These days, most of us think of dreams as freak occurrences. They can be amusing or frightening, or just strange, but they don't mean anything. Right?
Everyone dreams. Of course, not everyone dreams in the same way. Some people dream more often than others; some people dream in black-and-white, etc.
Further, your dream can change based on things like your diet, your stress levels, and other factors. Dreams can be unsettling, but they're harmless. That doesn't mean that you can't learn from them.
The Importance Of Dreams
People have been interpreting dreams and taking meaning from them for thousands of years. Some of the earliest records of humans trying to learn from their dreams are actually in the biblical book of Genesis. Native American groups also considered dreams to be significant and mystical experiences.
Since then, the perceived importance of dreams has declined as humans have become more rationally grounded in their thinking. However, the perceived importance of dreams across cultures inspired at least one significant psychologist to unpack their meaning.
What Are Dreams?
Some experts believe that dreams are the result of neurons in our brains randomly firing as we sleep.
However, other experts believe that dreams are a bit more complicated than that. We know that while we rest our bodies, our brains are transferring memories from short-term to long-term. Some believe that dreams are a part of this process. If so, dreams may be much more significant than some think.
Different Kinds of Dreams
Most dreams are just dreams. However, some dreams stand out.
Nightmares are dreams that scare us or make us feel uncomfortable. They may be related to something that happened or that you thought about during the day. They may also be strange dreams with no real cause.
Night terrors are like nightmares but worse. These dreams may be particularly vivid. They make even wake you up and make it difficult to fall back asleep. Like nightmares, they may be dreams or reflections of something that you worried about during the day.
Stress dreams are dreams that you have because you're worried about something. Often you are doing something that you would in your everyday life, but something goes wrong. These dreams aren't usually as vivid or as scary as nightmares or night terrors, but they also aren't fun.
Sometimes, dreams like these can be symptoms of emotional disorders like anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. If your dreams make you concerned for your mental and emotional health, bring them up with a doctor.
Carl Jung was one of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century.
Jung was a student of Sigmund Freud. Freud was interested in what he called the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is difficult to access, but it influences how we think, act, and feel.
Freud thought that one of the best ways to learn about the subconscious mind was to study how the conscious mind made connections between images and ideas. He tested this by saying a word and asking his patients to say the first thing that came to mind. He also used methods like inkblot tests.
Jung was interested in association but made a much larger study of it through the study of symbols. He was particularly interested in symbols and dream elements that were the same across different cultures. Jung used his research to compile books on the psychological importance of dream elements.
Like "dream dictionaries," similar books are still widely available online and in most book stores. These books often vary slightly in how they work and what they say. However, most of them are based on Jung's work.
Jung's method of dream analysis psychology involved studying the symbolism used by different cultural groups. Themes that occurred in the dreams of different cultural groups and that were seen to mean the same thing was identified as "archetypes."
Jung believed that archetypes exist because of what he called the "collective unconscious." The collective unconscious, according to Jung, is a part of our psyche that we have genetically inherited from our prehistoric ancestors. That's why all cultures seem to have some beliefs in common.
Another theory is that different groups have the same symbols because we see the world in the same basic way even though we may be different. Sociologists use this theory, called "independent invention," to explain why many cultures have stories about the world being flooded.
Of course, all of our dreams are different because we all lead different lives. If your aunt Marj shows up in a dream, that's pretty personal to you. As a result, Jung would look at Marge as an example of a maternal figure and consider other dream elements.
Today, most people don't turn to their dreams for spiritual experiences like the Native Americans. We're also unlikely to see our dreams as visions of the future like the biblical Hebrews and Egyptians. However, psychologists like Jung have to lead to a return to our dreams as a field of study.
Some of the psychologists who engage in dream analysis still use a method similar to Jung's. This method relies heavily on interpreting the symbolism of the dream compared with standard meanings.
Others examine dreams but focus on what the dream means to you and how it made you feel.
Dreams In Your Life
The significance that dreams have in your life is entirely dependent on how important dreams are to you.
If you think that dreams are firing random neurons, they likely won't matter to you by the time you've finished breakfast.
If you think that dreams are messages from your subconscious or a glimpse into the divine, a dream may stick with you for years.
One of the biggest ways that dreams can affect us is by becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. Self-fulfilling prophecies are things that come true because we think that they will. Just about any dream can fill this role, and so dreams can be just as important as you make them.
