Do dreams ever tell a therapist anything useful?

In the following research notes, you will find the emphasis that each prominent dream interpretation approach tackles. Furthermore, through this information, we hope that you will find the technique(s) that is best associated for your work.

  • Throughout this read, keep in mind, dreams vary; some present confusing messages and some are straightforward. However, one thing is for sure, they're all trying to say something.

Definition of Dreams:

What does it mean to dream? What does a person do when they sleep? Dreams are series of emotions, ideas, and images that occur in our mind when we sleep. The purpose of dreaming is to understand the why it happens. It gives us great discoveries in science and art. Dreams can vary by length, it may last for seconds or 20-30 minutes. They are be frightening, others can be happy. Dreams are meaningful, we dream about the places we were at and the people we encounter. Environment has a lot to do with our dreams. On the other hand, some dreams terrify people after traumas. Most people can’t even sleep because of it. The question here is, what does your dreams mean and which part did you want to have more knowledge to?

Branches of psychology what they think of dreams

Freud and Psychoanalysis

Freud said that our mental life extends beyond consciousness. There are events in our unconscious that influence our personality and behavior. When looking into the unconscious we are able to get a clear overview of the causes for certain behaviours. The unconscious contains all events that our sensory system has captured throughout our life. It contains childhood experiences, repressed events even unimportant interactions. People are made up of 3 levels; firstly the superego which is considered the observer and the critic. It holds ideals based on education, customs, morals that have set before us. It holds these ideas so that it is able to repress and sacrifice what is considered to be harmful or morally wrong to the individual. The Id is the next level which harbours all primitive cravings and instinctsm. Its main goal is to achieve fulfillment and full gratification. Lastly, we have the ego which is considered to be the mediator between the Id and Superego. It preforms self preservation by protecting oneself from the dangers of immediate gratification were the consequence would either be guilt or death.

Freuds theory of dreams was that dreams exist in essence to fulfil wishes that cannot be attained in real life. while dreaming, wishes are either expressed openly or appear through symbols in which the emotions may be transfigured, displaced, or changed due to the fact that it interferes with our superegos values. According to frued dreams are all about wishfullfiltmt so even though one might not think they have wished for a certain event in the dream to happen like a death of a loved one, it only means that the dream is not portraying a current wish but rather a discarded, buried and repressed wish that might have taken at some time during childhood for instance. Some wishes are painful and terrifying dreams and according to freud he says those dreams possible are a cause of wishfullfillment as well. He says the disturbing dream is in the process of disguise of the true wish that the dreamer craves for, but due to his inability to even portray it in dream thoughts, the dreamer compensates for the by offering another second dream that solves the need for that wish. All in all when we talk about freud we always seem to go back to the process of wishfullfilment in dream.

Dreams Relation to waking life

Dreams are believed to be structured using varied sources. Burdach an old psychologist believed that dreams are never repeats of real life events. He considered them to be based on either completely alien events with background material that has never been introduced to us, or have the dream structure be based on residues stemming from our daily experience, either past or present.
Critics of Burdach believed that a dream's relation to conscious waking is that they are usually a continuation of its events. Plenty of strong arguments support the fact that dreams are residual mainly on things that the dreamer is most passionate about, related to the dreamer's personal problems and issues that have been troubling their mind. So, in essence, the dream tends to discharge emotional energy that has been harbored by the dreamer's mind. As mentioned before, one construct of dreams is the day residue, some of the residue may originate from childhood experiences. Dreams bring back to mind remote, removed, forgotten, or repressed childhood material. An opposing argument to this says that the childhood experiences are not what structures the dream but rather it's only in the background of our dreams and not the main content. The majority of day residue is composed of elements drawn from our most recent experiences, they tend to occupy themselves with the impressions of the last few days.
The main point to keep in mind about dreams is that they concern themselves with the dreamer's problems and emotions and it has been agreed upon that they are grounded by the events that occur in the dreamers waking life. Even though it often happens that certain material that appears in the dream content cannot be recognized as being part of the dreamer's knowledge and experience. This is due to the fact that some dream content has been repressed, forgotten (maybe childhood experiences), not recognized in the waking. The reason why they appear in dreams is because the unconscious mind has a wide grasp on martial and information. The dream is capable of accessing the memories full capacity and content; from childhood to present events. Every content that a person has come across and absorbed through their sensory organs would be available to the dreamer in his unconscious state of mind during sleep. The reason for that is that the unconscious lacks the sense of time, all information ever absorbed becomes available and accessible to the dreamer. In support of that i will provide a patients dream below;

