Reflective Dream Essay: Analysis of Own Dream
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There has been a significant amount of research conducted on the topic of dream analysis by various theorists. Dreams are difficult to measure or scientifically test as they are part of our subconscious. This may be due to inaccurate recall, lack of clarity in the dreaming process itself, difficulties in understanding meaning of images in waking state, and difficulty making sense when juxtaposing two different mental states (Fosshage, 2000). Dreamed events are incredibly powerful, even when unpleasant are still perceived to be more meaningful than similar conscious thoughts, and can be perceived to provide information as important as similar real world events (Morewedge & Norton, 2009). The various theories formulated on dream interpretation can allow us to understand and interpret our own dreams. Freud’s theory has made a significant influence on the research of dreams and contributed to its rise in popularity which remains today. He proposed that the dream can represent a wish as fulfilled (Freud, 1900/1976). Although there are theorists who agree with Freud’s notion that dreams are the ‘royal road to the unconscious’, there are other theorists who disagree. In this essay, I will use my own dream to utilise the application of Freud’s theory, discuss its limitations and possible wider applications to his theory in the therapeutic process.
My dream involves my boyfriend, Royce, being unfaithful. This dream is a recurring one around every fortnight and minor details vary each time. It is daytime in this dream and I am usually at an outdoor event with my boyfriend’s group of friends. During this outing, Royce will neglect me and give his full attention to one of the girls among the group of friends. The girl to which his attention is fixed on varies every dream. I will witness him being affectionate with a girl and not attending to me whatsoever. I am not able to recall all the different girls I have dreamt of him being with, however, I do remember one clearly, Lindsay. My dream ends with me silently walking away from the group. It is not clear to me within the dream whether Royce is my boyfriend or the state of our relationship. I am only able to recall being a part of the group outing. Upon waking up, I feel very distressed, anxious and angry. I felt like I have been cheated on and I have projected this anger onto Royce even though he is clueless about what went on within my dream.
According to Freud (1900/1976, p.69), all material making up the content of dreams are in some way derived from experiences in which they are reproduced or remembered in the dream. Freud was amazed by the memories, seemingly long forgotten and unavailable to the waking mind that appeared in dreams (Greenberg & Pearlman, 1999). However, the association between the dreams’ content and reality require searching for. They may remain hidden. Freud (1900/1976, p. 169) also state that all dreams have hidden meaning and are designed to take place of some other process of thought. Hence, he proposed a method of interpretation by undoing the substitution in order to arrive at the hidden meaning correctly. He believed this hidden meaning represent repressed wishes to which dreams allowed for harmless fulfilment of these wishes. We may experience situations where our desires need to be repressed as they may not be socially acceptable. For example, the urge to have an affair would be socially acceptable if gone ahead with in real life, but in a dream, this urge can be fulfilled without hurting anyone or compromising your reputation.
The dreamer is the only one who is aware of the contents of the dream. Our dream serves as completion of satisfying wishes excited during waking life which remain unrealised (Freud, 1920/1976, p. 32). In waking life, we see ourselves as who we want to be but in dreams, we see ourselves for who we really are (Weitz, 1976). There are two components to dreams: manifest content and latent content (Freud, 1900/1976). The manifest content involves activities, images and thoughts which we remember upon waking. It refers to the information we can re-tell. The latent content refers to the hidden psychological meaning of the dream which contains repressed wishes or desires (Freud, 1900/1976). Upon initial interpretation of my dream, I do not believe there was any apparent wishes or desires which may have caused it. I actually found my dream to be very distressing and completely opposing my wishes for Royce to remain faithful. However, Freud (1900/1976, p. 215) states that it still remains possible for distressing and anxiety dreams to turn out to be fulfilments of wishes.
The manifest content of my dream would be the group outing where I witnessed Royce cheating. Although I initially believe there is no obvious hidden wish in my dream, taking Royce’s dating history and my insecure nature into account, I can possibly interpret the latent content as my desire to catch him cheating in order to prove my own insecurities right. With these factors considered, I can say that my wish was harmlessly fulfilled in the dream. If I was out to catch Royce cheating in waking life, this would involve me secretly checking his messages, phone bills and restricting the number of female friendships he maintains. This level of obsession and control would be considered socially unacceptable.
Freud believes that the real meaning in dreams are disguised due to the need to censor the underlying drive material (Greenberg & Pearlman, 1999). Hence, the latent content is suppressed by our subconscious in order to protect us from thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with. Dreams do not only assist in understanding the past, they also offer suggestions for desirable future actions (Weitz, 1976). Therefore, dream interpretation may enable clients to delineate conflicts, understand their own behaviour which may result in increased self-awareness and self-acceptance (Cogar & Hill, 1992). I find Freud’s notion of the latent content very interesting, especially in resolving problems which arise from repressed means. The use of dreams as potential problem resolutions may have beneficial applications in therapy. Although I have had difficulties in accepting Royce’s dating history, I have consciously suppressed any thoughts I have of him cheating. This suppression has allowed me not to have any insecure thoughts over the past six months. My dreams started to occur approximately the same time. Using Freud’s notion that dreams are the ‘royal road to the unconscious’, this may demonstrate that my insecurities have not disappeared, they have only been suppressed to the point where it is now a forgotten repressed thought and feeling.
