Psychological Dream Theories
There are many psychological theories about dreams but by far the most important pioneers of modern dream interpretation are the Austrian psychiatrist . You will find many references throughout the text to these two important figures.
Sigmund Freud’s Psychology Of Dreams
Sigmund Freud believed that the mind consists of three aspects which he called the ego, the super-ego and the id. The id is the unconscious side of ourselves which Freud believed consisted of instinctive drives. As the instincts always aim at pleasure Freud called the id the ‘pleasure principle. Most of the desires expressed in our dreams, he believed, were sexual.
The super-ego was the name that Freud gave to what he called ‘the moral principle’. This roughly corresponds to the ‘conscience’ that Freud believed had a social origin. Freud lived in a sexually restricted age so it was natural for him to conclude that the super-ego (conscience) would be in continual conflict with the id (instinctive sexual desires). The super-ego lived in a state of constant tension trying to control the irrational sexual demands of the id. Between these two opposites sat the conscious self acting as a refereebetween the rival claims of these two unconscious forces. Freud called this the ‘reality principle’ and named it the ego. According to Freud, everyone is to some degree neurotic because the ego will never be able to satisfy the demands of both the id and the super-ego.
Freud believed that when a person sleeps the ego relaxes and can no longer adjudicate between the conflicting forces of the id and super-ego. At this time the super-ego stands guard over the ego and protects it from the overwhelming instinctive urges of the id. Dreams are a symbolic language by which the id tries to communicate with the ego but its messages are censored by the super-ego. The result is that the messages from the unconscious come to the ego only in a disguised or misrepresented way.
Carl Jung’s Psychology Of Dreams
Carl Jung was originally a follower of Freud but fell out with the grand old man because Freud was so blinkered in his belief that sexuality was the all and everything of the psyche. He refused to refine or change his views in the light of compelling evidence. In short, he became arrogant and inflexible.
At first, Jung accepted much of what Freud taught but in time realised that the unconscious was not a repository for rejected emotions and desires. It could offer us ways to inner wholeness and healing. The unconscious contains whatever we need to solve our psychological troubles and dreams give us access to these positive energies. The human condition is not a continual conflict of super-ego Vs id but a striving towards wholeness of the self. Instead of masking hidden desires, Jung believed that dream symbols express what is going on in the unconscious and they make an impression on the dreamer.
Jung also proposed that there is a ‘collective unconscious’. This is a part of the mind that contains information that is common to all humans. Its existence accounts for the fact that widely different cultures can have dreams in which specific symbols occur and have the same meaning. For example, many myths, fairy stories and rituals from around the world are almost identical yet have originated independently. Jung believed these were expressions of archaic symbols that emerged spontaneously from the collective unconscious. Jung named these symbols archetypes.