"A patient dreamed amongst other things (in a rather long dream) that he ordered a kontuszowka in a cafe, and after telling me this he asked me what it could be, as he had never heard the name before. I was able to tell him that kontuszowka was a Polish liqueur, which he could not have invented in his dream, as the name had long been familiar to me from the advertisements. At first the patient would not believe me, but some days later, after he had allowed his dream of the cafe to become a reality, he noticed the name on a signboard at a street corner which for some months he had been passing at least twice a day." This dream proves both facts that dreams base their dreams from content the dreamer has come across in conscious life as well as proof of the knowledge and recollection of matters of which the dreamer, in his waking state, did not imagine himself to be aware of.1

Cognitive/Behavioral Psychology

Looking at dreams through a cognitive perspective, dreaming is an activity based upon cognition. The dream is described as a pictorial representation of the dreamer’s conception, essentially being the dream image. To elaborate more, if a dream is defined as a thinking process that occurs in our sleep, the thoughts during the sleep are being generated ideas. Dreaming then would also be a process based on the embodiments of conceptions, resulting to the transformation to a dream image, by the invisible to the visible. Dreams are said to reveal different conceptions. Conceptual systems portray unconscious and prototypic conceptions, which prove a great analysis for therapists to look into. They are essentially the antecedents of behavior. They are represented in many forms:

1.Conception of Self- a dream that is perceived as a mirror that reflects the self-conceptions of the dreamer. Our ideas of ‘self’ are revealed by the pieces taken by the dreamer in the series of dreams that they process
2.Conception of other People
3. Conception of the World- based on the setting and environment in the dream
4.Conceptions of Impulses, Prohibitions and Penalties -impulse of gratifications,, ex.Sex and aggression, wish-fulfillment being the essence in dreams. Our objective of dream analysis is the discovery of the wish that is being fulfilled. The analysis helps therapists because it profits them by knowing how the dreams conceives his impulses that direct his behaving, which eternally could guide and direct his actions in the waking life.
5.Conceptions of Problems and Conflicts- this allowing a determination of behavior in our waking life. Through understanding the 'inside', we understand the 'outside', which eternally helps therapists resolve the conflict through analyzing the dream.

However, when studying dreams from a cognitive perspective, the behavioral aspect of the dream can also be analyzed. According to a behavior psychologist by the name of Calvin Hall who studied the cognitive dimensions of dreaming, dreams are a person’s thoughts shown in their mind’s own theatre as visual concepts. Behaviorists believe dreams are clearly useful to anyone who analyzes their own dreams because they reveal how a person envisions their own lives. Hall believes therapists can follow the course of a man’s behavior, his challenges and see why he chooses one path over the other by also studying the cognition of the dreamer.

How are dreams useful to Therapists

Therapists believe that dreams are the consistent transformation of conceptions into images that are translated into our thoughts and ideas, essentially trigger their feelings, drive and why they behave the way they do. So how do they help their patients? They do so by taking in the material of the text, small details described by the dreamer and then try to connect the dots that would assemble with the dreamers behavior or previous history, or experience, or anything that would trigger such influence the thought process into the dream. There is only one way in which they could help the dreamer understand himself or herself better to living a better life. It is through discovering the conceptual system of the dreamer that is the actions and qualities, the role-played, character portrayed, the nature of interaction, the setting, and the outcome. The reason as to why therapists need information by the dreamer is not to understand the dream, but rather to understand the dreamer. Their whole objective is to create a baseline and to direct the dreamer into a better state of mind. They believe that personal cognitions are the real antecedents of behavior. So if dreamers could understand what happened in the past that triggered the dream, they could better direct themselves in knowing what to do in the present and even the future for that matter.

One of the most successful methods therapists use to help understand and direct the dreamers thought process and behavior is through the “Attitude-opinion questionnaire” This helps determine the dreamers belief about themselves and the world, essentially discovering the reasons as to why he/she behaves in a certain way.

