How are dreams useful to therapists?


We have assembled this collection of research to equip our employer with the most relevant and up-to-date information on our topic: How are dreams useful to therapists. We focus on the dominant theorists in this field of study and as well as the primary ways that therapists attempt to interpret and understand dreams. This page looks at reliable resources for information about interpreting dreams. Everyone is capable of dreaming, whether or not they are aware of it. We hope to bring a better understanding to the topic of dreams.

"Dream Catcher"1


General Definitions

Defining Dreams

Defining a dream is no easy task because there are so many components to account for. One common element of every definition is that dreams are some sort of mental event that occurs during episodes of sleep. Certain areas of study include the ability to recall a dream and content as part of their definitions. However, there is no widely accepted definition of “dreams”.2

Defining Useful
Dreams can be useful to therapists in many ways. They can tell us about the dreamers’ personality. They can help the therapist identify and cure the person’s underlying issues. Also, it can be useful in determining what dreams mean or say about a person. All of these ways can be useful to different researchers. Our research will discuss how different perspectives study dreams in different ways. Also, within those perspectives they can be interpreted differently. This article will outline what certain dreams say about us.

Background Information

Introduction to Freud and the unconscious

“Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.”
― Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams


To begin your article on how dreams are useful to a psychiatrist it is best to introduce Freud and emphasis his work on the unconscious mind as his work was highly correlated with dreams. In the 19th century, Freud had introduced the world to a new school of thought known as psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is using a therapeutic approach to investigating the unconscious mind in an attempt to relieve mental illness. This new school of thought, introduced by Freud, brought forth the revolutionary idea of the unconscious mind, which is capturing a person in their purest element. The unconscious mind according to Freud can simply be defined as a portion of the human mind that represents mankind’s true corruptive nature. The unconscious is inaccessible to a person’s conscious awareness but indirectly affects our daily lives. Freud had primarily focused and emphasized this idea of the unconscious, as he believed it makes up most of a human beings mental life. As illustrated in the image to the right, Freud represents our minds as an iceberg the tip of the iceberg is the conscious awareness whereas the bottom of the iceberg is the unconscious the foundation of mental life and the core of Freud’s focus and research. This unconscious base can never become conscious therefore Freud had brought forth techniques that indirectly give access to the unconscious mind. The two main techniques are dream analysis and free association, which are common techniques used in therapy. Overall Freud’s dream analysis made dreams a popular topic for scientists and psychologists to engage in. Not only did Freud's dream analysis provide a privileged access into the unconscious mind and understanding the mentally ill but also his therapy allowed patients to find meaning pertaining to their lives.3

1. Freud’s Concept of Dreams


By, Freud analyzing and studying dreams he had recognized that all dreams share two functions in common. The first function a dream has is for the Id to bring forth repressed wishes this is known to be a subliminal way of relieving tension. The second function a dream has is simply allowing a person to sleep therefore dreams prevent disturbance which would result in waking experiences (Pesant & Zadra, 2004).4

The repressed wishes from the Id serve to indirectly relieve tension through dreams. Freud brought forth the idea that unconscious wishes that are demanded by Id are impulsive and mostly sexual in nature and these sexual tendencies influence dreams beginning in early childhood. Here it is important to note Freud’s emphasis on the Id, which seeks instinct pleasure gratification. Normally throughout the day the Id’s wishes are mediated by the conscious (ego) and determined by (superego) known as the social control moral center which blocks Id’s wishes from being granted. Although in the night it is these repressed wishes, which distort themselves through images and surface unconsciously in dreamers mind. The unconscious content of a dream can bring forth a lot of problems if information reaches conscious awareness as it destructs a persons self image. Therefore, the wish must be distorted in way that the message is subliminal unrecognizable through introspection (looking within).

This unconscious process of dreams, which originates from Id can be called latent dream content. This is dream content that the dreamer is not aware of, it consists of what is underneath the tip of iceberg, therefore represents the true meaning of the dream. Freud also introduced the term manifest dream content, this is the experience and recall of the dream that humans beings are conscious of.

