We have always been fascinated with dreams. Numerous theories on the subject have been proposed since the early Greek period attempting to explain the nature and purpose of dreams. During the ancient times, dreams are believed to be inspiration from the gods. That it, the gods uses dreams to communicate their messages and their warnings. The Scripture alone has a large amount of anecdotes expressing the Christian belief on dreams and these beliefs differ on a very little scale with that of the beliefs of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians (Brill, 1922).
Passing on from the ancient times, beliefs regarding the nature of dreams have varied little in terms of its religious aspect. But it was not until the late nineteenth century that psychology began to offer a new insight on the subject of dreams. It would be an enormous feat to discuss the various theories regarding dreams and its analysis and interpretation but perhaps it is more than helpful to discuss first the dream process before attempting to look at its analysis and interpretation.
According to Auld, Hyman, and Rudzinski (2005), “the dream gives expression to unconscious forces in a much more direct way than other mental contents do” (p. 185). As it is, dreams only happen when one is asleep. When asleep, the sleeper/dreamer stops actions directed toward the outside world allowing some thoughts and feelings penetrate the mind more freely than when the dreamer is awake. These thoughts and feelings now constitute the dream content.
Most dream contents consist of the dreamer’s memories of events of his waking life, usually experiences of the day preceding the dream and conflicts from early childhood that are repressed, and therefore unconscious even in sleep. Dreams become an instrument for the expression and fulfilment for these unconscious conflicts (Auld, Hyman, & Rudzinski, 2005). However, these unconscious conflicts and preconscious day residues are not just simply represented into dreams. The dreamer first translates these thoughts and memories into visual images which are then represented by a series of images as they enter the dreamer’s consciousness.
The dreamer remembers and reports verbally this series of images. This report is called the manifest dream while the psychological structure from which the manifest dream was developed is called the latent dream. Freud calls this process as the dream-work (the changing of the latent dream into the manifest dream) (Freud, 1920). Freud explains that to be able to interpret the dream, that is, to fully recover the latent dream thoughts as fully as possible, one must get the dreamer to give association to each element of the manifest dream (this is what is called the free-association).
He further explains that the manifest dream is a distorted version of the latent dream, not only because thoughts and feelings had to be translated into visual imagery but also because repressive forces of the personality were active and brought about a disguising and censoring transformation material. Freud referred to this as censorship. Other psychological operations involved in the dream-work are condensation, symbolism, dramatization, and secondary revision. In condensation, a single image in the manifest dream can represent several images in the latent dream.
Manifest dreams are often represented through symbolism, wherein the elements present in the manifest dream represent the elements present in the latent dream. Dramatization refers to the manner in which the dreamer’s thoughts and feelings are represented through concrete pictorial representations. Finally, the dream elements that are contradictory and of disparate origin, are rearranged in its final manifest form comprehensible to the dreamer. This is referred to as the secondary revision. Once understood, these psychological operations can aid in the interpretation of dreams (Alperin, 2004).
REFERENCES: Alperin, R. M. (2004). Toward an integrated understanding of dreams. Clinical Social Work Journal, 32(4), 451-469. Auld, F. , Hyman, M. , & Rudzinski, D. (2005). Resolution of inner conflict: An introduction to psychoanalytic therapy (2nd ed. ). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Brill, A. A. (1922). Psychanalysis: Its theories and practical application. London: WB Saunders Co. Freud, S. (1920). A general introduction to psychoanalysis. New York: Horace Liveright.