Dreams part 2: More theories.

August 27, 2010 at 12:30 am 4 comments

I’d like to give my sincerest apologies for the huge delay in new posts. I didn’t “give up” on the blog as such, but the lack of views made me decide the effort wasn’t worth it. However, I’ve recently checked the stats and I was amazed at how many views this blog is attracting. Therefore I will begin updating it regularly. Thanks so much for the support and I hope you enjoy all the posts. So, without further hesitation, here is the 2nd part to the dreams post.



This is part 2/2 of my posts on dream theory. I’d recommend you read part one before continuing to read this.

So we’ve explored, debatably, the most ‘out there’ theory regarding dreams. The main problem with Freud’s theory is that there is little evidence to support his ideas. It is very difficult to study dreams because there is no way to measure them; a researcher cannot watch a person’s dream and then compare it to their unconscious desires. Why? Well the mind is merely a concept, and therefore cannot be ‘accessed’ as such. Therefore, as mentioned, there is little support for his theory. On the bright side, at least for Freud, this means his theory cannot be discounted, as there is no proof against the theory either.

So what other theories are there? I am going to describe four more theories: the re-organisational theory, the activation synthesis model and theories put forward by Carl Jung, Fredrick Perls and Alfred Adler. So let’s take a look at the theories.

Re-organisational theory

As the heading may suggest, this theory describes the idea that the brain is reorganising all the stored memories and information it holds. As we withhold a lot of feckless information during our waking lives, the brain needs to filter between the useful and useless. As it “sifts” through the phenomenal level of information, random neurone pathways are activated during the process. This results in the stimulation of the brain, and hence dreams result.

This theory is possible the most biological, although it is difficult to gather reliable research to support dream theory. Dreams are a concept really, and so cannot be measured scientifically or ‘seen’. This theory provides, arguably, the least amount of “out there” claims, and could be seen to be a true biological reason that the brain would require rest and dreaming to organise itself.

The Activation Synthesis Model.

Hobson and McCarley developed this model of dreaming, and also explains dreams as a result of physiological processes in the brain. They suggest that when we enter the stage of REM sleep, the brain stem is stimulated and certain circuits in the brain are activated. This results in certain areas of the limbic system, involved with emotion, sensation and memory (particularly the hippocampus and amygdala) to also become active. The brain becomes confused by these signals, and attempts to interpret them in a logical manner, which results in dreams. However, they are not implying that dreams are simply random and meaningless:

Dreaming may be our most creative conscious state, one in which the chaotic, spontaneous recombination of cognitive elements produces novel configurations of information: new ideas. While many or even most of these ideas may be nonsensical, if even a few of its fanciful products are truly useful, our dream time will not have been wasted
– Hobson, 1999.

Again, this is one of the more “realistic” and more biological models. Compared to Freud’s model, you can see that actual biology is incorporated into the theory, such as brain areas and stimulation of neural circuits. This therefore makes this a very valuable model, and one of the most likely reasons for dreaming. Just note that this is not certain, and there is very little research to support theories like this, as mentioned above.

Carl Jung’s theory of dreaming.

Jung believed in dreaming as being spiritual. Like Freud, he agreed that there is an unconscious, but he believed dreams were NOT instinctual or sexual. Freud and Jung worked closely together, but their conflicting views on dreams resulted in them splitting apart and taking different paths.

Jung believed dreams were not masking your unconscious, rather, they were a window to it. He believed that dreams offered advice for problems in the waking life, and were almost like a counsellor. He viewed dreaming as a communication process; you could acquaint yourself with your unconscious this way. Like Freud, he thought there was an ego, but he suggested it was your sense of self, and your perception of yourself in relation to the world. Jung firmly believed in opposites – dark/light, male/female, young/old, and hence the ego had a counterpart – the aptly named “counter ego” or simply “The Shadow”. The Shadow represents the parts of you that you hide or reject, and like Freud’s “Id”, is primitive and ‘weird’.

With regards to interpretation, he believed one possessed all the required ‘tools’ to interpret them. He believes dreams are all about your personal life, relationships, progress and situations in waking life; they all reveal something about you. Dreams help guide you, and help you realise your full potential in waking life. He also says that you are the most important person in interpretation. However you interpret them is most significant, and more valuable than any other person’s opinion.

Fredrick Perls’ theory of dreaming.

Now Perls takes a slightly different view. He believes that all elements of a dream represent the rejected parts of oneself. Everything in your dream is you. So you are the sky, the people, the cars, the weather. Every single thing in the dream represents you in one form or another.

He believes that you need to connect with a dream, and take each and every factor and “become” it in real life. So when you’re awake, you need to re-enact all those feelings and emotions from the dream to connect. There’s an emphasis on the interaction between the dreamer and the dream, almost like the dream is also a person. You need to take the role of different parts of a dream to “understand” how the other elements feel. This way, you’ll connect emotively, and discover hidden feelings and thoughts buried by the elements of a dream. Certainly a far-fetched theory, but still a widely acknowledged one.

Alfred Adler’s take on dreams.

Adler suggested that there is a direct correlation between the amount one dreams, and the level of stress in their waking life. Basically, the more dreams you have, the more problems in real life. Therefore, dreams are a problem solving device, implemented to help your brain settle problems which are a burden upon you when awake. Dreams are said to shed light on problems, and need to be interpreted to neutralise problems.

Unlike Freud, Adler does not believe sexual desires are the nature of behaviour; rather, motivation and control fuel your behaviour. He also believes that the conscious and unconscious mind are very similar, and work exactly the same whether you’re awake or asleep. Dreams act as a social “scapegoat” almost. If you’re having trouble with a friend in real life but lack the control to sort the problem out in real life, your dream is a perfect place to resolve the dream. There are no consequences in real life, and you can act out different solutions in safety.


So there you have it, a few more theories as to why we dream. Although Freud’s is certainly the most popular one, these cannot be discounted as they provide interesting insights and alternatives as to why we may dream.

Thanks for reading,


Entry filed under: Psychodynamic. Tags: , , , , .

Apologies! Psychology and Cocaine.

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. milliejf  |  September 2, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Mark Solms has researched dopamine production in the brain during dreaming and has used that to provide a neurochemical basis for Freud’s theory of wish fullfillment.

    Source: http://meaningofdreams.org/dream_theory/solmsdreamsprotectsleep.htm

    • 2. Sam Eddy  |  September 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm

      Hey there, thanks for leaving that interesting source!
      Are you suggesting I add it, or just commenting as recommended reading?
      It’s a very interesting article nevertheless, so thanks for leaving an intelligent comment!

      Thanks for reading, take care.

  • […] dreams post in sequence, then click here for post one (Freud’s theory of dreams) and here for post two (several more theories on […]

  • 4. mani  |  September 24, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Hi Sam.
    I saw myself committing suicide in my dream after my family symbolically killed my boy friend. ( interestingly he became a power socket and my father pulled it out. The background is that my family is conservative and I’m anticipating a big emotional scene coaxing me to give up on this relationship once they come to know about it. And because my family loved me I fert the outcome I’d telling them

    When I checked the Web I found that such a dream implies rejuvenation. While the other sites valued it s bag omen. I don’t usually feel about omen but I’m perplexed this time cause I feel that this is the diary time I’m taking such a big decision on my own and may be sub consciousis trying to convey something to me. Please help


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