Dreaming, A beautiful Art
conscious mind fairly easy to understand, for it functions in a sequential process to reach a
conclusion. The subconscious mind, however, is more ambiguous. The subconscious mind
rationality of the conscious mind. The subconscious mind contains all of the personal elements
encountered by the individual, usually in the preceding day (Empson, 112 ). Stronger
evidence exists, however, that individuals that learned a new task the previous
subjects new tasks that were generally repetitious, such as playing musical instruments or
dancing. They found that the subjects were markedly better at these tasks after
sleeping than immediately after learning them. The researchers then showed “..six subjects
Later that night they deprived half the group of…REM sleep (in which many dreams occur)
and deprived the other half of ’slow wave’ sleep (few or no dreams)” ( Litowinsky, 43). The
subjects deprived of REM sleep showed no improvement when retested in the morning, but the
other half that did receive REM sleep tested better. “Something occurs in REM sleep
the Weizmann study.
Understanding the importance of dreams in the form of memory strengthening and
trouble remembering things when they have received little sleep. Dreams are so
resultantly receive little or no sleep at night. If hospitals hired more doctors and shortened their
hours, the doctors would probably be more efficient, and less hospital accidents would occur.
For example, it may be wiser for a surgeon who has to do two bypass surgeries to operate on
one patient, get a good night’s sleep, and do the other operation the next day. The doctor’s
memory may be strengthened during the night, and the next operation would be more
successful. In addition, the importance of dreams to memory consolidation should be known by
him to get a good night sleep before a test, and increased understanding of dreams by the
scientific community has finally given results that support this wisdom.
Jung, recurrent dreams, or dreams that persist for a long period of time, indicate recurring
solve problems can be considered passive thinking, for it is done freely and unpredictably, and
they generally occur in three stages. First, the “impact of…a new experience [is examined]”
associated with it. Next, the “tension [is examined] from a historical perspective” (Ullman 4).
order to resolve the conflict.
to solve problems. This is an important fact for people to consider when making crucial
passive thinking the dreaming process will probably give a better answer than an immediate
rational one, for the subconscious mind evidently considers the decision as a whole as well as
the emotional context of the decision, whereas active thinking is mainly concerned with logic.
Dreams can often give better solutions to problems than the conscious mind can.
(Freud, 264). This occurs when the subconscious mind considers the past and the present, and
dreams, especially when the dreams are incredibly accurate, yet it seems that these dreams are
merely subconscious predictions and are no different than an individual thinking about the future
in an awake state. The unconscious mind is unrestrained, however, for it takes a course that is
seemingly uncontrolled by the dreamer. This may explain why people predict certain events in
their dreams with accuracy, for the unconscious mind considers possibilities that the conscious
mind may overlook. In addition, some anticipatory dreams relate specifically to the future of the
individual dreamer, such as birth or death dreams. Canadian psychologist Ian Stevenson
noticed that many pregnant subjects had dreams relating to childbirth towards the very end of
future when considered later, for these dreams are merely the subconscious attempt of
anticipating the future.
Dreams can also help an individual to overcome trauma. For example, traumatic
experiences, such as car accidents, are often relived in dreams. The dream may be troubling to
the dreamer, but these dreams can actually help the individual to overcome the trauma. This
trauma can be overcome by “turning” dreams. Turning dreams is documented by the Senoi tribe
of West Malaysia, who practice this useful technique often. For example, if a member had a
Schatzman used this technique to treat a patient of his, “Ruth”, in order to help her overcome her
shotgun at her on one occasion). This technique of turning dreams helped “Ruth” to overcome
trauma, as it does with many others. (Freud, 24). Trauma dreams often recur until the
dreamer does something in the dream to prevent the traumatic experience or “solve”
the problem, and are sometimes used in psychiatric work. In this manner, dreams can help an
individual to overcome trauma.
In addition to helping an individual cope with trauma, dreams can help an individual
cope with death. For example, people often dream about departed loved ones. According to
psychologist Alan B. Siegel, “The mind is fully capable of conjuring up vivid images of a
sensual, which cause the dreamer to believe that they are actually interacting with the deceased
not an uncommon part of the dreaming process. These death dreams help the dreamer to
finally end his mourning, for it is a stage of acceptance. The deceased person in the dream is
nearly always accepting of their own death, which allows the mourner to accept it as well.
