Dreams Essay, Research Paper
There are many facts that are unknown about the mind. For centuries, philosophers and scientists have tried to understand how it works. We have learned that the mind has a number of different levels of processing. Before Sigmund Freud “nearly all the previous research and theorizing of psychologists had dealt with conscious, such as perception, memory, judgment, and learning“ (Hunt185). Freud brought forth a number of theories that dealt with “the unconscious and its crucial role in human behavior”(Hunt 185). The unconscious is a storage area for information that is not being used. It is also the home of “powerful primitive drives and forbidden wishes that constantly generated pressure on the conscious mind”(Hunt 185). As this area of the mind can only be understood through speculation, I will look to dream interpretation and psychoanalysis as keys to unlocking this area of psychology
What are dreams? Are they simply random brain activity, or are they our mind trying to tell us something? Dreams represent many different areas of one’s life in physical, emotional, and mental ways. “When we sleep we do much more than just rest our weary bones; we tap into our subconscious mind (Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). The subconscious has much to offer about oneself. “The average human being spends one third of their life in sleep and during each sleep approximately two hours is spent dreaming“(Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). These dreams are important because they are the voice of our subconscious. Dreams can relay to people facts about their lives that they are not even aware of. There are also many ways that dreams can help cure different physical, emotional, and mental problems in one’s life. I will look at dreams, their meanings, and possible ways of interpreting them using such methods as hypnotherapy and psychoanalysis.
Dreams can be defined as “a conscious series of images that occur during sleep” (Collier’s, 1984). Dreams are usually very vivid in color and imagery. They are said to reveal to the dreamer different wishes, concerns, and worries that he or she has. Dreams may reflect every part of who the dreamer is. The content of dreams depends on “how old the dreamer is and how educated the he or she is” (Collier’s, 1984). We have no control over that which we dream about, but we do know that they are influenced by situations in our lives. An example of how a dream can be influenced by our lives is as follows. I had a dream that I was surfing in Hawaii a couple of nights after I returned from Honolulu in 1990. My dream about surfing stemmed from when we were there, we went to the Pipeline, on the north shore of Oahu. The dream itself was weird. I was on my board and I fell off. The weird part was that when I was in the water I started sinking, I decided to try to swim to the surface. I figured that the water was much deeper than I thought, so I kept swimming. I started to run out of breath and I began to panic. I woke up from the dream and found that my sheet was in my mouth blocking my intake of air. This shows how physiological needs can manifest themselves in our dreams.
An individual’s unconscious mind combines bits and pieces of information and places them together. Dreams are almost always visual. “Forty to fifty percent of dreams have some form of communication present in them and a very small percentage of dreams give the dreamer the ability to use his or her five senses”(Encarta). Dreams allow one to take a closer look into their mind in a quest for self-discovery. In ancient Greece dreams were believed to be messages from the gods. Hippocrates and Aristotle believed that dreams contained physiological information that may be cause of future illnesses. Dreams can be used to solve a number of different types of problems. In The Interpretation of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud he states “As regards the dream, all the troubles of waking life are transferred by it to the sleeping state” (Freud 113). They relay things about a person that the person may not be able to see. Freud says that certain images in dreams sometimes have significant meanings relating to the person’s life. Freud called dream interpretation “the royal road to the knowledge of the unconscious in mental life”(Hunt 178)
Much of what is in our dreams is not straightforward or easy to understand. “Different objects in the dream may serve as a symbol”(Kalb 77). We may have to look much deeper into ourselves if we hope to understand what has come to us by way of dreaming. Dreams represent different areas of one’s life that deal with one’s physical, mental, and emotional being. The subconscious mind cannot speak directly to the conscious mind, but they do communicate through symbolism. These symbols can relay information about one’s life if these symbols are interpreted. Dreams are “a private language, known only to ourselves” (Cartwright 5). “You’ll never see an object in dream that you haven’t seen in your daily life”(Ullman and Zimmerman 1979) “Within the subconscious lie different types of things such as suppressed emotions, creativity, and basic human instinct“(Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). The conscious part of the mind works when people are awake and is the part of the mind that handles things that people can understand. Dreams can offer an escape to individuals who need relief from their everyday problems. They have a way of setting one free from reality, which includes all of one’s problems. Dreams help one to overcome these stresses and help people to get on with their lives. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud states “The waking life never repeats itself with its trials and joys, its pleasures and pains, but, on the contrary, the dream aims to relieve us of these”. Although an individual can not relive the same moment, dreams allow us to recreate those experiences. Our feelings about the event may manifest in our dreams and allow us to handle a situation the way we wanted to, not necessarily the way it happened. As we have learned, the capacity of long term memory seems to be limitless. Although we may not think about a situation on a regular basis, memories of that moment are within us and therefore become possible subjects of dreams.
