Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Science of Interpreting Common Symbols in Dreams

by Dr Lance Storm, Visiting Research Fellow in Anomalistic Psychology, and Personality and Individual Differences at University of Adelaide, The Conversation:

English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...
Front: Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi (Wikipedia)
Research shows that everyone, even those who claim they never dream, actually do. But few of us can make any sense of our dreams.

My colleagues and I have been working on a way to try to make sense of dreams so they can be used as therapy.

Why we dream is still a mystery even though cultures the world over have believed they had the answer. Many believe that dreams tell the future, and the messages in our dreams are warnings.

Depressives are known to experience prolonged periods of rapid eye movement sleep, which is directly linked with unconscious emotional processing and dreaming. So it’s possible that the symbols in dreams will give therapists an understanding and a solution to depression.

Sigmund Freud thought that dreams indicated sexual problems, but since the subconscious mind had our best interest at heart, it disguised the abruptness of the message.

Freud believed that if the analyst interpreted the dream for the neurotic patient, the patient’s psychological problem would be resolved.

Carl Jung disputed Freud’s theory and argued that dreams serve a compensatory function - if we are too one-sided in our conscious outlook, the dream warns us of the inherent danger in our thought and behaviour so we may modify them.

Perhaps these great minds were partly right in their theories, with both theorists seeing only part of the problem, so that the theories are only right in certain situations. This state of affairs can have dire consequences for a client receiving psychotherapy if it turns out that she is being misled.

Modern mental health professionals want to work with evidence-based theories. To get psychotherapy to the point where it’s efficient and reliable requires empirical work that allows researchers to accurately gauge true effects from false ones.

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