Dream therapy involves the analysis of the dream-world and derives from the psychoanalytical theories developed by Sigmund Freud. It is believed that the mind processes unconscious thoughts and transmits them through dreams.
So practitioners try to make sense of events within dreams and assign meanings to them, based on an individual’s life and situation. Modern Dream therapists believe that the comprehension of dreams can bring harmony between the body, mind and spirit.
The study of dreams can be traced back to ancient times where the Egyptians and Babylonians believed them to be mechanisms for seeing the future, communicating with gods and for curing illnesses.
Modern psychoanalytical approaches derive heavily from the work of 17th Century physician, Sir Thomas Brown and perhaps more significantly, Sigmund Freud, whose book The Interpretation of Dreams forms the bedrock of contemporary methods of dream analysis.
The methology also formed part of the theories of Carl Jung who proposed that dreams could provide windows into the unconscious. However, he rejected the notion that dreams concealed feelings and emotions and that they instead provided an opportunity to discover solutions to problems that existed in waking life.
Psychologists Calvin S Hall and Robert Van De Castle were also key figures and developed the Quantitative Coding System, which created a kind of narrative in which the recollection of dreams could be placed. This approach is however dismissed by many contemporary theorists as being too narrow in its scope.
Contemporary approaches to psychoanalytical dream analysis feature three methods:
Freud believed that the study of dreams was key to understanding the unconscious – he identified two elements common to all dreams: manifested and latent content.
Manifested Content is the dream that a person remembers upon waking up. Latent content is the dream that is not remembered. Freud proposed that latent dream content was the result of sensory impressions that occur during the night, residue of the previous day and the instinctual impulses which form part of the psyche, known as the ID.
The Symbolic approach holds that dreams should be considered in their entirety and that the analysis of any messages within them can only be understood by taking the whole dream into account.
The Decoding Method views objects and events as symbols, which can be translated by using a key guide.
Modern methods of interpretation, although based on the work of Freud, have evolved considerably. Many contemporary analysts believe that a person’s genetic history and unresolved conflicts are often exposed in transference (unconscious redirection of feelings) which are then exhibited through dreams – the dream is often seen to be a reflection of the entire personality.
How can the study of dreams help?
Dream interpretation is suitable for anyone wishing to explore their unconscious and find out more about their inner-selves. The technique can prove very helpful at uncovering repressed thoughts and emotions, which may be affecting and individual’s life negatively.
Understanding the causes of dreams can help individuals to achieve better self-awareness and a greater understanding of their own emotions.
Practitioners who use the interpretation of dreams as a method of therapy can sometimes help those suffering from recurring dreams. An understanding of a recurring dream’s meaning can sometimes cause it to cease.