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This is a doctoral-level, psychiatry dissertation of 218 pages (60,000 words).

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Dream Content as a Therapeutic Approach:  Ego Gratification vs. Repressed Feelings



This study reveals how a therapist can use dreams in a therapeutic environment to confront a patient's unconscious feelings, and how the therapist should engage the patient in discussion to reveal the relevance of those feelings to the patient's present, waking life.  It also discusses the meaning of repetitious dreams, how medication affects the content of a dream, and if therapists actually "guide" their clients in what to say.  This "guidance" might be the therapist "suggesting" to their clients that they had suffered some type of early childhood trauma, when, in fact, no such trauma occurred.  The origin of psychiatry is not--as many of those in the field would have others believe--medicine, therapy, or any other remotely scientific endeavor.  Its original purpose was not even to cure mental affliction.

Working hard behind the scenes is the psychiatrist, dispensing everything from his pernicious "insanity defense" in the courts--thereby helping dangerous criminals escape justice--to his mind-numbing drugs within the prisons.  Of course, with high rates of inmate illiteracy and drug abuse, it is reasonable to assume that educational psychiatry was on the scene years before the inmate committed any crimes, busily "helping" the child with an earlier promise to improve education with, of all things, addictive, mind-numbing drugs.

This study also examines the effects of sertraline (Zoloft dissertation sample ) on the dream content of a young woman with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks.  The study uses the major categories of Hall and Van de Castle's (1966) system of content analysis to compare dream reports before and after drug treatment.  Prior to diagnosis and treatment, the dreamer had high levels of aggression and low levels of friendliness in her dreams.  The post-medication dreams more closely approximate female norms.  This pilot study suggests a new direction for research on the effects of medication on dream content.

Dreams reflect people's thoughts; therefore, if the psychiatrist tells a client that he or she experienced a "horrible trauma" in his or her early childhood, the client will think about it, reflect on it, and, in turn, dream about it--whether or not the trauma actually occured.  This study also makes recommendations about therapeutic approaches and future studies involving dreams and subconcious feelings.




Table of Contents



  1. Introduction
    • Statement of Goal Achieved
    • Relevance to the Field
    • Barriers and Issues
    • Elements Investigated
    • Limitations/Delimitations
    • Definition of Terms
  2. Review of the Literature
    • Historical Overview
    • Research Literature Specific to Dream Content as a Therapeutic Approach
    • Summary of the Known and Unknown
    • Contribution to the Field
  3. Methodology
    • Research Methods
    • Specific Procedures
    • Presentation of Results
    • Resources Used
    • Reliability and Viability
    • Summary
  4. Results
    • Data Analysis
    • Findings
    • Summary of Results
  5. Conclusions, Implications, Recommendations, and Summary

Reference List





Chapter 1


Statement of the Problem/Goal Achieved

It was a weird dream-- he contemplated divorcing her, because she was too sick for him to take care of anymore.  They decided to try to work it out at their son's and his family's place.  But then, they didn't have anywhere else to stay, because they were from out of town.  But a friend of the man's son told them that he had a posh apartment in a very nice apartment tower that they could use, much like the ones in the big cities, such as Chicago.  But when the son and his family went to check out the apartment, they found out that it was very trashy and completely run down . . . in the meantime, the son's wife, the dreamer Tina, found her father-in-law very attractive, and tried to seduce him.  Then the dreamer woke up.

This dream was from a dream journal of Tina from the dream.  She had dreamed that she was the main character in the dream, and set forth seducing her father-in-law.  Now obviously, she did not want to seduce her father-in-law in her waking life, and never wanted him to divorce his wife.  The son of the dream, the dreamer's husband Stephen, had worked with that friend with the apartment, who had recently started a business directly in competition with Stephen.  Currently in their waking lives, that friend is acting very deceitful and using unethical business practices.

Tina determined that she had been a little upset with this person, so she dreamed that he had deceived them about the apartment in the dream.  Her mother in law is actually sick, and Tina is having intimate issues with her husband.  However, she does not want to have any physical relationship with her father-in-law, and has been showing signs of depression lately.  The feelings behind this dream were fear of the husband's "friend" making it hard for her husband to find any work, as he is currently facing unemployment, and frustration that she doesn't feel that intimate with her husband.  She realized that she shouldn't worry about her husband not finding work, and that it's okay to be intimate with her husband.

This dream, and the feelings analysis, is an example of how feelings that surround a dream can be therapeutic, when the dreamer, as well as the therapist, is aware of how to do this.  Tina was able to recognize how much she was obsessing about issues in her daily life, and immediately stopped worrying about them.  Once she stopped worrying about her waking issues, she was able to focus on making her life better and stopped showing signs of depression.  Theoretically, when a therapist can take the feelings of the client's dream, turn them around so that the client can see where their real issues are, the client is able to help themselves feel better.

A recent "20/20" TV broadcast featured dream-worker and radio host Kathleen Sullivan.  Kathleen, author of Recurring Dreams , described her dream of an eagle caught in a web.  She interpreted her dream eagle as a symbol for herself, caught in the web of alcoholic addiction.  She was able to use that insight to change her life, to stop drinking and, as a result, her recurring dreams disappeared.

On the same program, another dream-worker, Gillian Holloway, spoke with four people who were suffering from recurring nightmares.  Like Kathleen, she used symbolic interpretation in an attempt to match dream content with current life.  Afterwards, two of the people interviewed felt that the use of metaphor and pun unlocked their dreams' meaning and revealed helpful information.  But the other two weren't so convinced.

That symbols reflect current life is only one possible meaning for dreams, and to pinpoint the "meaning" of nightmares doesn't necessarily settle upset feelings and emotions.  Even those dream-workers who usually take a passive approach to dreams will agree that a nightmare is cause for action.  Some examples of behavioral dream-work techniques are: re-entry dream-work, senoi and lucid dreaming.  Furthermore, to focus solely on 'symbolic interpretation' can miss the literal cause of the trauma.  Just as with any type of dream, each possible stimulus for nightmare must be considered in order to match it with the appropriate action.  When dreams are multi-layered, several methods might be used in conjunction.

There are several possible explanations for nightmares and suggested responses: One, it could be a metaphor for current life attitudes and activities.  When someone has a change in life, the dream changes.  For example: that person is getting married, and a drowning dream starts.  Once they realize that marriage isn't that bad, the dreams change.  Two, it could be a metaphor for a bio-chemical glitch or surge.  For example: one might dream of his or her own body's dismemberment, as the pictorial equivalent of intrusive thoughts.

Because this sort of nightmare is the result of the mind-body system not functioning at optimum, and expressing mental or physical illness instead, it can require physiological intervention such as diet or drug therapy.  Conversely, drugs and normal hormonal changes can trigger it.  For example: a woman might dream of tidal flooding just prior to her menstrual period.  A light touch of behavioral dream-work techniques can shift content to a more positive metaphor to describe the sensation.

The third factor could be that the nightmare/dream is a psychic copycat of a current situation.  For example: a parent has repeating nightmares, and the child "dreams his dreams " because the child is in a psychic resonance with the parent.  The child's dreams end when the parent's does.  Four, it might be a repetition of a past traumatic event in current lifetime.  For example: a person might dream of a recent rape, a childhood assault or a wartime battle.  This type of nightmare is so deeply etched in the psyche that it can require heavy use of behavioral dream-work techniques to modify the content and emotional intensity.

A fifth factor could be that the dream is a depiction of a past or probable life.  For example: a client might dream the last events prior to a violent death.  A request for new information may provide additional dreams to shed light on the events surrounding this nightmarish experience.  Treatment involves behavior modification techniques that are used for traumatic nightmares.

And last, it might be a depiction of the future.  Confirmation occurs either when the dream comes true or when the client makes life changes so it won't come true.  For example: the client repairs their car brakes so he or she won't literally slide off the highway, as he or she keeps doing in their dreams.  Methods that determine meaning plus techniques that modify behavior comprise the full tool set to resolve a nightmare, recurring or not.  But selecting the appropriate tool depends on what is actually stimulating the nightmare to occur.  There is no one-size-fits-all tool for nightmare work.

According to Richard Corriere and Joseph Hart, who "borrowed" it from Carl Jung, dreams are "letters the unconscious sends to the ego".  ( The Dream Makers , paraphrased ) Events in dreams, at times, evoke feelings about daily events in the waking world.  It is these feelings that a therapist focuses on in a therapy session to help a client overcome issues that may be bothering them.  Though dreams are not meaningful in themselves, the feelings behind those dreams--emotions and intellect--are what is meaningful.  Feelings behind the dreams have meaning, while the events and images are background noise.

For example, when a client dreams about a boat ride, with someone else driving, it could mean that the dreamer doesn't feel in control of his or her life.  Or, it could mean that he or she wants someone else in control, because he or she has been in control of everything and wants to relax for a little while.  But the fact that the dreamer is in a boat is just the background, or environment.  Being in a boat has nothing to do with the feelings behind that dream.

Corriere, Hart, and others discovered through their work in their therapeutic community that "dreams are pictures of feelings." Unfortunately, their work was lost in a freak accident that caused their center to implode and crash . . . dreams are art in the dreamer's mind.  A person can direct it like a movie, star in it like an actor, watch it like a casual observer, or play a supporting actor.  The dreamer is the writer, and there is no writer's block in the dream.  Ideas, settings, and plots flow smoothly from one scene to the next, with not censoring.  It's too bad that writers couldn't somehow tap into these dreams when they were stuck at a certain spot in their novels.

Dreams are actually pictures of what is in the mind.  People's feelings about what is occurring in their lives generate the images and events in their dreams.  Feelings of fear generate fearful dreams, feelings of desire generate dreams about things we desire, such as sexual desires or longing to move to a larger or better house and location.  People are not always honest about what they fear and what they desire, either in their waking or dreaming life, but the feeling in the dream is an honest reflection of their true feelings.  That is why comprehending dreams is so crucial to an understanding of the self.

When Jung developed the term "Archetype", he used it to show how dreams reveal the True Self to the dreamer.  Most people's rationality and egotism promote the false notion that their identity is monolithic: that they know who they are; that they know what they like and what they don't like; and that they know how they feel about this and that.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Typically everyone, at one time or another, experiences inner conflicts about how they should act and speak, whether they should control their behavior or live from their impulses, whether they're really in love or just living a lie.

Freud analyzed his own psyche and came up with the ego, the id, and the superego.  Jung looked within, discovered the dark side of his "self," and called it his "shadow." Eric Berne taught that there are three patterns of conflicting thought and behavior--Parent, Child, and Adult.  Undoubtedly, inner conflict is one of life's most frustrating and painful challenges.  Like a high-priced lawyer, a rationalizing intellect will argue for either side on any issue.  The best that friends and advisors can do is tell someone how they would handle such a conflict, but how does someone decide what's right for him or herself?

Many people become overwhelmed trying to understand the meaning of every detail.  Freud kept a dream diary and then destroyed it, complaining, "The stuff simply enveloped me as the sand does the sphinx." Jung recorded his waking and dreaming fantasies, tried to decipher what they were all about, became overwhelmed by their complexity, and later wrote that they almost "strangled me like jungle creepers." When dream content is studied, it's important to keep an eye on the sphinx, not on the sand; on the person in the jungle, not on the creepers.

  Keying in to what is important about the dream, rather than obsessing on the details is like separating the wheat from the chaff.  If a dream is terribly mixed up and confusing, the dream is mixed up and confused.  It's much more useful to look at the recent events in a client's waking life that created the feelings reflected in the dream.  This is how he or she can see past the machinations of their rationalizing intellect, vanity, and denial to see what they are really feeling and figure out what they need to do differently so that they can feel better.

Content is not as important as the feelings behind the entire dream--what is going on in a client's life? Why is that client dreaming about racing in a boat with someone else at the controls? Is this significant, or are there deeper meanings to that? It is the therapist's job to help the client figure out for themselves the answers to these questions, and that is the focus of what this report is all about.

This study also examines the effect of medication on dream content.  The second purpose of this study is to present a case study of 33 pre-medication and 40 post-medication dream reports from a young woman who entered outpatient psychological treatment at age 18 and at age 20 was placed on sertraline, an anti-depressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.  Moreover, it is their conclusion that "the lack of standardization of methods of assessing quality of dream content has resulted in isolated bits of information that do not yet form a coherent picture" (Roth et al., p.  221).

The percentage of perfect agreement was above 90 percent for each category.  When the codings differed, the codings by Schneider were used.  The individual codings were entered into Dream-SAT, which calculated a subset of the Hall/Van de Castle indicators along with significance levels and effect sizes (Domhoff, 1996, 1999; Schneider & Domhoff, 1999).

Relevance to the Field

How is this study relevant to the clinical psychology field? When a therapist understands how the psyche balances repression of feelings and ego gratification, such as sexual urges, aggression, etc, with acceptable methods of expression, the therapist will then be able to better help the client.  They will be able to take the feelings the client has during a dream, direct them back to the client, and help that person overcome issues in their lives.

Examples of this theory is played out in people who have experienced trauma in their waking lives, then re-experience it repeatedly in their dreams.  For instance, soldiers who came back from the Vietnam war--their dreams had no function, except to make the dreamer relive the experiences repeatedly.  Feelings behind these dreams revealed the underlying issues and traumas of real life waking experiences.  Therapists can take these feelings and help that person try to deal with those traumatic issues.

Despite the dramatic and overwhelming nature of traumatic dreams, they have not been at the center of theoretical attention, and are often seen as atypical and peripheral.  Freud's thinking may be the ideal example on this point.  Although he was well aware of the role of infantile trauma in neuroses almost from the outset of his work, traumatic dreams did not figure at all in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900).  Instead, he came to his insights there through analyzing free associations to everyday dreams that were complex and puzzling.  Just how far traumatic dreams were from his attention can be seen in the fact that he began his theoretical argument about dreams as wish fulfillments by pointing to the most simple of dreams, namely, children's short dreams of things they longed for the day before.

The most systematic studies on traumatic dreams concern Vietnam veterans because they can be studied in large numbers due to their common experience; then too, they also make themselves available to researchers through VA hospitals.  It is this work that makes it possible to go beyond a mere summation of a wide variety of individual instances in a search for generalizations.  Traumatic dreams, then, reflect a preoccupation with problems that has not been resolved.

Not so long ago, it was believed that demons or possession were the causes of psychological dysfunction.  This perspective held for centuries, and there are still those whose understanding and beliefs of mental illness are founded in these archaic views.  Others took this perspective one step further, believing that people became mentally ill as a result of sins they committed or from witchcraft.  The early forms of mental facilities were mostly prisons, in which patients/prisoners were restrained with chains, restraint jackets, and padded cells.  It seems that the idea was not to cure these sick people, but to confine them and keep them out of the public eye.

However, in 1905 it was discovered that General Paresis was caused by a physical infection (syphilis), rather than by witchcraft or demonic possession.  This finding gave rise to the belief that mental illness was more like physical illness in the sense that there were organic causes.  The 1940s began the era of utilizing drugs for treatment of mental illness.  These drugs were somewhat successful and were used more regularly as time passed.  Drug therapy is still a huge part of therapy, and today, treatment is a very diverse, very complex process with many issues.  Drugs have become an integral part of therapy, but now, there is talk therapy, behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, and dream therapy that can be used in combination or in the place of drug therapies.

Many people seem to think that a person must be mentally ill or "out of it" to seek help from a psychologist or other expert, but this is not true.  Therapists can provide assistance with all sorts of problems from the struggles of "regular" daily life, to parenting, relationships, to the more extreme psychological illnesses such as schizophrenia, agoraphobia, and more.  Therapists are there to help with problems of varying levels, not just with the extreme.

Dreams pervade every type of therapy in one form or another.  But if the reader is to understand how dreams, and the feelings from those dreams, can help in therapy, then different types of therapies should be discussed first.  Some of these therapies will be discussed further in detail in the next chapter.

Psychoanalysis, which is often called "Freudian therapy", is the classic "lie on the couch and tell me about your childhood" approach.  The main idea behind psychoanalysis is that there is a constant struggle between the conscious and unconscious, which often results in maladaptive behaviors, problematic, conscious thoughts, etc.  Any observable symptoms of an illness or problem are signs of conflict between different aspects of personality (i.e., struggle between the id, ego, and superego).  For example, a person may feel stress due conflict between the id, which may want to pursue some attractive person for sexual pleasure, and the superego, which reminds the person that they are married and it would be wrong to do such a thing.

The goal of psychoanalysis is accomplished by some of the following techniques.  One is free association, which says that the therapist will present a word or phrase to which the client should just say anything and everything that comes to mind without any filtering of thoughts.  The therapist then tries to identify the problems from the associations made.  For example, if a therapist says "mother" and the client responds with "overbearing, caring, disciplinarian, tells me I don't do anything right, etc..." it would be easy to identify a problem.

The second technique of psychoanalysis is dream analysis.  Freud believed that dreams were the windows to the unconscious.  To understand what is going on in the unconscious mind and what could be causing conflict with the conscious mind, one should examine the content (both latent and manifest) of the dreams.  The next technique is interpretation--once a therapist has acquired enough information from the client using the techniques above, the therapist can then begin to try to make sense of it all and figure out what the causes of the problems may be.  Thus, the therapist attempts to "interpret" the information.

Another technique of psychoanalysis is transference.  Often a client begins to relate to the therapist in ways that mimic critical relationships in the client's own life, and he or she may begin to "transfer" anger toward spouse onto the therapist and act angrily toward the therapist.  This is actually a good sign, indicating that the therapist is on the right track and making progress toward the true problems.  If the therapist were not getting close to the real problem, then the unconscious would have no reason to react.

The last technique of psychoanalysis is resistance, which says that the client's unconscious defense hinders the therapeutic progress.  This is somewhat similar to resistance in that both are methods used by the unconscious to block progress.  But why is that? The main reason is that it is difficult to confront painful ideas, feelings, etc., so the unconscious, in its efforts to avoid pain and to protect itself will block the progress of the therapy.

The next therapeutic approach is the Person-centered Therapy, or client-centered.  This says that the emphasis here is to provide a supportive, emotional climate for the client who plays a major role in determining the pace and direction of therapy.  Instead of the therapist dictating the pace and direction, Rogerian therapy assumes that since the client is the one with the problematic thoughts, behaviors, etc., then it is also the client that has the answers.  As such, the client is given the lead in determining how quickly they move from one topic to another, what topics to address, etc.

According to Carl Rogers, the founder of this approach, " It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried.  It began to occur to me that unless I had a need to demonstrate my own cleverness and learning, I would do better to rely upon the client for the direction of the movement in the process." Rogers believed that personal distress is due to inconsistency or incongruence between a person's self-concept and reality.  For example: the client thinks he or she is a hard working person (self concept), but people tell him or her that they think they don't work hard enough.  Thus, the client receives contradictory feedback from others.  This inconsistency is what causes problems.

Rogers believed it is vital to create a positive therapeutic climate so that the client feels comfortable enough to open up and explore personal issues.  This climate is achieved by many ways, which will be briefly discussed now.  The first way was to establish genuineness--the therapist must be genuine and honest with the client.  No "noble lies" (lying to the client for a "good" reason or to get the client to feel comfortable enough to open up).

Another way was to show unconditional positive regard--the therapist also needs to show that they are nonjudgmental & accepting of client.  This does not mean that the therapist has to agree with everything the client says, only that the therapist indicates that he/she does not view the clients feelings, thoughts, and behaviors as wrong, bad, silly, etc.  Empathy is the next method, which is achieved by the therapist trying to understand the client's world and client's point of view.

Also, it is not enough just to do this, the therapist must also be able to communicate this understanding to the client.  For example, a therapist treating a physical abuser, may despise the actions of the client and have no personal experience with abuse, but the therapist must be able to try and understand the views of the client from the client's own perspective.  The therapist can't always view things from their own perspective or the client may feel that the therapist is judging them and looking down on them.

The role of the therapist is to use rephrasing (paraphrasing), mirror, positive regard, acceptance.  The therapist does not tell the client what is right or wrong, but tries to take what the client says and say it back to them in a slightly different, more clear and focused way.  This does several things, such as showing the client that the therapist understands what the client is saying and feeling, and helps the client hear some of their own thoughts from someone else's mouth, which can have a clarifying effect.

Another therapeutic approach is Behavior therapy.  Behavior therapists help their clients to unlearn abnormal behavior and learn adaptive ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.  Among the techniques used by behavior therapists are (1) systematic desensitization and flooding, two commonly used methods of fear reduction; (2) social skills training and developmental skills training, two approaches that teach new, adaptive skills using operant conditioning; (3) assertiveness training, techniques to increase assertive rather than aggressive ways of expressing feelings; and (4) aversive conditioning, a controversial technique that uses unpleasant, negative stimuli to eliminate abnormal habits.

Behavior therapy applies Skinnerian and/or Pavlovian conditioning to treat maladaptive behaviors.  The primary goal is to change unwanted behavior and solve the problem....not get insight into the causes or underlying foundation of the problem.  Two assumptions are that behavior is the product of learning (If a person is engaging in some maladaptive behavior, such as smoking, then they had to learn that behavior somewhere along the way), and what has been learned can be unlearned (If a person learned to smoke all the time, they can unlearn to smoke all the time).

Systematic Desensitization is another component of the Behavioral therapeutic approach.  The premise of systematic desensitization is to reduce the client's anxiety responses through counter-conditioning; a person who learned to be afraid of something is associating fear with that object or behavior, and the way to eliminate this is to teach the person to associate feelings of relaxation with the object or behavior.  This approach is based on conditioning relaxation with feared object, object of anxiety.

The last component of this therapy is Aversion therapy.  This therapeutic technique involves having the client associate an aversive stimulus with a stimulus that elicits an undesirable response or action.  For example, let's say a person smokes but wants to stop.  (smoking is the undesirable response) The therapist may have the client go through their normal smoking routine (getting the pack of cigarettes, getting one out, tapping it on a table, etc...) and then presenting an aversive stimulus along with the smoking (e.g., presenting a vomit smell as the client goes through the routing).  In this way, the client begins to associate this horrible smell of vomit with smoking until the very thought of lighting a cigarette becomes aversive.

Cognitive therapy is similar to behavioral therapy, but it employs both cognitive (insight) and behavioral aspects.  This says that most problems caused by irrational thoughts lead to emotional turmoil.  Solutions then focus on changing cognitions, such as the client must learn to monitor the way they talk to themselves, their thoughts, and to develop self-control, they must learn to replace irrational beliefs with ones that are more rational, they must learn to avoid "errors" in thinking, such as blaming self for failure, and they must identify positive goals, and means to achieve them.

Cognitive therapy assumes that faulty cognitions are the cause of abnormal behavior.  Other models of therapy include feminist psychotherapy, which has evolved from the philosophical foundation of feminism.  The basic principles of feminist psychotherapy are increasingly being integrated with other forms of therapy.

This study will show the relevance to the field in that therapists will further their knowledge and research efforts to better their practices in helping those with traumatic experiences recover through their dreams, and the feelings surrounding those dreams.

Barriers and Issues

A barrier to this study is that dreams are not easy to report.  The test subjects recalled approximately half of their dreams, and some dreams were changed the second time it was retold, etc.  Another potential problem with dream reports is the honesty of the subjects in reporting their dreams.  There are three reasons to believe subjects are reporting honestly.  First, the subjects in most non-laboratory studies to date provide reports anonymously, reducing any tendency to misreport out of embarrassment or fear of self disclosure.  Second, most people think of dreams as an experience that happens to them, and express a lack of responsibility for their dreaming, making them willing to report what they experience in the dream state.  Third, the consistency of findings from sample to sample suggests that most people are reporting honestly, or else they are all misreporting in the same way, which is somewhat less likely.

If the above arguments based on reported findings are valid, then it is possible to obtain useful samples of dream reports from representative subjects outside the laboratory.  Such studies are not a substitute for laboratory research, and can make little or no contribution to an understanding of the process of dreaming, which requires awakenings throughout the night under laboratory conditions, but they can suffice for studies relating dream content to waking concerns, interests, and preoccupations.  The main issue thus becomes one of obtaining large samples of dream reports from large numbers of subjects in a consistent and efficient manner.

Another problem is that analysts will sometimes "lead" clients to a conclusion, which might skew dream reports considerably.  "Suggestive" therapy, as this practice has been named, is an intervention intended to influence the patient by suggesting a thought or idea.  This might be synonymous with psychoanalysis, as it sometimes "suggests" a particular way for the client to feel, think, or act.  In the U.S.A., The American Psychological Association's Working Group on the Investigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse also issued a report in 1995.

The report notes that recovered memory is rare.  It also states that "there is a consensus among memory researchers and clinicians that most people who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to them although they may not fully understand or disclose it....  "At this point," according to the APA, "it is impossible, without other corroborative evidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one." Thus, says the APA report, a "competent psychotherapist is likely to acknowledge that current knowledge does not allow the definite conclusion that a memory is real or false without other corroborating evidence." 

A false memory is a memory that is a distortion of an actual experience, or a confabulation of an imagined one.  Many false memories involve confusing or mixing fragments of memory events, some of which may have happened at different times but which are remembered as occurring together.  They involve an error in source memory.  Some involve treating dreams as if they were playbacks of real experiences.  Still other false memories are believed to be the result of the prodding, leading, and suggestions of therapists and counselors.

Some therapists who are still engaged in Recovered Memory Therapy believe that adult problems, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, relationship problems, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, etc.  are often caused by a specific form of childhood abuse.  They believe that these abuse memories have been repressed so that they cannot be recollected during adulthood.  Even though the abuse is not remembered in regular memory, it generates some of the above symptoms in the adult.  Through RMT, some therapists believe that the repressed memories can be recovered.  Further, they believe that they must be recovered in order for the patient-client to regain mental health.

Many therapists use a checklist of symptoms likely to surface in adulthood because of the repressed memories.  Unfortunately, some of these checklists include so many symptoms that they include most of the adult population as suspected victims/survivors.  Therapists use a variety of methods to "recover" these memories, including hypnotism, free association, and dream therapy (analyzing dreams for suggestions of abuse).  All of these suggestive therapeutic techniques have been criticized for their ability to create false memories of events that never happened.

Another method by which memories are recovered is through participation in a mutual support, self-help group.  These groups often include some individuals who have recovered memories and others who suspect that they have been abused during childhood and have not yet been able to recover any recollection of the events.  Some investigators believe that intense peer pressure on those who cannot remember causes them to begin to imagine images of abuse.  These images later coalesce into what appear to be memories.

A third technique for recovering repressed memories involves the study of self-help books.  They describe methods of recovering memories that individuals can use by themselves.  Campbell Perry, Professor of Psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, wrote in an article: " While generalization requires caution, the most common way in which such memories enter conscious is through reading a book The courage to heal: A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis (1988) as a part of a specific psycho- therapy program.

There are cases of a person reading this book alone (Nelson & Simpson, 1994) and subsequently reporting visualizations of being abused sexually during childhood.  It is more common to find, however, that reading the book occurs in conjunction with what has become known as 'recovered memory' therapy." Often multiple techniques are used to recover memories.  A therapist may give an individual recovered memory therapy, may suggest that they join a support group, and that they read and follow a self-help book.

Richard Webster has traced the history of RMT to a group of therapist in the Boston, MA area in the early 1980's.  Inspired by Judith Herman's 1981 book Father-Daughter Incest , they formed support groups for incest survivors.  The book contained the description of one woman who, during therapy, reconstructed her formerly repressed memory of sexual abuse.  At first, the groups were made up mostly of people who had always remembered their childhood abuse.  But slowly, the composition changed, as more patients seeking recovered memories entered the sessions.  " ...women with no memories would often begin to see images of sexual abuse involving father or other adults, and these images would then be construed as memories of 'flashbacks.' "

Ellen Bass and Laura Davis published The Courage to Heal in 1988, This book helped readers recover memories by following methods of self-therapy.  As of early-2000, the book is still in print, and still stocked by many bookstores.  Over 750,000 copies have been sold.  It is often referred to as the "Bible" of the repressed memory industry.  RMT therapists frequently recommend that their clients read it.  Michael Shermer commented on the authors' estimate that a third to one half of all women were sexually abused as children.

Adding 42.9 million child victims to 42.9 perpetrators, and including, also a smaller number of spouses and family members of the abusers, he concludes that over 100 million Americans would have been involved in child sexual abuse, which is almost 40% of the population--a number that Shermer considers impossible.  (Actually, his computations are unrealistic, because some adults abuse multiple children.)

When a client first comes to a RMT therapist, she/he sometimes has disconnected partial images of static scenes that are disturbing.  It is like having a few pieces of a black and white photo; not enough to show what the scene is all about.  If the client has no memories or images at all, then these partial images often appear during therapy.

Through the above RMT techniques, additional pieces of the pictures often materialize, until an entire scene (often involving abuse) is recovered.  Further therapy recovers more scenes, and images in detail.  Finally, complete pictures of years of abuse are often pieced together.  These pictures are often believed by both patient and therapist to be memories of real events.  Some therapists help their patients recover memories of horrendous abuse extending over a period of years in 80% or more of their clients; a few report 100%.  Among patients who recover memories of abuse, about 15 to 20% go on to find memories of Satanic Ritual Abuse.  A smaller percentage are diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder or Disassociative Identity Disorder.

During the 1990s, there was a great deal of controversy among mental health professionals and within their professionals associations over RMT.  A consensus existed about the process of RMT: the appearance of visual images, sounds etc.; the gradual development of these elements into abuse sequences; the coalescence of these into what feel like normal memories of real events.  However, there was no consensus on the reality of the memories:

Some believed that recovered memories are as reliable as those who have been continuously present from childhood to the present time.  Some details may have been lost; memories of individual episodes of abuse may have been combined into a single memory; but the overall picture of abuse is believed to be quite accurate.

Other therapists believe that at least some of the images recovered are based on events that never happened to the individual.  They might be based on recollections of horror movies, comic books, nightmares, TV shows, etc.  And by concentrating on the recollections, a full story emerges which may be a fictional account, even though they feel like memories of real events.

There is anecdotal evidence that people who recover repressed memories of childhood abuse are often artists, writers, or exhibited levels of creativity above the norm.  One source states that "only a few did not fall into that category." We have been unable to find any formal study of this phenomenon.  Perhaps the combination of high creativity and suggestive therapeutic techniques combine to make their recovery of memories more likely during therapy.

By 2001, recovered memory had largely become an abandoned therapy.  Few therapists still practice it.

If those memories are not real, then why do people want them brought "back"? Supporters of RMT often suggested that there were only two possibilities with respect to recovered memories: they were accurate memories of real events, or they were the delusions of a mentally-ill mind.  There is a third possibility - that the memories are an unintended creation of the therapy process itself.  That is, a client who is hypnotized or is engaging in other suggestive therapies is particularly open to suggestions from the therapies.  These suggestions created images that turned out to be memories.

RMT supporters sometimes point out that nobody would intentionally create horrific recovered memories unless they were real.  To recover such memories requires the client to experience the agony of reliving the abusive events.  Again, there is an alternate explanation.  Almost everyone has terrifying nightmares from time to time.  One could ask why people's minds create such horrible images and situations.  Perhaps some recovered memories (those which are not based on real events) are as "real" as nightmares.

Psychiatry and psychology once promised to cure so-called mental illness.  Today, in spite of record levels of mental health expenditure, their statistics claim to measure burgeoning mental illness.  Psychiatry also promised to end crime.  Today, in spite of record expenditures, the United States prison system alone is bursting at the seams, as individual prisons are forced to operate beyond their mandated capacity.  Since 1980, the United States prison population has more than tripled.

As a point of reference, the U.S.  Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that a survey done of female state prison inmates in 1996-97 found that some 36 percent said they had been sexually or physically abused at age 17 or younger.  The terms 'sexual abuse' and 'physical abuse' were not clearly defined; however, one-third reported they had been raped before incarceration.  By comparison, 16 studies of child abuse in the general population found that from 12 percent to 17 percent reported they had been "abused" as children.

Furthermore, people who have experienced traumatic events usually do not forget them.  Severely traumatic experiences are typically forgotten only if (a) the person is rendered unconscious at the time of the trauma; (b) the person is brain damaged before or by the trauma; or (c) the person is too young to make the necessary neural connections needed for long-term memory.  Memories are not stored in some mysterious dark cellar, but in a complex network of neural connections involving several parts of the brain.  Memories are lost because neural connections are lost.

Using guided imagery or visualization in therapy can also be dangerous.  Hines came to believe she was molested by her father and became so depressed she attempted suicide.  She is now out of therapy and believes the memories were false and created in therapy.  In Repression Memory Therapy, or RMT, rather than help the patient separate truth from fantasy, the therapist encourages the patient to 'remember' more about the alleged trauma.  And when the patient has an image--a dream or a feeling that something may have happened--the therapist is encouraged, praises the patient's efforts and assures him or her that it really did happen.  This kind of therapy confuses the differences between real and fantasized abuse and encourages destruction of families.

One thing the RMT group has accomplished in these Memory Wars is to divert attention from the questionable mechanism of repression and their predetermined, unscientific methods of interpreting symbolic meanings of recollections, to the issue of whether the RMT therapists are planting memories in their patients.  This was not intentional, but was the result of a number of lawsuits against RMT therapists by former patients, all of whom recanted the memories of childhood abuse uncovered in therapy and blamed their therapists for ruining their lives by planting false memories of abuse in their minds.

But the issue over whether a particular memory has been planted by a particular therapist is mainly of importance because the alleged memories are of horrible things and they are very disruptive and destructive of peoples' lives.  If therapists were planting all kinds of good memories in patients' minds, helping them enjoy more satisfying lives and relationships, it is doubtful that there would be such a negative response to these findings.

