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Dream Analysis: Definition & Examples

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Instructor: Sarah Cobarrubias
Dream analysis is the process of evaluating and interpreting dreams to know their meaning. Learn about the definition of dream analysis, discover Freudian dream analysis and Jungian dream analysis, and explore some criticisms of dream analysis. Updated: 08/31/2021

What is Dream Analysis?

Chances are you've had a dream in which you were falling - it's one of the most commonly reported dreams. Have you ever wondered what it means? Many believe a falling dream signifies that something in your life is on the wrong track, such as a career or a marriage, and needs changing. Some psychologists dedicate their careers to the process of evaluating dreams to determine their meanings. This is called dream analysis.

The first recorded examples of dream analysis date back to ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptian dream interpreters believed the gods communicated through dreams, and they even produced a book compiling more than 200 of the gods' messages. It's no surprise humanity has been trying to understand these puzzling visions since we gained the mental capacity to do so, but the greatest advancements in dream analysis came in the 20th century, when psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung developed scientific theories of the discipline.

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  • 0:00 What Is Dream Analysis?
  • 1:05 Freudian Dream Analysis
  • 2:20 Jungian Dream Analysis
  • 3:50 Criticism Of Dream Analysis
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Freudian Dream Analysis

Freud's theory on dream analysis, which he published in The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, states that your unconscious stores your repressed desires and expresses those desires through the dreams and your conscious mind is then protected from disturbing thoughts and urges. Additionally, he believed that the motivations for your dreams often came from day residue, or your experiences from the preceding day.

Freud's theory relies heavily on symbolism. He thought that the manifest content of your dream (what you remember) isn't the same as the issue it represents; rather, the latent content , or the underlying cause of your dream, must be deciphered. For example, Freud believed that a falling dream signified that a person is about to give into sexual urges in real life.

It's worth noting that, to Freud, most dreams' latent content was sexual in nature. Some examples of symbolism according to Freudian dream analysis are phallic symbols (guns, snakes, neckties and other objects that are longer than they are wide), vaginal symbols (doors, tunnels, windows and other types of openings), and sexual acts (climbing or descending stairs or steep inclines).

Jungian Dream Analysis

While Jung began his research in dream analysis as a colleague of Freud, he disagreed with many of Freud's findings and branched out to form his own dream analysis theory. Jung's theory holds that dreams are a vehicle for your unconscious mind to reveal your desires to your conscious mind - not hide them from your conscious, as Freud believed.

Additionally, Jung believed that the unconscious is comprised of two parts: one belongs solely to the person, the individual, while the other is collective - it belongs to all of humanity and contains universal symbols. Any given dream can take from both the individual unconscious and collective unconscious. Note that Jungian dream analysis does not rely on interpreting symbols, but rather the archetypes of dreams. Some of the common archetypes in Jungian dream analysis are:

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