Freud used a technique known as free association to uncover the latent content of dreams. This free association consisted of Freud naming a symbol and letting the dreamer expel all thoughts on that symbol that was brought up. This allowed Freud to find correlations between dream symbols and automatic thought, which supposedly came from the unconscious mind. Freud had come up with his dream work theory, which helps psychiatrists and psychologists in analyzing dreams. Defense mechanisms are commonly found in dreams as they help suppress sexual impulses and anxiety. Therefore, it is up to a therapist to use both defense mechanisms, and free association to try to indirectly understand the latent content of the dream, which is the disguised message. By trying to understand the latent content the psychiatrist is attempting to uncover the true meaning behind the disguised dream. According to Freud all dreams are wish gratifications demanded by the Id, in which images are used in a subliminal way in order to satisfy sexual and violent tendencies.5

Below are a few defense mechanisms a psychiatrist following Freud psychoanalysis would look for when interpreting dreams they are represented as follows: condensation, displacement, symbolization and rationalization (Pesant & Zadra, 2004).6

1. Displacement: Is when the wish fulfillment is disguised into another object
2. Projection: Is when the dreamer pushes his true intention, beliefs and or desires onto another person
3. Symbolization:Is the metaphoric symbols, which serve to disguise the dreamers repressed wishes
4. Condensation: Is when multiple images, ideas within a dream are concentrated into a single image
5. Rationalization:This is how the disguised imagery is organized into a manifest dream where dreams recalled seem normal. In fact this is not the case Freud believed sex was foundation of all dreams and all objects are therefore disguised in ways to hide a persons sexual tendencies. Freud believed all long objects in dreams, sticks, poles, snakes, knifes represent the male penis. Whereas bowl shaped objects represent disguised form of female genitals (Robbins & Tanack, 1980).7

How is this information useful to a psychiatrist?

Overall the information mentioned above is a brief summary emphasizing Freud’s work on dreams. Freud's work is relevant to your paper concerning how dreams are useful to a psychiatrist, as it has been acknowledged that Freud is the father of psychoanalysis. By Freud investigating the mentally ill and discovering the unconscious mind he had served to open a door to new path of research and interpretation. For your paper it is in your best interest to begin by taking a historical approach highlighting Freud’s work on dreams. Be sure to include Freud’s basic concepts, which were explained above such as latent content, manifest dreaming, repression, defense mechanisms, free association and the unconscious mind. All of these terms directly link to therapy and all this information is useful to a therapist in diagnosing the patient and finding true underlying (latent) dream content. It would be great if you link Freud’s work mentioned above and link it to current day therapy. Therapists in current society are inspired by Freud work on dreams and spend lots time working with dreams to help relieve tensions and or repressed anxieties. Free association is a technique introduced by Freud which is still used in current society it involves a patient expelling thoughts concerning the recall of the dream this method is intended to uncover a dreams true meaning. Overall Freud’s work is significant due to its historical significance of opening the door to the unconscious mind and the new and improved techniques concerning dreams that have formed based on Freud’s work. Our team has found a variety of different theories, which branched off Freud’s theory, they all investigate dreams in a different way although they all share a common objective to help both a patient and psychiatrist in uncovering dreams.

2. Carl Jung


Carl Jung was inspired by Freud’s work on dreams prominently the work done on the unconscious mind and how dreams can be used to understand human nature. Jung investigated Freud’s work made modifications which overall helped improve the field of psychology. Jung's view however differed from Freud as Jung did not necessarily believe human beings (Id) was always trying to satisfy sexual tendencies and or engage in violent behaviours. Jung’s view also differed from Freud as Freud emphasized how the unconscious mind disguised true intentions and wishes through dreams. Jung instead believed the conscious and unconscious mind worked together and through the conscious recall (manifest dream) relevant information can be used which helps in diagnosing the client. Therefore, Jung believed that unconscious dreams are intended for the conscious mind to understand a person true self which - Jung called the ego. Overall Jung understood and investigated dreams in more of a holistic fashion opposed to using a reductionist approach like (Freud).