Some of the memories recovered in RMT are extraordinarily bizarre, so bizarre that one would think that a reasonable person could hardly take them at face value.  But RMT therapists are not put off by bizarre "recollections." They either take them at face value, or they take them as "artifacts" of the mind, which therapists must analyze as if they were archaeologists who must infer the truth from the artifacts.  Or they might take fantastic memories as symbolic of real experiences.  Laura Brown, for example, a Seattle psychologist in the forefront of RMT says that fantastic memories are "perhaps coded or symbolic versions of what really happened." What really happened, she's sure, was sexual abuse in childhood.  "Who knows what pedophiles have done that gets reported out later as satanic rituals and cannibalistic orgies?" asks Dr.  Brown.

In the past, Brown has criticized the False Memory Syndrome Foundation for being unscientific, but her emphasis on the symbolic nature of fantastic memories has little scientific credibility itself.  Where is the scientific evidence that a fantastic memory can be distinguished from a delusion? How are memories of real cannibalism distinguished from symbolic memories? Most people usually know what a crucifix or a swastika symbolizes, but what does eating an infant symbolize?

Symbols might be ambiguous.  How can therapists be sure that a memory is a symbol of child abuse and not of adult abuse by co-workers, or by other children who tormented the patient years ago, or by the therapist him- or herself? How can they be sure it is not a symbol of self-abuse? How can they be sure it is a symbol of any kind of abuse at all? What would distinguish a symbol of abuse from a symbol of fear of abuse? For that matter, what would distinguish a symbolic representation of fear of being abused from one representing fear of abusing someone else in the present, or a regret of having abused someone else in the past? The dangers and imminent probabilities of misinterpretation of symbolic memories should be obvious, especially when it is not always that clear that a memory really is a symbolic expression at all.

Perhaps "repression" is not to be taken literally, but symbolically.  Perhaps each therapist must develop a subjective truth for concepts such as "repression" and "therapy." If this is so, then therapy is a dangerous weapon to be feared by everybody rather than a blessing to be sought by those with psychological problems.  History is replete with examples of what happens when any group of authorities do not have to answer to empirical evidence but are free to define truth as they see fit.  None of the examples has a happy ending.  Why should it be otherwise with therapy?

"Trauma" related dreams might not be related to a personal trauma, but as a reaction to what a person may hear on the news, see in the newspaper, or even hearing about someone else's trauma.  When this person goes to therapy about a certain issue, and then tells the therapist about the nightmare, that therapist may wrongly assume that there is some "hidden" trauma the client is not aware of, and will therefore "suggest" that the client is repressing some childhood trauma.  Dream therapy can be very helpful, but if the therapist suggests things that haven't happened, the client may become depressed, and even try to commit suicide.  So, as the reader can see, "suggestive" therapy can be very dangerous. 

By experience, memory does not involve repression or amnesia nor does it require therapist assistance.  In the last decade many thousands of people have convinced themselves that contrived and unproven theories explain their newly "recalled" pseudo-memories and that repression is the common way children handle trauma.  This is the "big lie" of the therapy industry.  In reality, the more severe the trauma the child experiences, the more likely one is to be unable to forget the event.  This is why millions of holocaust survivors cannot forget their horrible experiences.  It is also why all the children who were kidnapped and traumatized when buried in their school bus several years ago in Chowchilla, Ca.  still remember their ordeal in vivid detail.

Hypnotic practices employed by psycho-therapists increase the patient's confidence in their dreams and fantasies, but decrease the accuracy of what is recalled.  Psycho-therapy can itself be viewed as a form of hypnosis in that it involves relaxation and suggestion by an authority figure and yields similar results to formal hypnotic induction.  The involvement of hypnosis and hypnotic practices is why so many patients report similar bizarre stories.  Therapists and clients as a group tend to believe and relate these stories to one another as hypnosis tends to transfer the mindset of the therapist to the client.  This explains why therapy clients fervently defend both their therapist and the false abuse stories they have concocted in their imaginations.  The fantasized stories begin to seem like memories to the patient because of the methods used in therapy, which confuse the client's sense of reality with what was only imagined.

Because the client doesn't realize that the therapist encouraged them to concoct a totally false abuse scenario, and she wants to be healed and made whole again, he or she tends to place total faith in the erring therapist.  Of course, no one is ever made whole by thinking on vile things like rape or incest.  Wholeness comes with thinking on true, pure, admirable things of good report; praise-worthy things.

Elements Investigated

This study will focus on a few questions that came up while researching this topic.  Do dreams have functions, other than being a reflection of daily activities? Famous theorists claim that dreams do have one or another purpose (although they disagree on just what those functions are), but the best current evidence suggests otherwise.  Dreams probably have no purpose.  (Domhoff) The first and most famous dream theorist of the modern era, Sigmund Freud, said that the function of dreams was to preserve sleep, but that theory is contradicted by the fact that dreams happen very regularly at least five or six times per night in an active stage of sleep called REM sleep.  Dreams don't just happen as a person is about to wake up due to hunger pangs, sexual urges, or the need to go to the bathroom, as he thought back then, before REM sleep was discovered in 1953.

Another famous dream theorist of the modern era, Carl Jung, an early follower of Freud, claimed that the function of dreams is to compensate for those parts of the psyche that are underdeveloped in waking life.  Calvin Hall's studies of two-week dream series from students and longer dream journals from adults of all ages strongly suggest that dream content is continuous with waking thought and behavior.  That is, if a person is outgoing and active in his or her waking life, and not very introspective and reflective, then so too in their dream life, which contradicts Jung's view.

Dreams supposedly deal with problems unable to be solved in waking life and then offer solutions.  But a variety of systematic studies find precious little support for this view.  Looking at them in the light of waking day, and believing that they may be full of insight, one may sometimes come up with new ideas or insights while studying them.  That is, a use for dreams may have been invented, but that doesn't mean that problem solving is a psychological function of dreams built over evolutionary time.

This doesn't mean that dreams have no "meaning," and that they make no sense.  To the contrary, dreams correlate with age, gender, culture, and personal preoccupations, as evidence later in this report may suggest.  "Meaning" has to do with coherence and with systematic relations to other variables, and in that regard, dreams do have meaning.  Furthermore, they are very "revealing" of what is on peoples' minds.  It has been shown that 75 to 100 dreams from a person gives a very good psychological portrait of that individual.  Take 1000 dreams over a couple of decades and a profile of the person's mind can be almost as individualized and accurate as his or her fingerprints.

Even if dreams have no physiological or psychological functions, human beings gradually invented uses for them.  Dreams have an "emergent" function that develops through culture.  An example would be that in many societies, dreams were used by shamans to diagnose illnesses, which were often thought to be caused by evil or angry spirits, and to enter the spiritual world.  In that sense, shamans were the first psychoanalysts, while Freud and Jung are modern-day shamans.  In other societies, dreams were used to find game, predict the weather, or prophesy about the future.  Most recently, however, at least since about 1900, they have been used in psychotherapy, although not as much in recent years when the emphasis is on short-term therapy and on thinking sensible thoughts.

Dreams can be an "occasion" for a reticent patient to talk more personally, especially when people do not take as much personal responsibility for their dreams as they do most of their other thoughts, making dreams easier to talk about.  Most dream researchers think it is worthwhile to remember dreams, and they have tips for improving the recall.  But the evidence presented here suggests something else: they are not important, so perhaps not worth remembering.

What about repetitious dreams? Do they send messages, or do they occur because of repetitious themes in one's life? Though dreams may not have any functions, repetitious dreams may have some psychological function and meaning.  The repetition principle says that dream types and experiences are on a continuum, which runs from repeated dreams to repeated themes to repeated dream elements.  The continuum begins at one extreme with traumatic dreams that reproduce repeating overwhelming experiences, to those that puzzle or frighten people, and then to those that have repetitive themes within long dream series.  The continuum ends with everyday characters, activities, objects and places that show up throughout the course of one's lifetime.

Recurrent dreams have not been studied with the depth and intensity of traumatic dreams.  Most of the studies have been clinical-anecdotal in nature or based on brief surveys.  They are often reported to begin at times of stress, such as the death of a loved one, separation from parents, or the divorce of parents.  However, the content usually does not reflect the stress situation directly.  Of course, there is reason to believe from clinical studies and surveys that recurrent dreams often disappear when the problem is resolved.  the fact that all recurrent dreams cannot be tied to obvious stressors, as in the case of posttraumatic stress disorder dreams, presents a problem for linking the repetition dimension with emotional preoccupation.  In some instances, the stressors may be buried, but findings from a study of an unusual type of recurrent dream suggest a new angle: what is ordinary for some people may be stressful for others.  The unusual recurrent dreams to which is referred are the nightmares of the small number of people who suffer from lifelong nightmares.

The findings on recurrent dreams thus seem to reinforce the idea that dreams relate to people's emotional preoccupations.  However, a theory based on traumatic dreams and recurrent dreams is not broad enough--too many people do not report having either of these types of dreams, and have too many dreams that are neither traumatic nor recurrent.  It is therefore necessary to search for the repetition principle in the everyday dreams of everyday dreamers.

Clinical researchers, especially Jungians, have given some intimations of the degree to which certain themes may repeat themselves in dreams.  However, it was Hall's systematic work with long dream series, some stretching over several decades, which revealed just how pervasive and consistent repeated themes are in dreams.  Dream themes continue throughout a person's life, and only change a few times when their lives change.  Events, such as getting married, having children and just starting out in life as an adult, contains certain repetitious themes and elements present in that person's dreams.  Later in life, that same person will have different repeating themes reflecting current events in their life, such as the kids growing up and getting married.  Clearly, more work needs to be done on the connection between repetitive themes and specific traumas within long dream series.

Most clinical theorists tend to focus on one dream at a time, and they attempt to understand each dream in terms of material from outside of it, such as events of the previous day, biographical information, free associations, or amplifications.  This approach does not lend itself to finding that a person dreams consistently about certain elements or has higher frequencies for some dream elements than most people.  The quantitative content analysis system takes a different tack.  By constructing carefully defined categories for settings, objects, emotions, characters, activities, social interactions, and many other elements in dreams, and then tabulating frequencies for each of these categories, this method provides a way to study dreams without going outside the dreams themselves.

Quantitative content analysis has led to many reliable and interesting findings simply by comparing dreams with other dreams, either other dreams in a long dream series or with norms derived from the dreams of many different people.  The repetition of elements in dreams can be demonstrated in two different ways.  First, there is repetition in long dream series, where the comparison is of earlier with later dreams.  Second, it is possible to compare the dreams of an individual, or a class of individuals, with normative findings on people in general.  In this case, the norms are for American college students, but there is evidence that they are useful with older adults as well because dreams changes very little with age, except possibly for aggressive interactions.

These kinds of findings on individuals and groups, and many more that could be recounted, are all provocative, and they all point in the same direction--people most often dream about their emotional preoccupations, about what concerns them.  More specifically, there is continuity between waking concerns and dream content.  This continuity suggests there is a "continuity principle" that works alongside the repetition principle to determine a significant portion of a person's dream life.

If dreams do reflect our emotional preoccupations, then it can be argued that dreams can come to have a psychological "function" in some cultures for those people who remember and study their dreams.  Dreams were not conserved by natural selection to be problem resolvers, or anything else for that matter, but they nonetheless can be used to understand people's unfinished emotional business.  Dreams, whether in REM or NREM sleep, have no function, but can be "useful" to waking consciousness in a variety of ways.  In that sense, people in many cultures, including Western civilization, have invented "functions" for them.  From that angle, dreams have an "emergent function" that develops through culture and history.

How do sex dreams contribute to the therapeutic approach? In Freudian theory the libido, or life force, is conceived of as sexual in nature.  The purpose of dreams is to allow the disguised fulfillment of a repressed wish, often sexual in nature, which must not be gratified directly.  The presence of a psychic censor which does the work of disguising the sexual content so that the dreamer will not be awakened by the rawness of his or her own impulses and desires.  This is how the dream functions as the guardian of sleep.

Freud himself sought to explain sexual dreams--those dreams which have sexual content at the manifest level, that is, the dream as remembered--as the result of a break-down of the dream mechanisms.  In other words, because sexual dreams did not fit the theory, they must be aberrations.  The theory could not be wrong; nature must be defective.  Even today, the Freudian analyst might argue that there is more open sexual content in dreams, because there is less repression of sexuality in modern society than in Freud's day.  There is less repression precisely because Freud had such an impact on current attitudes toward sexuality.

The type of sexuality expressed is important.  For example, oral sexual motifs may express: a "forbidden" sexual activity that has been repressed on the instinctual side; or, an impulse to "take in" and incorporate aspects of phallic masculine energy or feminine yin energy on the archetypal side.  Perversions may also reflect a severely damaged instinctual element in the dreamer's personality, or be a passionate attempt to integrate something symbolized by the image.

For example, dreams of sexual bondage may demonstrate a dream-ego, which is desperately attempting to be in touch with sexuality without having to accept responsibility for it.  Homosexuality may either: reflect a latent instinctual impulse or desire , generally a frightening notion to the consciously heterosexual individual, yet one that must be taken very seriously in order to hold the tension of the opposites; or express an important need to bridge to qualities possessed by someone of the same sex as the dreamer.  These dreams often express the genuine emotional response of what it is like to integrate aspects of one's own shadow.

All in all, sexuality is but one aspect of the whole personality.  Therapists cannot make sexual dreams happen any more than they can make them disappear.  They may be the "royal road" to observing the vicissitudes of this sometimes wily instinct.  And yet, one must always stay aware that the unconscious is quite capable of using sexual imagery to symbolize the non-physical processes of union, connectedness, and integration.  So, as should be remembered with all dreams, the key to the analysis of the sex dream lies in keeping it in perspective with the uniqueness of the total personality--in all of its many facets, feelings, and forms.


Accurate reporting may not be so accurate--patient may report different aspects of the dream than what happened.  Medication in dreamers may effect what gets reported.  Power of persuasion--Some therapists may "suggest" an early childhood trauma that never happened, or was worse than what actually happened.  This may affect what the dreamer may tell the researcher or therapist.

Definition of Terms

Activation-Synthesis model --This states that dreams do not bear deeper meanings and are simply responses to the body's active physiology that occurs during sleep.  Summing it up in a two-part process, the researchers proposed the activation-synthesis model of dreaming.  The first part, the activation aspect, suggests that parts of the brain become very energized during REM sleep and create random information.  The activation that generates this information blends with a person's own memories, which are already in storage.  The blending of the activation and the stored memories, in turn, synthesize a dream.  Contrary to the more commonly held view that dreams initiate REM sleep, this view proposes that REM sleep, or the brain's physiological activation, causes dreaming

Anima and animus --Anima (for the man) or Animus (for the woman) represent the complementary sexual polarity.  The dreams pass by Anima/Animus, like all the problems resulting from the complex of Oedipus.

Archetype --An archetype simply means is that it is typical in consciousness for everyone.

Condensation --This idea states that many different ideas are condensed into one.  A single figure can be turned into a collective image, combining often contradictory elements.  Condensation is brought about by latent elements that have something in common being combined and fused into a single unity in the manifest dream.

Defense Mechanisms --These "mechanisms" are techniques that the ego uses to defend itself against the demands of reality, the id, and the superego.  It does so by unconsciously blocking the impulses or distorting them into a more acceptable, less threatening form.  These mechanisms are discussed below:

Denial involves blocking external events from awareness.  If some situation is just too much to handle, the person just refuses to experience it.  As one might imagine, this is a primitive and dangerous defense--no one disregards reality and gets away with it for long.  It can operate by itself or, more commonly, in combination with other, more subtle mechanisms that support it.

Repression , which Anna Freud also called "motivated forgetting," is just that: not being able to recall a threatening situation, person, or event.  This, too, is dangerous, and is a part of most other defenses.  Note that, to be a true example of a defense, it should function unconsciously.

Asceticism , or the renunciation of needs, is one most people haven't heard of, but it has become relevant again today with the emergence of the disorder called anorexia.  Preadolescents, when they feel threatened by their emerging sexual desires, may unconsciously try to protect themselves by denying, not only their sexual desires, but all desires.  They get involved in some kind of ascetic (monk-like) lifestyle wherein they renounce their interest in what other people enjoy.

Isolation (sometimes called intellectualization) involves stripping the emotion from a difficult memory or threatening impulse.  A person may, in a very cavalier manner, acknowledge that they had been abused as a child, or they might show a purely intellectual curiosity in their newly discovered sexual orientation.  Something that should be a big deal is treated as if it were not.

Displacement is the redirection of an impulse onto a substitute target.  If the impulse, the desire, is okay with one person, but the person they direct that desire towards is too threatening, that person can displace to someone or something that can serve as a symbolic substitute.

Turning against the self is a very special form of displacement, is where the person becomes his or her own substitute target.  It is normally used in reference to hatred, anger, and aggression, rather than positive impulses, and it is the Freudian explanation for many people's feelings of inferiority, guilt, and depression.  Many people, Freudians and non-Freudians alike accept the idea that depression is often the result of the anger that most people refuse to acknowledge.

Projection , which Anna Freud also called displacement outward, is almost the complete opposite of turning against the self.  It involves the tendency to see your own unacceptable desires in other people.  In other words, the desires are still there, but they're not your desires anymore.

Altruistic surrender is a form of projection that at first glance looks like its opposite: Here, the person attempts to fulfill his or her own needs vicariously, through other people.

Reaction formation , which Anna Freud called "believing the opposite," is changing an unacceptable impulse into its opposite.  So a child, angry with his or her mother, may become overly concerned with her and rather dramatically shower her with affection.  An abused child may run to the abusing parent.  Or someone who can't accept a homosexual impulse may claim to despise homosexuals.

Undoing involves "magical" gestures or rituals that are meant to cancel out unpleasant thoughts or feelings after they've already occurred.  Anna Freud mentions, for example, a boy who would recite the alphabet backwards whenever he had a sexual thought, or turn around and spit whenever meeting another boy who shared his passion for masturbation.

Introjection , sometimes called identification, involves taking into your own personality characteristics of someone else, because doing so solves some emotional difficulty.  For example, a child who is left alone frequently, may in some way try to become "mom" in order to lessen his or her fears.

Identification with the aggressor is a version of introjection that focuses on the adoption, not of general or positive traits, but of negative or feared traits.

Regression is a movement back in psychological time when one is faced with stress.  A child may begin to suck their thumb again or wet the bed when they need to spend some time in the hospital, or when a new baby comes home to their family.

Rationalization is the cognitive distortion of "the facts" to make an event or an impulse less threatening.  For many people, with sensitive egos, making excuses comes so easy that they never are truly aware of it.

Sublimation is the transforming of an unacceptable impulse, whether it is sex, anger, fear, or whatever, into a socially acceptable, even productive form.  So, someone with a great deal of hostility may become a hunter, a butcher, a football player, or a mercenary.  Someone suffering from a great deal of anxiety in a confusing world may become an organizer, a businessperson, or a scientist.  Someone with powerful sexual desires may become an artist, a photographer, or a novelist, and so on.  For Freud, in fact, all positive, creative activities were sublimations, and predominantly of the sex drive.

Displacement --This term means that the dreamer replaces a latent element by a well-concealed allusion to it, so the psychical emphasis is shifted from an important element to a relatively trivial one.  Those elements, which stand out in the manifest content (the dream itself) are usually not important with respect to the dream-thoughts (the distorted wish).  The essence of the dream thoughts need not be represented in the dream at all.  Displacement refers to the fact that an idea's emphasis, or its interest, or its intensity, is liable to be detached from it and to be passed on to other ideas, which were originally of little intensity but which are related to the first idea by a chain of associations.  The energy runs along pathways allowed by censorship.

Dream-work --This is one of Freud's psychotherapy theories, which states that dreams are the key to the unconscious.  Dream-work can provide a direct connection to the unconscious.  Working with dreams in a therapeutic setting, whether one on one or in a group format, can be a very safe and effective way of moving deeper into the unconscious.

Existential therapy --This theory focuses on freedom of choice in shaping one's own life. It teaches that people are responsible for shaping their own lives, and that they have a need for self-determination and self-awareness. The uniqueness of each individual forms his / her own unique personality, starting from infancy.  Existential therapy focuses on the present and on the future, as the therapist tries to help the client see they are free, while looking at the possibilities for their future. They will challenge the client to recognize that he / she themselves were responsible for the events in their life. This type of therapy is well suited in helping the client to make good choices or in dealing with life.

Free association --Free association means that the client talks about whatever comes into mind without censoring or editing the flow of ideas or memories.  When used in dream therapy, the client will use the dream content/elements as a starting point to freely talk about the problems in a client's life.  Free association allows the client to return to earlier or more childlike emotional states ("regress").  Regression is sometimes necessary in the formation of the therapeutic alliance.  It also helps the analyst to understand the recurrent patterns of conflict in the client's life.

Latent dream thought --This is an unconscious set of thoughts.

Manifest dream thoughts --This is the dream content.

Psychotherapy --Psychotherapy focuses on the unconscious and that it influences human behavior. It is believed that a person is driven by aggressive and sexual impulses, and focuses mainly on the first six years of human life and how the events of this time period determines later personality.  Repressed conflicts from childhood lead to personality problems later in life.  Anxiety is a direct result of the repression of those conflicts.  Psychotherapists believe that the unconscious motives along with unresolved conflicts lead to maladapted behavior. They believe that to develop a normal personality, a person should successfully go through Freud's five psychosexual stages.

Regard for representability --This theory, as part of the dream-work theory, states that dreamers transform thoughts into visual elements ("I was in a tower above the audience" might mean "I towered above the audience intellectually").  Considerations of representability consists of transforming thoughts into visual images.  They comprise the essence of the formation of dreams.  The dream-work reduces the content of the dream-thoughts to its raw material of objects and activities.

Secondary revision --Secondary Revision refers to the ways in which the dream work will utilize aspects of coherent narrative to help disguise the fact that there are contradictions--the film-like sequences (often taken straight out of part of the waking day) are patched in to get away from the otherwise contradictory material.  In other words, it is a second order of disguise.  The first order disguises the wish (displacement and condensation), the second order disguises the obviousness of the disguise.  It is manifested in waking life by our failure, for instance, to catch all the typographic and spelling errors when we read through our own work--secondary revision will convince us that the errors are just not there.






Chapter 2

Review of the Literature

Historical Overview

Dreaming has always been the subject of controversy.  It is interesting to see that even Egyptian papyrus documents discuss dreams and their interpretations.  In Ancient Greece, the dreamer was believed to be in contact with the gods.  For instance, in Homer's book, "The Iliad" , dreams were believed to be messages from God.  However, in succeeding centuries, scientists, such as Hypocrites, Aristotle and Galen, believed that dreams held physiological information about future medical illnesses.  Galen, a Greek physician born in 129 AD, emphasized the need to observe dreams carefully for clues to healing.  He was so trusting of dream messages that he carried out operations on the basis of his dream interpretations.

On the other hand, Artemidorus maintained that symbols in dreams did not have one universal meaning.  But all of these scientific ideas were abandoned and there was no improvement in dream study until the late 1800s, which will be discussed shortly.

The earliest recorded dreams are derived from materials dating back approximately 5000 years, in Mesopotamia.  The Sumerians, the first cultural group to reside in Mesopotamia, left dream records dating back to 3100 B.C.  According to these early writings, deities and royals, such as the 7th century B.C.  scholar-king Assurbanipal, gave careful attention to dreams.  Within Assurbanipal's archive of clay tablets, portions of the story of the legendary king Gilgamesh were found.  In this epic poem--one of the earliest known classical stories--Gilgamesh reported his recurring dreams to his goddess-mother Ninsun, who made the first recorded dream interpretation.  His dreams were taken as prophecy and used to guide actions in the waking world.  These attitudes recorded in the Gilgamesh epic provide a valuable source of information about ancient dream beliefs.

In many of the ancient civilizations, dreams were highly esteemed, and many cultures had temples where people would travel many miles for dream healing, problem solving, and guidance.  One of the most famous, Epidaurus, near Corinth, was known for people representing those who were unable to travel, due to their debilitating illnesses.  This temple, begun as a center of worship for Aesculapius (the revered Greek god of healing), was later fitted with beds, and became one of the first hospitals.  Even his staff with the winding snakes was adapted as the symbol for healing, which is used now even today.

The practice of dream incubation was at least as important to the Greeks as it was among Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Chinese.  Aesculapius was a Greek healer who was believed to be the son of Apollo.  He was linked with cults that began the practice of incubation.  He visited sleepers, and miraculously cured them.  A shrine to Aesculapius was established at Epidaurus in the fifth century B.C., which is still open for visitors and tours.  There are thought to be around 410 Aesculapian sanctuaries near Athens, generally being active from the sixth century B.C.  until the third century B.C.

Human beings have always been tuned in to their dreams.  But in different epochs, concepts of their essence, origin and significance have varied. The first data comes from Mesopotamia, from the epic of Gilgamesh--the oldest known record of a historic person who lived around 2700 B.C., and it relates the heroic deeds of the ruler of Uruk.  At the same time, it contains the most ancient documented dreams.  In the epic, dreams serve to announce the plans of the gods to people, so that they can act accordingly.

Not only in Mesopotamia, but also in Babylon, Assyria and Egypt the dream is of heavenly origin and its function is mainly prophetic.  This attitude is deeply rooted in the thinking of those times. One example is the dream of Thutmosis IV: he fell asleep under the Sphinx, which was covered to the neck in sand.  Thutmosis had a dream that the Sphinx spoke to him and promised that if he would clear the Sphinx, Thutmosis would be destined to become king of Egypt.  Thutmosis cleared the Sphinx, became king of Egypt and erected a stela between the paws of the Sphinx. 

There are over 700 dreams and visions mentioned in the Bible, all showing an important connection to the lives, problems, and well being of those involved.  The first two chapters of Matthew alone contain five dreams, which gave warnings or advice.  Every major Christian writer in the first four centuries regarded dreams as one way God offered healing, and guidance to people.  In the following few centuries, theories began to stray from the importance of dreams.  The religious and educational thinkers of the time believed dreams were useless meanderings of the mind.

The Babylonians divided dreams into two categories: 1.) good dreams were sent by the gods, and 2.) bad dreams were sent by demons, with Mamu as their goddess of dreams.  The Assyrians believed in dreams as omens; for example, if a person flied in their dreams it indicated all would be lost.  The Egyptians believed that the gods showed themselves in dreams, and they believed dreams were based on real things.  In the Egyptian culture, three main types of dreams were thought to exist: those that happened as a result of ritual, dreams that contained warnings, and dreams where the gods were demanding some type of action.

Ancient Hebrews believed dreams were connections with God.  The biblical figures Solomon, Jacob, Nebuchadnezzar and Joseph were all visited in their dreams by God or prophets, who helped guide their decisions.  It was recognized and accepted that the dreams of kings could influence whole nations and the futures of their peoples.  The Talmud , which was written between 200 and 500 AD, includes over two hundred references to dreams.  It states that "dreams which are not understood are like letters which are not opened."

Hebrews believed their dreams were the voice of only one God, while bad dreams were the work of demons.  Hindus believed that the time when a prophetic dream occurred, indicated when the event would take place.  In the Muslim culture, a distinction is made between true dreams from God and false dreams, and that rituals were used to create good dreams.  Many Indian tribes believed that dreams revealed the hidden wishes of the soul, which seems to parallel Freud's work later.

The earliest Greek view of dreams was that the gods physically visited dreamers, entering through a keyhole, and exiting the same way after the divine message was delivered.  The fifth century B.C.  marks the first known Greek book on dreams, written by Antiphon, an Athenian statesman.  During this century, the Greeks developed the belief, through contact with other cultures, that souls left the sleeping body.

The transition from the religious-transcendental concept of dreams to attempts at scientific explanation takes place in Ancient Greece.  For Homer, and his book Iliad, dreams are still "messengers of the gods", and for Hesiod "children of the night living in the world beyond".  Similar ideas are found in Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides.  Dreams were not internal experiences or a state of mind.  A person did not "have" a dream; he or she "saw" an objectified agent delivering a communication from a deity.  However, not all dreams were significant, there were "true" and "false" dreams.  Only "true" dreams were interpreted as divine visitors.

Hippocrates (469-399 BC), the father of medicine and Socrates' contemporary, wrote On Dreams .  His theory was simple: during the day, the soul receives images, and during the night, it produces images.  Therefore, people dream.  Aristotle (384-322 BC) thought that dreams could be indicators of conditions within the body.  He did not believe they were divinely inspired and hypothesized that external stimuli are absent during sleep, so dreams are manifestations of a profound awareness of internal sensations, which are expressed as dream imagery.

The views of Aristotle are the culmination of dream hypotheses in Greece.  To this day some of them remain subject to discussion, in the absence of more convincing hypotheses.  He considers dreams to be the life of the soul during sleep and interprets them as a psychological phenomenon, and maintains that a person dreams every night, but cannot always remember his dreams.

Aristotle is also the first to observe the fast movement of the eyes during dreams.  Today this phenomenon is called Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, and is the basis of physiological sleep research.  Unlike the Ancient East, the differential approach of the Greeks to the problem of dreams is a result of the high level of philosophy, for which the mind-body problem occupies an important place and which becomes a premise for a theoretical treatment of phenomena through the discovery of "general ideas" by Socrates.

The transition from myth to logic is best seen in Pythagoras: on the one hand, he believes that nightmares are caused by certain foods, and on the other hand, he still does not exclude the possibility that dreams have a heavenly origin.  Even to this day, certain foods are thought to give people nightmares.  For example, with children, nightmares are thought to occur after eating sugar, spicy, or exotic foods before bedtime.  Eating sugar before bed are thought to occur as a result of high blood sugar for a short while, then after the person goes to sleep the body becomes low in blood sugar and this is thought to contribute to nightmares.  In adults, eating sugary, spicy or exotic foods, drinking alcohol or taking drugs before bedtime seems to precipitate nightmares.

The Chinese considered the dreamer's soul to be the guiding factor of dream production.  The Hun, or spiritual soul, was thought to leave the body and communicate with the land of the dead.  They also practiced incubation in dream temples, which served a political purpose through the 16th century.  Any high official visiting a city reported to a temple the first night to receive dream guidance for his mission.  Judges and government officials were also required to visit dream temples for insight and wisdom.

The Sacred Books of Wisdom , or Vedas , were written in India between 1500 and 1000 BC.  In the Vedas , dreams of violence were thought to lead to success and happiness if the aggression was pro actively handled in the dream, even if the dreamer gets hurt in the process.  If the dreamer remains passive and becomes hurt by his own passivity, however, it was considered a bad omen.  Dreams might be more indicative of the dreamer's character than prophecy, since those who take an active role in their dreams are likely to be more active, and therefore, more successful, in their daily lives, which is the premise of this study.

The Upanishads , written between 900 and 500 BC, articulates two perspectives on dreams.  The first maintains that dreams are merely expressions of inner desires.  The second closely resembles the Chinese belief of the soul leaving the body and being guided until awakened.  It was also thought that if the sleeper was awakened abruptly, the soul might not return to the body quickly enough and the sleeper could die.

During the European Middle Ages, dreams were often studied in the context of their relationship to God.  Questions typical of the period were "Are dreams sent by God to a person of superior virtue? Or are they sent by demons to a person who has fallen from grace?" Beginning with the dawn of the Christian era until the time of Sigmund Freud, dreams were not regarded as important.  As society became more "structured," dreams fell into disrepute, and churches had little appreciation for the use of dream interpretation.

The dream vision was frequently used as a moralizing allegory, also known as the veiling of truth in images, in popular writing.  Within the dream was a battleground where God competed with the Devil for possession of a man's soul, and stories written about this were endorsed by the Church to enforce its beliefs.  "Dante's Divine Comedy" is a good example.  Dreams were received as revelation, prophecy, or as the conflict between good and evil in the self.

Like many other sciences, the science of dreams was at a relative standstill during the Middle Ages.  The examination of dreams is reduced to symbolic interpretations through analogies, and encyclopedia-type dream-books come into existence.  They only show that dreams of those times are similar to that of today.  There are, however, some exceptions like Saphadi (investigating the dreams of the blind) and Augustinus (discussing the responsibility of the individual for his own dreams).

The significance, and science, of dreams surfaced in other modern cultures as well.  The Mekeo beliefs concerning dreams are varied, and their roles for interpretations are very flexible so that dreams can always be linked to reality.  According to their beliefs, if a dream seems to have no correlation to real life, then the dreamer is just not understanding it right.  Dreams are concerned with the secret world of the spirits and of personal thoughts and desires; they reveal esoteric knowledge to the dreamer.  The sense of self is anchored in the waking life, but there is an awareness of a self that is not physical and is not located in the material world.  Dreaming shows that there is more to the individual than people are consciously aware of.  The functions of their dreams can be seen in the aspects of life that dream interpretations frequently pertain to.  They are usually warnings of death, sickness, or healing; encounters with spirit beings or figures from Christianity; the success or misfortune of plans of action; omens concerning the outcome of rituals; revelation of ritual knowledge , and erotic matters.

Some dreams literally predict what will happen in the future, while others are obscured or veiled.  Many dream events are widely accepted as indicating the same thing, such as a dream of falling might mean that there will be sickness or misfortune in the future of the dreamer.  Dream interpretations are commonly subjective, or vary, depending on if a man or woman dreamed it.  Men are thought to use charms to make a woman dream about him.  If a woman dreams of a particular suitor it means she will no longer be able to resist him, and to tell people about the dream is the same as accepting him.  Men's erotic dreams are thought to be caused by their own use of love charms on desired women or else are considered signs that they will have good luck in an upcoming event, such as gambling or hunting.

