Term Paper: Dreams -- Are They Psychologically

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[. . .] Generally, he postulated that human beings have a protective psychological mechanism designed to shield the psyche from various thoughts and perceptions and from actual memories whose conscious perception could be so traumatic that they would be damaging to the individual to perceive consciously (McWilliams, 2004; Mitchell & Black, 1995). According to Freud, those types of thoughts remain in the subconscious but invariably become the source and the root cause of numerous different types of psychological pathologies in waking life when they are left hidden from the conscious mind and unresolved (McWilliams, 2004; Mitchell & Black, 1995).

More specifically, Freud argued that the actual imagery of dreams represented psychologically significant ideas and that identifying the meaning of those images could provide the basis for linking the unconscious mind to the conscious mind, using the content of dreams as a bridge to connect those two distinct entities (McWilliams, 2004). Therefore, Freud devoted considerable attention to the specific content of dreams in his psychodynamic process of identifying unconscious thoughts and fears as a means of helping his patients resolve major psychological conflicts and thereby reduce their uncontrolled expression in harmful ways to the individual by using dream analysis to identify repressed thoughts so that those thoughts could be reconciled with conscious desires during wakefulness (McWilliams, 2004).

Contradictory Evidence

In principle, there may be considerable merit to the notion that dream images relate to some aspect of human psychology. In dreams, the individual may engage in certain behaviors that are uncharacteristic of that individual's typical behavior during wakefulness; the individual may experience imagery in dreams that has obvious symbolic significance, even without the benefit of any formal psychological training or analysis. In some instances, the content of dreams may indeed represent beliefs or concerns or fears to which the individual is resistant on a conscious level. In that respect, it also may be significant that dreams occur during REM sleep.

However, the mere fact that REM sleep in general and dreaming in particular appear not to be unique to human beings suggests that they are more likely spontaneous physiological phenomenon rather than intimately linked to psychological factors. In that regard, animals also sleep in cycles featuring REMs and, perhaps more importantly, animals (including pet dogs, for one ubiquitous example), frequently exhibit all of the apparent signs that they are, in fact, dreaming in visual images that they perceive to be enjoyable sometimes and frightening at other times.

Conclusion

It is understandable why dreaming during sleep would have captured the interest of ancient medicine men and contemporary psychologists alike. In some respects, the content and visual imagery of dreams may be linked to areas of wakeful life. However, in other respects, dreams may be no more than a spontaneous experiential phenomenon that happens to coincide with the most crucial portion of sleep as a physiological function. The fact that non-human animals seem to dream would seem to strongly suggest that there is little or no psychological significance to the content and imagery of dreams, particularly in the psychodynamic context, unless one is willing to postulate that dogs also experience subconscious repression in the manner outlined famously by Freud. Ultimately, there is no objective evidence about the specific function of dreaming and any conclusions in that respect would have to be supported by future research isolating dreaming in the same way that previous research has successfully distinguished REM sleep from non-REM sleep.

Sources Consulted

Brody, J. "At Every Age, Feeling the Effects of Too Little Sleep" The New York Times.

(October 23, 2007). Accessed 22 June 2012 from:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/health/23brod.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pag ewanted=print

Gerrig, R, and Zimbardo, P. (2008). Psychology and Life. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Pearson.

Lamond, N., Dorrian, J., Roach, G., McCulloch, K., Holmes, A., Burgess, H., Fletcher,

A., and Dawson, D. "The Impact of a Week of Simulated Night Work on Sleep,

Circadian Phase, and Performance." Occupational Environment, (September

2003): 13-21.

McWilliams, N. (2004). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioner's Guide. New York: Guilford.

Mitchell, S. And Black, M. (1995). Freud and Beyond: A History of Modern

Psychoanalytic Thought. New York: Basic Books.

Siegel, J.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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