A Brief Introduction To Dream Psychology
If you want to get to know yourself better, study dream psychology. Dream psychology is the study of the content and context of your dreams. The sub-field of dream psychology will help you integrate parts of yourself you didn’t know you had.
“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.” — SIGMUND FREUD
One of my first spurs into learning about the undercurrents of the mind is when I started to realize that I dream. From then on, dream psychology has been an interest of mine.
I was a little boy and I would get tucked in at night by my mother after long summer days of playing outside.
But my days would continue in the dream world when I was sound asleep.
My first thought about dreams when I woke up was “what just happened?”
After being thrust into what seems to be the middle of an ocean of complex, random but logically sequenced happenings, I wanted to know what dream psychology was all about.
I was fascinated by what seemed to be a roller coaster ride of emotions that went along with a kaleidoscope of mental movies.
This is when I started to dive into the depths of the subconscious by studying the dream psychology texts my mom had on our book shelves.
Of those books, one of them included The Interpretation Of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology, had this to say about dreams:
“It is a perfectly valid psychic phenomenon, actually a wish-fulfilment; it may be enrolled in the continuity of the intelligible psychic activities of the waking state; it is built up by a highly complicated intellectual activity. But at the very moment when we are about to rejoice in this discovery a host of problems besets us. If the dream, as this theory defines it, represents a fulfilled wish, what is the cause of the striking and unfamiliar manner in which this fulfilment is expressed?” — Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation Of Dreams
In this video, we will explore what dreams are and more importantly what they have to say about our waking state. We will also understand what dream psychology reveals about our waking conscious state.
Let’s dive in.
Dream Psychology poses the question: “What Are Dreams?”
At a basic level, if we were to break down the machinations of a dream we would first say that it is voices, sounds, sensations, thoughts and abstract imagery based on subjective sensations experienced when unconscious.
We would say that dreams contain people we’ve never met, people we know such as friends and family as well as places we’ve been to and have yet to visit.
Dreams can also be premonitions, anticipation of future events that play out in our dreams through symbols and events.
They also manifest as our deepest darkest secrets including fantasies we dare not admit in our waking state. The study of dream psychology reveals some morbid details about the human psyche.
This includes the basement of the psyche that houses our shadow, where the repressed, unwanted portions of our psyche exists.
Connie Zweig had this to say about the shadow in “Meeting The Shadow:”
“The shadow goes by many familiar names: the disowned self, the lower self, the dark twin or brother in bible and myth, the double, repressed self, alter ego, id.”
But what are the sources of these dreams?
Where are we getting the raw material to edify this seemingly ethereal, nebulous psychic activity?
What Does Dream Psychology Have To Say About The Sources Of Dreams?
In Sigmund Freud’s, “Interpretation of Dreams”
He named three sources of dreams.
- Childhood memories which include psychological trauma.
- Bodily stimuli while sleeping and
- Recent events of the preceding day.
Childhood memories serve as a significant portion of the system we operate on on an unconscious level.
“As the third of the peculiarities of the dream-content, we have adduced the fact, in agreement with all other writers on the subject (excepting Robert), that impressions from our childhood may appear in dreams, which do not seem to be at the disposal of the waking memory.” — The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
Freud was supposedly told by his father that he wouldn’t amount to anything which is indicative in his frequent dreams of getting recognition for his work, evidenced by his monograph dream.
Keeping the fact that many of our dreams are sourced by childhood memories and trauma in mind, we can use this knowledge to address any pathology that arises during adulthood.
For instance, we may suffer from instability or exhibit toxic behaviors in our romantic relationships that may stem from our relationships with our parents.
Especially seeing that our first relationships with other humans are initiated by our parental unit.
These first encounters with the human experience sets the tone for proceeding relationships in our adulthood.
This is where we can explore the oedipus and Electra complex coined and studied by our own Sigmund Freud.
Dreams are also sourced by bodily stimuli while we sleep.
Such stimuli include heat, cold, indigestion & other sensations such as being “overtired,” that feeling of being so tired that we feel restless.