Siegel states: “When the dreamer is reassured that the deceased person is okay, it means that
the grieved is finally okay” (Ullman,27).
still unresolved conflicts. Nan Zimmerman, coauthor of the book Working With Dreams, felt
49). This sort of dream allows the individual to absolve himself of guilt and unresolved
feelings with a deceased loved one. In this fashion, dreams can help bring closure to a
relationship, even though one person in the relationship is dead.
A third type of dream about death is the acknowledgment of one’s own impending
an account of a 94-year-old woman named Gram Shriver who had two dreams about death that
allowed her to accept her own death and help her daughter Lil to cope with the inevitable. In her
first dream, she saw Jesus and yearned to be with him, but “[she] felt [she] had more to do”
(Ullman 52). Gram, by now in poor physical condition, had a second dream in which she
earnest desire that she live” (Ullman 52). Lil talked to friends and relatives about her mother’s
impending death, and Gram even ordered her own coffin. The next day she died, but her death
was acceptable to herself and to her daughter because of her powerful dreams.
Dreams of impending death, which are often peaceful and pleasant, may explain the
be considered to be of utmost importance, for they help humans to accept the inevitability of
death. If no afterlife exists and mundane existence is the only form of human existence, then
dreams can help humanity to cope with finality, as the subconscious may be portraying
answered, but if an answer exists, the answer will inevitably be revealed to everybody.
repressed wishes. Freud reached this conclusion on July 24, 1895, after he had a vengeful
dream. After analyzing his dream, he came to his conclusion: “The dream represented a
particular state of affairs as I should have wished it to be. Thus its content was the fulfillment of
a wish” (Freud, 32). He believed that the unfulfilled desires plague the unconscious and
threaten to disturb sleep because of their persistence, and therefore the mind satisfies the
desire in a dream in order to allow the person to sleep. Freud said, “Dreams are the guardians
of sleep, and not its disturbers” (Freud, 35).
The unconscious desires of dreamers are represented differently as the individual
becomes older. For example, Freud said that “…when his two-year-old nephew…gave his uncle
a basket of ripe cherries that he clearly wanted for himself, he dreamed of a cherry feast
all his own” . Thus, the child’s dream of a “cherry feast” fulfilled his desire that was
repressed during the day. The dreams of adults are not as innocent, however. For example,
alcoholics report dreaming about bingeing” (Dunlop, 265). Freud acknowledged that since
carnal urges are virtually the strongest desires, adult dreams are full of sexual imagery. This
imagery is not entirely explicit, however; it is often represented symbolically. This is because
Freud believed that between the conscious and the subconscious was a “superego”. This
superego tries to censor sexual desires in dreams, so the desires often take the form of other
symbols in order to surpass the superego. For example, dreaming of objects that are long and
pointed often refer to the penis. Freud believed that helping people to understand the
symbolism of dreams was key to understanding oneself.
Freud believed that the process of displacement occurs in dreams, which states that
puns or rhymes to convey meaning. Ann Faraday, Ph.D., is an expert on dream puns, and
sorts dream puns into five different categories. Reversal puns are the reversal of syllables, such
as “a dream of filling full a jar which expresses a sense of being fulfilled” (Freud, 33). Visual
puns are puns “in which the dream creates a picture based on one sense of a word in order to
express an idea involving a different sense of the same word…for example, [Faraday's] dream of
a baseball game to reflect [her] feeling of being involved in a base, underhand game” (Empson,
58). A third use of puns in a dream is using proper names. Another use of puns in a dream is a
the meaning of these puns in one’s dream can help to better understand oneself. Each symbol
represents an underlying emotion about some subject that the unconscious is trying to bring to
the attention of the dreamer.
other experts. Obviously, the subconscious mind is fully capable of using puns and metaphors,
but Faraday may be speculating too much. An important concept that is generally accepted by
dreamer is satisfied with his interpretation of a dream, then that is the best and most suitable
interpretation of the dream. Carl Jung supported the notion that overanalzyation of individual
aspects of dreams is not an effective method of dream interpretation.
