This is a long essay, or rather, a former thesis, which was rejected as my Capstone Project. It was submitted for partial fulfillment for my degree in Doctor of Psychology. What happened next? I wrote and rewrote another four drafts before I got a pass, to get my certificate. That is how I got to call myself a doctor. I spent a total of 7 years to get a doctorate.
This is my breakdown of the amount of time I took:
Bachelor of Arts – 4 years.
Master of Science – 1 year.
Doctor of Psychology – 2 years.
Anyway, I decided to post all my failed thesis attempts in my blog, for posterity. If I don’t, the drafts will eventually get lost with computer crash or other manmade calamities.
Some parts of the drafts are missing because I don’t want plagiarism going around. As I mentioned before, the drafts are failed attempts, for various reasons like lousy proposal, the Position Paper style being unacceptable technical formatting, incomplete technical analysis or etc. Which makes these drafts fun reading as they don’t take a toll on your focus.
Enough said. Without much further ado, I present my unaccepted thesis.
Developing intuition for understanding dreams
Every person with a stable mental state, can access their own intuition, to help them select the best response to a situation.
Everyone who has the mental capacity to use logic and rationalize, will be able to process information, access their knowledge, wisdom, variety of experiences, empathy, imagination, and templates of responses, to select the most appropriate response. However, not everyone has a fairly advanced level of intuition, to be confident of using it. They can be helped by methods to develop intuition. One way is to pay more attention to input stimuli. For the output intuition depends on what is being fed into the processing center of the brain. Being attentive to the stimuli, environment, and any other factors having impact on the issue, will help in deriving an intuition, which is a suggestion of what to do to resolve the issue at hand.
Dr. Marks-Tarlow wrote two books on developing intuition. They are “Clinical Intuition in Psychotherapy: The neurobiology of embodied response” (2012), and “Awakening Clinical Intuition: An experiential workbook for psychotherapists” (2014). In summary, her philosophy says intuition is not a sudden, instantaneous hit of a message. Rather, it involves many factors like making the inner space available to absorb and process the input stimuli, being aware and living in the present time to take advantage of the vast opportunities in the here and now, being relaxed enough to pay attention to what is important for input data, having a steady core to return to for internal security and steadiness, using imagination to think of alternatives, and inspiration to carry out the intuition. In her Workbook, she has elaborated on the various factors, to develop intuition. She advocated ordinary methods to open up space, time, mood, foundations, senses, imagination and inspiration, to become alert to intuition. Her methods work on what we already have, to awaken our senses and become more receptive. She also reminded the reader to pay attention to what is absent, as there are reasons for the omission. In her own words, “As important it is to listen to what is present in the voice of patients, sometimes it is even more critical to listen for what is not present” (Marks-Tarlow, 2014, p.86).
Dr Marks-Tarlow, the psychotherapist, believed in dreams playing a role in intuition. In her first book, she wrote, “Perhaps because dream images are such an early part of the nonverbal landscape, imagery is a central form of intuition” (Marks-Tarlow, 2012, p.47). The images are symbolic holding specific meanings for the dreamer. A person with developed intuition can understand that dream images are symbols, which pullout customized, specific, associated meanings for the dreamer. In contrast, without intuition, the dreamer is likely to dismiss the dream images, as being meaningless. Or, the dreamer may use a dream dictionary in infer meanings, which may not belong to the context, for the dreamer. Such is the importance of developing intuition for dreams.
Intuition can help one to understand dreams. The latter are not predictions, premonitions nor precognitive notions. Myers (2002) is a staunch critic of baseless intuition. He wrote that “Dreams are vague and hard to remember. Perhaps, then, we later modify our memories of dreams to match the car crash, surprise gift, or unexpected visit that we know has occurred. Happenings do shape recollections” (Myers, 2002, p.233). Dream work in modern psychotherapy reveal many interesting theories on dreams. The origin of dreams itself is slowly being explored in neuroscience. Recent research supports Freud’s writings on organic causes of dreams, thus debunking the myth that dreams could be messages from the divine or unexplained sources. Freud had used the example of a dreamer being able to hear their alarm clock ringing during sleep. The dreamer may even incorporate this stimulus into their dream and they dream of an alarm clock ringing. One example of recent research supports this, said that “several experiments demonstrate that delivering learning-related sensory cues to sleeping subjects – for example, sounds or smells present during encoding – enhances later memory performance, presumably by inducing reactivation of the learning experience during sleep” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010).
Another example would be what Freud said about dreams reflecting the mental state of the dreamer because dreams were a continuity of the mental state. Freud (2010) wrote that there are relations between dreams and mental diseases. He said there are “aetiological and clinical connections, as when a dream represents a psychotic state, or introduces it, or is left over from it” (Freud, 2010, p.113). Recent research by Cheung (2012) showed that “people with psychiatric records or relevant traits reported more nightmares” (Cheung, 2012, p.18).
Freud (2010) said dreams cannot be intuitions because there are rational causes of dreams. According to him, they are caused by: “(1) external (objective) sensory excitations;
(2) internal (subjective) sensory excitations; (3) internal (organic) somatic stimuli; and
(4) purely psychical sources of stimulation” (Freud, 2010, p.55). The rational causes mean that dreams have a logical origin.
In group dream work therapy, one group leader leads the group members. Hill & Knox (2010) have written that “the group leader assist the dreamer in selecting a part of the dream s/he wishes to address, then helps her/him set the scene and select dream characters and objects from among the other group participants” (p.7). Each member narrates their dream, and talks of the free associations to the imagery and symbols. The member is using intuition to look into their dream interpretation. The other group members then pitch in to share their associations and intuitions of the dream.
The person’s culture plays a big part in free associations and intuitions on dream imagery and symbols. In group dream work, members from different cultures may speak of different intuitions on one particular imagery or symbol, as they were brought up to believe, in their respective traditions and cultures.
Newly pregnant mothers may experience announcing dreams of their pregnancies. They may even receive intuitions to tell the gender of their baby. However, caution must be exercised for women from cultures that teach them to expect disappointment, by influencing them to say that they are carrying the gender of the least preferred one. For Chinese women and pregnant women from ethnicities that favor male babies, the women prepare themselves to accept disappointment if they are wrong in their intuition of the gender of their baby. These women will say they are carrying female babies.
Teresa DeCicco (2012) created “The Storytelling Method of Dream Interpretation”, aka T.S.M. (p.68). This uses a series of steps to pare down the imagery, to the bare bones. The dreamer then uses the residues, with their personal associations, to create a sensible message. To double check on this filtered dream interpretation, the dreamer has to reflect on whether it is relevant to events in their waking life. TSM is a technique to develop intuition, to understand a dream.
A dream may be composed of fragments of memories, which are somehow important to the dreamer. The composition of a dream may not make sense because of the nature which the fragments are strung together. DeCicco’s T.S.M. aims to peel away the disguises of imagery, to reveal a message that may make sense with its relation to the dreamer’s waking life. This is important as many dream researchers believe that dreams continue the thoughts and activities of waking life. Recent writings on case studies show that unfulfilled wishes may be in dreams, which have no relation to waking life. The person wants to fulfill these wishes in waking life, which is why they have appeared in dreams. Even a strange dream can provide personal insight. As dreams are very helpful in psychotherapy and personal insight, one should learn methods of developing intuition, to understand dreams.
There are critics who do not believe in intuition. Myers (2002) is one such critic. He said, “Statistical predictions are, as you would expect, fallible. But when it comes to predicting the future, human intuition – even professional intuition – is even more fallible” (p.173). He had researched on examples when intuition is pitted against statistical prediction, and discovered that “the formula usually wins” (Myers, 2002, p.173).
What does Myers rely on, if not on intuition? He said that “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior” (Myers, 2002, p.173). Even a clinical interview would not be helpful to receive intuition about the person. He expressed his opinion that one interview alone was insufficient to know a person, nor to predict on the behaviors. He said that the least reliable prediction of criminal behavior was “A clinician’s judgment” (Myers, 2002, p.173). Clinicians who have never met suspects, were ready to give their opinions of them on trial. Myers (2002) was against this practice and called it “psychobabble” (p.174). He warned against clinicians who used intuition to diagnose a person. He said, “Once a clinician conjectures an explanation for a problem such as hearing voices, the explanation can take a life of its own” (Myers, 2002, p.177). Although one may feel confident at judging another person, “Professionals actually did so at no better than chance levels. False memories feel and look like real memories” (Myers, 2002, p.175).
Myers (2002) had his explanation for “Why Clinical Intuition Falters” (p.176). He wrote that to reduce or eliminate mistakes, “We must intuit correlations between different predictors and criterion”, and “Then we must appropriately weight each predictor”, to choose the best response (Myers, 2002, p.176).
An intuition may be inaccurately formed because of the current mood of the individual. Myers (2002) explained how moods affect memories and cloud present intuition about a current event. He said, “If someone is in a bad mood, such recollections get amplified” (p.179). Thus, their awareness is influenced by their negative mood.
Myers (2002) said that “Hindsight also boosts clinicians’ sense that they could have predicted what they know to have happened” (p.176). With this increase of confidence, they can predict more boldly. How can they increase their confidence? A person can learn from self-reflections. Generally, therapists encourage people to write journals, or dream journals, to keep track of their intuitions. They are to observe how many of their intuitions turn out correct. Myers said people who receive feedback about their intuitions, “readily learn to gauge their shortcomings” (p.181).
Books and peer reviewed journal articles were used. There are two main schools of thought on what dreams are made of. One school says that dreams are a continuity of waking hours as the content show preoccupation with general concepts and concerns in waking life. The other school says that dreams are a discontinuity of waking hours. They point to dreams on wish fulfillments, nightmares and other deviant data that hint there are inconsistencies in the theory of dreams being a continuity of waking life. However, wish fulfillments and nightmares on terrifying themes can be explained as attempts to stimulate the continuity to waking life.
Deficiencies in past literature:
More empirical case studies are needed to address the shortage of published literature in the field of dream interpretation. Research groups had recruited participants but these were in small numbers and did not comprise of all the age groups across the population in a specific geographical location. Besides cultures, the country and the unique geographical region are also factors that influence the kind of meanings that are associated with dream imagery and symbols. For example, Canadians and Italians have different national and ethnic/ cultural values as research “found emotions to differ between Italian men and Canadian men, and between Italian females and Canadian females when compared by gender” (DeCicco, Zanasi, Dale, Murkar, Longo & Testoni, 2012, p.11). Another difference between the two nationalities is in the level of stress, as “Italians scored significantly higher on waking measures of anxiety and mood disturbance than Canadians” (DeCicco et al., 2012, p.11).
In Southeast Asia, many countries practice a so-called Eastern culture, where many adult children are close knit and take care of their off-spring and parents, for as long as they are able to do so. These people lead waking lives which revolve around their families and are likely to dream about their close relatives. For countries in the West, and their people who practice Western culture, teenage children are encouraged to move out of the family home, to learn independence. Westerners tend to dream about themes that reflect what happens in their waking life, their independence and their life style. In contemporary society, mass globalization has displaced ethnic peoples and transported them into adoptive countries. For example, a new American citizen (or green card holder) may have cultural roots in Chinese, but had his original homeland in Philippines. Is his identity now American, or Chinese, or Filipino? Researchers who are screening for participants in studies may want to omit candidates with multicultural identities.
Dreamers are affected by their professions, former occupations and status. A soldier or veteran has accumulated experiences dealing with war, violence, stress and grief. This person is likely to have dreams featuring imagery from their past waking hours in war (Dale, DeCicco & Miller, 2013; Shore, Orton & Manson, 2009). A person who has held a refugee status may see dreams about their old homeland and traumatic experiences related to relocating to the new adoptive country (Hinton, Peou, Joshi, Nickerson & Simon, 2013).
A spiritual or religious person is likely to spend a large portion of their waking hours engaged in their meditation or prayers. This individual is likely to see dream imagery related to spiritual and religious activities (Salem, DeCicco, Ragab, Yousif, Murkar & Vaswani, 2013; Salem, Ragab & Razik, 2009).
Although there are published articles and books, the case studies and research group participants are too few to allow scientists to make generalizations and theories for universal application. Furthermore, studies have shown that generalizations are not valid for different cultures and countries. The diversity of culture should be addressed. Each culture has its own set of associated meanings attached to dream imagery. To add to the complexity, there are also cross-cultural and common meanings for some dream imagery. Additionally, every individual has their own unique experiences and base, where they draw for meanings. It is like looking at a dreamer’s customized meanings, which are also influenced by his culture’s traditions and associated meanings. Dream interpretation draws upon the association of imagery and symbols to meanings that are unique to the dreamer. Thus, when there is a conflict between the dreamer’s associated meanings and his cultural ones, the dreamer should take his personal meaning. This person gains personal insight because of associations attached to specific dream imagery and symbols. Cultures superimpose traditional meanings to images, events and experiences. Every culture in the world should have its own studies on dream imagery, their connotations and whether these are precognitive and relevant for dreamers. On a broader categorical classification, people living in different countries, have specific geographical characteristics. Different nationalities have dream content which are specific to their geographical locations. Dreamers from different age groups and gender also have generic traits that appear in their dreams.
It is important to understand dreams, and use them in modern psychotherapy. The replay of certain dream imagery provides clues to what disturbs the mind in bad or good ways, the mind’s state and mood.
Understanding dreams is only the beginning. The natural progression leads to exploration of the discoveries for insight and subsequent action to resolve issues presented in the dream.
What is intuition and do we need to develop it?
Intuition is often described as the gut feeling on what one should do. This knowledge comes from within, after the brain has processed information. It is not easy to derive at this choice of the best response. We need basic knowledge, wisdom, imagination, empathy and experience. While intuition can be obtained by paying more attention to all the stimuli and environment around us, it can also be gleaned by observing what is absent. Obviously, the omission of something can be deliberate and sends a message about the situation. I would pay attention to strange omissions that deviate from the norm, and imagine what could be the possible reasons behind the omissions. As Marks-Tarlow (2014) said, “A clue comes from the centrality of imagination to healthy growth during development in all children. Imagination is the highest symbolic realm of a forward-looking arc that is basic to our bodies at multiple levels” (p.156).
Why is there a need to understand dream imagery and symbolization? Can we not expect to be told directly about an intuition? Peirce (2009) said that “For an intuition to finally become conscious, you must interpret the images or symbols presented by the midbrain” (p.125). While it has always been said that every image/ symbol holds a personal and specific meaning for each individual, that the individual may be unaware of the associations and require some help to link them (Hill & Knox, 2010). Certain imagery and symbols may hold meanings that are specific to a local culture, with which an individual may not be familiar with, because they did not grow up with their traditions and customs. A person who has been adopted, or raised in a neglected environment, may lack knowledge of their culture. One example would be an individual who was born in their homeland, but has emigrated overseas at a very young age. For instance, a child Vietnamese refugee who has resettled in America, grows up in his adopted country and has produced the second generation of ethnic Vietnamese descendants. The offspring is raised with some knowledge of their ethnic culture, but is more steeped into American culture. The second generation of American-Viet may not know what dreaming about dead ancestors mean, unless they ask their parents and ethnic Vietnamese elders.
