Myths-Dreams-Symbols

The Psychology of Dreams
A Simple Guide to Dreams
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Also Read: Understanding Your Dreams

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Think of the dream as someone following you around and video taping what you do. When you look at the video you realize things about yourself you did not know. As with the video the dream reveals the real you and not the perceived ego sense of yourself. This is the dream.

What Are Dreams?
All of us dream, several times a night. It is believed by some that we sleep in order that we may dream. It is during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that we do most of our dreaming. If we are deprived of sleep, REM sleep increases on sebsequent nights. Sleep deprivation prevents us from completing our dreams and we sebsequently enagage in dream-like thinking during our waking states of consciousness. Such is the power of the dream.
More on the Stages of Sleep
The act of dream is physiological (physical), whereas the content of the dream is psychological. The images, emotions and activities of the dream are a product of the individual's unconscious mind, having to do with the total make-up of one's human condition (conscious and unconscious). Most dream images (symbols) are representations of the individual's personal knowledge, dealing with events and emotions in our waking lives, reflecting emotional conflicts {major and minor} of recent days prior to the dream. But also found within the dream are representations (symbols) that have nothing to do with the individual's personal knowledge. These are what Carl Jung called the archetypal images, images that are from the collective knowledge of all mankind (actually predate mankind itself). These represent tendencies of the human mind that form representations of mythological motifs - representations that can vary a great deal without losing their basic patterns. An archetype is not a specific image or motif but variations of the images and motifs that are found in mythology. The archetype is a predisposition (previous inclinations) to an image, a common psychic structure that parallels the common human structure (patterns in life). Archetypal images more often address deeper emotional issues, stemming earlier life experiences and influences, whereas common dream images address current waking emotions.

Most Notable Dream Theorists
Carl Jung saw the dream as the unconscious which contains all we need to know about the causes of our psychic troubles; it can tell us why we are as we are - victim or martyr, sexually impotent, neglected child looking for love, etc. - but it also can show us the remedy for our disorder. The unconscious, through the dream, is not concerned merely with putting right the things that have gone wrong in us. It aims at our well-being in the fullest possible sense; its goal is nothing less than our complete personal development, the creative unfolding of the potentialities that are contained in our individual destiny.

Sigmund Freud saw dreams as wish-fulfillments, and that an important part of these wishes are the result of repressed sexual desires, desires that can scare us so much that our dreams turn into nightmares. He concluded that dreams are divided into wishful dreams, anxiety dreams, and punishment dreams. Punishment dreams are in fact also fulfillment of wishes, though not of wishes of the instinctual impulses but of those of the critical, censoring, and punishing agency in our controlling minds.

Alfred Adler's view of dreams was that they were an open pathway toward our true thoughts, emotions and actions. In you dreams, you are able to clearly see your aggressive impulses and desires. Adler saw dreams as a way of overcompensating for your shortcomings in your waking life. For example, if a person is unable to stand up to her boss, she may safely lash out in anger at her boss in a dream. Thus dreams offer some sort of satisfaction that may be more socially acceptable.

Frederick Perls is the founder of Gestalt therapy which seeks to fill our emotional voids so that we can become a unified whole. Perls believed that dreams contain the rejected, disowned parts of the Self. Every character and every object in a dream represents an aspect of yourself. Thus, he rejected the notion that dream imagery was part of a universal symbolic language. Each dream is unique to the individual who dreams it

What Are Dream Symbols & How Do They Work?
Dream symbols are the images that are featured in a dream. A burning house, your mother, a cloudy sky, the President of the United States, etc., are some of the symbols you find in dreams. Most dream symbols are not to be taken literally, but rather metaphorically. For instance, a burning house would represent the dreamer [the house] and the fire would be the passion, anger, desire or bodily fever, which represents the unconscious emotional or physical state of being of the dreamer. Symbols point to the emotions and instincts, many of which are hidden or repressed and are stored in the unconscious mind where they reside until some stimulus brings them to consciousness.
There is no fixed meaning to any dream symbol, it all depends upon the individual as to its true meaning.
More on Common Dream Motifs

What Is A Metaphor?
A metaphor is where one thing is spoken as if it were another. The house in a dream is a metaphor for the dreamer or a vital aspect of the dreamer, the house being a symbolic representation of some aspect of the dreamer. The house would represent the dreamer's psychological, physical and/or spiritual condition, a proxy for the complexes. In most instances you should take dream symbols as metaphorical references to the dreamer's emotional life and not a literal interpretation of the symbol or motif.
See Dream Metaphor on Fire

What Are Archetypes or Universal Symbols?
Dreams are also an expression of collective generic experiences, which refer to basic life problems and manifest in terms of symbols and myths thoughts and memories shared by all humanity. The interpreter of dreams must therefore be familiar with various myths, religions, cults, rituals and fairy tales in order to fully understand the meaning of dreams. These mythological motifs, which can be found in dreams, Jung called archetypes. Archetypes or primordial images are "specific forms and pictorial relationships, which did not only consistently appear in all ages and in all latitudes, but also appear in individual dreams, fantasies, visions and ideas." This observation led Jung to think that there exists collective unconsciousness the sum of all experiences that human race acquired in its phylogenetic development. The access to collective unconsciousness is particularly easy, when a person has to take an important decision or is in life situation, crucial for his/her personal growth. S/he gets a suggestion from the collective unconsciousness in form of archetypal situation. If that happens in dream, then such dream is called the big dream, which "is expressed in language of universal human experiences, condensed in rich, vivid symbols, in eternal ancient images that [sic] overwhelm us completely." Wide knowledge is required when interpreting the big dreams. This knowledge, however, cannot be simply memorized; it can only be an insight into experiences of the person who uses it.



