Why do we Dream?

This page has been developed by Novelette Blake, Nina Guzina and Shangavy Sackthivel.


Here is a video provided as an introduction for you watch and get an insight on the upcoming topics, which are provided below the video.


Anxiety - "Anxiety is a natural response to real or perceived danger." (Bright, 2003. pg 43)

Dreams - mental activity involving images, during specific stage of sleep (Collins English Dictionary, 1991-2003)

Free association - Free association refers to a method used in psychoanalysis, designed by Freud, to encourage the flow of emotions and ideas between patient and therapist in order to understand unconscious desires. Freud incorporated this technique as a replacement for hypnosis, where the patient speaks freely without much cognitive thought (Jones, n.d)

Hypnagogic Imagery - a very short and brief moment before one falls asleep, where they experience in a dream-like way the events of that day (Rock, 2004)

Psychoanalysis - A group of theories and therapies, which aim to treat certain mental disorders by analyzing the interactions occurring between the conscious and unconscious mind. Psychoanalysts will use specific techniques, such as free association, which will bring repressed fears and wishes from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind.

Why do we dream?

The reason why people dream is to make connection of their daily activity. Based on the theories of dreams it is a cognitive process that has to do with one memories of their surrounding or environment during sleep. It stimulates the connection of human lives experience and the mental process of one thought and desire. According to Freud, dreams are apart of the mental emotional and physical well-being of life. He states that dream(s) is consist with psychoanalytic perspective and a representation of unconscious desires, thought and motivation, (Freud, 1978).

Dream occurr in many different ways, it happens in the mind while you are in a deep sleep which is known as REM. Once in the REM stages an individual will experience many different feelings, emotions, and thought. This might bring back past event episodes, things that you know, or things that you don’t remember and sometime crazy things that you may never experience before. Basically, one would say that dreams are vivid episodes ( Hobson 1996).

Acccording to Hartmann, dreams make connection to our everyday life, it is a connection between our material world and the recollection of our thoughts and minds. Dreams involve some kind of association, prevention of acting out, and the other hand give connection in many different sense (Hartmann, 1996). Dreams can also cause someone to be in fear; it can bring closure to some past event, it can bring sadness and happiness. Some dream we remembered and some we do not remember. dreams do have meanings, and this is why they are people who usually try and interpret dreams to give meaning to someone life (Hartmann, 2006)

According to Freud, dreams consist of psychoanalytic perspectives, he also suggested that dream were a representation of unconscious desires, thoughts and motivation. The content of dream is related to a wish fulfillment, he states that dreams has two different components: the manifest contents, which is made up of the actual images thoughts and contained within the dream, while the latent content represent the hidden psychological meaning of a dream. And the other hand, some other believed that dream is an account for the occurrence and meaning of dreams, as follow, dream are the result of the brain tying to interpreted external stimuli during sleep. Example, sound and radio maybe incorporated into the content of dream (Freud 1978). Some dreaming can take place during non-REM sleep. “Light sleepers” can experience dreaming during stage 2 non-REM sleep, whereas “deep sleepers”, upon awakening in the same stage, are more likely to report “thinking” but not “dreaming” (Hobson, 1996)

Based on Freud's article, dream is clean up cluster of the mind, dream can make connection between though and ideas, which guided by the emotion of the dreamer (Freud, 1978). Dreams allows us to consolidate and process all of the information that we have collected during the previous day so during sleep the mind goes through this biological process. Some dream experts suggest that dreaming is simply a by-product or even an active part of this information-processing. As we deal with the multitude of information and memories from the daytime, our sleeping minds create images, impressions, and narratives to manage all of the activity going on inside our heads as we slumber (Hartmann, 1996).


The recording of dreams dates back to 3000-4000 BC, with only an increase of importance and interpretation as time went on. In the era of the Greeks and Romans, dreams were viewed as strictly religious, with messages being sent from the Gods or from the dead. It was during this era, that dreams were thought of us predictors of the future and were used for political and military purposes. During the Hellenistic period, dreams were believed to have powers to heal individuals. Temples were built for those who were ill, with the hopes that if dreams were present within the temple it would heal those within them. On the other hand, the Egyptians were known for their hieroglyphics. Priests were called upon to act as dream interpreters and those with particular dreams were considered blessed. Not only have dreams shaped cultures, they have also influenced many areas of society throughout history. There are, however, two influential individuals that have changed the way humans view dreams-Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (Cartwright, 2015). Cartwright (2015) gives a great overview of the development of dreams and the interpretations associated with dreams. He shows the progress of different dream theories throughout evolution and how these theories shaped cultural and societal life.