Dreams have both a metaphysical and a physical existence. The metaphysical is the imagery within the dream and their relation to the subconscious. The physical aspect is the chemical reactions occur within the brain during dreams. The tie between physical and metaphysical cannot be established but it safe to say that one does exist. Thoughts are not physical in nature, we can’t touch or see them, but in order for them to occur the brain must go through chemical and hormonal changes. “The dream uses collective figures because it has to express an eternal human problem that repeats itself endlessly, and not just a disturbance of personal balance”(Jung, 1945)
A person’s conscious mind is the mind that they use when they are awake and aware of what he is going on. The conscious is the part of the mind that has the ability to make distinctions between reality and the fantasy world. An individual is able to think rationally and act a certain way due to those thoughts. A person, in this state of mind, has complete control over everything he or she does including speaking, thinking, and the way that he or she acts around people.
Treatment such as hypnotherapy cannot be given during this state of mind because the person is fully aware of what is going on around them. They are fully aware of how he is acting and what he is saying. “People’s conscious minds are very much related to the unconscious part of people’s minds (Lukeman 61). During dreaming, the mind travels from the conscious to the unconscious. Dreaming allows the unconscious part of the mind to relay all information to the person that sometimes that the person does not even know exists. “One’s unconscious mind does not deal with issues such as morality, ethics, or cultural essentials” (Lukeman 62). People are intimidated by the thought of the unconscious; they do not like the thought of having something not completely under their control. Through analyzing a patient’s unconscious mind, a therapist may be able to see parts of the patient that they may not recognize. Freudian theory deals with the issue that the unconscious involves memories that stem from the person’s childhood. Childhood memories may affect the person today and may even be relayed through the unconscious. Through therapy, a person may become aware of their problems and other things that are bothering them. Dreams also have a way of telling a person about sickness and disease. “Dreams are sometimes trying to tell a person that he need to stop doing something or start doing something for his own well being“(Garfield).
“If we pay attention, our dreaming consciousness will forewarn and advise us about health of our bodies and the course of any disease process with which we are involved“(Lukeman 4). Shakespeare even states that sleep and dreams are “nature’s soft nurse” (Cartwright 5). Some people have a certain fear about dreams because dreams are part of the unconscious and out of their control. They feel that if they have a dream about something like death, then death is in the near future. “When dealing with dreams like this, people would rather not find out what the dream means“(Lukeman 67).
Another way of looking into the unconscious through personal interpretations of dreams. Once an individual establishes a method of dream analysis they must decide what type of dream they are analyzing. “There are seven types of dreams: the superconscious dream, lucid dream, nightmares, night terrors, sexual dreams, repetitive dreams, and the subconscious dream. “Freud believed in the superconscious dream, the repetitive dream, the sexual dream, and the regular subconscious dream”(Ullman and Zimmerman, 1979).
People have depended on dreams to guide them in their actions and also for self-discovery for hundreds of years. The variety of dreams a person can experience further proves the idea that proper dream interpretation in nearly impossible. “Learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of a living soul”(Jung, 1945).
