Book review of This Is Why You Dream by Rahul Jandial


Dr. Rahul Jandial spends a great deal of time delving into the human brain—both literally, as a neurosurgeon, and figuratively, as a researcher, professor and author of the international bestseller Life Lessons From a Brain Surgeon and the memoir, Life on a Knife’s Edge.

In his engaging and information-packed new book, This Is Why You Dream: What Your Sleeping Brain Reveals About Your Waking Life, Jandial enthusiastically explores the slumberous state, offering tips to help readers use dreams to reach their full potential around the clock. “By interpreting your dreams,” he asserts, “you can make sense of your experience and explore your emotional life in new and profound ways.”

Understanding the sleeping brain’s whimsy isn’t as simple as consulting a dream dictionary—which, by the way, Jandial does not recommend. That’s because dream dictionaries “cleverly offer a mix of vagueness and specificity that make it easy to shape your personal circumstances to fit any of [their] interpretations.” Rather, “Your dreams are the product of your brain at this particular moment in your life, and they change with the seasons of your life. To expect them to fall in line with others because they share the same central narrative, or the same visual element, is simply not realistic.”

We bring our unique experiences to the hours when the brain’s Executive Network, “responsible for logic, order, and reality testing,” turns off and the unfettered, judgment-free Imagination Network kicks in. But Jandial also reveals that surveys conducted 50 years apart in four different countries found that broader concerns (e.g., being chased, sexual experiences, school or studying) remained consistent in dreams across time and geography. This is evidence, he believes, that “the characteristics and contents of dreams are baked into our DNA, as a function of our neurobiology and evolution.”

For those in pursuit of personal evolution, Jandial says we can turn to dreams for harbingers of health challenges, including worsening symptoms of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, addiction and depression. Creativity can be boosted by training ourselves to remember dreams and “focusing outward when we awaken.” And advanced dream-wranglers will revel in two chapters devoted to lucid dreaming, another way in which Jandial believes readers can gain self-awareness, boost happiness and make our dreams even, well, dreamier. This Is Why You Dream is a fascinating, eye-opening dispatch from the world of neuroscience.

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