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Stress, Work and dream interpretation an Introduction by Bob Panic – life coaching &

mentoring series
– A personal insight and observation on human psychology from a change and
transformation evangelist – www.rockstarconsultinggroup

Read this 1
off, the caveats and disclaimers: I am not a qualified expert or psychologist. My day job is
change and transformation: both from a business (business process, human capital and
organisational design perspective) and a technology focus (systems, new technology, new
governance processes).
Put simply, I am a fan of dreams. I am almost a bigger fan of others dreams than my own. This
article is my personal opinion on the subject.
No, I am not a voyeur, its purely scientific and my desire – and personal interest - to
understand the motivations, passions and desires of my fellow citizen.
This article is not a research piece, it is a fan page of sorts, one developed over 30+ years of
observation and insight and research, and ultimately this article is the equivalent to a drop of
water on the tip of the iceberg of what dream science can tell us (or at least tries to tell us)
about dreams. I do go on tangents, this article is written “ad lib” and is free flowing.
There is no portent or prophesy to dreams (sometimes it looks that way but I will explain later
in main body of my piece), if you think this way; that there is some unseen force guiding your
life through the use of your personal dreams, then this article might not be for you.
The aim of this article is to help the individual understand how the stressors and demands of
the modern workforce impacts on our subconscious and is reflective in our conscious actions

And it begins…
Most things you will find written and discussed on the topic of dreams, even in science, is that
a lot of the findings and “research” stems from personal theory and scholastic study. At
times, personal interpretation - and very little real science - is involved.
Sleep therapy, in my opinion, is the closest of the sciences related to sleep; it is not
concerned about dreams as such, just sleep patterns (or lack thereof) and other moderately
interesting stuff.
Most people’s concerns about dreams – especially in the west – are, that even though
dreams are the most natural thing in the world (we all dream), only a few are interested in
talking openly about them.

This is a social issue - in the west we are considered crazy or perceived as such - due to the
just plain weird nature of dreams and in particular those dreams of an erotic nature –
especially those kinky dreams about close friends or work colleagues – another sub topic
ramble: erotic dreams are the most useless and meaningless dreams of all - in my opinion
anyway - not much can be read into them, most, if not all, are a result of hormones kicking in
when we subconsciously admire someone, at times with no romantic link to the individual
what so ever)
If we are from the east, this is where the portent and mysticism concept of dreams comes
from (not that I am saying that none of this stuff comes from Christianity, Judaism or Islam) but
in the pure eastern philosophical sense, dreams are seen as communication to or from a
deity’s and or ancestors. As mentioned I am not going to go down this path… just providing
a bit of a context.
So why do I dream something and then it “happens”…
Sorry but God is probably not communicating to you. Fate or Predetermination (a false
perception of fate or our misinterpretation of fatalistic occurrence) does not exist. But your
belief system might allow for this and that is perfectly fine.
However I find this aspect of dreams really fascinating because from a logical and scientific
reasoning point of view, most fate/kismet occurrences and such things can be explained.
But even the most in-depth insight into our dreams and happenstance reveals unexplained
The main reason for this is that our brain, through our 5 senses, perceives, and in fact
observes, everything we encounter.
Stop and re-read that last sentence and think of the extent of what that covers.
It is very hard for us to truly comprehend this concept because we are not acutely aware
that we are fully aware of EVERYTHING, if that makes sense…
The best way to understand what the brain absorbs, was told to me by my High School
Physics teacher in science class (back in the day): …when you walk into a room - let’s say a
bathroom, a large bathroom, one that is full of small white wall and floor tiles – your
subconscious brain collects every detail about that room including the size and dimensions,
the colour of the tiles (easy, they are white) but also the texture, and most importantly for this
example, the total amount of tiles (number of tiles) both in the floor and wall!
Think about that next time you go to the loo! Or perhaps concentrate on the job at hand…
Ever play the game as a child where you counted the steps as you walk up and down a
bunch of stairs? Well you gave up after a while (thank goodness, as the counting out aloud is
really annoying for observers and passers-by) or if you were young enough, you ran out of
But as an adult your brain contains the number of every step you have taken in your entire