In Chinese culture, when one dreams of a deceased relative who is smiling, it does not mean that the dead person is happy. It means the opposite. Conversely, if the dream shows the deceased crying, the culturally associated meaning is that the deceased is happy. This traditional way of deciphering and understanding dream imagery of the dead has been passed down from generation to generation. If a Chinese person was orphaned at a young age and adopted by parents from a different ethnicity, then they would not have this knowledge.
On the other hand, it may be alleged that since the person did not know about the connotation/ association, the culturally suggested meaning does not pertain to them. Such a person, without the backing of culture, may be aided by the lack of cultural bias which may un-necessarily influence their opinion of dream content. Consequently, does this mean that a person without cultural roots, is lacking in dream interpretation? If their cultural connotations linked to dream imagery and symbols are missing, does this mean that this person has no memory of culture and thus is unable to create dreams containing imagery related to cultural values? I would think that in this case, this individual should read only the manifest meaning of the dream content, and not look into the latent meaning.
There is more to understanding dreams than simply identifying the imagery and associated meanings in the person’s culture. Dream work has revealed that dreams are caused by the activation of selected memory cells (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). People get dreams that are related to their waking life concerns, or wish fulfillment. In the same way, people get nightmares, when their anxiety, stress and traumatic experiences occupy their thoughts during waking hours.
How to develop intuition
Professor W. R. Duggan, from Columbia Business School, said there are “three kinds of intuition: ordinary, expert, and strategic” (Duggan, 2010, p.10). Ordinary intuition depends on the reception of thoughts, while expert intuition depends on technical knowledge. He said that to nurture strategic intuition, one must, “First, stop using techniques that work against presence of mind and flashes of insight” (Duggan, 2010, p.12). He recommends three techniques – “reverse brainstorming, sleep on it, and the insight matrix” (Duggan, 2010, p.12).
Reverse brainstorming involves thinking and writing down “off-center ideas” every week, and then moving backwards to see where these ideas came from (Duggan, 2010, p.12). They may be intuitions to resolve problems.
The insight matrix uses flashes of insight to inspire ideas for a strategy that can be executed in steps (Duggan, 2010).
I am interested to explore the technique of “sleep on it”, since my essay is on “Developing intuition for understanding dreams”. What does Duggan mean by “sleep on it”? He explained that, “Relaxing overnight lets those things rearrange in new and creative combinations” (Duggan, 2010, p.13). Jennings (1999) wrote on suggestions relating to dreams, and that is to, “Incubate your dreams to help solve complex problems. That is, concentrate on the key problem before you go to sleep, then write down your dreams and use these clues to solve the problem” (Jennings, 1999, as cited in Williams, 2012, p.56). Concentrating about the problem inputs the stimulus into the brain, which is likely to continue thinking about the puzzle, during sleep. The brain may be able to suggest a solution, via an imagery/symbol. Likewise, Wamsley & Stickgold (2010) have also done research to show that memory cells are activated during sleep, to run through the latest learning experience. After waking up, the brain demonstrated improved skills at performing the task.
Williams (2012) said “Intuition is an inductive skill, seeing the big picture, and looking at the whole problem rather than its discrete parts. It can be very useful when data is inadequate or unavailable” (Williams, 2012, p.47). This supports the view that intuition can be learned as a skill.
How does one develop intuition? Williams has mentioned many studies which have methods for developing intuition. The one sentence that I would take home with me is to remember that Williams said, “In order to master intuition, one must first master direct knowing” (Williams, 2012, p.51). What is direct knowing? Cassandra Vieten, the director of research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, has written about direct knowing in an article for the website Psychology Today. She said the concept comes from the word “noetic”, which has been defined as “meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, or subjective understanding” (Vieten, 2011). The synonyms for direct knowing are inner wisdom and subjective understanding. It can be inferred that direct knowing means inner wisdom. Penney Peirce, an author of several books on intuition, defined direct knowing as “The ability to understand something in the present moment without logic and proof; instant comprehension by conscious communion or ‘feeling into’” (Peirce, 2013, p.313).
Knowing how intuition works will bring us closer to developing it. Williams said, “Despite these many descriptions of how intuition works, there seem to be two main categories of theories about how intuition works: the mechanistic and the non mechanistic theories” (Williams, 2012, p.55). The first uses factual knowledge and its application, to recognize a pattern, and then predict what is the sequence of events. The second category uses cognitive processing of data, to determine what is the best response.
Penny Peirce (2009) wrote about the importance to “loosen your imagination and work with imagery and symbols – the language of your imagination. Then you’ll see how your dreams are a method for talking to your subconscious and superconscious minds so you can be more aware of life” (Peirce, 2009, p.124). Is it possible to understand dreams without first tackling the developing of intuition? It is possible to take a component of developing intuition, like imagination, and use it, to work with the dream’s imagery and symbols. Imagination will help you to figure out what the symbolism means to you. Every person will have their own interpretation of the symbols because they are working with their set of unique knowledge, wisdom, experiences, empathy and imagination.
Is there a way of developing intuition, without going through the accumulation of knowledge, wisdom, and experiences? Yes, it is possible. Peirce said “You have enough originality within you to last for as long as you live”; meaning that you already have the necessary input and can develop your intuitive skill. (Peirce, 2009, p.126). The author wrote that intuition can be developed in a natural way: “you look for and treasure those moments of revelation, your imagination and intuition will increase” (Peirce, 2009, p.125). She was referring to the moments of being guided by gut feeling. By paying attention to these moments, one becomes more aware and receptive whenever an intuition pops up.
Another method of developing intuition is to accumulate a store of varied experiences. Peirce wrote that, “To help your intuition and imagination flow like water from a faucet, vary the way you normally do things. Change your habits, try new words, use your opposite hand” (Peirce, 2009, p.128).
Dream content includes symbols and one way to understand them, is to practice relating symbols to real life objects, subjects, traits and other characteristics. Peirce said, “Playing with symbols can increase your ‘intuition muscle’” (Peirce, 2009, p.131). One way of getting used to connotations of symbols, is to draw out what a person, or object, would be represented, as a symbol.
Peirce has listed six categories of dream experience. They are the daily life, symbols, visiting other dimensions, precognition and past-life recall, visions and spirit guides, and abstract geometrical patterns. (Peirce, 2009). If the reader can recognize which of the six categories their dream falls into, then they are able to understand what the dream was about.
Literature evidence of why dreams are not intuition from divine sources.
According to Freud, dreams are not intuition sent from divine sources. He wrote of his theories on why he thought dreams did not contain intuition from divine sources. He said, “… our passions must have an influence on the production of our dreams” (Freud, 2010, p.42). A person’s passions influenced what he spent a lot of time on, in his waking hours. Thus, he is likely to dream about his passions in waking life. He thought that dreams consisted of memories, and explained why dreams feature memories, saying, “… dreams have at their command memories which are inaccessible in waking life” (Freud, 2010, p.46).
Dreams are not intuition, as they often contain childhood experiences. Freud wrote, “One of the sources from which dreams derive material for reproduction – material which is in part neither remembered nor used in the activities of waking thought – is childhood experience” (Freud, 2010, p.48).
Dreams may contain worthless material, as Freud explained, “For what is found worth remembering is not, as in waking life, only what is most important, but on the contrary what is most indifferent and insignificant as well” (Freud, 2010, p.51). This explains why some dream imagery seem to be trivial and novel. This paper will discuss some plausible reasons why the brain activates certain memory cells.
Why do some people place so much importance on dreams having intuitions? Freud explained that “Dreams yield no more than fragments of reproductions; and this is so general a rule that theoretical conclusions may be based on it” (Freud, 2010, p. 53). The reproductions are displaced by time and space. Even Freud said so; that the fragments could be memories from childhood, the previous day’s events, interrupted musings and etc.
As such, this view fits with Jung’s theory of Synchronicity, who propagated his view that dreams do not contain intuitions, but their content coincidences with waking life. This theory was probably born when Jung realized how two events seemed to be synchronous, although they were unrelated. Jung was having a session with a female patient, who was not making progress in psychotherapy. She was not ready to accept Jung’s analysis for a long time. During a particular session, she was speaking on a dream narration, where she received a piece of jewelry shaped in the form of a golden beetle. As she was talking, Jung saw and heard a scarab beetle knocking against the glass window. Jung opened the window, caught the beetle and gave it to his patient. The woman was struck by the synchronicity of events that presented a beetle to her. Her wall of resistance broke down and she became more co-operative in therapy. Phil Goss, a Jungian analyst, has written a book entitled Jung: A Complete Introduction. In it, he mentioned this synchronicity of the beetle in the dream narration and then simultaneously seeing its appearance in waking life. Goss wrote, “The telling of the dream did not make the beetle fly into the window, and the beetle flying into the window did not prompt the woman to describe the dream. These two aspects of the situation were not ‘logically’ connected but there does seem to be a relationship between the two, represented by the commonality of the presence of a scarab in both elements of the equation” (Goss, 2015, p.259-260).
The synchrony of dream to waking life can be explained by meaningful coincidences, causal factors, acausal factors and the collapsing of time and space into the individual’s internal psyche. The synchronous events were usually seen as not connected by causal factors, but they could be connected by displacement in time and space. Another way of looking at it is to think that the dream which continues waking life events, is likely to be precognitive, since the person will be engaged in their waking life activities.
J. M. Schwartz & S. Begley, authors of “The Mind & the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force” (2003). They suggested that quantum physics could explain neurobiology and other phenomena like dream sequences. Molecules from an event are taking time to travel from the moment the event was created. These molecules are continuously traveling forward in time. The authors said, “In the quantum world, subatomic particles have no definite position until they are measured: the electron orbiting the nucleus of an atom is not the pointlike particle we usually imagine but instead a cloud swathing the nucleus” (Schwartz & Begley, 2003, p.263). We are periodically reminded of the past in encounters like deja vu or dreams, when we are hit by traveling molecules. One other effect could be when we receive mental stimulation like intuitions about the past, and the feeling that we have encountered this event somewhere before. Quantum physics explains this as the displacement with space and time. There are molecules traveling in the atmosphere from the moment of conception, until possibly infinity. A metaphor to describe this could be the reflections of the past, or an after-thought, or a hindsight. The traveling molecules could be the reason behind the phenomena of Synchronicity and serial manifestations of a dream, or something, when no known causal factors are around.
Freud (2010) wrote that “behind these concepts lies a theory according to which dreams are a result of a disturbance of sleep” (p.54). He has offered many plausible reasons on why dreams cannot be intuitions because they can be created. According to Freud, dreams happen because of these factors:
“(1) external (objective) sensory excitations; (2) internal (subjective) sensory excitations; (3) internal (organic) somatic stimuli; and (4) purely psychical sources of stimulation” (Freud, 2010, p.55).
The mind may be in the world of dreams, but it is still capable of receiving external stimuli and may awaken. Freud wrote that, “The fact that a fairly powerful stimulus will awaken us at any time is evidence that even in sleep the soul is in constant contact with the extracorporeal world” (Freud, 2010, p.55). This is also what he meant by external sensory stimulations influencing dreams.
Many of Freud’s theories are based on his analysis. He had a reason why sensory stimuli caused dreams. Freud wrote that, “We cannot keep stimuli completely away from our sense organs nor can we completely suspend the excitability of our sense organs” (Freud, 2010, p.55) Thus, we are still receiving stimuli, and “The sensory stimuli that reach us during sleep may very well become sources of dreams” (Freud, 2010, p.55). He mentioned how an alarm clock’s ringing can wake up the sleeper, who may simultaneously dream about a ringing alarm clock too.
As for internal (subjective) sensory excitations, this hypothesis has yet to be proved; “in that the part they play in investigating a dream is scarcely or not at all open to confirmation, as is the case with objective stimuli, by observation and experiment” (Freud, 2010, p.63). There is an explanation of how the internal organic somatic stimuli influenced dreams; “During the daytime the stimuli from the interior of the organism, from the sympathetic nervous system, exercise at the most an unconscious effect upon our mood. But at night, when we are no longer deafened by the impressions of the day, those which arise from within are able to attract attention” (Freud, 2010, p.67). He said that the body’s organs produce stimulations, which trigger dreams. “It is of special importance that, at the end of dreams with a somatic stimulus, such as these, the dream-imagination often throws aside its veil, as it were, by openly revealing the organ concerned or its function” (Freud, 2010, p.112). However, there is no explanation on why a person does not dream every night although his internal organs are constantly sending stimulations.
Freud said that after events have “lost the spice of actuality in waking life,” they then may become psychical sources of stimulation. (Freud, 2010, p.71). I have found at least one article which said that the brain could create a dream about its most recent activity, if it is tasked with a novel learning activity, just before bedtime (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). This contrasts with Freud’s hypothesis on older stimulations being used in dreams.
Freud wrote, “After waking, we reproduce a dream from memory; but whether we succeed in making this re-translation wholly or only in part, the dream remains no less enigmatic than before” (Freud, 2010, p.83). Dream recall is best done immediately after waking, and it is recommended to write the dream narration, before the details are forgotten.
Freud (2010) wrote that dreams “may easily be shown to have no basis in fact” (Freud, p.92). He did not believe that dreams “have the power of divining the future”, but wrote that we “may find an explanation within the bounds of natural psychology” (Freud, 2010, p.93). He means that there are causes and explanations for dreams. The person’s waking life will also influence what he dreams about.
A dream is not intuitive of the person. Freud said that the “moral character of man persists in his dream-life” (Freud, 2010, p.94). If the dreamer was a bad person in waking hour, he is likely to dream about events that reflect his personality. This is a difficult statement to prove or refute. More research and studies need to be conducted to investigate this claim.
Freud said that a dream can be indicative of the presence of psychosis. A disturbing dream reflects the turmoil in the person’s waking life. If the person experiences symptoms of mental disease in waking hours, this state will also appear in the dreams. Freud (2010) wrote about this in “The relations between dreams and mental diseases” (p.113). He wrote that “mental disorder made its first appearance in dream-life, that it first broke through in a dream. In further examples the pathological symptoms are contained in dream-life, or the psychosis is limited to dream-life” (Freud, 2010, p.114). Modern psychotherapy has revealed that people with mental disabilities, or psychosis, are unable to interpret their own dreams, beyond the manifest content.
Restek-Petrovic, Oreskovic-Krezler, Grah, Mayer, Bogovic & Mihanovic (2013) mentioned at least two psychotic patients, who had difficulties understanding their dreams. One of them, a woman identified as “Zdenka”, was described as “She had no associations with the dream, she stated that the atmosphere in the dream was similar to her relations with her sister-in-law, and that she felt guilty for not coming to the grave for so long” (Restek-Petrovic et al., 2013, p.S301). For a male patient named Ivan, it was written that “He stressed that he didn’t know what the dream could mean, and asked the group and therapists for help” (p.S301). The therapists working with this category of people usually find they work with manifest meaning, with little associations weaved into understanding dreams. This statement is supported by Restek-Petrovic et al. (2013), who have written that “In groups of psychotic patients, according to our experience, dreams are rarely discussed and poorly interpreted by the group, with analysis mainly resting on the manifest content” (p.S303). The sample may be small and this conclusion may be premature. There are disadvantages when a conclusion if formed based on a single research study.
