My girlfriend called me from Dallas the other day. "You have got to hear about the dream I had last night," she said. Since this was not a normal reason to call me, I was more than a bit interested to listen to her.
"The dream went like this," she explained. "I came to visit you at college. You showed me around, introduced me to your friends, and showed me a great time. Basically, we never left each others side. I felt so happy.
Unfortunately, when I woke up, I realized that it was all a dream, and I felt kind of sad. You're the psychologist what do you make of this?" she said.
"Freud said that dreams are unfulfilled wishes," I said.
"I think he's right," she replied.
"So do I."
Sigmund Freud is called the Father of Modern Psychology. His work with patients suffering from hysteria, a psychological ailment characterized by extreme anxiety, lead him to study the next to every facet of human existence from parent and child relations to human psychological defense mechanisms. Many of Freud's works have been published today including the monumental work The Interpretation of Dreams. This book discusses Freud's theory on the importance and meaning of dreams.
Freud realized his dream theory shortly after his father died. The death of his dad was very traumatic to him, and he had a recurring dream that he would be standing at the gates of the cemetery where his father was buried, but he could not bring himself to go inside and see his father's grave. This seemed odd to Freud because he was very close to his father. After much soul searching, which included Freud undergoing hypnosis, he discovered that he had unresolved anger for his father that he pushed into his unconscious. Freud believed that he was getting even with his father in his dream by not visiting his grave.
To Freud, understanding dreams was an integral part in understanding the true inner feelings of people. Freud believed in the theory that dreams have meaning. This hypothesis is also shared by the Gestalt theorist Fritz Pearls. However, not every psychologist agrees with this view. Many of Freud's colleagues subscribed to the idea that dreams are nothing more than random brain poppings. These scientists do not believe that dreams have any meaning or use in the therapy of people. Freud's theory is a very important contribution to psychological thought and should not go overlooked. While the random poppings theories may be more biologically correct, Freud's theory explains a part of the human psyche that science cannot measure.
According to Freud, dreams are a disguised form of wish fulfillment, a way to satisfy unconscious urges or resolve unconscious conflicts that are too upsetting to deal with consciously. For example, sexual desires might appear in a dream as the rhythmic motions of a horse back ride; conflicting feelings about a parent might appear as a dream about a fight. Seeing patients' dreams as a "royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious" (Adler 1), Freud interpreted their meaning as a part of his psychoanalytic treatment of psychological disorders.
The biggest criticism of the Freudian dream theory is that it is based solely on subjective, unproven, nonscientific evidence. The main opposing view to Freud's theory is the activation-synthesis theory. First theorized in 1977 by James Hobson and William McCarley, the activation-synthesis theory sees dreams as the meaningless, random by-products of REM sleep. According to this theory, hind brain arousal during REM creates random messages that activate the brain, especially the cerebral cortex. Dreams result as the cortex synthesizes these random messages as best it can, using stored memories and current feelings to impose a coherent perceptual organization on the random thoughts it receives. From this perspective, dreams represent the brain's attempt to make sense of meaningless stimulation during sleep, much as it does when a person, while awake, tries to find meaningful shapes in cloud formations (Beck 2).
The other major dream theory that states that dreams are random is the Crick Hypothesis. This says that dreams are the dislodging of maladaptive neural connections. Dreams rewire the brain and make certain connections stronger.
Psychological biology utilizes modern technology to study dreams. The electroencephalogram, or EEG, records brain waves and can tell when a person is dreaming. Scientists can then tell what