Sigmund Freud


(Boeree, n.d)

One of the most influential psychologists of his time, Sigmund Freud, contributed vastly to the interpretation and recording of dreams. Born on May 6th, 1856, Freud finished his study of medicine at the University of Vienna in 1881 and continued his work as a psychologist. Just 15 years later, in 1895, in Grinzing, Austria he began to write The Interpretation of Dreams, which ended up being one of the most influential pieces in the field of psychoanalysis (McLeod, 2013).
Freud stated that dreams served as a mechanism of understanding of the activities of the unconscious mind. He began his analysis of dreams after experiencing and investigating his own dream on July 24th, 1895-the dream of Irma. In this dream, Freud is worried about a patient that he is unable to cure only to come to the realization that her condition was caused by a dirty syringe that was inaccurately cleaned by another doctor. Freud explained his dream as being a result of wish fulfillment. At the time, Freud was dealing with a patient, similar to that of the dream, that he had difficulties curing. He had repressive wishes that his inability to cure her was not his fault, and these repressed wishes were expressed within his dream (McLeod, 2013).
It was based off this dream that Freud began his theory on dreams. He believed that dreams were almost always instigated by a repressed wish, which was only released when inhibitions were lowered during sleep (McLeod, 2013). His theory was based on an objective-retrospective view, where dreams occurred according to relationships between the dreamer, itself, and situations and individuals surrounding them, and where dreams refer mainly to past events and childhood memories (Carl Jung Resources, 2014). He claimed that there were two parts to a dream: the manifest content and the latent content. The manifest content referred to specific details within a dream that the dreamer remembers. Whereas the latent content, referred to the symbolic meaning of the dream and objects within it. Therefore, his idea of dream work, derived from his idea that manifest objects were disguised as repressed wishes due to the dreamer’s avoidance of the wish. He believed that in order to reveal the significance of a dream, therapists must identify latent contents of a dream by implementing free association (Schredi, 2008). Sigmund Freud established the groundwork for psychoanalysis and his work continues to be widely used around the world.

Carl Jung


(Wordpress, 2011)

Another influential individual in the field of psychoanalysis and dream analysis was Carl Jung. Born on July 26th, 1875, he went to study medicine in Basel, Switzerland and in 1907 met and collaborated with Freud. Most of Jung’s work was established by that of Freud’s, however the psychologist, at the time, did not agree with some of Freud’s theories. Jung’s work is thought of as extensions of Freud’s work, nevertheless it continues to hold a firm presence in the field of psychology (Carl Jung Resources, 2014).
Jung believed that, in addition to an individual’s consciousness, there exists a second psyche, which is impersonal and is identical in every individual; this second psychic system is hereditary and consists of universal psychic images, which he calls archetypes (Jung, 1963). Archetypes, he claims, give wisdom to the dreamer, which works along the lines of an instinctual process. He believed that archetypes can lead the dreamer towards a process he called individuation, which was the understanding and realization of the entire being (Giannoni, n.d). Unlike Freud, Jung believed that alongside an objective approach, there also existed a subjective approach, where dreams represented the well-being of the psychological life of an individual, and where certain objects or personifications can be representative of repressed emotions (Carl Jung Resources, 2014). He believed that it was difficult to understand dreams because the language used in the unconscious was different from the ones humans use while conscious (Jung, 1963). Due to this, he believed that dreams served two main functions:

1. To compensate
Dreams act as a tool for an individual to use in order to achieve balance within their psychological realm. They do this by bringing forth unconscious thoughts and emotions that have been repressed by the conscious self. When the dreamer recognizes and accepts these repressed thoughts and emotions, a balance has been reached (Jung, 2963)

2. To give prospective
Jung believed that dreams were able to anticipate the future of the dreamer and suggest the possibilities of occurrences through the use of dreams. Dreams served as a map the dreamer’s future psychological growth, which would help with the balance between an individual’s ego and self (Jung 1963)

He split the dreamer’s psyche into 3 parts:

1. The ego
The ego is related to the conscious mind (Boeree, 1997).

2. Personal unconscious
Personal unconscious deals with any psychological phenomenon, which is not presently a part of the conscious mind, but it once was. This refers to aspects of memory-thoughts and emotions, which have been forgotten. The existence of such issues derives from personal experiences (Boeree, 1997).

3. Collective unconscious
Collective unconscious deals with any psychological phenomenon, which has never been a part of the conscious mind. The collective unconscious influences all decisions and experiences and is made up of archetypes. The existence of such issues derives from heredity and psychic inheritance (Boeree, 1997).
Jung believed that the goal of life was to realize the true self, the balance between the unconscious and conscious self, attaining, which he calls, a state of wholeness; and he believed that dream interpretation and recording was the means needed to achieve this state of wholeness (Jung, 1963).