Neurology and Dream

Many neurologist say, “Psychology alone can never explain dreaming's mechanisms. Only neurophysiology can tackle this issue” Studying the brain while a person is sleeping reveals information about the biological nature of dreams. An experiment was studied by Aserinsky and Kleitman (1955) that when one is sleeping, the brain activates periodically. They are called REM (rapid eye movements). Researchers have found that dreams occur more often during REM sleep rather than non-REM sleep. Those who are awaken by REM sleep have a higher chance of recalling their dreams compare to non-REM sleep. REM reproduces a dreamer’s visual activity, meaning the amount of eye movement a person has, the more they are participating in the drama of their dream. During REM sleep, the emotional regions of the brain are activated whereas the cognitive process regions are deactivated. Hobson and Pace-Schott (1999) described the process of REM sleep as a bottom-up process as opposed to the top-down process. The activation of the limbic system and the deactivation of the frontal areas of the cortex makes emotions more prominent during REM sleep. The limbic system is the emotional center of the brain and includes the amygdala. When one is awake, the cortex is more activated and the limbic system is kept under control therefore not allowing emotions to overpower the cognitive processing aspects of the mind. Another aspect of the mind is deregulation of emotions during dreaming. The serotonin, which is responsible for regulating mood and emotions, drops to almost zero during REM sleep. The mind makes connection without focusing on all the details that are necessary during awake state. Many aspects of dreaming in the frontal lobes are not as active as they are during awake state. Dreaming can happen anywhere and at any time, the mind is not aware that the person does not exist in the dream. A dream is real to those that are dreaming however it cannot tell the reality because of the deactivation of the frontal cortex. Hobson and Pace-Schott relate REM dreaming with hallucinations because the images in the dream are often strange, unusual, and impossible to tell between reality and dream. Dreams offer a true picture of the contents of the mind. Neurologist actually support psychological research on the nature of dreams. They tend to reflect emotions of the dreamer without the interference of the thinking mind.

The Brain in Science


Lesion Studies
A series of brain damage have determined what sort of cortical damage lead to reports of dreaming cessation in patients who had suffered strokes or other forms of brain injury (Solms 1997; Yu 2006). Interviews were done on hundreds of patients on dreaming after their trauma or brain lesion had occurred. There were damages to several cortical regions like the medial-basal PFC, associated with “I stopped dreaming after it happened”. Yu (2006) studied a different type of cortical region, the ventro-mesial PFC. His studies confirm that lesions in this region produce complete ending of dreams. These portions are known to involve in goal seeking behavior and in the organism’s appetitive interactions with the world. These studies demonstrate that dreams depend on a cortical activation. Cortical dreaming in relevant areas produce reports of “I stopped dreaming after an accident” whereas REM sleep continued to occur more or less as before.

Freud’s concept
Freud’s idea about the nervous system, and the mind that is allegedly supported, were dependent upon external energy and information. However the idea was very weak because it had constant threat of disruption. It soon became formed into his concepts of the dynamically repressed unconscious and were carried into his dream theory. The nervous system was in need of checks and balances to deal with the threat of distraction. A change in the brain’s state while asleep causes a change in the dreamer’s mental state.

Characteristic of dreams

During REM sleep, brain stem neurons activate the brain and generate rapid eye movements. Dreaming is a distinctive mental state that occurs occasionally in human sleep. Dream reports include:

1. Formed sensory perception (hallucination)
2. Cognitive abnormalities
3. Uncritical acceptance of all such unlikely phenomena as real (delusion)
4. Emotional intensifications (panic anxiety)
5. Amnesia

A scientifically sound dream theory could form a solid base for psychiatry as it attempts to develop a specific pathophysiology. Dreams are vivid and formed hallucinatory images. Reports of pain are rare despite the involvement of dreamers in frightening. Sensory profile suggests that specific physiological systems are activated in specific way during REM sleep. The way to approach to the correlation of dream in REM sleep is to assume formal isomorphism between the subjective and objective levels, meaning a form in psychological and physiological domains.

Dreams of the blind

There are studies that show that REM sleep and dreaming occurring in the blind, however, in the congenitally blind, dreaming lacks visual-spatial structure. A study was constructed for a 10-year old, congenitally blind girl named Helen Keller:

“I was walking back to my house from the garden. It seemed to be a very early morning. There was heavy dew on the grass and moisture like before the sun rises. I was carrying things in my right arm, I think squash and tomatoes. Then I heard it coming towards me, a very large animal, its head waist-high to me. I dropped the vegetables and reached out slowly. It sniffed at my fingers and though I was terrified, I know I shouldn’t make any jerky motions. Its tongue, twice the width of my hand, licked my fingers curiously. My head slowly entered into its mouth, being pulled in by its raspy tongue. Its upper jaw razor like teeth, three or four rows deep. It was just inspecting me, tasting and smelling my flesh. I felt its nose and lips and knew it could do nothing to defend myself if it decided to bite me. It purred more and more threateningly and was beginning to nudge me backwards when I woke up.”