Dreams In Your Relationship
Because dreams mean different things to different people, they can play a unique role in a relationship.
Dreams are very personal things. No one else can experience our dreams unless we share them. Sharing your dreams with your partner can be a way for the two of you to grow closer together. You may also rely on your partner to help you recover from the negative feelings of bad dreams.
However, sometimes sharing dreams with a partner can be awkward. This is often the case if you dream that you were with someone else or that something happened to your partner. Sometimes, people can feel jealousy, sadness, or fear because of a dream their partner has told them about.
Remember that dreams are only as important as you make them. If your dream alarmed you and you feel like your partner should know about it, maybe you should bring it up with them. However, if you believe your dream was just a dream, it may be easier to keep it to yourself.
When Dreams Come Between You And Your Partner
Whatever your philosophy or personal belief about dreams may be, dreams can sometimes come between partners in a relationship. Usually, this problem is small and quickly goes away, but sometimes it can be a problem or uncover other relationship problems that you may not have been prepared for.
If you have dreams that make you worry about your relationship, it can help bring in a third party. This may be a friend or even a parent. Sometimes, more help is needed, however. You may even consider going to a relationship counselor.
Relationship counselors specialize in helping people make the best of their relationships. They can work with couples or with just one member of a relationship. They can help repair relationship problems, but they can also help couples who aren't having problems.
If you aren't sure how to think, feel, or talk about dreams that may affect your relationship, consider reaching out to a relationship counselor from ReGain.
Dealing With Dreams
Knowing how to deal with dreams can be difficult. That's particularly true if they have a strong impact on your feelings, if you find them shocking or frightening, or if you have the same dream over and over again.
The thing to keep in mind is that dreams communicate something to each of us. How you answer the question they pose is up to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is dream analysis, according to Freud?
Dream analysis was the method Freud used for dream interpretation. Freud used his dream analysis method to discover the unconscious wishes behind feelings and behaviors by analyzing his patients' dreams according to their symbolic meanings.
In Freud's sessions with his patients, he delved into two types of dream content – manifest content and latent content. The manifest content of dreams is the actual images and subject of your dream, while the latent content of dreams refers to the meanings behind the manifest content. Through dream analysis, Freud worked from the manifest content back to the latent content to discover how the dream related to the patient's life.
In his book, The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud introduced his theory of dreams. Freud's theory was that dream content held clues to the repressed desires hidden in the unconscious mind. According to Freud, the unconscious mind uses symbolism to protect you from knowing about those desires. As he explained in his case studies in The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud listened to his patients' descriptions of their dreams and picked out specific elements that symbolized unconscious desires. Freud then used free association to dig deeper into the personal meaning of each dream.
What is the purpose of dream analysis?
The main goal of dream analysis is to help you deal with current life problems.
Because life problems can include everything from mental illness to work stress to relationship problems, dream analysis might help you with nearly any aspect of your life. In short, if you dream about it, dream analysis can help you deal with it.
Freud's dream system used dream analysis to uncover unconscious wishes, which could be thwarting your ability to feel, think, and behave in the most advantageous ways. His main purpose was understanding those hidden motives. Many people have criticized Freud's dream interpretation because it seems to assume that people have no free will but only do what their unconscious mind demands.
However, newer dream analysis methods focus more on using information from dreams to understand your feelings and make better choices in your life. In other words, once you understand why you dream what you dream, you can think about how to address the issues that come up in those dreams.
Is Dream Analysis real?
Yes, dream analysis is real – at least in the sense that it is a method that is used in various forms by many psychologists and psychoanalysts. It is also real because it's something a therapist can help you use to understand and address troublesome issues in your life.
However, there is some disagreement among experts as to whether dream analysis is helpful. Some experts say that there is no real meaning in dreams and that they're just the brain's way of organizing and storing memories. Others say dreams are just random firings of the neurons in your brain as you sleep.
Yet, many people have benefitted from various methods of dream analysis. Because dreams often relate to the issues you're facing, you can begin with the content of dreams to start the process of exploring and understanding what you think and feel about those issues.
What are the three theories of dreams?
The three theories of dreams are:
The activation-synthesis theory of dreams says that dreams happen because the brain's neurons continue to fire even while we're asleep. But because we aren't getting any sensory input, our brains combine the mental activity caused by that random neuronal firing with already stored memories to make sense of it. If this theory is true, there is no inherent meaning in dreams and no reason for dream analysis.