From an ethnography written in 1974, the Iban from Asia believe that dreams can be divided into three categories: dreams that are a direct message from a spirit, dreams that pertain to current events in an individual's life, and dreams that are obviously about daily life and therefore have no significance.  Ambiguous dreams are good or bad depending on the reaction they get from the dreamer.  The majority of dreams seems to pertain to the individual's life, and is used to predict future events.  A flying dream, or one about being chased means that the dreamer will live a long time.  Bad dreams where the dreamer feels embarrassed means that the individual may become injured the next day.

Sometimes dreams are not properly understood until subsequent events have happened that appear to relate back to the dream, and then dreams are regarded as advice on what a course of action should be.  The most important dreams occur right before a major undertaking.  Leadership is associated with constructive dreaming.  Constructive dreams appear relevant in the first place, as well as lend themselves to easy interpretation.  An insightful and discriminating person will know when to follow the advice that spirits give him in dreams.

During the Renaissance, the striving toward knowledge was directed toward the immediate reality of things.  There was an intense development of methodological problems and the scientia experimentalis was at the heart of all science.  But centuries had to pass before those principles could be applied to the investigation of dreams.  Unlike physics, experimental dream research began in the middle of the 19 th century.  Dreams could not be controlled by the intellect and therefore were not a reliable source of knowledge.  The scholars of this era really did not put much faith into the meaning of dreams.

There were three different periods of dream investigation after the nineteenth century.  (1861-1900; 1900-1953; and 1953-present) Until the nineteenth century, scientific investigations of dreams, dream content, and the meaning of dreams in the dreamer's life were non-existent.  Prior to this time, it was a popular theory that dreams were divine messages with a prophetic intent.  Theorists claimed that messages in dreams were coded, and that it took a special person with the talent of interpretation of dreams to decode the messages.  (Corsini) (This could be seen in the story of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel.  Daniel 1:17, 4:5-35) Later, books were compiled that listed dream elements and their supposed meanings.

In different cultures, different elements of the dream content mean different things.  Beautiful women who come to the dreamer to make love are sickness women, and fill the sleeper with fat to make them ill or liable to be attacked by a jaguar or snake.  (Tukano, South America) A man dreaming that his wife is sleeping with other men is evidence that she really is.  He will become angry with her, he may or may not punish her depending on whether she admits or denies her guilt.  (Tarahumara, northern Mexico) Dreaming of sexually available women, in general, are omens of bad luck or illness.  But some men consider such dreams to be good omens.  (Skolt, Lapland)

An individual reported having a dream that his wife slept with another man.  In the dream, he beat her until she apologized.  He interpreted this to mean that his wife was fond of that man, but probably not sleeping with him.  (Truk, Oceania) And, last but not least, if a man dreams about having sexual intercourse with a woman, then he will have a love affair.  If he recognizes the women in the dream, then he tries to win that woman's affections.  The dreams that are most strongly believed to come true are about having sex, eating a bird, marriage, roasting termites, and spearing animals.  (Azande, Africa)

Then, in the mid-nineteenth century (1861-1900), Alfred Maury, a French Scientist, published the book, Sleep and Dreams .  This book investigated the effects of external stimuli on dreams, such as daily activities and past events.  According to him, this stimulus triggered a sequence of memories that constructed the dreamer's dreams.  Other scientists of the time suggested that organic conditions, such as genetic makeup, effected the formation of a dreamer's dreams.  These scientists investigated why dreams were forgotten, the meanings of dream content, the relation of dreaming and thinking, and the function of dreaming.

An accomplishment of the period occurred when Henri Bergson, a French philosopher, published the book Dreams in 1901.  He hypothesized that external or internal stimuli was not enough to explain the formation of dreams.  This idea stated that "the most secret depths of the unconscious will be the principal task of psychology in the century that is opening." Early results were inconclusive, but provided a framework for the next investigative period.

The biggest name in the second period is Freud, who published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900.  It contained nearly all his fundamental observations and ideas.  "Dreams," Freud said, "are invariably the product of a conflict ...  [they help sleep] releasing tensions that come from unattainable wishes".  But it is not just from dreams that a trained psychoanalyst might take his or her clue; just everyday behavior of the subject might be revealing.  For instance, Freud said that to forget a name means that one unconsciously dislikes that person; if someone misses a ride to work or school, it is because he or she unconsciously dislikes going to school or work; or if a man forgets his house keys, it is because he has an unhappy marriage (whether he thinks it or not).

Before continuing, an understanding of Freud's life should be discussed.  Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in Freiberg, Moravia.  He had seven younger siblings.  Freud's father, a Jewish wool merchant, moved the family to Leipzig, Germany in 1859, and then settled in Vienna, Austria in 1860, and remained there until 1938.  In 1877, he abbreviated his name to Sigmund Freud.  In 1886, Freud married Martha Bernays. Together, they had six children (Mathilde, 1887; Jean-Martin, 1889; Olivier, 1891; Ernst, 1892; Sophie, 1893; Anna, 1895).

One of the interesting things about Freud was his ethnic background.  There is some difficulty in establishing his true citizenship and identifying his nationality.  The obvious answer would be Austrian, but Austria had only been created by the Treaty of Saint Germain in 1919, and disappeared in 1938.  Some say he was a Czech since he was born in Moravia.  But, at that time, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  At times, Freud saw himself as a German, and at other times, in response to his upbringing and the anti-Semitism he encountered along the way, he identified as a Jew.  So we have a German-identified, culturally assimilated Jew, born in what is now the Czech Republic and living in Vienna, a town he claimed to detest with an almost physical loathing.  It's no wonder Freud spent so many years doing self-analysis.

Freud was deeply influenced by several diverse factors that interconnected with each other to shape the development of his thought.  Both Jean-Martin Charcot and Josef Breuer had a direct impact upon him, but they were other factors of a different nature.  First, Freud himself was very much a Freudian--his father had two sons by a previous marriage, Emmanuel and Philip.  Freud's own self-analysis--which forms the core of his masterpiece The Interpretation of Dreams --originated in the emotional crisis which he suffered on the death of his father, and the series of dreams to which this gave rise.

This analysis revealed to him that the love and admiration he had felt for his father were mixed with contrasted feelings of shame and hate.  Particularly revealing was his discovery that he had often fantasized as a youth that his half-brother Philip was really his father.  This along with certain other signs convinced him of the deep underlying meaning of this fantasy--that he had wished his real father dead, because he was his rival for his mother's affections (Freud 1911).  This was to become the personal basis for his theory of the Oedipus complex.

Secondly, an account must be taken of the contemporary scientific climate, in which Freud lived and worked.  In most respects, the towering scientific figure of nineteenth century science was Charles Darwin, who had published his revolutionary The Origin Of Species when Freud was four years old.  This evolutionary doctrine radically altered the prevailing conception of man.  Whereas before man had been seen as a being different in nature to the members of the animal kingdom by virtue of his possession of an immortal soul, he was now seen as being part of the natural order, different from non-human animals only in degree of structural complexity.

This made it possible and plausible, for the first time, to treat man as an object of scientific investigation, and to conceive of the vast and varied range of human behavior, and the motivational causes, from which it springs, as being amenable in principle to scientific explanation.  Much of the creative work done in a whole variety of diverse scientific fields over the next century was to be inspired by, and derive sustenance from, this new world-view, which Freud, with his enormous esteem for science, accepted implicitly.

Third, an even more important influence on Freud came from the field of physics.  The second 50 years of the nineteenth century saw monumental advances in contemporary physics, which were largely initiated by the formulation of the "Principle of the Conservation of Energy".  This principle states, in effect, that the total amount of energy in any given physical system is always constant, that energy quanta can be changed but not annihilated, and consequently that when energy is moved from one part of the system it must reappear in another part.  The progressive application of this principle led to the monumental discoveries in the fields of thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and nuclear physics that, with their associated technologies, have so comprehensively transformed the contemporary world.

When Freud first attended the University of Vienna, he worked under the direction of Ernst Theodore Brucke, who in 1874 published a book setting out the view that all living organisms, including humans, are essentially energy-systems to which the principle of the conservation of energy applies.  Freud, who had great admiration and respect for Brucke, quickly adopted this new 'dynamic physiology' with enthusiasm.  From there, Freud was able to take on the view that there is such a thing as psychic energy.  He stated that the human personality is also an energy-system, and that it is the function of psychology to investigate the modifications, transmissions, and conversions of 'psychic energy' within the personality, which shape and determine it.  This latter conception is the very cornerstone of Freud's psychoanalytic theory.

One of Freud's initial theories on the levels of consciousness was that there were two states: the conscious and the unconscious.  He described the mental processes of the unconscious as being responsible for the aspects of human behavior.  For instance, a man might think consciously that bumping into a woman was purely accidental in nature, but actually, it may have been a manifestation of his unconscious sexual desire for her, as he managed to invade her intimate space and brought his body into a sort of forceful contact with hers, perhaps as an act symbolic of sexual intercourse.

Freud came to find this "black or white" definition of consciousness to be unsuitable, however, and redefined his theory on consciousness, incorporating a third level: the pre-conscious.  The conscious level of mental activity is the level on which all thought processes occur.  What one thinks, conceptualizes, or understands takes place on this level of activity.  The pre-conscious is where information is stored away, but is easily obtainable.  Fond memories and the knowledge of how to perform day-to-day activities are examples of information stored at this level.  The unconscious is where memories and information are stored which cannot be accessed readily.  Most of a person's history is stored on this level of consciousness, as well as those thoughts and stored memories in order to preserve a person's mental stability and/or to prevent pain.

Another aspect of Freud's early research led him to conclude that the human personality contains three major components: the Id, the Ego and the Superego.  The id is the unrestrained, primitive, pleasure-seeking component with which each child is born.  The Ego develops out of the Id as the child grows.  The ego develops through the reality of living in the world and helps manage and restrain the Id's need for immediate gratification.  The Ego is not so inward seeking and recognizes that there does exist a world beyond.  It recognizes the larger picture.  Conflict between the Id and the Ego can result in a person having neuroses.

The third state is the Superego.  The Superego is the highest state at which a person has arrived in their evolutionary progress.  The Superego is an overseer, the conscience; and, like the Id, is something of which one is not conscious.  The superego develops through interactions with parents and other significant people and represents the development of conscience and the moral rules that are shared by most adults.  Though people are not aware of the struggle, according to Freudian theory, there exists a continuing battle between the Id and the Superego, while the Ego is in the center trying to keep them apart.

All three segments of the personality are in simultaneous operation.  If these components are properly balanced, a person can lead a normal life.  If one aspect of the personality becomes dominant at the expense of others, however, the individual exhibits neurotic or even psychotic personality traits.  The following graph, taken from , which discusses Freud's life and theories, illustrates this theory:

dissertation sample

It appeared to Freud that the infant found its greatest pleasure in sucking, especially at the breast.  In fact, babies have a penchant for bringing nearly everything in their environment into contact with their mouths.  A bit later in life, the child focuses on the anal pleasures of holding it in and letting go.  By three or four, the child may have discovered the pleasure of touching or rubbing against his or her genitalia.  Only later, in their sexual maturity, do they find their greatest pleasure in sexual intercourse.  In these observations, Freud had the makings of a psychosexual stage theory.

The oral stage lasts from birth to about 18 months.  The focus of pleasure is, of course, the mouth.  Sucking and biting are favorite activities.  The anal stage lasts from about 18 months to three or four years old.  The focus of pleasure is the anus.  Holding it in and letting it go are greatly enjoyed.  The phallic stage lasts from three or four to five, six, or seven years old.  The focus of pleasure is the genitalia.  Masturbation is common.  The latent stage lasts from five, six, or seven to puberty, which is somewhere around 12 years old.  During this stage, Freud believed that the sexual impulse was suppressed in the service of learning.  The genital stage begins at puberty, and represents the resurgence of the sex drive in adolescence, and the more specific focusing of pleasure in sexual intercourse.

Any trauma that occurs during any of these early life stages may have a lasting effect on the child's personality.  For example, premature weaning during the oral stage may cause an individual to be fixated on oral pastimes such as smoking and drinking alcohol.  If toilet training is a frightening or frustrating experience, the child's superego may be damaged and sometimes a sadistic and cruel anal personality will develop.

For Freud, the sex drive is the most important motivating force in a person's life.  In fact, Freud felt it was the primary motivating force not only for adults but also for children and even infants.  Freud noted that, at different times in people's lives, different parts of the skin give the greatest pleasure.  Later theorists would call these areas erogenous zones.

During his research, Freud discovered that his patients would talk about experiences associated with their childhood and their relationships with their parents.  Freud also utilized hypnosis as a means of recovering unconscious desires and feelings from his, mostly neurotic patients.  The technique of recalling these repressed feelings was called "free association".  In 1896, out of this groundbreaking research, Freud coined the term, "psychoanalysis".  Dream content is also used in this manner.

Consciousness is not co-terminus with the physical, which means that the unconscious is also physical.  It is not some mystical, transcendent or occult phenomenon, but is simply a part of the psyche.  Secondly, "the complete truth of the assertion" as Freud says in the Outline of Psychoanalysis , "that the child is psychologically a father to the adult".  Third, and most important, is the primacy and inevitability of psychic conflict.  Fourthly, the insistence that the equation, perception = reality, does not hold; desires and fears distort the perception of the world.  Fifth is the insistence that the basis of this conflict is 'instinctual life' in its widest sense and its indissoluble link to anxiety.

To continue the basic tenets of psychoanalysis, Freud introduced, at the age of 82, some entirely new concepts, such as the idea of the splitting of the ego in two.  So, at the same time Freud restates his basic principles, he is introducing fresh concepts and new avenues of research.  This was Freud's answer to the problem of tradition--he demonstrated that creativity in science is only fruitful on the basis of fundamental principles.  Psychoanalysis is not a philosophy.  It does not advance through speculation of the individual ego, with its illusion of free will and its tendency to think whatever pleases it or brings solace in the trials of life.  Psychoanalysis is constrained by its connection to experience, to a social practice, and through a submission--being held accountable, one might say--to basic tenets.  "When anything is possible, then nothing scientific can really develop." This was Freud's answer, and this was Freud's work.

Freud's theories about dreams have been, and still are, under dispute.  There are people who cannot forget a name, make a slip of the tongue, or feel depressed, or who cannot begin a love affair, or end a marriage, without wondering what the Freudian reason may be.  Despite his popularity in worldwide culture, intellectual journalists and the media frequently feature new exposes concerning Freud's therapeutic mistakes, and attack his personal idiosyncrasies and theoretical limitations.  Freud is declared in many of these articles to be profoundly limited by his own neuroses, gripped by biases and unable to practice what he preached.

Even some of Freud's colleagues in psychoanalysis were not content with simply being followers and developed various ideas that did not fit with his own.  Adler and Jung, for example, de-emphasized sexuality in favor of other unconscious forces.  Freud was faced with controversy from within the psychoanalytic movement and from critics from various fields in medicine, humanities and social sciences.  The main complaint about the science in which Freud researched was that it was too general.  Freud seems to explain everything after the fact, but predicts nothing beforehand.  There is the accusation that Freud intentionally technicalized his language to give it an air of scientific authenticity.  A term like repression points to no independently known reality but merely gives a name to the questionable survival of traumatic memory traces in an unconscious, which itself remains uncharacterized.

Moreover, incompatible burdens are placed upon the term, indicating that the theory behind it is fatally muddled.  When repression is then invoked as an explanatory factor in new contexts, true believers may feel that fresh territory is being conquered, but the scope of Freud's circularity is simply being widened.  The same flaw of empty conceptualization appears in virtually every feature of his system, from the preconscious through the ego, introjection, the death instinct, and so forth.  They aim at the intellectual structure of the system.  Freud himself, and many other Freudians, when these ideas of his were first proposed, claimed that psychoanalysis had achieved the status of a science.

Critics have attacked Freud at the very heart of his theories.  A theory should not create its own facts.  Critics claim that psychoanalysis, however, does so at every turn.  For example, repression is invoked to account for the delayed effect of childhood trauma in producing adult psychoneuroses, but the only reason for believing that such an effect occurs is a prior belief in repression.  A dream is regarded as a disguised representation of its latent content, the dream thoughts, but such thoughts can be detected only by Freudian dream interpretation.  So, too, castration threats, real or fantasized, supposedly trigger the onset of the male latency period, but the latency period is itself a pure artifact of the theory.  Freud also invoked penis envy to explain female submissiveness, masochism, and incapacity for cultural strivings, but in this instance, the theory and the "facts" alike derived from cultural prejudice.

A theory should be falsifiable.  Often, however, Freudian tenets are scarcely challenged, much less refuted, by unexpected outcomes.  The vagueness of the theory is such that it can withstand almost any number of surprises and be endlessly revised according to the theorist's whim, without reference to data.  Indeed, Freud drew on the same pool of evidence in offering three incompatible etiologies for homosexuality, and he did the same in proposing three incompatible paths for the overcoming of narcissism.

Throughout his whole career of theoretical development, rhetorical guile, and not much more, established the linkage between evidence and theory.  Hypothetical entities or processes should be characterized, which says that they ought to possess attributed properties that lend themselves to confirmation outside their immediate role in the theory at issue.  If they lack this quality, they are only placeholders for mechanisms that may not exist at all.  This is just what the critics claim to find in the case of psychoanalytic postulates.

In the criticism of Freud and his personality testing and theories, critics claim that he overstressed the early personality formation and failed to consider adult personality changes.  One of the negative consequences of focusing on the importance of early childhood is that, while gaining insights, some people just stay there, and blame irresponsible behavior on childhood experiences, never seeming to move forward.  These people become permanent victims stuck in the past and unable to move beyond it.  They blame their parents or someone else for their problems without seeing their own responsibility.

Freud also heavily emphasized the past as a deterministic system.  Here he was simply assimilating the prevailing nineteenth-century model of causality and applying it to human behavior.  He did not excuse their behavior as the result of experiences, but he provided logic for the notion that we are not responsible for our behavior.  One of the things psychology, psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis have done is to introduce the idea that people are not responsible for a large amount of their behavior.  This takes away any formal judgment of irresponsible behavior.

Many believe that Freud had an obvious bias against females.  Freud's negative attitudes towards women colored his theory.  An example of this speculative and globalizing argument is that Freud and various colleagues persistently and mistakenly diagnosed hysteria in great numbers of women, the majority of whom were, in fact, suffering from epilepsy.  The heterogeneity and vicissitudes of past and present psychiatric diagnoses is at least as likely an explanation for most mistakes made, rather than the claim that all, or nearly all, "hysteria" can be accounted for by organic brain disease.

These proponents held that Freud's themes were an application of the natural scientific tradition to the realm of the mind.  Those pretensions are gone now and today, virtually no one believes that Freud's understanding of the mind has had any impact whatsoever on traditional science. Some of the critics have said that psychoanalysis is really an "interpretive" science rather than an empirical science, a so-called "applied philosophy of life".  In fact, even most psychoanalysts have given up trying to claim that they are practicing science.

Freud's dream theories state that "the interpretation of dreams is the 'Royal road' to the discovery of the unconscious." This seems to mean that dreams set the stage to what we really think and feel in our unconscious state.  His four basic arguments build on each other: 1.) "Dreams are the fulfillment of a wish ", 2.) "Dreams are the disguised fulfillment of a wish", 3.) "Dreams are the disguised fulfillment of a repressed wish", and 4.) "Dreams are the disguised fulfillment of a repressed, infantile wish".

The first basic argument is that a wish is fulfilled by the dream.  This idea has been much criticized as being reductionist.  However, it is also part of the theory that accords mostly with common-sense and popular ideas about dreams.  People say 'I can only dream of such a thing' to describe something they really yearn for but are unable to have, and they all recognize that in their dreams they often make the world a better place for themselves where their wishes are fulfilled.  In this sense dreams, in Freud's view, have much in common with daydreams, or stories in which the hero or heroine win out in the end and achieve their heart's desire.

But what is a wish? Well it is not too hard to understand really.  If a child says "I wish I had a new toy', then that's a wish.  The only thing is that if she says 'I wish I had a new toy' it means that she has asked for a new toy and been told that she can't have one.  There is a 'want' and a prohibition.  A wish is the result.  As people get older, the prohibition becomes 'internalized' and the forbidden wishes become unconscious.  The child's unruly impulses are controlled and his egoism is curtailed.  Freud calls this function the 'censorship'.  Children's dreams display the wish-fulfilling character of dreams most clearly.

The contentious issue is that Freud insists that all dreams are fulfillments of wishes.  He argues against the idea that dreams may primarily be concerned with the solution to an intellectual problem, for instance, or with representing a 'worry', or an 'intention', or some other mental product.  Even when Freud allows the possibility of anxiety dreams or 'punishment dreams', he still incorporates these within the category of 'wish'.  There is something fundamental for Freud about the 'wish'.

This leads to Freud's second argument--a disguised wish is fulfilled with dreams.  Dreams often do not seem to 'make sense'.  They may appear like a jumble of disconnected images, which do not follow a logical structure.  Therefore, if dreams are the fulfillments of wishes, they must be disguised in some way.  Hence, they have to be 'interpreted' because their 'manifest content' (as Freud calls it) is not the same as their hidden or 'latent' content (the instigating and underlying 'dream thoughts').  Freud's theory therefore proposes two levels in the structure of dreams (the manifest content and latent dream-thoughts) that are nevertheless tied together in some way.  One is also reminded of the difference in genetics between the manifest 'phenotype' of an organism and the underlying 'genotype'.

The third argument is that a repressed wish is fulfilled in a disguised dream.  According to Freud, the dream is constructed out of two conflicting forces, an unconscious wish or desire on the one end of the spectrum, and a force that opposes it, on the other end.  Freud calls this opposing force the censorship, and he compares it to the censorship of political newspapers or works of art.  The techniques of the dream work are in a sense in the service of the censorship, although from another perspective they could be called the means by which the dream gets around the censorship. 

Freud considers both the motive for the dream (which he insists is an unconscious wish), and the motive for the distortion of dreams.  If dreams are disguised, Freud argues, it must be that the wish is not apparent or manifest in the dream.  The wish is hidden from the conscious appreciation of the dream--it is repressed.  This then gives a motive for the distortion in dreams, for what is repressed is not only hidden from consciousness, but is forbidden in some way by the conscious part of the mind.  Dreams of the death of a loved one ('an absurd dream', 'sibling rivalry'), or of unacceptable sexual desires ('violets'), show clearly the existence of wishes that are normally repressed.  The motive for the dream is a wish insofar as it is repressed or at the very least, forbidden.  Dreams are therefore a 'compromise structure' created out of a situation of psychic conflict.  The notion of psychic conflict is one of the essential tenets of psychoanalysis.

"Dreams are the disguised fulfillment of a repressed, infantile wish" is the fourth and last argument Freud used to explain dreams.  What is repressed and forbidden are wishes from childhood--grandiose fantasies of ambition that adults learned were unacceptable in the social world, and sexual fantasies, which they learned were not allowed. Many students will be surprised to find out that Freud's theory is not all about sex.  In fact, half of the dreams discussed in the dream book are dreams of ambition (egotistic dreams one might say) or aggressive wishes to other people.  So, if the wishes that construct dreams are repressed then they must be infantile 

Freud says that dreams have two sources for their construction--happenings in the present (the day's residues of the previous day--little upsets or unfulfilled wishes that one has not been able to deal with from the  previous day), and happenings from the distant past (wishes from childhood that  have become repressed).  The day's residues are particularly clear to see in children's  dreams, as well as in Freud's 'staircase' dream. The unconscious wishes are constantly looking for a way out or for a way to express themselves, which are a constant psychical stimulus (tension) threatening to disrupt the dreamer's sleep, which is dealt with (and dissipated) in the creation of a dream.  The unconscious wish uses the unresolved events of one's waking life as a path to their  expression in their dream life. 

Freud used dreams as a tool to discover the origin of a patient's symptoms.  Dreams are the starting point for revealing the unconscious.  After a patient revealed a dream, and the dream is broken down into small elements, Freud would then have the patient use "free-association" to find repressed thoughts brought out by the dream.  The motive behind the dream, according to Freud, is a wish that is repressed out of the conscious mind because it is so painful to the dreamer.  During sleep, the mind is less active when it comes to the repressive agents and a person dreams about that which a person knows he or she cannot have while awake.  The unconscious wish finds expression of this repressed wish during sleep.

Freud contended that dreams played a fundamental role in the psyche.  The mind's energy--which Freud called libido, principally identified with the sexual drive--was a fluid and malleable force capable of excessive and disturbing power.  Needing to be discharged to ensure pleasure and prevent pain, it sought whatever outlet it might find.  If denied the gratification
provided by direct motor action, libidinal energy could seek its release through mental channels: a wish can be satisfied by an imaginary wish fulfillment.

More precisely, dreams are the disguised expression of wish fulfillments.  Like neurotic symptoms, they are the effects of compromises in the psyche between desires and prohibitions in conflict with their realization.  Although sleep can relax the power of the mind's censorship of forbidden desires, such censorship, nonetheless, persists in part during sleep.  Dreams, therefore,
should be decoded to be understood.  Dreams defy logic and narrative coherence, mingling the residues of immediate daily experience with the deepest, often most infantile wishes but they can be decoded by attending to four basic activities of the dream-work.

If the wish is expressed too openly during sleep however, the dreamer will experience too much anxiety over it and will wake up.  This is the reason behind Freud's theory that a wish in a dream is disguised to get past the censoring agent.  This process is called the "Dream-work".  There are four different operations of Dream-work: 1.) Condensation , 2.) Displacement , 3.) Symbolization , and 4.) Secondary revision .

Condensation , the first of Freud's "Dream-work" theory, states that a recalled dream is much briefer than it really is, which is determined by free-association.  The number of dream-thoughts is condensed to form a single dream image, and a number of dream-elements (themes, images, figures, ideas etc) are combined into one, so that the dream becomes more compact or condensed than the dream-thoughts.  Displacement , the second component, says that physical values of the dream thoughts are displaced during construction of the dream, while vivid features of the dream may represent insignificant dream thoughts.

Freud theorized that the important elements in latent dream-thoughts were often represented by seemingly insignificant elements in the manifest content of the dream, and vice versa.  The dream itself seemed to be about one thing whereas the dream-thoughts showed it was really about something else.  These insignificant features of the dream may represent thoughts of great importance.  Because of this phenomenon, Freud said that the relative importance of the dream elements (the 'psychical value' or 'cathexis') could undergo 'displacement'.  The emotion associated with one idea or experience is detached from it and attached to another one. 

This kind of displacement happens all the time in dreams, and Freud says it is only by using the dreamer's associations that the true emotional map of the dream can be drawn, with all the significant bits in their proper place. Between them, condensation and displacement are the essence of the dream-work.  Dreams are, in fact, masses of composite structures joined together like packed ice. Freud says: "Dream-displacement and dream-condensation are the two governing factors to whose activity we may in essence ascribe the form assumed by dreams".  The third operation of the Dream-work theory, Symbolization , says that repressed wishes are represented by innocent symbols to evade the inner censor.  An example of this may be that a pen or an ice cream cone could represent male genitals.  The fourth, and last operation is Secondary Revision , which says that the dreamer's mind makes the dream coherent and intelligent by using interpretations and additions during recall.  The secondary revision turns dreams into something more closely resembling coherent 'daydreams' or depictions of reality than they would otherwise be.  Sometimes the dream appears to be a simple retelling of events from the previous day.  Secondary revision, as the name implies, occurs at the end of the lengthy process of dream-construction and can be thought of as the application of conscious thought processes to the dream material.  Or, it can be thought of as editing a first draft of a paper or book.

These four functions constitute the central mechanisms for the construction of dreams.  It is evident that these mechanisms also operate in art, music, literature, jokes, and in the formation of neurotic symptoms.  This widespread applicability is perhaps one reason why Freud regarded dreams in such a high regard as the 'royal road' to the unconscious, and The Interpretation of Dreams as his most significant book.

An interesting side note related to Freud's Dream-work theory: In 1905, Freud extended the scope of this analysis by examining jokes and their relation to the unconscious.  Invoking the idea of "joke-work" as a process comparable to dream-work, at once consciously contrived and unconsciously revealing.  The explosive response often produced by jokes, Freud contended, owes its power to the release of unconscious impulses.  But insofar as jokes are more deliberate than dreams or slips, they draw on the rational dimension of the psyche that Freud called the ego as much as what he called the id.

Freud once claimed that dreams are a convenience, designed to keep the dreamer asleep.  For example, if the dreamer is thirsty in sleep, the dream will center around the dreamer's need for water, such as drinking from a certain type of container, so the dreamer doesn't have to wake up to get a drink.  Or, the dreamer may need to go to the bathroom, and will dream about using the bathroom so he doesn't wake up.  Of course, when the dreamer wakes up, he will need to do both of those things.

Freud's theories of dreams have been disproved time and again.  Although modern science has been unable to discover the neurological basis for Freud's 'dream work', recent research by Mark Solms and others has revealed that the neurology of dreams is more complex than previously thought.  A whole set of brain mechanisms are involved--those responsible for instinctual behaviors, emotion, long-term memory and visual perception.  In other words, modern research is beginning to see that dreams are instigated by goal seeking brain mechanisms that are connected to the pressing demands of instinctual tensions--just as Freud anticipated.

His theories of the recalled dream represent a compromise between the fulfillments of a repressed wish, or ego gratification, and the need to express those repressed wishes.  He said that dreams compensate for those unfulfilled wishes.  It might be said that the existence in dreams of overtly sexual material--and the occurrence of wet dreams--undermines Freud's view about dream-distortion, repression and the part played by unconscious conflict in the formation of dreams.  Freud might reply that surely this confirms the connection between dreams and endogenous instinctual stimuli pressing for discharge.  Or he might say that overt sexual imagery may well be a cover for more threatening infantile sexual material from the unconscious, and that this is being distorted through the dream-work.  Sometimes 'sex' is just a metaphor.

Freud's work on dreams is extensive.  Not only in The Interpretation of Dreams but also many essays in the Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis on all aspects of dream theory, and other essays later in his life.  Although dream interpretation has become less important in the therapeutic application of psychoanalysis, however he always saw it as one of the keystones of his theory and the means by which anybody can achieve conviction about the reality of unconscious processes.

Freud's account of the sexual genesis and nature of neuroses led him naturally to develop a clinical treatment for treating such disorders.  This has become so influential today that when people speak of psychoanalysis they frequently refer exclusively to the clinical treatment; however, the term properly designates both the clinical treatment and the theory, which underlies it.  The aim of the method may be stated simply in general terms--to re-establish a harmonious relationship between the three elements, which constitute the mind by excavating and resolving unconscious repressed conflicts.

The actual method of treatment pioneered by Freud grew out of Breuer's earlier discovery, that when a hysterical patient was encouraged to talk freely about the earliest occurrences of her symptoms and fantasies (free association), the symptoms began to abate, and were eliminated entirely she was induced to remember the initial trauma which occasioned them.  Turning away from his early attempts to explore the unconscious through hypnosis, Freud further developed this talking cure, acting on the assumption that the repressed conflicts were buried in the deepest recesses of the unconscious mind.

Accordingly, he got his patients to relax in a position in which they were deprived of strong sensory stimulation, even of keen awareness of the presence of the analyst (hence the famous use of the couch, with the analyst virtually silent and out of sight), and then encouraged them to speak freely and uninhibitedly, preferably without forethought, in the belief that he could thereby discern the unconscious forces lying behind what was said.  This is the method of 'free-association', the rationale for which is similar to that involved in the analysis of dreams--in both cases the super-ego is to some degree disarmed, its efficiency as a screening mechanism is moderated, and material is allowed to filter through to the conscious ego which would otherwise be completely repressed.

The process is necessarily a difficult and protracted one, and it is therefore one of the primary tasks of the analyst to help the patient to recognize, and to overcome, his own natural resistances, which may exhibit themselves as hostility towards the analyst.  However, Freud always took the occurrence of resistance as a sign that he was on the right track in his assessment of the underlying unconscious causes of the patient's condition.  The client's dreams are of particular interest, which has already been discussed.  Since the super-ego functioned less effectively in sleep, as in free association, Freud made a distinction between the manifest content of a dream and its latent content.

The correct interpretation of the patient's dreams, slips of tongue, free-associations, and responses to carefully selected questions leads the analyst to a point where he can locate the unconscious repressions producing the neurotic symptoms, invariably in terms of the patient's passage through the sexual developmental process, the manner in which the conflicts in this process were handled, and the libidinal content of his family relationships.  To create a cure, he must facilitate the patient himself to become conscious of unresolved conflicts buried in the deep recesses of the unconscious mind, and to confront and engage with them directly.

In this sense, then, the object of psychoanalytic treatment may be said to be a form of self-understanding.  Once this is acquired, it is largely up to the patient, in consultation with the analyst, to determine how he shall handle this newly-acquired understanding of the unconscious forces that motivate him.

One possibility, is the channeling of the sexual energy into the achievement of social, artistic or scientific goals, or sublimation, which Freud saw as the motivating force behind most great cultural achievements.  Another would be the conscious, rational control of the formerly repressed drives, or suppression.  Another possibility would be the decision that it is the super-ego , and the social constraints that inform it, which are at fault, in which case the patient may decide in the end to satisfy the instinctual drives.  But in all cases the cure is affected essentially by a kind of catharsis or purgation--a release of the pent-up psychic energy, the constriction of which was the basic cause of the neurotic illness.