She was born blind and deaf. She mentions a few dreams in which she thinks it is a cat or something similar creeping through her. She describes everything she hears, feels and thinks. It is interesting that the dream world is built especially on the tactile sense though with a suggestion of taste and smell as well. As we can see, dreams do not require any vision. In someone who became blind after birth, if they become blind after the age of 5, some clear visual imagery remains. Those visually for their entire lives, thought their visual sense sometimes deteriorates slightly with time. Those that are blind have an extra function in helping them practice and maintain their visual sense.

How Jung interpreted dreams2

Objective Level
The objective level of looking at dreams connects dreams to the real life. The dreams are connected to real life in a symbolic manner. It is said that one of the major roles of the unconscious, specifically dreaming, is to decode, process and make sense of the information. Dreams and dream images reflect the way the unconscious works and processes things. When this is understood is when it is much easier to understand the meaning of dreams. From an objective level, it is concluded that dreams can relate to reality or symbolically represent something. Therapists should question their clients and their ability to connect their dreams to real life situations. Dreamers themselves will not usually make the connection themselves.

Subjective Level
The subjective level associations are more closely related to Jung and his findings. As Jung claims, interpretation on the subjective level “refers every part of the dream and all the actors in it back to the dreamer himself.” The symbolism represented in the dreams is related to certain aspects of the dreamer themselves.


Transference Level
At a transference level, the client and therapist are not simply talking about something on a theoretical level but rather the client is experiencing the issue in relation to the therapist and the protection of the therapeutic relationship. It is said that almost all dreams that are dreamt in the span of a therapy, as well as some that are dreamt before and after, either refer to the relationship with the therapist or can apply or have consequences to the therapeutic relationship. Dreams about the therapist and therapy also serve as supervision for the therapist, enabling the therapist to reflect on their role in the therapy and how the client sees them.

Archetypal Level
The archetypal level focuses on particular dream images, patterns, themes, and stories with reference to powerful general patterns that frequently relate to early experiences in some sort of way. The archetypal level of dreams is more significant and powerful and might also touch on some universal themes. When looking at the archetypal level of dreams, the dream interpreter is trying to find the symbolic message of the dream and dream images. The interpreter is trying to discover whether a particular dream image has a universal meaning behind it or if personal associations are more relevant. Usually the therapist tries to combine both personal and universal aspects when trying to interpret the dreams and dream images.

Freud's classifications of dream representation- Dreamwork:

Meaning of the following types of ways dreams content presents itself in dreams.


One reason why dream analysis is such a prominent topic is because the big picture of most dreams are always hidden behind a number of seemingly unimportant information-displacements.


When a significant number of dream thoughts are connected, one is able to deduce the hidden repressed message of their dreams by putting key symbols together. This is known as the condensation of dream thoughts into latent content.


Distortion is considered to be the severity of the displacement of hidden meanings in dreams.
Comparing the dreams of children to adults has brought up a highly notable insight; the dreams of adults contain higher levels of repression and consequently require more hours of dream interpretation to decipher the possible meanings of their dreams. As a result, the level of distortion is much less in children, who bluntly show their desire for food with little to none need for dream interpretation.

Repression in waking life is considered to be according to freud as turning something away from the consciousness; it is the struggle against an event in reality that leads to repression. This concept is important in understanding dream content because dreams often make no sense when they are interpreted, this is usually due to the fact that the dreamer has repressed a lot of the events throughout his life and therefore no longer recognizes it when they appear in dream, by understanding what has been repressed we are capable of fixing the problem in the dream as well as fixing the reason of why this content has been repressed.


