What causes dreaming?
Many theories have been forwarded to pinpoint the causes of dreams. At present, however, the general sentiment is that dreams are not caused by one single type of factors or elements but are brought about by many different classes of elements which may function separately or in combination with one another to cause dreaming. Among the many identified causes of dreams are hidden desires, unresolved conflicts, traumatic or memorable experiences, and collective unconscious.
Hidden Desires. Hidden desires and repressed urges can manifest themselves directly or symbolically through dreams. Sigmund Freud, who is the forerunner of this theory, believed that dreams are simply messages from the subconscious that are trying to emerge in the dreaming state. During the waking state, these urges are well-repressed because the conscious self or ego has full control and guards against these urges that may consist of socially or morally unacceptable desires. When one enters the dreaming state, the ego lets its guard down and is substantially weaker in repressing these desires. As a consequence of the ego‘s weakened state, the subconscious or id takes advantage of the sleeping state to manifest these repressed or hidden desires.
While Freud’s theory on the interpretation of dreams has been considered to have been a substantial contribution to the study and interpretation of dreams, many consider the theory incomplete due to its inability to account for all types of dreams especially universal dreams such as dreams of falling and dreams of flying. These universal dreams have been found to be prevalent in individuals from across all cultures and generations irrespective of their cognitive and social development as individuals, and thus cannot be easily explained by personal desires which emanate from the individual himself.
Unresolved Conflicts. Unresolved conflicts such as personal insecurities, hidden ambitions, and long-standing grudges can manifest themselves in dreams. These often take the form of recurring dreams which repeat themselves beyond a single sleep period. These conflicts cause the occurrence of dreams which seek to prod the dreamer into resolving such conflicts. The manner by which these conflicts manifest themselves through dreaming is also believed to involve the subconscious mind. In contrast to Freud’s theory in the interpretation of dreams, however, these conflicts are not repressed because of social and moral constructs implemented by the ego. Instead they may be repressed because of the intensity of negative feelings that are associated with these conflicts. Some unresolved conflicts that manifest themselves through dreams may also be conflicts that the dreamer is aware of but has failed to confront or resolve.
Collective unconscious. Some dreams, particularly universal ones, are said to be caused by the collective unconscious. This is a theory that was pioneered by the psychologist, Carl Jung. According to Jung, there is a collective unconscious that is shared by all individuals and which is composed of the collective experiences of different generations with respect to various periods and processes that occurred in the world. This collective unconscious includes residual perceptions of our experiences and history as mankind, including primitive experiences during the initial period of evolution. The universal dreams of falling and flying, for instance, which has been documented to occur even in newborns, is said to stem from our experience as primates.
There are many other underlying causes of dreaming and dreams that are continuously being studied and examined even in contemporary times. As the range of factors that cause and shape dreams continue to be explored, we are also gaining broader knowledge with respect to the interpretation and function of dreams and dreaming.
What did you dream about last night?