Since Freud (2010) did not believe that dreams were intuitions, then how did he explain dreams? He said that, “The theory according to which only a fragment of mental activity finds expression in dreams, since it has been paralyzed by sleep, is by far the most popular” (p.103). The mental activity is the activation of memory cells, which subsequently creates a dream.
Why does an impression find its way into a dream? Freud said it depends on “whether the process of working over the impression was interrupted or whether the impression was too unimportant to have a right to be worked over at all” (Freud, 2010, p.105). Dreaming of a particular impression is the brain’s way of continuing the waking hour’s event. This statement requires experiment and research for evidence to support it.
How are dreams mistaken to contain intuition? This happened as “ideas in dreams and in psychosis have in common the characteristics of being fulfillment of wishes” (Freud, 2010, p,116). Thus, the dreamer has the impression that dreams contain intuitive content that tells about his secretive wishes. The secret wish that was buried in memory cells may have been activated to be replayed in a dream. This gives the mistaken impression that the dream has an intuition of what will happen in the future.
There are instances where Freud found some differences in his theory – “A contradiction to my theory of dreams produced by another of my women patients (the dearest of all my dreamers) was resolved more simply, but upon the same pattern: namely that the non-fulfillment of one wish meant the fulfillment of another” (Freud, 2010, p.175). To explain this abnormality, Freud (2010) said, “in spite of their unwished-for contents, all such dreams must be interpreted as wish-fulfillment” (p.178). This hypothesis coincides with another one, on how dreams are a continuity of waking life. For in wish fulfillment, the person obtains satisfaction.
Freud believed that dreams continue waking life’s concerns, as he wrote that “in every dream it is possible to find a point of contact with the expenses of the previous day” (Freud, 2010, p.188). I think he meant that dreams are composed of fragments of memories and the novelty of the previous day’s events made lasting impressions in the brain, which were then activated to be played out in a dream. I got this suggestion from this statement – “Non-experimental approaches also clearly indicate that recent experience is frequently represented in dreams” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010).
The source of a dream can be explained, and thus, it can not be an intuition. Freud has mentioned: “The source of a dream” (Freud, 2010, p.208). In summary, the source may be either a recent experience, several experiences, experiences represented by expression of one indifferent experience, experience expressed as indifferent impression and “Infantile material as a source of dreams” (Freud, 2010, p.211).
Somatic sources give rise to dreams. Freud wrote that “We found that three different kinds of somatic sources of stimulation were distinguished: objective sensory stimuli arising from external objects, internal states of excitation of the sense organs harming only a subjective basis, and somatic stimuli derived from the interior of the body” (Freud, 2010, p.241). There are problems in this argument. Freud wrote, “It is difficult to understand, then, why the mind does not dream continuously all through the night, and, indeed, dream every night of all the organs” (Freud, 2010, p.246).
Since I believe that dreams do not contain intuition from mysterious sources, my next step is to explain why I am using the concept of developing intuition, to understand dreams. The dreamer’s intuition can reveal what the dream means, and then they can collaborate with the therapist, in dream work, to resolve issues in the dream.
Since dreams may not contain intuition in their manifest content, then it becomes necessary to develop a skill, called intuition, to understand dreams, and discover their latent content, in order to understand dreams.
Criticism of the use of intuition to understand dreams
G. S. Sparrow is a researcher and educator at the University of Texas-Pan American. He taught and wrote about dream work. In one of his published papers, he wrote, “I point out that by encouraging clients to ‘interpret’ everything and everyone that is external to the dream ego, we unwittingly foster a passive relationship to the dream experience in which the dreamer’s choices and actions are easily overlooked” (Sparrow, 2013, p.46). He then asked, “Can the ordinary dream be regarded as an interactive process between a sufficiently reflective, freely choosing agent and the dream content?” (Sparrow, 2013, p.47). I would say yes, because the dreamer who uses reflective intuition, interacts with the dream content, while dreaming.
Sparrow (2013) wants an alternative interactive way of looking at dreams. He said, “By regarding the dream as an interactive process, co-creative theory preserves a relational orientation to the dream experience” (Sparrow, 2013, p.47). Instead of directly using intuition to understand a dream, he suggests that the dreamer look at it from another perspective. He said, “By shifting to a co-created view of the dream, the dreamer, upon awakening, is able to perceive and measure, aspects of the dream that make little sense within a content-focused approach” (Sparrow, 2013, p.48). Sparrow called his approach as the “Co-creative Dream Therapy” (p.48).
Sparrow reminded us that in Traditional Dream Theory (T.D.T.) “The principal goal is to translate visual content into meaningful insights about one’s waking life” (Sparrow, 2013, p.48). He used the term T.D.T. as the dream theory being used by all psychotherapists except himself. However, in modern psychotherapy, the old goal is taken further. The new boundaries of goal achievement now include “… to discern both competent and dysfunctional response patterns that may be evident in dreams and waking relationships alike, and to embrace the newfound competency to take corrective action accordingly” (Sparrow, 2013, p.48).
Before we can do any dream work, we need to have dream recall. Dreamers dream when memory cells get activated. Wamsley & Stickgold (2010) have said that “Most recently, developments in the cognitive neuroscience of memory have led to a new brain-based framework for understanding dreaming, in which dream experience is viewed as one of several forms of spontaneous offline cognition involving the reactivation and processing of memory during resting states” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). People who are undergoing psychotherapy tend to have better dream recall because they had brought up their past in therapy. This was observed by Schredl, Stumbrys and Erlacher (2016), who noted that “As undergoing psychotherapy also increases dream recall, …” and they chose to associate this fact with increased nightmare frequency:
Psychotherapy experience was related to increased nightmare frequency. This finding using a cross-sectional design should not be interpreted in the sense that psychotherapy increases nightmares but that persons who underwent psychotherapy might still have more nightmares even after successful psychotherapy because most psychotherapy methods did not always decrease nightmare frequency …”
This group of researchers wrote that “spiritual practices like meditation and related techniques of contemplation like Autogenic Training are correlated with an increased dream recall frequency” (Schredl et al., 2016, p.2). It was found that, “Psychotherapy experience was related to increased nightmare frequency” (Schredl et al., 2016, p.7).
What happens before, during and after therapy for a person who has experienced a traumatic event? Before therapy, the individual must be experiencing symptoms that prevent him from performing routine activities. The disturbance should be upsetting enough to disrupt the normal functioning and make the person desire to seek help. During therapy, the patient may be prescribed medication to manage physiological symptoms. Simultaneously, he is counseled with psychoeducation. In a study on treating traumatized Native American veterans, it was said that “Western approaches (medication, education, and supportive treatment) helped with sleep issues and concurrent alcohol use, and provided a supportive framework for the patient’s engagement in traditional treatment” (Shore, Orton & Manson, 2009, p.34).
During therapy, the client speaks about those past experiences which were causing him psychological problems. By dwelling on the negative memories, there could be increased activation of the relevant memory cells, which encourages dreams. In contrast, there is “a decreased dream recall frequency in persons with high attendance of religious worship services” (Schredl et al., 2016, p.2). This could be due to psychological influence of prayer and meditation, to reduce anxiety and affective symbolization in dreams. Shore et al. (2009) recorded how an Native American veteran patient with PTSD related nightmares was helped: “The psychiatrist prescribed an antihistaminergic sleeping medication, continued supportive therapy, and encouraged the patient to visit a traditional healer in the community with whom the patient had a relationship” (Shore et al., 2009, p.33). The traditional healer was engaged to provide “context and meaning for the patient’s nightmares as well as providing culturally prescribed treatments to address the nightmares” (Shore et al., 2009, p. 34).
What causes nightmares? It is relevant to mention Shore et al. (2009) who did their study on Native American veterans with trauma-related nightmares. They found that, “In general, the prevalence of frequent/ very frequent nightmares and sleep disturbance was lowest for those respondents who reported no qualifying traumas and highest for those who had PTSD; individuals who had combat-related PTSD often reported the highest rates” (Shore, Orton & Manson, 2009, p.30).
Psychotherapy in the initial stage may increase the frequency and intensity of nightmares, as the client is made to talk about their experiences. Consequently, their thoughts and emotions are affected by recalling their traumatic memories.
The Northern Plains Native American communities have a strong connection to their cultural heritages. Shore et al. (2009) wrote, “The case highlights common thematic issues in working with Northern Plains veterans who experience nightmares and illustrates the complex relationship between biological (withdrawal, PTSD) and cultural (spirit visitation) contexts of nightmares” (Shore et al., 2009, p.34). They would benefit by seeking help from a traditional healer. By doing that, “Over the course of 2 to 3 weeks, the nightmares gradually decreased and then ended” (Shore, Orton & Manson, 2009, p.33). There was a dual pronged approach to managing Native American veterans with nightmares. Shore et al. said, “Western approaches (medication, education, and supportive treatment) helped with sleep issues and concurrent alcohol use, and provided a supportive framework for the patient’s engagement in traditional treatment” (p.34). The therapist may prescribe a medication to aid sleep, as well as continuing therapy to deal with PTSD.
For Native Americans with a mixed background like having a non-Native American parent, then this bi-racial person may be raised to respect two ethnic cultures, or the culture of the dominant parent. The parents will decide for the child. If the minor is an orphan or has lost their parents, the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare)will assist and “In instances where the ICWA does not apply, but the child is biologically an Indian or considered an Indian by the Indian community, the department shall ensure the child’s culture of origin is maintained and respect the child’s right to participate in the culture of origin in case planning” (DHS State, 2017).
Shore et al. (2009), have identified that trauma and PTSD are the factors that cause nightmares and sleep disturbances. In their article they highlight how culture plays a very important role in the psychological well-being of a person. They offer empirical evidence of a case study of a Native American whose nightmares gradually reduced and stopped, after getting psychotherapy and performing cultural practices to make peace to a deceased comrade. We learn that “The patient followed and completed the healer’s recommendations, as well as continuing supportive therapy with his psychiatrist” (Shore et al., 2009, p.33). This article’s strength is in this case study.
On the other hand, there is a weakness in this article. It only examined trauma as the main factor behind nightmares. Furthermore, there was only one case study and the participant’s gender was male. There should have been more Native American participants, and female Native Americans should be included.
Schredl, Stumbrys, & Erlacher (2016) wrote their article on “Dream Recall, Nightmare Frequency, and Spirituality”. In it, they share their views on how dream recall was affected by degree of spirituality. They said “… it was hypothesized that spiritual practices like mindfulness are related to lower nightmare frequencies” (Schredl et al., 2016, p.2).
If a dreamer does not wish to have dream recall of nightmares, then there are two possibilities of managing this situation. The first method is to reduce the frequency of nightmares and wait for them to taper off. Another approach is to get rid of dream recall. There is a difference between lower nightmare frequencies and actually recalling the nightmares. The former means the sleeper experiences fewer nightmares. The latter means that the sleeper did not have a lower frequency of nightmares, but he can not remember having them. Since he has no dream recall, he gets the impression that he did not get nightmares. It may be said that, if the person is unable to recall a dream, then it is as good as the dream did not take place. I found one good point and strength in this article. It offers an alternative method to reduce or eliminate the frequency of nightmares. In addition to mindfulness, Schredl et al. (2016) said that it was “reported a decreased dream recall frequency in persons with high attendance of religious worship services” (Schredl et al., 2016, p.2). This may be due to the reason that “spirituality is helpful in coping with somatic illness and mental disorders” (Schredl et al., 2016, p.7). Spirituality helps the person to handle mental stress. The dreamer may use any form of spirituality or religious activity, to manage stress. Thus, when waking life has less stress, this reduces the frequency of nightmares. Previously, we have read that managing activities and anxiety levels during waking hours, can reduce stress, and consequently, reduce dreams with negative content from waking life.
This paper includes discussions on religious Pakistani Muslims who think that dreams are “mystical or supernatural encounters and how apprehending the meanings of the dreams” could transform their lives (Qureshi, 2010, p.278). Not only Muslims in Pakistan said their dreams are strongly influenced by spirituality; Muslims in United Arab Emirates also have dreams that “contained both significantly more religious/ spiritual imagery overall, as well as a higher number of different categories of dream imagery which regularly appear in dreams” (Salem, DeCicco, Ragab, Yousif, Murkar & Vaswani, 2013, p.96). The investigative study said “The results revealed that the UAE students had statistically significant more religious/ spiritual imagery in their dreams than the Canadian” (p.96).
There are differences in dream content between Italians and Canadians (DeCicco, Zanasi, Dale, Murkar, Longo & Testoni, 2013). This suggests nationalities, geographical regions and culture affect dreams.
Wyatt, Goodwyn & Ignatowski (2011) wrote that they did a research study of soldiers who had dreams “emerging in the specific context of the dreamer’s current situation” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.220). The study was based on service members deployed to Iraq. The soldiers stayed in military facilities and experienced anxiety. Wyatt et al. (2011) wrote that “It is therefore in this setting of high stress and frequent low psychological mindedness that the following dreams emerged” (p.218). In a case study called Dream 1, a soldier narrated his dream about participating in gambling. He said that was not in continuity with his waking life because he was “not a gambler in real life” (p.221). Wyatt et al. (2011) explained they thought this dream imagery was in line with the soldier’s current waking life, because “Many soldiers reported feeling like combat was like gambling; therefore the gambling carries this connotation as well” (p.221). When the manifest content was analyzed, the latent meaning coincided with what was known about what the soldiers thought about combat.
The dream content had latent meaning on what the soldier did in his waking hours. This supports the hypothesis that dreams continue the concerns of waking life. This group of researchers use manifest imagery, saying that, “Whenever possible, dream images were evaluated in terms of their specific imagery (i.e., we ‘stick to the image’) rather than assume a priori any particular meaning” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.220).
Dale, DeCicco & Miller (2013) said that “military imagery will be more prevalent in the dreams of soldiers compared to civilians, reflecting differences in the waking lives of the two groups and supporting the continuity hypothesis” (p.23). Soldiers had dream content from a wide variety of categories, ranging from emotions to weapons, to geographical locations, failure and friendly interactions. Dale et al (2013) said that “War imagery of Weapons, Aggression, Threat, and Combat appeared more frequently in the dreams of soldiers than civilians” (p.28). Civilians’ dreams did not contain as much military images, because their waking hours did not deal with fighting, violence, military operations and life style. This describes dream content’s close relation to waking life. Dale et al. (2013) did not compare soldiers with people working in occupations that expose them to high levels of job stress. Instead, research on video gamers was mentioned to compare them to soldiers. It is because existing research said “… gamers experience more intensely aggressive dreams than people who do not game” (p.29). Since gamers spend many waking hours engaged in playing games with military themes like shooting people. Dale et al. (2013) said “These games involve the same conditioning and learning techniques used by modern day soldiers” (p.29).
Besides gamers, traumatized refugees are known to have PTSD dreams and nightmares (Schubert & Punamaki, 2016). This will be discussed later.