At a less theoretical, but no less critical level, it has been alleged that Freud did make a genuine discovery, which he was initially prepared to reveal to the world, but the response which he encountered was so ferociously hostile that he masked his findings, and offered his theory of the unconscious in its place.  What he discovered, it has been suggested, was the extreme prevalence of child sexual abuse, particularly of young girls, even in respectable nineteenth century Vienna.  He did in fact offer an early 'seduction theory' of neuroses, which met with fierce animosity, and which he quickly withdrew, and replaced with theory of the unconscious.  In this way, it is suggested, the theory of the Oedipus complex was generated.

This statement begs two questions; what does the expression 'extraordinarily often' mean in this context? By what standard is this being judged? The answer can only be: by the standard of what is generally believed to be the case.  But the contention of some of Freud's critics here is that his patients were not recalling childhood fantasie s, but traumatic events in their childhood which were all too real , and that he had stumbled upon, and knowingly suppressed, the fact that the level of child sexual abuse in society is much higher than is generally believed or acknowledged.  If this contention is true--and it must at least be contemplated seriously--then this is undoubtedly, the most serious criticism that Freud and his followers have to face.  Further, this particular point has taken on an added, and even more controversial significance in recent years with the willingness of some contemporary Freudians to combine the theory of repression with an acceptance of the wide-spread social prevalence of child sexual abuse.

The result has been that, in the United States and Britain in particular, many thousands of people have emerged from analysis with 'recovered memories' of alleged childhood sexual abuse by their parents, memories, which it is suggested, were hitherto repressed.  On this basis, parents have been accused and repudiated, and whole families divided or destroyed.  Unsurprisingly, this in turn has given rise to a systematic backlash, in which organizations of accused parents, seeing themselves as the true victims of what they term 'False Memory Syndrome', have denounced all such memory-claims as false, the direct product of a belief in what they see as the myth of repression.  (More discussion on this topic will be presented later in this report.)

In this way, the concept of repression, which Freud even termed 'the foundation stone upon which the structure of psychoanalysis rests, has come in for more widespread critical scrutiny than ever before.  Here, the fact that, unlike some of his contemporary followers, Freud did not ever depend on the extension of the concept of repression to cover actual child sexual abuse.  The fact that people are not necessarily forced to choose between the views that all 'recovered memories' are either veridical or false, are, perhaps understandably, frequently lost sight of in the extreme heat generated by this debate.

Jung was a Swiss psychologist of that same era, as well as a student of Freud's.  He disagreed with Freud on many points about the meaning of dreams, including the symbols that Freud claimed were disguises for wishes.  Jung said that symbols revealed meanings rather than concealed meanings.  Freud used the notion of the phallic symbol to establish the idea that a dream symbol held a constant meaning, a single one-to-one correspondence with a certain idea.   Jung, however, recognized that a dream symbol had a much more resonant meaning than simply a one-to-one correspondence with a well known idea.  Jung looked upon dream symbols as psychic holograms, which appear out of a threefold level of projections of universal meaning, common to all people, cultural meaning, and personal meaning.  Of these, personal meaning predominates.

Jung believed that dreams were far more than biologically produced white noise.  He looked upon the elements of dreams as symbols that dreamers could use to understand their own lives, their own intentions and desires.  Dreamers could use information gained by studying dream symbols to further guide themselves along the path towards psychic wholeness.  His theory of dreaming involves distinguishing the little dreams from the big dreams.  Little dreams are a continuation of one's daily preoccupations during sleep, while the big dreams are messages from the deepest layer of the unconscious.

Jung believed that dreams stem from the collective unconscious, which says that these elements are the same in every person, in every culture.  The contents are mental structures, or archetypes, are inherited from past generations, which he saw as coded messages to a mythic world or collective unconscious that he termed as the "vast historical storehouse of the human race".  Jung's analysis of dream material revealed connections between dream symbolism and medieval alchemy.  (Alchemy was not merely a mystical forerunner of modern chemistry, but a precursor of the study of the unconscious, and of psychic conflict and confusion into the gold of personal wholeness.) Jung believed that dream analysis gives the individual access to the personal and collective unconscious, not in order to learn the dark secrets of the past, but to discover and integrate each aspect of the self into psychic wholeness.

A further note about archetypes--archetypes are personality traits that are present in dreams, which may or may not represent some type of trait in the dreamer.  In the big dreams of Jung's theories, archetypes identify expression of symbols.  These symbols are not disguises, but elements of the dream that incurs memories.  Images are symbols of these archetypes.  The reason for these archetypes is that a particular dream element in the waking life may be neglected or has not been sufficiently individuated.

In his earlier work, Jung attempted to link the archetypes to heredity and regarded them as instinctual.  People are born with these patterns, which structure the imagination and make it distinctly human.  Archetypes are thus very closely linked to the physical elements.  In other words, archetypes are elemental forces that play a vital role in the creation of the world and of the human mind itself, which the ancients called elemental spirits.  Jung found archetypal patterns and images in every culture and in every period of human history.  They behaved according to the same laws in all cases.  Humans do not have separate, personal unconscious minds, and share a single universal unconscious.  The mind is rooted in the unconscious just as a tree is rooted in the ground.

What archetypes belong to which symbols? The most basic potential for patterning is the Shadow Archetype .  The potential of experiencing the unconscious side of the many unique personalities, is that as people move deeper into the dark side of their personality, personal identity begins to dissolve into "latent dispositions" common to all men.  This "Other Side" may be manifested in a wealth of images, such as Hansel and Gretel, as they were led "into the woods" and trapped; knights who discovered dragons, ogres, and thieves in the woods; and Robin Hood in the wild.  Other examples might include the "the concrete jungle", dragons who sail the sea, "the watery wilderness," and it was Jesus and John the Baptist who met God "in the wilderness," as did Israel at Sinai.

The Shadow is the easiest of the archetypes for most people to experience.  People tend to see it in "others", which means that they project their dark side onto others and thus interpret them as "enemies" or as "exotic" presences that fascinate.  The Shadow is the personification of that part of the human psychic possibility that people deny in themselves and project onto others.  The goal of personality integration is to integrate the rejected, inferior side of the dreamer's life into their total experience and to take responsibility for it.

The second highest potential patterning is that of the Soul Archetype (Anima is the male name for soul; Animus is the female name for soul).  Here is the inner opposite--males meet their Anima; females their Animus.  The Anima may appear as an exotic dancing girl or a weathered old hag--the form generally reflects either the condition or the needs of a soul presently.  The Animus may appear as an exotic, sensual young man or as an old grouch.  There was the "Great Oz" who ran the Emerald City, and Super Man and Lois Lane.  Clark Kent was the inferior, shadow side of Super Man, but was also closer to ordinary people.  Lois Lane had no interest in Clark, but was infatuated with Super Man, her Animus; the masculine completion of her personality.  Wonder Woman offered an example of the Anima in action.

If one comes to terms with the Shadow and the Soul, they will encounter the enchanted castle with its King and Queen.  This is a pattern of wholeness and integration, and the opposites of the outer and the inner life are now joined in marriage, and great power arises from this integration.  Christ and the Church, God and Israel are syzygy images.  The believer who aspires to be the "bride of Christ" is modeling his or her experience in response to the syzygy archetype.

The Child Archetype is a pattern related to the hope and promise for new beginnings.  It promises that Paradise can be regained.  Child images like the New Year's Babe obviously derive from this archetype, as well as the golden ring and the golden ball, and most flower and circle related images.  The birth of the Christ Child who unites Heaven and Earth, Man and God, is a powerful archetypal event.  Were the life of Jesus not interpreted by this archetype, it would lose most of its meaning, and He would just be one more teacher from the Hellenistic world.

The ultimate archetypal pattern is the Self , and for Jung, this is the God image.  Human self and divine self are incapable of distinction.  The Spirit descends as a Dove upon Jesus in the wilderness, as the voice declares to him his true nature: "You are my Son, my Beloved." This is an archetypal drama of the Self.  Galahad, in achieving the Grail and ascending with it to Heaven, is likewise an archetypal drama of Self; Lancelot's failure to achieve the Grail speaks of his failure to achieve the final discovery of Self; chariots and cars point in this direction and Enoch is taken up in a chariot of fire.  (Ezekiel Chapter One describes the chariot conveying God into the world.) In his book, Man and His Symbols , Jung claimed that dreams compensate for undeveloped archetypes.  A person tries to be more than he or she really is, so it is through dreams that they find expression of their aspirations and goals, however long reaching they may be.

Finally, the psychological field benefited from Jung with the broadening of interpretation, whether of symptoms, dreams, or free-associations.  While Freud developed more-or-less rigid interpretations, Jung allowed for a rather free-wheeling "mythological" interpretation, wherein anything could mean, anything.  Existential analysis, in particular, has benefited from Jung's ideas.

Another psychotherapist of this period was Medard Boss.  His theories were based on the existential view of psychotherapy, which said that a person should be open to all possibilities of the human existence.  He also believed that dreams should be taken at face value, unlike Freud or Jung, who said that each part of the dream needs interpreting.  He allows the person to reveal their own meanings in therapy.  Nothing is hiding behind a censor, nor behind a symbol.  (Boeree) Dreams, according to Boss, show how the dreamer views their own existence.  For example, if a dreamer's life is narrow and constricted, his dreams will be narrow and constricted.  If someone has a rich and full life, then his or her dreams will be rich and vivid.

Existential, in essence, means the things in life that everyone must deal with at one time or another.  This type of therapy deals with how people see human space and time, as well as how they see their own bodies.

Freud, Jung, Boss, and others set the stage for the next period of scientific dream investigations by introducing different methods for psychoanalysis.  Though Freud was accused of being wrong on so many points, he still made some remarkable contributions to the field.  He set forth in motion the wheels of imagination and further research projects.  Jung took Freud's ideas further, and said that everyone thinks of themselves as a certain archetype.  This allowed people to identify with the abstract personality ideas.  Boss took those ideas, turned them around, and came up with the idea that feelings about daily activities form the dream.  This idea made it possible for other psychologists and psychotherapists to further research other possibilities within the dream realm.

 Freud and Jung are popular because they created new myths.  They restored dream meaning and symbolism within a cultural context.  Freud recognized how important self-knowledge was, and he and Jung created, in different ways, a body of information that people could apply to their personal experiences and pull from it a common meaning.  Many practicing psychoanalysts today generally accept the idea that dream content is the product of an unconscious desire, which stems from an instinctual drive.

During research studies on emotionally significant information processes, it has been found that problems are solved by dream content.  Resolution of a problem in a dream seems to correlate with a restoration of emotional balance in the person's waking consciousness.  In psychotherapy, dreams are interpreted as an emotionally charged struggle that the patient is probably not wholly aware of, and needs the assistance of the psychotherapist to translate, hence the distinction between manifest and latent content.  Manifest content is what was actually in the dream; latent content bears meaning not obvious to an unskilled professional.  The translation of the latent content has to feel appropriate to the patient, of course.

1953 started the current dream investigation period.  Eugene Aserinsky observed that when subjects were sleeping, their eyes would move at different paces throughout the night.  When they move the most rapidly, he theorized that that was when the person was dreaming.  He called that period of rapid eye movement REM sleep, which contained the most dreams during this time.  After conducting more research, Eugene saw that when a person was in REM sleep, their brain waves had high frequency and low amplitudes.  But when a person was not in rapid eye movement sleep, or NREM, they had lower brain wave frequency and higher amplitudes.  REM periods were also marked by irregularities of breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.  Eugene saw that these REM periods were states of psycho-physiological activation, and if a person woke up during these times, and they were dreaming, the dream would be easier to recall.

Further research by Eugene and associates revealed that there were 4-5 periods of REM sleep per night, so he theorized that a person must dream 4-5 dreams per night, and that eye movements seemed to correlate with events in the dream.  Research done by other psychologists refuted his theories.  They argued that all sleep seems to be a dreaming sleep, and that dreams during NREM are more thought-like, while most were still dream-like.  What was discovered however, is that there are no dependable physiological indicators or correlates of dreaming.

It was hoped that with the discovery of REM sleep, all questions about the meaning of dreaming would unfold.  But with the discoveries of dreams occurring outside of REM, not only in NREM but in hypnosis, daydreaming and waking dreams, the hope faded.  A shift was made away from content analysis to the process of dreaming itself.  The rationale behind this is as follows--if psychologists want to study muscle functions, its not really necessary to know if a person is using his muscles to pick up a can of tomato soup or chicken soup.  And so, why focus on the particular dream to understand dreaming? The general question was how dreaming might function to help the biological organism.

Probably the most recent theories of dream function are biomedical models, which are still trying to explain dreams in order to attain more self-knowledge.  These theories vary from dreams being an important part of learning and memory, to dreams being a side effect of something else, to dreams not meant to be remembered at all.  The selective mood regulatory theory of dreaming identifies dreams as functioning to contain emotional surges during REM sleep.  Effective dreams absorb the emotional surge so the person stays asleep, and as a result, dreams are not remembered.

In the modern study of dreams, professors would recruit students to sleep under laboratory conditions, with a series of tiny wires attached to their heads.  On the other end of these wires was 'brain wave' measuring devices, called electroencephalographs, better known as EEG machines.  Studies found several distinct levels of conscious, and a pattern on how they enter each level.  One of the results is the 'general sleep pattern' graph, which is included below.  There were four basic brain waves found in the relationship between a waking state and a sleeping state:

The fastest waves, called BETA, occur when we are awake.  These can vibrate as slow as 12 to 14 cycles per second (cps), when a person is quietly thinking, and range up to 20 cps, when one is tense or excited.  The following table represents this:

dissertation sample

As a person becomes drowsy, the brain moves into what is called ALPHA waves, which have a pattern of 8 to 13 cps.  It is here that altered states of consciousness begin (and where dreams occur).  Then the brain slows down to the THETA waves (4 to 7 cps), and then into the DELTA waves (.5 to 4 cps), which is known as 'deep sleep'.

About 90 minutes after falling into the Delta state, the brain waves speed up again to the Alpha stage.  At this point, the dreamer's body becomes very still, as though powerfully intent upon watching something.  This actually turns out to be quite true, for what the dreamer is watching is the story of his or her life, as seen from the spiritual world.  Upon reaching the Alpha state, a dreamer's eyes begin to move quickly beneath their closed eyelids, the signal that a dream has started.  Students who were awakened during REM were able to recall dreams, while those who were awakened during NREM periods were not.  Dreams were measured to last between 3 to 5 minutes.  After having a dream, the brain would move back down into the Delta phase, but not as deep as the first time.

Then, 90 minutes later, the brain would move up to Alpha waves again, vibrating a little faster.  Once again, REM would occur for 3 to 5 minutes, and then drop to a state between Theta and Delta.  By looking at the graph, one can see that this process is repeated until the dreamer is awakened.  Interesting also, was the fact that if one was deprived of REM sleep one night, there would be almost twice as much REM activity the next night--meaning that the body needs a certain amount of dreaming each night, just as it needs a certain amount of sleep.

Researchers have also reported that people who awaken during, or immediately after, dreaming had vivid and complete dream recall.  But when these students were awakened as little as five minutes after the dream ended, part of the dream was already forgotten.  If as much as ten minutes were allowed to elapse before being awakened, only a small fragment of the dream could be remembered.  Also, those who were awakened during REM saw an interesting pattern emerge.  For most of the subjects, their first, second and third dreams were very abstract and seemingly difficult to see any meanings, or messages.  These early dreams, also, have a very slim chance of being remembered when one awakes.

Recent research on dreaming was conducted in sleep laboratories under controlled conditions.  The University of Chicago conducted a series of studies on REM sleep in the 1950s in which the physiological bases for dreams were confirmed and the links between dreams and various stages of sleep were established.  The doctors credited with the research are Eugene Aserinsky, Nathaniel Kleitman, and later, William Dement.  The broad range of current dream-related research includes: learning during sleep, gender differences in dream content, drugs and effects on dreaming, sleep deprivation and effects on dreaming, the healing properties of dreams, depression and effects on REM, emotions and effects on dreaming, and non-REM dreaming.

REM dreaming has been found not only in non-humans, (most all mammals have REM sleep) but also in new infants and pre-natal infants.  How might this be adaptive to the survival of a mammal? The current thinking on this is that REM might be used at different developmental times for different purposes.  In infants, REM might be stimulating associate neural development.  In adults, it might function in this way, while at the same time, it serves other functions, such as allowing the brain to be prepared and stay oriented in sleep.  These theories are still quite distant from any proof.

Dreaming and learning/unlearning go hand-in-hand.  Earlier suggestions and research suggests that dreams processes the residue of the day and codes it into long term memory.  Hobson and McCarley found that dream activity begins after random firings in the brain stem of cats.  They hypothesized that the sleepy brain is stimulated by these random firings, then tries to make sense out of them and the memories that are initiated.  Flying and paralysis, for example, would simply correspond to periods of brain stem activity and inactivity.  They suggest in the Activation-Synthesis model that there is some synthesis by the higher brain functions and thus the dream does contain some higher cognitive actions.

Crick and Mitchison combined this research with a model of neural networks to suggest that the brain is actually unlearning during dreaming.  They suggested that the neural networks loaded by the mind during the day, get saturated with information and create false links between neural nets that produce what is seen as bizarre dreams.  The random firing cleans these out during the night.  Thus, they hypothesize, remembering dreams may be counter productive to the unlearning process.  Their theory is like the selective mood theory, in that dreams function to drown out irrational excitations in the neural circuitry of the brain.  Dreams eliminate neural noise so the person can sleep, and dream recall is therefore dysfunctional.

Other theories currently being researched are that dreams promote learning and memory.  Memories, especially emotionally related ones from the previous day, are integrated with existing memories during dreaming.  Or, conversely, dreaming flushes useless information or prevents storage of unnecessary memories.  Evidence that suggests a link between dreams, learning, and memory, is that the sleep of infants consists of about 70% REM sleep, and the length of REM sleep increases in college students during exam times.  However, it has also been found that REM sleep deprivation in adults has minimal effects on a person's ability to learn new material or to recall what was previously learned.

Sleep studies have shown that people dream more dreams than they remember, and even some dreams they remember immediately after waking up are quickly forgotten.  It seems that the most vivid and emotionally charged dreams just prior to waking are remembered the best.  Special attention is given to events in people's lives that provoke emotions in them, and emotions were certainly an important evolutionary trait.  If a person dreamed he was being chased, and woke up in a cold sweat and his heartbeat racing, it would definitely be a remembered dream.  On the individual level, dream analysis can be understood as attempts at understanding emotional problems and personal preoccupations, which is why they are more unpleasant than pleasant.  This could be why people remember the unpleasant emotional dreams.

To some extent, dreams are by and large personally relevant, and that an overall view of the dream process would suggest that dreams are made up of a combination of present and past experiences.  These experiences are meaningfully connected by the emotional tone of the present experience, and because dreams are made up of each dreamer's unique memories, there can be no universal dream vocabulary.  What is portrayed in a person's dreams is a reflection of their unique concerns and interests based on what is important to them currently, and what was important to them in the past.

The role that dreams narratives play can easily be understood by looking at what the individual has to gain by sharing it with other people.  (Moffitt 1993) Exchanging personal information can strengthen social ties, validate concerns, and gather new insight into oneself by seeking other people's interpretations.  Dream analysis is subjective but usually involves collaboration between two people in an attempt to understand (and give meaning to) a dream to the dreamer.  (Moffitt 1993) Since waking moods can be expressed in dream content, explaining a dream to someone might be an easy way of addressing what has been on their mind most recently.  A nice constructive response may not be necessary, but just talking about it usually makes people feel better.  Sharing dream narratives might also earn notoriety if the dream seemed to predict something that later came true.  Or, maybe people just tell them for a laugh.

        Dreams are socially significant because they are the objects of self-reflection.  They are perceived as having symbolic meaning, and the way the individual interpreus a dream is subjective to his or her personal concerns and valtes.  In the same way, cultural dream interpretations reflect social concerns and values.  Any dream dictionary available at most bookstores reflects this.  The "translations" of items seen in a dream are generally considered important.  They reflect the dreamer's relationships with other people, successes and failures in life, and private concerns and fears, which are usually very personal to the dreamer.

A culture is a cluster of symbols or understandings that constantly change its references in order to adapt to new conclusions.  It is based on the human capacity to use symbols, which provide conceptual and motivational models for human thought and action and constitute systems that enable people to make sense of their world, and motivate and direct their behavior.  A culture provides a psychological framework for the individual, and in turn, is the organization of ideas used to answer questions about the environment and the psyche.

 Every set of symbols for decoding dreams will reflect the culture they are produced in, even though dreams themselves may allegedly stem from deeply personal knowledge that cannot be affected by society.  The symbol itself is not as important as what it can reveal about cultural attitudes and behavior.  Dreams do not lie outside the culture in the sense that culture fails to shape or use them.  Even so, they express the desires of an inner core of the self . . . dreams are a primary locus of awareness of a self composed of desires and passions, which necessarily oppose the self to all others.  Other people agree that dreams are distinctly personal phenomenon.  An individual's present and past experiences get expressed in dreams, and the emotions and memories conjured by the dream have unique meaning to the dreamer.

Although there have been a few major studies before Calvin Hall and Robert Van de Castle's work, these two are the names that come up most often in connection with dream content studies.  Hall wanted to discover the cognitive factors behind the images that might support his cognitive dream theories.  From the late 1930's to the late 1950's, he collected and sorted through thousands of dream reports of students at Western Reserve University.  Some of the results revealed that the most common setting in a dream was a home or other building.

Yet, while familiar living places were common, work places were very infrequent.  Automobiles frequently appeared; strangers appeared more frequently than not, though friends and family also were abundant; men seem to dream more about men than women, but women dream about both sexes equally.  Usually the people in dreams were of equal age to the dreamer.  People really like to move in dreams--body movements such as walking and running.

After that, people like to talk in dreams, while only occasionally sitting and watching, while hardly ever cooking, typing or fixing things.  Statistically, more than not, dream encounters and the feelings associated within the dream encounter with others are hostile and unpleasant.  And yet, when dreamers are asked if they like dreams, most agreed in the affirmative.  It seems the chance to indulge in surreal events outweighs the negativity surround this happening.  Van de Castle joined Hall in 1964 to publish an extensive book called The Content Analysis of Dreams , which not only discussed the frequency of over a thousand objects, but also provided a model and scales by which to study and categorize dream content.

Content analysis has always been big, but during this period, Calvin Hall and Van de Castle developed a way of categorizing elements of dreams--not in a Freudian way, but in a way that therapists could help their clients figure out their own meanings of dreams.  Their content analysis methods minimized the bias of the analyst.  Categories were developed for various elements that continued to show up in his client's dream reports.  These elements included: human characters, with variants such as sex, age, family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers; animals; interactions among characters, such as aggressive actions, friendly actions, or sexual actions; misfortunes and good fortunes; success or failure; indoor or outdoor settings; objects; and emotions.

He also discovered that women's dreams differed from men's dreams.  While men had dreams that were more aggressive, included more male characters, strangers, sexuality, and outdoor settings, women's dreams consisted of more female characters, known characters, verbal activities, clothes and indoor settings.  Women's dreams were gentle while men's dreams were more aggressive, and included tools and weapons in their dreams.  Adult dreams change little through the years--this is what is known as the continuity principle.

These classifications have coding rules that will be discussed in detail, below.  Characters--people, animals, and mythical figures--are present in most dream reports, and the chief character in almost every dream is the dreamer.  Since characters are usually so central to all else that appears or happens in a dream narrative, it is appropriate to start the discussion of the coding system with them.  Because the dreamer is such a constant factor in almost every dream, the first decision in constructing the coding system was not to list the dreamer as a character nor code him or her among the classes of characters listed below.  To include the dreamer would be redundant.  It should be pointed out, however, that in subsequent sections the dreamer's emotions and interactions with other characters and the environment are always categorized and coded.  Consequently, the dreamer is given a coding symbol, which is D .

They are "coded" as characters, meaning they are "categorized" or "classified," when any one of the conditions set forth below can be satisfied.  It should be kept in mind that the term character is used to refer both to an individual person or animal and also to a group of such individuals.  A couple or a crowd is therefore called a character.  In the examples that are included to help make each coding rule more understandable, capital letters are used to indicate codeable items, while italics are used for non-codeable items.  However, neither capitals nor italics will be used to designate the dreamer.  (Domhoff)

The character is described as being physically present in the dream:

"I met a GIRL FRIEND for lunch."
"My FATHER drove me and my BROTHER to school."
"A GIRL was being chased by a GANG OF MEN."
"I saw a DEER and raised my gun to fire."
"A GIANT walked out of the woods."

The character is heard or seen by some form of communication but he or she is not physically present in the dream:

"I spoke with my WIFE at the mall."
"LOWELL THOMAS was giving the news on radio."
"I was watching DANNY KAYE on television."
"A telegram arrived from UNCLE FRANK."
"I saw a movie.  LASSIE was in it."
"There was a picture of CHRIST on the wall."
"The painting had a LOT OF ANIMALS in it."

The character is mentioned in the dream report:

"The POLICE were supposed to come."
"My FRIENDS were going to meet me at the station."
"My HUSBAND was in New York."
"VAN GOGH is my favorite painter."
"I was saving my money to buy a HORSE."
"I expected to see a GHOST in the old house."

A character is referred to in order to establish the ownership of an object or the relationship of the character to another character:

"I went into my BROTHER'S room."
"My FAMILY'S car is a blue Ford."
"I was wearing my SISTER'S dress."
"I saw GRANT'S tomb."
"The BOYFRIEND of my best FRIEND came to visit me."
"MR.  SMITH'S DOG began to bark."

A part of the character appears in the dream:

"I just saw the legs of the BAND MEMBERS marching down the street."
"The head of DONALD DUCK was sticking out of the bag."
"I held my BOYFRIEND'S hand."

But, it is not acceptable to code non-specific characters, such as "everyone", "someone", or "people".  The following example demonstrates this:

A character is referred to in a generic sense:

" Everyone has a right to happiness."
"I wonder if people believe in ghosts anymore."
" Anyone can do that."
" No one seemed to be reacting but me."
" Dogs are friendly animals."

After the characters of a dream have been determined using the foregoing criteria, each codeable character, except animal characters, is classified under each of the four following headings:

  1. Number
  2. Gender
  3. Identity
  4. Age

The order of these headings is from the more general to the more specific, and the coding system for characters used throughout his book always appears in the sequence of: Number, Sex, Identity, and Age .  Number refers to whether a single individual or a group of characters is involved.  There may be any number from two to a very large number in a group, but no distinction is made in this coding system between groups of different sizes.  The coding symbol for an individual character is l ; for a group, the coding symbol is 2 .  Animals are classified as individuals or groups, but they are not classified by Sex, Identity, or Age.  (Coding symbol: 1ANI for a single animal; 2ANI for a group of animals.)

In addition to the two gender subclasses of male and female, there should be a subclass for groups made up of both genders, and a subclass for characters whose gender is not known by the dreamer or whose gender is not clearly identified in the dream report.  Classify as Male any character identified as being male, or for whom the masculine pronoun is used, or whose role is typically a male one, or classify as Female any character identified as being female, or for whom the feminine pronoun is used, or whose role is typically a female one.  If a character changes gender in the course of a dream, classify the character as both male and female.  Classify a group as a Joint Gender Group when the group is described as being made up of both males and females or when the group is known by its nature to consist of both genders, or when the group is a large one so that it might be expected to include members of both genders.

There are eight subclasses of identity.  (Domhoff) These subclasses are arranged below in a hierarchical order of decreasing familiarity to the dreamer.  If a character can be assigned to more than one identity subclass, he or she should always be coded for the subclass indicating the greater familiarity, e.g., "my family doctor" is coded as Known (subclass 3) rather than Occupational (subclass 5).

1.  Immediate family members of the dreamer .  The following table, containing relevant coding symbols, is inclusive:

Father ( F )

Husband ( H )

Child ( C )

Mother ( M )

Wife ( W )

Infant or Baby ( I )

Parents ( X )

Son ( A )

Family member ( Y )

Brother ( B )

Daughter ( D )


Sister ( T )



2.  Relatives of the dreamer (Coding symbol: R ).  These are characters other than immediate family members who are related to the dreamer by blood, marriage, or adoption.  The following list is illustrative and not exhaustive:






Foster father







3.  Known characters (Coding symbol: K ).  If it seems clear that the dreamer is currently, or was formerly, personally acquainted with a character or the probability seems very high that the dreamer could, if requested to do so, identify by name a character in his dream, the character is coded as Known.  If a large majority of a group consists of familiar characters, code the group as Known:

"My ROOMMATE cut her hand."
"The BOY who lives next door came over."
"Our POSTMAN handed me a letter."
"My BOSS gave me a lot of work to do."
"My CLASSMATES were all wearing class rings."
"My FRIEND'S BOYFRIEND bought a new car."
"Some BUDDIES of my FRATERNITY BROTHER drove by the house."

4.  Prominent persons (Coding symbol: P ).  Score as Prominent any character who is well known by her or his general reputation but who is not known personally by the dreamer.  Fictional, dramatic, imaginary, and supernatural figures are also coded under this heading as they are usually familiar because of their reputation.

"I saw WINSTON CHURCHILL sitting at the end of the table."
"It was like I was seeing a cartoon strip with ORPHAN ANNIE in it."
"HAMLET walked out on the stage holding his sword in front of him."
"Then GOD appeared and said everything would be all right."

5.  Occupational identification (Coding symbol: O ).  Any character whose occupation is designated but who is not otherwise identified by the dreamer as being more familiar is coded as Occupational.  Occupation includes not just vocations and professions and other forms of gainful employment, but also avocations such as stamp collector, golfer, and hunter, as well as illegal or non-sanctioned pursuits such as gangster and prostitute.  A student at any educational level who is not otherwise identified as being more familiar is coded O.

"The WAITRESS asked me what I wanted to eat."
"The ARMY OFFICER pointed his gun at the SOLDIER."
"The JUDGE said I was guilty and sentenced me to death."
"The CHOIR sang a hymn."
"The man turned out to be a COUNTERFEITER."

6.  Ethnic, nationality, and regional identifications (Coding symbol: E ).  These are characters whose race, nationality, or regional identification is designated but who are not otherwise identified as being more familiar by the dreamer.

"I was being tortured by INDIANS."
"I dreamed I was living with a GERMAN FAMILY."
"This man who was a SOUTHERNER said he knew all about growing cotton."

7.  Strangers (Coding symbol: S ).  A character is considered a stranger if the dreamer specifically indicates the character is unknown or unfamiliar or his identity remains hidden because the character is faceless or wearing a mask.  If, from the language used in the dream report, the probability seems very high that this is the first time that the dreamer has become acquainted with the character, the character is coded as a Stranger.  A crowd, unless otherwise being identified as more familiar, is coded as a group of Strangers:

"There was a little BOY I had never seen before."
"I was being chased by some mean-looking MEN."
"I was lost in the CROWD."

8.  Uncertain identity (Coding symbol: U ).  The dream report frequently does not contain sufficient information as to whether a character is known or a stranger to the dreamer.  When degree of familiarity cannot be established, the character is coded as Uncertain.  In addition to coding vague character descriptions as Uncertain, this coding is also used when the character is described as known in the dream but this character cannot be identified later by the dreamer when he or she is reporting his dream:

"I was with a bunch of KIDS my age."
"SOMEONE asked me if I were going to the meeting."
"I showed this GIRL my engagement ring."
"I was mad because THEY wouldn't let me out of the cellar."
"Several BOYS asked me to dance."
"A MAN had called me while I was at the store."
"I wasn't sure that I knew HIM."
"I was with a GIRL FRIEND but I didn't know who she was."
"This FELLOW ...  I knew him in the dream but I can't remember him now ...  took me for a ride in his car."

There are four age groups.  These are arranged below in order of decreasing chronological age.  1.  Adult (Coding symbol: A ).  All characters are coded as Adults unless they meet the requirements for inclusion in one of the other three age groups.

2.  Teenager (Coding symbol: T ).  Any character whose age is indicated as being from 13 through 17, or whom from the context of the dream report appears to be an adolescent, should be included in this age group.  All high school students, whether of junior or senior level, are coded as Teenagers.  All college students are coded as Adults.  The use of such terms as kid, youth, boy or girl does not in itself identify a character as a teenager since these terms are also used in referring to other age groups.  The decision as to how to classify characters referred to by these terms has to depend upon the context in which they are used.  Friends and acquaintances of teenage dreamers are presumed to be teenagers unless otherwise stated.

3.  Child (Coding symbol: C ).  Any character whose age is from one through 12 or who is referred to as a child is included in this age group.  Any elementary school pupil is coded as a Child.

4.  Baby (Coding symbol: B ).  A character who is less than one year old or who is referred to as an infant or baby is coded Baby, except when the word baby is used as a term of endearment or one of reproach for a character who is older than one year.

In addition to these rules, there are some other coding rules.  A character who makes several appearances in the same dream should be coded only once in each dream.  If several characters are simply enumerated and the dreamer does not further describe the appearance or activities of any of these individual characters at any point in the dream, the enumerated characters are coded as a single group.  If some, but not all, of the members of a group are distinguished with regard to appearance or activities as individuals, code as an individual character each of them who is so distinguished and code the remainder as a group.  If one or more small groups are differentiated out of a large group because of their appearance or activities, code both the small groups and the large group.

