone who is a really solid sleeper or a heavy sleeper, they may not remember their dreams at all. They might think that they just sort of put their head down at nighttime, wake up in the morning and, because they haven’t woken up, maybe they’d think they haven’t dreamt at all.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Well, again, it depends. Even if it’s a heavy, solid sleeper, it depends what phase of sleep they wake up in the morning. Because you start off sleeping in Stage 1, Stage 2—I think there might be Stage 3—and then REM sleep. And that cycle repeats; it repeats over and over again. And if you’re woken up, depending on what time you get up, say, if you get up at six o’clock in the morning and, you know, as the alarm goes off, if you’re in Stage 1, the cycle’s going back to Stage 1, you’re not likely to remember what you dreamt.

JOHN PETROZZI: And REM sleep, just for the listeners, is Rapid Eye Movement.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: That’s right. It’s Rapid Eye Movement.

JOHN PETROZZI: And that’s when your eyeballs go from left to right, just flicking from side to side.


JOHN PETROZZI: I think it normally happens about every 90th minute, doesn’t it?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: When you actually reach the REM sleep?


SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Yeah, 90-100. Apparently they say that, what research has shown, they say if you’re 10 minutes into your REM sleep, when you wake up, you’ll feel like you remember 10 minutes of the dreaming that you’ve been in. There’s an association between how much dreaming you remember and how much time you spent in your REM sleep, if that makes sense.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, it does. Yeah.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve heard of people who wake up a lot during their sleep, because they keep remembering their dreams, or they say they dream too much and they wake up feeling really exhausted. Can that happen? If you dream too much, can you sort of wake up feeling exhausted?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: If you keep waking up like, say, if you keep waking up in REM, and you keep remembering your dream, and depending on what the issues are, those issues reflect particular stressors that are occurring in your lifetime. That might be quite overwhelming for you because of the unresolved issues that are occurring, and if you don’t tend to understand those symbols or the images that you dream about, then it might be quite confusing for you, particularly if the themes of that dream are rather heavy and negative.

JOHN PETROZZI: Okay, it makes sense. Because really, dreams faces your cortex, really lights up, doesn’t it? So a lot of your paths to your brain light up.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Well, what they’re saying is that when we actually dream and when we’re in REM sleep, what the research has shown is that from the EEG records and eye movements, they’ve shown that we have quite a regular low voltage, fast waves, which basically suggests quite a considerable amount of brain activity. And also, the other thing is that your heart rate and breathing are higher and more variable in REM than in any other stages. I guess in this regard, research is also proposing that REM sleep is light, but the actual postural muscles of the body are more relaxed than in any other stage.

JOHN PETROZZI: Oh, right. Okay.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: So sometimes it’s kind of a cool paradox cool phase of sleep because it’s slight in that your brain activity is very active, your eye movements are happening, but your body or your muscles are very non-active.

JOHN PETROZZI: Relaxed yet?


JOSH HARPER: Hi and welcome back to Living is Easy with John and Josh on 89.7FM Eastside Radio. Today, we are talking about dreaming.

Suzana, I think I have fairly normal dreams, but do people interpret their dreams differently, like the symbols in the dreams and, you know, what actually happens?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Absolutely. I think no dream or dream symbol or image of a particular dream can be separated from the individual that actually dreams that. It’s really important to think about what that image might mean to you. So when you have a particular dream and you think, “What was that about?” you know, if it’s particularly strange or if it’s particularly normal, always think about what the main themes in that dream were. So it could’ve been running, it could’ve been swimming or playing, and then think about what were the feelings associated with that particular dream—excitement, or fear, or anxiety—and that might give you a clue about what that dream might be about for you. It might indicate to you something that might be going on in your life and refer to that.

But, generally, there are lots of books out there on dreaming and I will just caution people against going out there, looking up a dream bookmark, top of it in a dictionary book, and looking up in a particular topic, say, swimming and then interpreting that as, “OK, well that’s what it meant for them” because it’s very individual. You know for me, for example, swimming might mean I don’t know if you’re afraid of them, but for somebody else it might mean something entirely different.

JOSH HARPER: Yeah, it’s sort of what you associate with it.


JOSH HARPER: So everyone’s not the same.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: No, and then into that you need to also take into account culture, religion, because that will vary for each person, and gender differences as well.