Freud's theory was the predominant one for many years, but it has lost popularity recently. This theory states that dreams are expressions of unconscious wishes that your mind is hiding from you. Through dream analysis, Freud sought to help his patients understand why they made the choices they did.
The evolved threat-rehearsal theory says that, just as humans have evolved to sleep at night, we have also evolved to use dreams for rehearsing what to do in threatening situations. There is some evidence that this might be true – at least for some dreams. That's because the amygdala, the same part of the brain activated when we are actually in danger, is a part of the brain that is activated during dreams.
What are the main components of dream analysis?
These are the main components of dream analysis:
The first component of dream analysis is understanding how your mind is using dreams. Freud's idea was that dreams come from your unconscious mind as it's carrying out the wishes of your id in an imagined way. In other words, you do in dreams what you wish you could do in real life.
The second part of dream analysis is knowing what the images in dreams represent. Most psychologists and psychoanalysts suggest that dreams are made up of symbolic representations of the things we want to have, do, and experience.
The third thing to understand about dream analysis is how dreams are made. This can be seen as dream work. Dreamwork is what the mind does as it transforms your unconscious desires into the dream experience. This involves changing these wishful thoughts into the manifest content of the dream. During dreamwork, details are shortened into brief images, thoughts are turned into pictures, symbols take the place of objects, and the mind puts this all together to create a logical story.
The final component of dream analysis is the therapist's role. In Freud's analysis of dreams, the psychoanalyst's role was to find the hidden meaning of the dream and offer possible interpretations. This would help the patient understand themselves better.
However, these components might not describe what happens in dream analysis today. Instead, modern dream analysis usually focuses on using the content of dreams as a starting point in a conversation about current problems and how to address them.
How do you analyze a dream?
Several methods have been suggested for analyzing your dreams. Two of these methods are:
The dream appreciation method was devised to use in the dream lab of a medical center. This method involved several steps.
The exploration-insight-action method is a bit different. This type of dream analysis happens in a therapy session. The steps for this method are:
For many people, though, dream analysis sounds like something they could do themselves. And you might indeed be able to get some insight into your life by trying to understand your dreams. If you want to try it, here are some steps you can take:
There are many dream dictionaries online or in books. These dream dictionaries might give you clues about any symbolic meanings in your dreams. However, it's a good idea to take these lists of symbols with a grain of salt. After all, although these collections of dream symbols are usually at least partly based on Jung's work, they might not be helpful for everyone. Why? First, it's because something might have a different symbolic meaning for you than it does for most people. Second, even if you know what something in your dream symbolizes, it might not help you know what to do about it.
The advantage of talking to a therapist about your dreams is that they can take a systematic approach based on their knowledge and expertise. They can help you sort through the dream images, feelings, past experiences, and current life situations to transform the meaning of dreams into actionable steps to improve your life.
What are the two theories of dreams?
While there are many different theories of dreams, they all fall into one of two main categories of theories. These are physiological theories and psychological theories.
Physiological theories are about the physical processes that are going on in the brain while you sleep and dream. These theories talk about the firing of neurons, the activation of different parts of the brain, and so on.
Under the umbrella of psychological theories, you can find numerous explanations of what dreams mean and how they can impact your life. The theories of Freud and Jung are just two examples. Freud saw dreams as expressions of repressed wishes and dream analysis as a way to uncover those hidden desires. But Jung saw both dreams and dream analysis as ways to explore related facts about our waking life, do some problem-solving, and contemplate important issues in our lives.
What are your dreams telling you?
Your dreams may be telling you many things, or they may be telling you nothing except that your brain was active during the night.
In many cases, the meaning of dreams is apparent. They can show you what you desire, but they can also show you what you fear or strongly dislike. Dreams can tell you what issues are unresolved in your mind, or they can help you realize how you already feel about a choice or decision.
Dreams can help you understand your desires, your feelings, and your beliefs. They give you opportunities to look at your problems in different ways than you did before. Dreams can also help you organize your thoughts and emotions and even help you heal from emotional traumas. Some dreams can help you feel safe and supported, while others can alert you to a threat you never recognized before
In the end, the best way to know what dreams are telling you is to talk to a therapist who is trained in interpreting dreams. They can help you figure out what your dreams are telling you and guide you as you explore ways to apply their messages to your life.