DREAMS:Â WHY DONâT PSYCHOLOGISTS TAKE THEM MORE SERIOUSLY?
One of the most common questions I get asked as a psychotherapist is “will you be interested in my dreams?” I wanted to take this opportunity to outline some of the theoretical strengths and weaknesses in dream work in therapy.
- Case studies are the main sources of information; they have not been methodologically controlled.
- They are so different from waking experience that they were seen as not being valid material for cognitive research.
- They are so personal and subjective that you canât apply scientific methods to the study of dreams.
- It is inconvenient and expensive to collect data.
- Nightmares donât occur in lab conditions.
However, some therapists believe:
- We can âincorporate our dream material into our waking lives both to increase our self awareness and to extend our creativity.â (Cushway and Sewell, 1992)
THE DREAMING PROCESS
- Everybody dreams
- There are five stages of dreaming. Dreams during REM are more vivid and easier to remember.
- About 25% of adult sleep is in REM â it decreases as we get older
- Most REM sleep is near morning.
- Dreams occur in real time
- If deprived of REM sleep, people will make it up if given the opportunity
- Thereâs no consensus about why we dream:
oÂ Â The brainstem generates random impulses that the cortex tries to make sense of
oÂ Â Memory re-organisation and the collection of unwanted memories
- Two methods of interpretation
oÂ Â The whole dream as a symbol for another context
oÂ Â Each symbol was looked up in a dream book
- Egyptians believed dreams were messages from the gods.
- Native Americans had dream friends
- Many other cultures practised dream incubation â people would ask for a message from the gods to be sent in a dream as an answer to a problem or illness.
- Freudâs The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) marks a turning point in dreamwork
- Jung and Perls both contributed to dream study
- The concept of Lucid Dreaming has been recently explored as a therapeutic tool.
FREUD AND DREAMS
- Dreams were neurotic symptoms and wish fulfilments rooted in infantile sexuality and repressed by the superego
- The latent content is disguised to protect our anxiety if we wake
- Dreams are therefore a safety valve and the guardians of sleep
- Dreamwork translates the latent from the manifest through free association of each element. It undoes the work of the censor and unscrambles the code.
- His theories were seminal
- Thereâs little evidence that dreams are repressed wishes (animals/foetuses etc)
- Some dreams are sexual or aggressive and people sleep through them
- The symbols may be reductionist, especially the sexual element
- They change according to culture, circumstance etc
- The opposite of Freudâs protection theory may be true â a function of sleep may be to allow dreaming
- The patriarchal nature of Freudian thinking may lead to womenâs dreams being misunderstood.
JUNG AND DREAMS
- Jung extended Freudâs thoughts.
- Dreams have a teleological function
- He thought dreams were normal and creative, not a disturbance.
- Their purpose is to restore psychological homeostasis and individuation.
- He was more focused on the current experience of the dreamer and about the issues of existence
- Each aspect of the dream shows something personal about the dreamer
- Dreams were an ucs drive to health; the cs can be involved
- Encouraged the exploration of symbols as personal and transcendent, not formulaic
- Focused on manifest content: symbols had power of their own and could reveal rather than hide thoughts/wishes
- âthe dream is its own interpretationâ and âdreams are the direct expression of the unconsciousâ (CW 7)
- Less interpretation. Amplification and imagination are more therapeutic.
- Didnât use free association but wanted to focus on the story of the dream/s
- Used myths and legends to find significant symbols â they showed a layer of the mind common to the whole universe: the collective ucs
- Archetypes are symbols that show the common and pervasive interests of mankind.
- Dreams are creative and helpful rather than shameful
- They compensate, using symbols, for the limitations of consciousness â we can ask âwhat conscious attitude does it compensate?â (CW 7)
- Not enough emphasis on body or sexuality
- allusions may be too high-brow for most people
disguised, – recovered through free association.
PERLS AND DREAMS
- Developed Jungâs dream theories
- Focused on here and now rather than Freudian ucs
- Felt dreams were the âroyal road to integration.â
- Existential message rather than wishful thinking
- Dreams help resolve unfinished business
- Each object is a projected part of ourselves â we need to re-own themÂ (cf Jungâs idea of repressed parts of personality as dream objects)
- Re-tell dream in 1st person; present tense; speak as each object and create a dialogue; may integrate by having dialogue between topdog and underdog.
- The repressed parts are brought into awareness by acting out characters/objects â turning âit into Iâ
- It may be difficult to act out all the parts in a dream
- It may distract the client from the story