Groups And Types

The "life's a dream" scale

From the responses I got the impression that the way dreaming is defined can be placed along a scale. At one end of the scale there are a few respondents who mostly see dreams as a strictly psychological phenomenon. Most respondents mentioned they see dreaming as both psychological and spiritual. The fact that so many mentioned dreams as both psychological and spiritual, suggests that these two are seen as different aspects. Personally, I find it hard to say where one psychological stops and spiritual starts. The survey questions did not define "spiritual", nor did most of the respondents. Some respondents declared to connect dreams with some divine source. I hope it's safe to assume that this is how the others define "spiritual" as well.

What also stroke me is that while plenty of respondents subscribed to the spiritual aspect of dreaming, few were both convinced of and experienced with psychic aspects like dream telepathy or dreaming the future.

A few respondents use dreams for the ultimate in dreaming: to co-create the world. This I made the last item of the scale. For the sake of completeness I also added an item for dreams as a purely neurological phenomenon. There were actually two not so longtime respondents who prefer to define that dreams that way.

So, based on the responses, the scale I tend to see is as follows:

  • Dreams are neurological garbage: dreams are perhaps entertaining but they are really meaningless.
  • Dreams are psychological: dreams have meaning, but in the most limited view can still be seen as something in one's head only.
  • Dreams are spiritual: dreams have meaning and connect us with some kind of higher intelligence outside this reality.
  • Dreams are psychic: dreaming of the future in ways that can not be rationally explained, telepathy.
  • Life's a dream: life is considered to be created in dreams, and one can actively participate in co-creating life.

Having this scale, it is interesting to try scoring all the respondents. Two types of respondents were sometimes hard to score: respondents who described dreams as a means to transcendence and respondents who described dreams as springboard to other - often specified as astral - worlds. Transcendence implies that there is something higher than this world, so I usually scored this as spiritual or as between spiritual and psychic. Sometimes it was not clear whether respondents considered other worlds as fantasy or as in some way real. When it wasn't clear I scored the "don't know" item. When it was clear it always turned out to be that the other worlds were perceived as somehow real, meaning a score between spiritual and psychic.

Some respondents seemed undecided about what to think about dreams. With some I could simply not tell. In both cases I scored the "don't know" item.

Psychic was only scored when a respondent reported experiences with both precognition and telepathy. One of two only was scored with 80 points, just before psychic.

--- Don't know (14)  
000 Neurological noise (2)  
010 Psychological (6)  
020 (5)  
030 (4)  
040 (6)  
050 Spiritual (14)  
060 (14)  
070 (19)  
080 (15)  
090 Fully psychic (2)  
100 Life's a dream (3)  

Scores for the Life's A Dream scale. Scores 020 - 040 are for partially spiritual, scores 060 - 090 for partially psychic.

The above table shows that most longtime dreamers have personal experiences that there is more to life than the consensus view of reality wants us to belief.


In hindsight I should have asked respondents for their gender. I didn't expect gender would make a difference. After having read 104 interviews I still don't think gender makes any difference. Besides, this survey is much too broad to pick up on gender differences. Nonetheless, I couldn't resist making an estimate on the gender distribution.

I could estimate the gender for 77 out of the 104 respondents. It helped that I know some respondents personally. Some names clearly indicate a gender. Some interviews contained give-away's like "my husband". From the total of 77 I could estimate a gender for, I estimate 45 to be women. However, I suspect that from the 27 I could not guess, a majority will be men. Everytime a woman writes about "my husband", there must be a man not writing about "my wife". All taken together, I think the gender distribution is close to 50 / 50, perhaps just a few more women than men.


At which age does the interest in dreams start? To answer that question I looked for some continuity in the interest. Many people remember that they had nightmares as a young child, but that alone should not count as the start of an interest in dreaming. However, somebody who recalls strong and impressive dreams throughout childhood and adolescence, is counted as having started as a young child.

From the 104 respondents there's a group of 14 dreamers who still seem to be relatively young, meaning there is little to tell about the development of interest. As far as I can determine the interest is fairly new.

There's a group of 13 dreamers where it's hard for me to determine the age where the interest started. Unlike the young dreamers group this group generally does tell about the development of interest.

Two respondents aren't really longtime dreamers at all.

(still young person) (14)  
(?) (13)  
(one time interest) (2)  

Early childhood (27)  
8 - 18 / 20 (16)  
Young adult (27)  
30+ (5)  

Age groups for which interest in dreaming started. The number count is between brackets.

Not counting the still young, those for whom age was hard to determine and the two who are not really longtime dreamers, four groups remain: early childhood, the age group 8 - 18/20, young adults and the age group 30+. All scores can be viewed in the chart just above.

Natural dreamers and self-starters

Two groups of longtime dreamers stand out. For easy reference throughout this report I've named them natural dreamers and self-starters. Natural dreamers are those who seem to develop their interest in dreams for a large part during their childhood. For most, this is long before they are exposed to external influences like books or therapists.

The self-starters develop their interest later in life. Like natural dreamers the self-starters are somehow drawn to dreams. The difference is that with self-starters there usually is something additional, e.g. life events like getting children or loosing a close one. Also, because of their age, self-starters have better access to external resources.

In theory one could be convinced to take an interest in dreaming because of advertised benefits, because the doctor says so, or because dreaming is taught at school. This group does not yet exist. From the longtime dreamers who participated in this survey, quite a few visited therapists. This was usually the result of dreams. Never did a therapist play a crucial role in developing an interest in dreams.

What is somewhat remarkable is that the period age 8 - 20 seems to be slightly less important than the surrounding age groups. Perhaps this is because adolescents are known to be conservative and trying to avoid being different. That the 30+ group is relatively small makes sense, as I don't expect people who are in their thirties to make fairly radical changes in their life anymore.

Common perspective on the outset

What I hoped to find was that longtime dreamers - before getting interested in dreaming - share common expectations about dreaming, expect specific benefits, or hold certain definitions of dreaming. The most striking common ground is that longtime dreamers usually do not have any expectations or definitions. It is mostly through direct experience with dreaming that respondents develop some kind of definition of dreaming, and even then they usually are hesitant to limit themselves to a fixed definition.

The Conclusions part of this report will have another try at defining what makes somebody likely to become a longtime dreamer.

Email Harry Bosma for any comments or questions.

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