Jung had made an objective and subjective distinction dealing with the dreaming process. The objective process is associated with concepts relating to the dreamer’s real life therefore events in the physical the world whereas the subjective relates to a persons personality.8 Through this objective and subjective distinction Jung proposed a guide to interpret dreams he began with the conscious state of being awake. Jung believed that reflecting on a dream the next day helps the psychiatrist interpret the dream as the psychiatrist is able to investigate the manifest content (recalled experience) and the psychiatrist is able to gather symbols, thoughts, interpretations in order to understand the pure content of dream and how it relates to the individual who is experiencing the dream. Jung believed it was necessary for a psychiatrist to amplify the dream image in order to have a greater understanding of the dream. A psychiatrist can amplify a dream and understand the dream through a cultural, personal and archetypal approach.

Personal: Relations which are directly targeted towards the dreamer. This approach requires investigating the dreamers self therefore the psychiatrist would set up a free association process where the dreamer would expel their feelings and thoughts and a psychiatrist would use this information directly in order to interpret the manifest dream content (the recalled dream).

Cultural: Looking for information that is beyond the individuals self therefore looking for cues in the culture in order to understand the dream.

Archetypal: Carl Jung proposed his view that there is a part of the unconscious mind, which is universal, everyone shares it. This portion of the unconscious mind is innate and is derived from primitive ancestors Jung called this a person’s collective unconscious. Carl Jung believed that there are archetypes, which are based on religion,mythology and history these are significant to people’s lives as they are passed on from a primitive generation. Jung believes this content can be used to understand dreams. Jung uses five archetypes which are universal concepts examples of his archetypes are persona, shadow, anima/animus, divine child, wise man/woman, mother and trickster.

Overall Carl Jung used the above method in order to interpret dreams in a more holistic fashion. Here Carl Jung interpreted dreams more broadly as he investigated the manifest content (recall memory of the dream) in order to decipher the dreams true meaning.

How is this information useful to a psychiatrist?

Overall in your paper you should do a brief account of highlighting Carl Jung dream interpretation theory. Jung’s theory shows how psychology is not a fixed study there are many different ways in which a psychologist can approach the same phenomena, which in this case is the interpretation of dreams. Therefore, Freud dream interpretation is not the only way to investigate the nature of dreams. As time evolves new theories are proposed which are better than former theories and overall the new information serves to help improve the field of psychology. Here in Carl Jung theory it is important to emphasize and write about his holistic approach to dreams and how he interpreted dreams based on cultural, personal and historical elements. Overall Jung was looking to interpret dreams in a greater perspective. This is relevant to your paper as you can compare and constrast different therapies and emphasize how they help patients in different ways. By Carl Jung moving away from Freud reductionist theory he has allowed other psychiatrists to follow his interpretive approach to dreams, which ultimately help patients overcome their problems in a active manner. This active manner involves people using the recall of their dream to decipher their own dreams through symbols, thoughts, images and feelings.

What dreams say about us

What dreams say about our personalities


In helping patients resolve their inner conflicts, it may be useful for therapists to take note of their patients' personality types. Understanding patients' personalities gives therapists an idea of why their patients have had certain experiences, why they behave in the way that they do, and why they have certain thoughts and feelings.

One way therapists can gain an understanding of their patients' personality types is through dream analysis. In the book, Every Dream Interpreted, Veronica shares the connections she found between the waking personality and dreams, based on her analyses of 1000 dreams, in a laboratory setting.9 Some of these connections include the following:

  • Thinking types, who make decisions based on logical analysis, tend to experience more emotions in their dreams than do feeling types, who make decisions based on principles and values.
  • Type A personalities (driven people who experience almost constant inner pressure) have more disturbing dreams than type B personalities (calmer, relaxed individuals).
  • Introverts recall more "little" everyday dreams than do extroverts. ("Little" dreams are dreams that are less vivid and memorable. They reflect everyday concerns and contain real-life scenarios and characters).