JOSH HARPER: Is there anyone we can see about dreams that will give us a very general meaning to our dreams?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: So somebody that will help you interpret your dreams? Yeah, look, there are lots of people out there actually practicing dream interpretation. We have quite a few psychotherapists in Sydney who are also Jung-y in psychotherapists so they trained in that theory and that approach and they have an understanding of dreams that’s particularly based on his work. But yeah, there certainly are dream, I guess if you can call “dream psychoanalysts” out there who can help you with that.

I think what will happen over time is if that’s something that you want to do or pay more attention to, say, you decide that, “Look, I want to pay more attention to my dreams. I want to dream more.” Then, if you intentionally set your mind on that and say, “OK, this is what I want to do,” you will notice that you will start recollecting dreams more frequently-


SUZANA DEKANOVIC: -and actually start remembering them and paying attention to them, and maybe over time, start to make more sense about them. It’s like anything else—the more you become aware of something, the more you can work on it.

JOHN PETROZZI: So Suzana, back to the point you mentioned that the symbols in our dreams can mean different things for everybody, so for instance, if I dream of a big wave at the beach-


JOHN PETROZZI: -to me that might mean, maybe there’s something that’s coming up in the horizon that I might be stressed about, or for someone else, it might be, “Wow, huge wave! I’m going surfing this week!”

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Exactly! The thing is sometimes a dream, say, if you’re out there surfing and you’re a pro-surfer, you know champion that’s coming up for his surf-

JOHN PETROZZI: Contest or something?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: -contest or something, that dream might actually literally mean that. It might literally refer to that, but sometimes it might not. So dreams—sometimes, not quite often—can be taken literally. But more often than not, they’re all about symbols and meanings. And they’re all about symbols and images because our subconscious doesn’t communicate to us in words but rather in images and symbols.

JOHN PETROZZI: So if our subconscious is consistently trying to communicate with us while we’re sleeping, trying to give us certain messages and things, what happens if we even don’t listen to that message or just disregard the message totally?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Well, what Jung would say about that is that if you don’t listen to the messages or if you ignore your dreams, then the energy that’s associated with something important in your life gets totally dismissed or repressed. And what then happens is that thing that gets dismissed or, you know, repressed, intensifies and even more so, in key to presenting itself in your dreams or in your behaviours. You start relying on your rational mind to guide your behaviour or your acting. You become very rational because you’ve disconnected yourself from your subconscious, which is your clue to what might be going on for you.

Unfortunately, if we continue doing this, if we continue ignoring important messages, like I said, your rational mind will drive your behaviour, thinking, and feeling, but unfortunately this too much rationalism will destroy your capacity to respond to symbols and ideas, and then you kind of get disconnected from your spiritual value and from the meaning of your life. You morally start to kind of lose that connection, if that makes sense.

JOHN PETROZZI: It does, yeah. And also a bit of a stereo-type but, in the past, I don’t know if it’s a stereo-type, but women seem to be more in tune with their spirituality compared to, possibly, men. So for a man who is consistently driven to his career and becomes disassociated with his dreams and possibly his connection to the earth or spirituality, would they start to suppress certain emotions and certain feelings that might sort of erupt later on in their life?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: What Jung would call that is “the shadow.” The shadow keeps creeping up. So if it’s something that you haven’t looked at or you haven’t resolved, you know, you keep having dreams, say about falling, these dreams about falling keep recurring in your life. That’s telling you something, that’s telling you something about, “Hey, what does this mean?” Say, falling to you means, you know, “I’m scared! I’m going to hit rock bottom.” Where in your life are you scared that you’re going to hit rock bottom? What is it that you’re constantly worrying about in your life? What does this mean to you? Is this the same issue that you keep worrying about, you know, over and over again? Has this been going on for, I don’t know, years or a couple of months? Is this in relation to something that’s happened recently, you know, some significant event? Have a look at that.

JOHN PETROZZI: Mm-hm. So in short, really, if you don’t listen to your dreams, which are trying to tell you messages, then I suppose, you’ll just keep re-living the same patterns, day after day, maybe week after week, month after month, until you finally sort of click, and a light bulb turns on in your head, and you say, “Oh, hey! I need to listen to something and change something in my life.”

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: But the beauty about dreams is that they can really offer you solutions that can be quite quick than what otherwise you might be able to get to. Just as an example, I had a dream not long ago, I practice yoga and in that dream I remember going into a room full of people and there was this one person doing a headstand. (No, it was actually a handstand; it wasn’t a headstand). Everyone gathered around that person and she was doing that handstand, and I was thinking, “Wow, how is she doing that?” and I remember she showed me and she said, “You know, it’s not about the legs, it’s just about your hand movement, so you only have to do,” and she was showing me, it was just a little simple technique.