If the dreamer says that a character might be either one person or another person, code for the first mentioned character unless the dreamer later resolves his uncertainty.  The numeral 3 is the coding symbol used to indicate individual dead characters ; numeral 4 is the symbol for a group of dead characters .  These numerals appear in place of the numerals 1 or 2, which would have been employed if the characters were not dead.  The numerals 3 or 4 are not used if a character dies during the dream.  The numeral 5 is the coding symbol used to indicate a single imaginary character or one that is a fictional or dramatic portrayal; the numeral 6 is used to indicate a group of imaginary characters .  These numerals precede the character's coding symbol and appear in the same number column ordinarily used to indicate individual or group status.  These numerals, therefore, appear in place of the numerals 1 or 2, which would have been employed if the characters were not imaginary.  Very infrequently, a character cannot be identified as either human or animal, or is referred to as a creature.  In either case, code it as a Creature (Scoring symbol: CZZ ).

The following table presents an overall view of the various coding symbols employed for characters:





1 individual
2 group
3 individual dead
4 group dead
5 individual imaginary
6 group imaginary
7 original form
8 changed form

M male
F female
J joint
I indefinite

F father
M mother
X parents
B brother
T sister
H husband
W wife
A son
D daughter
C child

I infant
Y family members
R relative
K known
P prominent
O occupational
E ethnic
S stranger
U uncertain  

A adult
T teenager
C child
B baby

This is just a small sampling of Van de Castle's and Hall's work on coding dream content.  There are more coding rules and requirements, but are too numerous to include in this report.  For further reading, please see the web site:

A summary of this investigative period might be that dreams make that which is subjective, objective; make the unseen, seen; and transforms the abstract into the concrete.  Dreams are the movies of the mind.

Research Literature Specific to Dream Content as a Therapeutic Approach

Calvin Hall, as previously discussed, developed a cognitive theory of dreams (1953).  He believed dreams contain maps, which the dreamer follows to anticipate difficulties and obstacles.  He also theorized that meaningful predictions could be made about the dreamer's behavior and lifestyle using a client's conceptions of parts of the dream.  Many other 20th century dream theorists--including Adler, Erikson, Maslow, Boss, Buhler, Greene, Heidegger, Garfield, Horney, Hartmann and Piotrowski--have important messages regarding dreams and dream research.  A few of these theorists will be discussed later in this report.  A common thread among most is that dreams provide opportunities for intra-personal and interpersonal growth.

Lucidity during dreams is another current subject of exploration in the sleep laboratories.  The term lucid dream was introduced by the Dutch psychiatrist Frederik Van Eeden in 1913, which is characterized by a heightened awareness of being in bed and dreaming, simultaneously.  Dr.  Stephen LaBerge, a psychologist at the Stanford University Sleep Research Center and founder of the Lucidity Institute in Palo Alto, California, has shown in controlled clinical studies that humans have the ability to remain awake during sleep.  His studies have strongly impacted the scientific community and restored the credibility of dream research.  Lucidity has also shown potential as a tool for personal development.  Developing lucidity while dreaming can not only enhance the quality of life, but it may allow the realm of dreaming to become a rich environment for self improvement and empowerment.

How does all of this relate to therapy sessions? Alfred Adler is a big name in the psychotherapeutic field, and used dreams to help clients observe and understand their own internal dynamics.  If one can characterize desire in Freud as erotically oriented, and desire in Jung as wholeness oriented, then one can say that desire in Adler's theory is oriented to overcoming early feelings of inferiority.  These feelings stem from the beginning of life, when an infant is dependent and small, then evolve as people find ways of overcoming these feelings of inferiority and becoming productive.

Adler examined personality around the same time as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.  They worked on some theories together until Adler rejected Freud's emphasis on sex, and maintained that personality difficulties are rooted in a feeling of inferiority deriving from restrictions on the individual's need for self-assertion.  His best-known work is The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology (1923).  Adler had a tendency to change his theory on personality throughout his life but ultimately believed that people are focused on maintaining control over their lives.  He believed in single "drive" or motivating force behind a person's behavior, claiming that the desire they have to fulfill their potentials becomes closer and closer to the ideals.

In studying personality, Alfred came up with the term "inferiority complex", which he described as feelings of lack of worth.  He wrote, "We all wish to overcome difficulties.  We all strive to reach a goal by the attainment of which we shall feel strong, superior, and complete".  Adler was known to use the term "superiority complex".  This complex developed when a person tried to conquer their inferiority complex by suppressing their existing feelings.  He theorized that people were constantly trying to overcome their feelings of inferiority to reach superiority.

To Adler, the most important motive is the feeling of inferiority, which he believed that had originated in the sense of dependence and helplessness which infants experience.  Adler's theory in many ways seems more acceptable than Jung's, since his focus on striving for superiority seems less abstract than Jung's concept of individuation as the goal of growth.  This is also seen in other aspects of this theory, such as style of life as an individual's pattern of personality and adjustment.  (Note: Adler had little interest in Jung's concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious.)

He used dream content as part of a client's lifestyle assessment.  Since dreams reflect a person's preoccupations with daily life, then it only made sense that those dreams should also tell a therapist about the client's life.  This assessment also takes into account what the client dreamed about as a child and whether or not they had, or are having, recurrent dreams.  He also believed that dreams are a rehearsal for future courses of action.  For example, if someone is at a crossroads in life, such as deciding what college to attend, they might dream about a certain college having many more benefits over the other college.  When that person wakes up, he or she might think about that, realize where they might have wanted to go in the first place, and pursue that particular course of action.

Dreams can also be a source of measurement, or weathervane, for treatment.  Deep seated emotions and problems can be brought to the surface, so that the client can get the help they need without any further sessions.  They are also purposeful and unique to the individual, according to Adler, so one person's dream may mean something else to another person.  In dreams, there are no fixed symbolisms--no one can understand the dream, without first knowing and understanding the dreamer.

In the end, his theory faces many of the same difficulties as other psychoanalytic theories, in terms of evaluating its validity.  Adler made a few mistakes in his assessment of dreams and the modern Adlerians have tried to correct these views.  For example, Adler felt that a psychologically healthy individual would not dream.  Of course, now it is proved that the amount of dreaming is unrelated to psychopathology.  But in general, the idea that dreams produce feelings that lead people to act upon life and live better is continued.  Also, the inferiorities they suffer in life are also seen in dreams and thereby create a continuum between wake and sleep where these issues can be experimented with, safely played with and changed in cooperation with the waking self.

A brief discussion about psychoanalytic therapy will end this segment about therapists who use this type of therapy.  Psychoanalytic therapy states that dreams are interpreted, right down to the specific details of the content.  Intellectual insight is stressed, and free association is used.  Psychoanalytic Therapy is a treatment for relieving mental and emotional distress, which is often known as the talking cure because its simple technique involves no action by either the client or the therapist.  It is also a method of self-investigation and a general study of human behavior.

Psychoanalytic therapy is based upon the idea that much of a person's behavior, thoughts and attitudes are regulated by the unconscious portion of their mind and is not within ordinary conscious control.  By inviting a client to talk, the psychoanalytic therapist helps him or her to reveal unconscious needs, motivations, wishes and memories in order to gain conscious control of his or her life.  This form of treatment for emotional troubles was first developed by Sigmund Freud in the early part of this century.  Many psychoanalysts have expanded on Freud's work and enlarged the range of problems that can be treated.  New treatment techniques and insights into human behavior have also been developed.

This therapeutic technique is usually appropriate for anyone who wants to have a happier life with greater personal and emotional flexibility.  Adults, children, couples, and whole families are now frequently seen in psychoanalytic therapy.  Individuals may have private or group therapy, and a wide range of emotional problems can be successfully treated with psychoanalytic therapy, such as emotional pain, depression, boredom, and restlessness.  Clients may also have an inability to learn, love, work, or express emotion, irrational fear, and anxiety without a known cause.

Pervasive feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness, unrelated-ness characterizes those who could benefit from psychoanalytic therapy.  They also show a lack of goals, values, or ideals, and have a feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibility and are unable to relax and play.  They are unable to set practical, reachable goals, and accept responsibility, and they may have unsatisfying relationships with a spouse, children, or parents, as well as an inability to have friends or lovers.  They have a lingering feeling that life is totally out of control and is not in control of their own fate.  An excessively controlled life, dominated by ritual and obsession is characteristic of a person who can benefit from this therapy, as well as eating disorders such as compulsive overeating, or an inability to eat enough for good health.  Physical problems also have a psychological origin.

The major function of the psychoanalytic therapist is to listen carefully and attentively to the patient in order to understand him and facilitate communication.  The therapist uses both intelligence and feelings to obtain verbal and nonverbal clues to the patient's problems.  The analyst must first understand these disguised communications and then transform them into information useful to the patient.  To do this, the therapist asks questions, confronts distortions, and does anything else needed to help the patient share his or her thoughts and feelings comfortably.

Dreams play a useful role in psychoanalytic therapy because (for those who remember them) they offer, in Sigmund Freud's words, the "Royal Road to the Unconscious".  In dreams, people express unconscious needs, memories, conflicts and wishes.  Dreams can become an avenue of understanding to hidden aspects of the self when examined with the interpretive help of the analyst.

Psychoanalytic theory and therapy have both evolved since Sigmund Freud.  Freud placed his greatest theoretical emphasis on the study of the sexual drives, in particular the Oedipal phase of psychosexual development between the ages of four to six when a child falls in love with the parent of the opposite sex.  Since the time of Freud, greater emphasis has been placed upon the study of how an individual emerges into the world as a separate person with a sense of himself and positive self-esteem.  Current theory also deals with aggression, early mother-child interaction, social relations, family dynamics and psychosomatics.

Since the birth of Freudian analysis in the early 1900's, numerous approaches have been developed including those of Jung, Adler, Horney, Sullivan, Klein, Kohut, and Spotnitz.  Each school of psychoanalytic therapy focuses on certain aspects of treatment or personality.  The differences between these schools have become less dramatic with time, and frequently, the differences between analysts trained in the same tradition can be equal to or greater than those between analysts of different schools.  There are two main differences, which set psychoanalytic therapy apart from other forms of psychotherapy.

One, the psychoanalytic therapist prefers to treat clients without medications, although on occasion he may refer a client to a psychiatrist for drugs to be used in the treatment of depression, psychosis, or overwhelming anxiety.  Two, the psychoanalytic therapist does not usually give specific recommendations about how the client ought to manage his or her life or solve problems.  Instead, the analyst prefers to help the client understand why he or she is unable to solve problems or what internal conflict is preventing him or her from knowing what to do in his or her life.  When necessary, the analyst may suggest postponing a particular decision until a later date, or may act to prevent a client from harming himself or herself or sabotaging the treatment.

Moving on to other schools of dream thoughts and therapeutic practices, this segment will discuss non-psychoanalytic therapy.  Gestalt therapy, founded by Frederick Perls, believed that dreams contain the rejected, disowned parts of the self.  This therapy deals with the here and now, as it relates to the whole person, and focuses more on process (what is happening) than content (what is being discussed).  The emphasis is on what is being done, thought and felt currently, rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should be.  A Gestalt exploration respects, uses and clarifies immediate, "naive" perception "un-debauched by learning".  (Gary Yontef and Jim Simkin, ) Gestalt therapy treats what is "subjectively" felt in the present, as well as what is "objectively" observed, as real and important data.  This contrasts with approaches that treat what the patient experiences as "mere appearances" and uses interpretation to find "real meaning."

Rather than interpreting and linking dreams with history, Perls encourages the dreamer to act out all aspects of the dream.  Someone dreaming of a glass house, for example, might find it useful to be the house and describe him or herself as such.  He or she might then act out being the house.  Another example might be that the dreamer might surround another member of the group as walls of a house would, thus becoming aware of how it feels to be a warm, inviting structure for another.  In this case, of the glass house, the dreamer might describe him or herself as transparent, fragile or easily shattered.  Much dialogue between the dreamer and object in used in Gestalt dream-work, as it becomes a mental-block breaker, and another method of self-discovery.  It is helpful for the dreamer to experience this process with each part of the dream order to learn about and re-assimilate the disowned parts of self.

The goal of Gestalt phenomenological exploration is awareness, or insight.  In Gestalt therapy, insight is clear understanding of the structure of the situation being studied.  Awareness without systematic exploration is not ordinarily sufficient to develop insight.  Therefore, Gestalt therapy uses focused awareness and experimentation to achieve insight.  How one becomes aware is crucial to any phenomenological investigation.  The phenomenologist studies not only personal awareness but also the awareness process itself.  The client is to learn how to become aware of awareness.

Existentialism is based on the phenomenological method.  Existential phenomenologists focus on people's existence, relations with each other, joys and suffering, etc., as directly experienced.  Most people operate in an unstated context of conventional thought that obscures or avoids acknowledging how the world is, which is especially true of one's relations in the world and their choices.  Self-deception is the basis of in-authenticity; living that is not based on the truth of oneself in the world leads to feelings of dread, guilt and anxiety.  Gestalt therapy provides a way of being authentic and meaningfully responsible for oneself.  The existential view holds that people are endlessly remaking or discovering themselves, and that there is no essence of human nature to be discovered "once and for all." There are always new horizons, new problems and new opportunities.

The Gestalt therapist works by engaging in dialogue rather than by manipulating the client toward some therapeutic goal.  Such contact is marked by straightforward caring, warmth, acceptance and self-responsibility.  When therapists move clients toward some goal, the clients cannot be in charge of their own growth and self-support.  Dialogue is based on experiencing the other person as he or she really is and showing the true self, sharing phenomenological awareness.  The Gestalt therapist says what he or she means and encourages the client to do the same, and gestalt dialogue embodies authenticity and responsibility.

When the therapist believes that the past causes the present and clients are controlled by unconscious motivation not readily available to them, they are encouraged to rely on the therapist's interpretations rather than their own autonomy.  Therapies in which the therapist undertakes to directly modify the client's behavior, the immediate experience of the client and therapist are not honored.  This separates Gestalt therapy from most other therapies.  A resentful client may increase awareness by expressing resentment, and if the therapist suggests this as a means of catharsis, it is not the phenomenological focusing of Gestalt therapy.

In Gestalt therapy, there are no absolutes.  Instead of emphasizing what should be, Gestalt therapy stresses awareness of what is.  What is, is .  This contrasts with any therapist who "knows" what the client "should" do.  For example, cognitive behavior modification, rational-emotive therapy and reality therapy all try to modify client attitudes the therapist judges to be irrational, irresponsible or unreal.  Even though Gestalt therapy discourages interrupting the organismic assimilating process by focusing on cognitive explanatory intellectualizations, Gestalt therapists work with belief systems.  Clarifying thinking, explicating beliefs, and mutually deciding what fits for the patient are all part of Gestalt therapy.  It de-emphasizes thinking that avoids experience (obsessing) and encourages thinking that supports experience.  Gestalt therapy excludes the therapist's narcissistically teaching the patient rather than being approachable and expediting the patient's self-discovery.

Every character and every object in a dream represents an aspect of oneself.  In order to discover what aspect is being disowned, it is important to retell a dream in the present tense.  Additionally, it is equally important to verbalize how each component in the dream feels, even inanimate objects.  By taking another perspective, a person may then be able to acknowledge and realize feelings that have overlooked or buried.

In a therapeutic session using the Gestalt method, a client's dream is brought back to life, and the client is encouraged to relive the dream as it was currently happening.  The client makes a list of all the details, then becomes each of these parts.  By acting out these parts, the client becomes gradually aware of the range of their own feelings.  The projection concept is central to this dream formation theory, which means that a person or object in the dream becomes the dreamer, or represents a part of the dreamer.

The analyst does not require clients to think about or analyze the dream, but rather use it as a script for therapy in the session.  Feelings are taken from the dream, and used as a means of therapy.  The dream is the most spontaneous expression of the human existence, and represents an unfinished situation and an unfulfilled wish, much like Freud's theory.  If dreams are properly worked with, the therapeutic or life message to that person becomes clear.

A little known therapy technique using dreams in Gestalt therapy is using color.  Color is as much a symbol as is the imagery in a dream.  Color appears to represent the emotional conditions that stimulated a dream segment or a particular image.  As with any other symbol, color combines with the imagery to form a more complete "meaning" for the image.  Just as the face of a son or daughter may combine with the body of a bird to represent some personal meaning such as "he has left the nest", color will combine with an image to give it greater emotional significance.  A red hat would be more expressive of vibrancy, for example, than a colorless hat.

The color of an image in a dream can be simply derived from past associations, something the dreamer saw in waking life that the dream is recalling.  For the most part, however, color comes from an association with the effect it has on the nervous system and the emotions.  A person's relationship with color has formed as a part of the evolutionary process of the mind, and therefore has a somewhat similar effect on all humans.  If it can be determined the effect a particular color has on people, then one can understand its "meaning" for the field.

A common characteristic of dream imagery is the combining of two or more image fragments (or symbols) to form a total image, which is called condensation.  One investigation revealed that color, like any other symbol, condenses with other imagery to enhance the meaning of the whole image.  Therefore, when an image in a dream is of a certain color, it can be treated as a condensing of two symbols, one the color and the other the image.

Cognitive Therapy began in the 1960s when Aaron Beck tried to prove that depression was anger turned inward.  A psychoanalytically trained psychiatrist, Beck listened to the free associations, dreams and conversations of depressed people.  He was surprised to find that depressed people had many depressing or negative thoughts, which objectively appeared to be false.  His curiosity led him to develop ways to question these thoughts and change beliefs.  People were less depressed when their thoughts were more accurate.

Research has improved on the techniques and enlarged their applicability.  Today Cognitive Therapy is useful for depression anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, phobias, personality disorders and relationship difficulties.  Children, teens, adults, individuals and couples can all be helped using Cognitive Therapy.  Life experiences require that we somehow make sense of them.  The resulting beliefs affect our behavior and mood.  A child growing up in a home where he is constantly criticized may grow up with the core belief "I'm not good enough." This core belief is the root of behaviors, thoughts and moods.  This person may be unassertive, may be an under-achiever, may think he is not adequate in his career, relationships or sports, and his moods might include depression and anxiety.  The same core belief could result in different behavior, thoughts and moods in another person.

Cognitive Therapy is collaborative--client and therapist bring their expertise into the therapy.  Clients are taught to notice their moods, then to become aware of the thoughts that accompany them.  These skills are first taught in the session.  The client then practices the skill, until the client is able to use that skill in even the most difficult situations.  Next, the client is encouraged to approach his thoughts with curiosity, rather than from belief in a thought.  There is a questioning: "What evidence supports my belief?" Clients also find that they may do a behavioral experiment outside of the session to collect more information.

Sometimes the client discovers that he needs to learn more skills, such as how to be assertive, how to make small talk at a party, or how to arrange his time to be productive at school or work.  Role play, reading, classes, and talks with friends may be ways of gaining skills.

Together the client and therapist use their expertise and creativity to customize the correct tools for the client.  When problems have been long-standing, other methods are used to change beliefs.  These include a thorough review of the client's childhood in a much different way than most other therapies employ.  Other techniques are used to change the prejudicial beliefs.  Courage and tenacity are required to form accurate beliefs.  Cognitive Therapy ends when the client no longer jumps to his or her old conclusions, but instead considers the evidence to find out what is true.  He or she has learned tools to prevent or decrease the severity of relapse.

Summary of the Known and Unknown

When one looks at what has been done in the past on dream research as it relates to the therapeutic environment, one might conclude that everything has been done, researched and concluded.  But this couldn't be further from the truth--in fact, only the surface has been scraped.  The rest is yet to come.  Dreams have been objects of boundless fascination and mystery for humankind since the beginning of time.  And yet, psychologists still don't understand why dreams contain certain elements, or what they mean to the healing process.

These nocturnal vivid images seem to arise from some source other than the conscious mind, and contain a mixture of elements from personal identities, which is recognized as familiar along with a quality of `otherness' in the dream images that carries a sense of the strange and eerie.  The bizarre and nonsensical characters and plots in dreams point to deeper meanings and contain rational and insightful comments on waking situations and emotional experiences.

The ancients thought that dreams were messages from the gods.  Today, it is known that they are messages from a deep source of wisdom and understanding within individuals.  Every dream is a message from some deeper unconscious part of that person to the more conscious everyday part of oneself expressed in a language that needs to be learned and understood.  The dream has been called the royal road to the unconscious, but a more modern term might be that the dream is the window to the soul.

There are many different ways of approaching dreams, as their meaning is often on many different simultaneous levels.  On the most superficial level, the dream is a commentary on some ordinary everyday experience or situation that the dreamer is dealing with.  On a deeper level, the drama taking place in the dream can be explored, as each image and symbol in the dream represents some psychological aspect of the dreamer.  It can be looked at as a dialogue among the characters and feelings that inhabit the inner world.

Dreams can be extraordinarily elusive like trying to catch a butterfly just always out of reach.  The conscious mind seems to be reluctant to allow a full recollection or understanding of dreams.  Because dreams talk to the dreamer in a strange and foreign language of symbols and images, they disturb the conscious preconceptions of the identity of the dreamer.  Dreams are like looking down into a deep chasm into the soul, and people are sometimes afraid they will fall into the abyss if they look too long or too deeply into themselves.

So, if dreams are a reflection of the previous day's activities and preoccupations, then why do people have nightmares and/or repetitious dreams? Almost everyone has experienced one or more dreams that contain anxiety or outright fear.  These experiences can be quite traumatic or become recurrent.  For some, unpleasant dreams or nightmares repeat in actual content.  For others, the content may change while the theme remains the same, such as scenes of falling, or of being pursued or attacked, of being late or unprepared for class, a presentation or an exam.  Some people even dream of being stuck in slow motion and unable to move, or of being naked in public, to name a few common themes.

Research has shown that most recurring dreams are described as being unpleasant.  Furthermore, many dream theories converge in their view that this type of experience is associated with lack of progress by the dreamer to recognize and solve related conflicts in life.  Fear of nightmares from early in life, or other anxieties or misguided beliefs about dreams and the unconscious can block dream recall.  This can usually be overcome by learning about the useful nature of dreams and by recognizing that many nightmares represent opportunities for healing and insight, and can warn of psychological imbalances that needs to be remedied, or of current behaviors or decisions which may soon become detrimental unless the dreamer changes them.

But how does a therapist work with nightmares? The therapist can use a two pronged attack: the power of suggestion, and initiating and utilizing a lucid dream.  When clients report having nightmares, usually there is a moment in time at the onset of the dream when, full of dread, one thinks, 'Oh my God, here comes the nightmare!' In other words, for an instant, conscious thought is employed.  However, most individuals will then lapse into the full dream state and suffer the consequences of the experience.  These methods rely on the client recognizing and controlling that fragment of conscious thought.

The therapist will then assert--through the power of suggestion--that at the moment of conscious recognition of dream onset, instead of thinking, 'Oh my God, here comes the nightmare!', the client is encouraged to feel an eager anticipation and think, 'Great, here comes the nightmare!' It is at the point of conscious recognition that lucidity can be achieved.  Once the client has established control of the dream, the events and outcome can also be controlled.  However, during consciousness, many people should be able to program the mind to identify and recognize the onset of a nightmare, so that control can be achieved.

During waking hours, the individual should continually impress upon his or her mind that the next time a nightmare begins, it will be recognized, thus affording the opportunity to initiate lucidity and with it absolute control of the dream.  For example, imagine that a particular recurring nightmare always begins with a feeling of uneasiness, followed by a sense of being followed by something sinister.  If the client has impressed upon the conscious mind that this sequence will be recognized, then it should indeed ring a bell in the mind of the dreaming individual.  It is at the point when the dreamer, knowing that full control of the dream has been achieved, will be enabled to turn and face the threat with confidence.  Indeed, it is likely that the object of fear will manifest itself as nothing more than a comic or laughable object, if the dreamer wishes.

For various reasons, however, some adults can be more resistant to the power of suggestion, and may still find themselves plagued by bad dreams.  If the technique given above fails to make an impression, there remains other ways to deal with the problem--namely by the use of analytical interpretative therapy.  In this sense, the correct analysis of a nightmare will reveal the root cause.  Once the cause of a bad dream is identified, the circumstances surrounding it can be dealt with, resulting in a cure.

Today, many (though certainly not all) scientists think dreams serve no important purpose at all.  Some have suggested that dreams are nothing but a by-product of a "test program" run to see if the brain has had enough sleep yet, and if it has, to wake it up.  PET scans of dreaming brains show that while people are dreaming the frontal lobes, which integrate information, help people interpret the outside world, and contain working memory, are shut down.  That could explain why dreams are sometimes vivid, yet nonsensical.

With the frontal lobes inactive, dreams are driven by emotion, not logic.  And without working memory, the dreaming brain forgets what just happened in the dream--which is why in a dream one can step out of a kitchen onto the Empire State Building.  On the other hand, the hippocampus, where memories are processed for long-term storage, is active, so some have suggested that dreams are part of the filing process for long-term memory.  Just because dreams may not serve a physiological or psychological purpose, doesn't mean they don't have meaning.  They reflect what's on the mind of the dreamer.

Of course, all such studies are based on research subjects remembering their dreams.  Many people don't, and that's bad news for dream researchers, but good news for those who have unpleasant or disturbing dreams--as is the possibility that dreams are, ultimately, unimportant.

If that's true, there's no need to spend hours worrying about or analyzing dreams if they trouble the client--they're free to simply forget them.

One of the unknowns is: Do dreams change over time? Much of Hartmann's theory, and especially the problem-resolving function he assigns to dreaming, stands or falls with the degree to which dreams change over time.  He asserts that he has found positive changes in several dream series that he has studied, but he presents no systematic data on declines in particular negative themes, nor in any content categories that parallel the categories for aggressions, misfortunes, failures, and negative emotions in the Hall/Van de Castle system.  Nor has he reported any comparisons with possible changes in the dreams of people who have not suffered traumas.  The dreams are not available for others to study.

There is reason to be skeptical about his claims until systematic findings are presented.  Several cross-sectional studies show few or no changes in dream content once early adulthood is reached (Cote, Lortie-Lussier, Roy, & DeKoninck, 1996; Hall & Domhoff, 1963; Hall & Domhoff, 1964; Winget, Kramer, & Whitman, 1972; Zepelin, 1980; Zepelin, 1981).  There are two possible exceptions where the data are mixed, a decline in aggressions and in negative emotions (Brenneis, 1975; Cote et al., 1996; Howe & Blick, 1983).  If it were to prove to be the case that one or both of these two categories does show normative declines, then it might be that the therapeutic results Hartmann is attributing to dreams are really due to declines that are part of the normal aging process.

Longitudinal studies show the same picture of consistency.  Most of these studies are on continuous dream journals that stretch over years or decades (Bell & Hall, 1971; Domhoff, 1996; Smith & Hall, 1964).  However, one study looked at the dreams of 21 women who kept dream diaries for a few weeks at intervals of 10, 15, or 17 years and found no changes (Lortie-Lussier, Cote, & Vachon, 2000).  It would seem that the burden of proof would be on those who claim that dreams change over time, even though that would be the common-sense expectation.

However, there is a finding that could prove hopeful for Hartmann's claims.

There are people who report they stopped having their recurrent dreams, and there is evidence that their general dream content is more benign and that they are happier than those still experiencing recurrent dreams.(Zadra, 1996; Zadra, O'Brien, & Donderi, 1997-1998).  Still, the acid test for Hartmann's idea is the demonstration of positive changes in a dream journal in the weeks and months after a traumatic experience.

Contribution to the Field

The stigma that has accompanied dreams into the 20 th century can be thought of as quite unfortunate.  In this society, dreams are often thought of as unimportant or as pure nonsense.  This stigma accompanies all types of dreams, including lucid dreams.  Society needs to change the attitudes around dreaming due to the possible benefits that dream therapy could have on problems such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Lucid dreaming has been noted in history numerous times.  Aristotle mentioned lucid dreaming; philosopher Thomas Reid spoke of using lucid dreams to control his nightmares; and some have disputed lucid dreaming and said that there is no such thing.  If people doubt lucid dreams, they do so because they have never experienced one.  One might object that lucid dreamers are simply not attending to the environment; rather than being asleep, perhaps they are merely absorbed in their private fantasy worlds.  If subjects claim to have been awake while showing physiological signs of sleep (or vice versa), one might have cause to doubt their subjective reports.

The question that now must be raised is: what is considered a lucid dream? Those who have had a lucid dream but are unfamiliar with the terminology could easily recognize their dream as "lucid." There are two possible characteristics of lucid dreams and lucid dreamers: (a) lucid dreamers will frequently awaken from REM sleep once dream consciousness is achieved and (b) that lucidity will be easiest to induce at times in the night when the system is likely to be changing from REM to waking.

Lucid dreaming has a connection to the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.  There are many varied ways to treat and provide therapy for post traumatic stress disorder.  The literature indicates that early post trauma intervention and debriefing seem very effective.  Several studies, however, provide a rationale for early intervention and delineate its optimal timing and its target population.  The first line of evidence concerns the pathogenic effects of the secondary stressors that may follow the trauma itself.  Interventions that reduce these secondary stressors may improve the long-term outcome after traumas and disasters.

Even though disturbing dreams are said to be a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder, the treatment is non-dream oriented.  This is logical because physical problems can be treated in non-physical ways and vice versa.  What is illogical is that dream oriented treatment is not considered.  This could be simply an oversight, but it could also be an indicator of the aforementioned stigma surrounding dreams.  Dream therapy is not a new phenomenon but it seems unfortunate that it is popular within only select circles or therapists.  Lucid dreams could be an important tool for the recovery of post traumatic victims and it is unfortunate that a stigma could be the preventing factor surrounding this type of therapy.

Regardless of the exact way that lucid dreaming could be used to treat post traumatic stress disorder, the fact that there are so many diverse ways to use lucid dreams in this type of therapy is compelling.  Surely if there are so many possibilities one of them might find its way into the therapeutic circles.  There is no question that dream experts see the importance of lucid dreaming, so why has lucid dream therapy been overlooked by everyone else? It is possible that with the great variety of possible therapies for post traumatic stress disorder the therapists feel that there is no need for additional methods.

Some of those possible therapies might include image flooding and implosive therapy; systematic desensitization; other behavioral techniques such as thought stopping, cognitive restructuring, behavioral biblio-therapy; and establishing hierarchical routes of behavior to improve impulse control.  It is doubtful that any therapist would say that better means of therapy should not be explored or discovered.

Another factor could be that the theorists who do the research on therapeutic methods are not always the therapists.  Even if the therapists thought that additional methods were unnecessary, this does not mean that some experimental research would not be done in this area.  It is not likely the lack of need, which has prevented lucid dream therapy from being explored, but more likely the previously discussed stigma, which presents dreams as useless and nonsensical.  It is true that the attitudes surrounding dreams are changing.  These changes are characterized by the growing field of dream research and dream experts but unfortunately, these changes do not include the development of positive dream attitudes in non-dream-oriented psychology.  Better attitudes surrounding dreams in non-dream psychology must be developed before dream therapy reaches a popular status.

There are also studies currently being done where scientists are discovering that they can, in part, control what people dream about, or dream content.  In Boston, a team of Harvard Medical School scientists has achieved what researchers since Freud's day have sought--a way to control, at least in part, the content of a person's dreams.  They are using their dream-provoking method to explore age-old questions, such as: Where do dreams come from? What do they mean? What is their role in memory, learning, and creativity? What is their link to the unconscious?

Robert Stickgold, HMS assistant professor of psychiatry, and his colleagues reported that they were able to get 17 different people to see the same dream images as they drifted off to sleep. Stickgold and his colleagues elicited the carbon-copy images using the computer game Tetris, training 27 subjects--12 novices, 10 experts and 5 amnesiacs--to play the game over the course of three days--a two-hour morning and one-hour evening session the first day and an hour-long morning and evening session each of the following two days.  They then monitored the subjects' dreams as they were drifting to sleep on the first two evenings. 

Seventeen of the subjects, over 60 percent of the total, reported dreaming at least once in the hour after they fell asleep, and all reported the exact same dream images--falling Tetris pieces.  And intriguingly, the majority of dream reports occurred on the second rather than the first night of training.  This lag between first training and most intensive dreaming is interesting for the light it may shed on the link between learning and dreams.  It appears that the need to learn may actually prod the brain to dream.  "It's as if the brain needs more time or more play before it decides, 'Okay, this is something that I really need to deal with at sleep onset," Stickgold said. 

Perhaps the most surprising findings of all came from the amnesiacs in the study.  Co-author David Roddenberry found that when the five amnesiacs--who had no short-term memory due to hippocampus damage--were exposed to the computer game protocol, three of them experienced the same hypnagogic dreams as the normal subjects.  The fact that some of the amnesiacs saw the falling Tetris pieces points to the powerful role played by the unconscious in dreams.  In fact, Stickgold believes that the amnesiac's unconscious Tetris memories may have affected not only their dreams but their waking behavior.  Unlike the normal subjects in their study--who improved in their computer games over the course of the three days--the amnesiacs showed marginal improvement.  Most had to be taught the game all over again each day.

The notion that dreaming is prompted by a need to learn was supported by other findings as well.  The researchers found that novices who reported seeing falling Tetris pieces did not perform as well in their initial two hour Tetris training session as those who did not see the images.  Those who needed to do the least work were the experts in the study, each of whom had previously logged at least 50 and as much as 500 hours of Tetris playing, mostly on Nintendo sets.  Half of them reported dreams of Tetris pieces falling before their eyes, but the last two experts reported an intriguing twist.  Rather than seeing the Tetris pieces in black and white, as they were shown in the experimental protocol, they saw them as they appeared in their earlier Nintendo Tetris-playing days--in color and accompanied by music. This substitution of old images for new ones strikes at the most distinctive quality of dreams--their often astounding creativity.  In dreaming, the brain does not merely replay memories but transforms them by associating them with old images and memories.