The reason why we don’t likely know the answer to how many steps we have taken in a
lifetime, is because we are normal (as considered by modern medical science) and our
brain is functioning as per “normal” defined parameters. I will quickly digress: a trained
psychologist can use hypnosis to extract such information from your subconscious. Hypnosis is
a subject beyond my interest and understanding, and whatever personal opinions that I
might have on the subject are based on others opinions, so I won’t even go there…

Higher brain functioning and social stigma…
However, if you can recall every aspect of every detail of every moment, then you are
considered higher functioning – from a brain science sense - but on the other hand you
might not be able to write, read or speak or be able to deal with people or social situations,
your brain considers these things as irrelevant - and in some instances, upon reflection - who
are we to disagree.
These are the categories of the extremely gifted and various other high functioning
“disorders” – I hate the term of disorder, as it states that someone’s brain is not ordered (like
as if ours is) just because we don’t understand or accept, as a society, what is going on in
someone’s head…
So now, in the simplest of terms and explanations, we begin to understand that our brain
absorbs and perceives everything and that the conscious brain edits what we see, so we
can socially function - and modern society accepts us as normal and functional - which is
nice of your brain to do so, well I think so anyway…
Women in particular are even more fascinating due to their natural perception abilities. If
you are a creationist, you might believe that is an extra beauty of God’s creation, or if you
are an evolutionist, you would believe that it is a survival instinct coupled with the natural
(and in my humble opinion, socially forced) need to look after and raise children.
Personally I think it’s the chemicals making synaptic connections in the female brain that do
not get created in men because of our chemical release of testosterone, which in all
probability prevents us from any sort of thinking at times 

And back to dreams and the future sense…
So yes at times you will dream something, it will be vivid and astounding and sometime down
the track (usually the very next day), it will become a reality (or aspects of it will be realised).
So why does this occur?
Well back to my previous comments on the brain observing everything and filtering. During
dreams perhaps the brain files all this stuff somewhere else (the ultra-dark pits of the brain is
my thinking) and during this storage work you get perceptive and vivid dreams, some which
are of use (especially if you are a medical professional focused on the psyche), or you are a
fan of dreams like me, and want to try to make sense (in effect interpret) your dreams in a
limited way.

These dreams, vivid ones at that, are indicators of stressors, be they work stressors or social.
They are manifested as nightmares
The opportunity that these dreams afford us is that we can look into them and see how we
can change our lives to cope with the external stressors. Professional help is very much
recommended for this process.
Now you might disagree with the above – vivid dreams and nightmares are reactions to
external stressors - as you feel that you have been privy to highly specific details of what will
happen in the future, and it has continually occurred and come to pass, and you have
realised this, and kept quiet while secretly making millions of dollars and capitalising upon
your new found skill for future sensing: …you may have a brain tumour and need to seek
medical assistance immediately…

Serious medical issues and dreams…
I was not being glib before about what I said. Most dreams are just subconscious
manifestations of desires or observations or unrealised (or realised) actions.
Nothing more nothing less.
The next level of dreams, night terrors, insomnia, repetitious dreams (same dream
continuously “playing” for days and weeks on end) and in particular repeating dreams of
considerably vivid nature, sleep walking (in adults) and simular things, are a sign that there is
something seriously wrong. Medical attention must be sought immediately!
Either you are on medication (see your GP for drug interactions, complications and dosage)
or you are taking non-prescription drugs (recreational drugs) that are causing serious
chemical reactions (or delayed reactions) in the brain, or you have another medical
Lack of sleep is a serious medical condition and all the stuff listed above needs professional
medical and scientific help… no if’s or buts… book an appointment to see your GP (no not
your herbal acupuncturist/naturopath) but a medically trained, certified, registered general
practitioner who should refer you to a sleep specialist or mental health professional. If your
GP doesn’t, get obstinate and demand a referral, or get another GP.
Sleep issues are very, very serious!

