Are Our Dreams Unconscious Wish Fulfilment?

At one point or another, everybody has tried analysing their dreams. We’ve all seen those A-Z dream dictionaries that can supposedly tell you exactly what your dreams mean in just a few sentences, but the interpretation of our dreams is not an exact science and it can’t be oversimplified to the point of universal meaning. Dreams are unique to the individual and require deep thought into our psyches. Humans are complex beings and our dreams are no different, which is where Sigmund Freud comes in.

Freud’s thoughts and theories were all based on the unconscious mind, and therefore often our dreams. He first came to realise the significance of them when his patients frequently described their dreams to him during free association (when a patient is put into a state of self-observation, and reports whatever internal observations they make) and went on to publish an entire book dedicated to the meaning of dreams. In this book he theorised that dreams were the conscious manifestation of our unconscious desires that we were unable to achieve in waking life.

But what about those truly bizarre dreams that seem to have no real meaning? According to Freud, every single dream represents a wish fulfilment, meaning that the strange sexual fantasy you had about refrigerators that one time probably says something significant about your needs.

As dreams are all based on repressed desires Freud concluded that these desires are infantile, yet this doesn’t explain how our dreams refer to recent thoughts and events, such as the thoughts we have right before we go to sleep. Most commonly, our dreams are based off of the things that happened to us the previous day, and therefore Freud added that dreams are constructed of two parts. The past and the present. The present is made up of the residues of the previous day – such as unfulfilled wishes or disappointments that we have not been able to deal with – and the past consists of childhood desires we have repressed. Our repressed wishes are always trying to manifest themselves and so when we dream they use the day’s events as a way of doing so. These unconscious desires are constantly threatening to disrupt our sleep, and our psyche handles this by creating a dream.

However, Freud’s theories are often viewed as outdated. More modern psychologists believe that dreams have less to do with our desires and more to do with our worries or preoccupations. Dreams may be used as an integral part of the coping process and as a way of resolving our issues, as found by Rosalind Cartwright in her study on solving problems using dreams. She discovered that during a time of crisis, the people who recovered more rapidly dreamt longer and sooner in their sleep cycle.

Others believe dreams have no meaning at all and are just a jumble of thoughts and memories that have no real significance, which is probably reassuring to the one person reading this who actually did have a fridge sexual fantasy.

What do you think? Are you the kind of person who reads heavily into their dreams, or do you just dismiss them without a second thought?

– Charlotte

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