There are 3 common archetypes most present in dreams:

1) The Shadow
The Shadow archetype is often associated with the human’s instinctual side, those that are associated with reproductive and survival desires. It is often referred to as the “dark side” of the ego, where all evil thoughts of the individual get stored. A snake, dragon or monster within a dream often represents the Shadow (Boeree, 1997).

2) The Persona
The Persona archetype represents the face/individual that the dreamer shows to the world-it represents the public image of the dreamer. There are two ways the dreamer may use this archetype: 1. It may be the “good” personality the dreamer would like to present in order to fill a specific role in society or 2. It may be the “bad” personality associated with the manipulation of other people’s opinions and beliefs. Although the Persona begins as an archetype, eventually it becomes a part of the collective unconscious (Boeree, 1997).

3) The Anima and Animus
Jung believed that, in all societies, there exists certain expectations specifically designed for men and women and that these expectations often mold individuals.
The Anima represents the female aspects present in the collective unconscious of the male. A young girl or a witch usually personifies the Anima.
The Animus represents the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of the female. A wise old man or sorcerer often personifies the Animus.
This archetype is often used to communicate with the collective unconscious and often used to become aware of traits humans often hide due to societal pressures. It is also associated with the emotion of love, particularly the impression of “love at first sight” (Boeree, 1997).

Types of dreams

1) Recurring Dreams
'Recurring Dreams' are dreams that occur more than once, either continuously or occasionally over a long period of time. Recurring dreams can also vary each time, but the contents of the dreams share characteristics or details which are repetitive. These types of dreams are often caused by the dreamers fears and phobias. For example, someone who is terrified of spiders may have the tendency of dreaming of spiders over and over again. (Bright, 2003)

2) Chase Dreams
'Chase Dreams' are dreams where the dreamer is placed in situation, in which they are being "hunted or driven beyond endurance" (Bright, 2003. pg, 36). These dreams are also caused due to fear or anxiety. For example, someone who is afraid of bears, may dream of a bear with certain characteristics enhanced, chasing them. (Bright, 2003)

3) Anxiety Dreams
'Anxiety Dreams' are the most common form of dreams, considering many types of dreams are caused by the dreamers anxiety and fears. With anxiety dreams the dreamer, dreams of scenarios and situations of what makes them feel scared or anxious. For example, the night before the first day of school, some students may dream of possible situation which they are most anxious about. (Bright, 2003)

4) Sexual Dreams
'Sexual Dreams' are dreams which involve scenarios that are related or involve sex. These dreams can involve other who the dreamer feels attracted to unconsciously. (Bright, 2003)

5) Wish-fulfillment Dreams
'Wish-fulfillment Dreams' are dreams that involve scenarios, where the dreamer's wish is satisfied. Freud believes all dreams are connected to wish-fulfillment. The dreamer is often dreams of situations in which they are trying to reach that can be related to goals they may have, or situations they desire to be in. (Bright, 2003)

6) Divination Dreams
'Divination Dreams' are dreams that "offer divinatory insight into all three phases of time" (Bright, 2003)
- Three phases of time: Past, Present and Future
- Past Dreams - can range from the dreamer's past-life or previous experience (Bright, 2003)
- Present Dreams - provides information on our current state (Bright, 2003)
- Future Dream - can represent what is coming, advice or warning regarding the dreamer's future (Bright, 2003)

7) Nightmares
'Nightmares' can be experienced in forms of anxiety where the dreamer is placed in a negative situation, or can be related to a traumatic experience from the past. (Bright, 2003) Nightmares can be caused due to traumatic experiences, anxiety, biological causes or feelings/emotions (Bright, 2003)

8)Lucid Dreams
'Lucid Dreams' are dreams in which the dreamer is in control of their dreams, because they are aware/concious of the fact that they are dreaming. Lucid dreams occur when the dreamer is trying to overcome fears, anxiety/phobias, healing, creative solutions, spiritual environment or for entertainment (Bright, 2003)

Science of Dreams

Aserinsky is key when studying what the brain undergoes, when someone is sleeping. Due to the fact that, his research, on the eyes movement of someone who is asleep, provided an explanation on what goes on with the eyes and the brain when someone is asleep.

