Lauri Loewenberg (@lauri_thedreamexpert) is a certified dream analyst who has appeared on CNN, LIVE with Kelly and Ryan, FOX Business, and more. She’s one of the preeminent dream and nightmare experts in the country and has analyzed thousands of dreams over the past 20 years. In this podcast episode, Lauri shines a light on what we think about in the dark and how it connects to our spirituality. She explains why we dream, what our dreams mean, and how we can control them. She also breaks down the crucial function nightmares serve and why you shouldn’t be afraid of them!

Why do we dream and how does it work?

“We dream because we think. Dreaming is a thinking process. And, in fact, it’s a continuation of your thought stream from the day. … And that stream of consciousness continues as you’re lying in your bed and you’re drifting off to sleep, and once you enter REM dream sleep that thought process picks back up and you’re still thinking about your day and what troubles and you and what you want to accomplish, but instead of thinking linearly and in words, you’re now thinking in emotions and in metaphors.”

R.E.M. sleep is when the magic happens.

“R.E.M. is when we are bona fide, certified, dreaming. And we enter the R.E.M. dream state every 90 minutes throughout the night. So, you’re first stage of R.E.M. will be maybe five to seven minutes long, and then your next stage will be maybe a little longer, and then the next stage is even longer, and then that last stage of R.E.M. before you wake up for good in the morning can be 45 minutes to an hour long. And so each one of those is a very deep-thinking, laser focused, yet metaphorical way of thinking. And it’s the way we problem solve and it’s the way we come up with creative ideas.”

How understanding your dreams improves your life.

“You can really get an edge in life, and in every aspect of life – your relationships, your behaviors, your career, your personal goals, the past that you’re having a hard time overcoming … every part of you is addressed while you’re dreaming. And your dreams are your built-in helpers, your built-in therapists, your built-in brutally honest best friends, your built-in spiritual advisor … just helping you navigate life and reach your purpose and become the person you were put on this earth to be.”

What is lucid dreaming?

“Lucid dreaming is when you’re in the dream, and you’re aware that it’s a dream, and then you can take over. It’s the most amazing experience and the coolest state of consciousness that there is because you are conscious but at the same time, you’re in your subconscious. A lot of people become lucid, they become aware that they’re in a really bad dream or a nightmare and they use that awareness to wake up, which is the worst thing to do! You want to instead take advantage of this unbelievable opportunity to slay your dragons. So, when you’re in the midst of a frightening dream and you face that axe murderer or whatever it is that’s going on, and you ask, ‘Okay, what are you. Tell me what you are trying to tell me.’ And you’re going to get an answer.”

Why do we have nightmares?

“We have nightmares because we have difficult issues in real life. And the nightmares are connected to trying to help us with our most upsetting, difficult, and mishandled issues. That’s why nightmares are so horrible to experience; because the dreaming brain forces us to face and deal with that which is upsetting, that which we are ignoring, that needs to be corrected. The subconscious dreaming mind does not like complacency, and it doesn’t like it when we are weak, and we are not handling something and when are not in charge. So, it will step in in the form of a nightmare when we are dealing with something upsetting.”

Why she chose this life path.

“What propelled me to study dream psychology was when I was 19 and my grandfather died, and he was the first death close to me that I had ever experienced. And I went into a very deep depression. About two weeks after his death, I had this dream where I knew he had died, but I was getting the chance to talk to him. And we were in this museum walking arm in arm, and I asked him what it was like where he was at. And he said, ‘I can’t tell you that but what I can tell is that it is secure.’ And then he gave me a hug and he started walking up the staircase, and I woke up and I could still feel him, and the dream was still there even though I was awake, and it was like no other dream I had ever experienced.”

You dream EVERY night.

“A big problem people have is that they can’t remember their dreams, or they think they don’t dream, but you do. Every single night you are dreaming. It is a natural, necessary function of the brain. You enter R.E.M. dream sleep every night whether you remember it or not.”