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, like Freud, believed that dreams serve an important
function in telling the dreamer something about himself. Jung became a disciple of Freud in
1903 when he read a book by him that contained dream theories that closely resembled his
dreams. For example, Jung believed that dreams are mainly helpful, but Freud believed that
“the majority of dreams are symptoms of psychic illness” (Freud, 285). Jung also disagreed on
the fact that sex was symbolized in every dream, and that all dreams were the fulfillment of a
wish. Jung said, “It is true that there are dreams which embody wishes and fears, but what is
there which the dream cannot on occasion embody? Dreams may give expression to
Jung, although acknowledging the importance of understanding one’s dreams to understand
oneself, also sought other possibilities for the meaning of dreams.
Jung believed that dreams are messages from the unconscious mind. He believed that
resolving inner conflicts. He did not believe that anything resembling a superego existed; rather,
Jung believed that dreams are straightforward. For example, the true self is often repressed by
dreams are the only moment in which the true person can be seen, for dreams are private and
known only by the dreamer, and they reveal the true inner self. Jung chastised the Freudian
notion that all images in dreams are symbols for something else, for Jung believed that dreams
are honest, and that it is more important to understand the emotional impact of a dream on the
dreamer than to understand every individual symbol. Although disagreeing with Freud on the
exact method that the unconscious used to communicate with the dreamer, Jung also believed
that dreams are important in understanding the true personality of an individual.
Dreams can function generally as a form of psychic regulation. Jung subscribed to this
This formulation is the nearest I can get to a theory about the structure and function of dreams”
(Empson, 26). Two types of dreams exist that serve a purpose of psychic regulation:
compensatory dreams and confirmatory dreams. Compensatory dreams compensate for a
strength or a weakness. It serves to balance the psyche by identifying something ignored by an
individual. For example, Ted Williams had a dream that compensated for his feelings of
physical inadequacy months after he had a stroke. He dreamed that he was facing the Seattle
Mariners’ ace pitcher Randy Johnson. Williams’ dream of hitting a home run compensated for
his negative feelings about himself.
The other type of psychic regulation dream is the confirmatory dream. The confirmatory
dream confirms something about a person. This type of dream occurs in two different ways.
First, a confirmatory dream may be an exact repetition of an actual event. For example,
“post-traumatic stress dreams…are nightmare repetitions of frightening…experiences…Such
legitimate and not an overreaction” (Dunlop, 119). Thus, by repeating the actual event, a
confirmatory dream can help the dreamer to understand his emotions and accept them. The
other type of confirmatory dream is one that emphasizes an unacceptable truth. Mickey Mantle
had a confirmatory dream about his physical condition after retiring from baseball: “I had a
recurring nightmare that I was trying to make a comeback and, because of my legs, I couldn’t
quite make it to first base. I’d get thrown out from right field or left field” (Dunlop, 292). Mantle’s
dream was a confirmation of an unacceptable truth, but his dream eventually helped him to
accept his situation and resulting emotions. Confirmatory dreams, like compensatory dreams,
reveal a person’s inner emotions to his conscious mind.
Many dreams, such as the types previously discussed, relate to personal situations of
the dreamer. This is not always the case, however, for dreams are sometimes universal. The
universality of dreams is means that dreams are mixed experiences of the individual and
the species. Jung propounded the theory of the collective unconscious to describe the
explains the archetypes found in dreams that have universal representation, such as a circle
existence, such as birth and death. Montague Ullman summarizes the universal quality of
dreams when he states: “Our dreams are connected with the basic truth that we are all
members of a single species” (Ullman 145).
This makes sense because dreams in themselves resemble art, for dreams and art both have
metaphorical association]” (Ullman 60). Dreams influenced several artistic genres, such as the
inspiration for artists who try to capture emotion on canvas in the same manner that
Dreams are universal to the human experience. Studying dreams is useful to all of
humanity, for every single person dreams. Dreams are important to memory consolidation and
learning, conflict resolution and anticipation of the future. Dreams can also help to cope
with trauma and death, as well as reveal an individual’s inner personality. Finally, dreams may
result in artistic inspiration, which allows everybody to experience someone’s individual dream.
One can only hope that the scientific community can further understand the perplexity of the
subconscious, but perhaps the subconscious is so complex that it can never be understood. In
the meantime, one can dream about the endless possibilities of the human psyche.
Freud, Sigmund, The Interpretation of Dreams. New York, New
York: Random House Inc., 1994.
Litowinsky, Olga, The Dream Book. New York : Coward, McCann
& Geoghegan, Inc., 1978.
Ullman; edt., The Variety of Dream Experience Expanding our
Ways of Working with Dreams. New York : Continum
Publishing Co., 1998.