I believe in order to grasp the meaning of a dream one must have a deep understanding of all the possible ways a dream may be presented. Through symbols, a dream hides in various forms to express the individuals emotions. A therapist requires some knowledge about a patient to help assist in the interpretation of the symbols as well as the dream itself. Even though some dream symbols may be general and as jung claimed some of them may be deeply rooted in everyones “collected unconscious” and will only rise under specific circumstances, we still come across new unfamiliar symbols, thats why background knowledge of the patient is necessary. I will mention the symbols that i find would hold more importance than others and is capable of giving a therapist more insight on patients after interpreting them with knowledge in dream symbols.3

Dreams symbols in relation to family- When we dream of our father in our dreams he may be symboled as a king, teacher, god, engineer, emperor, master. Someone we look up to, someone we could learn from. As for the mother she is represented as a nurse, queen, servant, housekeeper, even symbolized in an impersonal form that has a meaning to a patient like a birthplace. An example of an impersonal symbol in dreams comes from a patient who said that they dreamt that their university didn't care enough for its students. The way this dream translated relied on background information from the patient. They were an illegitimate child whose mother left them as an infant. One reason why people symbolize instead of just present the picture fact forward is due to a prohibited, tabooed involvement of the person symbolized.
Relation of sex symbols in dreams- in dreams sex either appears openly or disguised depending on the patients comfort level with this topic. Dreams about the desire for sexy are usually hidden to hid the patients embarrassment about their urges. So in this case symbols get displaced. This is where the concept of symbolic parallelism comes form. As we said dreams may be displaced to hid their true intentions. In dreams, satisfaction of the human urge and desire are all equal regardless of which form they are presented in. so satisfying the urge for hunger, thirst, or sex have the same level or satisfaction for the dreamer.
Another occurrence in dreams is the split of the Ego- when we go into sleep our consciousness fades away along with the ego. Now the ego is considered to be part of ones personality, it is considered to be the mediator between the Id and the superego based on the levels it thinks it should allow the expression of the id and superego. So the ego is considered to be ones personality per se. In a dream some characters may play part of our personality that is repressed. This displacement is called projection. The point of this process is to release form our mind the embarrassing material of our thoughts. Some dream content may hold in it self different characters, that is meant to present the certain components of our personality. So we try to express the different sides to our personality by viewing it through different individuals in our dreams, even could hold characters that are antagonistic towards each other. Which would give us insight on levels of the superego and the id. To clarify what i mean I’m going to quote Freud thoughts concerning the expression of the ego in dreams : “ It is an experience to which i know no exception that every dream represents the dreamer himself. Dreams are absolutely egotistic. When some other props other than myself appears in the dream, i must assume that my personality is portrayed through identification in that person.” Now the split in personality can be considered to be found in cases of depersonalization. When the persons actions no longer feel like they are their own. As well as they become more self aware of their behaviours and actions during that state. Knowing these facts about how dreams can portray this type of disorder and portray those different aspects of ones personality can give a therapist ideas about how to obtain more knowledge about their patient. For instance as we said before dreams provide more information about a patient. When questioning the patient about certain topics they may feel embarrassed by them and therefor not mention them to the therapist or even change aspects of events concerning that topic. Through accessing ones dreams the therapist would be capable of getting all the information they need about their patient in order to fully provide them with the information necessary to help their patient.

Now apart form using dreams as a source of information about a patient, Perls gestalt theory stated that while freud described the dream as the “royal road to the unconscious”, Perl said in fact the dream is the "royal road to integration". He believed that by working with dreams we are capable of reclaiming the elements of ones personality that has been lost, and by doing so their personality becomes integrated, and mended into a whole. Perl said that the purpose of dreams was to resolve unfinished situation and to integrate fragments of our personality. To clarify of what he means by resolved unfinished situations, is that he believed for those patients with for example trauma or who have nightmares or experience a personality disorder, he thought he can help them ease it by going back into their sleep and changing the ending of a recurring nightmare, making it one that they are comfortable with, or by going into a dream state and creating a dream that would help become in touch with ones repressed personalities and help come in contact with them by allowing for those repressed personality states to emerge.

