The History of Dream Theory
Hall, advocate for a cognitive approach in which dreams reflect different parts of our waking lives. Dreams are a series of images, emotions, thoughts, and sensations that occur when we sleep. They are involuntary and typically occur during the rapid-eye movement REM stage of slumber. Not everyone remembers their dreams , but researchers believe that everyone has three to six 6 dreams in a night and that each dream lasts between 5 and 20 minutes. Psychologists offer many reasons for dreaming.
Some suggest its simply to clear away useless memories from the previous day and enter important ones into long-term storage. For example, if you have a dream about President Trump swimming with manatees it may be that your brain is in the process of removing a piece of news about the presidential administration and endangered species. On the other hand, many psychologists, especially those involved in therapy, have seen the value of dream analysis. So, perhaps during the day, we focused on tasks that had nothing to do with the news about the presidential administration and endangered species, but then we worked through how we felt about the information during our dreams that night.
For example, dreams about our teeth falling out could reflect our anxiety about our body giving out on us. Dreams may also serve a problem-solving function as we continue to grapple with challenges, like a difficult work project that we tackled during the day, as we sleep. Psychologists like G.
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William Domhoff claimed that there is no psychological function for our dreams. He also claimed that the manifest content of a dream, or the literal story or events of the dream, masks the latent content of the dream, or the symbolic or hidden meaning of the dream. For example, if an individual dreams they are flying, it may actually mean that the individual is yearning for freedom from a situation they see as oppressive.
Freud also made some suggestions about universal symbols that could be found in dreams. According to Freud, only a few things are symbolized in dreams , including the human body, parents, children, siblings, birth, and death. Freud suggested that the individual was often symbolized by a house, while parents appear as royal figures or other highly respected individuals.
Meanwhile, water often references birth, and going on a journey represents death. However, Freud did not put a great deal of weight on universal symbols. Jung was originally a follower of Freud. Like Freud, Jung believed dreams contained latent meaning disguised by manifest content.
These questions prompted me to reexamine the whole structure of Freud's theory of dreams.
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Upon undertaking this task I discovered that Freud had proposed two reasons why symbols appear in dreams, one is the necessity to smuggle contraband psychic material past the border separating the unconscious from the conscious and the other is what Freud called regard for representability. The latter formulation states that in order for such abstract and impalpable mental contents as thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and impulses to appear in dreams, they must be converted into sensible, palpable forms.
These forms are usually pictorial in character, so that it may be said that the pictures of a dream are symbols of mental states.
For example, conscience may be symbolized by a church, chastity by a lily, the sex impulse by fire, feelings of inferiority by nudity. In one, a symbol conceals the referent, in the other, a symbol reveals the referent. Preferring the simplicity of a single hypothesis to the complexity of two separate and incompatible hypotheses I decided to explore the possibility of abandoning the disguise theory and let regard for representability carry the whole burden of explaining dream symbols.
A Cognitive Theory of Dream Symbols
This enterprise led to the formulation of a cognitive theory of dreams which is presented in another paper Ref. In that paper, I set forth the view that I dream is a perceptible embodiment of a dreamer's conceptions ideas. Dreaming is pictorialized thinking the conceptual is made perceptual.
I now intend to show how this view leads directly to the formulation of a theory of dream symbols. Both theories represent extensions of Freud's concept of regard for representability. A dream symbol is an image, usually a visual image, of an object, activity, or scene; the referent for the symbol is a conception. The function of the symbol is to express as clearly as possible the particular conception that the dreamer has in mind. For example, a dreamer who conceives of his mother a nurturant person may represent her in a dream as a cow.
Or a young woman who conceives of sexuality as a powerful, alien, and criminal force which she is unable to control might have the following dream, as one of our subjects did. I was the warden at a very inefficient prison for criminals. All at once the gates to the prison opened and all of the criminals tried to escape. They tried to beat me up and trample on me and I was left standing there completely helpless.
