Modern Theories of Dreaming
By Rebecca Turner Lucid Dream Forum
Why do we dream? Ancient civilizations saw dreams as portals for receiving wisdom from the gods. In modern psychology, Sigmund Freud famously theorized that dreams were the "royal road to the unconscious". Modern theories suggest it's not as complicated as that. Are we getting closer to understanding dreams?
Freud - aka the father of dream research - gave psychoanalysis as one explanation for why we dream. But Freud had little understanding of the REM and NREM sleep cycles - and modern day dream research has pointed us to a number of other theories of dreaming. But first, let's start with the original theory of dreaming. Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind. The controversial psychoanalyst said that our brain protects us from disturbing thoughts and memories by repressing them. Freud also believed that we are almost entirely driven by unconscious sexual desire.
If you asked Sigmund Freud "why do we dream?" he would say our dreams are a secret outlet for these repressed desires. Freud used dream analysis to interpret the underlying language of dreams - which is very different from normal conscious thinking. I discuss this idea more in dream interpretation.
To support his dream research, Sigmund Freud split the human psyche into three parts: the Id, Ego and Super-Ego.
ID - Newborn babies are born with only an Id. The Id is a sense of mind that causes us to act on impulse: to follow our primary instincts and ignore the consequences. The Id runs on the "pleasure principle" - it doesn't care about anything but its own satisfaction.
EGO - As they grow up, toddlers develop an Ego. This is the part of the psyche that allows us to understand that other people have needs, and that acting impulsively can hurt us. This "reality principle" makes sure we meet the needs of the Id without conflicting with the laws of the Ego.
SUPER-EGO - By the age of five, we develop the Super-ego. This is our moral brain, that tells us the difference between right and wrong. However it doesn't make special allowances - it is up to the Ego to decide.This concept can be demonstrated with The Iceberg Metaphor...
Just like an iceberg, the conscious mind is only the tip. It is a small part of who we are. There is much more under the surface.
Way down below, we have little or no conscious awareness of the Id, which influences all our decisions.
The Ego is free floating in all three levels - both conscious and unconscious - monitoring our behaviors by day.
Every night when we sleep, we disconnect from our conscious tip of the iceberg. The lights go off and we are protected from external stimuli (like noise, temperature and pain) as well as internal stimuli (like emotions and fears). We do this by creating our own internal worlds - our dreams.
Freud said dreams are a way to express the unconscious emotions arising from the Id - otherwise we would be constantly disturbed by them in our sleep and soon wake up. So why do we dream? To protect our sleep. Carl Jung
Carl Jung (1875-1961) thought he could answer the riddle: why do we dream? Jung was a great follower of Freud and his dream analysis, but he eventually broke away to form very different theories.
"I want to keep my dreams, even bad ones, because without them, I might have nothing all night long"~ Joseph Heller
Jung claimed that the function of dreams is to compensate for parts of the personality that aren't