Dreams have always been puzzling or mystical in nature throughout history. Before Sigmund Freud even tried to sort the puzzle, dreams have already established its importance in society as can be seen in the numerous tales of prophecy in the past. Dreams Before Freud Gave it Scientific Value Dreams have always been a controversial issue in the history of mankind. Many stories that mentioned dreams usually revolved around either spiritual matters or predictions. Oftentimes, dreams were considered a way by which gods communicate with humans (usually heroes).
The earliest record of dreams was in the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh (2700 B. C. ) wherein the heroes, Enkidu and Gilgamesh, prayed that their god will communicate his wishes through their dreams. The epic narrates that the latter did dream of a mountain where they can fight their enemy and win. (Freud Museum, 2008, par. 1-3) Dreams started to have a scientific angle during the time of Homer (1200 – 900 B. C. ). In that era, priests or healers were thought to receive dreams for their gods to guide them in curing their patients.
In a sense, dreams became a tool for these people to apply whatever scientific knowledge they have in their daily lives. It was during the time of Pythagoras (580 – 490 B. C. ) when dreams became logically interpretative. This mathematician theorized that dreams were a result of eating spoiled food although he still does not deny that it can still be of spiritual source. However, it was Aristotle (384 -322 B. C. ) who was truly first in hypothesizing that dreams were psychological in nature. He was also the first to notice that people have rapid eye movement (REM) when they are dreaming.
REM is the physiological manifestation of dreaming. It was already the 19th century when a man named Louis Alfred Maury conducted self-experiments on dreams. His works were cited by the psychologist who would really put dreams in the limelight, Sigmund Freud. Freud’s Theory of Interpreting Dreams It was when Sigmund Freud published his book in 1900 called The Interpretation of Dreams that scientific analysis really came into play. Freud called dreams as the “royal road” to the unconscious which means that people can interpret their dreams by themselves.
The book argues about 4 major points. Freud believed that dreams are wish-fulfillment; that these are simply disguised fulfillments of a wish; that dreams may be the disguised fulfillment of a wish that has been repressed; and that these are disguised fulfillments of repressed infantile wishes. His definition of a wish is something that one wants but is prohibited to get or do. He explained that somehow, these wishes become internalized and go into the back of a person’s mind to the unconscious realm.
These wishes come back in the form of dreams and so he believes that dreaming is wish fulfillment. However, he also clarified that dreams can either be the fulfillment of a wish or just a representation. He uses the example of babies in Chapter 7. He says that babies still cannot distinguish between a real experience and something imaginary. So, if a baby wants to feed from his mother’s breast, he may dream of it and think that his want or wish is truly fulfilled. On the other hand, Freud also says that with a sleeping baby, for example, the wish to nap is protected by dreams.
This is so because by representing the hallucination of feeding, the dream can deny disturbances that could otherwise have woken an infant. In this case, the wish is not to appease hunger but to actually sleep. Freud’s second contention is that dreams are disguised fulfillments of wishes. He believes that the reason why dreams normally do not seem to make sense is because one’s wishes are manifested in another form. He says that dreams have two contents: the “manifest content” and “latent content. ” The manifest content is simply what one imagines while dreaming.
The latent content is the underlying thought or wish while dreaming. Freud theorizes that a wish undergoes transformations before it is manifested as a dream. One kind of transformation is called condensation wherein many elements like the theme, concepts and pictures are rolled into one dream sequence to hide the real underlying dream thoughts. Another kind of transformation is called displacement wherein the elements in the dream seem to be unimportant but are actually manifestations of important issues in the dream thoughts. In this case, the underlying emotions are the key to what the dream is really disguising.
The final kind of transformation is called secondary revision. Like writers and artists who review their first drafts and make changes, wishes or dream thoughts can be revised by the mind to make it seem more logical. Freud’s third point is that dreams are disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes. He explains that by disguising a latent thought through a different manifestation, the idea is already being repressed. Freud says that the need of the conscious mind to inhibit the unconscious mind for wanting something unacceptable (wish) is called a motive.
