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Interpretation of dreams:3: Cognitive theory

Updated on April 2, 2012

Beyond Freud

Psychoanalytic theory and therapy maintained its hold upon popular thinking and had a significant influence upon literature, art, movies, and the media. However, it lost its appeal to many scientists and clinicians with empirical training and backgrounds. The theory was in large part untestable. It offered explanations for the presence of symmptoms as well as their absence. It was based upon nineteenth century concepts of physical energy. The treatment was time consuming and expensive--unavailable to most people of ordinary means. Even some of Freud's disciples broke away from orthodox psychonalytic thinking. Behaviorism took hold in the United States and offered more rapid approaches to the direct treatment of symptoms, based upon principles of learning. Conditioning methods of Pavlov and Watson were being applied effectively to treat fears and anxiety. However, in the twentieth century, there was also renewed interest in the significance of subjective events--thoughts and feelings-- in determining behavior. While radical behaviorists continued to ignore internal events, such as dreams, that could not be measured objectively, some cognitive psychologists once more became intterested in dreams and their meaning.

The ABC model

Two therapists were most influential in expanding behavior therapy approaches to incorporate cognitions into the treatment model Albert Ellis, the author of "Rational Emotive Therapy, and Aarin Beck, who develoiped "Cogntive Therapy" for the treatment of depression, had a profound influence upon the field. Both assumed that irrational thoughts were pivotal in determirning symptoms. The model, which has been labeled, the "ABC" model assumed a three stage process. The initial step (A) is astilulating or instigating conditions that triggers the process. The second atep (B) is the individual's interpretation of the event, which, in many cases may be irrational. The third step (C) is the emotion or behavior which follows from that interpretation. Therapy involved various approches to help the individual disgard irrational thoughts and substitute more reasonable and logical interpretations. Controlled studies of outcomes using cognitive behavioral treatment strategies indicate that the approach is at least as effective, and often more efective, than psychotropic medication.

Martin Seligman has demonstrated that depressed people tend to interpret bad events as personal, pervasive, and permanent. Those who do nor get depressed interpret bad events as externally caused, specific in impact, and temporary. Two college students faul the same wxam with ther same grade. The first decides the test was unfair and her faili\ure was only a temporary cirrcumstance, not reaaly representative of her ability. She wil do better next time. The second student decides she is going to fail the course and will probably flunk out of school because she is stupid. Which student is more likely to become depressed?


Cognitive therapy and dreams

In 1996, psychiatry professor Clara Hill, at ^he University of Maryland, published a method of dream interpretarion.deriving from both psychoanalytic and cognitive theories. Hill argues that dreams are triggered by events of waking life and are an attempt to integrate waking experience and existing memory structures (past thoughts, feelings, and actions). The dreamer tells herself a story in the dream, connecting present events and past memories. The dream represents waking rather than unconscious conflicts. When current events are too painful or different from past memories the dream does not work and the dreamer may remain troubled. He may then suffer from recurrent dreams or nightmares.

Dreams are idrwn bizaare. Freud saw this as a way the dream censor camouflages hidden meanings. A more parsimonious explanation is that dreams are the product of a sleeping, but not inactive brain. The symbols and metaphors that make up dream images are based on language peculiarities and the dreamer's associations to the images. . The dreamer is asked in therapy There are no universal symbols. The same image may signiify something entirely different to each dreamer. Thus dreams may have meaning but not purpose in the Freudian sense. (They may have biological purpose.) Or, they may sometimes be just neurological noise.

Links

Psychmarv: The interpretation of dreams:1; The interpretation of dreams: 2; The great hypnosis conyroversy

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