We’ll cover the science of dream interpretation, from the psychoanalysts of the early twentieth century to the most recent science-based theories examining the underlying meaning of dreams. We’ll also take a look at the most common dream topics and tips to help with dream interpretation.
People have tried to decipher the meaning of dreams since the dawn of civilization, though scientific research on dreams is relatively new. The most prominent theories of dream interpretation include pioneers from the early twentieth century to modern neuroscientists .
Freud, the most cited psychologist of the 20th century, published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. This book represented a significant milestone in the field of dream interpretation.
According to Freud, dreams represent a form of wish fulfillment and hold the key to a person’s desires. He indicated that the subject of a person’s dreams stems from reality, but dreams are not identical to waking life and cannot be taken at face value. Instead, the underlying meaning of a dream is hidden in a person’s unconscious mind, the thoughts and feelings that lay outside of their conscious awareness.
Carl Jung was a contemporary of Freud and was greatly influenced by Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. But as Jung matured, his thoughts on dream interpretation began to diverge from Freud’s.
Jung believed people experience different types of dreams that can be viewed through the lens of “compensation.” According to his theory of compensation, dreams are a mechanism that allow the unconscious mind to fully develop or balance parts that are in conflict with one another.
Psychologist Calvin S. Hall theorized in the 1950’s that dreams were images that represent a person’s thoughts or ideas. Hall proposed that dreams are akin to plays or enactments based on the ideas a person has about themself, other people, conflicts, impulses and urges, and their external environment.
Hall suggested that dream interpretation could help a person better understand themselves and inform their behavior in daily life.
William Domhoff’s career spanned from the 1960s to the publication of The Emergence of Dreaming in 2018 and combined the analysis of dream content with brain imaging techniques and electroencephalogram (EEG) .