Dream Analysis: All You Need to Know
What Are Dreams?
Dreams are stories and images that our minds create while we sleep. They can be entertaining, fun, romantic, disturbing, frightening, and sometimes bizarre. Dreams are images, thoughts, or feelings that occur during sleep. Visual imagery is the most common, but dreams can involve all the senses. Some people dream in color while others dream in black and white. Studies have revealed diverse types of dream content, but some typical characteristics of dreaming include:
- It has a first-person perspective.
- It is involuntary.
- The content may be illogical or even incoherent.
- The content includes other people who interact with the dreamer and one another.
- It provokes strong emotions.
- Elements of waking life are incorporated into the content.
Although these features are not universal, they are found at least to some extent in most normal dreams. Dreaming can happen during any stage of sleep, but dreams are the most prolific and intense during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. How to interpret dreams, and whether they have meaning at all, are matters of considerable controversy. While some psychologists have argued that dreams provide insight into a person’s psyche or everyday life, others find their content to be too inconsistent or bewildering to reliably deliver meaning. While analysis of dreams may be a component of personal or psychological self-reflection, it’s hard to state, based on the existing evidence, that there is a definitive method for interpreting and understanding the meaning of dreams in waking everyday life.
What is Dream Analysis?
Dreams are the often perplexing visions of our subconscious, and many people believe they contain hidden meaning. Dream analysis is a therapeutic technique best known for its use in psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud viewed dreams as “the royal road” to the unconscious and developed dream analysis, or dream interpretation, as a way of tapping into this unconscious material. Some psychologists dedicate their careers to the process of evaluating dreams to determine their meanings. This is called dream analysis. The first recorded examples of dream analysis date back to Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptian dream interpreters believed the Gods communicated through dreams, and they even produced a book compiling more than 200 of the Gods’ messages. It’s no surprise humanity has been trying to understand these puzzling visions since we gained the mental capacity to do so, but the greatest advancements in dream analysis came in the 20th century when psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung developed scientific theories of the discipline.
In 1899, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud published his groundbreaking text “The Interpretation of Dreams.” In it, he proposed that dreams express the unfulfilled wishes of the dreamer’s daily life. Freud suggested that dreams are made up of two kinds of information:
- manifest content (what actually shows up in your dream)
- latent content (the deep symbolic meaning of your dream)
In Freudian dream work, an analyst encourages a dreamer to find the hidden meaning behind their dream through a process called free association. With free association, you speak openly about everything that might relate to the images and events in your dream. Through this process, you can reveal the deeper wishes that may be hidden in your subconscious mind.
Like Freud, Jung thought dreams were rooted in the unconscious mind and could help heal the dreamer if understood properly. Jung suggested that dreams reveal the ways an individual has fallen out of balance. In Jungian dream analysis, every aspect of your dream represents something in your psyche. So, the dream is an effort to communicate with yourself about the things holding you back from becoming a whole and fully developed individual.
Acquiring the ability to interpret your dreams is a powerful tool. In analyzing your dreams, you can learn about your deep secrets and hidden feelings. Remember that no one is a better expert at interpreting your dreams than yourself. People appear to believe dreams are particularly meaningful: they assign more meaning to dreams than to similar waking thoughts. For example, people report they would be more likely to cancel a trip they had planned that involved a plane flight if they dreamt of their plane crashing the night before than if the Department of Homeland Security issued a federal warning. However, people do not attribute equal importance to all dreams. People appear to use motivated reasoning when interpreting their dreams. They are more likely to view dreams confirming their waking beliefs and desires to be more meaningful than dreams that contradict their waking beliefs and desires.
Importance of Dream Analysis
Dreaming is a very complicated activity. According to Freud, the goal of a dream is to satisfy those desires that we can’t even voice, much less work toward satisfying, when awake. This means that we need to decode our dreams for them to reveal our unconscious wishes. This is not always easy. The dreams end up having important and relevant information about what is currently going on in their life—and about their wishes and desires. Dreams are not just random but have important meaning. When a dream is interpreted, it can reveal something very disturbing. Dreams can reveal uncanny, extraordinary, and unexpected aspects of ourselves.
Reasons why it is important to interpret your dreams:
- Take advantage of your dreams. You dream every night. When you wake up and think about a dream, you have an opportunity to access a product of your unconscious.
- Dreams are familiar territory. They are formed, in part, by what has gone on the day before.
- Dreams are not just reiterations of what happened during the day. They also include our active work on problems that were “insoluble” in the light of day. Some important scientific discoveries occurred as the result of a dream.
