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What are Dreams?

Updated on April 13, 2011

When the higher functions of the mind, intellect and will, are in abeyance during sleep, imagination frequently runs riot, and presents brilliant pictures to the mind. Dreams always have a foundation in impressions previously made on the mind; nothing is originated —nothing is invented. Bodily sensations, arising either from within (from disordered internal organs) or from without (from the body surface) serve as the initiating stimuli of dreams and give them a certain tone or colour.

Dreams may thus be regarded as meaningless rechauffes without purpose or significance, but psycho-analysts, believe the dream to be one of the most important manifestations of the unconscious mind. According to Freud, " the interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the part the unconscious plays in mental life," His theories assert that in sleep, the conscious mind is out of action and the unconscious, tending to assert itself, evades the vigilance of the mental censor and is manifested in dream form. The dream is regarded as the fulfilment of some un-gratified wish or the realisation of some desire. Three types of dreams are described : (i) the non-repressed, non-concealed, infantile type (the child dreams of some delicacy or toy denied him); (2) the veiled repressed type (so distorted and disguised that the dream seems meaningless : the common variety in adults); and (3) the slightly concealed, repressed type (usually accompanied by a feeling of dread which brings the dream to an end).
Dreams are distorted and disguised in order to escape the censor, but these alterations are merely symbolic expressions of an unfulfilled wish. This symbolic distortion- "the manifest content" - is effected by certain mechanisms. These are (i) "dramatisation," whereby the dream thoughts become arranged in scenic form; (a) "displacement," whereby unimportant items of the dream become associated with a significant repression; (3) "condensation," whereby dream thoughts become a compact combination of many unconscious thoughts; and (4) "symbolism," whereby further disguise is occasioned in order to elude the censor. Distortion of the dream serves as the guardian of sleep.

The interpretation of a dream is the elucidation of its inner meaning—in other words, of the " latent content." Forgetting of dreams is a sign of resistance to the disclosing of the unconscious wish. Adult dreams are mostly related to repressed sexual desires. Dream analysis is regarded as one of the most reliable methods of exploring the unconscious and of leading to the unearthing of buried repressed complexes, the existence of which in many cases is harmful and may even originate morbid mental states. It must be remarked that the Freudian theory of dreams is not universally accepted without reservation.

The occurrence of telepathic dreams is accepted by psychologists, though no explanation can be offered for the mechanism of this production.


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