Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dreams, my interpretation

Last night on NOVA(PBS), there was a very interesting program on dreams. The program talked about the different areas of research that has been going on why humans dream and what the results have been so far. I was primarily interested in the interpretation of dreams and what research has found about that area of psychology.

In the program, they brought up Sigmund Freud and his monumental work on this subject. "The Interpretation of Dreams" is a book was published in November 1899 (post-dated as 1900 by the publisher). The book inaugurated the theory of Freudian dream analysis, which activity Freud famously described as "the royal road to the understanding of unconscious mental processes."

The book introduces Freud's theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation. Dreams, in Freud's view, were all forms of "wish-fulfillment" — attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict of some sort, whether something recent or something from the recesses of the past (later in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud would discuss dreams which did not appear to be wish-fulfillment). However, because the information in the unconscious is in an unruly and often disturbing form, a "censor" in the preconscious will not allow it to pass unaltered into the conscious. During dreams, the preconscious is more lax in this duty than in waking hours, but is still attentive: as such, the unconscious must distort and warp the meaning of its information to make it through the censorship. As such, images in dreams are often not what they appear to be, according to Freud, and need deeper interpretation if they are to inform on the structures of the unconscious. Much in the interpretation of dreams, according to Freud, came from the area of erotic relationships and sex.

Much of what Freud based his dream interpretation is still considered valid today with a lesser emphasis on sex although current studies do show a difference in the kind of dreams one has in REM and lighter forms of sleep. For instance, studies show that dream in REM show a decided slant towards negative emotions than in other lighter forms of sleep.

Many therapists use dream interpretation to give hints as to what the patient might be experiencing in his or her life. Dreams are classified as to types. One patient had a series of dreams in which he was in conflict with female role models such as wife, mother and so forth far more than the norm. Later the patient filed for divorce from his wife.

In last night's program, Nova showed a Canadian Native tribe that would have frequent dream circles in which elders would interpret the dreams of its members.

I think dreams play a part in understanding what is going on in one's life and interpreting unconscious hints about different situations. This would be in line with Freud's work. For instance, I was in group therapy with one particular leader. I was uncomfortable with the dynamics of the group. I had made an assessment that it was because I was getting some much needed work done.

Then I had a dream. I dreamed I was at a girlfriend's house that I had not seen since I was 12 or 13 years of age. The group leader was standing in the carport and the members of the group were in the house and on the sidewalk leading up to the door. The dream made a very strong impression on me that I just could not shake. I could not understand why I dreamed of the group in that house and why the group leader was in the carport.

Then as I was journaling, I started to remember things about that girlfriend. Her mother drank a lot and her father was the one who did the house work in addition to his regular job. She was rarely available but stayed in her room with a beer in her hand. Then one day we had to get somewhere important. My father always had the car as he worked in town miles where we lived. Since the girlfriend's father always took his work truck there was a car in the carport. Her mother got into the car and said she was not allowed to drive, but the girlfriend was instructed not to tell anyone. She drove all of us to what it was we were supposed to be at. That car slid all over the road and I was scared. The girlfriend's father picked us up.

I started to remember things about the group. There were people in it that were the patients but the group leader was afraid of them. It was a toxic group and I had no business being in it. It took a dream to point out what should have been obvious but was hidden in the unconscious.

I also think that our Spiritual Center or Guardians communicate with us through our dreams. I remember being in a dream in which I was told that death would pay a visit very close within a month. I remember waking up and being scared because I thought it was me. It was my brother.

Then there are the dreams that give hints to things such as the fact that I have been eating ice cream when I should not have. I had a dream about it last night. Part of the dream was I was trying to buy ice cream cones for the kids when I had one in my hand. It was stale and not good tasting, but I was trying to gulp it down before getting new ice cream. In my dream, I was thinking that the ice cream that I had bought was old and not good.

When I woke up, I knew what that old cone was. I was eating ice cream for a reason that was old and from my past. Instead of looking at my life which was really quite enjoyable and exciting I was still trying to gulp down the old stuff from the past. It never occurred to me in the dream to just throw away the ice cream and to enjoy the wonderful sweet stuff that was happening to me now. I was trying to hang on to the old stuff which was not fun anymore and tasted stale. In my dream, I was trying to get home with the different aspects of myself that I enjoy.

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