Why dream…
This is a highly complex and scientific question. No one really has a definitive answer. The
following is my personal simple opinion and reasons listed are neither comprehensive nor
detailed, but I feel they are pretty close to the mark, from a moderately well read and
researched casual observer and semi scientific person that I am:
1. A chemical reaction. This is where I ask what medication and drugs one takes as the
brain (the most complex “thing” in the universe and about the closest that we will
ever get to fully appreciate the unending force of God’s creation – or if you are an

evolutionist, the most complex evolutionary step in humankinds development… it is
the most complex chemical and electrical system ever! This is the crux of dreams:
there are chemical and electrical exchanges in the brain that are active (or more
active) during sleep and “Dream Sleep” in particular and less active during the day
(or else you are hallucinating and seriously need medical attention)…
a. Hormone induced dreams. It seems that we have more highly vivid dreams
during puberty (makes sense as new chemicals are being produced by the
body and affecting the brain) and these dreams (the highly vivid ones) will
dissipate (reduce) or disappear once we hit 30. This is my personal
experience. I am well on my way to middle age now, I find that the highly
vivid dreams I had in my younger years very rarely, if ever appear now, so
speaking from personal experience, I think this theory has merit

2. Stress. This is a key aspect, not just general health and personal wellness, but also to
vivid dreams especially night terrors (as opposed to nightmares), varied sleep
disorders etc. This is where most dream interpretation from doctors comes from
(psychologists and psychoanalysts etc.)

From a personal standpoint, being involved in a lot of organisational transformation
projects I have seen first hand how the implementation of a new system, or an
organisational re-organisation (even the rare ones where there is no job losses)
impact employees and management. Adverse effects are serious nightmares due to
the release of stress hormones, the psychological human instinct of fight or flight all roll
into a big ball of stress.

So how can this be combated? I have a big bag of tools that I use as a change and
transformation manager and I have minimised such impacts in the change initiatives I
have led or managed, but even I know that I need to call for professional, medical

Resistance training, a team psychologist, empowerment and re-training peoples skills
are just some of the tools that I use.

But I am fully aware that at the end of the day, my very best efforts will still cause
stress as we all handle stress differently and specific, targeted actions based on
individual needs are required.

Sometimes a simple coffee and lunch and “how are you doing” or “are you ok” chat
goes a long way, with regular, ongoing follow-up, personal interest in our fellow
man/woman goes a long way to relieve stress

3. And then there is my personal and unfounded theory (which, given the complexity of
the brain, who is to say I am wrong?) Entertainment! At times, and the more you get
to understand why you are having the dreams and start empowering yourself (to an
extent) to understand dreams, you might come to the same conclusion that I did:
during 8 hours of sleep (8 hours is the average most people sleep) your brain gets

bored. And this is my reasoning: how many times during the day have you found
yourself (or in my case listened to others) say “I am bored” or “I have nothing to do”.

In our conscious state we want to be engaged (the younger the generation you are
the more engaged you want to be, even repetitively) so my theory is that, if we crave
entertainment and engagement during our conscious “awake” time, why not during
8 hours of “rest” time? – anyway a worthy debate for a slow day 