A young man conceiving of his phallus as a dangerous weapon might picture it as a gun or sword in his dreams. A woman who thought that her marriage was going on the rocks dreamed that she was looking for her wedding dress and when she found it, it was dirty and torn. In these examples, the visualization is an expression of, not a disguise for, an idea. An object, activity, or scene is selected to serve as a symbol because the dreamer's conception of the object, activity or scene is congruent with his conception of the referent object.
If the dreamer thought cows were dangerous, a cow could not serve as a mother-symbol unless at the same time he conceived of his mother as dangerous. Occasionally, a change of conceptions can be detected as in the following dream. I dreamed that an old man was coming towards me with a gun.
10 Dreams That Changed Human History
I become frightened and put my glasses on to see him better. Then I noticed that he was not holding a gun but a bottle of whisky. The young woman's first conception of the man is that he is dangerous, but this idea gives way to the contradictory one that he is harmless. The change in conceptions is symbolized by the act of putting on her glasses; the better view follows this act. In some cases, a symbol may represent several ideas concurrently.
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In psychoanalytic writings, such a symbol is said to be over-determined. This term is not a happy choice since no phenomenon is ever over -determined; it is always just determined, never too little or too much. I prefer to call symbols condensed. The moon, for example, may be thought of as a condensed symbol for woman. The monthly phases of the moon resemble the menstrual cycle, a resemblance that has support from etymology since the words moon and menses are derived from the same Latin word. The filling out of the moon from new to full stimulates the rounding out of the woman during pregnancy.
The moon is inferior to the sun, a male symbol. The moon is changeable like a fickle woman while the sun is constant. The moon sheds a weak light, which embodies the idea of female frailty. The moon controls the ebb and flow of the tide, which is another likeness to the female rhythm. Rhythm change, fruitfulness, weakness, and submissiveness, all of which are conventional conceptions of the female are compressed into a single visible object.
As Susanne Langer observes, the choice of moon as a symbol of woman is determined by the many ways in which lunar characteristics are congruent with popular conceptions of the female. Langer reminds us that the conceptions develop first, followed by the selection of a symbol which will best represent all of the conceptions. As we have seen, the male member may be symbolized in no less than different ways.
According to our theory of dream symbols, since the referent is not an object, person, or activity but a conception, the different phallic symbols represent different ways of conceiving of the male genital. A father may be represented as a teacher, a policeman, a king, and an army officer in order to depict the multiple conceptions of a wise, guiding father, a punitive father, an exalted, remote father and a disciplining father. To recapitulate, regard for representability explains why symbols are found in dreams.
Dream symbols are visible representations of conceptions. In order for an object, activity, or scene to serve as a symbol, it is necessary that the dreamer's conception of that object, activity, or scene be identical with his conception of the referent object. It is now time to say how we would limit the use of the term, dream symbol.
Since dream images are images and not perceptions of reality, it could be argued that all images are symbols. One might even go further and assert that everything mental, whether perceptions, memories, or images, is really symbolic since the mental is not the real world but only a representation of the real world. We prefer, however, to restrict the definition of a dream symbol to an image that does not embody the referent object directly. If one dreams of his mother, the image of the mother in the dream does not qualify as a dream symbol.
If one dreams of a cow and the image of the cow stands for the mother, then the cow is said to be a dream symbol. According to this view, symbolizing in dreams consists of transforming one object the referent object into another object the symbol , and this transformation is made in order to convey the dreamer's conception of the referent object. Cow is substituted for mother because the dreamer's conception of his mother is that of a cow-like person, i.
Similarly gun symbolizes the dreamer's conception of the phallus as a dangerous, powerful weapon.
Slang and metaphor may be explained in like manner; they are used to convey one's conceptions of referent objects. If one speaks of sexual intercourse as grinding one's tool , it is clear that the speaker conceives of coitus as a mechanical operation performed by a mechanical tool, the penis.