- Remembering and interpreting your dreams can open up the weird and offbeat parts of yourself that are kept under wraps.
- Although we may be unaware of the unconscious, it is revealed in our dreams. If we understand how the dream is constructed, we can understand something about the part of our mind that we can’t see.
- Dreams are meaningful. Each of us makes up our own sets of symbols, and we use these to hide the meaning of our dreams.
- The meaning in dreams is hidden because the truth of dreams can be strange and unsettling. Dreams are intended to keep us asleep. To do this they grant the wishes of the parts of ourselves that want something – and would wake us up to get it. For example, a hungry child will dream of eating something wonderful and this will satisfy them enough that they can stay asleep.
How Does Dream Analysis Work?
Dreams reveal our deepest truths: Dreams use the language of symbols and archetypes to communicate from our inner selves what we’re not able to grasp in everyday life — because of our beliefs, fears, social norms, and other barriers to self-knowledge. Through dream interpretation, psychologists can help clients to see themselves and their desires in a way that’s free from all that baggage.
Context is everything: Dream interpretation is a very individualized practice. Different dreams may share the same symbols, but depending on what’s going on in your life, the specific meaning of that symbol will change. Keeping a dream journal to record your nighttime visions will help you start to understand how your subconscious works and what it’s trying to communicate. One should first “walk-around” a specific dream — i.e., take a careful look at what’s happening in the dream, where you are, and who else is present — and then begin to examine how you’re relating to other people and how the dream makes you feel. Usually, dreams relate right back to what’s going on in your life.
Pay special attention to recurring dreams: A dream that returns more than once maybe your subconscious urging you to address something. Often, recurring dreams are pointing to something unresolved, and a little analysis can reveal a psychological blockage that’s holding you back or a lingering conflict that needs your attention. The recurring dream is a symbol of urgency, inviting us to work on understanding it. The analysis starts at the surface, from the manifest to the latent content of the dream. Sometimes it is literal, sometimes symbolic.
Not every dream has a hidden meaning: While dream analysis can be an empowering experience, however, not all dreams are created equal. Some can reveal secret desires, unseen dangers, and unexamined ideas, but others are simply a way for the mind to process excess stimuli.
Don’t take your dreams too literally: They may be filled with hidden meaning, but those insights won’t be presented to you literally — they’ll come in the form of symbols. And those symbols will mean different things to different people, depending on the issues they’re dealing with and their cultural context. Dreaming of death, for example, does not necessarily mean that you or anybody you love is going to die soon. It often symbolizes the end of something important, like a project or relationship, or even the beginning of something.
Some dreams have a widely shared meaning: There are “classic dreams” that come to many people — such as being late for a final exam and not being prepared, being late for work and not knowing how to get there, trying to run or scream, and not being able to. These have a basic, underlying message that’s generally the same for everybody. (In the case of the dreams noted, it’s a fear of failure.) But even these dreams will also have more specific meanings that differ by person.
You can program your dreams: This might seem outlandish, but you’ve likely already experienced a “programmed dream” without even realizing it. Deliberately focusing on an issue before bed can activate your subconscious to reveal information to you while you slumber.
Benefits of Dream Analysis
Hopefully, the following benefits will inspire you to start the lifetime journey of learning to analyze your dreams:
- Dreams provide you to find the answer to who am I?.
- Environment dreams alert you to what is happening around you while you’re sleeping to keep you from danger.
- Information in your dreams can assist you to heal ill health.
- There is no denial in the Dreamtime; therefore, you will know the truth of any situation in your life. This is a good thing because to have any joy in your life, you need to deal with your current waking reality.
- How you truly feel about a situation empowers you to release feelings locked up inside you to avoid them festering inside you causing havoc in your waking hours and/or on your health.
- Dreams give solutions to difficulties and problems in your life.
- Your dreams give warnings about people who are toxic to your health, red flags concerning a potential mate, the “right one” to have a love relationship with, tips to resolve issues, and ideas on how to continue harmony in the relationship.
- Precognitive dreams give the gift of insight for upcoming future events.
- Dream interpretation accelerates your personal and spiritual growth.
- Last, but not least, you will have more peace of mind.
Now, do you see how beneficial dream interpretation is? Everyone has life lessons to learn by overcoming our journey’s roadblocks, our dreams of the nighttime can be the manuals to go through or around these obstacles.
To understand in detail about dream reading and analysis check out the wonderful book THE DREAM CLASS by Patricia Eltinge. This book will take you on a fascinating journey of discovery of your dreams.