Although the practice of psychotherapy only developed in the 20th Century following Freud, Jung, and many other pioneers, the word psychotherapy hints at ancient roots and resonance with shamanic techniques in the Western tradition.  Psyche meant soul in ancient Greek.  Therapeutes meant attendant, especially in one of the temples of Asclepius (or Asklepios), the Greek god of healing.  So, the literal meaning of psychotherapy is "tending to the soul."

Patients in the Asclepian temples were treated with a form of dream therapy.  First, they would fast and bathe in sacred springs.  In a state of consciousness described as "divine sleep," they would see vivid images of Asclepius, who would diagnose and prescribe treatments.  The temple guides would appear, accompanied by snakes and other animals, providing treatments and rituals.  After the healing vision was complete, it would be performed as a sacred play.  Every element of this Greek temple therapy has a parallel in current or historic shamanic practice.

Some of these ancient methods are still used in modern dream therapy, although the context and language are quite different.  Guided imagery is often used to explore, deepen, and extend the experience of a dream.  In a Senoi technique, clients are encouraged to visualize interacting with the spirit of a dream image, honoring that presence, asking for information, and exchanging gifts.  And both psychodrama and Gestalt use a dramatic technique of acting various dream images in an imagined landscape.  This is a powerful method of understanding and integrating the many viewpoints present in any dream.

Shamanic journeys and therapy can be integrated in many ways.  For example, clients can explore dreams in a shamanic state of consciousness, or bring images from a journey out onto a pillow and interact with them in a Gestalt dialogue, or explore the voice and movement of an animal helper as expressive therapy.  Clients who are working with issues such as alcoholism, depression, or childhood sexual abuse often benefit from a combination of journeys and therapy.  The journeys are a safe and efficient doorway into the heart of the issue, and usually bring an immediate sense of release, empowerment, connection, and hope.  The transformations can be profound and deeply moving.

But then the challenge is to implement the changes from the journey in daily life.  Ongoing therapy sessions help clients integrate and maintain the healing they have received in their shamanic journeys.  The therapeutic relationship provides a safe container to explore and reprogram old patterns of thinking, feeling, moving, and relating to self and others.

It is important to recognize the differences between traditional shamanism and modern adaptations.  Shamans play an important, complex role in their community.  Each tribe or ethnic group has certain practices and beliefs specific to that culture that affect the shaman's role and techniques.  All indigenous groups are uniquely and exquisitely adapted to the ecology in which they live, and the specific environment affects the shaman's functions.

This study will add to what's already been done, in that it can further the theories of working more efficiently with clients in a therapeutic session, with dreams as the center of that session.  Also, therapy can be more effective when feelings from dreams can be directed back to the client.  Clients can then realize the relevance of those feelings and apply them to their daily lives for healing.






Chapter 3


Research Methods

Dream journals written down by different individuals for their own diverse purposes may not seem to be a very sound source of data, but in fact such journals are the kind of "non-reactive" or "unobtrusive" archival data that gain strength if they yield similar results despite the varying purposes and motives of the journal writers, and if there are correlations and correspondences with other information that is obtained after blind analyses of the journals are completed.

Evidence for the usefulness of this approach with dream reports is seen in a series of unpublished analyses of dream journals by Calvin Hall.  They show that people tend to be very consistent in what they dream about on the Hall/Van de Castle indicators for periods as long as five decades.  This work also shows that there is consistency in a person's dream reports when the reports are divided into sub-samples of 100, from which it follows that a sample of 100 dream reports provides a representative sample of a person's dream life in any given time period if all recalled dreams in that time period are written down.

Since the publication of Freud's monumental work, Die Traumdeutung , the interpretation of dreams as a diagnostic method for the analysis of personality has remained the exclusive property of psychoanalysis.  The psychologist, except for an occasional investigator who experiments with dreams as perceptual phenomena, has not concerned himself with dreams as psychological data.  This neglect was understandable as long as the psychologist concentrated his attention on laboratory dissections of sensation, perception, learning, memory, and thought.  Now that he has widened his experimental horizons to include personality, character, and temperament, disregard of the dream can no longer be justified.

Because the dream possesses two characteristics, this should make it highly eligible for serious and systematic investigation.  It is a personal document and a projection .  As a personal document, it is more frank and intimate than a diary and as a projection it requires no ink-blots or pictures to bring it into existence.  The dream is more purely personal and more purely projected than any other material which the psychologist has available for the study of personality.

Now, someone may ask: Why hasn't the psychoanalysts established dream interpretation as a dependable scientific tool? Psychoanalysts have poured forth an opulent array of hypotheses and theories.  Their speculations are shrewd, sophisticated and, to the uninitiated, often esoteric.  At their best, the psychoanalytic theories appear impressively insightful; at their worse, they appear impressively fraudulent.

Stekel's works on the interpretation of dreams leaves the reader with the feeling that the dream "tells all, " that it is the portal into the most secret recesses of the inner personality.  It cannot be denied that the psychoanalysts, in addition to their penchant for theorizing, make brilliant use of dream interpretation in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders.  For them, the dream is not only a datum about which to speculate; it is also a datum to be put to work.  If practice verifies theory, what then is lacking?

The principal deficiency to be found in the psychoanalytic writings is that they fail to meet the standards of the scientific method.  Like animal psychology prior to Lloyd Morgan, the psychology of dreams is still in the anecdotal stage.  Psychoanalysis has not recognized the importance of controls, of statistical treatment of its data, of validation.  It erects a top-heavy theoretical structure on the foundation of selected examples, and has not designed experiments for the purpose of checking its speculations.  It has a flair for dogmatism and ex-cathedral statements, and a distaste for quantification and control.  It is proposed, therefore, to make a scientific study of dreams for the purpose of establishing the interpretation of dreams as a valid method for diagnosing some facets of the personality that currently elude accurate description.

Through the analysis of dreams, important and significant information about the inner dynamics of the personality can be discovered.  It is with hope that this belief may be corroborated by the application of those experimental procedures, which have been used to validate other diagnostic tools.

The method that has been employed in the present research project consists of the following steps: First, the dream series are collected.  College students in psychology classes served as subjects since it was necessary to have them available over a long period of time and in a situation where good cooperation could be expected.  The first group of dream series was obtained from 71 students in a summer class in personality and adjustment, which was met daily.  During the first ten minutes of the class period, they were asked to write down any dreams of the previous night, which they could remember.  Recording of dreams was done for 23 consecutive class days, not including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.  The instructor collected dreams daily.  A change in procedure was tried with a second class of 75 students.

Since it was felt that a genuine desire to participate in the study on the part of the subjects was crucial, the enlistment of subjects was done in such a way to give the subjects a feeling of importance of their contribution.  The time interval between the occurrence of the dream in each dream series and the first trial session in which the subjects learned how to free associate varied.  The choice of using ten dreams rather than any other number was arbitrary.  After receiving the dream series, they were rated by the writer on the rating scale.

The first session, at which most of the students met the investigator for the first time, was dedicated to getting acquainted and learning how to free associate.  The investigator conducted all interviews in a small room of his home, which contained a comfortable couch, a little table and an easy chair, as well as other furniture.  For the preliminary talks, the potential subject sat on the couch while the investigator faced him in the easy chair.  During the period of free associations, the investigator was seated behind the subject, with the little table in front of him slightly to the left of the subject in order to permit observation of the subject.  After some rapport was established, the potential subject was asked to lie down on the couch, make himself as comfortable as possible, loosen his tie, etc.  He was told to relate a recent dream that he had not reported as part of the study.

Each student was given a notebook in which the dreams he had during the semester were to be recorded.  The recording was to be done as soon as convenient after awakening.  These dream diaries were collected in the middle of the semester and again near the end.  Although this method worked out fairly well in terms of the number of dreams obtained, it is hypothesized that the procedure of recording dreams in the classroom is more satisfactory because it is done under better controlled conditions.  Following these two initial surveys, a standardized form for recording dreams was devised and printed.  Dreams are entered on these forms either in the classroom or under the supervision of an instructor or graduate student.

The second step is the coding of the dreams.  This is done to conceal the identity of the dreamer.  It is deemed necessary to preserve the anonymity of the dreamer for two reasons.  Dreams often contain material of a highly personal and intimate nature, and since the series are read and discussed by a number of individuals, it is thought best not to run the risk of having confidential material become public knowledge.  When subjects are informed that their identity will be kept secret, they are more inclined to report dreams that might otherwise be suppressed.  Even with this safeguard, it is not likely that all recalled dreams would be recorded.

Another reason for concealing the subject's identity is to prevent information about the dream that had been obtained from other sources from influencing the interpretation of his dream series.  It is a principal objective of this investigation to determine the validity of dream series per se for the diagnosis of personality.  This is an important consideration.  Suppose, for example, it is known to the dream interpreter from other sources that a student whose dreams he is analyzing has a conflict with regard to his religious beliefs.  Will he not be tempted to find this conflict portrayed in the dream series? In such a case, the dreams will appear to yield a valid portrayal of a real conflict when in fact the evaluation is based upon other information.  This error may be called the fallacy of pseudo-validity.

It abounds in studies of personality and is especially prevalent in the writings of psychoanalysts.  They are prone to project into dreams conflicts of whose existence they already possess knowledge.  The fallacy of pseudo-validity can be avoided by analyzing the dreams of anonymous subjects.

The third step is the analysis and interpretation of the dream series.  It is here that major difficulties are encountered, and a dream can be interpreted in diverse ways depending upon the particular theory of dreams that the interpreter adopts.  A college girl dreams that she contracts infantile paralysis and has to quit school.  The interpretation may be made that the girl wishes to be disabled in order to avoid going to school or that she fears contracting infantile paralysis.  It may be that she feels guilty and the disease is her punishment, or that she regresses to "paralyzed infancy." She may be attempting to interpret a somatic condition present during sleep, or, in the words of the great American public, "it was something she ate." Each interpretation rests upon a different hypothesis.  In the face of such diversity, one might decide to toss overboard all theories and "let the dream speak for itself." But the raw dream tells us nothing about this girl's personality.  Interpretation is necessary if dreams are to be used for the appraisal of personality.

Most individuals complied and the dream was treated in the same fashion as described in the section on free association, except that the investigator did not record the association.  In those few instances where the subject could not remember such a dream, he was asked to make one up which was then treated in the same fashion.

When an individual came the second time, work began in earnest.  The physical setup was as described before.  This time, however, the investigator recorded the responses.  It is not easy to describe the technique that the investigator used to evoke the associations, since a great deal consisted in an intuitive appraisal of the subject's personality in regard to where and how deep to probe.  Formally, the procedure of collection of free associations consisted in the following steps:

In the course of the first rating without free associations, the dream series was studied in detail.  The dreams were then arranged more or less in the order of increasing complexity and taken up in this order unless the subject preferred some other dream.  Greatest importance was attached to the development of self-confidence in the dreamer's ability to interpret his dreams.  This end seemed to be served best by the order of progressively increasing complexity.

After the dream was chosen, it was read as a whole to the subject to refresh his memory, since in most instances, there was a considerable time gap between the dream and the period of associations.  After reading of the entire dream, some subjects made remarks about its meaning and these were recorded.  Next, each sentence, and finally each part of the sentence was read to the subject, and his associations recorded.  Associations were also collected to all feelings, which occurred with the dreams and proved to be most important.

The use of medication was also used to determine if dream content changed after participants took antidepressants.  Specifically, for this study, the medication used was Zoloft.  Since the study involves only one subject and somewhat less than the 75-100 dream reports for each condition that would be ideal in terms of sample size (Domhoff, 1996), it is best viewed as a pilot study.  Nonetheless, it is the first study on the influence of medication on dream content indicators to detect any changes that may have occurred.  The study is also worthy of note because several of the changes in the dreams after medication are in the medium to large range in terms of the magnitude of effect sizes (Domhoff, 1996, 1999).

Perhaps due to the great difficulties of carrying out systematic studies on how drugs might affect dreams, the literature on this topic is not large.  Roth, Kramer, and Salis (1979) provide an excellent review and critique of the nine studies that had been published up to the time of their overview.  They conclude that "some sedative-hypnotic and antidepressant agents may effect the quality of dreams, but the precise nature of the effect is yet to be determined" (Roth et al., p.  220).  They further note that "Few if any of the existing studies were more than pilot studies," and that "there has been a failure to examine even one drug in depth..." (Roth et al., p.  221).

There have been only two new studies since the critique of the literature cited in the previous paragraph.  The first does not deal directly with dream content, but with self-ratings of the pleasantness of dream reports by depressed outpatients at various stages in their treatment with trimipramine; the patients reported after four weeks that their dreams had fewer negative emotions (Riemann, Low, Schredl, Weigand, Dippel, & Berger, 1990).  The second study compares 27 pre-medication dream reports from a group of patients suffering major, non-psychotic depression with 32 dreams from the same group after they began taking antidepressant medication, either fluoxetine (Prozacdissertation sample ) or nefazndone (Serzonedissertation sample ).  The study is described as an "add-on to studies of the effects of antidepressants on sleep physiology" (Armitage, Rochlen, Fitch, Trivedi, & Rush, 1995, p.  191), so the dreams were obtained after a set time of awakening each morning in the sleep laboratory.  The major finding is the low level of dream recall both before and during medication, with only 21 of 89 patients reporting at least one dream from at least one of the two conditions.

The two small sets of dreams are rated on 0-5 scales for 19 dimensions of dreams, such as vividness, active-passive participation, and presence of others.  The scales for emotionality, sexuality, violence, and success/failure were adapted from Hall/Van de Castle categories (Armitage et al., 1995, p.  192).  Both sets of dream reports were "short, relatively bland with little emotion" (Armitage et al., p.  193).  There were only two differences: "On treatment, when depression symptoms were improved, dreams were less vivid with fewer scenes" (Armitage et al., p.196).  Given the tentative nature of most findings in this literature and the sometimes inconsistent results (Armitage et al., 1995, p.196; Roth et al., 1979, p.  219), perhaps this brief case study can suggest a new direction for future studies.

The traditional and most frequently used technique to interpret dreams since the publication of Freud's book on dreams in 1900 is to collect free associations to the dream as a whole, its parts, and the feelings in the dream.  From these data, the dream analysant and analyst in a cooperative enterprise try to decipher the motivational sources of the dream.  While perhaps not experimentally "proven", this technique has shown its usefulness in clinical practice so repeatedly that it has become part of the working equipment of most psychotherapists, though they may differ in some details of usage.

Though this technique is used widely in psychotherapy, it does have certain shortcomings, especially when the objective is not psychotherapy but limited to the understanding of personality dynamics.  In the latter instance, the collecting of free associations to dreams is often not economical in terms of time and effort on the part of subject and investigator since less time consuming techniques of personality diagnosis, (Rorschach, for example) are available.  Another disadvantage with free association is that people vary a great deal in their aptitude for free associations.  Therapists and investigators too, differ in their aptitude to elicit free associations.

Thus it would be worthwhile to investigate how much can be learned about the personality of people solely from their dreams.  But over and above these practical considerations, the question whether dreams alone can reveal the personality of the dreamer is a significant theoretical problem.  There has been in recent years a more open interest in manifest dreams as indicated by published material.  Erikson's approach to the manifest dream consists of a careful examination of certain formal aspects such as partial and emotional content of the manifest dream.  It must be noted that the subject of the study here is the individual dream.

Hall made a somewhat different approach to studying dream series as a whole.  His technique was to collect a number of dreams from subjects and then examine them as a unit, starting with a "spotlight dream" i.e., a dream with important obvious significance, and fitting the rest together in as internally consistent a picture as possible.  This method is not unlike that used in putting together a jigsaw puzzle where one usually starts with a prominent piece and then fits the rest around it.  The criterion is how well the pieces fit together and whether they make a meaningful picture.

In this method, the degree of internal consistency is the criterion of validity of the interpretation unless other data such as tests are available.  The assumption underlying the acceptance of internal consistency as criterion for validity is that there is only one optimal fit, which represents the correct understanding of the meaning of the dream series.  Hall used in his work, an orthodox Freudian theoretical framework.

The dreamer is a female college student.  She recorded the first series of 33 dreams (pre-medication condition) as part of a psychotherapeutic process when she was 18 and in her first year of college.  At that time, she was suffering from anxiety and mild depression.  After one year of psychotherapy through her college health services, the client terminated his therapy because he felt that it was not helping her.  One year after ending psychotherapy, at age 20, the client consulted a doctor about heart palpitations and light-headedness and was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks.

The psychiatrist prescribed sertraline (Zoloftdissertation sample ), an antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that is sometimes prescribed to ease panic attacks and anxiety.  The patient began taking 25 milligrams of sertraline nightly, and gradually worked up to 100 milligrams before the panic attacks stopped.  One year later, at the age of 21 and still taking medication, she recorded 40 more dreams (post-medication condition) for possible use in a research project in conjunction with a college course in psychology, but without any knowledge of the Hall/Van de Castle system.

Specific Procedures

There are two fast, inexpensive, and reliable ways to obtain large samples of dream reports: (1) collecting a most recent dream from at least 100 to 125 people who are gathered in a large setting (e.g., performance hall, classroom, rest home, clinic, or convention center), a process that takes from 10 to 15 minutes when the people are seated in the same room; (2) finding dream journals with at least 75-100 dream reports that are kept by different individuals for different reasons at one or more times in their lives.

The most recent dream technique was developed from the finding that four different samples of dream reports from college students produced essentially the same results with scales from the Hall/Van de Castle system.  The next step was to draw numerous randomized sub-samples of 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, and 250 dream reports from the 500 reports used by Hall and Van de Castle to create their male norms.  This large-scale analysis was made possible by entering all coding for the 500 reports into the computer.

The next step was an unpublished study by the authors using 100 most recent dreams from women students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1992 and 1993.  There was not a single statistically significant difference from the norms.  More recently, the method has been shown to be feasible with children as young as ages 12-13; two different samples from 12-13 year-old girls yielded similar results on Hall/Van de Castle indicators.

Just as the above-cited literature suggests that reasonably representative dream reports can be collected outside the laboratory, studies showing small or no differences between high and low recallers on most personality and cognitive variables suggest that those who provide dream reports are a representative sample of people on the dimensions that can be measured by current psychological tests.  The one exception may be Ernest Hartmann's relatively new test for "thick" (well-defended) and "thin" (permeable) boundaries, which shows a positive correlation between thin boundaries and higher recall, but at the same time there is no correlation between this test and other personality measures.  At worst, recallers may differ in being more "open" to their experiences.

As written down here, the process seems mechanical.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  If one were to conduct the session in a mechanical fashion, the response, for example, to the stimulus word, "chair," would be associations like "table," "desk," "couch," etc.  However, this investigator was not after associations per se, but after meaningful associations, i.e., associations that fit into an internally coherent personality picture.  To this end, the subject was at all times urged to integrate the material produced.  Much of the time of each session consisted more in a dream inquiry than in the production of associations.  When there was a block in the dream inquiry, the emphasis was shifted to free association.  In some instances, the attempt to integrate interfered with the production of free association.  In these instances, the subject was urged to forget about the dream temporarily and was later guided back to a more integrative set.

Underlying all the work with the subject was the attitude, which was carefully implanted and fostered, that he, and only he "knew," in some recess of his mind, the meaning of the dream and that he was the one to discover it.  He was told that a dream is comparable to a stage production, of which he is the director, and that he was the one to answer all questions of the why and how of the production, granting that this might involve finding it out by roundabout ways.  If the subject did offer an interpretation, the attitude of the investigator was one of skepticism, which was expressed as follows: "Is that what it means?" "How do you know?" "Let's see why." "Can you prove it?"

The responses of the subjects to their dreams were recorded as faithfully as possible by the investigator in longhand.  The recording turned out to be by far the thorniest part of the whole study.  Many subjects used the sessions for discussion of their personal problems, though this had not been suggested, at least not consciously.  The attitude on the part of the investigator that made subjects feel free to discuss their problems is considered a necessary condition to elicit the quality of material that the investigator wanted to and did obtain from the subject.  If the investigator had indicated more or less subtly, "We have only time for dreams," or, "Let's discuss this later," it would have meant a great loss in the intensity of rapport and a concomitant reduction of the depth and meaningfulness of the material produced.  After the collection of the free associations to the ten dreams, the investigator re-rated the dream series on the personality scale in the light of the free associations.

Study I will refer to the first reliability study carried out by co-worker Lane by the rating of twenty-four comparable but different dream series prior to the study, and comparing her ratings with those of the investigator on the same data.  Study II will refer to the reliability study carried out by co-worker Johnson-Dyer, by rating of ten dream series (six male and four females) and pertaining associations which are part of this study, and comparison of her ratings with those of the investigator based on the same material.  Study III will refer to the comparison of the two sets of ratings of the investigator on the twenty-four subjects (twelve males and twelve females) based on the dreams alone with those based on dreams with free associations.

The concept of reliability, as it applies to this thesis, is discussed in detail in Lane's paper.  We shall, therefore, be brief in our treatment.  Each of the co-workers rated each case on all twenty-five ratings, i.e., they were forced to make a rating regardless of whether they felt sufficient evidence was available for a rating.  The investigator rated only in those instances where he felt a rating was justified by evidence.  Thus, each co-worker had on each item of the scale three choices, "a," "b," and "c," while the investigator had four choices, i.e., the same as the co-workers plus "no rating." A complete agreement between two ratings like "a"-"a," "b"-"b," or "c"-"c," was counted one point (1.00).

A one step disagreement like "a"-"b," "b"-"a," "b"-"c," or "c"-"b," was counted half a point (0.50).  Total disagreement, such as "a"-"c," or "c"-"a," was counted zero point (0.00).

Table I gives the rating scale and numbers assigned to each item on the scale.  Table II gives the complete results of Studies I, II, III.  In this table, the column headings and abbreviations have the following meanings:

  1. "Item number" refers to the item number on the rating scale as given in Table I. 
  2. "N" refers to the respective N's of the three studies.  "%" refers to the percentage agreement for all items between co-worker Lane and the investigator in Study I, co-worker Johnson-Dyer and the investigator in Study II, and the investigator with himself, after study of dreams alone and dreams plus free associations, in Study III, respectively. 
  3. "Sig." refers to the levels of significance with which the chance hypothesis can be rejected, on all items in all three studies. 
  4. "<" sign next to a level of significance indicates that the item did not reach that level of significance, i.e., percentage agreement.

The question immediately arises to what degree does Hall's method of dream interpretation produce results comparable to those achieved by the use of dreams and free associations? Specifically, to what extent in qualitative and quantitative terms does the picture of a dreamer's personality, as derived from a series of dreams alone, agree with that derived from the same dreams if free associations to these dreams are also evaluated?

This was the problem of the study.  It was carried out in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D.  degree in psychology by the writer at Western Reserve University from June, 1949, through September, 1950, under the supervision of Dr.  Calvin S.  Hall.  It should be noted that the validity of the personality picture derived from dreams and free associations is not an issue of this study, but for the purposes here, is taken for granted.

The subjects were 24 college students, 12 male and 12 female, who volunteered for the study.  The age range was 19 through 27 for the males, 19 through 21 for the females.  The mean age of the total sample was 20.7 years, being 21.5 years for the boys and 19.9 for the girls.  Thirty-seven and one-half per cent of the subjects were psychology majors, 42.7% of the males and 33.3% of the females.  The study consisted of the following parts:

The Rating Scale

Development of a quantitative personality rating scale, along psychoanalytic lines on which dream series alone and dream series, plus free associations, could be rated reliably after adequate training in its use, and demonstration of the reliability of these ratings of dream series alone and of dream series plus free associations.

The Study Proper

The collection of dream series from college students who volunteered for this study, with the rating of the dream series on the rating scale.  The collection of free associations to the dream series.  The rating of the same dream series with the addition of free associations, and quantitative comparison of the agreement of ratings from dream series alone with those from dream series plus free associations.

Presentation of Results

The overall findings were compared with the findings for the first 25, first 50, first 75, and first 100 reports in the sample.  The results approximated the overall findings when the sub-sample reached 75 dream reports, where 14 of 18 comparisons were within five points of the overall score.  By way of contrast, 11 of the 18 comparisons were five or more points away from the overall results with the first 50 dream reports.  If these results can be replicated in future studies, then it can be argued that 75-100 dream reports in a personal journal can provide a representative sample of a person's dream life.

The key finding is that it takes 100 to 125 dream reports to approximate the norms within approximately 4 to 7 percentage points on most of the 22 indicators that were used.  At one extreme, sub-samples of 25 reports fluctuated widely on all but one or two indicators, suggesting that past studies with such small sample sizes could not be easily replicated.  At the other extreme, 250 reports replicated the norms almost exactly, a finding that could be of use to those who want to generate norms for people outside the United States.

To refine the analysis even further, the findings and arguments in this section suggest that large samples of dream reports of a useful quality can be collected in an efficient and inexpensive fashion.  The problem now arises as to how to analyze these large samples given that coding takes time to learn and is labor-intensive to carry out.

Several coding systems have been developed for the analysis of dream content, and most of them have been useful in one or another study.  However, there are several reasons for suggesting that researchers adopt the Hall/Van de Castle system.  It has been shown to be comprehensive and reliable in studies by many different researchers in several different countries, and to be applicable to dream reports collected by anthropologists in the past in small traditional cultures.  This is the only system that provides norms for college-age women and men, which have been replicated three times.

The norms are also used with adults of all ages because several studies have shown that dream reports do not change much after young adulthood, except perhaps for aggression scores.  In addition, findings with the Hall/Van de Castle system correlate with individual, gender, and cultural differences, which is good evidence for the predictive validity of the content categories.  Table 1 presents the normative Hall/Van de Castle findings for 22 indicators, several of which have been added since the system was first developed.

Table 1: Normative Expectations on All Major Indicators for Main Content Categories in the Hall/Van de Castle System



Male Norms

Female Norms



Animal Percent



Male/female percent



Familiarity percent



Friends percent



Family percent



Social interactions

A/C index



F/C index



Aggression/friendliness percent



Befriender percent



Victimization percent



Physical aggression percent




Indoor setting percent



Familiar setting percent



Other content categories


Dreamer-involved success percent



Bodily misfortunes percent



Negative emotions percent



Percentage of dream reports with at least one:




















In Table II, levels of confidence with which the chance hypothesis can be rejected are shown.  The underlying assumption is that all ratings (a,b,c) have an equal probability of occurring, i.e., the rater shows no preference for a particular rating.  This assumption might be challenged on the grounds that, for example, ratings "a" and "c" do not occur at all on item one, which is incidentally the only item on which this happened.  Of course, it is perfectly true that this item does not differentiate, and cannot for that reason be used for that purpose.  It would have been very unwise to force the statistical curve on the data, which would have not been difficult to do.  As a matter of fact, during the study, the raters never investigated how often they had use the various ratings (a,b,c), but made the judgment which seemed to fit the case best.  Actually, the universal rating of "b" in this case is very meaningful, suggesting that the sample as a whole had unresolved Oedipus complexes.

In other words, the investigator holds that the absence of ratings "a" and "c" in this case is not due to a reluctance on the part of the rater to use these categories, but to the distribution of the characteristics in question in our sample.  As far as changes in the sense of addition are concerned, Study III offered opportunities for six hundred ratings (twenty-five ratings on twenty-four subjects).  After reading of the dreams alone, the investigator made five hundred fifty-four or 92.33 per cent of the possible ratings.  After additional study of the associations, he made five hundred eighty-five ratings, that is, 97.50 per cent of the possible ratings, or an addition of 5.17 per cent to the ratings made on the study of the dreams alone.

This shows that after study of the free associations the judges were not able to rate many more variables than they had been rating after study of the dreams alone.  If the objective of collecting free associations to dreams had been to permit more variables to be evaluated, the small number of additional variables, which could then be rated would not be considered a worthwhile return for the time and effort invested.  The ratings do not suggest that there were systematic differences in the percentage agreements on male subjects versus female subjects either in Study II or III.  Even if all the items were rated reliably, knowledge of all the ratings on a subject would not reveal enough about the individual to give the reader an adequate picture of the subject's personality.

In the medication study, post-medication dreams differed significantly from the pre-medication dreams in several of the content categories.  The effect sizes were often above .40, which is considered large for dream content studies (Domhoff, 1996).  The most dramatic effect is the post-medication decrease in the A/C Index, the ratio of aggressive acts to characters (h = -.82, p < .001).  The aggression/friendliness percent also decreased (h = -.48, p < .003).  In addition to the decrease in aggression, there was a corresponding increase in friends and friendliness.  The ratio of friendliness to characters (F/C Index) increased (h = +.41, p < .003), along with the number of characters who were friends of the dreamer (h = +.44, p < .003).  Another positive effect was the dreamer's increase in good fortune (h = +.58, p < .013).  Finally, the number of elements from the dreamer's past decreased dramatically (h = -.71, p < .01), as did familiar settings (h = -.75, p < .002).

Table 1. Pre-Medication vs.  Post-Medication Content Category Percentages








Animal percent





Male/Female percent





Familiarity percent





Friends percent°




.003 b


Group percent




.820 Social interaction ratios


A/C index°




.000 b


F/C index°




.003 b


Aggression/Friendliness percent°




.003 b


Befriender percent





Aggressor percent°





Physical aggression percent°





Other content categories


Indoor setting percent





Familiar setting percent




.002 b


Negative emotions percent°





Dreamer-involved success percent°





Bodily misfortunes percent°





Percentage of dream reports with at least one:

















Good fortune




.013 a

















Elements from past




.010 b

NOTE: Categories followed by ° are possible indicators of psychopathology.
a Significant at the .05 level.
b Significant at the .01 level.

Most of the changes in the post-medication dream content brought the dreamer closer to the female norms established by Hall and Van de Castle (see Figure 1).  In the cases where she moved further from the norms, such as friendliness and good fortune, it was on dream content that can be considered positive in nature.

Figure 1. h-profile of pre-medication and post-medication dreams compared to female norms.

dissertation sample

The rating scale should reflect the psychoanalytic personality theory.  The rating scale should also be adapted as much as possible to the way a practical clinical psychologist operates in his daily work.  Specifically, the clinician does not think in terms of isolated traits, but in terms of the total personality.  For this reason the categories should be as global as the thinking of the psychoanalytically oriented clinician who describes personality in terms of orality, oedipus complexes, etc.  Lastly, since reliable global judgments are possible, provided raters are taught the technique in personal training sessions, rather than by a scoring manual, the units of the rating scale should reflect a fairly high level of abstraction.  The following rating scale, while far from perfect, seemed more suitable for the purposes of this work.

Table I: Rating Scale

A.  Psychosexual Development

1. Oedipus resolution
a) positive
b) unresolved or otherwise
c) negative

2a.  Males: castration fear
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak or absent

2b.  Females: penis envy
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak or absent

3.  Primary dominant stage of psychosexual development
a) oral
b) anal
c) phallic or genital

4.  Secondary stage of psychosexual development
a) oral
b) anal
c) phallic or genital

5.  Degree of narcissism
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak or absent

6.  Type of sexual orientation
a) homosexual
b) bisexual
c) heterosexual

7.  Quality of sexual adjustment
a) good
b) moderate
c) poor

B.  Family Relations

8.  Intensity of relation to mother
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

9.  Quality of relation to mother
a) harmonious
b) medium
c) unharmonious

10.  Intensity of relation to father
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

11.  Quality of relation to father
a) harmonious
b) medium
c) unharmonious

12.  Quality of relation to siblings
a) harmonious
b) medium
c) unharmonious

C.  Present Adjustment

13.  Intensity of relation to same sex
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

14.  Quality of relation to same sex
a) harmonious
b) medium
c) unharmonious

15.  Intensity of relation to opposite sex
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

16.  Quality of relation to opposite sex
a) harmonious
b) medium
c) unharmonious

17.  Ego strength
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

18.  Id strength
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

19.  Superego strength
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

20.  Emotional control
a) rigid
b) moderate
c) weak

21.  Aggression toward others
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

22.  Aggression toward self
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak

23.  Anxiety
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak or absent

24.  Emotional maturity
a) mature
b) moderately mature
c) immature

25.  Degree of psychopathology
a) strong
b) moderate
c) weak or absent


To demonstrate the point that global judgment of this nature can be made reliably from dream series alone, as well as from dream series with free associations, co-workers Lane and Johnson-Dyer were instructed in the technique of rating dream series alone, and dream series with free associations respectively, on this rating scale, and their ratings compared statistically.  The results of these reliability studies are reported in the next section.  Lane, who has since then received her Ph.D.  in psychology, was at the time a graduate student in psychology at Western Reserve University.  Johnson-Dyer was at the time an undergraduate with a major in psychology at Western Reserve University.

The rating of dreams with and without free associations was done in the following manner: The rating procedure of the dream series alone consisted in the following steps:

Fast reading of the dreams in chronological order to get an overall impression.

Detailed analysis of all dreams, starting with a "spotlight" dream and continuing with dreams as they seemed to be pertinent to the problems rose.

Third reading of the dreams in chronological order with the idea of constructing an internally consistent personality picture and to fit in loose ends not yet integrated in step 2.

