Everyone dreams although some people remember their dreams much more vividly than others. Why people dream is one of behavioral science’s biggest unanswered questions. There are many theories as to why people dream but no one theory has been proven as of yet. Many people that vividly remember their dreams seek to find the meaning behind them. The process of studying the meaning of dreams is known as dream interpretation.
History of Dream Interpretation
One of history’s earliest examples of dream interpretation is recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In ancient Egypt, it was priests who would interpret dreams as evidenced by the discovery of hieroglyphics that depict dreams and the interpretations of said dreams. The ancient Greeks considered dreams to be prophetic or omens that are of particular significance. Temples were constructed by the Greeks and were known as Asclepieions where the sick went in the hopes of being cured. These cures were believed to be effected with divine grace by the incubation of dreams within the temples.
In China in the 16th century Chen Shiyuan wrote a traditional Chinese book on dream interpretation called the Lofty Principles of Dream Interpretation. In modern Europe, dream interpretation was discussed in a short tract by Sir Thomas Browne during the 17th century. Eventually, during the 19th century, dream interpretation was studied as part of psychoanalysis. Currently, there is lots of information and many books available on the topic of dream interpretation.
The Psychology of Dream Interpretation
Sigmund Freud authored a book called The Interpretation of Dreams which was published for the first time in 1899 though the book was dated 1900. In his book, Freud believed that the motivation for the content of all dreams was for the fulfillment of wishes and that the incitement of a dream is generally found in the events of the preceding day. Freud referred to this as day residue and while he believed that in the case of young kids, dreams were straightforward, with adults, he believed the situation was much more complicated. Even today, many people interpret dreams based on Freudian theory.
Common Dream Interpretations
Being Chased – This is one of the most common dream symbols among all cultures. Generally being chased in a dream means that you are feeling threatened in real life.
Falling – Falling is common in dreams and can be interpreted as it relates to anxiety about losing control, letting go, or failure following a success.
Death – Dreaming about the death of a loved one or friend is not a psychic prediction but a representation of change. For those currently bereaved, dreaming about death can be a way to try and come to terms with the death.
Hair – According to Freud, dreams about hair have significant ties to one’s sexuality. He believed that abundant hair possibly symbolized virility while dreams about hair loss can also be more literal, signifying a literal fear of balding.
Killing – Killing in dreams does not signify that someone is a murderer but rather represents a desire to kill a part of one’s own personality. Killing in a dream can also be a sign of hostility towards a particular person.
Money – Dreams regarding money often symbolize self worth and when money is exchanged, it can mean that you are anticipating life changes.
Mountains – Dreaming of climbing a mountain can signify feelings of achievement as mountains are considered obstacles.
Nudity – Nudity is a common theme in dreams and is often a symbol of feeling vulnerable and exposed. These types of dreams can also symbolize a desire for recognition.
Dream Interpretation Resources
- A Dream Interpretation: Tuneups for the Brain
- The Quantitative Study of Dreams
- A Cognitive Theory of Dream Symbols
- The Biology of Dreaming: A Controversy That Won’t go to Sleep
- Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams
- Tibetan Dream Interpretation and Practice
- Sleep and Dreams
- Curiosities: Why do we Dream?
- The A-Z Dream Dictionary
- Dreams Dictionary: Meanings of Dreams
- Ancient Theories About Dreams
- Sigmund Freud and the Interpretation of Dreams
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