The weakness in this study done by Dale et al. (2013), was the absence of exploration and action. Dale et al (2013) suggested that “Future research should extend analyses of the content of soldiers’ dreams to what the soldiers learn from their dream, also known as discovery” (p.29). A better direction could be to examine what can be done to help soldiers after discovery.
There are strengths in this article by Dale et al. (2013). It was written based on actual research study data. A control group of male students from Trent University was gathered and their ages were matched against the sample of soldiers’ ages. This ensured that the study was focused on soldiers with operational experiences. The content analysis of soldiers’ dreams showed continuity with their waking life. The theory of continuity with waking hours was also observed from the control group’s dream content. This research study had been meticulously organized and carried out.
Hinton, Peou, Joshi, Nickerson & Simon (2013) researched the importance of cultural practice for managing dreams and nightmares of dead people. Their study suggested that some Cambodian refugees suffered survivors’ guilt, and their minds were filled with remorse for not helping their dead relatives with religious rites. When these survivors performed the rituals, their anxieties, worries and stress were put at ease. Then their waking hours were no longer filled with negative thoughts and their nightmares slowly stopped. This is a breakthrough, showing how the understanding of culture can be used to reduce psychological stress.
How dream work helps to develop intuition for understanding dreams
Hill & Knox (2010) wrote a summary of research on dream work conducted by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Aaron Beck, and a host of contemporary psychologists have developed theories on dream theories and dream work. The researchers have compiled several studies in their article. I choose to highlight one on Donald Wolk (1996), because he uses intuition via his “integrative technique that uses psychodrama as a means to help participants connect their dreams to present life circumstances” (Hill & Knox, 2010, p.7). It illustrates my research proposal that developing intuition will be good for understanding dreams.
Wolk’s method (1996) is to gather a group of participants, to share their dreams and discuss on what each member thinks about imagery and symbols in the dream. The members take turns to narrate their dreams. The people are not trained psychologists, but are from diverse backgrounds. They interpret the dreams using personal responses which are influenced by factors like knowledge, experience, wisdom, cultural values, imagination and empathy. The members use their own intuition. Although they were not selected based on their intuitive abilities, it was assumed that participants would be able to think of associated meanings for dream imagery. The brain receives the input data about the dream, processes it, and chooses the best template of response In group work, members learn to respect one another and practice mutual help. If no one wants to speak and share their intuitive thoughts, then group therapy is not facilitated. The participants are not trained therapists, and are using their gut feeling to comment on what the dream imagery means to them. They are using intuition, to understand dreams. When we pay attention to the case at hand, we are able to process information, to choose the best response. What distinguishes the level of skills, is how well the person has developed their intuitive skills. The dreamer provides feedback on the members’ commentaries on the dream. This person collaborates and offers affirmation or denial, of the intuitions on the dream symbols and imagery.
Group therapy dream work is slowly gaining popularity. People with puzzling dreams are searching for help to understand their dreams. Restek-Petrovic, Oreskovic-Krezler, Grah, Mayer, Bogovic and Mihanovic (2013) studied a group of psychotic patients in group dream work. They collected evidence from a participant named Ivan and “He stressed that he didn’t know what the dream could mean, and asked the group and therapists for help” (p.S301). They said “… after sharing the dreams of several members and daydreams of one female patient, their interpretation and reception in the group achieved better cohesion and improved communication and interaction, i.e. created a group matrix” (Restek-Petrovic et al., 2013, p.S301). The researchers based in Croatia acknowledged that dream work in group analysis is important. They listed benefits being “… with insight into unconscious experiences at the level of the individual dreamer, and his transferential relations with the therapist, other members of the group, and with the group as a whole” (p.S303).
Judy Orloff (2010) wrote in her book about participating with a group of intuitive people, to share their “gut feelings” and provide feedback on the accuracy of their intuitions. She said, “Week after week, we came to the NPI to practice, and those of us who stuck with it noticed tremendous improvements in our intuitive abilities” (Orloff, 2010, p.37). Orloff affirmed the usefulness of this self-help group, and said her abilities improved – “Over the next few months, I was able to intuitively read names that were sent in the group and received feedback when I was correct” (p.37). Orloff offered proof of her improvement; “Occasionally, though, I’d hold back if an image seemed too weird, like the strange plexiglass-figurine maker I once saw, which I later learned stood in the middle of a carnival location Steve was sending. Such specific and unusual images, I was finding, turned out to be the most accurate, the ones I shouldn’t censor” (Orloff, 2010, p.38).
Therapists have validated the use of dream interpretation in dream work. Hill & Knox (2010) have said that “Given the potential effectiveness of dream work, it seems appropriate for therapists to incorporate such content into psychotherapy, especially after being adequately trained in how to work with dreams” (p.26). The evidence that there was research done using Hill’s Cognitive-Experiential Dream Model was laid out in a section of the research paper titled “Summary of Process Evidence” (Hill & Knox, 2010, p.17).
However, it should be remembered that psychotherapy should not consist entirely on dream work, as most issues in waking life do not make appearances in dreams.
Due to the complexity of dream interpretation, and the numerous factors involved, many therapists remain cautious and reluctant to include dream work in therapy. The researchers acknowledge this, by saying, “Furthermore, work is needed to determine the effectiveness of various components of the different models. More work is needed, as well, on the best methods for including dream work in therapy and for training therapists” (Hill & Knox, 2010, p.27).
Many dreamers do not feel comfortable sharing their dreams with therapists because they fear of being judged or ridiculed. For instance, Qureshi (2010) said that “If questioned directly on the subject, informants whom the author did not know so well tended to respond with ambivalence, aware that acceptance of the divinely revelatory character of dreams and mystical encounters might be dismissed as fanciful from a perceived non-Muslim western viewpoint” (p.279). Her statement resonates and is applicable to dreamers from other cultures too.
Wyatt et al. (2011) said that Rob Wyatt, the primary author of the paper, had not intended to write on the topic of dreams. He wrote “To be honest, I initially did not set out with the intent of researching this topic; it was the repeated spontaneous report of consistent themes that triggered the idea of a more formal discussion” (p.219). He explained that military mental health treatment used cognitive behavioral therapy. His training did not focus on Jungian dream analysis but he felt some of the dreams deserved detailed analysis. Wyatt et al. (2011) as a group “believe that the utilization of psychodynamic perspective to include dream content does have a role in combat theater” (p. 219). They used mainly “Jungian dream interpretation methods” concerning complexes, anima and animal imagery, as well as ideas from von Franz (1999), Henderson (1964) and Knox (2003) (p.219)
Wyatt et al. (2011) noted that a common anxiety among soldiers was the worry that their combat tools may be faulty and fail them at critical moments during fighting. He said that the soldiers did not bring this to the attention of their supervisors because “This may be due to a characteristically self-blaming ego style which tends to equate faulty tools with personal failure, a tendency to hide problems and worry about them rather than tackle them head on, or even a personal identification with the tools that results in the feeling that malfunctioning tools are a result of some kind of personal inadequacy (not necessarily sexual in nature, though this could be a component of the symbolism which could be construed as ‘phallic’)” (p.227). Rob Wyatt said that the soldiers appeared to have some therapeutic relief after sharing their anxiety laden dreams. In turn, he explained to them how “they reflected psychological and environmental conflicts that plagued them seemed to help the soldiers under my care” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.228). He said that dream exploration assisted in gaining insight for soldiers who were open to this idea, and “… were not encumbered by overly skeptical or concrete attitudes toward such mysterious experiences” (Wyatt et al. 2011, p.229).
Using culture to develop intuition for understanding dreams
Jahangir & Qasmi (2007) wrote about “Perception of Death Message through dream work: A transpersonal experience”. They collected 147 dreams from students and their families, in the University of Peshawar, Pakistan. Two independent interpreters analyzed the dreams and reported 13 of them to contain significant messages. The interpreters referred to imagery and symbols related to death, as pertaining to the Muslim religion and culture. They used their knowledge to voice their intuitions, that the dreamers had prophetic (precognitive) dreams of impending death. Jahangir & Qasmi said that “Though, the sources of dream material were varied but invariably all 13 dreams reported having some kind of connection with deceased relatives/friends” (Jahangir & Qasmi, 2007, p.39). The significant finding was that, “Five dreams out of 13 significant dreams that were interpreted as conveying death message proved to be true within 2-4 months from the date of reporting dreams” (Jahangir & Qasmi, 2007, p.38). The researchers believed that the individual’s personal and original resources will help. They wrote that, “Creative personality will reflexively mobilize the cognitive unconscious, while, a mystic will establish a spiritual relationship between Divine source and the self. This spiritual explanation is in line with the Muslims’ belief of prophetic revelation, which may give support to the notion of unconscious perception or intuition” (Jahangir & Qasmi, 2007, p.40). That is their religious way of explaining the relationships between a person and the Universe.
Culture and associations can develop intuition for understanding dreams
A study in China was done on Chinese pregnant women who used “psychological criteria (feelings or dreams)” to predict the gender of their fetuses. (Loo, Luo, Hong, Presson & Yan, 2009). The new mothers were found to be more correct, as compared to other mothers who used other traditional, cultural myths to predict. If the pregnant woman dreamed of snakes, she alluded to the folklore and folk beliefs, that she was carrying a male baby. In contrast, “dreaming of flowers is a sign of having a girl child” (Loo et al., 2009).
Out of the 174 women in the study, this was the result: “The most frequent reasons cited for maternal speculation about the gender of the fetus were intuition or personal feelings (36%), food/taste preference (13%), feedback from other people (13%), somatic responses (13%), dreams (7%), and fortune telling (6%)” (Loo et al., 2009). Other non-dream approaches to predict the gender of the fetus include the use of ‘‘folkloric beliefs (eg. feeling if the tummy bounces like a basketball, lack of morning sickness, etc. for the prediction of a boy child)’’ (Loo et al., 2009). The research group used a ‘‘Quantitative analysis of the expectations for women’s gender predictions’’ to ‘‘identify recurrent themes related to maternal gender predictions’’. Here are the signs/themes arranged in descending order of highest frequency to lowest frequency : 1) Feeling/ intuition/ prediction ; 2)Food/ taste preferences ; 3) What others said ; 4) Somatic reason of their body condition/ reaction ; 5) Fortune Telling/ Almanac Prediction ; 6) Dream ; 7) Body Image-Related ; 8) Family history ; 9) Emesis ; 10) Traditional Chinese medicine consultation ; and 11) Using book references. Loo et al. (2009) concluded that ‘‘Maternal source of gender prediction centered around intuition, food or taste preferences and somatic responses’’. (Loo et al., 2009).
How did those women who used dreams, develop their intuition to understand their dream’s meanings? Their intuition was based on cultural tradition of believing in folklore on symbols representing each gender. However, the research said that detailed bivariate analysis suggested that, “The fact that more women who cited personal feelings or intuition, were more likely to predict having a girl, may also suggest that mental attribution for girl child prediction could serve as a protective mechanism against disappointment” ((Loo et al., 2009). The dream may be due to expression of the mother’s wish to have a female or male baby. If she desires a son, she may dream of imagery with the symbol of male. If she wishes for a daughter, her brain may conjure the dream of symbols related to female forms. This raises doubts on whether the women were honest in stating the origin of their intuition for their prediction. In developing intuition for understanding, one must also be conscious of other factors that affect the person’s expressed interpretation of the intuition. The new mother who is unsure of the gender of her fetus may wish to say she expects a female baby to avoid disappointing herself. She is mentally preparing herself to accept a daughter by setting up the scenario. The converse also happens when the new mother desires a son so much that she interprets dream content to have told her so.
Kimberly Mascaro (2016) conducted a study on newly pregnant women who had announcing dreams of their pregnancies. She wrote that the dreams featured pregnancy, delivery, and baby raising themes. The pregnant women did not say that they needed to use intuition to understand their dreams. It seemed they received dreams whose content were obvious. Around 14% of the new mothers were deeply influenced by their announcing dreams and changed their minds about aborting their babies. The author said, “Two had unplanned pregnancies, which they were considering terminating, but they changed their minds as a result of their dreams” (Mascaro, 2016, p.10). This shows that only a small percentage of women were persuaded by bonding, empathy, and thus intuition, for their unborn babies. These mothers changed their plans because of their dreams that their fetus had communicated to them. It was not because of dreaming of the gender of the baby. The mothers who had announcing dreams on the gender of their fetuses had the pleasure of experiencing the accuracy of their precognitions. Although announcing dreams helped the mothers to bond with their fetus, only 50%, or two out of four mothers decided to carry their babies to full term. The dream content helped the mothers to make the decision that affected their waking life.
One glaring weakness of Mascaro’s (2016) research study, was in the small sample size of 22 newly pregnant women, who were from the ages of 22 to 38 years old. This number is too small to accurately reflect the population of pregnant women who experienced announcing dreams. Another limitation was “… majority of the participants were born in the United States and were Caucasian’’ (p.7). Only dreams from newly pregnant women were accepted to keep the study current. Other weaknesses in this study include the method of recruiting participants, which was limited to online registration of women who could read English. This meant uneducated or disadvantaged women without access to a computer and internet line were excluded. In order to secure legal informed consent, only women above 21 years old could register for this research study. The last weakness involved ‘‘translating dream material into a waking state and treating something as subjective as dreams as ‘real’ data’’ (Mascaro, 2016, p.13).
Culture develops intuition by passing down traditional beliefs attached to symbols. Here is an example; Rendani Tshifhumulo (2016) wrote a paper for the Journal of Sociology Social Anthology about the dreams of the Tshivenda speakers in South Africa. His article was entitled “Exploring the realities of the unknown: Dreams and their interpretations”. The author said that data were analyzed by “the coding of themes and categories” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.176). He said, “dreams, like the unconscious, had their own language” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.177). Out of the ten dreams reported, “It was found that seven respondents believed that dreams can come to pass exactly as dreamed, and three respondents believed that dreams need to be interpreted to bring meaning to the dreamer” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.177).
This tells us that seven people thought that the manifest content was good enough to tell what would happen in waking hours, while three people thought the correct meaning of their dreams was in the latent content, which required help to interpret for them.
Respondents gave different dreams that came to pass in their lives. The dreamers believed that a dream may contain a prophecy, which divine intervention could make it come true. He wrote about a dreamer who saw dung in her dream. He said that, “In the Venda culture, dung is considered as culminating in the death of a person a dreamer is close to” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.177). The local culture had infused meaning into the symbol of dung. Thus, the dreamer, or anyone in the Venda culture, could use their intuition, which was a mixture of knowledge, wisdom, experience, imagination and empathy; to understand the symbol in the dream. This dream was proven to be a precognition, as the predicted event really happened.
There are limits in the dreams collected by Tshifhumulo, who wrote that the dreams are reported early in the morning, and then “await confirmation to measure how often the dreams will come to pass and to verify the interpretations thereof” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.182). This is her method to confirm that the meaning and understanding of the dream was correct.
Tshifhumulo (2016) referred to “… ancient societies like Egypt and Greece …” who used the dream “as a supernatural communication or an omen of divine intervention whose message people with certain powers would unravel” (p.175).