In addition, Freud (1900/1976, p. 249) asserts that it is possible to find a point of contact with the experiences of the previous day in every dream. I did not find this was the case with my dream. Almost every time this dream occurred, I would have spent the previous night on a date with Royce. I do not recall having any conflict with Royce within those dates which may have caused my insecurities to be dreamt of. Freud’s assertion suggests that my interaction with Royce prior to the dream acts as a causal factor. There have been many other instances where I have spent the previous night on a date with Royce where this dream did not occur. I feel there are some limitations to Freud’s methods of interpreting dreams. I do not believe that every dream represents the fulfilment of a wish. While it may some dreams may be, I do not believe all dreams are. This can be portrayed through analysing nightmares and traumatic dreams, they are caused by factors beyond the pleasure principle (Greenberg & Pearlman, 1999). My manifest dream does not represent wish fulfilment to me. We may have dreams that simply reflect problems in our real lives and dreams may be able to reveal these rather than keeping them hidden.
I feel Freud has placed too much emphasis on the underlying meaning or what is hidden in the dream rather than understanding the contents of the dream and interpreting what they reveal. In addition, Freud also believed that all neuroses have arisen due to crucial experiences through childhood. I also feel that he places too much focus on past experiences and not enough on matters of immediate importance. Causes of dreams should not be limited to one possible explanation. Furthermore, research has failed to demonstrate the disguise of a real psychological significance of dreams. Unlike Freud, Jung does not believe that all neuroses are of traumatic origin or have arisen through critical childhood experiences (Weitz, 1976). Such an approach places emphasis on past experiences or events while losing focus on immediate problems. Jung suggests that dreams warn us about existing or forthcoming trouble. I feel this theory can be applicable to a wider variety of dreams over Freud’s wish fulfilment theory. Jung believes the manifest content of dreams contained the whole meaning which assists in providing future suggestions for individuals (Moustakas, 1996, p. 89).
He proposed the compensation theory. Jung’s compensation theory refers to dream manifestations as opposites (Zhu, 2013). I am able to see the compensation which may be causing my dream. I believed that I had completely let go of the fear I had of Royce being unfaithful, however, my dream has demonstrated the complete opposite from the distress and anger I experience upon waking up. The recurring nature of this dream is also portraying to me that my fear and insecurities are far from being resolved as I was consciously suppressing these feelings when I first experienced them. In addition, Jung states that an analyst must be prepared to formulate a new theory of dream interpretation for every dream (Weitz, 1976). In order to understand another’s dream, you must suppress your prejudices. Jung (1961) also states the importance of therapy lies on the client to understand rather than the analysts’ theoretical expectations being satisfied. Whereas Freud focused on examining disguised fulfilments of repressed wishes in his patients in order to demonstrate the relevance of his theory (Frieden, 1990, p.13). I strongly agree with Jung’s approach as there may be various underlying reasons to why a certain dream is dreamt.
There could be many predisposing factors contributing to dreams occurring like the clients’ history, life context and relationships. These should all be considered to understand the true meaning of a dream. For an analyst to place emphasis on one theory may result in a forced dream interpretation. I feel every individual’s dream should not be interpreted to meet a certain framework. The latent content of my dream became apparent when factors other than my wishes were explored. Furthermore, I believe there was an underlying reason to which I was only able to recall one of the girls I witnessed Royce being affectionate with. This is due to the fact that Royce was once attracted to her and attempting to date her. I was also aware that Royce still had feelings for Lindsay shortly prior to meeting me. Hence, I believe my dream revealed Lindsay as my biggest threat in Royce’s group of friends. Similarly, a contemporary theory by Lear (2005) states there are three principles to dream interpretation: interpretation must take the dreamer’s life context into account, must be holistic and the ultimate authority on the meaning of a dream is the dreamer. These principles were applicable to my dream.
By exploring the life context of myself and Royce, I was able to acknowledge my repressed insecurities and fear of Royce being unfaithful. As I was able to identify the meaning of the dream myself, I believe I have now gained an increased self-awareness as well as self-acceptance. This has now created the foundation for me to properly work through my issues without resorting to suppress them again. Overall, I found that Freud’s (1900) approach to dream interpretation was applicable to my own dream analysis. However, this was only possible through exploration of other factors external to wish fulfilment. My dream demonstrates the ability of a dream to access the unconscious and allow a repressed feeling to appear. It has also revealed my true problem and allowed me to consider possible future solutions. Through my dream analysis, there is no denying that Freud’s notion of dreams as the ‘royal road to the unconscious’ is valid. In addition, Jung (1961) and Lear (2005) placed importance on the authority of meaning of dreams to the dreamer, not the analyst.
Freud failed to do so by interpreting all dreams as a form of wish fulfilment. By utilising Freud’s approach in conjunction to Jung’s and contemporary approaches, dream interpretation has the ability to explore the meanings of dreams in greater depth. Therefore I believe, dream interpretation has demonstrated the potential to assist individuals in resolving problems, understanding themselves or being utilised in therapy for these reasons.
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