Since the dreams of patients may reveal information about their personality types, it may be beneficial for therapists to determine patients' personalities through dream analysis. With that being said, it is recommended that you review Veronica's work and incorporate some of her findings into your paper to draw therapists' attention to this method.

The most recurring and common types of dreams and what they say about us

In his article, Jamie shares the ten most recurring and common types of dreams that dreamers have and their possible interpretations.10 One of these types of dreams includes dreaming about failing a test. In this dream, one may find themselves being late to an exam, unable to answer questions on the exam, or feeling unprepared for the evaluation. These types of dreams, according to the Association of Dream Research, mean that the dreamer is feeling tested in some way in their life. They may feel unprepared for an upcoming event or they may feel out of place in their current position in life.

This information may be useful to a therapist as they may be able to identify their patients' dreams as being one of these types of dreams. As a result, they may be able to associate a possible meaning with their patients' dreams. This, in turn, will allow them to gain insight into their patients' "hidden" feelings, thoughts, and conflicts, and consequently, they may be able to help them resolve their issues. Therefore, because this information may help therapists resolve their patients' issues, it is recommended that you include it in your paper.

Using Dream Symbols to Decipher the Subconscious' Messages

What are dream symbols and what do they mean?

Dreams contain a variety of symbols, which can come in the form of words, phrases, people, events, activities, or objects. Sometimes these symbols are thought to be meaningless, and other times they are thought to be very meaningful and can send messages about the dreamer's feelings and internal struggles that they are not aware of in their waking state.

There are a variety of ways in which we can interpret the meaning of dream symbols. One of these ways involves using a dream book. In his article, Hall explains that, much like the dictionary contains words and their associated meanings, a dream book contains thousands of dream symbols and their suggested meanings.11 These meanings are universal, which means that they are fixed and are applicable to all dreams; they do not change depending upon the state of the dreamer, nor do they change upon the context in which dream activity appears.

For their universal content, therapists may find dream books to be a quick, helpful start to finding the meaning of symbols in their patients' dreams. This, in turn, may give them insight into their patients' feelings and internal conflicts that they are not aware of themselves. Consequently, therapists will be better able to help their patients resolve their problems. With that being said, it is recommended that, in your paper, you explain why dream books are a good place to start to finding the meanings of dream symbols.

Are all dream symbols universal?
In his article, Hall also proposes the idea that not all dream symbols are universal; the meaning, or referent, of a dream symbol can change from dreamer to dreamer, depending upon the state of the dreamer or the context in which their dream activity occurs. To support this idea, Hall introduces two dream symbol theories: Freud's theory of symbols-as-disguises and a cognitive theory of dream symbols, which borrows ideas from Freud's regard for representability dream theory.

In Freud's theory of dream symbols, symbols are disguises for referents (i.e. objects, people, or events). In other words, symbols appear in dreams because the referents for which they stand for are repressed by the dreamer. For instance, when one dreams of climbing a tree instead of masturbating, it is because climbing trees (the symbol) is condoned and masturbating (the referent) is condemned.

An example of a dream whose meaning can be interpreted using Freud's theory is as follows:
I was in a big room talking to one of my friends. She said she was going riding and I decided to join her. I waited for her to come back for me; when she did return, she said she had already ploughed the field and that the horse was upstairs. I said that I'd probably have trouble getting it down the stairs, and she told me one of the men had helped her down. However, I decided against riding. Later we were all sitting around in the room and I looked up and saw a friend of mine who was in New Orleans. He came over and we were talking until everyone was handed an enormous gun and we all started shooting out of the windows. I recall loading and reloading the gun.

