Dream Analysis

Dream Analysis


Dream analysis consists in the interpretation of dreams. Although several theories argue that dreams are a random by-product of REM sleep, the organized and selective nature of the form and content of dreams have led several scientists to believe that in the process of dreaming the brain constructs a complex model of the world.

Dreaming is believed to be a cognitive activity and the dream itself a representation of the individual’s conceptions[1]. Dream analysis seeks to discover the meanings that lie behind the dreams. They can provide an image of the dreamer’s self-image, his or hers conceptions of other people, conceptions of the world, of impulses, prohibitions and conflicts. Those conceptions form the system of beliefs that ultimately influences behavior. Dream analysis can prove especially useful as if offers an image of unconscious conceptions.

Goals of Dream Analysis

Keith Stevens, a physicist who dedicated 15 years to researching and developing a theory about dreaming, which materialized in a study of over 20,000 dreams collected via the Internet, argues that dreams are a form of exercising our primal instincts[2]. In his opinion dreams are destined to calibrate our response system in order to enhance our chances of survival in the real world.

Contrary to previous theories like Freud’s believe that dreams bring out desires suppressed by the conscious mind, Keith Stevens makes the point that a dream is not supposed to be interpreted but viewed as a function. For instance, a dream of being chased or attacked by an animal will frighten the dreamer and make him more cautious in a real life situation in which he might have to deal with such a threat. A dream of reaching the top of a mountain might push the dreamer to develop and explore himself in life.

When is Dream Analysis Used

A similar point was made by the Finish researcher Antti Revonsuo who believes dreams are a biological function destined “to simulate threatening events and to rehearse threat perception and threat avoidance”[3].

Revonsuo argues that in ancestral times individuals wore exposed to a multitude of life-threatening situations. A survival mechanism based on dreams that selects dangerous events and stimulate them over and over again would have proven valuable for the development of threat-avoidance skills.

“Empirical evidence from normative dream content, children’s dreams, recurrent dreams, nightmares, post traumatic dreams, and the dreams of hunter-gatherers indicate that our dream-production mechanisms are in fact specialized in the simulation of threatening events and thus provide support to the threat simulation hypothesis of the function of dreaming”, notes the psychologist.

How Dream Analysis Works

Carl Jung notes that a dream often seems to be occupied with useless details. This can make it seem absurd or even unintelligible.

“We always have to overcome a certain resistance before we can seriously set about disentangling the intricate web through patient work. But when at last we penetrate to its real meaning, we find ourselves deep in the dreamer’s secrets and discover with astonishment that an apparently quite senseless dream is in the highest degree significant, and that in reality it speaks only of important and serious matters”, argues Jung in his book “Problems of Modern Psychotherapy”, published in 1929.

Keith Stevens has identified nine types of dreams. Most common dreams are those involving threats or dangers to self. They are the substance of nightmares and are meant to stimulate a determination to survive.

Family unit dreams are the second most common dreams identified by the researcher. They can also be frightening because they often involve putting a family member in danger. These dreams seek to preserve unity as a way to increase survival chances.

Bonding dreams can be sexually explicit, their goal being to encourage paring in order to procreate. Dreams of body injuries or abnormalities are supposed to tell the dreamer to take care of his body. Dreams of challenge and exploring aim to excite and stimulate the individual to enquire, search, explore, learn and compete. Dreams of being superior try to stimulate the desire to “reach for the stars”. On the other hand, dreams of being in vulnerable situations signal the dreamer to avoid such situations. Dreams of being obstructed or frustrated stimulate the determination to resist by deliberately creating frustration. Dreams of being inferior are supposed to shock the dreamer out of complacency and provide an insight in the unpleasant feeling of being at the bottom of the pile.


[1] Hall, C. S. (1953), A cognitive theory of dreams. The Journal of General Psychology

[2]Keith Stevens, The Dreamer and the Beast. dreamon.demon.co.uk. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http:// dreamon.demon.co.uk

[3] Antti Revonsuo, 2000, The reinterpretation of dreams: An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming

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