Rating and recording of the ratings of the personality as understood at the completion of step 3.  The rating procedure of the dreams and associations which were studied in chronological order of the collection of the free associations, consisted in the following steps: 1.  Study of each dream and associations with the view of developing hypotheses that could be accepted or rejected by subsequent associations, 2.  detailed study of the dream elements and the free associations, and 3.  review of the dream as a whole in the light of all the material studied so far.

Reliability and Viability

By using the method proposed in this paper, diagnoses of the inner conflicts of people can be obtained without resorting to any other data than the dream series and the explanatory material offered by the dreamers.  How valid are the inferences based upon the interpretation of dreams? Do they bear any relation to the dynamics as they actually exist within the person? May they not be imaginary creations, whose only existence is in the mind of the interpreter? After reading the over-contrived interpretations, which is characteristic of so much of the psychoanalytic literature, it becomes obvious that the need for validation is an imperative one.

Although the validation of personality appraisals based upon dream series has not progressed beyond the initial stages, some positive evidence has been gathered in the following format:

1.  Social agreement

Over a period of a few months, six people met weekly to analyze and interpret dream series.  Although none of the participants was an authority on dream interpretation, all of them were familiar with the basic Freudian principles and possessed considerable knowledge of the dynamics of personality.  During these sessions, approximately thirty cycles were interpreted.  Usually, copies of several dream series were distributed at one session, to be discussed at the next session, so that the participants had a week to formulate their interpretations.  This procedure combines both the case-board approach and the method of comparing independently derived interpretations.

A large degree of agreement was found between the meanings assigned to the dream cycles by the members of the seminar.  There were some minor differences but no major ones.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to state the extent of the agreement in quantitative terms, something desired to be able to do in the future by developing methods that are more precise.  Although a judgment is not necessarily correct because six people concur, it is considered to be more valid than the judgment of a single person.  And certainly, if six people had made six different interpretations of the same cycle, any hope of validating dream analysis would have gone glimmering.  It is important therefore to have demonstrated the existence of social agreement with respect to dream interpretations.

2.  Internal consistency

The dreams of a cycle are consistent with one another.  They express repeatedly some basic conflict, in which the dreamer tries one solution, then another solution, in a trial-and-error fashion so typical of a person engrossed in problem-solving.  If space permitted, scores of cycles like the example given in a preceding section, in which the separate dreams hang together like variations on a theme, would be presented.  There is the poignant cycle recorded by a 21-year-old African-American girl.  She feels rejected by white people whose acceptance she yearns for, and she in turn rejects the members of her own race because of their inferior status.  In five different dreams she is cut off from a group of people who are usually portrayed as having a good time.

Another dream depicts a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to identify with her own race.  In this dream she tries to dye a skirt black, but it will not take the dye and she finally gives up.  Several of her dreams are quite moving.  In one she listens to "Rhapsody in Blue" for hours because, no matter what station she dials, that selection is being played.  In another, she is playing tennis and it begins to rain, and in a third she possesses $10,000 but is able to spend only $6.00 of it.  There are sixteen dreams in this girl's cycle and they all have a bearing upon her tragedy; that of being separated from white people because they will not accept her; from blacks because she cannot accept them.

There is the dream cycle of an 18-year-old boy who is concerned about the responsibilities attendant upon reaching adult status.  He dreams of his high school friends and the good times they used to have, and on other nights, his dreams are filled with a feeling of inadequacy and anxiety.  In the dreams of a returned veteran, age 22 and married, the recurrent theme of the loss of freedom in marriage and the desire to return to the masculine camaraderie which he had in the army.  His dreams include such related items as planning a business venture with an army buddy, meeting a former pal on the street, drinking beer with six army friends, clerking in a men's store, renting a larger and roomier apartment, swimming in an indoor pool where the air was so humid he could not breathe easily, and visiting his wife at the hospital.

One series of dreams recorded by a 22-year-old boy are filled with the horror, hostility, sadism, and destruction characteristic of Poe's short stories.  His friends are swamped by a tidal wave and he barely escapes; he is shown through hell; a giant crab plucks out the eyes of an alligator; a black cat tries to bite him; he is about to fall from a high bridge; a patient whom he is shaving grabs the razor and cuts himself from ear to ear, so that the blood gushes out in great spurts like water from a fire-hydrant; he is chased by a large man; and he is injecting his present roommate for syphilis.  This series is the most pathological of any that has been examined.  The reason for his sadistic-masochistic feelings is not clearly revealed in the dreams, although a sexual conflict is suggested.  However, the consistency of the mood expressed in the dreams is marked.

3.  External consistency

No systematic investigation of the congruence of interpreted dream cycles with other methods of diagnosing personality and with personal data has been completed.  A study of the relationship between dreams and the Rorschach and TAT is now in progress.  Preliminary results with the Rorschach indicate that this method either does not describe the same aspects of the personality that dreams do, or that the Rorschach and dreams yield different descriptions of the inner dynamics.  In this study, twenty-five "expert" judges were unable to match personality sketches based upon dreams with sketches based upon the Rorschach.  Through personal interviews with a number of subjects whose dream series had been analyzed, many of the interpretations were verified.

4.  Prediction

The method of validating dream interpretations by prediction is especially tricky since it is often difficult, if not impossible, to calculate the probability of occurrence of any given life event.  For example, a prediction was made on the basis of two dream cycles recorded by a college boy and girl who, at the time, were going steady, so they might soon break up.  The prophecy came true.  Before the significance of this prediction can be properly evaluated, it would be necessary to discover how many college romances are blighted.  If it were found that in 95 per cent of the cases such affairs are broken off, then the prediction would have little merit, since a "guess" unsupported by any evidence would be right 95 percent of the time.

In another case, it was predicted from his dreams that a college freshman boy would adjust himself to the college environment as soon as he had made friends, and could participate in group activities, which came to pass.  Again the significance of this prophecy is questionable since the situation must be a fairly typical one.  Another prediction was made that a girl whose dream series revealed a strong attachment to her father would fall in love with a man who resembled him.  Shortly after this prediction was made, she met and married such a man.

What are the odds that a girl will be attracted to a boy who is a father-image? Foretelling of the future is dramatic, but it may be spurious unless the odds are known.  Until such a time as probabilities can be determined, not much confidence can be placed in the method of validating dream interpretations by prediction.  It is suggestive, however, that a number of correct predictions have been made.

5.  Post diction

The same difficulty is encountered in the method of validation by post diction.  In one instance, the post diction was made that the dreamer's mother had died several years before.  As in prediction, researchers would need to know in what percentage of cases the mothers of the subjects are deceased.  Then it would be necessary to make a number of post dictions from the dreams as to whether the mothers of different dreamers are alive or dead.  But this second step assumes that a number of dream series can be obtained from which one is able to draw this inference.  Actually few such dream series will probably be found, so that the sample will not be sufficiently large to make a trustworthy comparison between post dictions and probability of occurrence.  Validity can be determined in five different ways:

1.  Agreement between individuals

If two or more individuals agree on an explanation for a phenomenon, such agreement constitutes a presumption of validity.  In a scientific discipline, the explainer asks his peers to pass judgment on his explanation.  If they accept it, it is deemed valid; if they reject it, it is deemed invalid.  According to this method, the final arbiter of the correctness of an explanation is not truth; it is expert opinion.

There are three procedures by which the extent of agreement between authorities can be determined.  (a) One person formulates an explanation and presents it to his colleagues for acceptance or rejection.  This procedure is followed whenever one publishes an article in a professional journal or reads a paper at a scientific meeting.  (b) Two or more individuals reach a mutually satisfying explanation by conferring with one another.  The case board exemplifies this procedure.  (c) Two or more persons formulate explanations independently of one another and compare them.  This procedure is the most meritorious of the three.

2.  Internal consistency

The extent to which a series of observations can be made congruent by the application of a single hypothesis testifies to the validity of the hypothesis.  The more facts that can be explained by a theory, the stronger the presumption that the theory is a correct one.  For example, if the meanings assigned to the separate dreams of a cycle are consistent with one another, it can be subsumed under a unifying hypothesis with one another, and do not logically contradict each other, the interpretations are said to be valid.  The test of internal consistency has found its widest application in the construction of personality inventories.

3.  External consistency

This expression describes a method of validation, which is familiar to all psychologists.  An appraisal, which is formulated on the basis of certain information, e.g., a test, is compared with some independent criterion.  If the two agree, the appraisal is said to be validated by the criterion.  An example is the validation of intelligence test scores against school grades.  Similarly, an appraisal based upon the interpretation of a dream cycle may be validated against diagnoses deduced from stories told about pictures (TAT), associations to inkblots (Rorschach), associations to words, personality inventories, observations of behavior in controlled or free situations, interviews, ratings, expressive behavior, and personal data.  This method of validation is very convincing especially if the criterion is an objective one and if independent observers formulate the appraisal and the criterion.

4.  Prediction

The prophesying of future events on the basis of a theory is a dramatic verification of the truth of the theory.  The spectator is humbled by the astounding ability of the astronomer to predict to the minute when a solar or lunar eclipse will occur.  Predictability is the principal criterion used for determining the validity of intelligence, aptitude, and interest tests because objective criteria of achievement are available.  It is a different story when one tries to predict how the personality will develop, since objective criteria for personality development are difficult to find.

5.  Post diction

This is the method which Thomas Huxley called "retrospective prophecy" or the "method of Zadig," after the character in Voltaire's romance.  Zadig was the original Sherlock Holmes.  By small cues, which escaped the senses of ordinary men, he could reconstruct the past.  G.  W.  Allport calls this method post-diction .  Post-dicting has an advantage over predicting since the investigator may more conveniently verify whether a post dicted event has occurred than wait for the occurrence of a predicted event.  These five methods of validation have a common denominator, agreement , and may therefore be designated as (1) social agreement, (2) internal agreement, (3) external agreement, (4) agreement with the future, and (5) agreement with the past.

The dreams of a 20-year-old college girl tell of the difficulties she has in her relationships with people, especially her parents and boy-friend.  The spotlight dream of this cycle is a splendid example of a mother-father-daughter triangle.  "I dreamed I was in the lake with my mother and father-it was getting dark.  The water was covered with a film-like oil I would produce.  At first we were all swimming out from shore in this filmed area.  My father was on my left, my mother on my right.  Then the filmed area separated.  My father remained in the large filmed area and my mother in the smaller filmed area while I was left in clear water.

"I wanted to swim toward my father but I was told or somehow received the feeling that he wasn't worth swimming to-he was not good-so I swam toward my mother (and here I'm not sure whether it was my own mother or my stepmother)-and just as I entered the filmed part she was in, I got the feeling that my father was really o.k.  but we had misunderstood him-but that it was too late to try to go to him so I kept on swimming toward my mother or stepmother, whoever it may be.  "

Among her other dreams, all of which fit into a common pattern, the following scenes are acted out: an argument between a man and woman, an argument between three people, being beaten up while she is sleeping with her sister in a crib, running into a truck while driving with her boyfriend because the brakes would not hold, and walking away from her boyfriend.

The impotence felt by a 22-year-old college boy is reiterated again and again in his dreams.  He shoots at Indians who are attacking his house but the bullets are of wood and fall short of the mark, he tries to spear a rabbit but his arm will not move, he is unable to stop a car even though he puts on the brakes, he has difficulty stacking boxes evenly, he has to delay a trip to California because he cannot purchase a ticket, he takes a gun from a girl and shoots at inanimate objects, and he is driving along a narrow, slippery street to a funeral.

Numerous other dream cycles have been analyzed and almost without exception, the dreams of each cycle form a homogeneous cluster.  This is not surprising, since, in the modern theory of personality, the person is assumed to possess unity even though in his behavior he may express diversity.


There is presented in this report (1) a viewpoint regarding dreams as psychological data, (2) a theory of dreams, (3) a method for analyzing dreams, and (4) some evidence for the validity of dream analysis.  The viewpoint is that dreams are personal documents and projections, which can be employed for the appraisal of the inner dynamics of the personality.  The theory states that the dreams of an individual represent attempts to resolve his current conflicts.  The method involves the analysis of a series of dreams as a unified and coherent structure.  The validation of dream analysis by the methods of (a) social agreement, (b) internal agreement, (c) external agreement, (d) agreement with the future, and (e) agreement with the past is discussed, and evidence for the validity of dream analysis obtained from the application of several of these methods is presented.

The personalities of twenty-four college students were rated on a scale of twenty-five items from dream series of ten dreams each, with and without free associations.  It was demonstrated by the study proper (Study III) and the reliability studies (Studies I and II), (the latter carried out by two raters other than the investigator) that: (a) many ratings can be judged reliably from dream series alone; (b) many ratings can be judged reliably from dreams and free associations; (c) and many of the ratings derived from dreams series alone agreed with those derived from dreams with free associations; (d) dreams alone suggest the blueprint of the personality while free associations add the brick and mortar, so to speak.

The examples presented in this section are only a small portion of what could be done with Hall/Van de Castle findings in determining the universality of a wide range of dream elements and dream themes, including the 29 categories that make up Garfield's system.  For now, the meager findings for some categories raise questions about Garfield's decision to draw upon a system for classifying folklore in creating her categories.






Chapter 4


Data Analysis

Laboratory studies of dreams are now at a low ebb, but past laboratory studies provide a basis for believing that some kinds of non-laboratory studies, those that focus strictly on dream content, may be useful for scientific purposes.  Further, the collection of most recent dreams from individuals in specific types of groups, along with the use of dream journals from individuals, can supply the necessary sample sizes needed for reliable findings (100-125 for groups, 75-100 for individuals).

An Excel spreadsheet has improved the accuracy and speed of data analysis with the well established and widely used Hall/Van de Castle coding system and is available on the Web.  A bar graph called the h-profile, based on percentage deviations from norms, and generated automatically by the Excel spreadsheet, makes it much easier to grasp comparisons of different groups or individuals on many content indicators.  Findings with the Hall/Van de Castle system showing age, gender, individual, and cross cultural similarities and differences suggest that these new methods of data collection and analysis provide a valid and low-budget way to further the understanding of dream content.

Sleep research has flourished, but not dream research.  The purpose of this brief methodological note is to suggest that certain findings from laboratory research, when supplemented by several new methods for collecting and analyzing dream reports, provide the basis for a renewed interest in scientific studies of dream content that is both low-budget and rigorous.  The new methods of data analysis also can be used on dream reports collected in the laboratory, but the emphasis here is on non-laboratory studies because they seem more feasible in the current funding environment.

Although the new methods of collecting and analyzing dream reports can be used in conjunction with any system of content analysis, the emphasis in this report is on their application within the context of the comprehensive and reliable coding system developed by Calvin S.  Hall and Robert Van de Castle.  A graphic display called the h-profile, based on the arcsine transformation of percentage differences from the norms, is introduced as a new way to present findings.  An efficient way to analyze large samples of dream reports is suggested.

Several basic findings from laboratory studies provide an evidentiary base that can be used to suggest the usefulness of non-laboratory dream studies.  When these findings are combined with the many studies reporting few or no personality or cognitive differences between high and low recallers, it can be argued that non-laboratory studies can be done with reasonably representative dream samples from representative subjects, thereby dealing with the major drawbacks to non-laboratory research on dreams.

The potential representativeness of dreams collected outside the laboratory is most importantly seen in the fact that systematic comparisons between home and laboratory dreams from the same subjects in the United States show few or no differences.  Similar results are reported for studies conducted in Japan, India, and Switzerland.  These findings are buttressed by the fact that few or no differences in content are found from REM period to REM period using the Hall/Van de Castle system or other forms of content analysis.

This means there is no problem if most home reports come from the last REM period of the night, as is likely to be the case.  Adding to the evidence for the representativeness of home dreams, comparisons of reports from laboratory awakenings throughout the night with those remembered by the same subjects the next morning show that "recency" and "length" are the main factors in determining which of the earlier reported dreams are recalled once again, followed by a third factor, the "dramatic intensity" of the report.

Although "dramatic intensity" is a potential biasing factor, studies outside the laboratory suggest that minor everyday cues can trigger the recall of undramatic dreams, balancing the influence of dramatic intensity to some extent.  The fact that only 47% of a normative sample of home dreams from male college students contained an aggression, and only 12% a sexual interaction, suggests that the bias toward dramatic intensity is not overwhelming, but nonetheless the largest differences between home and laboratory dream reports concern aggression and sexuality.

It is very time consuming to use any of the full scales from the Hall/Van de Castle system with samples of many hundreds or thousands of dream reports.  This is especially the case for the detailed character categories, and for the social interaction indicators that are based in part in character codings.  Useful findings can be developed very quickly, however, if the reports are coded for the presence or absence of one or more of seven general categories: aggression, friendliness, sexuality, misfortune, success, failure, and food/eating.  With this "at least one" approach, coders move on to the next report as soon as they have recorded the first example of the category or categories being utilized.  The norms for this type of analysis are included at the bottom of Table 1.

This method can be used to see how groups or individuals differ from the norms, or to study consistency over time.  Figure 4 later in this chapter shows the consistency of aggression and sexuality over a 14-year period in 3,256 dream reports from a young adult male who began his journal at age 18.  Each author examined all dream reports, from 1981 to 1989 and for 1995-96, separately in the space of a few hours.  The relatively consistent findings for aggression are somewhat below the norms and the very consistent findings for sexuality are very close to the norms.

This report tries to show why any theorist doing systematic empirical work to test his or her theory would do well to use the Hall/Van de Castle system of content analysis, and to take established findings with this system seriously.  This is because the system is proven when it comes to reliability and validity, and is theory-neutral as well.  Conversely, there is much evidence that findings with newly developed scales must be treated cautiously because it is very difficult to construct adequate scales or content categories to study dreams.  Unfortunately, most theorists go right on creating new scales that never receive the same amount of time and effort that the theorists put into developing ideas or writing up results.

In this particular case, the theorist, Ernest Hartmann (1998), has put forth a new theory of dreaming whose main tenet is that dreams, and especially the vivid or striking aspects of dreams, provide a context for expressing and dealing with emotional concerns.  The late-night movies in the brain called a dream present "an explanatory metaphor for the dreamer's emotional state of mind" (Hartmann, 1998, p.  4).

He stresses that these explanatory metaphors "conceptualize" emotions.  Thus, metaphors and emotions are the key issues to be studied to test his theory.  Hartmann further claims that dreams can help people deal with traumatic emotional experiences by incorporating these experiences into dreams and giving them new connections.  In effect, he is saying that dreams help resolve emotional problems.  His evidence for this point is that dream content allegedly changes in a positive direction as the traumatic events are assimilated and overcome.

Hartmann's approach takes on several viewpoints.  First, nightmares of posttraumatic stress disorder and other recurrent phenomena in dream life are a good starting point for developing a better understanding of dreams.  Second, dreams can be studied systematically outside either the psychotherapy relationship or the sleep laboratory.  Third, there is an emphasis on studying lengthy dream journals from a wide variety of individuals to test his hypotheses.  Fourth, he is intrigued by the idea that at least some dreaming is a figurative/metaphoric form of thinking during sleep.

There is little or no evidence that dreaming has any adaptive function, including the one ascribed to it by Hartmann.  Most people recall less than 1% of their dreams, and even the best recallers are only remembering a few percent of their dreams, so dreams cannot be very important as a source of information.  The few that are remembered rarely contain even a hint of a solution to a problem, contrary to the long list of questionable anecdotes relating dreams to artistic achievements.  Moreover, there is no evidence that people who recall dreams, or make use of their dreams in some way, are any healthier or happier than those who do not recall dreams.

Despite the lack of evidence for recalled dreams having any function, it still might be argued that the process of dreaming has an adaptive purpose.  However, there is no evidence from the sleep laboratory that the process of dreaming has any function in any evolutionary sense (Antrobus, 1993; Flanagan, 2000; Foulkes, 1993; Foulkes, 1999).  There is even evidence that there are people who do not dream but suffer no adverse effects--pre-school children (Foulkes, 1999), adults with poor visuospatial skills (Butler & Watson, 1985), people who have suffered various kinds of head injuries (Solms, 1997), and schizophrenics who have been subjected to psychosurgery (Frank, 1946; Frank, 1950).

The content-analysis tradition within dream research began with the thematic study of individual series of 10-25 dream reports provided by literally hundreds of college students (Hall, 1947; Hall, 1953) These studies of dream series included a search for metaphoric elements.  This work provides several rules to thumb for identifying metaphoric elements within dreams.  First, the repetition of a theme or element in a dream series suggests that it might be metaphoric.  To take an example from Hall's later work, 15% or more of the dreams in a series of 904 dreams over a 50-year period contained the theme of not receiving enough to eat at meals with siblings (Domhoff, 1993; Smith & Hall, 1964).

Comparing this subset of "deprivation/hunger" dreams with a random sample of dreams from the same series on characters, social interactions, and emotions would be one good way to approach the study of metaphor.  Second, impossible or unusual elements may well be metaphoric.  Flying under one's own power, for example, is clearly impossible, but people do say they are "flying" or "on cloud nine" or "high as a kite" when they are happy (Gibbs, 1994; Lakoff, 1997; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999).

Similarly, people are not likely to appear in their pajamas or underwear in public, but 40-50% of the college students in two different samples reported this had happened to them at least once in a dream; perhaps such dreams relate to the conceptual metaphor "Embarrassment is Exposure," which is expressed by phrases such as "caught with your pants down" (Domhoff, 1996; Holland & Kipnis, 1994).

Third, it is a useful to consider the possibility that any animal besides household pets, or any household pets acting in a highly unusual fashion, might have a metaphoric meaning.  This hypothesis is based on the fact that animals are widely used in waking metaphors to characterize people or their attributes, as in he/she is a chicken, dog, fox, snake, worm, bug ,and/or cat.  Moreover, there is reason to believe that children learn these metaphors of personification relatively early through the many nursery rhymes and animal stories that are read to them, where the animals enact the gender stereotypes of the Euro-American world (MacKay, 1986; MacKay & Konishi, 1980).

Once explicit criteria for identifying explanatory metaphors are established, the Hall and Van de Castle (1966) coding system can be used to make a wide variety of comparisons between groups of dreams.  There are distinct advantages to using the Hall/Van de Castle coding system when working with dreams in therapeutic settings.  First, there is much evidence that the Hall/Van de Castle categories can be coded very reliably, whereas there are always big question marks about the reliability of any new rating scale unless it has been tested with great care.  These questions loom especially large when it comes to the use of the scale by someone other than its originators.

Hartmann, Rosen, and Rand (1998) provided a good recent demonstration of the reliability problems with new scales when they reported they could not achieve adequate reliability with three new scales of their own concerning "condensation," "thick boundaries in dreams," and "thin boundaries in dreams." They also showed how difficult it is for a new research team to use a scale developed by another investigator when they conclude they could not obtain adequate reliability with a scale for "dream likeness" developed in Foulkes's laboratory many years ago (Foulkes & Shepherd, 1971).  Since many investigators may not be as frank and honest as Hartmann in reporting negative results, published examples such as these are probably only the tip of the iceberg on this problem.

In terms of studying "conceptualizing emotions," this point about reliability is first demonstrated by comparing Hartmann's new rating scales with the Hall/Van de Castle scale for coding emotions.  Hartmann begins with a list of 18 emotions derived from "a long list of human emotions" developed recently by another researcher on the basis of a cluster analysis of all emotional words and phrases.  Hartmann chose these 18 from the longer list because they were found by him to be codeable on a sample of about 300 dreams.

This may not be an adequate reliability check, since it is a probable prediction that it will not be possible to obtain good reliability for what are in effect 18 categories.  This means there will be differences from coder to coder and study to study, and perhaps contradictory findings if researchers outside Hartmann's group try to use the scale.  It also means no one should abandon his or her own theory on the basis of published results with this scale until the findings are replicated by other investigators.

The Hall/Van de Castle system for coding emotions, on the other hand, consists of only five emotions categories: Happiness, Apprehension, Confusion, Anger, and Sadness.  The system is limited to these five categories because it was impossible to develop a reliable one with more categories.  Hall and Van de Castle (1966, p.  110) write that "The classification of emotions was one of our most difficult tasks." There seem to be very good psychological reasons why it is hard to obtain reliable coding with more than these five categories.  Several different kinds of psychological studies suggest that there are only five basic emotional categories--love, joy, anger, sadness, and fear.

These five categories from general psychological studies correspond very closely to the five in the Hall/Van de Castle system.  There are two relatively minor, but theoretically interesting, differences.  First, the "love" and "joy" categories are in effect collapsed into one category, "happiness," in the Hall/Van de Castle system for the simple reason that the few positive emotions in dreams are difficult to distinguish in a reliable fashion.  (Only 20% of all emotions in dreams fit into the happiness category.) So this category difference actually reflects a big psychological difference between waking life and dreams in terms of emotional states: the emotions expressed in dreams are overwhelmingly negative.

Second, the Hall/Van de Castle system differs from the waking categories in that it includes a category for "confusion," which is not considered an emotion in waking life.  It is included in the Hall/Van de Castle system because a psychological state occurs frequently in dreams, and does seem to have more of an emotional flavor in them.  The highly empirical and dream-based nature of their coding system can be seen in Hall and Van de Castle's discussion of this issue.  They begin by noting their recognition of the fact that confusion is not usually thought of as an emotion because it "resides more in the head as a state of cognitive ambiguity than it does in the viscera as a gut-type reaction," but they also conclude that it is a "feeling state" and therefore "emotion-like."

In other words, Hall and Van de Castle are guided by what they find in dreams, not by waking autonomic correlates or a theory of emotions.  While this may seem misguided to some people, it is a mistake to use waking categories and implicit theories that make for less-than-useful content categories for the study of dreams.  That is, the categories should respect and reflect what is in dreams if they are to reveal what is to be found in new samples of dreams.  By taking this approach, Hall and Van de Castle end up with an important finding: there is less love and joy in dreams than in waking life, and much more confusion.  There can be no better example of why the Hall/Van de Castle system is so useful.

Another big contrast between the Hall/Van de Castle and Hartmann approaches to studying emotions in dreams concerns the emotional states that Hartmann says are characterized by fear/terror and helplessness/vulnerability.  While these feeling states are coded separately by Hartmann, they are all in the category called "Apprehension" in the Hall/Van de Castle system because the authors could not reliably differentiate among the emotion states that Hartmann has put into separate categories.  Perhaps this is because these emotion states do share something in common, which is that "the person is uncomfortable because the threat of some potential danger exists," whether it is the possibility of physical injury, punishment, social ridicule, or rejection (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966, p.111).  Thus, Hartmann is courting unreliability in one of his areas of major concern, and probably for no good reason, conceptually speaking, given the common element of potential danger.

Hartmann also has made another coding decision related to emotions that contrasts greatly with the Hall/Van de Castle approach.  He asks his coders to impute the most likely emotion to the element/theme they have identified as a conceptualizing image when none is mentioned.  This failure to mention emotions is not at all uncommon in the reporting of dreams.  There are two problems with imputing emotions.  The first is that it may be an important feature of dreams that they are not always accompanied by the emotions that seemingly should be present.  Perhaps it is support for this point that people often give less negative ratings than might seem warranted by the content when they rate their emotions in the dreams they submit.  Hall (1951) found this contrast between ratings by coders and dreamers in a study of 1000 dreams collected from Americans in the 1940s, and Schredl and Doll (1998) report it for 180 dreams collected in the 1990s from Germans.

Second, imputing motives is also a risky methodological business, because it becomes another possible source of unreliability in a type of research where reliability is an absolute bedrock necessity.  Consider the following dream report for which Hartmann infers an emotion.  Before reading what emotion he assigns, make your own choice among anxiety, fear, grief, and guilt: "A huge tree has fallen down right in front of our house.  We're all stunned " (Hartmann, 1998, p.23).  Hartmann reports the relevant emotion here is "grief."

Reliable coding categories aside, there is a second good reason for using Hall and Van de Castle's system for Hartmann's purposes.  Its normative findings can be used to make comparisons between samples of conceptualizing-metaphor dreams and ordinary dreams.  Consider again the Hall/Van de Castle emotions categories.  An analysis of frequencies in those categories reveals that (1) women are far more likely to mention emotions in their dream reports than men; and (2) the most frequent emotions for both men and women are apprehension and confusion, followed by happiness, with sadness fourth on the list for women and anger fourth on the list for men.  The norms also provide information on the emotions attributed to characters other than the dreamer.

Overall, 80% of the emotions in the dreams of both men and women are in one of the four "negative" categories, which provide a very handy general indicator, the "negative emotions percent." It is noteworthy that the same figure has been reported in four later studies using dreams from different eras, the sleep laboratory, and Canada (Hall, Domhoff, Blick, & Weesner, 1982; Merritt, Stickgold, Pace-Schott, Williams, & Hobson, 1994; Roussy, Raymond, & De Koninck, 2000; Tonay, 1990/1991)

By using the Hall/Van de Castle system, Hartmann and his co-workers could compare the negative emotions percent in any sample of dreams they studied with the norms, thereby providing them with the crucial "control group" they now lack.  As things now stand, they may be overly impressed with the highly negative nature of the dreams they are studying because they do not realize that dreams in general are extremely negative.  Moreover, if they used the Hall/Van de Castle system, they could see if conceptualizing-emotion dreams have a higher proportion of any specific category, such as Apprehension, than might be expected from the norms.

Hartmann's analysis also could benefit from normative comparisons on other Hall/Van de Castle categories that relate to the content in the type of dreams of interest to him.  From quick coding several of the dreams in his book, they are filled with "physical aggressions" like chase, physical attack, and murder.  They also contain many "misfortunes," a general coding category for any "mishap, adversity, harm, danger, or threat which happens to characters as a result of circumstances over which they have no control," and which are not due to the aggressive intent of some other dream character (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966, p.  103).  This general classification has separate categories for being lost (M1), falling (M2), being threatened by an overwhelming environmental event (M3), being in an accident without injury (M4), suffering an injury or illness (M5), and death as a result of accident, illness, or some unknown cause (M6).

The dreams in Hartmann's book are filled with aggressions and misfortunes, which may seem impressive in terms of his theory at first glance, but both the physical aggressions and misfortunes categories have fairly high frequencies in the Hall/Van de Castle norms: 23% of the men's dreams and 15% of the women's dreams have at least one chase, attack, or murder, and 33% of men's dreams and 36% of women's dreams have at least one misfortune.  Even more to the point of Hartmann's studies, 69% of the men and 54% of the women had at least one chase, attack, or murder in the five dreams they contributed to the normative sample.  Given these high normative figures, it is an open question as to whether his samples of five "most recently recalled dreams" from trauma sufferers would be higher on these figures than the norms are.

Reliability and norms aside, there is a third reason for using the Hall/Van de Castle system.  It has ways of making distinctions among types of negative events in dreams that could be useful for Hartmann's studies.  In the area of aggressions, for example, it starts with a distinction between witnessing aggressions and being involved in them; about 20% of the aggressions in the dreams of both men and women are witnessed.  The system then distinguishes between victim and aggressor status when the dreamer is involved, with men the aggressors 40% of the time and women 33% of the time.  It next calls for determining whether or not dreamers "reciprocate" when they are victims, which is not often, 13% of the time for men and 10% for women.  There are also norms for aggressions with specific types of characters, such as males, unfamiliar characters, and animals.  In the case of misfortunes, there is a distinction between "dreamer-involved" misfortunes and misfortunes to others.

Many of these categories would be useful with the dreams in Hartmann's book.  There is a great deal of victimization of the dreamer, but there is also a witnessed aggression, and an aggression by an animal.  Several misfortunes happen to others, including an animal.  Using Hall/Van de Castle categories, many questions could be asked concerning individual differences, possible declines in victim status over time, or changes in the degree of dreamer involvement in misfortunes.

The fourth reason for using the Hall/Van de Castle system is that it contains procedures for dealing with sequences of events.  These sequences are called "consequences" because they concern the aftermath of failures, successes, misfortunes, and good fortunes.  A helping hand from another character, which is a friendly interaction,, for example, can overcome a failure, by a success through renewed striving, or even by a miracle, which is a good fortune.  Misfortunes, such as being lost, can be reversed by the good fortune of suddenly finding a familiar pathway, or by renewed striving that leads to success, or by receiving help from a dream character (a friendly interaction).  Such "consequences" are rare in everyday dreams from average people, so they might be worth looking at in the types of dreams of concern to Hartmann to see if his dreamers seem even more resigned than average dreamers to their negative experiences in dreams.


The findings from a dream study using the Hall/Van de Castle system can now be displayed in a bar graph similar to an MMPI profile.  It provides an immediate sense of the pattern of any deviations from the norms.  It utilizes the h statistic developed by Jacob Cohen to correct for the fact that the standard deviation of a sample cannot be known with a distribution of percentage scores.  The h statistic is based on an arcsine transformation that is provided in tables in Domhoff, and is done automatically in an algorithm for generating h profiles in an Excel spreadsheet.

According to Cohen (1977: 184-185), a rough rule of thumb would start with the assumption that h=.20 is a "small" effect size corresponding to a correlation coefficient of .10; that h=.50 is a "medium" effect size equivalent to an r of .25; and that h=.80 is a "large" effect size implying an r of .37-.39.  However, he also stresses that judgments about the relative importance of effect sizes must be determined by experience within each area of investigation.  Based on work to date applying the h statistic to dream content, it seems likely that effect sizes between zero and .20 should be considered "small," those between .21 and .40 "medium," and those over .40 "large" (Domhoff, 1996, 1999).

