Manifest Content of Dreams: Definition & Explanation

Manifest Content of Dreams: Definition & Explanation
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  • 0:03 Definition of Manifest Content
  • 0:38 Freud and Jung's Dream…
  • 2:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What happens in your dreams is called manifest content. Read on to find out more about the manifest content of dreams and how different schools of thought view its importance.

Definition of Manifest Content

The manifest content of your dreams is what happens on the surface of the dream. That is often compared to the latent content of dreams, which is what the manifest content represents or symbolizes.

Imagine you dreamed that you went to the store, and while in the checkout line realized that you were naked. The manifest content of this dream is the actual event: being naked in the line at the store. However, being naked in public (a common dream) often represents feelings of vulnerability. Those feelings - the deeper meaning of the dream - are latent content.

Freud and Jung's Dream Interpretations

Sigmund Freud, considered the father of psychoanalysis, first proposed that dreams have both manifest and latent content. Freud believed that throughout the day, we repress certain emotions and urges. These build up in our unconscious self, and come out when we dream. According to Freud, the manifest content of the dream always represents a suppressed emotion or urge.

Freud said that the manifest content of the dream depicts the true desires of the dreamer, which was revealed in the latent content. In the 'naked in public' dream above, he might have said that dreaming about being naked in public represents a wish to be free of societal constraints and/or a desire to be an exhibitionist. To Freud, the latent content of dreams was much more important than the manifest content.

Carl Jung, who was best known for his theories on archetypes and the collective unconscious, was a student of Freud's who ended up breaking away from Freud and founding his own theories on psychology and dream interpretation. According to Jung, the unconscious is not a dark place, as Freud believed it to be, but simply a part of who you are. He also believed that Freud was wrong to categorize all dreams as unfulfilled wishes; he thought dreams could also represent a pathway to discovering yourself.

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