Importance of Dreams
Various theories have been constructed on the importance and significance of dreams. One popular theory, forwarded by Sigmund Freud, views dreams as the means by which the subconscious self acts out its desires and wants. Under this theory, we may view dreams as being messages from the subconscious to our conscious selves. The desires of the subconscious may often reflect the urges and impulses that we have learned to repress as a consequence of social norms or moral constructs.
Under Freuds’ psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams, the subconscious self or id is able to act out repressed desires while in a dream state because the conscious self or ego is unable to guard against these repressed desires while in a sleeping state. These repressed urges or impulses find their way into your dreams either through direct representation or through symbolic representation.
Direct representation occurs when your dreams clearly and directly portray the repressed urge or desire. For instance, if you have been strictly trained as a child not to indulge in sweet desserts, you may find yourself dreaming about stockpiles of sweet desserts. Symbolic representation, on the other hand, occurs when the repressed urge or desire consists of something that is considered too disturbing or depraved that it can be directly portrayed even in a depraved state. One example is with cases of Oedipus complex when the son has repressed desires of his mother and instead of dreaming about his mother, he may end up dreaming about things that are associated to his mother.
Another theory views dreams as a necessity for the mind to function properly. According to this theory, dreams are a means by which the mind cleanses and reorganizes itself. All the different stimuli that we encounter during our waking life are supposedly processed and reorganized during our dreaming state so that our mind can function properly when we wake up. The reorganization that takes place while we are sleeping results in the construction of scenes and stories that are very similar to our daily experiences but may be somewhat distorted or altered by the mind. These pictures or scenes that we commonly refer to as dreams are but visual representations of the manner by which our mind is trying to make sense of all the stimuli that we have received while awake.
The biggest distinction between the first and second theories is that the second theory ascribes no meaning to dreams. If we were to follow the principles of the second theory, dreams would then be considered as meaningless creations resulting from the brain’s process of reorganizing external stimuli. The popularity or strength of this particular theory has more often relied on the results of studies on sleep deprivation. In many documented cases of sleep deprivation, the individuals concerned have been witnessed to suffer incidences of hallucination. These hallucinations have been interpreted by supporters of the second theory as manifestations of the brain forcing the mind to enter the dream state so that it may process and reorganize the external stimuli that have been received while awake.
The second theory, however, has been unable to justify or explain dream commonalities among different people and different generations. Dreams of falling, for instance, are among the most common dreams that have been documented across different cultures and periods. If dreams were considered to be just random meaningless constructions of the mind in the process of reorganizing itself, then why are different people from different cultures encountering different external stimuli still encountering similar dreams?
The predominant sentiment, then, is that dreams do have meanings. And the interpretation of dreams continues to be a very intriguing pursuit among many people from all walks of life. Not all people who believe in the significance of dreams subscribe to the psychoanalytic interpretations provided by Freud. Instead, a much richer field of dream interpretations has been developed through the years. The field of dream interpretation now accounts not only for the hidden desires and urges that Freud mostly focused his attention on, but also on meanings that delve on future occurrences and a common consciousness.