THE STUDY OF DREAMS by Cynthia Smith

THE STUDY OF DREAMS by Cynthia Smith

Studying such an ephemeral subject as dreams is problematical, as each person has their own sleeping thoughts locked in their heads. Some people insist that they don’t dream, but this is because on waking to reality their somnolent thoughts and images are wiped from their memory. Everyone dreams. It has been proven that people who are blind from birth experience dreams, even though they can see nothing.

What is a dream? Some theories have deduced that dreams are the mind’s way of working out the events of the day, or previous days. Recurring dreams seem to indicate that the dreamer is worried or frightened about something, which is preying on their mind. The difference between night dreaming and day dreaming is that in the latter the dreamer can control the thoughts and events of the dream and end it when they wish.


Despite the problems, Some people have made a study of dreams. In the 1950s three American psychologists, Kleitman, Dement and Aserinsky, used laboratory techniques to study dreams. They introduced the method of awakening and questioning volunteers about their dreams and found that during periods of sleep accompanied by rapid eye movements (REMs) subjects were usually able to give detailed accounts of their dreams.

In his study The Collective Unconscious the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung writes that many of his patients, despite being poorly educated and untravelled, could describe happenings in their dreams with striking resemblance to myths from many different cultures. He was at a loss to explain why or how.

The most widely-accepted studies on dreams are those of Sigmund Freud. One of his main tenets is that dreams are based upon wishes, recollections and fantasies related to deep emotional reactions of early childhood: a heavily disguised form of infantile wish-fulfilment. However, Freud later came to accept that there are some dreams which do not embody the fulfilment of infantile wishes. These were often recurring dreams in which the dreamer re-enacts a traumatic event which he has experienced.

The results of dream studies remain divided and controversial, but it is probably true to say that dreams are a mode of symbolic expression, unique to each dreamer, but with some recognisable shared characteristics.