Figure 1. The h-profile of the dreams of Freud and Jung

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The h-profile can be used to compare one or more individuals to the norms.  Figure 1 presents the h-profiles for Freud and Jung's dreams, based on codings Hall did in the 1960s, before the h-profile was developed.  It shows the ways that Freud and Jung differ from the male norms (e.g., both are low on the aggressions/character (A/C) ratio, physical aggression percent, and victimization percent), and the main ways in which they differ from each other (e.g., Jung befriends other characters, Freud is befriended by other characters).

The h-profile also can be useful in displaying the consistency of what a person dreams about over a period of years, as seen in Figure 2, which is based on five subsets of 105 dreams from an eight-year journal of 525 dream reports provided by a woman in her late 50s; except for the A/C ratio and negative emotions percent in the third set, and perhaps a trend toward greater friendliness over the eight-year period, she is generally consistent in what she dreams about.

Figure 2. Consistency in five dream samples of 105 dreams each from an older woman.

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Finally, the usefulness of h-profiles for group comparisons is shown in Figure 3, where the most recent dreams of 12-13 year-old girls and boys are compared with each other and with the norms for women and men by using the norms for women and men as the baseline.  It reveals that girls and boys tend to differ from each other in the same ways women and men differ, with the young teenagers further from the adults on the A/C ratio and physical aggression percent.  However, girls and boys go in different ways on the friendliness/character (F/C) ratio; girls have more friendly interactions than women, boys have less friendly interactions than men.

Figure 3. A comparison of the deviations of seventh-grade boys from the Male Norms and seventh-grade girls from the Female Norms

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Figure 4. Consistency in the percentage of dreams with at least one aggression and at least one sexuality dream in a young adult male from ages 18 to 32

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The one major drawback with the "at least one" approach is that it does not control for dream length, so reports of less than 50 or more than 350 words should not be used in making comparisons with the Hall/Van de Castle norms because they excluded such reports in determining the norms.  However, no such screening for length is necessary if the comparison is with other dream reports in a long dream journal.

Summary of Results

The small effect sizes for most categories used in the three re-analyses of the original codings from the Hall and Van de Castle study in 1963-1964 make the concern about any statistically significant differences between home and laboratory collected dreams for Hall/Van de Castle coding categories seem like an unnecessary expenditure of energy that could have been deployed more productively on new empirical studies.  Controversy might have been avoided if effect sizes had been part of the statistical armamentarium in the 1960s and 1970s.  In fact, this argument seems to be a good example of what Hunter (1997: 3) means when he says that significance testing has been a "disaster" for psychology (cf.  Cohen, 1990, 1994; Scarr, 1997; Schmidt, 1996).

The one fairly consistent difference between the two types of samples, in terms of both statistical significance and effect sizes larger than .30, concerns one or another indicator of aggression, especially the physical aggression percent.  The fact that the most consistent differences between dreams written down at home and laboratory dream reports relate to aggression is in keeping with Weisz and Foulkes's (1970) finding that only the aggression category distinguished home and laboratory reports in their carefully controlled study.  More generally, the differences on aggression fit with findings on the variability of aggression in conjunction with several other factors.

First, the variability in aggression between the early teens and young adulthood is the largest difference between the two age groups (Avila-White, Schneider, & Domhoff, 1999).  Second, there may be a decline in aggression in old age (Hall & Domhoff, 1963; Zepelin, 1980-1981, 1981), but some results from longitudinal studies make this cross-sectional finding less certain (Domhoff, 1996: Chapt.  7).  Third, there are large variations from culture to culture in aggression (Domhoff, 1996: Chapt.  6).  Fourth, there are large individual and gender differences on some measures of aggression in dreams (Domhoff, 1996; Hall & Domhoff, 1963; Paolino, 1964).

When the time comes for developing a new theory of dream meaning based on a wide range of systematic studies of dream content, these variations in aggression may prove useful.

However, the differences between home and laboratory dream reports on some aggression indicators are not so important that they constitute an argument for or against using one of the two types of samples.  Instead, this finding can be used simply to say that less aggression should be expected in laboratory studies and more aggression in studies using dreams collected from everyday recall.  More generally, then, there is no reason to believe that home dreams are "better" than laboratory dreams for content studies using the Hall/Van de Castle coding system, or that home dreams are so different from laboratory dream reports that they cannot be used in systematic studies of dream content.

Both types of samples are useful for research purposes.  The main problem in most dream content studies is not the source of the dream reports, but the small sample sizes (Domhoff, 1996).  The results of this study very likely generalize to all aspects of dream content, but it nonetheless needs to be emphasized in closing this discussion that the findings refer to categories of the Hall/Van de Castle coding system.  There may be aspects of dream content not encompassed by their system that do differ between home and laboratory dreams.  Although the lack of differences reported by Foulkes (1979) and Hunt, Ogilvie, Belicki, Belicki, and Atalick (1982) using different coding systems militate against such a conclusion, it does remain a possibility.  Moreover, the present study does not use the Hall/Van de Castle coding categories for emotions, so it may be that there are differences in emotions in home and laboratory dreams.

The serendipitous discovery of the REM/NREM sleep cycle and its many physiological correlates triggered a new era of sleep and dream research (Aserinsky & Kleitman, 1953; Dement, 1955; Dement & Kleitman, 1957a, 1957b).  By the early 1960s, it was clear that the sleep laboratory was an excellent place to learn more about the process of dreaming, but it was not certain that the laboratory was a good place to study dream content.

For one thing, the adjustment to a new sleep setting might have a larger effect on dream content than it did on the physiological correlates of the sleep cycle or the process of dreaming.  For another, the imposing nature of the laboratory setting, including the large EEG machine, the attachment of electrodes to the participant's head, and the numerous awakenings throughout the night might have an inhibitory effect on dream content.  Moreover, there might be differences in dream content from early in the night to late in the sleep period, which would have important implications for the representative sampling of dream content.

In fact, some findings from a small study of 12 male participants by Domhoff and Kamiya (1964a) comparing 120 home and 120 laboratory dream reports were claimed to be evidence for such an inhibitory effect.  First, laboratory reports contained fewer aggressive actions and less sexuality.  Second, the fact that the laboratory setting appeared in as many as 20% to 30% of laboratory dreams in that study as well as two other studies also was interpreted as evidence for a possible inhibitory effect (Dement, Kahn, & Roffwarg, 1965; Domhoff & Kamiya, 1964b; Whitman, Pierce, Maas, and Baldridge, 1961).

Such were the problems and issues that Hall set out to resolve when he received a large National Institute of Mental Health grant and hired Van de Castle as the project director.  The study was conducted in a large house in a quiet residential neighborhood in Miami where participants could have their own sleep quarters for a month and report dreams in the least threatening atmosphere possible, thereby minimizing any inhibitory effects from the usual laboratory setting in a science or medical building.

To gain familiarity with the equipment and a subjective sense of what it was like to be a subject in the study, Hall and Van de Castle began with a study of the sleep and dreams of the four psychologists and graduate students working on the project, including themselves.  They then turned to a more systematic study of the dreams of 11 young male participants between the ages of 19 and 25.

Since the aim of the study was to determine the conditions that led to the most representative sample of dream reports possible in a laboratory setting, seven adjustment nights were provided for the young male participants before the formal collection of reports began.  In a carefully balanced design, only one awakening occurred on some nights, multiple awakenings on others.  Dreams were collected by means of tape-recorded reports from the first four REM periods of the night under both the single-awakening and multiple-awakening schedules.

Participants were asked after each awakening to estimate how long they had been dreaming.  They also were asked to rate the clarity of their recall, the vividness of the dream, the emotional intensity of the dream, and whether the dream took place in the past or present.  Unplanned "spontaneous" awakenings were noted and any dream reports from them were transcribed for comparison with dream reports from scheduled awakenings.  Finally, participants wrote down any dreams they remembered at home for a two-week period.  Some wrote their dream reports before their stay in the laboratory, some before and during their stay, and some during and after their stay.  The goal was to have at least 15 dreams written down at home by each person, but one young adult participant wrote down only 11 and another didn't write down any.

The results from the study were generally reassuring and useful for investigators who want to make studies of dream content in a laboratory setting.  First, participants had very little difficulty adjusting to the laboratory situation.  Beginning with the first night the EEG machine was turned on, which was the third adjustment night, it took them no longer to fall asleep than it did on later nights (Hall, 1966: 38).  Then, too, the small percentage of dream reports including allusions to the experimental situation, ranging from 7.2% to 13.5% with the young adult males, did not vary from the fourth adjustment night, when they were awakened to report a dream for the first time, to the end of their laboratory visits (Hall, 1966: 32); this range is much lower and narrower than the 20% to 30% reported in previous studies (Dement, Kahn, & Roffwarg, 1965; Domhoff & Kamiya, 1964b; Whitman, Pierce, Maas, & Baldridge, 1961).

Contrary to expectations based on a study by Dement and Kleitman (1957b), which reported that five participants could correctly distinguish between awakenings after five or 15 minutes of REM dreaming, there was no overall correlation between the amount of REM time before an awakening and participants' estimates of how long they had been dreaming (Hall, 1966: 10-11, 38-39).  The idea that the amount of preceding REM time correlates highly with the subjective sense of how long a dream has been going on is repeated as a solid finding in many articles and textbooks, but is in fact, a tentative finding with a small sample size that Hall and Van de Castle could not replicate.

As far as dream content is concerned, the most important result was the general similarity of the dream reports from single and multiple awakenings, and from all REM periods of the night on the several Hall/Van de Castle categories that were used.  Moreover, the results for the rating scales responded to by the dreamer at the time of awakening were similar in showing no differences, except that participants reported better recall and greater clarity for each successive awakening on nights when there were multiple awakenings, which could be due to a practice effect.  The finding by Verdone (1965) with five participants who reported more references to the past in later REM periods was not replicated (Hall, 1966: 27).

Moreover, the 57 dream reports from 11 participants who had spontaneous awakenings did not differ from those collected from their single awakenings, the only laboratory dream reports with which they were compared; nor did the 37 dream reports collected from 12 participants during awakenings on adjustment nights differ from those collected through single awakenings (Hall, 1966: 25-26).  Generally speaking, these laboratory results suggest that only a short adjustment period is needed if people are sleeping in the laboratory on a regular basis, and that it is possible to collect a representative sample of dream life at any hour of the sleep period.  These findings make it possible to rely on awakenings late in the sleep period when REM periods are longer and people are more easily awakened, and more cooperative once awakened.

Of all the comparisons made in the study, the only ones showing several statistically significant differences were those concerning reports written down at home compared to those from the laboratory.  These results became controversial in the late 1960s and created what is in retrospect unnecessary friction.

More specifically, the rating scale is not adequate to give a rounded picture on two counts: there were not enough variables to be rated, and the items on the scale do not have enough steps to permit adequate individuation.  For example, the absence of items on ego-defenses is one such glaring defect.  In terms of reliability, it was probably a good idea to start with a three point scale, but preliminary work suggests that a five point scale may actually improve reliability.

While there was good agreement between the ratings on dream series alone and those on dream series with free associations, it must not be assumed that the collection of free associations is not useful for the understanding of the personality.  An infinitely richer picture of the personality, so to speak in flesh and blood, was derived after the study of the free associations.  From the dreams alone, a shadowy blueprint of the personality with many ambiguities developed before the dream interpreter's eyes, while the addition of the free associations gives one the feeling of knowing the person, seeing him clearly delineated in the matrix of his environment.

Does being a Republican or Democrat affect how and what people dream about, including nightmares? One would think it wouldn't matter, but it does, as it points to specific personality traits dominant in a Republican or Democrat.  Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to experience nightmares when they dream.  Not only is the frequency of nightmares much higher among Republicans, but the content is different, too: the nightmares of Republicans tend to be characterized by more aggression, misfortune, and physical threats to family and friends, while Democrats' nightmares are moderated by familiar settings, familiar characters, and more elements of hope, power, and positive action.

Half of the dreams of Republicans in the study were classified as nightmares, compared to only about 18 percent of the dreams of Democrats.  People on the right are very attuned to the dangers in the world, and they're seeking ways to defend themselves against those threats.  They're drawn to a political ideology that favors things such as strong military and traditional moral values.  People on the left tend to be more utopian and open to the possibility of going beyond the way things are now to how things could be made better.  Many nightmares serve the valuable function of alerting people to threats and dangers in the waking world.  Nightmares may be frightening and unpleasant, but they often have the beneficial effect of focusing people's attention on real-world problems.

The initial study was too small to draw any definitive conclusions, and it can only be concluded that liberals should not be smug about their supposed psychological superiority, conservatives should not be insulted by the fact of their apparently darker dream life, and anyone who has a nightmare should not immediately assume they are suffering from a severe personality disorder.






Chapter 5

Conclusions, Implications, Recommendations, and Summary


Although the long-term usefulness of the methods of data collection and data analysis presented in this methodological note can only be determined through widespread testing, they may have immediate application for researchers who already have dream reports in hand, whether from laboratory awakenings or everyday recall.  For those who have large samples of dream reports that never have been coded, the "at least one" approach provides an avenue to useful findings on such interesting categories as aggression, friendliness, misfortune, success, and failure in the space of a relatively few hours.

In the long run, however, the rationales of data collection and methods of content analysis suggested in this report must be validated through blind analyses that lead to correct inferences about the cognitive conceptions and personal concerns of the groups or individuals under study.  These methods are not a substitute for laboratory studies of dreaming, and the dream reports are not completely representative of dream content as it is revealed in the laboratory, but studies using these methods may be helpful in bridging the gap in the scientific study of dreams until such time when more laboratory studies are once again feasible.

This study would have benefited from several additions, most notably a larger sample of dreams from both conditions.  It is possible that the dramatic effects in this study would have diminished or even disappeared in a larger sample of dreams.  Although these data are from a small case study, they nonetheless point toward a new area of dream research.  If dream reports could be obtained from a wide range of patients before and after undergoing drug treatment for psychological disturbances, it might be possible to assess the effects of medication on dream content in a systematic way.

Perhaps due to the pervasive influence of Freud's theory of dreams in the 1950s and 1960s, many investigators expected the dreams collected in the sleep laboratory to be highly dramatic and driven with impulse, so there was surprise when there seemed to be a blandness and mundanity to the dream reports they were collecting (e.g., Snyder, 1970).  The suspicion therefore arose that some sort of "inhibition" or "defense" must be working to produce bland dreams in the laboratory, as seen in the interpretation that Domhoff and Kamiya (1964a, 1964b) gave to their results.  A systematic comparison of home and laboratory collected dream reports from the same participants were therefore a very important component of the Hall and Van de Castle investigation.

Hall and Van de Castle's findings supported impressionistic observations and the smaller study by Domhoff and Kamiya (1964a) in reporting that dreams written down at home differed from those collected in the laboratory in a number of ways on 26 comparisons for each of 12 individuals using the nonparametric Wilcoxon matched pairs, signed-rank test (Siegel, 1956: 75-83).  Most of the statistically significant differences concerned aggressions and misfortunes.  At the same time, home and laboratory dreams had few differences in types of characters and no differences in the percentage of dreams with at least one "unusual" (bizarre) element.  The figure on unusual elements was a mere 10% for both samples, which does not support a finding of more unusual elements in laboratory dream reports in the study by Domhoff and Kamiya (1964a).  A later study by Hunt, Ogilvie, Belicki, and Atalick (1982) also reported no differences in bizarreness between home and laboratory dream reports.

The nature of the differences between dream reports under the two conditions is summarized by findings with what Hall termed the "dramatic intensity" index, which he calculated by adding together all aggressions, friendly interactions, sexual activities, successes, failures, good fortunes, and misfortunes and then divided the total by the average words per dream for each person.  This index showed consistent differences between reports written at home and laboratory dreams collected through either single or multiple awakenings for both early and late REM periods (Hall, 1966: 19-21, 23-25).

Given these apparent differences, Hall turned his attention to two likely causes, inhibition in the laboratory even under the best of conditions, and selective recall for more dramatic dreams at home.  His discussion was informed by additional findings with dreams from one of the psychologists working on the project whose home dreams had been collected under two different conditions, normal everyday recall of dreams that were written down, and dreams spoken into a tape recorder after awakenings by an alarm clock set randomly each night by another person.  When these two types of home dream reports turned out to be similar to each other, and different from the same person's dream reports in the laboratory, it tipped the scale in Hall's mind in favor of the laboratory inhibition hypothesis as a more important cause for the differences than selective recall (Hall, 1966: 46).

Unfortunately, Domhoff (1969) amplified Hall's conclusion by claiming that home dreams are "better" if the goal is to learn more about personal concerns and personality through the analysis of dream content.  As might be expected, this conclusion did not sit well with those who wanted to understand both the cognitive process of dreaming and the general nature of dream content because it minimized the importance of laboratory studies through the use of the term "better." Since the notion of "better" rested primarily on the claim that the laboratory setting was inevitably inhibitory, it was undercut when Weisz and Foulkes (1970) and Foulkes (1979) provided evidence that any differences were most likely due to selective recall at home.

But just how large are the statistically significant differences that Hall found? Are they big enough to make any difference in understanding either dreaming as a cognitive process or the emotional preoccupations of those who provide dreams? That question was not an issue in the methodological climate of the 1960s, but the more recent emphasis on "effect sizes" by some statistical experts within psychology makes it one well worth raising, especially because the answer can now be found very easily by entering the original codings into the DreamSAT spreadsheet for Hall/Van de Castle content studies (Schneider & Domhoff, 1999). 


Although dream content is a difficult subject to study and validate, recognition of the benefits have overridden this aspect.  The two prominent fields that have taken advantage of these benefits are medicine and business.  Clinical psychology, a profession that one might expect to embrace the use of dream content analysis, seems to have ignored, or at least failed to acknowledge its use.  One reason for this lack could be the desire of psychologists to be viewed as a part of the "serious" scientific community.

For whatever reason, most psychologists seem to prefer methods of therapeutic intervention learned through years of study--methods that have been studied and proven effective.  These methods, however, have in some cases led clients to view their therapist's behavior as an automatic response to their issues, or to see the therapist as either arrogant or critical at the same time stating their preference for someone who is supportive and empathic.

Unconscious means of receiving information is a basic part of being human.  Cognitive functions used in everyday life such as making an assumption, playing bridge, or interpreting dream symbols draw upon unconscious resources--the same unconscious resources responsible for intuitive information.  Combining dream content with the clinical methods now in use would not only assist in changing the way therapists are viewed but could result in achieving clinical goals more quickly.  Unconscious processing goes on in the therapeutic setting even though most clinicians may not be aware of it.  Use of dream content along with the conscious methods used by psychotherapists would be beneficial in the therapeutic process.

If dream content/feelings are to be incorporated into the clinical setting, some basic guidelines must be instituted.  A therapist's mind is very active during a clinical session trying to understand and evaluate the client and identifying the method of intervention needed.  According to the research, this type of mental activity interferes with the intuitive process; therefore, it is necessary that the therapist learn to quiet the mind.  The therapist will need to feel "in tune" with the client, carefully observing not only the words used, but the tone of the words, and the body language of the client as well as the therapist's own internal processes.

In order to be aware of any influences that could color the perception of the therapist, it is imperative that s/he has a thorough knowledge of him/herself.  In order to use dream content/feelings in combination with cognitive methods of therapy, comprehensive knowledge of psychotherapy is necessary.  Finally, if the client is viewed in a holistic manner and the therapist is open to unforeseen developments, dream content can enhance the interaction and outcome of therapy.

The role of the researcher as generating rather than merely collecting his/her own data still tends not to be seen as central to the research enterprise.  Indeed his/her involvement is still seen as problematic and as something that needs deconstructing or at least elucidating in terms of a reflexive analysis of the impact of the researcher's own personal or cultural bias.  There are of course exceptions to these propositions, including action-research and the use of focus groups.

However there is another set of potential research methods and related methodologies that are only very slightly used by researchers that derive from experiential group-work and the humanistic human growth movement.  The methods are sculpting, psychodrama, gestalt, dream and imagery work, and artwork.  The hypothesis underpinning these approaches is that a research methodology can imaginatively generate novel ways for respondents to experience themselves, their past, present and future.

In the same way gestalt techniques derived from the innovative work of Perls offer similar opportunities.  Gestalt therapy focuses on the 'here and now' of people's feeling states.  Perls moved away from the idea of the unconscious and developed in its place an integrative model of the self in which the 'therapeutic task' was to reclaim buried and incomplete aspects of the self through a form of directed role-play or projective identification.  In gestalt therapy, the person working on an issue 'becomes' the person they wish to dialogue with and this is often symbolized and made more actual by the person changing seats when in the role of their own mother, daughter or boss.

Through this process of spatial change and emotional disclosure the person is intended to 'get in touch' with suppressed and repressed parts of themselves.  In, for example, the context of dream-work, from which examples will later be presented, Perls considered that each point out the difference between the spoken and unspoken expression of the self.  Such a procedure is quite different from the analytic procedures of orthodox analysis.  One can see then that these powerful techniques from humanistic psychology have as a common theme the intended arousal of neglected and avoided aspects, experiences and emotions contained within the self.

This view of the self potentially offers a severe criticism of the nature of personal and social data offered by the more orthodox research methods involved in the various forms of interviewing and questionnaires.  The limitations of the latter are well documented, but usually the critique is limited to the truthfulness of the respondent and issues of procedural reactivity, together with the implicit biases that can enter the interview process by way of race, gender, age and class dimensions.  What an experiential model of research methodology suggests is that for those research projects that are interested in reaching levels and forms of knowledge not immediately apprehensible by the respondent or even through participation in a focus group, these groupwork based methodologies offer powerful instruments.

The researcher then, of course, is involved in the production of experience as well as its recording and analysis.  The dreamwork movement has been outlined earlier in this report.  While most dreams are seen initially as incomprehensible to the dreamer, it has been found that very often the group member who works on their dream is enabled to derive some understanding and even insight into an aspect with which they were currently preoccupied.  Often the researcher would use the other action methods of gestalt, psychodrama etc as ways of getting in touch with the latent perceptions of the dreamer.

To be effective, these techniques require considerable familiarity with their use and skill in their application, although arguably a researcher could observe a groupwork practitioner using them, rather than using them him/herself.  An ethical concern with careful use is especially important as these techniques do reveal latent feelings and unrealized dream contents previously only partially made conscious or possibly even repressed.  Yet it is important to evaluate these methods for possible use separately as well as thinking of them as a related group.  For example, the use of sculpting, artwork and some levels of imagework are not difficult to learn to use sensitively.  Yet psychodrama, gestalt, dreamwork and advanced levels of imagework do need considerably higher levels of skill and familiarity.

With the medication and dream content study, the large effects could be due to the passage of time, but research on age and dream content shows that there is very little change in dream content beyond young adulthood (Domhoff, 1996).  The change also may be due in part to psychotherapy, but one unpublished study by Hall showed no effect of psychotherapy on dream content (Domhoff, 1993).  It is therefore most likely that the changes in dream content are related to the medication or the reduction of anxiety that ensued.

One possible explanation for the disparity in findings between this study and previous studies is that the latter tended to focus on the dreams of depressed patients.  Several researchers have found the dreams of depressives to be short, bland, and lacking in detail (Armitage et al., 1995; Barrett & Loeffler, 1992, Riemann et al., 1990).  It may be harder to detect changes in content in less detailed dreams.

Domhoff (1996) has suggested that several of the Hall and Van de Castle content categories may be useful in predicting psychological disturbances.  Before the dreamer was diagnosed and treated, she showed many of the potential indicators of psychopathology: high percentages of aggression, misfortune, and negative emotions, and low percentages of known characters, friendly interactions, and dreamer-involved success.


The dreamer's pre-medication scores are consistent with the previous findings that the dreams of anxious patients are low in friendly interactions (Gentil & Lader, 1978), and that patient populations tend to have more negative emotions in their dreams (Bollea, Carbonetti, Donini, Marrucci, & Vella, 1978).  Her post-medication dreams more closely approximate the female norms in most categories, including those that might reflect psychological disturbance.  In categories that are not indicators of psychopathology (such as the percentage of characters that are individuals or groups, the male/female percent, and the dream setting), the dreamer showed more consistency--even when she differed from the female norms--between the pre- and post-medication dreams.  The changes in the pertinent categories suggest that the drug treatment did indeed affect dream content.

It is noteworthy that 43 percent of the pre-medication dreams contained elements from the dreamer's past, while only 13 percent of the post-medication dreams contained such references.  This may be related to the large decrease in familiar settings in the post-medication dreams.  Although Domhoff (1996) does not list a high percentage of elements from the past as an indicator of psychopathology, he does mention that people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a type of anxiety disorder, tend to have dreams in which distressing events are relived again and again.  It may be that other anxiety disorders invoke a similar response in which the dreamer has a tendency to dwell on past events, which merits further research.

A final observation is that the results of this study provide support for Hartmann's (1984) biological model of the effects of drugs on dreams.  An early study which focused mainly on long-term sleep patterns found little change in dream content associated with psychotropic drug administration (Hartmann & Cravens, 1974), but a later study conducted in Hartmann's laboratory indicated that increased levels of dopamine resulted in more vivid, nightmarish dreams (Hartmann, Russ, Oldfield, Falke, & Skoff, 1980).  Based on his own research and the literature on drugs and nightmares, Hartmann (1984) proposed that drugs that increase the neurotransmitters dopamine or acetylcholine, or decrease norepinephrine or serotonin, produce nightmares and more vivid and bizarre dreams.

Drugs that have the opposite effects would decrease the incidence of disturbing dreams.  The dreamer in this study was taking a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which served to increase the effects of serotonin.  According to the biological model, with the onset of medication the dreamer should have experienced a decrease in nightmares, or, in Hall and Van de Castle's terms, lower aggression, negative emotions, and other unpleasant factors.  This was, in fact, the case.

The emphasis on statistically significant differences without regard to effect sizes slowed progress in the study of dream content by creating unnecessary polarities and focusing energy on methodological arguments.  The introduction of effect sizes into the study of dream content makes it possible to suggest that the controversy over home and laboratory collected dream reports never should have happened.  The emphasis in dream content studies henceforth should be on effect sizes and large samples.  Then future dream researchers could focus on testing new ideas using dream reports collected either at home or in the sleep laboratory.


The Hall/Van de Castle system has the further advantage that it is based in a nominal level of scaling, thus avoiding the potential pitfalls of ordinal scales.  It therefore makes use of simple percentages and rates in its data analyses.  Percentages also have the great advantage of correcting for differences in length of dream reports from group to group or individual to individual, a problem that has led to major misunderstandings in the literature on gender similarities and differences.

Freud's theory of dream symbols as disguises for reprehensible referents has been examined and found wanting in several respects: (a) it does not explain why censurable referents appear in some dreams in their naked form and in other dreams as symbols, (b) it does not explain why some people are able to decipher their own dream symbols with facility (c) it does not take into account the self-conscious and intentional use of slang and figures of speech for referent objects which are symbolized in dreams, (d) it does not deal adequately with the question why there should be multiple symbols for the same referent object, and (e) it assumes that the mind during sleep is capable of performing exceedingly complex operations.

Starting from Freud's other hypothesis regarding dream symbols, that which he called regard for representability , the following theory of dream symbols has been formulated: (a) the referent of a dream symbol is the dreamer's conception, or idea, of a referent object, (b) a dream symbol is substituted for a referent object in order to express clearly and economically the conception that the dreamer has in mind, (c) symbols are employed because conceptions are abstract and must be represented by visible embodiments if the conceptions are to appear in dreams, and (d) a symbol is selected because the dreamer's conception of the symbol is identical with his conception of the referent object.

Dream symbols may be decomposed into conceptions by making use of various clues: (a) clues that are present within the context of the dream itself, (b) clues from other dreams of the person, (c) free association, (d) acting out as exemplified by dreams that terminate in nocturnal emissions, and (e) evidence from slang, figures of speech, myths, fairy tales, etymology, and the visual arts.

Since an investigator cannot get along without a theory, it is necessary that the theory upon which his interpretations are based be made explicit.  The dreams of an individual represent attempts to resolve his current conflicts.  The conflict may be between opposing motives, e.g., sex vs.  the approval of society, or between opposing emotions, e.g., love vs.  hate.  The conflict may be between a motive and a barrier, e.g., a desire to become a famous surgeon which is blocked by insufficient ability, or between an emotion and a barrier, e.g., hate for a parent the expression of which is barred by economic dependence upon the parent.

The conflict may involve such large segments of the emotional and motivational structure that it causes a split in the whole structure, i.e., dual personalities contending with each other as in the Faustian legend.  Occasionally, a dream proffers no solution but portrays only the anxiety which is generated by the conflict.  Anxiety dreams may tell little or nothing about the reason for the anxiety; they may merely indicate that the dreamer is in a state of conflict.  Since conflicts occur between motives and emotions, an account of the individual's conflicts will yield a description of the active components of his inner dynamics, i.e., strivings, feelings, defenses, frustrations, values, needs.  In its most succinct form, the theory states that dreams are projections of the person's inner dynamics.

The interpretation of dreams is rendered difficult by virtue of the distorting mechanisms, to wit, condensation, displacement, symbolization, and secondary elaboration.  Since the reported dream presents such a distorted picture, it may be asked how any single dream can be properly analyzed unless the interpreter has an immense fund of knowledge concerning the dreamer.  This was Freud's contention and one of his cited reasons for electing to interpret his own dreams as illustrative material for Die Traumdeutung . However, if it is necessary to know the inner dynamics of an individual before the meaning of his dreams can be unraveled, of what use is dream interpretation? Large-scale studies of personality require a method of appraisal, which is more economical of time than is the individual case study employed by the clinician.

The method proposed here presumes to overcome this barrier by substituting the analysis of a dream cycle for the analysis of the single dream.  The dreams of a cycle are perused in order to get the atmosphere of the dreams as a whole and to ascertain which of the dreams are especially revealing of inner conflict.  Often the meaning of one dream is self-evident and illuminates a major conflict like a spotlight shooting its beam into the darkness.  Armed with the hypothesis drawn from a spotlight dream, the other dreams of the series are scrutinized for projections of the same basic conflict.  If a number of dreams of an individual fit in with the same interpretation, this interpretation is felt to be corroborated and is assigned to the dream series.  The dream series may contain more than a single major conflict, although, from examining scores of dream cycles, only one major conflict is usually found.

If others do not support the interpretation of a dream, then another hypothesis as to the contending forces is formulated.  By applying it to the analysis of other dreams, this hypothesis is similarly tested The interpreter proceeds in this fashion until he has found a framework which accommodates the dreams of the cycle.  The operations are like those performed in working a jig-saw puzzle.  The individual dreams are fitted together by testing one inference after another until an interlocking, coherent, organized, and meaningful appraisal is obtained.

Her inferior status in the family would also create feelings of inadequacy with regard to the establishing of satisfying relationships with boys.  She fears rejection from her boyfriend.  Unsure of her ability to win the affection and protection of a male, she is reluctant to renounce the security afforded by the family.  But she is faced by, the loss of this security because she is growing up.  This then is the motivation for her dreams to discover some way of regaining security, which with increasing age is rapidly disappearing.  Although myths and folktales do include themes of mythical animals, and shamans often talk about dreams in which they are aided or impeded by dead people or spirits, neither folktales nor claims by shamans are evidence that people actually have such dreams.  One of the great problems in studying dreams is that there is no way to check up on specific claims by individuals about what they allegedly dream.  The fact that the word "dream" can be used for visions, hopes, and waking fantasies as well as nightly dreams only adds to the confusion about what is a dream and what is not.

The mystique surrounding dreams is so great that the phrase "I dreamed . . . " can be used as a platform for any claim a person may wish to make, however implausible.  This means that assertions about dream content in myth and literature, or in discussions with shamans and visionaries, cannot be taken at face value.  There is really only one way to decide the matter, which is to collect and study thousands of dreams from living individuals of all ages in as many countries as possible.  Within that context, it can be suspected that atypical dreams reported in any type of literature or shamanic lore are as likely to be the product of poetic license as they are to be actual dreams.

These doubts can only be resolved through careful empirical studies.  In addition to more studies of dreams from sleep laboratories, classrooms, and dream journals, there may be another way to approach this problem, which is to ask people of all ages to make up a dream that will seem real to the people who read it or hear it.  Such a study could bring out the stereotypes that people have about dreams, especially when such dreams are compared with a "real" dream from the same participants or with the Hall/Van de Castle normative findings.

There are also studies that could be done to see if the dreams of interest to Garfield are frequent enough to be of any great importance in the overall study of dreams.  Such studies would compare what people report on questionnaires about allegedly universal themes in dreams with what they actually dream about.  To the degree that there are such comparisons, they show wide disparities.  For example, in a search for 10 allegedly common dream themes in a sample of 983 dream reports from two-week dream diaries from 126 students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1992, it was discovered that almost no dreams containing one of the 10 themes, even though many of the same students reported on an earlier questionnaire that they remembered having such dreams at least once.

To take the case of flying dreams, 59% of the men and 54% of the women said they recalled having such a dream, but there were only 5 flying dreams in the dream diaries, or 0.5% of the total dreams reported.  There were only two dreams of being lost, two of taking an examination, and one of falling (Domhoff, 1996, p.  198).  Such findings suggest that the study of common, allegedly universal, dreams might not be very productive.

Clearly, much more empirical work would need to be done to decide just how typical elements like friendly mythical animals and menacing dead people are in dreams.  The point for now is that findings with the Hall/Van de Castle system provide the best starting point, calling into question Garfield's adaptation of a system developed for studying the very different, not similar, material found in folklore.  Until such time when systematic empirical studies show otherwise, findings such as those provided by Van de Castle (1983, 1994) on the role of animals in dreams should set the standard.






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