The Psychology of Dreams
Fri, December 3, 2021

The Psychology of Dreams

Dreams have always fascinated people. In ancient Egypt, people with vivid dreams were thought to be sanctified with a deep intuitive understanding of occurrences and events / Photo by: Roman Samborskyi via Shutterstock

 

Dreams have always fascinated people. In ancient Egypt, people with vivid dreams were thought to be sanctified with a deep intuitive understanding of occurrences and events. It was believed that divine revelations (wisdom from the gods) were coursed through dreams.

These supernatural ideas gave way to a more scientific explanation in the 19th and 20th centuries. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, theorized that dreams provided the true nature of the inner workings of the minds. He explained that while the conscious mind sleeps, the unconscious mind generates images that provide special meanings into the deepest selves. He referred to dreams as the royal road to the unconscious that holds significant thoughts, feelings, and desires.

 

Why Do We Dream?

There are no precise reasons why we dream even after numerous studies on sleep and dreaming have been done. It is, however, plain that neurological activity occurs when we sleep especially during REM sleep, the phase when dreaming occurs, usually on the latter half of a night’s sleep.

According to Freud, people are driven by aggressive and sexual instincts repressed by conscious awareness. Since these thoughts are not deliberately articulated, they reveal themselves through dreams. J. Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley, Harvard psychiatrists, proposed that the brain synthesizes and interprets the internal activity happening inside the brain during REM sleep and attempts to find meaning in these signals that result in dreaming. This suggests that dreams are skewed explanations of signals produced by the brain during sleep. Hobson believed that dreams are the most creative conscious state that produces new ideas.

There are no precise reasons why we dream even after numerous studies on sleep and dreaming have been done. It is, however, plain that neurological activity occurs when we sleep especially during REM sleep / Photo by: Ollyy via Shutterstock

 

Other theories by dream experts to account for the occurrence of dreams include:

- Dreams are the result of the brains trying to interpret external stimuli during sleep.

- Dreams serve to “clean up” confusion from the mind to refresh it for the next day.

- Dreams are forms of psychotherapy where the dreamer can connect thoughts and emotions in a safe environment.

- Activating the brain creates loose connections between thoughts and ideas, which are guided by the emotions of the dreamer.

 

Are Dreams Important?

Dreams are highly individualized and have the most meaning to the person dreaming them. They have psychological significance and may be an unconscious reflection of internal anxieties, fears, desires, hopes, and fantasies. They provide clues on aspects of life needing attention.

The following are findings that disclose the importance of dreams in people’s lives.

- Dreams represent recent life concerns that likely include prior life events broken into senseless fragments mixed with distant memories. Piecing their significance would need scrutinizing the peculiar meaning of the dream imagery and how it reflects both immediate and long-term concerns.

- Dreams increase the ability to read emotions and process the external stimuli to enable the brain to react to any scary situation.

- Dreams help consolidate memory. Recall of new information after sleep is stronger if incorporated in dreams. This is some sort of a review of the important memories to be remembered.

- Dreams may help forecast future problems in one’s life based on patterns in prior events. They act as a biological defense that the mind uses to prepare for life-threatening events and to face fears and other intense situations in a safe way.

What Dreams Really Mean

Do dreams have a deeper meaning? Can unconscious desires be known by interpreting dreams? Modern theories of dreams suggest the answer is no, but this has not stopped analysts from coming up with dream dictionaries that claim to identify the real meanings of these common dreams. Here are some of these popular interpretations.

- Dreams about falling from great heights are pretty common. The popular myth says that falling and hitting the ground means death. According to dream experts, falling is a sign of fear in real life. It expresses the need to let go and to enjoy life more.

- Dreams about being naked in public are not unusual. These indicate the anxiety to reveal the true self, imperfections, and shortcomings.

- Dreams about being chased mean avoidance of something in daily life, a wish to escape from fears or desires. Being chased by an animal might indicate hidden anger, passions, and other feelings; being chased by a mysterious figure might represent past trauma; and being chased by the opposite sex might mean troubled love or an eerie past relationship.

- Dreams about losing teeth mean worries about appearance, concern about the ability to communicate, or loss of power and ability to be decisive.

- Dreams about dying reflect anxiety about change or fear of the unknown.

- Dreams about taking a test reveal underlying dread to fail or the unpreparedness for life challenges.

- Dreams about infidelity are distressing but are only reflections of the apprehension felt on cheating spouses. Such dreams indicate issues on trust, faithfulness, and communication in relationships. If one of the partners is cheating in the dream, it means one of them is not getting what they currently need from the relationship.

- Dreams about flying are liberating and exciting but also terrifying. These dreams represent two sides: feelings of independence and freedom or a desire to escape from realities of life. Flying also involves positive feelings of pleasure and may ascribe to sexuality in aspects like freedom from social norms and restrictions.

Dreams are still much of a mystery until now. They can be depressing, scary, exciting, boring or just out of this world / Photo by: Yuganov Konstantin via Shutterstock

 

Final Thoughts

Dreams are still much of a mystery until now. They can be depressing, scary, exciting, boring or just out of this world. Whatever they may be, let us accept that dreams are an important part of our well-being.