Aserinsky was given a task by his boss, Nathaniel Kleitman who was the advisor of Physiology at a University. He was given the task of “…Observing sleeping infants to see whether blinking stopped gradually or suddenly after sleep.” (Rock, 2004. pg, 3). After failing to complete this task, Aserinsky came up with a new task, which was approved for research by Kleitman. The new task was to study the movement of the eyes using a polygraph machine. Aserinsky decided to preform this task using his son as a subject. After recording the eye movement of his son during the night of his sleep, using a polygraph machine, he “picked up eye movements and brain waves through electrodes.” (Rock, 2004. pg. 4) Aserinsky was the first to discover the movement of the eyes during sleep, as others who studied sleep believed that there was no brain activity when someone was asleep. (Rock, 2004)

When Aserinsky observing the results from the polygraph, which sketched a graph of the eyes movements, he noticed a repetitive pattern. He then using the machine on his son again, as he believed there might have been something wrong with the machine. With the new results he realized it was identical to the previous graph, along with pattern of the peaks. (Rock, 2004)

The polygraph machine was used again, but to measure the eye movements of adults. Aserinsky noticed that the results from the adults were just like his son’s, as the patterns were identical. He noticed that there was rapid eye movement (REM) with a subject who was experiencing a nightmare. This showed that the eyes movement was rapid because of how vivid his nightmare was. The REM shows that the subjects were dreaming very vivid dreams, regardless of how still they were in during their sleep. (Rock, 2004)

5 Standard Stages of Sleep

William Dement, was a student of Nathaniel Kleitman, who was intrigued by the research that Aserinsky had done on sleep. After he took initiative in the study, by observing the polygraph’s graphing of the eyes movement, he came to the conclusion that there are 5 standard stages to sleep. (Rock, 2004)

1) Pre-sleep
This is the stage before we actually fall asleep, it could be considered as a ‘preparation’ stage. During this stage we slowly lose awareness of our surrounding, such as sounds and visuals. (Rock, 2004)

2) Sleep Onset
During this stage we experience hypnagogic imagery, this is when have “dream-like visuals” (Rock, 2004. pg. 8) of what events or moments had taken place that day. (Rock, 2004)

3) Light Sleep
During this stage we begin to fall asleep, a very light sleep. We are still somewhat conscious of what our surroundings are. This stage occurs for approximately 10-30 minutes of our sleep. (Rock, 2004)

4) Slow-wave Sleep
At this stage, we are deep asleep. Some people tend to sleep-talk or sleep-walk, both of these can occur at this stage. This stage of being deep asleep can last between 15-30 minutes, once it’s over the second and third stage are experienced once again. (Rock, 2004)

5) REM
During the REM (rapid eye movement) stage the brain activity, heart rate and eye movement increase in speed. The speed it reaches is similar to what we are like when are awake, except we are not awake. At this stage is when we begin to dream vividly. (Rock, 2004)


There are professionals who analyze dreams such as dream analyst. This process involves using details from dreams and making connections with the dreamers thoughts, depending on the type of dream, to find possible meanings and connections. In order for the dreamer to understand the inner meaning of their dream, they need to collect details from their dreams. This is a difficult task, considering a majority of the dream is forgotten soon after the dreamer wakes up. The missing details of dreams, makes it difficult to analyze dreams. (Coriat, 1915)

Many cultures have even taken initiative in defining the possible meaning of these dreams. For example, the ancient Greeks have many possible meanings on that dreams can mean, "The Greeks spoke of seeing a dream, of dreams visiting a dreamer, or standing over him or her." (Bright, 2003. pg, 8) These types of dreams were considered to be visions, and were often used by Greek poet, Homer, who composed The Odyssey. "In these poems dreams often used often to take the form of a visit paid to a sleeping person by a single person by a single dream figure - this can be a god, a ghost, or other types of messengers. (Bright, 2003. pg, 9).

In Greek Classification, dreams were divided into 3 possible categories:
1) The Symbolic Dream, are dreams which consisted of event that are presented in the form of mysterious riddles. (Bright, 2003)

2) The Vision Dream, are dreams which provides the dreamer with a preview of an upcoming event. (Bright, 2003)

3) The Oracle Dream, which are dreams of possible upcoming situations that may or may not occur. (Bright, 2003)


Antrobus, J. (1991). Dreaming: Cognitive processes during cortical activation and high afferent thresholds. Psychological Review, 98(1), 96. 98.
The author, research at Department of Psychology, City College, City University of New York, New York, NY, he examining the relation between sleep and waking neurocognitive processes. I have chose this article because it provides information that dreams happened in stages. It happened when a wake and asleep. The author provide us with information that brain is biological function that has to do with the chemical change of sleep during REM.