And so, to someone else that might mean, I don’t know, to someone else that handstand might mean something totally different, but to me because I’ve actually been practicing that handstand, it was significant to me, it was something that- the message for me was, whatever it was that I was doing which had something to do with work, was to keep persisting, and all I had to do is just vary one single thing. And I knew what I had to do; to me that was that message and that was really reassuring because I knew just to keep going with that.


JOSH HARPER: Welcome back to Living is Easy with John and Josh on 89.7FM Eastside Radio. Today, we’re lucky enough to have Suzana here to be talking about dreaming.

Suzana, I’ve heard writing down your dreams and keeping a dream journal, it’s easier to remember your dreams at night. How do you remember your dreams better?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Okay, well, I think I just briefly mentioned it previously, early in the show, and I said that if you want to remember your dreams, have that intention, say that to yourself, “I want to be able to remember my dreams,” because then you’re sending a message to your subconscious, and you’re more likely to start paying attention to your dreams, start waking up in the middle of your dream or towards the end of your dream and actually remember it.

But to get ready for this process, I guess you can begin by making a habit or writing down your dreams each morning, as you said Josh, or as soon as you’re awaken from your dream and you can still remember it. What’s happened to me in the past—and still happens if I don’t write it down—is that I’ll have the experience of waking up, going to the bathroom, and knowing in that moment, so vividly remembering what my dream was. And even being able to understand it like knowing exactly, “Yeah, that’s what it was about. Okay, this is what it’s telling me; this is what I need to do.”

I go back to sleep and know I’m going to remember, and not have to write it down. And you know what, I have no idea what the next- I know that I dreamt about something, I know I went to the bathroom, I know that, you know, I was pondering about something, but I have no idea what that dream was. So to help you with that, when you go to sleep, instruct yourself to, you know, remember that dream, and make sure that on your bedside table you’ve got a pad and a pen or even a recorder so that you can just write it down.


SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Otherwise, you miss out on some really important information.

JOSH HARPER: It’s so funny you say that, because so often you wake up and you remember it so vividly.


JOSH HARPER: And then you think, you know, “I won’t forget this. How could I do that? I remember it so clearly” and then in an hour, you’re just like, “What’s going on? What happened?”


SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Yeah. An author has written a book; her name is Phyllis Krystal. She wrote that book “Cutting the Ties that Bind Us,” something like that. “Cutting the Ties that..” yeah, something like that. I think I’m sure you know what I mean. She suggests that when you prepare for sleep, instruct your subconscious to give you a dream that will instruct you in whatever way would be helpful at that particular time.  So if you, say, if you’re having difficulties at work or you’re having difficulties making a decision with regards to what career choice to make, you can actually say to yourself, “Okay, I want to dream. I want my dream to tell me how to resolve this situation.” And it will be amazing what comes up for you in that dream.

JOHN PETROZZI: Suzan, it’s interesting the way you’re speaking about subconscious because it’s almost like you’re speaking to another person.


JOHN PETROZZI: It’s almost like you’re speaking to someone inside your head to instruct you to do things.


JOHN PETROZZI: In the past, I found it difficult to grasp what the subconscious is because you can’t see it. It’s inside and you think, “Ah, it’s not really real.”

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: You can’t feel it. You can’t touch it.

JOHN PETROZZI: You can’t feel it. You can’t touch it. You can’t smell it. It’s not real, it’s just like, it’s not part of reality.


JOHN PETROZZI: But in actual fact, you’re saying that it’s almost like a – someone inside your head, or a coach, or a mentor that’s giving you some guidance.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Subconscious can be your- it’s kind of like your- you know, have you ever have that gut-feeling about something that just knowing something is right? I think that’s getting in touch with your subconscious, just a sense of knowing that something is sense of, yeah, it’s just there, it’s like part of your- Subconscious is an inbuilt mechanism in a psyche that, you know, if acknowledged to, if listened to, and if you really pay attention to it, it can actually support your personal development, your personal healing, and even beyond that. But most of us don’t pay attention to it because we get caught up in every day, you know, kind of life-to-life, you know –

JOHN PETROZZI: Situations?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: -situations. Or if we think about it, we get caught-up with our ego; what the ego drives us. So that separates us from, or takes us away from being in tune with what our subconscious is trying to tell us or trying to understand our dreams. Like I said before, dream material is spoken by the subconscious in images, in symbols, and our mind, though I normally think the conscious is very concrete, and it can be very challenging for the conscious mind to make sense of the subconscious material.