My personal interest in dreams…
Like I said I am a fan. Like most, I experienced highly vivid dreams, cinematic events or
“dream movies” to an extent, well that is how I classify long and vivid dreams (some I
considered epics, as they seemed to continue as soon as I went back to sleep) some I
remember to this day.
At one point, because I had so many vivid dreams, I even had a top 10 of dreams. Once I
had a true night terror and panic attack after a dream (I calmed down after a few days, the
dream ended up as my no.1 all-time “coolest” dream – still there to this day).
All this has led me to write the above article, and my main conclusion that in most instances
vivid dreams were a result of stress (mostly self-induced, unconscious or long forgotten stress
factors) and “growing up” hormones.
The rest I put to creative expressionism of a very bored brain during 8 to 10 hours of sleep. A
few things that I do now is sleep less (approx. 6 hours on average) and try to de-stress. I took
up writing, photography, arty things. I avoid highly charged endless debates on religion,
science, politics, gossip, technology etc. I avoid annoying and disruptive company. I have
learned to disassociate myself emotionally from highly charged situations; this is more due to
my professional “acceptance of change” nature and upbringing than any learned ability or
resilience training

Further reading:
Personally I would avoid spending more than 15 minutes reading any one thing on the
internet; everyone has a view (both scientific and empirical – like me) specific to dreams.
However you should get a good rounded view of many things around dreams, this article
sure should help, and absorb and research as much as you can cope with.
Sigmund Freud’s – The Interpretation of Dreams – as the first serious scientific attempt at
dream interpretation and well over 100 years old – is a bit of a slog even for me as a
moderately literate reader – the original was written in German and all transcripts are
translations of that work (from what I know) - but if you can wade through the case studies
and intellectualised translation, well worth a try.
However once you start looking at the internet, things get very murky – hence my
discretionary warning – there are not just two camps of thought, but like with almost any area
of science, everyone has their own way of interpreting the human Psyche. There are more

views on the subject, so much so, that you will literally be kept wake and have nightmares -
and doubts – on the “right” - dream interpretation.
The element of dream “interpretation” is muddled not just with the iconography of dreams
(i.e. what the hell water represents) but also your feelings at the time of the dream (during
the dream) and what you felt straight after the dream (and continue to feel), yes it is the
dreaded “so, how did that make you feel?” question … aaahhh frustrating….
But if you try to apply a bit of pragmatism, forearmed with a good rounding in how our
“noggin” operates – electrical and chemical – plus the impact of external forces: drugs and
medication, stress and internal forces; including hormones, conscious and subconscious
reaction to events, then getting something of an insight in how you operate at a deeper
level can be extracted from your dreams… or then again, just maybe it’s just your brain
entertaining itself… 
If you are ever in doubt and need help go to a doctor first, or if you would like a bit of a
debate and discussion (in the absolute strictest confidence) feel free to email me at
Sweet dreams!

Bob Panic
M: +61 424 102 603 – 24x7x365
Director, Principal Consultant & Solutions Architect
Rock Star Consulting Group

Introduction to Dreams and Dream Interpretation by Bob Panic as part of my Mentoring and
Life Coach Series

@Chris. Great insight and tactics! Can I ask if this strategy is a business strategy or a
technology one or does it cover both? I would also like to know how you would approach
change in an organisation where you are "green" (as in no deep knowledge of internal
mechanics of the organisation or entrenched relationships with stakeholders)

One thing that I have found in my experience involving experts (inter organizational experts)
let alone external experts around politics, organisational design, culture and such, is that they
are 1. Super highly qualified and know a lot of “stuff” and you get a debate festival instead
of pure direction on delivery and actual outcomes and 2. Continually miss understand that
doing something is better that doing nothing and that “getting it right” is a process of osmosis
and time, and defining and agreeing an exact position or strategy for change is actually a
form of resistance to change (i.e. we can’t change till it is perfect)
I would like this forums opinion also on something that I think no one really or very rarely
discusses: That sometimes successful change is not a matter of a 30 day plan, but a matter of
what I call the “Cult of Personality”. How did the great leaders of the past enact change?
Did Alexander the Great have a 30 day plan or Napoleon or Abraham Lincoln?
If you are unable to influence those who need to be influenced for successful Transformation
and Change, all our 30 day plans come to naught… Sometimes I think it is not what we
know but who we are that makes us succeed…and this is a bit of a worry…