The researcher said “A higher percentage of respondents believed that the things that they dream mostly come to pass” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.177). Why was it like that? The researcher said “Most of the time, unless there is divine intervention, like prophecy, dreams cannot be altered” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.177). The researcher quoted her sample’s respondents 1, 9, 7 and 5, to offer evidence. She said “These dreams happen exactly as they are visualized in the dreamer’s unconscious mind” ((Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.178). She also used Jung’s arguments, to remind us that “… dreams not only speak of what is repressed by dreamer. Rather, they are forward looking or prophetic and tap into a realm beyond the dreamer’s personal experience” (p.179). She tried to find a scientific manner of explaining dreams “that have come to pass” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.177). Eventually she said “This is beyond science and scientific knowledge” (p.177).
Tshifhumulo used Jung’s theory on archetypes to explain prophetic dreams. She wrote that the dream was bound to come true because dreams are “ … metaphoric models that map early interpersonal intrapsychic experiences” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.180). The actions come true because they map into experiences that occur in the universe.
According to Tshifhumulo, dreams are coded in symbols. She wrote “… symbolism is the natural language of dreams, which expresses events and feelings in the form of images rather than rational thoughts” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.177). The dreamer has to explore the symbols for “their personal significance to the patient, instead of having the dream conform to some predetermined idea” (p.181). She concludes it is difficult to explain dreams that are prophecies because the Tshivenda speakers in South Africa “ … believe that dreams are sent by God, spirits or ancestors …” (Tshifhumulo, 2016, p.182).
Hollan, (2009), wrote an article titled, “The influence of culture on the experience and interpretation of disturbing dreams”. He said a dream may have its source from a memory, and the culture tells the dreamer that the events are likely to happen, which reinforces the dreamer’s belief in the prophetic dream. Hollan wrote, “The fear that one can be attacked by spiritual entities in dreams could lead to anxiety and panic, which in turn could predispose toward the anticipation and experience of spirit attack and other nightmares, and so on” (Hollan, 2009). This explains why dreams are mistakenly thought to contain intuitions. Hollan wrote that “Surely some of them are quite literal re-presentations of harm committed, endured or witnessed” (Hollan, 2009).
Culture is part of the intuition that is formed. The values, traditions and way of life are found inside the person. As intuition calls upon a multi-disciplinary response, culture plays a part in forming an intuitive response. Culture in the dreamer gives the intuition that something might be done to reduce or slowly eliminate the disturbing dream. Hollan wrote, “Indeed, we could ask not only how culture affects the interpretation of disturbing dreams, but also how it might affect their formation and experiencing more directly” (Hollan, 2009). A person experiences culture in waking hours and then dreams about it. Culture influences the formation of dreams and sets the context for experiencing and understanding dreams. During waking hours, the person can perform some activities in accordance with their belief in their culture. This provides psychological relief to their mental stress, and preoccupation with anxieties and other negative emotions. As dreams are caused by concerns of waking life, the reduction of negative influences will also affect the kind dreams created by the brain.
Intuition can be used to understand dreams, but there is no real intuitive message within the dream. The myth of dreams containing intuition came about, because of anticipation. Hollan wrote, “The fear that one can be attacked by spiritual entities in dreams could lead to anxiety and panic, which in turn could predispose toward the anticipation and experience of spirit attack and other nightmares, and so on” (Hollan, 2009).
Qureshi (2010) visited Pakistan, to interview and record 50 life histories and dreams. In one family, four brothers and the same dream about their father, being seriously ill. After seeing their dreams, two brothers, Sibghat and Faiyaz, who were living in the U.K., telephoned their mother, who gradually confirmed the visions in their dreams. They returned to Pakistan, in time to see their father, before he died from his third stroke. Qureshi used “subjective mode” of dreams, to explain how they fit into the scheme of social reality (Qureshi, 2010, p.280). She did not attempt to justify what happened to explain this phenomenon. She wrote, “Sibghat and Faiyaz’s story captures how migrant Pakistani Muslims relate powerfully to their dreams, interpreted them as mystical or supernatural encounters, and how apprehending the meanings of the dreams could change their lives” (Qureshi, 2010, p.278).
In my opinion, this could be a weak point in her article. The two brothers knew about their father’s poor health, as the old man “suffered a stroke six months after Sibghat had left for London” (Qureshi, 2010, p.277). Qureshi could have considered using Jung’s theory on Synchronicities, to explain the serial manifestations of the same dream to different siblings in the family, and the bias of selective recall that re-affirms how right the dream is. The dream’s manifest meaning was accepted, as no attempts were made to analyze for any latent meanings. The brothers’ dreams reflected their concerns with their father’s health. Their dreams are a continuity of waking life. Qureshi wrote that her informants had cultural beliefs on dreams that held revelations. She said, “However, if we move to consider the informants’ interpretation of their own practices, we see that it also reflects the fact that, importantly, not everyone had such experiences, not all such experiences acquired a social reality, and that the informants related to the question of divine revelation in diverse ways” (Qureshi, 2010, p.279). Qureshi used cultural traditions and religious beliefs, to explain why Pakistani people thought that dreams contained divine messages, and why select people had such dreams. The people were Muslims, and their religion had provisions on the importance of dreams and probable messages from divine sources.
Salem, DeCicco, Ragas, Yousif, Murkar & Vaswani (2013) did a study on “Spiritual and religious imagery in dreams: A cross cultural analysis” (2013). They did a cross-cultural study on 100 female Canadian undergraduate university students and the same number of their counterparts in United Arab Emirates. The latter group had dreams with more religious and spiritual imagery than their Canadian counterparts. This study showed that since a large portion of waking hours was spent on religious and spiritual activities, the dreamers had dreams that contained religious activities. This suggested their dreams were a continuity of waking life. One weak point in this study was readily admitted by the researchers. Only females were recruited to participate in this research. Another weakness would be that the participants should be first asked on how religious, or spiritual they are. This has to be kept in mind, when their corresponding dream analysis was made. Instead, the researchers chose to infer that the dream content would reflect their waking life activities. Thus, when more U.A.E. participants’ dreams contained imagery related to religious activities, it was inferred that this group spent more waking hours on religion. Salem et al. (2013) did a good job writing their article. One strength of this article is that it included many schools of thought. Dream content analysis reflected the type of activities and influences over the participants. This supports the view that dreams are a continuity of waking life.
Salem, Ragab & Razik (2009) collaborated on another article, called “Significance of dreams among United Arab Emirates University students”. This article discusses the impact of dreams on waking life. What comes next after the dream? The influences of the dream continue into waking life. This article explains there are several significances in this study. Around three-quarters of the participants noticed their dreams were a continuity of their waking life. Salem et al. (2009) said “67% of males and 79% of female students noticed a relation between their dreams and daily life events related to the recent past (the day or few days before the dream)” (p.31). This means their dreams showed continuation themes with waking life. Another point was that the participants changed their daily activities, because of their dreams. Salem et al. (2009) said that, “Indeed 16% of male and 25% of female students changed some daily plans in response to such dreams” (Salem et al., 2009, p.31). Approximately, one quarter of both male and female students in the study “made decisions in their social life in response to some dreams” (Salem et al., 2009, p.31). Participants believed in the intuition from their dreams, and precognitions.
Dream content of children
After reading about what newly pregnant mothers dream about, we proceed to ask what are the dream content of children? What do children between the ages of 7 – 11 dream about? Parker, Freer & Adams (2013), in the UK, did a study on a group of children’s dream content. They found that “the number of animal characters in the females’ dreams did not de crease with age, but remained the same across both age groups” (of 7-8 and 9-11) (Parker et al., 2013, p.19). Older children “dreamt significantly more of familiar characters than the younger participants” (Parker et al., 2013, p.19). This could be due to older children being independent and able to perform more routine activities like daily chores in waking hours. They are in longer contact with familiar characters, are actively involved in the routine of waking hours, and thus accumulate more memories of these memories, which may then be replayed in their dreams. These older children may get nightmares, as they dream about anxieties and problems of their waking life.
Only the female children reported dreams with sexual interaction. In 80% of dream content that contained sexual interaction, it was found that the female dreamer had kissed a fictional character in a popular TV show, or other media, which tells us that, “This shows a media influence on the appearance of such interactions in children’s dreams” (Parker et al., 2013, p.19). No reasons were given on why female children, and not their male counterparts, experienced dreams with sexual content. However, going by common knowledge that girls undergo pubescent hormonal changes and maturity earlier than boys, it is speculated that this could be a reason why they reported experiencing dreams with sexual content. Parker et al. (2013) mentioned research conducted by Strauch (2005) and Crugnola et al (2008), which did not show the presence of sexual interactions in dreams. However, Parker et al. (2013) found “a small percentage of female participants” experienced this type of dreams (Parker et al., 2013, p.19). The difference is in the year the study was done. More research needs to be done to investigate the reason for this. Why are the girls experiencing sexual content in dreams at a younger age in 2013, when this was absent for girls in 2005 and 2008? Parker et al. (2013) said “In the 4 out of 5 instances of sexual interactions in the females’ dreams, the dreamer kissed a fictional character such as ‘Superman’ or a popular teen icon that frequently appears on television or in the media” (p.19). They speculate that Often, the television programs, films and music videos that portray these fictional or popular characters, involve romance or love interests and frequent exposure to these mediums could explain the sexual interactions that appeared in children’s dream reports” (Parker et al., 2013, p.19).
There were observations that the children had “dreams involving enjoying celebrity lifestyles and interacting with media characters” (Parker et al., 2013, p.20). These children are likely to have nursed fantasy wishes and the brain created the corresponding images in the dream, to reflect what is desired in waking hours. This evidence supports Freud’s theory that dreams are created for wish fulfillments. Parker et al. (2013) said that children generally dream of animals, dead and imaginary characters, unfamiliar characters, familiar characters and self-representation.
Beaulieu-Prevost, Simard, & Zadra (2009) collaborated on an article, ‘Making sense of dream experiences: A multidimensional approach to beliefs and dreams”. These researchers in Canada created a questionnaire called the Inventory of Dream Experiences & Attitudes [IDEA], to assess dream-related beliefs and their relations to waking life. Out of the 725 participants who filled in the IDEA, 357 of them completed additional questionnaires on dreams, personality, well-being and dreams. Further studies using a factor analysis was done and seven factors were discovered to have influence on personality and well-being.
“Individuals with high scores on this scale tend to view dreams as a source of guidance in that they provide access to important information concerning the present or future that could not be necessarily accessed through more conventional methods” (Beaulieu-Prevost et al., 2009, p.127). This meant the dreamers who believed dreams to hold intuition (guidance) also had the opinion that the guidance came from mysterious sources. The dream guidance scale “captures both spiritual and paranormal beliefs related to dreams’ guidance potential and distinguishes them from the beliefs represented by the more traditional dream significance construct” ((Beaulieu-Prevost et al., 2009, p.131).
This study shows that dreamers who believe in guidance from dreams will exhibit this feature in dream work therapy. Beaulieu-Prevost et al. (2009) wrote: “Specifically, being open to absorption, to self-altering experiences, and having thin boundaries could increase the likelihood of being highly sensitive to dream experiences and to consider them as relevant aspects of one’s life” (Beaulieu-Prevost et al., 2009, p.132). Being open to absorption helps to develop intuition. The dream may contain information that relates to waking life, but the person did not pay attention to the information, until the dream brought them up again. The person’s belief and intuition persuaded them that they understand the dream and how it relates to waking life.
Morewedge & Norton (2009) have tried to explain why people believe in dreams, and use their intuition, to understand dreams. Their article is titled “When dreaming is believing: The motivated interpretation of dreams”. They wrote that some people believe dreams contain meaning, as, “More specifically, a decreased ability to trace dream content to an external source may lead people to give greater weight to that seemingly random information and increase the likelihood that it will impact subsequent judgments and behavior” (Morewedge & Norton, 2009, p.249-250). They said that there were “research exploring anchoring effects and research exploring attribution” (Morewedge & Norton, 2009, p.250). These could make discoveries to explain why some pieces of information have influence over the dreamer. Their research suggests “unconscious thoughts such as dreams should be more likely to influence judgment than conscious thoughts with similar content because of the tendency to correct for the apparent influence of external sources on the latter form of thinking” (Morewedge & Norton, 2009, p.250).
The researchers believe in the importance of dreams, saying, “We suggest that across this wide range of both inter- and intrapsychic content, dreams are not only unlikely to be dismissed but also likely to be considered more meaningful than conscious thoughts containing similar information, and are therefore more likely to influence attitudes and behavior” (Morewedge & Norton, 2009, p.251).
This statement expresses the researchers’ stance that dreams continue waking hours’ activities and concerns – “In short, dreaming may be believing – in that people are likely to see meaning in their dreams – but the weight accorded to particular dreams may be moderated by the extent to which dreams are in accordance with dreamers’ agendas once awake” (Morewedge & Norton, 2009, p.251). If a specific dream image is important in the waking life, then it will occupy a central position and theme for the dreamer. The process of intuiting is influenced by culture. Jung said dreams are full of symbols. However, each symbol has unique meaning for each individual because they interpret the symbols according to their culture.
Restek-Petrovic et al. (2013) published a paper on patients with psychosis, doing group psychotherapy with dream work. The article is “Dreams and fantasies in psychodynamic group psychotherapy of psychotic patients”. This had been conducted for many years, before the research paper was published. Two analysts (therapists) facilitated the group. The members took turns to narrate their dreams. They would talk about their associations of the dream. Their associations were based on their knowledge, culture, and experiences. Then, the group would offer their intuitions on what they interpret the dream to be. The dreamer would then offer their feedback and tell if their interpretations strike a chord with him. In this dynamic group sharing environment, each and every member’s dream, associations and intuitions are shared. Members receive psychoeducation and develop their intuitions by sharing knowledge and experience. Different perspectives can open up new ways of looking into the latent meaning of dream imagery. On the other hand, it may become an issue of too many interpretations. It may not be good to read too much meaning into a dream image. There may be dreams where only manifest meanings exist. The dreamer is the person who decides if an associated meaning is relevant to their dream.
As intuition requires a functioning mind with cognitive skills, psychotic patients will find difficulties trying to use whatever intuition they possess, not to mention, develop intuition further. The article said, “In groups of psychotic patients, according to our experiment, dreams are rarely discussed and poorly interpreted by the group, with analysis mainly resting on the manifest content” (Restek-Petrovic et al., 2013, p.S303). This is similar to saying that the dream is accepted as what it appears to be – in its manifest content. A dream imagery is taken at face value and not explored for symbolism or higher level of meaning. The patient’s interpretation of their dream depends on their mental state. The process of developing intuition, or using group members’ intuitions to understand a dream, is “depending on the actual mental state of the patient, the stability and structure of his defence mechanisms, development of the group process, group cohesion and matrix” (Restek-Petrovic et al., 2013, p.S303).
The researchers concluded that the result of doing group dream work in psychotherapy was beneficial. The study said that “interpretation and reception in the group achieved better cohesion and improved communication and interaction” (Restek-Petrovic et al., 2013, p.S301). Group members gain other advantages, for “the members opened their inner world up to the group, there and then, conducting analytical work on themselves, which also strengthened the cohesion and the group identity” (Restek-Petrovic et al., 2013, p.S303). These benefits propel members towards recovery.
