After reading this article you will learn about Theories of Dreams:- 1. Freud’s Theory of Dreams 2. Other Theories of Dreams.
Freud’s Theory of Dreams:
According to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), all dreams are motivated and expressions of wishes. The dreams of children and some dreams of adults, for example, dreams of food and drink when hungry or thirsty, are the direct expressions of wishes arising from organic needs.
Comfort dreams and overtly sexual dreams also are the direct fulfilments of wishes. But the majority of dreams of adults and some dreams of children are the indirect or disguised expressions of repressed and therefore unconscious wishes.
Children are not allowed by their parents to eat a large quantity of sweetmeat or to handle knives. Their desires to do so are repressed and become unconscious and expressed in dreams.
They dream that they are eating a large quantity of sweetmeat or handling of knives. The dreams of adults are mostly indirect, disguised or symbolical expressions of the repressed and unconscious sex wishes and spite wishes which arise from interference with sex wishes.
The sex wishes are often banned by the society and not allowed adequate fulfilment in waking life. Therefore they are repressed and become unconscious.
But they do not lose their power; they force themselves into the field of consciousness whenever they get a chance. Freud credits even infant with sex wishes for parents, brothers, sisters and the like. He does not define the nature of their sex wishes, which are certainly not of the nature of the adults dreams are either the indirect expressions of their recent well defined repressed and unconscious sex wishes.
Most of their dreams are the indirect, disguised or symbolical expressions of their repressed and unconscious infantile sex wishes. In the waking condition these unsocial sex wishes are not allowed by the Censor or Super-Ego to enter into the field of con-consciousness.
During sleep the Censor or Super-Ego relaxes its watchfulness; so the repressed, unconscious, infantile sex wishes put on a disguise and appear as dreams. The repressed sex wishes indirectly fulfil themselves in dreams. Freud distinguishes between manifest contents and latent contents of dreams.
Manifest contents are events, but latent contents are sex wishes or libido. Dreams are symbolical expressions of libidinous desires. Freud gives a large number of symbols which stand for different sex objects.
Emperor, king, or an exalted male personage stands for father. Empress, queen, or an exalted female personage stands for mother. Brothers and sisters are symbolized by little animals and vermin. The male sexual organ is symbolized by sticks, umbrellas, poles, trees, knives, daggers, lances, guns, pistols, serpents, etc.
The female sexual organ is symbolized by pits, hollows, caves, jars, bottles, boxes, chests, pockets, ships, cupboards, stoves, rooms etc. Apples, peaches, fruits, etc., stand for the breast. Many kinds of movement are symbols of the sexual act. Birth is symbolized by falling into water or rising out of it, and dying, by setting out upon a journey or travelling by train.
The disguise or distortion of the latent contents of sex wishes into manifest contents is effected by means of condensation, omission, displacement of affect, dramatization, and secondary elaboration.
These are the distorting mechanisms. Condensation means that the dream may represent many needs and impulses simultaneously. Omission means that an event that expresses an unacceptable desire directly is admitted to give the dream an innocent appearance.
Displacement of affect means the transference of feeling or emotion from an important element to an unimportant element of the dream. Dramatization means visualization and projection. A woman dreamed that she saw herself with a bald head. She woke up and found that she was feeling cold owing to a draft.
The cold sensation was converted into a visual sensation. Projection means turning one’s mental imagination into external objects in the environment. Secondary elaboration means the attempt of the dreamer to make the manifest content coherent and intelligible.
He tells his dream by making it more logical. These are the distorting mechanisms of dreams. The repressed and unconscious infantile libido or sex desire is expressed in dreams in the form of symbols.
Criticism of Freud’s Theory of Dreams:
(i) Freud’s theory contains some elements of truth. First, dreams are sustained by conation rooted in instincts. Secondly, repressed desires often find expression in dreams. Thirdly, some dreams are expressions of repressed sexual desires. Fourthly they are direct or disguised fulfilments of repressed sex desires, through symbols. Fifthly, some distorting mechanisms mentioned by Freud do occult in dreams.
(ii) But Freud’s theory is not wholly true. All dreams are not direct or indirect fulfilments of repressed sex-desires. They do not motivate all dreams. Repressed libido or sex-desire cannot account for all dreams. There are many other kinds of dreams. Freud overdoes the sex-motive or libido.
Dreams are not only motivated by sex-desire but they are also motivated by mastery motive and other motives. Coleridge wrote the famous poem Kubla Khan in dream, but could not remember the whole of it on waking. His dream was motivated by the poetic impulse. Stevenson made some plots of his stories in dream. Thus dreams are motivated by intellectual impulse and artistic impulse.
(iii) Some dreams are merely fantastic play of imagination. They may not fulfil any unsatisfied desire directly or indirectly. They are not only innocent-looking, but really innocent. Freud’s theory is right in so far as it emphasizes the motivation of dreams.
(iv) Freud overdoes the unconscious. Unfulfilled wishes arc not so unconscious as he thinks them to be. They may be conscious but not analysed by the mind. The ungratified wishes, which may be perfectly conscious, find outlet in dreams. The unsatisfied wishes are not necessarily unconscious. They may occupy the margin of consciousness.
(v) Freud formulated his theory after studying and analysing the dreams of maladjusted or abnormal persons and therefore emphasized the sex-motive of dreams. But we should proceed from the normal to the abnormal, and not from the abnormal to the normal.
McDougall rightly remarks that Freud’s theory may hold good of some dreams, more specially of some dreams of some neurotics, but that there is no sufficient ground to prove that all dreams can be adequately explained by his theory.
Other Theories of Dreams:
Adler holds that some dreams are fulfilments of thwarted self- assertion. They do not refer to the past but to the future. They do not fulfil a past repressed desire but forecast an impending action to be performed by the individual. The mastery motive or instinct of self-assertion is much more subjected to suppression than the sex-motive, and finds an outlet in some dreams.
Jung holds that some dreams are the expressions of the racial of collective unconscious inherited by us with our brains from our remote ancestors. The primitive ways of thinking in terms of ghosts and witches sometimes appear in our dreams.
Some dreams relate to the present difficulties of the individual and his unconscious attitude to his life problems. Dreams refer to the past according to Freud. They refer to the future according to Adler. They refer to the present according to Jung.
Rivers holds that a dream is due to a mental conflict. It represents two conflicting wishes, a conscious wish which is acceptable to the waking personality, and an unconscious wish which is not acceptable to it and consequently repressed. It represents the Super-Ego and the Id or primitive impulse, in the language of Freud. It does not represent the repressed libido only as Freud holds.
A person dream is that he is chased by a wild animal and overtaken by it, though he exerts his utmost to flee from it. The animal represents the primitive impulse which he wishes to escape, and his being overtaken by it despite his best effort to escape, represents his wish to gratify the impulse. Thus his dream satisfies both desires. It represents the conflict between his two desires.