This motive is what distorts or causes the transformation of these wishes into its manifest content. The most controversial among his hypotheses is that a dream is actually a masked fulfillment of a repressed infantile wish. Although he explains that one can dream of things that happened in the previous days because of the unresolved issues that might have happened, many dreams are constructed because of one’s childhood desires that have been forbidden by society such as aggression to others and ambitious wishes. Post-Freudian Theories on Dreams A. Carl Jung’s Theory on Dreams
While Freud was busy theorizing that dreams are constant distortions of a repressed forbidden wish, his contemporary, Carl Jung was hypothesizing that dreams are a means toward healing. He suggested that dreams are reflective of the ego and reveal hints on what a person needs to attain wholeness or solve his problems. It was Jung who realized that the images and themes in his patients’ dreams would present themselves to heal the mind. He would rather analyze the specific objects and themes of his patients to find a way to help them understand themselves.
He tries to associate these objects or elements with emotions or concepts that his patients might have a hard time trying to deal with. This theory is the basis of many studies on how dreams are reflective of psychological disorders. One of these researches was conducted by Umit B. Semiz and his colleagues (2008). The scientists examined 88 borderline personality disorder (BPD) patients and compared their levels of dream anxiety and subjective sleep quality to 100 age and sex matched healthy control subjects.
What they found out was that BPD patients had a significantly greater rate of nightmares, higher levels of dream anxiety and disturbed sleep compared to the healthy group. Dreams in Gestalt Therapy Fritz S. Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, helped his patients by saying that dreams are projections. According to the edited book by Edwin C. Nevis (1992), Perls says that the patient enacts elements of the dream to help reintegrate what has been projected. He believes that dreams are “existential messages” that show the present situation of the dreamer’s life.
Dreams, therefore, clarify a patient’s general state. Although many therapists follow his theory, there are also those who think that dreams merely reflect the emotions or thoughts of patients about their psychologists. This is why dream interpretation is risky in Gestalt therapy. The relationship between the therapist and patient becomes imbalanced in favor of the doctor instead of the patient gaining more control over himself. Hatmann’s Theory Many theories on dreams have already developed based on what Freud and Carl Jung had started. One such product of the two masters is the theory given by Dr.
Ernest Hartmann (1996) based on his own studies on trauma patients. According to Hartmann, the brain is like a net of thoughts from both the past and the present. Dreams function to connect these thoughts into a net with the purpose of guiding the emotions of the dreamer. Like Perls, he believes that dreaming is a manifestation of a situation. However, Hartmann focuses on dreams contextualizing a dominant feeling or emotional concern as with the cases of his trauma patients. To Hartmann, the images in the dreams are metaphors to explain the emotional state of the dreamer which helps in reducing a perceived trouble.
Current Use of Dreams in Psychotherapy Although this paper already shows how dreams can be very helpful in psychotherapy, studies have shown that this method is not so popular in the professional field. According to Michael Schredl, et. al. (2000), his group’s research led them to a survey by J. W. Keller, et. al. which concluded that in 1995, out of 228 clinical psychotherapists, 17% never use dreams in their practice; 57% occasionally, 17% moderately; 9% frequently; and only 4% say they almost always use dreams in their practice.
Summary and Conclusions Dreams are very powerful tools that can help one study himself or the psychotherapist understand his patient. However, dreams can also be very hard to analyze especially because these depend on the theories the interpreter wants to use. It is also very risky to use dreams in helping others because it can make the relationship between the therapist and patient hard. Dreams, whether an unconscious manifestation of repressed desires or hints in resolving one’s personal issues are still in need of many studies.
It may take long to truly find many answers to understand dreams but Freud, Jung, Perls and Hartmann have been paving the way towards wish fulfillment.
Freud Museum. (2008). Hypotheses About Dreams From Ancient Times to the End of the 19th Century. Retrieved May 08, 2008, from http://www. freud. org. uk/dream1. htm. Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. Wordsworth Editions limited: Hertfordshire. Hartmann, E. (1996). Outline for a Theory on the Nature and Functions of Dreaming. Dreaming. Vol. 6 No. 2. Nevis, E. C. (Ed. ). (1992).
Gestalt Therapy Perspectives and Applications. Cleveland: Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press. Schredl, M. , Bohusch, C. , Kahl, J. , Mader, A. & Somesan, A. (2000). A Survey of Psychotherapists in Private Practice. Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research. Vol. 9, 81-87. Semiz, U. B. , Basoglu, C. , Ebrinc, S. and Cetin, M. (2008). Nightmare disorder, dream anxiety, and subjective sleep quality in patients with borderline personality disorder. Psychiatry and clinical Neurosciences, Vol. 62. No. 1, 48-55.