Katja, a Russian woman from Moscow, married a Croatia man and settled in Croatia. After her husband was unfaithful to her, she suffered a psychotic episode. Katja is suspicious of her husband and parents-in-law. She was on antipsychotic medication which reduced her psychosis, but caused other symptoms like depression. The same dream work group offered her support and called her on the telephone to inquire her welfare (Restek-Petrovic et al., 2013).
There are strengths in this article. It is based on the observations and conclusions of a group of participants. However, one weakness lies in the small sample. The participants discussed their dreams, with little interference and guidance from the therapist. It seemed that the members released stress by speaking of their dreams and concerns in waking life. There were few interjections from the therapist.
DeCicco, Donati and Pini (2012) wrote a paper on “Examining dream content and meaning of dreams with English and Italian versions of the storytelling method of dream interpretation”. This study helps to understand cross-cultural influence on dream content. It was not mentioned that the participants were receiving medication simultaneously. DeCicco had created “The Storytelling Method of Dream Interpretation” in 2006, which is usually referred to as The Story Method, or TSM. (DeCicco, Donati & Pini, 2012, p.74). This technique requires the dreamer to write the narration of the dream. The important words and images are underlined. The dreamer then uses association to write about the connotations that these mean to them. The derivatives from this exercise are like intuitions from the dream imagery. The dreamer then writes a story using these intuitive words. This story is tested against several questions to check its associative meaning, relation to waking life, personal insights, and how they can be used in waking life. DeCicco’s TSM is like a blueprint for developing intuitive messages from dreams. Her research group recruited two groups of Italian and Canadian English speakers, to participate in dream work. The two groups recorded their dreams, which were then analyzed using TSM. This is what they found – “In terms of gaining meaning from dreams, TSM appears to be useful for both samples since all but 1 participant reported discovery” (DeCicco et al., 2012, p.72). Italians had dream content more orientated towards family, while the Canadians narrated dreams inclined towards self-orientation. DeCicco et al. concluded “there are differences in the dreams with respect to cultural-revenant imagery as measured by content analysis of discovery passages” (DeCicco et al., 2012, p.72).
There are several weaknesses of this research study conducted by DeCicco et al. (2012). Firstly, a small sample size of 17 males and 13 females were used for both the Italian and Canadian groups. Secondly, the participants were not screened for psychopathology. Thirdly, the participants could have been affected by other factors like socio-economic status, education, their country’s culture, and their personal ethnic culture. As the participants from different countries have different attributing factors that influence them, this study’s participants face many challenges and their results should not be compared against the other group of participants from the other country.
Jaenicke (2007) wrote that, “the meaning of dreams also has to be interpreted not only with respect to the fears or wishes of our concrete life, but also in regard to a hidden aim of these fears and wishes, concerning unbearable-seeming aspects of the human condition” (Jaenicke, 2007, p.51). She used the example of a female patient named Mary, who suffered from depression, because of her behaviors. Mary volunteered to shoulder the burdens of other people, but in this process, she made herself unhappy by sacrificing her freedom.
Jaenicke created her own approach to dream interpretation. She used Alice Holzhey’s hermeneutic Daseinsanalytic concept, to decipher manifest dream, to get the “latent existential meaning” (Jaenicke, 2007, p.52). Mary’s dream of helping others reflected her waking life’s behavior. She faced conflict in her dream. However, she took a proactive role by accepting help from a character in her dream after her therapist told her that it was alright to do so. Accepting help from another person helped Mary to feel that her burden was lighter. Jaenicke trained Mary to understand the latent meaning of her dream. Thus, Mary could resolve her problem, even within her dream. Jaenicke asked Mary if she had a pre-sleep waking life event which triggered the dream. Mary confirmed she did – she had volunteered to do an activity which she later regretted. This triggered her dream, as her brain used fragments of memories to create a dream, whose latent meaning offered the method to resolve her problem. Initially, Mary faced conflicts and was in a dilemma because she could not decide what to do. On one hand, she wanted to burden herself, to get along better with her fellow human beings. On the other hand, she resented the burden as she wanted her freedom. Mary used to behave like the sacrificial lamb, because she was afraid to lose the other person’s love. So, she volunteered to shoulder the burden, to give up responsibility for caring for her personal needs. Jaenicke said that “Only by accepting the burden of being on one’s own does this burden cease to appear unbearable” (p.55).
One strength of this article is in Jaenicke’s explanation of how she created her own approach, “based on the new hermeneutic Daseinsanalytic concept” (Jaenicke, 2007, p.52). She wrote that “With the help of a hermeneutic-phenomenologic method, it now becomes possible to go beyond the manifest dream to a latent existential meaning, which is concealed in the manifest dream contents themselves” (Jaenicke, 2007, p.52). When the latent existential meaning is considered, it should resonate with waking life concerns, to show that dreams are a continuity of waking life. Another strength is in her approach which uses the “underlying existential dilemma” to draw parallels between the dream and corresponding life experiences (Jaenicke, 2007, p.54).
I think one weakness in Jaenicke’s choice of method is that only therapists trained in the existentialist therapy would be qualified to use this approach.
Dreams are a discontinuity from waking life’s normal activities:
Domhoff (2011) wrote about “Dreams are embodied simulations that dramatize conceptions and concerns: The continuity hypothesis in empirical, theoretical, and historical context”. His article invites us to think – Are dreams a continuity of waking life, or are they discontinuous from waking life? Domhoff (2011) published his paper to discuss his research, to voice out against several common fallacies. His opinion is in favor of the statement that dreams are not a continuity of waking life. Dreams do not display a continuity of the dreamer’s personality. He wrote, “Dreams do not tell us much if anything about personality. Instead, they tell us what is on the dreamer’s mind” (Domhoff, 2011, p.51). Hall and Lind (1970) as cited by Domhoff (2011), said that modern dream theories “all emphasize that dreams are ‘discontinuous waking life’” (Domhoff, 2011, p.52).
There are other arguments in support of the theory of the discontinuous nature of dreams, from waking life. The dream content does not reflect the absolute truth in waking life. The person may be exercising a pro-active stance to fight against their thoughts. This is one example of when the dream is not an accurate expression of the person in waking life. However, the dream content may not contain this type of indication. Domhoff mentioned examples of inaccurate assumptions. He wrote, “The lesson here is that hostility toward a general category such as woman, should not be presumed to include specific significant others who are included in that category unless there is hostility toward them as well” (Domhoff, 2011, p.53).
V. K. L. Cheung (2012) did a research study on people with dissociation in waking life and their negative dream contents. He said that, “people who experience a dissociative incident have more dreamlike states during their waking life and nightmares when dreaming; this is particularly the case among pathological populations” (Cheung, 2012, p.18). It goes without saying that the dreams reflect the thoughts of waking life. The psychologist knows that the dissociation during waking life means that the detachment, stress, thoughts and memories, are replayed in dreams. Cheung wrote that, “Continuity hypothesis has been studied and widely accepted as a convincing explanation of why people with psychiatric record or relevant traits reported more nightmares that contain stressful or fearful contents” (Cheung, 2012, p.18). This recent research supports Freud’s theory on how dreams are indicative of the dreamer’s mental state in waking life. There is continuity between waking life and dreams. The dreamer does not require much intuition to understand that a negative dream or nightmare, is due to their waking life’s mental state. However, a person with pathology, is usually unable to understand the link between their mental state and dreams. Psychologists and their patients with psychosis can be told that “understanding nightmares is a good way to understand and monitor one’s mental condition” (Cheung, 2012, p.21).
There are a few weak points with Cheung’s article. His study was conducted on 608 students from a narrow range of ages. The same result may not be obtained from people of different age groups. Another weak point was that his research was on dissociation in waking life, but the participants were not diagnosed with dissociation or psychopathology. His study might have been more relevant and accurate if he recruited participants who had been diagnosed with dissociation.
Arguments against Freud’s theory that dreams are wish fulfillment
Matalon (2011) did not agree with Freud’s theory on dream interpretation. He argues that dreams are puzzling and wrote a paper on “The riddle of dreams”. He mentioned Freud’s theory on dreams having both a “manifest content, and latent content” (Matalon, 2011, p.520). He said that, “Freud’s methodology effectively transforms provisional descriptions of dream-narratives into indirect meaningful descriptions of latent wishes via the construction of pervasive dream interpretations” (Matalon, 2011, p.529-530). He argues his opinion that Freud’s method was biased, indirect and exerting influence on dream interpretation.
Dreams can be a continuity of waking life
Domhoff (2011) mentioned the case of a man named Karl, who never played football, but dreamed frequently of playing that sport. On one hand, his dream seemed to be a discontinuity of his waking life. On the other hand, Karl’s football dreams were continuity with his unexpressed desire to be involved with a wish fulfillment, to play football. Domhoff revealed this about Karl – “He also wrote that he still would like to work out with a professional team if he had the opportunity” (Domhoff, 2011, p.53). The researcher said that Karl’s dreams are like “… revealing of unresolved issues that crop up now and then in waking thought, but that there are more dramatically portrayed in dreams” (Domhoff, 2011, p.53). Karl’s football dreams illustrate how dreams continue with the individual’s thoughts, in spite of him never engaging in waking life behaviors that continue with the dreams’ thoughts and imaginary behaviors.
Wish fulfillment dreams stop when the person ends the desire for that wish. Domhoff (2011) wrote about a woman (Barb Sanders) who had an infatuation with a man. She wished to date him but never acted upon this wish. When she gave up her wish, her dreams about him also stopped. Domhoff wrote, “Perhaps the relative haste with which he disappeared from her dream life is an indication that there was no reality to this fantasy affair, which provides one possible way to distinguish wishful subsets of dreams from reality-based subsets in future studies” (Domhoff, 2011, p.54). The woman’s wish fulfillment dream is a discontinuity from her waking life, but when she detached herself from that wish, her fantasy dreams also followed her thinking and stopped. The stoppage of fantasy dreams is a continuity of her waking life’s desire to end her old fantasy. When upsetting emotions about a person decline, the corresponding disturbing dreams may also decrease.
Barb Sanders, the woman identified in the case study, had upsetting dreams about her ex-husband for 15-20 years after their divorce. When her friends noticed that she could bring him up without becoming angry, “the aggressive interactions in these dreams declined somewhat” (Dumhoff, 2011, p.54). This showed her dreams was continuous with her waking life’s thoughts about her former husband.
If a set of dreams was based on real, waking life events, then when the real waking life circumstance changes, the old dream content do not totally disappear, but they decline in frequency of occurrence. This is a distinguishing feature between dreams with content on waking life and dreams with fantasy and no waking life events.
Research on women’s dreams revealed that they were likely to contain familiar characters and activities, while men’s dreams were different – “Compared to women, the men’s dreams are less likely to have familiar characters and familiar leisure time activities, and more likely to have instances of school/work/politics” (Domhoff, 2011, p.55). When we understand the characteristics of dream content for women and men, we attribute the stability of themes to indicate they are due to gender traits. We understand the frequency of occurrence, and this reduces anxiety over wondering why the same themes appear in dreams.
If a woman spent more time in her work place outside her home, then her dreams would consist more of activities in her work place. If a man spent the majority of his waking hours as a house husband, then his dreams are likely to reflect what domestic chores he performs in his day. A human being would experience a higher frequency of dreaming of familiar people and activities than unfamiliar ones.
Domhoff (2011) published a table of 13 common categories of dream imagery and their corresponding frequency of occurrence in German men and men. Women dreamed of parents/siblings, spouses/ partners, other family members, friends, familiar characters, travel/ vacation, parties/ cafes/ bars, shopping, and leisure activities more than men did. In contrast, men dreamed of certain categories more than women did. Men had higher percentages of reported dreams in sports, entertainment, school/ work/ politics and “dreams with no familiar elements”. (Domhoff, 2011, p.54). As for dreams which do not show continuity to waking life, Domhoff suggests more research work needs to be done to “… focus their attention on the significant minority of dream reports that have no familiar characters, settings, or activities” (Domhoff, 2011, p.55).
Wamsley & Stickgold published an article on “Dreaming and offline memory processing” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). They refute some old dream theories, saying that “modern models of dreaming have instead focused on understanding the observable neural and psychological mechanisms that produce team cognition” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). They said there was very little empirical evidence to show that “dreams communicate a ‘hidden meaning’ disguised in symbolic language” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). Cognitive neuroscience suggests “a new brain-based framework for understanding dreaming, in which dream experience is viewed one of several forms of spontaneous offline cognition involving the reactivation and processing of memory during resting states” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). The researchers offered evidence by saying “Multi-unit recordings in animals have shown that sequences of network activity first seen when a rodent is exploring its environment are again reiterated when animals rest or fall asleep” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010).
A dream is caused by “the activity of memory systems in the sleeping brain”, and that “Offline reactivation of memory during sleep and quiet wakefulness” can create dreams. (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). The authors support the theory that dreams are a continuity of waking life. They said, “Non-experimental approaches also clearly indicate that recent experience is frequently represented in dreams” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). The authors offer an explanation of why dreamers miss this point. They said that “elements of a waking experience, perhaps a character or theme, are typically integrated into the dream, but without replicating the original context in which these elements were embedded” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010).
Research showed that sleep or rest after a learning task was likely to create a dream about the task. This could be explained by neural-level mechanisms of “memory reactivation as one of possibly many contributors to the dream construction process” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). The researchers wrote about how participants who engaged in learning activities later dreamed about their novel experiences.
If dreams are a continuity of waking life, then what happens when the person wakes up? Does the dreamer pick up where they left off in the dream? The person is aware of dreaming and being in a dream, when it is lucid dreaming. This form of dreaming is the most probable one where the dreamer will remember their dream, especially immediately after waking up. The authors did not offer a direct explanation of what would happen saying that “During wakefulness, memory reactivation and consolidation constitute one important function of the default network state, contributing to the thought and imagery characteristic of daydreaming’” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). In the REM sleep cycle, the dreamer is likely to dream of the Self in familiar waking hour activities, because continuity with waking life themes happen in this sleep cycle. The later part of this thesis will discuss more about the three main sleep cycles.
The strength of Wamsley & Stickgold’s article is in their empirical evidence. These researchers actually conducted the experiments to show that participants who had a 90-minute nap after a virtual maze navigation task remembered it better. These participants showed enhanced memory for the same maze task at a subsequent retest. They wrote that “activity in brain regions engaged during a learning task is elevated during a post training sleep, relative to participants who did not engage in learning” (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). This evidence also supports the view that dreams continue activities experienced during waking hours.
Dreamers may use intuition to recognize people and themselves in their dreams. They dream of familiar people, suggesting that dreams are a continuity of waking life. Skrzypinska and Slodka (2014) said that dreamers know the people in their dreams, although they explained using a variety of answers. The authors said “All of these answers seem to relate to cognitive, perceptual and emotional/social clues” (Skrzypinska & Slodka,, 2014, p.28). The dreamers confirm that they dream of familiar characters, which affirms the theory that dreams are a continuity of waking life. Sometimes, there are mis-identifications, which the authors say, “can be a marker of a psychopathological condition and might be present primarily in dreams of clinical population” (Skrzypinska & Slodka, 2014, p.28).
