Dream Analysis

  • Created by: Yurisa1
  • Created on: 27-01-17 11:25

Dream Analysis -Link to assumptions

Unconscious Mind: The main assumption of the psychodynamic approach is that we behave the way we do largely because of our unconscious drives. Psychoanalysis is a form of therapy that aims to make the ‘unconscious conscious’, so that people gain ‘insight’ and so can be cured. Psychoanalysis involves establishing whether repression is causing the person’s psychological illness. Freud proposed that one way that the unconscious mind expresses itself is through dreams and the purpose of dream analysis is to decode what is in the unconscious mind as it expresses itself in the ‘storyline’.

Influence of childhood experiences: Secondly, influence of childhood experiences. Traumatic memories buried in the unconscious may be related to current experiences but may also be related to childhood events that are still troubling. These may surface during dreams.

Tripartite Personality: Another assumption of the psychodynamic approach is that of the tripartite personality. It is thought that the demands of the id, the desires that are unacceptable during waking hours are regulated to our dreams. Thus the purpose of dreaming is to act out our wishes and desires in an acceptable way rather than allowing them to build up and threaten our sanity. 

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Dream Analysis - Main Components

Freud famously described dreams as ‘the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind’. He proposed that the unconscious mind expresses itself through dreams, and that the content of a person’s dreams can therefore reveal what is in their unconscious. Dream analysis is the process of assigning meaning to dreams.

Dreams as wish fulfilment

Freud believed that all dreams were unconscious fulfilment of wishes that cannot be satisfied in the conscious mind. Dreams therefore protect the sleeper , but also allow some expression to these buried urges. 

The symbolic nature of dreams

According to Freud, although dreams represent unfulfilled wishes, their contents are expressed symbolically. The real meaning of a dream  is transformed into a more innocuous form that maybe meaningless to anybody but a psychoanalyst trained to interpret these symbols. 

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Dream Analysis - Main Components

Condensation – Dream thoughts are rich in detail and content but these are condensed to the brief images in a dream where one dream image stands for several associations and ideas.

Displacement – The emotional significance of a dream object is separated from its real object or content and attached to an entirely different one so that the dream content is not ‘censored’.

Representation – A thought is translated into visual images.

Symbolism – A symbol replaces an action, person or idea.

Secondary elaboration – The unconscious mind collects all the different images and ties them together to form a logical story, further disguising the latent content. The actual dream material may be supplied from the recent events in a person’s waking life.

Role of the therapist The role of the therapist is to reverse the dreamwork process – to decode the manifest content back to the latent content. They should not offer one interpretation of a dream but suggest various interpretations based on the patient’s feedback and knowledge of their life experiences allowing the patient to select those that make sense. 

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Dream Analysis - Evaluation

Research evidence: Recent research has provided support for Freud’s link between dreaming and primary-process thinking. Solms (2000) showed that the rational part of the brain is indeed inactive during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, whereas the centres concerned with memory and motivation are very active. In Freud’s language, the ego becomes suspended while the id is given free rein.

Methodological issues: Much of the research into dreaming  is conducted in sleep laboratories. It can therefore be questioned whether the sleep/dream state is authentic as when under normal conditions, as the patient is wired up with various electrodes taking measurements. This set up makes it impossible to conclude that dreaming is the same as in everyday life, and so the ecological validity of dream research is questioned.

Subjective interpretation: Interpreting the manifest content and coming up with its underlying meaning relies on the subjective interpretation of the therapist. Further, subjective report of the dreamer and may not be reliable information. This means dream analysis is a highly subjective process, going against the objective scientific aims of psychology.

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Dream Analysis - Ethical Issues

False memory syndrome (FMS) is a condition in which a person’s identity and relationships are affected by strongly believed but false memories of traumatic experiences. These false memories can come to light during psychoanalysis when the therapist claims to have uncovered past, traumatic events.  Support of FMS suggest that a patient is likely to succumb to the belief of the therapist as they are an authority figure. Toon et al. (1996) even go as far as to suggest that therapists may induce false memories so that the therapy will take longer, and they will make more financial gain. The results of FMS is that the patients may experience much more anxiety because of ‘memories’ of events that didn’t even happen.

Emotional harm

During dream analysis, a therapist may guide a client towards an insight or interpretation that proves to be emotionally distressing. Although this insight may be necessary for recovery, the distress caused may be greater than the distress that the client is experiencing as a result of current problems. It is important that psychotherapists warn their clients of this danger before they engage in the therapy.

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