Going back to dreams and symbols, knowing the facts discussed above, allows a therapist to understand their patients personality by measuring the level of disguise that occurs in their dreams, by giving insight on how they feel about a certain topic. Now we know that the more repression, condensation, and the more disguised the symbols may be, the more the patient feels embarrassed. In relation to getting more insight on patients personality, we now that dreams also show the relationship between the superego and the id. When the patient has mixed feelings, from the id and superego, towards a certain action during the dream they feel the inability to move and act towards that action since the superego is preventing them. But sometimes this inhibition fails at preventing the dreamer from controlling their impulses. This action may stimulate the dreamer to get out of their bed and commit the action that the superego abhorred. An example of that would be of a patient carrying out their impulses by walking in their sleep into their mothers bedroom or their brothers bed with their fists clenched as though they wanted to hurt them. Upon coming to these facts the therapist is now more aware of the true meaning of sleep walking and could consider that as another source of input about the patients true desires. The more we learn about how dream content is presented in sleep, the more we understand the patients intentions and feeling towards a subject, and the better capable the therapist is to help the patient.

Dreams relation to : Mental Illness, personality, and nightmares.4

Information on nightmares through cognitive psychology perspective:

Nightmares occur when there is a disturbance in our sleep pattern. It is represented by the failures of our dreaming process. When they do happen, the experience of it triggers the cognitive system to reset and access memory images that bring about unpleasant memories. The whole motive for nightmares is that it strives for the dreamer to protect themselves from anything they feel that there being attacked. It’s usually triggered by the fear of death or harm and any negative emotional contact. It has statistically been reported that people who had experienced nightmares, 66% of them occurred because their dreams have been disturbed during their sleep. Therefore rapid eye movement occurs during our negative emotions, when there is a high level of failure in our normal inhibitory process that keeps our negative emotion in place. Nightmares are not always a bad experience though. There are some benefits of having nightmares in women. It helps them recognize the dangers of being under attack and helps them escape from the situation. These circumstances are usually addressing them of the threats of men. Scientists have discovered that nightmares are neither genetically nor biologically infused on the individual. The main target for nightmares attack children. Due to child having a weak sense of self and their identity being very fragile, they are constantly feeling as though they are being attacked by someone or something, which explains to therapists why they feel the way they do. So as we are developing our sense of selves, the chances for us to experience a nightmare is very low.

Relationship between mental health and dreams

There has been plenty of evidence that signify a relation between dreams and mental or physical health. During one study, research believed that the more references of deaths and separation that occurred in dreams; showing signs of traumatic dreams, concluded that dreams stimulate and have a relation to biological functioning. So in this case, they theorized that dreams had the ability to alter physical internal bodily state. To prove this theory scientists performed a cardiac catheterization where they carried out a diagnostic test where catheters were placed in the heart of a patient in order to give insight on the functions and structure of its beating and its performance during a dream. Specifically, the study measured the amount of blood pumped from the heart with each beat in order to prove the hypothesis. This measure was called the ejection fraction. They forecasted that the more traumatic dreams occured, the more serious would be the patient's heart disease at catheterization. The predictions were confirmed, the increased re-occurrence of deaths and separation in dreams, the critical was the heart disease.

In other cases, continuous traumatic dreams played the role of a warning marker pointing towards the existence of a medical disease. In this concept scientists hypothesized that dreams had the capacity to persistently inform the patient of their disease in such a way of warning them to try and get them to address the dream therefore recognizing the existence of a disease. This approach could be another function for the dream where it is trying to preserve/protect the dreamer's life by informing them of a disease that they are oblivious about. There has been plenty cause that have proved this hypothesis. One case had a man who had a recurring dream of a rat chewing in the lower right part of his abdomen. After consulting with his doctor he surprisingly was diagnosed with duodenal ulcer. After surgery, the patient's recurring dreams about the rat have ended indicating that the problem has been solved. During cases like this one, dreams have the capability to focus on areas where the illness or the disease takes place. In order to clarify to the dreamer where the disease is for a neurological case, dreams usually focus on images of immobility or the head. An example of a case is of a woman who started having reoccurring dreams of her father placing a heavy crown on her head, the crown begins to tighten and therefore begins to draw blood. When this patient woke up she remembered that her father had a history of epileptic seizures, which then after two weeks she began to experience. This is another case of traumatic dreams having the capacity to indicate potential physical and mental diseases. Aristotle has once said that “The beginnings of diseases and other distempers which are about to visit the body… must be more evident in the sleeping state.”