(Disguising symbols, Referents)
Riding, ploughing a field, climbing stairs, and shooting = masturbation or coitus
Gun, horse, and plough = phallic symbols
Room and windows = vaginal symbols
Being handed an enormous gun = being given a penis

Overall interpretation of the dream: The dreamer's wish is to be a man.

Therefore, according to Freud's theory, because dream symbols may serve as a disguise for referents, therapists would not benefit from deciphering these symbols. Instead, therapists would first need to figure out what their patients' dream symbols are disguises for and then try to interpret these referents. This would provide them with a more accurate interpretation of their patients' dreams.

In the second theory Hall addresses, the cognitive theory of dream symbols, the referent of a dream symbol is an idea of a referent object. In other words, a symbol appears in a dream because the dreamer's idea of the symbol coincides with their idea of the referent object.

For instance, a dreamer's mother may be represented in their dreams by an elephant because their idea of elephants is congruent with their idea of their mother; they conceive both elephants and their mother to be very intelligent.

Hence, based on the dreamer's conceptions of certain symbols, the referents of these symbols can vary. This means that the purpose or meanings of some dream symbols are unique to different dreamers.

Therefore, both of the dream theories Hall sheds light on in this article suggest that dream symbols are not always universal; their purpose, or meaning, can be unique to each dreamer. Hence, if therapists want to decipher their patients' dreams to learn about their "hidden truths," they may want to avoid decoding dream symbols solely on the basis of dream books. Instead, they should go beyond dream books and consider these theories to deepen their analysis of dreams. Deciphering dream symbols through these two lenses may give them a more accurate interpretation of what their patients' dreams say about them. This, in turn, may improve the therapists' search for identifying their patient's inner conflicts, and as a result of this, they will be better able to help patients resolve their issues. With that being said, it is recommended that you review Hall's article and discuss these two dream symbol theories in your paper as it may be beneficial for therapists to know this information.

Putting it all together
In his video, Todeschi demonstrates how to use dream symbols to interpret the overall meaning of dreams.12 He describes this process as being both atomistic and holistic. Symbols in a dream are like puzzle pieces; you must piece them together to see the overall picture. Once you identify the individual symbols in a dream and associate a meaning with them, you can then establish relationships between these meanings based on what you know about the dreamer's experiences in the waking state. At the end of this process, you should have an idea of what the dreamer's subconscious is trying to tell them about themselves. This includes messages about the hidden feelings, thoughts, and conflicts they may have that they are not aware of.

For therapists to be able to figure out what their patients' hidden feelings, thoughts, and conflicts are, it is important for them to understand this process. Once they have an understanding of this, they will be able to identify what their patients need help with and assist them in resolving their issues. For these reasons, it is recommended that you watch this video and discuss its content in your paper.

What dreams say about our mental and physical health?

The content of dreams has been studied in various aspects that focus on the personality of the dreamer and attempt to interpret what dreams can say about the dreamer. The Compensatory Theory by Jung and the continuity hypothesis by Domhoff are the two different ways of looking at how the content of dreams can relate to the dreamer’s waking day. The Compensatory Theory sees dreams as an expression method for an aspect of our personality that is not fully revealed in our waking day. Therefore, the dream would play the role as ‘compensating’ for that aspect which we could not express during our day. Whereas the continuity theory would see dreams as a reflection of our waking like, rather than compensating for it. Although there are many views to what the dream content can reflect about the dreamer’s personality, there has been observations done that reveal a connection between the dream content and the mental and physical health.