There are weaknesses in this article. The researchers were limited by the gender of the participants. There were more women than men, as it was written there were “58 men and 95 women” (Skrzypinska & Slodka, 2014, p.24). The study may be biased because the women outnumber the men. The researchers admitted that participants recruited online had biases. Thus, “It is suggested, that because of such limitations, obtained results and conclusions should be interpreted with caution” (Skrzypinska & Slodka, 2014, p.28).
DeCicco, Zanasi, Dale, Murkar, Longo & Testoni (2013) collaborated on a research paper titled, “A cultural comparison of dream content, mood and waking day anxiety between Italians and Canadians”. They said that one component in developing intuition is self-awareness. The researchers wrote: “A major change in mood is experienced in patients suffering bipolar disorder such that bizarre features in dreams correlate with mood shifts in the direction of mania, while a decrease in overall number of dreams anticipate depressive episodes” (DeCicco et al., 2013, p.8). This modern research confirms Freud’s theory on mental states affecting dreams. He said, “… mental disorder made its first appearance in dream-life, that it first broke through in a dream. In further examples the pathological symptoms are contained in dream-life, or the psychosis is limited to dream-life” (Freud, 2010, p.114).
DeCicco et al. (2013) mentioned that dreams influence the “waking day mood”. The study said that “It has been theorized that there is a constant processing of emotions which continues from the waking state to the sleeping state and further, these emotions are then reflected in dreams” (DeCicco et al., 2013, p.8). One emotion that reduces dream recall is depression – “Depression has been associated with a reduction in dream recall as well as experiencing a dream-like quality of REM reports” (DeCicco et al., 2013, p.8). Consequently, therapists may see poor dream recall as indicative of possible depression in patient.
DeCicco et al.’s research (2013) is limited to Italian and Canadian cultures. The authors recognize this and wrote that: “This research should be extended to include other cultures and other psychiatric samples, with particular emphasis on the continuity hypothesis of dreaming” (DeCicco et al., 2013, p.11). Comparative studies will be useful to see how people from other cultures perform under similar circumstances.
There are some weak points in DeCicco et al.’s study (2013). It was conducted only on female undergraduates. The article’s title should have mentioned that only females were recruited for the study. The second weakness is that each participant volunteered only one dream, which may not be sufficient, nor accurate enough to reflect the individual’s true stand on the matter. The third weak point is that the research study has limited use, as it pertains only to Italians and Canadians.
Graveline & Wamsley (2015) collaborated on an article called “Dreaming and Waking Cognition”. Initially, they played the devil’s advocate, by airing out some arguments in favor of the view that dreams are not a continuity of waking life. The researchers wrote that in early neurobiological theories which were published around 2000, “… dream content is considered to be categorically unique from waking cognition” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.97). Later, these researchers discovered that memories of waking experience are found in dreams. Dreaming and waking cognition seemed to merge, as “recent and remote memory fragments combine to form novel imaginary scenarios, never before experienced by the dreamer” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.97-98). Dreams that seem to be a discontinuity of waking life come about when the brain has “reactivation of past memory, as well as the creation of novel imaginative scenarios” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.98).
Understanding how the brain works on the neurological level tells us that dream content is likely to be waking life content, with a few exceptions, when extraordinary content is produced. Waking and sleeping have similar brain activity, as Graveline & Wamsley (2015) pointed out. They wrote, “This view of dreaming as a natural extension of waking cognition contrasts with psychoanalytic conceptions of dreams as symbolically disguised expressions of unconscious wishes” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.98). According to this perspective, dreams are no longer be useful for psychoanalysis or personal insight. Dreams are only a “transparent reflection of waking thoughts, feelings, and memories” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.98).
New learning experiences have appeared in dreams as the brain is particularly influenced by the novelty of the experience. This fact is another argument to support the view that dreams reflect waking life. Psychoeducation on the neurological formation of dreams can inform the dreamer on what has influenced him so much that he has dreamed about it. This education becomes a part of the process that forms intuitions. We need intuition, to be aware of what information has been processed, and what are the best responses. The person who is seeking the solution has to select what they think is the best response for their given situation.
Psychoanalysts work on dreams for clients. Clinicians, meaning mostly psychologists and therapists, do not solely work on dreams alone for client therapy (Pesant & Zadra, 2004).
Graveline & Wamsley (2015) mentioned that there was no evidence to suggest that dream therapy was better than other types of therapy. They said: “… dream-centered therapy is not uniquely therapeutic per se, but rather, that simply talking about one’s memories and future concerns in general can have a therapeutic effect” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.101-102). This is a reason why people talk about their dreams in therapy, or in group dream work. The researchers wrote that “there is no particular reason to think that dreams are harbingers of hidden message that require expert decoding” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.102). However, the authors also said that “this does not preclude the possibility that dreams are nonetheless ‘meaningful’ in a very different sense of the word” (Graveline & Wamsley, 2015, p.102). This may occur because waking thoughts are relevant, and even as dreams may only be also waking thoughts and memories, the fact that the selected content has appeared in the dream, holds significance. What the client interprets as his dream’s meaning is usually what he is concerned with at the moment. The therapist should take the hint and look into what is troubling him.
Wamsley had collaborated with Stickgold for an article, “Dreaming and offline memory processing” (2010), which has been reviewed above. When Wamsley co-wrote the article with Graveline, (2015), many similar facts have been reiterated from the older article published in 2010. This is one of the weaknesses of the article Wamsley co-authored with Graveline. These two scholars drew heavily from previous literature on dreams and memories that are found in dreams. By borrowing research on relevant themes, they conclude that since dreams are likely to be continuous with waking life, dreams may not be holding symbolic meanings. However, the creation of selected imagery in dreams may still hold special meaning for the specific individual.
Maggiolini, Cagnin, Crippa, Persico & Rizzi (2010) collected dreams from 125 men and 125 women in Italy. The researchers said they found dreams are emotional thoughts and affective symbolization, with dreams being “a system of affective symbolization, basically different from the cognitive system” (Maggiolini et al., 2010, p.60). The researchers defined affective symbolization as “… an argument or a discussion can be translated into a war (a defeating reasoning) or a seduction (an enchanting reasoning…)” (Maggiolini et al., 2010, p.61). Italian culture may play a role in affective symbolization as it “… is based on motivational and relational systems, focusing on attachment; sexuality; dominance; friendship; and relationships with strangers or enemies, the body, and the environment …” (Maggiolini et al., 2010, p.61).
To understand dreams, analysis was done to discover patterns in “typical dream content through a content analysis of dreams and waking life narratives” (Maggiolini et al., 2010, p.63). It was found that there were common, popular themes in dreams and that “typical dream content is significantly more present in dreams than in waking narrative” (Maggiolini et al., 2010, p.63). Overall, it was observed that dream content seemed to continue waking life.
Do we believe everything in a dream? Maggiolini et al. (2010) wrote:
“The comparison between dreams and episodes showed that dreams have more aggressions and fewer reports with at least one aggression, which was nevertheless preeminently physical, and fewer friendly and sexual interactions per character, and more misfortunes (but fewer bodily misfortunes) and self-negatives, with fewer dreamer-involved successes and fewer familiar settings” (Maggiolini et al., 2010, p.71). Dreams have more negative content and they are biased. By this, it is implied that dreams are not an accurate reflection of waking hours. I would not believe everything in a dream. Dreams do not form a rational composite message. Research claims that, “Only in eight cases of 125 for the male sample and seven cases of 125 for the female sample was a direct continuity detected between the dream and the episode content (the same characters, situation, and events” (Maggiolini et al., 2010, p.73).
Wyatt, Goodwyn, & Ignatowski (2011) did dream work with soldiers in Iraq. He found that dream characters were set in “the dreamer’s current situation” (Wyatt, Goodwyn, & Ignatowski, 2011, p.220). This lends weight to the argument that dreams continue playing life’s waking hours. The dream’s settings “were assumed to be symbols of the psyche in its current state” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.220).
Whereas many researchers claimed that unfamiliar characters in dreams were not good signs of the dreamer’s mental state, Wyatt et al. (2011) had a different explanation. This research group claimed unfamiliar characters in dreams were “archetypal or godlike images” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.220). They tried to connect with Jung’s theory on familiar characters being archetypes by saying that even the unfamiliar characters were archetypes because they “these were typically not encountered very frequently” (p.220). More research needs to be done to investigate the circumstances surrounding the creation of such dreams with unfamiliar characters. Dream symbols were “evaluated in terms of their specific imagery” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.220). These symbols were “shaped by archetypal factors, but in response to the dreamer’s current environmental situation in time” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.220). If the environment causes mental stress, physical hardship and emotional instability, the dreamer’s dreams are likely to have negative content.
I have found several good points which can be the strengths of this article. While numerous articles have discussed threat simulation being the cause of nightmares, they did not suggest how to cope with nightmares. Wyatt et al. (2011) have offered useful suggestions on managing waking life’s sense of danger, while living and fighting in combat zones. The authors said, “Another approach might be to normalize the aggression and fear the environment is evoking and bring it into awareness so they can process it more consciously” (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.228). Indeed, exposure to the stimulus and its gradual assimilation will reduce the anxiety and threat simulation. Management of situations and events gives confidence to handle the challenges. One method of managing past, traumatic experiences is to mention examples of people, especially veterans, closely related to the subject (military person), as a way of “normalizing” the past and helping to co-ordinate the transition into civilian life. (Wyatt et al., 2011, p.229).
Hinton, Peou, Joshi, Nickerson & Simon (2013) collaborated on an article, “Normal grief and complicated bereavement among traumatized Cambodian refugees: Cultural context and the central role of dreams of the dead”. This paper was about some Cambodians talking about having dreams of dead people, and why they think this was happening. In Cambodian culture, relatives of dead people perform traditional ceremonies to mourn the dead and send good merits to them, to help them get reborn. Thus, the souls get new bodies to reside in and would not need to roam the earth.
During war and hardship, many Cambodians died, while their relatives could not conduct funerals and last rites for them. The living people are mentally stressed and emotionally upset because they were unable to fulfill their obligations to the dead, as dictated by their traditional cultural values and beliefs. The relatives are burdened with mental anguish, emotional guilt, spiritual neglect, and psychological stress. Their waking hours are filled with thoughts of the dead. Their sleep is disturbed by dreams of the dead, who appear in various states of discomfort. The relatives know intuitively, through cultural connotations, what the dead try to communicate in the dream. Hinton et al. (2013) wrote that “the degree of concern that the person was not reborn was highly correlated to the frequency of dreams of the deceased in the last month” (Hinton et al., 2013, p.443).
On the other hand, the relative’s mind may be filled with other thoughts and emotions. The brain pulls out memories of the dead person and during sleep, when the brain has less resistance to protest against the replay of these memories. Thus, a dream of the dead person may be created. While the manifest content is the image of the dead person, the Cambodian culture says the latent meaning says the deceased is unhappy and wants help. The culture’s grieving process says that dreaming of the dead is expected within the first 100 days of the death. Thereafter, the deceased is expected to proceed to the next stage, which is being reborn in reincarnation. If the soul returns in dreams, it means it could not be reborn because it needs sacrifices to win merits, to progress to rebirth.
What if the Cambodian who has sought therapy does not think about the dead relatives during waking hours, but still dreams of them? Cambodian culture is deeply steeped into the native people. They may carry their culture overseas into their new homes. Although the Cambodian refugees have resettled in “Lowell, Massachusetts”, USA, they may have random thoughts about their dead relatives. (Hinton et al., 2013, p.429). Sometimes, performing religious rituals have the effect of psychological healing. Chea, a female participant in this study, used to dream of her mother, until she offered religious rituals for the dead woman. Hinton et al. (2013) wrote that “Ever since Chea and her sister did these activities, Chea has not dreamed again of her mother” (Hinton et al., 2013, p.448).
Dale, DeCicco & Miller (2013) worked together on an article titled “Exploring the dreams of Canadian soldiers with content analysis”. Dreams with threats served as threat simulation to rehearse what can happen in response to danger. The researchers discovered that the soldiers had dreams related to “performance anxiety” as they were worried their weapons may fail them in combat (Dale et al., 2012, p.23). They could have tried to speak to their supervisor about this threat or done double checking of their weapons to re-assure themselves that their equipment are in working order. This anxiety stems from real or perceived threats. This finding is similar to other research articles on military servicemen and refugees, who have experienced trauma. Recurring dreams of threat was earlier called “anxiety neurosis of warfare” or PTSD (p.23). Dale et al. (2013) collected evidence to show that soldiers and civilians had dream content that reflected their experiences in waking life.
Schredl (2015) did a study on dream content and when they occurred. The title of his article is “Time specifications in dreams of a long series: Time of day and day of week”. He found that the dreamers’ dream featured the time of day that was most significant to them. Evenings were the most common, followed by morning, night, afternoon, forenoon and then midday. Dreamers had dreams most frequently on Sundays, followed by Saturday, Friday, Thursday and Monday, and then Tuesday and Wednesday. Schredl said that the dreamer had their dream featuring the time of day that they usually placed much importance on. Usually no two people would have the same reasons for liking a particular time of day, as each person has their own unique activity for that waking hour. Dreamers generally had more dreams on weekends than weekdays. Participants in this study were students who followed the five day week and had a regular schedule on weekdays. They may lack time to socialize and do interesting activities. They may lack novelty and new learning experiences which are two factors that have been discussed and identified as possible triggers for dreams (Wamsley & Stickgold, 2010). This showed that dreams are a continuity of waking hours as they reflected waking life and the time specifications that mattered the most to the dreamer. A particular time “might be an important topic for the dreamer and, thus, is relatively often reflected in his dreams” (Schredl, 2015, p.64).
Factors that deceive us into thinking that there are precognitive dreams
Watt, Ashley, Gillet, Halewood & Hanson (2014) did a study on psychological factors influencing precognitive dreams, or dreams containing prophecies of what will happen in the future. There is an argument that says when dreams continue waking life, then they are fairly accurate in describing what may happen in waking life because of the predictable nature of routine in daily activities. In this vein, a dream can be precognitive if it predicts what may happen during the day. Participants in the dream work group recorded their dream diaries and another diary which was the record of the day’s activities. Participants were asked to compare the entries from the dream diary and day diary, to look for corresponding similarities that confirm the dream predicted what was going to happen that day. If a participant found a pair of dream event-diary event that corresponded, then it is termed a confirmed dream-event pair. Watt et al. (2014) said: “Confirming dream-event pairs therefore resemble a precognitive dream experience, and disconfirming pairs simulate the experience of a dream that is apparently not precognitive” (p.2). If a participant found that the dream-event were not corresponding, then that pair was disconfirmed. This study found that participants reported more confirming dream-event pairs than disconfirmed pairs. Watt et al. (2014) did research on other studies that showed participants had recall bias, meaning they remembered “two or three times as more confirmed dream-event pairs than disconfirmed pairs” (p.2).
