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I am Sushi Parikh, a 23 year old MBA student. Every night when I am sleeping, a lot of dreams come into my mind. They range from a variety of topics relating to my studies, my fantasies of a good job, a quarrel that I have had with my parents or of my boy-friend. I know that these dreams have a significance. Can you elaborate more on dream psychology?

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Dreams are always meaningful even though their meaning is often hidden or disguised. A dream is the disguised fulfillment of a wish that is otherwise not readily accessible to the conscious awareness in waking life. A wish can be transformed into our consciousness through the mechanism of a censor. This censor functions to preserve sleep. In this way, dreams are a method by which the wishes can be expressed in our awareness while preserving sleep which is essential for the mind. By disguising disturbing thoughts and feelings, the censor makes sure that the dreamer’s sleep is not disturbed. There are two layers of dream content.

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The manifest dream refers to the content as recalled by the dreamer including the emotions and sensory experiences as well as any commentaries that occur on the dream within the dream. The unconscious thoughts and wishes that threaten to awaken the dreamer constitute the latent content. The unconscious mental operations by which the latent dream content is transformed into the manifest content is called as dream work. Internal or external stimuli initiate dreaming. A variety of sensory impressions including hunger, pain, thirst and urinary urgency may influence dream content. For e.g. if you are hungry, you might dream of having gone to a restaurant, eaten food and returned to bed as a way of safeguarding the continuity of sleep.

In the event of a quarrel you might dream of saying all those things which are not being able to be said while in the actual altercation. An important influence on the dream thought is the residues of feelings, ideas and thoughts associated with the experiences of the preceding day. Seemingly innocuous or unimportant elements from the day residues may be used as the vehicle for the disguised expression of unconscious drives and wishes of an erotic or aggressive nature. There are various types of dreams like anxiety dreams in which the dreamer often experiences severe distress of even partially awaken.

A punishment dream can be the one in which there are punishment fantasies. These reflect a wish for punishment as a satisfaction of some guilt for an event in the dreamer’s mind. Dream work is quite complex and involve a few mechanisms like condensation, displacement, symbolic representation and secondary revision. In condensation several unconscious impulses, wishes or feelings can be combined and attached to one manifest dream image. For e.g. a composite character may appear in the dream that has the name of one person in the dreamer’s life, beard like another person and a musical instrument that reflects a third person. The feelings associated with those three persons are amalgamated in one person.

The converse of condensation i.e. diffusion can also occur in a dream when a single latent impulse is distributed through multiple representations in the manifest content. In displacement, the energy or intensity associated with one object is diverted to a substitute object that is associatively related but more acceptable to the dreamer’s mind. For e.g. murderous wishes towards a sibling may be redirected towards a neutral or insignificant figure. In that manner the dream censor has displaced emotional energy in such a way that the dreamer’s sleep remains undisturbed. A special instance of displacement, projection involves the attribution of the dreamer’s own unacceptable impulses or wishes to another character in the dream. Symbolic representation is the method by which ideas or objects that were highly charged were represented by using innocent images that were in some way connected with the idea or object being represented.

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In that manner an abstract concept or a complex set of feelings towards a person could be symbolized by a simple, concrete or sensory image. Secondary revision is the final step by which an illogical, bizarre, and absurd image that seem incoherent is transformed into a more mature and reasonable dream. It is the process by which intellectual processes of a more mature nature make the dream somewhat rational. In this way, dreams reflect our true nature and unfulfilled desires of a childhood era. Their interpretation is called as the royal road to our own understanding.

Dr. Darshan Shah

Dr. Darshan Shah, a renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist, is committed to make a difference in the area of mental health and help individuals cope with feelings and symptoms; change behavior patterns that may contribute to one’s illness and henceforth contribute to their newly improved pathway of life.