theories of dreaming revision notes

revision notes on both the Physiological theories (Activation - synthesis & Reverse learning) and psychological theories (Freud's wish fulfilment, Problem solving) of dreaming

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Psychological theories of dreaming:
Freud's `wish fulfilment'
Freud published his `Interpretation of Dreams' in 1901. For Freud dreams were the `Royal Road to the Unconscious'
providing the analyst with an insight into the repressed thoughts and desires of the human mind. Central to Freud's general
theory of personality was the idea of repression: the removal of socially unacceptable thoughts from the conscious mind to
the unconscious mind. According to Freud there are two primary motivating forces:
· Libido or life force which expresses itself sexually or sensually
· Thanatos or death instinct that is aggressive either towards others or towards ourselves.
The activities of these two forces need to be monitored and any undesirable thoughts they produce need to be repressed.
Hidden in the dark recesses of the unconscious mind they would be unable to damage the ego and cause psychological
disturbance. However, at night when we sleep the ego is relaxed, it loses some of its controlling influence and repressed
desires and thoughts are able to bubble to the surface and potentially damage the conscious mind.
Freud quoted the proverb; `Pigs dream of acorns, geese dream of maize' to illustrate the point. However, in the human mind
things are not this simple. The kind of repressed material we may dream of in our desire to fulfil our wishes may be too
disturbing for the conscious mind to become aware of, for example a boy dreaming of his unconscious desire for his
mother would in all probability be traumatised.
For Freud dreams are the mind's attempt to disguise the real underlying meaning of these repressed wishes. They act as a
`psychic safety valve' allowing us to release what would otherwise be potentially damaging desires. At night we carry out
dreamwork in which the latent content of our dreams (the real meaning) is converted into the manifest content (the
material that appears in our dreams). This process of symbolic transformation in which symbols are used to represent our
unconscious urges, acts as censor protecting our sleep.
Most of Freud's analyses were performed on a sexually repressed middle class so not surprisingly his theory of dreams,
like his theory of personality and development in general, is characterised by a predisposition to the sexual act and to
sexual anatomy.
So although most dreams are not sexual in content, Freud believed that most adult dreams can be traced back, by analysis,
to unconscious, erotic wishes!
In his `Interpretation of Dreams' Freud cites over 100 symbols that represent the male genitalia and a similar number for
those of the female.
Latent content (real meaning) D Manifest content (appears in the dream)

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Male genitalia Aeroplanes, trains, neck ties, guns and other
weapons, bullets, hoses, snakes, fish, umbrellas,
screwdrivers and other tools...
Female genitalia Bottles, pots and pans, caves, ovens, pockets,
tunnels, jars...
Sexual act Driving a car, riding a horse, entering a room,
climbing stairs or ladders, train entering a
tunnel...…read more

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Freud's theory depends upon subjective interpretation of dream content. This will change from analyst to analyst and
Scatzman describes how Freud's own interpretations altered with time.
However, to be fair to the man, his theory was one of the first to take the issue of dreams `seriously,' and it has generated
lots of research and speculation into the nature and function of dreams. Recent research, Solms 1999, has shown a
possible link between desires and dreaming.…read more

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According to this theory our memories are stored in interconnections of neurons. Each neuron contains a
small part of a memory. If memory is overloaded we experience fantasies and hallucinations. Dream sleep prevents this
from occurring, breaking the connections between neurons holding these memories. Irrelevant or parasitic information is
Nb. Connections would be broken at the synapse - the point at which two neurons meet.
So for Crick and Mitchison, dreams are an accidental by-product of the breaking down of useless information.…read more

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As a result the cortex is receiving information that it assumes is coming
from the body and the senses, especially the senses of vision and movement.
This incoming information is confusing for the cortex (which being anally retentive - not to be quoted!) tries to impose some
semblance of normality. During the day one of the functions of the cortex is to create meaning out of incoming data from
the senses.…read more

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Other evidence
Jouvet (1967) recorded PGO (pontine-geniculo-occipital) waves in cats. These occur at regular intervals during sleep and
are associated with eye movement. Hobson (1989) recorded these in the brainstems of cats during REM sleep. According
to Empson (1993) PGO waves are the `prime source of the dreaming experience.'
Seligman and Yellen (1987) found that rapid eye movements coincide with bursts of electrical activity in the visual cortex.
If awakened during one of these bursts hallucinations are reported.…read more


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