Watt et al. (2014) said: “Our first study has found evidence in support of the idea that selective recall is one psychological factor that can lead to an increased frequency of reported precognitive dream experiences, because dreams that are not confirmed are less likely to be remembered” (Watt et al., 2014, p.4). Participants showed bias, as they were twice as likely to remember dream-real event pairs of entries. They had a biased impression that their dreams had a high frequency of being precognitive. Watt et al. (2014) said: “… propensity to find correspondences would be related to belief in paranormal ability and belief in precognitive dreaming” (p.6)
This study on memory recall and behaviors show how psychological factors contribute towards understanding dreams, and how these factors, (and not intuition) are important in understanding dreams. Watt et al. (2014) said that psychological factors sunk the unfruitful precognitive dreams.
Dream content which are strange, terrifying or inconsistent in themes, suggest the dreamer is emotionally unstable. The dreamer who has an unstable mental state lacks intuition to understand that their dream originated from negative emotions. If this person attends psychotherapy then he may be told that mood affects dreams, The dreamer has to remember that terrifying dreams are likely due to a negative mood during waking life. It does not require much to recognize a bad dream. The dreamer needs to understand that negative moods are the main causes of bad dreams, and be aware of the main causes. The dream informs about the dreamer’s state of self.
Forrer (2014) wrote an article on verifying the validity of the interpretation of dreams. He
said that while Jung recorded many dreams that came true, he could not prove his dream interpretation was valid. Freud was the opposite of Jung as he did not believe dreams could come true. Freud did not say that the dream’s characteristics and the Unconscious were related but he did place these two together in his famous phrase “The dream is the Royal Road to the Unconscious”. If you desire to know what is inside a person’s intrapsyche, explore his dream for insight.
Jung, via Forrer (2014), was quoted to have said: “The sentiment du déjà vu is based, as I have found in a number of cases, on foreknowledge in dreams” (Forrer, 2015, p.155). One example is the mountaineering dream from his colleague. Jung had interpreted his friend’s dream while he was in Zurich. The man dreamed of climbing up a mountain until he stepped into empty air. Jung recognized it as a “death dream” and begged his friend not to go mountaineering unless accompanied by two guides (Forrer, 2014, p.154). The man ignored Jung and eventually died in the manner as described by his dream. Jung said fate ran its course.
Forrer wrote that a dream may be a fantasy, because it is a wish fulfillment. It is discontinuous with waking life, but because it was played out in a dream, the person became aware of the wish-fantasy, and consequently acted it out. In reference to the example on Jung’s friend who stepped out into thin air and fell to his death, the dream may have been the man’s unconscious wish to climb higher and higher. He ignored Jung’s warning and continued mountaineering until his fatal accident. This does not happen often as dream content is likely to be continuous with waking life. In this way, the dreamed about wish became real. One way of explaining this, with prejudice, is that the dream became a prophecy when the dreamer decided to act on it.
There are a few strengths of this article. It explains that one way of verifying the validity of the interpretation of our dreams is to wait and watch for the manifestation/s of a dream. If the dream took time to manifest in stages, Forrer called it the “serial manifestation of a dream” (Forrer, 2014, p.155). He meant that whatever was shown in the dream, would come to pass in waking hour. For example, Jung’s female patient had narrated her dream about receiving a golden scarab beetle as a present. During her narration, Jung caught a beetle that had been at the window of the room. He presented this beetle to her. She used to be skeptical about psychology principles and its working but after witnessing this synchronicity, she was persuaded to trust in Jung.
Jung’s older term for recurring theme that manifested during waking hours was “synchronicities”. These are clusters of recurring themes, which show that dreams and their manifestations are a “distinct continuity of a particular theme” (Forrer, 2014, p.156). Forrer was skeptical about precognitive dreams, aka dreams that showed foreknowledge about an event. He wrote that “It simply says that if one recalls a dream during the day, it is a definite sign that very dream, or part of it, is in the middle of manifesting” (Forrer, 2014, p.156).
Why is there interest in understanding dreams?
Dreams may and can be useful for psychoanalysis. Susan Sands, 2010, said that some patients with trauma have entered into a dissociative state. They are unable to talk directly about their problem, but feel less threatened to speak on their dream. She said that when a patient talks to their therapist about their dream, there is an invitation to join the patient’s mind “where dreaming happens” (Sand, 2010, p.357). Sharing a dream is important, as it can “activate powerful forms of unconscious affective communication between patient and analyst, which can be crucial in the transformation of dissociative mental structure” (Sands, 2010, p.358). The patient refuses to share their mind, to speak of their traumatic experiences, but may be unable to speak freely. Instead, the patient dreams, which is their unconscious communication in their impaired state. The therapist must analyze the patient’s dream, to find the unconscious communication. The patient who has suffered trauma may be using the dissociative state as an adaptation to deal with the mental, emotional and psychological stresses. This patient’s dream is their dissociated unconscious communication. Not all patients who suffer from trauma show a dissociative state. Patients who have been traumatized may show varying degrees of trauma and abilities to understand their dreams.
Sands (2010) said there are two types of trauma which affect the patient. The first type is “dissociated early trauma” (p.362). This trauma can “… activate the analyst’s own unformulated trauma, opening up a channel of unconscious empathy between the dissociative unconscious of patient and analyst and providing a crucial form of validation of the original trauma” (p.362). The second type of trauma is when the analyst helps the patient “… to tolerate the terror of emerging out of the dissociative membrane and into a dangerous world” (p.362). Therapists may use other techniques to help their clients to get over trauma quickly. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization ad Reprocessing (EMDR) are examples of techniques which may be used.
Are we reading too much into understanding dreams?
Maybe we should believe in the manifest meaning of dream imagery, and not look so hard to find the latent meaning. If a dream is created by selective memory cells which are activated, then, there might not be a complicated masquerade where latent meaning is hidden behind a manifest imagery of symbol. What if dream work forwards imagery associations that the dreamer does not identify with? It may happen that when many people are trying to suggest alternative meanings, too many interpretations distract and confuse from the original meaning that only the dreamer is able to relate to.
Beaulieu-Prevost & Zadra (2015) have warned against placing too much trust into dreams. Their article, “When people remember dreams they never experienced: A study of the malleability of dream recall over time”, discusses a research study conducted on a group of dream participants. There were twenty-six participants (18 women and 8 men) in the study (Beaulieu-Prevost & Zadra, 2015). The participants slept in the lab. The technician tried to mislead them by mis-informing them that he heard them talking about something they had seen in their dreams, although in reality, nothing of the sort happened. During the first interview after the sleep experiment, five out of the 26 participants reported the dream (false image) that was planted by the technician. Out of these five, “three had doubts about the validity of their memory during their first follow-up interview” (Beaulieu-Prevost & Zadra ,2015, p.8). However, at the second follow-up interview, “None of these three participants reported this dream during the second interview, suggesting that they either did not unequivocally attribute the technician’s suggestion to a personal dream experience or that this false memory trace disappeared over time” (Beaulieu-Prevost & Zadra, 2015, p.8). Although false memories could be created in the short term, they do not stick in the long run.
So far, I have been discussing traditional dream analysis using dream content. Sparrow (2012) has written about co-creative dream theory (CDT). CDT means “the dream experience is co-determined through the interplay of two interacting structures – the dreamer and the dream content – rather than derived from a single source (e.g. the unconscious)” (Sparrow, 2012, p.1). How is CDT conducted? Sparrow said it was done by asking questions to “track the dreamer’s interaction with the imagery through the course of the dream” (Sparrow, 2012, p.3). There is at least one advantage with CDT: “By shifting to a co-creation view, the dreamer is able to perceive and measure aspects of the dream that make little sense within a traditional content-oriented approach” Sparrow, 2012, p.5). The dream image changes when the mind changes in thought. Sparrow wrote that “this shift in focus from specific to general imagery can help the dreamer recognize a struggle or resolution of a basic problem related to survival, affiliation, power, service, or any of the other main dimensions of life defined in such systems” (Sparrow, 2012, p.9). The strengths of this article are in its emphasis on dream images and their relationship to the dreamer’s mind and his waking life. Images in dreams change and appear in their new symbols when the dreamer’s waking life changes.
We may be biased when we try to read too much into understanding dreams. Valli, Strandholm, Sillanmaki, & Revonsuo (2008) authored a research paper on “Dreams are more negative than real life: Implications for the function of dreaming”. They said that, “negative and threatening events are frequently experienced in dreams” (Valli et al., 2008, p.834). This can be explained by “negativity bias” which is “due to a sampling bias: the dreams recalled and reported are the emotionally most intense ones, thus the bias is created by selective memory for dreams” (Valli et al., 2008, p.834). The strength of this article is in the demonstration that “simulated threats are more frequently experienced than real threats” (Valli et al., 2008, p.854). This is important as it explains why the dreamer should not be unduly worried by the frequency of dreams with threats or negative content.
Barbara D’Amato (2010) wrote an article on “Aggression in dreams – intersecting theories: Freud, modern psychoanalysis, threat simulation theory”. She mentioned Freud’s written work about the two drives in Man, which are the sex drive and aggression drive. The latter is normally resisted during waking hours, but is able to surface as dreams, because the mind offered less resistance during sleep. Aggression is not acted out during waking hours, but appears in dreams, as it “provides measured discharge” (D’Amato, 2010, p.185). She did not advocate complicated dream interpretation, as she believed that “Patients report dreams without purposefully disguising them; the manifest content is inherently an unconscious communication” (D’Amato, 2010, p.192).
D’Amato wrote that “The threat simulation system becomes activated when a threat that arises in our waking experience is combined with recent salient memories” (D’Amato, 2010, p.196). This implies that people who face threats frequently, will activate this threat simulation system just as frequently and they will experience more dreams with aggressive threats “than individuals who are not threatened” (D’Amato, 2010, p.197).
What is the function of aggression in dreams? Since we cannot always exercise our aggression drive indiscriminately, it has to find a channel of release. D’Amato wrote that “Physical and psychic threats/ aggression have found a comfortable and perhaps useful niche in our dreams” (D’Amato, 2010, p.198). According to D’Amato, one of Freud’s basic premise in dreams is that they are “largely metaphoric; murderous or sexual occurrences in our dreams provide us with knowledge of our most basic impulses” (D’Amato, 2010, p.199).
The strengths of this article say that D’Amato has put together a presentation from several schools of thought. She explained how Freud’s theory of the aggressive drive in man can be found and collaborated upon, in modern psychoanalysis. Aggression and negative content are often found in dreams. D’Amato said that “Aggression is the most common social interaction (45 percent) in our dreams, while the most frequent dream emotions (80 percent) are negative, e.g., anger, apprehension, sadness, and confusion” (D’Amato, 2010, p.182). She continued to explain how the aggressive drive has survived in the genes of mankind. Modern psychoanalysis suggests that aggression resolves into fight or flight, in the struggle for survival. When faced with a new threat, memories from waking hours are combined to form a dream. This dream is a threat simulation and rehearsal of possible responses. This hypothesis explains why dreams often contain aggression and negative content. Happy dreams are created but not remembered as well as negative ones because of bias recall.
There is one weakness in D’Amato’s article. She wrote it based on primary research studies from other authors. Her article is her opinion of how the various theories can explain why aggression is often seen in dreams. She did not conduct experiments to test her hypothesis.
What is the correct method for dream interpretation?
Many people dream and would like to know the correct method for dream interpretation. There are thousands of dream dictionaries, where dream imagery and symbols are explained with their associated meanings. This method of interpretation is not fool proof as every culture has its own connotations for dream imagery. Plus, every individual has their own customized interpretation, according to their unique experiences. Dream dictionaries with standard meanings do not apply for every person.
While it is true that a therapist can help to decipher the meaning of a dream, not everyone can afford to schedule psychotherapy to discuss every dream. Dreams demand immediate attention to address the puzzling issue of discovering its meaning. If dreams are a continuity of waking life, then understanding the manifest and latent meanings would assist the person greatly, to resolve their problems, as they move forward in waking life. If a dream appears to be a discontinuity of waking hours, then it could be carrying a latent meaning, which may be an expression for a wish fulfillment.
The absence of dreams also speaks of a possibility – that of the overhanging cloud of depression that generates negative emotions and affects the activity of memory cells that create dreams.
Many research articles cited the collection of data (dreams) that occurred at the sites where participants had their dreams. The sites are usually their homes. As the setting was not specially contrived, this should not be a factor that influenced the creation of dreams.
Some people have recorded dreams in personal dream journals. This method offers “ecological validity” (Parker et al., 2013, p.20). When dreamers record in their own words, this allows them to decide what they want to remember, which are likely to be important to them. This method avoids interference or tampering with the original description, when other people unwittingly offer suggestions, which may interfere with the original dream imagery. During sharing, they have control over what they wish to reveal, and thus are not threatened with personal security and boundary issues. Although this self-censorship may prevent more disclosure, it serves a purpose in protecting the boundary and ego. Likewise, a dreamer with low ego strength may not be a suitable candidate to use group therapy in dream work.
As I am writing a position paper based extensively on literature review, my sources of information are limited to the printed word from books and articles. However, these sources may have used primary sources like interviews with participants, dream journals, and/or audiovisual information. In accordance with the rules from the IRB (Institutional Review Board), I have not conducted research on live subjects and believe no humans were harmed during the writing of my position paper on “Developing intuition for understanding dreams”.
My role in writing this paper, is that of a curious investigator. I know almost all humans dream nightly, but I only have dream recall for a tiny fraction of my dreams. I desire to bring across my message that there are methods for dream interpretation. I have done my research with an open mind, without allowing my culture, values and experiences to prejudice my literature reviews. In fact, many articles have confirmed my personal suspicions on the dual symbolization of imagery, the manifest meaning versus latent meaning, the appearance of familiar characters, memory reprisals of dead characters, dream content being continuation of waking life, wish fulfillment or apparent discontinuity from waking life, and nightmares. Many of these themes are universal, which suggests geography, race, culture and social-economic class are not factors in influencing dream content.
Another universal theme is that of dreaming about dead people like ancestors. In some cultures, the dead is said to revisit their beloved relative, to bring bad news. Sometimes, the dream can be interpreted as a precognitive dream about the impending death of the dreamer. Sometimes, the dead appear in dreams to carry a warning of some event. The various cultures have different explanations for dreaming of dead people.
The literature review comprised mostly of articles and books written by researchers living in the West. I can identify with the broad themes, suggests that they can be universally applied. However, I would like to see more studies being done across the world, to verify that the same themes, or similar ones, can be found in diverse cultures and geographies. The Review has been organized into categories, to reflect the multiple perspectives in dream work.
After reading so many books and articles on intuition, this is what I discovered: Intuition is in you. You don’t have to learn how to add intuition to your list of skills. You already have it. You just need to sharpen your intuitive skill.
Here’s what you need (pre-requisites which you already have):
6) Gut feeling
You need time
Everyone has intuition. What has happened to block it in such a way that you feel you lack intuition? If you are not receptive to incoming stimuli, you are blocking your intuition. If you are too busy to notice and process the stimuli, these will not become information for you. Your intuition has tried to alert you to the basic facts, but since you did not process this raw data, you missed picking up the “gut feeling” vibes.