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Dreams

Essay by 24  •  August 30, 2010  •  2,442 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,249 Views

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Dreams have long fascinated the human race. This alternate reality, separate from the conscious world we see around us, has captured the interest of many people throughout history. In fact, mankind has been studying dreams since the invention of the written word. Perhaps the lure of dreams is that there seems to be some significance behind them. Most reject the idea that dreams are just random meaningless fragments of data. The vivid sensations that dreams create are just too powerful to ignore. The world of dreams is filled with peculiar phenomenon and unexpected events that beg our attention. Consider the following example of a dream:

I was in a fairly large square room; the room was dark...I was sitting on the floor against the wall...In the center of the room was a well or tubular iron shaft...I crept on my hands and knees slowly over to the well and looked into it...a square piece of white paper...came into view...I felt afraid and crawled back against the wall...my little Boston terrier dog appeared...and jumped into the well without a sound being uttered. (Sanford 45-46)

This man's dream is filled with too many powerful images and irregularities to ignore. He is forced to ask himself what this well means, why his dog jumped into it, and more importantly, why his mind created this situation. Finally, dreams are extremely relevant because everybody has them. People sometimes assume they are not dreaming, when in reality they just aren't remembering them. Whether one remembers his dreams or not, they are always present. For these reasons, dreams have fascinated mankind for centuries.

The history of dream research goes back to the 12th dynasty (1991-1786 BC) when the Egyptians began to explore dreams. They developed a process called "dream incubation" where a person who wanted his dreams interpreted would go to sleep in a temple. From there a priest would observe and interpret his dreams. The Egyptians believed that dreams where in fact messages from gods. The Egyptians are believed to be the first civilization to write about dreams, and actually created several books on the subject. The Greeks were another civilization concerned with dreams. In fact, the Greeks were studying dreams as early as the 8th Century. References to dreams can be found in early Greek literatures such as Homer's The Iliad, in which Agamemnon receives instructions from Zeus in a dream. The Greeks took an approach similar to the Egyptians in that they believed dreams were messages from God. However, this doctrine of thinking did not last long. A Greek philosopher in the 5th Century named Heraclitus was probably the first to suggest that dreams actually originated from within. He stated that each individual's dreams were unique and were products of his own mind. Socrates and Plato followed where Heraclitus left off, corroborating his theory with their own research. Finally it was Aristotle who completely dispelled the notion that dreams were attempts at divine communication. His practical approach to dream research paved the way for future scholars such as Freud and Jung. Aristotle stated that dreams were most often fragments of the days events, and could sometimes provide insight into one's personal problems. (Parker 10-15)

In 1899, more than two thousand years after Aristotle, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams and "modern dream psychology was born." (Fontana 26) Freud looked down on other methods of dream interpretation because they were too rigid. Psychologists would create lists of dream symbols along with their meaning so that they could quickly look up the meaning of a dream. Freud believed that each person associated dream symbols with different things. For example, a ship going through a storm could represent a difficult time at work for one person, but it could represent a health problem for someone else. Freud developed his own method of dream interpretation, which he called free association. It involved following the patient's train of thought, allowing them to associate various events in their dreams with actual events in their life. If at some point the process was met with resistance, or the patient had difficulty associating, this was a clue to the unconscious problem in the dream. Freud's work with free association led him to explore various aspects of the unconscious mind. He came to believe that the mind operated on two different levels, which he called the primary process and the secondary process. The primary process contained all of the unconscious primitive instincts that one was born with, while the secondary process contained conscious thought. Freud stated that the primary process was constantly creating symbols and images of the data it received, while the secondary process applied logic and reason to the same information. Therefore, when one is dreaming, the symbols of the primary process can be seen. Freud developed another theory that he called the Oedipus complex. It states that all children, during a certain phase, develop a sexual fixation for the parent of the opposite sex. In fact, Freud believed that sexual urges and childhood experiences where the driving force behind much of the unconscious. Freud saw this sexual fixation show up in dreams consistently. After developing these theories and methods, Freud firmly believed that he had unlocked the door to the unconscious mind. (Fontana 26-29)

Carl Gustav Jung followed Freud's work on dreams as his disciple, but would eventually develop his own perspective. For instance, Jung rejected the notion that sexual urges were the driving force behind the unconscious. The unconscious, he said, was not a mere "receptacle for rejected emotions and desires."(Ackroyd 31) Jung believed the unconscious was a valuable tool for uncovering psychic problems, and the solutions to these problems. Jung also rejected Freud's method of free association. Jung believed free association was too open to interpretation, encouraging people to stray from the actual meaning of the dream. Instead, he proposed a more focused approach that he called amplification. By taking each symbol of the dream into perspective, one could then consider the dream as a whole. Jung also gave names to many of the reoccurring themes he found in people's dreams. For example, he found that a shadow figure, or repressed opposite side, would often appear in dreams. Other examples include the personas, which are the different personalities or masks that people wear, and the female anima figure. Jung came to believe these reoccurring dream images came from something he called the collective unconscious. (Ackroyd 31-47)

The collective unconscious is a genetically inherited level of the mind containing what Jung called the 'vast historical storehouse of the human

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