Physical Health
Cases studied by Mitchell had been able to draw correlations between dreams’ content and how it appears to be related to the physiological change of the dreamer. People with poor physical health may have an obvious display of dreams with the content of bodily misfortunes, injuries and illnesses, medical themes, and body parts. One case was of a man who dreamt of rats biting on his lower right part of his abdomen, and he was then reported to be diagnosed with duodenal ulcer not long after. Shortly after his operation, he no longer had the recurring dream of the rats. This case is an example that shows dream content to be an early indicator to our physical health before symptoms are shown. This can termed as prodromal dreaming which is dreaming about an illness prior to the display of the symptoms. The clinico-anatomical study of neural network in brain-injured patients by Mark Solms looks at the neuropsychology of dreams, and it provides an explanation of dreams with neuroscience. This study is useful to strengthen the idea of dreams provided by Freud, concluding that dreams are the product of all internal and external stimuli. Freud draws out the basic idea of how somatic stimuli and dreams are related, as he believed that physical illnesses can be found through interpreting the content of the dream. Freud's idea looks at the bigger picture as his belief that the somatic stimulus by our bodily systems that evoke cognate images. It is the natural sensations that are happening in our bodily systems such as our muscles, respiratory system, peripheral, and sexual needs and gratification that evoke cognate images. These images are unconscious but instead are transferred into recognizable images associated, without the focus on the sensation. Scherner, a thinker acknowledged by Freud, believed that dreams serve no purpose but instead it is the mind that plays out the stimuli it is impinged on. The whole of the organism is represented by objects in the dreams which play out to represent the somatic state’s form and function. Scherner's idea focuses more on symbolism as his idea translates to somatic stimulus being elaborated into our dreams through an alteration of its image, and into a collection of event in the dream that has a specific focus. An example given was that the dreaming of a house can by symbolically represented as the whole of the body, and the rooms represent various organs. The dream of a blazing furnace may be the symbolic representation of breathing lungs.1314

The main ideas here presented by Freud and Scherner gives a basis for dream analysis, as it outlines the connection between the images in dreams and how it correlates to the physical being of humans. The neurological aspect of dream production by Mark Solms can be further studied for more ideas on the brain and the mind. His study supports Freud's hypothesis of about the dream function, and it will bring interest to the therapist to understand the link between the dream formation and the related physical features. It is because dreams discussed here, are not a stand alone event but instead a product from the body's effect.

Mental Health
The study of dream content had been revealed to show possible symptoms that convey the dreamer’s mental health through patterns consistent among the groups studied. Emotion-based illnesses such as depression are one of the main mental illnesses studied for it's dream content. The psychoanalysts would specifically study the content of dream to discover the source of persistent emotion tension. The cases studied have shown that people with the same mental illness tend to show similar types of dreams. Researchers, Beck and Ward studied the reported dreams by depressed and non-depressed participant, and have found that those who are depressed had more masochistic dreams. This doesn't provide a solid argument that all depressed patients have similar types of dreams, but the researches are based on the consistency of the same categorized dream content among the studied groups. There were studies done that articulated around the relationship of the dream’s tone and expression among depressed and non-depressed dreamers. A recent study by Schresl, Pallmer, and Montasser focused on general trait anxiety in children, and they looked at the frequency of the “bad dreams”. Their results were that children with higher trait anxiety level in their waking day have more occurrences of dreams with threats. Although there is no clear evidence to state that the occurrences of the distressed dreams are due to the waking day’s anxiety, but the theme of the dream may be indicative to the source of anxiety. This idea would side with the Continuity hypothesis that the dreams are reflective of our waking day, and are associated to our traits of when we’re conscious. A continuation to this hypothesis is the dream reporting of patients with schizophrenia, as their dreams are evident to show their traits. Their dreams are recognized by researchers to be more primitive, facing little effort for interpretation as their show obvious signs of implausibility. When patients were given anti-psychotic medication, the first change noticed was the decreased anxiety in their dreams.15

There are two main mental illnesses that concerns the study of dream interpretation: depression and schizophrenia. The two cases are able to outline the consistency of patterns in dreams of patients diagnosed with the same illnesses. To understand what can be interpreted from their dreams, may be the sign of improvement or worsening of conditions of the illnesses. It would also help the therapist to find the underlying source to what may cause or be a relevant factor that can be used to help alter the fashion of their mentality.