How Are Dreams Structured?
There is no 'one' defining theory of dream structure. But the majority of dreams are composed of four parts or phases, pretty much like ina drama. The dream is very much like your life on stage, and you are the director, actor and witness. Firstly, we need to figure out the scene and time of dream as well as dramatis personae { the actors in a play}. In first phase, which can be regarded as the exposition, the initial situation (setting) is represented already pointing at central conflict expressed in dream. The second phase is the plot and contains something new (essential change), which leads the dream in the third phase: the culmination {the climactic point}. In this phase the most critical things happen, which bring the dream to a closure: the fourth phase or denouement {the final part or climax}.

Jung attributed extraordinary significance to the end of dream. The end of dream is so important, Jung held, because we cannot consciously influence on the outcome (i.e. change the end), and dreams so reflect the real situation. "Nature is often obscure or impenetrable, but she is not, like man, deceitful. We must therefore take it that the dream is just what it pretends to be, neither more nor less. If it shows something in a negative light, there is no reason for assuming that it is meant positively."

According to the end of dream, Jung discriminated between favourable and unfavourable dreams. If we were to reverse the well-known proverb, then for dreams we may say that a good end makes a good beginning. Favourable dreams have quieting effect and direct us to the most constructive ways of solving problems. On the contrary, unfavourable dreams contain a warning of, perhaps life important, negative changes. Hence dreams can be said to have a prospective function; they warn us about bright or dark future. Favourable or unfavourable end of dream, however, must not be taken as a final and absolute meaning of dream. This can be done only after several interconnected dreams.

Even though Jung found the structure of dreams as described above, he warned not to take this as literal law. Look at the whole dream [and subsequent dreams] to determine what the dream message is.



Do Dreams Predict Future Events?
No, and perhaps. According to Carl Jung dreams compensate the waking mind with information that is unconscious - repressed, hidden or forgotten. His theory is that the dream wants to balance the dreamer's life by providing information that answers questions to why things are the way they are in the dreamer's life. As an example, a person who has a sexual addiction most often was physically or mentally abused as a child or young teen and the painful emotions are hidden in the unconscious so they do not have to be dealt with. Although these events may be repressed, they influence the dreamer throughout their life, unless they are confronted and properly dealt with. A purpose of dreams is to bring these repressed emotions to consciousness so a healing can take place. Only then can a person be live a happy and structured life, with a purpose and positive attitude. The unconscious dream compensates the conscious mind with this information using motifs and metaphor. Metaphor is used as the language of the dream because it was the primitive mind's way of communicating, using symbols of people, animals, places, events, and has been inherited by the collective psyche of all humans. These are also what Jung called archetypes. {universal symbols}

Predicting the future? Dreams do at times provide us with insights to possible events in the future. But it is as much a calculation of what the mind and body already knows than a supernatural event. Jung calls this 'compensation'. Dreams compensate the waking mind with unconscious information we already possess but may not have conscious access to. The brain is the ultimate super computer. The body is able to communicate illness and disease through the dream, informing a person well before it is detectable by medical means. There are, and throughout history have been men and women who were 'good' at seeing future events, but when you deeper into these predictions they are as much a general thought than true predictions of the future. Intuitiveness is a form of knowing, a known quality of the psyche that let's someone sense 'truths' about someone, thing or event. So why not the dream using related aspects to inform, if only in on occasion. The science of dreams {psychology}, through Jung and others, have shown us there are metaphysical qualities to the human psyche. It is probably best to be skeptical, but never dismissive.[See Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce.]



Do Dreams Have More Than One Meaning
Jung tells us that dreams do have more than one meaning. This has to do with the personal and collective unconscious, the first having to do with the dreamer's ego life, where those things that have been repressed or rejected from consciousness reside, as well as the discernment of the everyday adventure of the ego {centric} life. The collective unconscious, which is rich in symbol and metaphor, is older than the individual and indeed older than consciousness: it consists of 'the whole spiritual heritage of mankind's evolution born anew in the brain structure of every individual. They are instinctive much in the way a turtle knows to go to the water when first hatched. The representation of a symbol in the personal unconscious points to the anxieties of everyday life whereas the collective unconscious addresses the deeper sense of who we are, the true self often disguised in the ego-life, a spiritual and creative being that inhabits our psyche. Jung tells us we can not be fully whole until we recognize these 'collective' aspects', confronting the shadow, and make them a part of our everyday lives.


What Does Death Mean In A Dream?
Here is an example of where symbols taken literally can cause much pain and stress, all for naught. Death in a dream has many possible meanings, a real death seldom being one of them. Here are some possibilities to the meaning of dead, dying and death in a dream:

[1] A dead person in a dream who is actually a living person, may represent some unconscious resentment toward that person. [2] If the dead person is you it may be your own anxiety about dying. [3] If the dead person is someone you know and is actually deceased he/she may becoming back not to haunt you [which is also a possibility if there is some guilt about your relationship with that person] but to inform you of your need to move on with your life. [4] If the dead person in the dream is you it may represent a need to leave the old self behind [guilt and negative feelings] and move on to better things. [5] A dead animal almost certainly refers to some part of you - an instinctive force perhaps - that needs to die because of the negative effects that it produces in your waking life. [6] Death often symbolizes changes in life. Changing jobs, getting a divorce, moving to another city, all represent the death of old habits and way of life [the death and resurrection motif]. With every death there is a new birth; the new job, new home, new relationships. Treat death in a dream as getting rid of negative emotions and replacing them with positive ones. [7] If gender is stressed in the dream, the meaning may be that your masculinity/femininity or your anima/animus needs reviving.




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