JOHN PETROZZI: So I suppose in an extreme situation, if, let’s say, the mind, the subconscious part of us, is trying to give us a message, and that’s a really big message that we keep ignoring, because we choose to ignore it, will that sort of come up in our lives as a nightmare or as a recurring dream? So the dream just keeps knocking at us every night saying, “Hey, there’s a message here for you, you better listen up; otherwise, I’ll just keep giving you this recurring dream.”

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Yeah, it can happen. I mean, a recurring dream might suggest that, you know, you have a recurring issue in your life which you have not quite resolved. A nightmare, on the other hand, yeah, I guess a nightmare is an unpleasant dream that also occurs in the REM sleep and that occurs pretty much in people of any age. Have you heard of night terrors?

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, I’ve heard of night terrors.

JOSH HARPER: I haven’t.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Night terrors are basically experiences of very intense anxiety from which a person generally awakens screaming in terror. I’ve never had that, thankfully, but it’s quite a frightening experience. But night terrors actually occur during non-REM sleep, which is interesting, and apparently they’re far more common in children than in adults. I’m not sure why, I don’t know the research behind that, I don’t know, and I’m not actually sure if there is a lot of research behind that, but they’re two different things—night terrors and nightmares.

So nightmares are really just unpleasant dreams, and yes, if it’s something that you keep pushing aside, it can come up in the form of a nightmare particularly if it’s something associated with negative events in your life.

JOHN PETROZZI: There are so much more we can talk about, isn’t there?

JOSH HARPER: There is.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: It’s an interesting topic, isn’t it?

JOHN PETROZZI: Got to place the last question. It’s just about people who can’t sleep at all, people who have insomnia.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Okay, so the question is-

JOHN PETROZZI: I suppose if dreaming is a connection to your sub-conscious, how are they touching base with subconscious every night if they can’t sleep and if they can’t go into that REM sleep?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Well, people with insomnia, they actually- it’s not that they don’t dream, I mean, a lot of them will have dreams. It’s again what phase of sleep they wake-up in. What research has found with people with insomnia (there was a particular research that compared people without insomnia and then people with insomnia), and they actually found that people with insomnia actually had greater recall of their dreams. They’re healthy, normal subjects, if you will, but their dreams were often associated with negative themes, and that probably relates to the fact that maybe a lot of people with insomnia, you know, suffer from stress, suffer from, maybe, depression. So a lot of those things in your life that are recurring that really need attention, need addressing. Yeah. Does that answer your question?

JOHN PETROZZI: It does, yeah. I just thought it would be interesting to see if these guys actually dream or not, but they obviously do.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: They do, yeah. Like I said, I think for people not to dream, actually not have a dream, they’d probably have to be maybe, if that would be associated with a particular brain injury, sustained or acquired injury, but most people will dream. And research can show that just by, you know, hooking up into EEG and monitoring your brain activity, and Rapid Eye Movement stuff, yeah.

JOSH HARPER: So unfortunately that’s all we’ve had time for. Thanks for coming in, Suzana.

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: My pleasure, thank you for inviting me.

JOSH HARPER: Is there any key things you want our listeners to take away from this?

SUZANA DEKANOVIC: Well, I want people to understand that dreams can be very important and that the symbols and images in your dreams are basically the key to what’s going on in your lives, so pay attention to your dreams. Try to remember your dreams by having a notepad and a pen ready, or a recorder near your bedside table, just get a feel for what are the main themes in your dreams, main messages, you know, feelings associated with that. Dreams are important because they’re message carriers between your subconscious to your conscious, so a lot of important messages are in your dreams. If you can pay attention to that, then you can often find solutions and key to current situations in your life. So, yeah, keep on dreaming.

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, thanks a lot! We had Suzana Dekanovic, clinical psychologist, with us today, and that’s the end of our show. So until next week, Wednesday night at 6 o’clock, this is Living is Easy on 89.7FM. I’m John Petrozzi.

JOSH HARPER: And I’m Josh Harper.

JOHN PETROZZI: Until next time, stay well and stay happy!

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