Why do we dream: Understanding different perspectives

Interpretation of dreams has always been a fascinating topic for everyone. There have been so many thinkers, psychologists, and researchers who have different views about why we dream and what they mean.

Why do we dream: Understanding different perspectives
Why do we dream: Understanding different perspectives

I am sitting in a middle school classroom. A unicorn breaks the classroom window and enters the class. I run, some people start chasing me out of a supermarket. I fall off the cliff and………..

If dreams were a movie they surely would be leaving the audience confused and be a complete disaster project.

Dreams are a universal human experience. It can be called a state of consciousness characterized by a cognitive, emotional, and sensory occurrence during sleep.  An average person dreams about 3-6 times each night that amounts to approximately 6 years of our life. Dreams go through so many plot twists that's why they are believed to have a hidden meaning. Dreamer has  Limited to no control over the content, images, and activation of memory.

G. William Domhoff once in an interview said that 75-100 dreams from a person can create a psychological portrait of a person.

Interpretation of dreams has always been a fascinating topic for everyone. There have been so many thinkers, psychologists, and researchers who have different views about why we dream and what they mean.

Neurological View

The left hemisphere of the brain provides dream origin while the right side contributes to the vividness, figurativeness, and activation level. Neural activity in the primary sensory neocortex produces sensory perception. The content of the dream can be influenced by recent activities. For instance,  Pleasant smells are associated with positive REM (Rapid Eye Movement) dreams and unpleasant odors with negative dreams.

REM dreams occurring early in the night often reflect the waking experience and the ones occurring later in the night are more bizarre and disjointed.

Historical View

Human fascination with dreams can be traced back to Mesopotamian civilizations. Kings often based their decisions on dreams. They took them as directives and followed them no matter how strange the messages were. Ancient Egyptians believed dreams to cure illness, predict the future, and communication with the goddess above. Dreams were divine and priests helped with interpretation. Chinese had a special way of interpreting dreams which can be found in Lofty principles of dream interpretation by Chen Shiyuan compiled in the 16th century.

Freud's View

Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of dreams in 1899 calling them the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious.  He believed dreams to provide a way to express unfulfilled wishes and that dreams are instigated by the events preceding the dream. It is a means of expressing the deep unconscious desires which can't come to the conscious level. Being influenced by sexual or aggressive impulses. He the content of the dreams into manifest and latent.

The manifest content is what you see in a dream – the people, places, etc.

Latent content is the hidden meaning behind the dream which is censored by intra-psychic forces. It's the symbolic meaning of the dream.

Freud's psychoanalysis theory worked to bring the symbolic meaning to the conscious would relieve distress. Freud gave four elements for dream interpretation-

Condensation- Information is condensed in a dream.

Displacement- objects of emotional meaning are confused with insignificant ones.

Symbolism – symbols replace the action, person, or idea

Secondary revision- Bizarre elements are recognized

Freud's approach towards dream interpretation is to look backward and focus on the causal factors in early life experiences.

Carl Jung's View

Carl Jung felt dreams to be more than just repressed wishes.  They reveal more than they conceal. Dreams were meant to reveal both the collective and personal unconscious.

Archetypes like anima, shadow, and animus are represented symbolic figures in dreams. These symbols constitute attitudes that are repressed by the conscious mind. He felt that dreams didn't need to be interpreted at all to serve their purpose which was to integrate conscious and unconscious. He described dreams to have a compensatory function. Dreams immerged to guide the individual towards the path of becoming an integrated self.  Dreams are self-portrayal in symbolic form.

Jung's approach for dream interpretation is to look forward focusing on what the dream might be leading towards.

Even though many more models of dream interpretation still exist. No one clearly explains why we dream or their interpretation. Dreams remain a mystery.

Do you think that dreams are a manifestation of reality or a warning to what is coming next?