Dreams can be interpreted in several different ways

CBT (Cognitive behavioual therapy)


Most cognitive behavioural therapists reject the use of dreams as it is costly and is difficult to grasp the results from the research. CBT therapists can extract very useful information about the patient if they are provided a precise idea of what dreaming consist of, and where to place their attention to toward dream material. However, difficulties arise when people are being trained in cognitive behavourial therapy because proper instructions toward the usage of dreams are not provided. Therefore only a limited population of cognitive-behavioural therapist use dreams. The cognitive behavioral therapy approaches dreams with the ideal that the events represented through dreams can be explained through their production processes. Since dreams are produced by the person’s biology, it should be regarded as a biopsy of the person’s psychological processes. The therapist would attempt to recognize the types of distortions in the schemas of the dreams, as it would help them restructure the patient’s way of thinking. One of the two experimental studies done by Beck concerned cognitive behavioural therapy was the study of depressed patient’s dream content. The patterns noticed through the patients’ reporting of their dreams are that specific factors that cause and maintained their depression can be detected. Beck saw dreams to be an interpretation to how one conceptualize themselves to the outside world, and this viewpoint exerts great influence to the content of their dreams. This idea is aligned with the continuity hypothesis of dreams being a continuation of the waking life, as Beck noticed that the mentality of patients were consistent in their dreams and in their waking.

The DMR method is the most favoured practice toward dream interpretation, as it focuses on the description, memory sources, and reformulation of dreams provided by the patient. This method is a free association between the therapist and the patient because it leaves room for the patient to give his/her own personal interpretation rather than just the psychoanalytic perspective. It would allow space for the therapist to understand the patient’s life concerns, personality, and relationship between emotions and behaviours. The method comprise of three parts: complete description, search for mnemonic sources, and reformulating the description of the dream. Firstly, the complete description is when the therapist writes a description of the patient’s dream including content about the setting, the action or state of the dreamer, the characters, the objects, and the type of emotion that was felt. Secondly, the mnemonic sources are when the therapist tries to look for any association of the dream content to the memories of the patient. The patient would be asked questions about what memories they can retrieve that is related to or reminded of according to the dream content they have. Lastly, the reformulating of the dream is aimed to look at what other possibilities that the idea, character, or object can be represented by in the dream by an encompassing category. It is when the meaning of the dream may not be the specificities of the content but rather the category it belongs to that is relevant.16

Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Theory

Many patients realize that their behaviour “is obviously bad for me[them]” but they are unable to initiate changes that will in turn reduce their feelings of pain, stress, anxiety or whatever feelings their situation is inflicting on them. Seeking help for unwanted behaviour can be off putting because the patient may feel as though they are alone in the battle and shedding light on the situation will only make others dislike, disapprove of or humiliate them more. In a research review of Freud, five main proponents were selected “1. Much of mental life – including thoughts, feelings, and motives – is unconscious, which mean that people can behave in ways or can develop symptoms that are inexplicable to themselves. 2. Mental processes, including affective and motivational processes, operate in parallel so that, toward the same person or situation, individuals can have conflicting feelings that motivate them in opposing ways and often lead to compromise solutions. 3. Stable personality patterns begin to form in childhood, and childhood experiences play an important role in personality development, particularly in shaping the ways people form later social relationships. 4. Mental representations of the self, others, and relationships guide people’s interactions with others and influence the way they become psychologically symptomatic. 5. Personality development involves not only learning to regulate sexual and aggressive feelings but also moving from an immature socially dependent state to a mature, interdependent state.” Huprich also states “object relations involve thoughts, feelings and desires about oneself, others and relationships” and how we project them onto other people. Throughout this text it outlines that utility – clinically and empirically – for psychoanalysis and psychodynamic theory. Therapists can uncover deeper issues and eventually resolve them by using psychodynamics. Huprich operationally defines what he means by psychoanalytic and psychodynamic as they have different meanings to different people. He defines psychoanalytic as “ideas that are associated with Freud and modern-day ego psychology”. “Psychodynamics ideas refer to ideas about the psychic representations of the self and others and the way emotions and desires are played out interpersonally.” He does not separate them because they are nested in one another. Psychodynamics looks within the individual mainly at childhood experiences that may have an effect later on in life. It also focuses on the unconscious mind as a driving factor in producing the unwanted behaviour and mainly focusing on Freud’s point of view. Generally in psychodynamics it uses the typical Freud approach of free association and dream analysis. There are pros and cons to every methodology. Pros of psychodynamics according to Huprich are that it seeks to reveal the deep roots of the issue and it is a wide reaching approach. However, there are cons to every method and those would be that it takes more time to uncover the underlying issues. Some researchers don’t see psychodynamics as fit because it uses unconscious and no one can be certain if they are completely accurate.17