Personality and moods in dreams

Dreams express sides of ones personality that hasn’t fully formed in the conscious daylight. Jungs theory of compensation states that ones dreams express what they are lacking in waking life. one would assume for example a blind individual according to jung to have more visual dream content as a compensation for their lack of visual during their waking life. That’s if Jungs theory was correct. On the opposing side we have Calvin Hall who proposed that dreams in fact are a continuation of waking life rather than a compensation. He called this the continuity hypothesis. Research found that individuals who have high occurrence of aggression, death, failures, negative emotions in dreams positively correlated with individuals who show symptoms of depression and a high levels of anxiety in waking life. So what we interperate from that is an emotion in the dream usually corresponds to the dreamers real attitude. I will attempt to provide a patients dream as an example to help the argument of how dreams portray waking life emotions and moods. " I stamp out a fire in a paper box. Then, i notice that several of my toes are anaesthetized, and i break off the first phalanx with my fingers. My family is present, but they do not pay attention to this. I wonder how this could happen when i did not feel myself being burned at all." Now this patient was on the verge to breaking off his relationship due to the disapproval of his parents towards his girl. The analysis of the dream goes like this : " in the dream he reproaches his family (" they do not pay attention") for their lack of understand of the sacrifice (breaking off toes) he is making for their sake….When he had made an attempt to free himself from this attachment ( by falling in love with the girl) it was his family who interfered. (keep in mind that the patients symptoms have been emotional dullness and general lack of initiative due to his emotional attachment to his family). thus after they rejected the girl he was thrown back into his infantile position and had to deal with his attachment again…" As we notice in this patients experience in real life he was struggling with the concept of having to break of a relationship with his girl which caused him pain, after the rejection of his parents he began to feel apathetic towards everything which was shown in his dream when he said "when i did not feel myself being burned at all."

Purposes of dreams

Dreams have plenty of functions other than wish fulfillment. In order to prevent the external or internal stimuli that were discussed about previously from interrupting the sleeper and cause them to wake, the dream takes the role of the protector so that sleep can be preserved. Another purpose of the dream is to prevent shocks that might occur in waking life by stimulating repetitive images of events, causing reoccurring dreams. By doing so, the dream prepares the individual for an incident that might take place in the consciousness; like a death of a beloved one. By having the sleeper repeatedly dream of the tragedy, the dream has lowered the intensity of the emotional reaction, therefore increasingly reducing the individuals experience of the tragedy. Therefore, also grieving as much.

Another purpose for dreams is to give us a plane field, a safe place to express urges and desires; even those that are considered morally and socially prohibited. During the dream the dreamer is not liable for any actions they take and therefore will not receive any punishment or consequences. They can commit adultery, destroy siblings, make children. So dreams basically in this scenario are like a way out to express all urges, its a place where no one will judge or hold accountable for. They are free.

An additional purpose for dreams is that they help solve problems that have been on the dreamer;s conscious mind. An example of that is now that we understand the varied purposes of dream, the therapist is capable of recognizing how they can relate to the patient and their problems, concerns, needs and from there the therapist can carryout actions after the interpretation of dreams and after understanding what the patients dreams purpose is. From there, they are capable of carrying out the necessary procedures to help the patient. For example, the famous discovery of the benzene ring came in the dream of a german Chemist, who dreamt of a snake biting its tail, which revealed the evident structure of the benzene ring.


Through this research we have provided detailed information about dreams, through the discussion of it in the different branches of psychology.We discussed what neurologists, psychoanalysts and cognitive-behaviourists thought of dreams was well as included what those branches contributed to dreams. Our recommendation to the question " can dreams every tell a therapist anything" is to approach this question solely in the perspective of a psychoanalyst as this field has a wider range and a better understanding of dreams. They are not grounded by science or other factors that inhibit it from expanding a theory. There are many contributions of dreams to therapists. For instance when focusing of the development of a patients personality, dreams are the biggest source of insight on who that patient is and what their characteristics are. Through dreams as well the therapist can keep track of the development of a certain personality trait, and then through waking life can work on reinforcing behaviours that would help improve a character trait; so to recap in this case dreams could act as a chronic timeline of how the personality started out and how it progresses. Another recap on how dreams could help therapist with their clients is that they provide a bigger understanding of the clients conflicts and life issues and could also provide material of which the client is unaware of. Psychoanalysis has plenty of methods that could help a therapist in interpreting what the dream content means and through many aspects like the understanding of symbols, displacement, distortion and among many other, could provide the therapist means to dissecting the dream in order to grasp more understanding about the patient so that they can figure out eventually a solution for their problems.


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