Dream interpretation

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(Redirected from Interpretation of dreams)

Dream interpretation is the art of determining the meaning (or alleged meaning) of the symbolic content of a dream.

Dream interpetation is a part of psychoanalysis that intends to look beneath the manifest content of a dream, i.e., what we perceive in the dream, to the latent content of a dream, i.e., the meaning of the dream and the reason we dreamt it. The seminal work on the subject is The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.

Joseph in the Old Testament interpreted the dreams of a Pharaoh of Egypt. Daniel also had the gift of interpreting dreams, saying "There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries."

Interpretation of dreams is also a part of contemporary pop or new age culture. See new age dream interpretation; Edgar Cayce on Dreams by Harmon H. Bro, 1968; and Edgar Cayce.

Some theories are:


Modern theories

There has been much scientific research on dreams, and modern theories attempt to explain as many facts found in scientific research as possible. These include:

  • Why we dream the most before being born; why the amount of dreaming decreases at old age; why mammals born prematurely, such as rats, dream more than mature animals.
  • Why depressed people dream more.
  • Why we may have evolved to dream.

Hall's cognitive theory

Joe Griffin's theory

Older theories


Freud thought that dreams were created to solve a conflict between a conscious wish and an unconscious wish, repressed from childhood, which would prevent sleep.

Freud thought that these repressed wishes were active in the unconscious during waking, but were kept from entering consciousness by a “censor”. During sleep, however, this censor is not as alert as it is during waking. Repressed wishes therefore disguise themselves to pass the censor as dreams. When we wake from a nightmare, the repressed wish has not disguised itself well enough and the censor has awoken us to full alertness.

Freud listed the possible transformations used by the wish to get past the censor as a dream:

  • Condensation where one dream object could stand for several thoughts.
  • Displacement where the dream object's significance is less important than the disguised significance.
  • Representation where a thought is translated to visual images.
  • Symbolisation where an action or a person is replaced by a different symbol.

These transformations help to disguise the latent content.


To Jung, dreams are communications from the unconscious. Most of the time, dreams can be regarded as "compensatory" views to the conscious, expressing aspects of the individual that are suppressed or neglected. This idea of compensation, of the natural tendency for the conflicting conscious and unconscious to approach a balance, is the basis of Jung's overall theory of psychological self-regulation. It is also important to note that due to the fact that they are often highly symbolic, dreams can be hard to understand and are subject to nuance and arguable misinterpretation.


  • Elsie Sechrist with foreword by Hugh Lynn Cayce, Dreams, Your Magic Mirror, Warner Books, 1974, mass market paperback, ISBN 0-446-31384-X
  • James A. Hall, Jungian Dream Interpretation: A Handbook of Theory and Practice, Inner City Books, 1983, ISBN 0-919-12312-0

There is a short how-to on Wikibooks about one method of dream interpretation called Intuitive interpretation of dreams.


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