Psychoanalytic therapy is a treatment that psychologists use for helping people to overcome mental, physical and emotional torment. It is often called “the talking cure”. Sigmund Freud coined the term psychoanalysis. It was used on people who “suffered from anxiety, phobias, obsessions and compulsions, hysteria, hypochondriasis, physical problems of psychological origin – in short, all those said to have neuroses”(Hunt, 561). It can be described as a “specific method of investigating unconscious mental processes and a form of psychotherapy” (Encarta 1984). Psychoanalytic therapy is based on the idea that the way people act and think are not within one’s usual conscious control. Many individuals have a stereotype in regards to psychoanalysis, which has a patient lying on a couch with the therapist asking questions from a chair. The therapist invites the patient to talk about his or her past, angers, fears, and fantasies. This form of talking helps the patient gain control of their life by telling the therapist his or her needs, motivations in life, wishes, and memories. Sometimes a patient will resist talking to the therapist and the therapist in turn will not speak for lengthy periods of time. A patient’s refusal to talk may stem from past events that have been brought up in conversation. Transference is another problem that sometimes occurs through the course of the therapy. This problem occurs when the patient feels certain strong emotions towards the therapist. Josef Breuer was the first therapist to record this type of situation. Anna O was a patient of Breuer’s who had been “deeply attached to her father and had nursed him during his illness until she became bedridden with severe hysterical symptoms”(Hunt, 172). Certain emotions can be either a strong feeling of love, or a strong feeling of hate (Antrobus). “The analysis of transference is a way of investigating and verifying hypotheses about the unconscious motivations behind inexplicable behavior”(Hunt178). Psychoanalytic therapy is successful for the patient as soon as the patient is comfortable with himself in relation to their feelings. Achieving complete recovery can take a lifetime. Through diligent work, however, a person may be able to return to his normal, healthy state of mind and life.
Hypnotherapy is another form of therapy that uses the subconscious and dreaming to understand and analyze what the patient’s problem could be. Using hypnosis, a therapist may be able to look into the subconscious. The subconscious also holds the feelings that one has relating to the person’s place that they hold in the world. This type of therapy can help the patient to confront his or her fears, emotional problems, and physical problems. Scrutiny of hypnotherapy can be seen in a number of findings by Elizabeth Loftus. Although Loftus’s research focused on eyewitness testimony, much of what she discovered can be taken into consideration in regards to hypnosis. In her research she found that the way a sentence is phrased could directly affect in the way it is answered. The questions were posed “Did you see a broken headlight?” and “Did you see the broken headlight?”(Loftus, 1974: Loftus &Zanni, 1975) “The article “a” does not necessarily convey the implication of existence”(Pettijohn, 154). “One uses “the” when one assumes the object referred to exists and may be familiar to the listener”(Pettijohn, 154). The results of this showed that when something is implied to be there, someone is more likely to state that they saw it.
This type of word usage shows how a therapist could mislead a patient to believe that there is hidden meaning to a thought or to an event.
Hypnosis was used very often as an anesthetic during surgery. The patient would not have any other type of anesthetic in his or her body. “Since World War II, it has slipped quietly and discreetly into the clinical mainstream, to the point where the America Medical Association, many HMOs and even Medicare now recognize it” (Jackson 128). Hypnosis could help the patient live a much more fulfilling life with new confidence about themselves and the world. The use of this type of therapy can actually spark one’s interest and potential in various activities one engages oneself in that one finds interesting. Psychiatrists, medical doctors, psychologists, and other people have tried it. “People have used hypnotherapy for two centuries to treat people with different sicknesses and pain”(Jackson 127-128). Each time one experiences hypnosis, the more in depth the concentration is for the patient. Though deeper concentration sounds more therapeutic for the patient, it is not. The deeper the hypnotic state, the more likely it is that one will experience loss of consciousness and hallucinations. Hypnosis skills allow the patient to completely relax, thus slowing down all parts of the body, including the nervous system, respiratory system and the patient’s brain waves (Churchill). Rosalind Cartwright has studied dreams for 35 years. She states that “Dreams give us a chance to face situations from real life while our bodies are totally at ease”(Williams 99). Dreams revolve around things that one has experienced in the past, and can be influenced by events that are current in one’s mind. They can be used to help solve problems that someone is dealing with. Cartwright calls dreaming one’s “internal therapist” (Williams 99). People who have certain phobias have been known to treat their phobia by themselves without any psychiatric help. “Dreams help people to overcome obstacles and help the people learn more about themselves and the lives that they live“(Williams 99). Dreams can represent many different areas of people’s lives. Dreams can relay things to a person that he or she are not even aware of. Interpreting one’s dream is a method of self-discovery that lets one in on parts of his or her life that he or she never could have imagined. Carl Jung is correct; it is good to learn the theories on dreams but remember what dreams are…“a living soul.”
To try to understand the unconscious mind is a very difficult task. Without having a concrete way to study it, this area could remain one of pure speculation. We could leave it up to therapists asking questions, but that will not give us the proper answer. Maybe the answers to this question have already been presented to us in our dreams, and it is being left to each individual to decipher the message the way in which they see fit.
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