Boeree, C. (1997). Personality theories. Shippensburg, Pa.: C. George Boeree.
This book gives a great understanding of the details present within the theories of Jung. The components present give an in-depth understanding to Jung’s beliefs and views on the dreams and their interpretations. The format of the book is easy to read and organized well. It gives a brief explanation of all components, big or small, within Jung’s theories.

Boeree, G. (n.d.). Sigmund Freud. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/genpsyfreud.html
This provided an appropriate photograph of Sigmund Freud in order to associate the information with the individual.

Bright, L. (2003). Dream interpretation. Chicago, Ill.: Contemporary Books.
This book provides both an interpretive and deterministic perspective on dreams. Bright provides explanations on what dreams are and why they occur, she also gives various example of types of dreams to show a clear explanation of her work. She also provides various symbols that people may dream, and explains the possible meaning of the dreams.

Cartwright RD. (2015) Dream | sleep experience. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/171188/dream
This website gives a great overview of the development of dreams and the interpretations associated with dreams. It shows the progress of different dream theories throughout evolution and how these theories shaped cultural and societal life. It was formatted in an organized and easy to read manner and gave a good background on the subject.

Coriat, I. H. (1915). An example of dream-analysis. The meaning of dreams. (pp. 13-42) Little, Brown and Co, New York, NY. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/11361-002
Coriat is an American neurologist who provides an explanation on how professionals interpret dreams. This source explains how a dream analyst conducts their work with their subjects and what is required of the subject in order to analyze a dream.

dream. (n.d.) Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. (1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003). Retrieved April 14 2015 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dream

Dream Interpretation at Carl Jung. (2014). Retrieved March 30, 2015, from http://www.carl-jung.net/dreams.html
This article gives a comparison between Freud and Jung, therefore giving detailed information on each theorist and psychoanalyst. The article focuses on the differences between the two in terms of their theoretical views. Makes a comparison between objective and subjective views alongside the retrospective view versus the prospective view. This article also portrays how similar both psychoanalysts are and their relationship. It describes how interconnected dream theories are.

Freud, S. (1978). The interpretation of dreams. Hayes Barton Press.

Giannoni, M. (n.d.). Jung's Theory Of Dream And The Relational Debate. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 605-621.
This book was a useful tool to the understanding of Jung’s principles and theories. Written in the third person, it shows, in-depth, Jung’s views on the goal of life and, in turn, the goal of dreams and the interaction between the two. It provides a detailed description of Jung’s theory of individuation and its significance to the unconscious and self.

Hartman, E. (2006). Why do we dream? Scientific American

Hartmann, E. (1995). Making connections in a safe place: Is dreaming psychotherapy? Dreaming, 5, 213-228.

Hobson, J. A. (1999). Consciousness. New York: Scientific American Library

Jones, J. (n.d.). Free Associations Method. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from http://www.freudfile.org/psychoanalysis/free_associations.html
This website describes the method of Free Association that Freud used to replace hypnosis. It portrays the path he took to come to the method and the ways he implemented this procedure. It provides examples useful for the understanding of the method.

Jung, C. (1963). Memories, dreams, reflections (pp. 99-104). New York: Pantheon Books.
This book was a great insight into the view of Carl Jung. These pages are directly taken from the book Jung wrote, himself. He states what he believes to be the goal of life and the goal of dreams, and his understanding of the role of dream interpretation and psychoanalysis. The book greatly describes his views and his idea on the unconscious with the personal and collective unconscious levels. He describes his view on the subjective level and mentions the two functions of dreams.

McLeod S. (2013). Sigmund Freud's Theories | Simply Psychology. Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/Sigmund-Freud.html
This website was brief and simple. It gave a summary of the work of Freud and Jung which helped develop questions to ask for further and more in depth research. This website provided a great start point for the understanding of dream theories and those involved in dream interpretation and psychoanalysis.

Rock, A. (2004). The mind at night: The new science of how and why we dream. New York: Basic Books.
This source explains in a very detailed way, on the science of sleep. It goes into the history of dreams research and how it all began.

Schredi M. (2008). Freud’s Interpretation of His Own Dreams in “The Interpretation of Dreams”: A Continuity Hypothesis Perspective. IJODR, 1(2). Retrieved from
This journal article gave in depth information on the theories of Sigmund Freud and the manner in which he came about his theories. This provided a greater understanding of his methods of analysis and reasoning. Its brief explanation of the 5 dreams, which provided the greatest influence for, his theories helped with the general knowledge of his views.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream - Crash Course Psychology #9 [Motion picture]. (2014). YouTube.

WordPress. (2011, November 8). Carl Jung. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from https://theoristsarecool.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/carl-jung/
This provided a good photograph of Carl Jung as a psychoanalyst to put beside the text in order to associate the information with the individual.

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