Humanistic views the individuals as innately good and encourages viewing human beings as a whole as opposed to atomistic. For example: CBT focus’s more on thoughts and behaviour whereas here in humanistic you study the whole person (this is a holistic view). It involves looking at factors/elements such as: creativity, free will and human potential. Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow were some of the early theorists to study humanistic psychology, particularly self-actualization and “actualizing tendency”.18

Humanistic view on dreams

Humanistic approaches deal with the “internal thought process of the mind to explain dreaming. According to the humanistic view, dreaming is about the self and always has to do with the individual that is dreaming” (Alperin, R., 2004).19 The humanistic approach also shows how the self deals with the external environment and stimuli. For example: Someone pokes you with a pencil and your body will react to it, or if you see something that reminds you of an event that occurred in the past that makes you feel a certain emotion. A drop in self-esteem, breakdown, anything that can cause mild shifts in your mood will put your body in a state of disequilibrium. To resolve this problem “Kohut thought that these dreams are a healthier aspect of the self to regain the balance again but only through visual imagery.” (Alperin,R., 2004).20 In simpler terms, dreams are a way to regain a sense of self- balance again.21

Calvin Hall

Hall was a behavioral psychologist who explored the cognitive dimensions of dreaming. After studying thousands of dreams collected from his students from around the world, Hall discovered the main cognitive structures that dreams reveal is:

  • conceptions of self (the roles we play in our lives, how we appear to ourselves)
  • conception of others (the different people in our lives and how we react to their needs)
  • conceptions of the world (our environment)
  • conceptions of penalties (what is allowed? What is forbidden?)
  • conception of conflict (our inner conflict and how resolve these problems?)] (Ryan, Hurd., 2009)

His work began before the discovery of REM sleep, so little was known about the biology of sleep and dreams. Hall was known worldwide for his cognitive theory of dreaming. Like Jung, Hall dismissed the Freudian notion that dreams are trying to cover something up. In his classic work The Meaning of Dreams (1966), Hall writes, “The images of a dream are the concrete embodiments of the dreamer’s thoughts; these images give visual expression to that which is invisible, namely, conceptions.”
How we envision our lives are played out in our dreams.22

Modern Ways Of Looking At Dreams

Humans dream to organize their mind. We obtain so much information consciously and subconsciously on a daily basis that we dream to de-clutter our brain. In 1977, Hobson & McCarley's theory of dreams being random impulses from the brain stem was justified with dream research. According to them, dreaming was an abnormal function for a human body, which they noted as random and meaningless. However many scientists believe that dreams do make sense and follow certain plots even if it doesn't make sense directly or relate to real events. A number of researchers also believe that dreams are for problem solving. Fiss, a dream scientist, claimed that dreams pick up on subtle hints throughout the day to provide a solution to a problem. But since we don't remember the majority of our dreams due to the shift in our mind's subconscious dream cycle as we sleep, it was deemed an unreliable conflict resolution method.23

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