“He thinks immediately of the influence exercised on the formation of dreams by a disturbed or impeded digestion (“Dreams come from the stomach”), an accidental position of the body, a trifling occurrence during sleep.” — The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
Many children seem to have increased instances of night terrors when they are overheated and over tired.
These kinds of dreams catch hold of children in such a way that they are terror stricken while not being able to wake up.
But Freud seems to be skeptical of this.
He goes on to say:
“…. He does not seem to suspect that even after all these factors have been duly considered something still remains to be explained.” — The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
Another source of Dreams are recent events.
Recent events often include significant happenings of the last 24 hours or so. We may have had a stressful day at work during the day only to go to sleep to carry on that stress in our dreams.
Sigmund Freud states that a primary source for dreams are in preference to events of the preceding days:
“If I now consult my own experience with regard to the origin of the elements appearing in the dream-content, I must in the first place express the opinion that in every dream we may find some reference to the experiences of the preceding day.”
Freud cites evidence of this hypothesis using his own attempted interpretation of a dream he called “Irmas injection”
“With the two dreams which I subjected to a close analysis in the last chapter (the dreams of Irma’s injection, and of the uncle with the yellow beard) the reference to the preceding day is so evident that it needs no further elucidation.”
While Freud did spend some time analyzing the dream, Irmas injection, and dubbed that dreams were based in wish fulfillment, he couldn’t quite pin down what this dream meant.
But I wonder how much of his inability to figure out what this dreamt meant had to do with a blind spot in his knowledge as a psychoanalyst and how much it had to do with him not wanting to admit certain things about himself.
My suspicion of this is based in his own words.
“On my way to discovering the solution of the dream, all kinds of things were revealed which I was unwilling to admit even to myself.”- Sigmund Freud
This takes us to the topic of methods of potentially interpreting dreams through dream psychology.
Methods Of Studying Dreams Via Dream Psychology
Dreams communicate to us via dances of a permutations of symbols that are part of the whole but do not represent the whole as a single, face value occurrence.
In other words, we may dream about being rich and famous which may include various symbols that pertain to something completely unrelated to wealth and popularity.
What we dream about is not necessarily the obvious but lies within the NOT so obvious. This is why context is an important part of dream psychology.
The cryptic nature of dreams is what gives it its nebulous nature which is why many of us are enamored with them.
In the way of interpreting our dreams we can start with selecting thoughts within a dream and NOT judging them as they arise but this can be challenging as we tend to try to keep traumatic thoughts hidden and locked away in the subconscious. This is a powerful method of dream psychology. We want to be as objective as we can about the subjective.
We also have the option of picking out symbols one by one to piece together an interpretation by contrasting it with our waking life.
And the most common way to decipher a particular dream is to look at it within the scope of wish fulfillment.
I remember one dream I had when I was a boy that still stands out to me til this day.
I had wanted a Sega Saturn badly after playing it at a family members house.
I asked my mother if she would buy it for me but she flat out said “no.”
This made me want it even more. I went to bed that night thinking of getting this gaming console.
I was playing my brand new Sega Saturn. I was happy as I can be when I was suddenly awakened by my older sister who informed me I was late for school.
Upon finding out that it was all just a dream, I was disappointed, felt defeated and hated life at that point.
The dream felt so real that even after waking up I went into the living room to see if it was there!
Even though we go into some detail about what dreams are, what they contain and how they can be interpreted, there is still much left to be desired in the way of fully exposing the topic of dream psychology.
Dreams are a great way to bring certain pathologies to light in order to attempt to eradicate them with understanding.
In future videos, we will visit more, in-depth analysis on the history of dreams and different forms of consciousness as a whole.
Irmas injection: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irma%27s_injection
Interpretation of dreams by Sigmund FreudThe Interpretation of Dreams | Freud Museum London
First published in 1900, it provides a groundbreaking theory of dreams and an innovative method for interpreting them…www.freud.org.uk
Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature