When your eyes are closed, there can be the whole universe inside your head that seems to be as real as the one you live in and breathe in everyday.
Many of us leave our spectacular and imaginary universe behind with our childhood, but the one bit of imaginary universe no one seems to be able to leave behind are our dreams—those almost real things we see while we sleep.
One of the questions that man has been asking since the dawn of time is ‘what are dreams and what do they mean, if anything?’ Several thinkers, principal among them Sigmund Freud, have tried to answer the question.
Freud, in his most famous work, The Interpretation of Dreams, describes his version of dream analysis as “the royal road to the understanding of unconscious mental processes.” In the book Freud introduces his theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation. Dreams, according to Freud, were attempts by what he called “the unconscious” to resolve an inner conflict of some sort. He also believed that because the information in the unconscious is in a disorderly and possibly disturbing form, a “censor” does not allow it to come into the conscious unchanged.
During dreams, he argues, the conscious is less strict and vigilant. Even so, images in dreams need not always be what they appear to be; and according to Freud, need deeper interpretation so that they can enable us to better understand the unconscious.
But Freud was not the first one to assert that dreams had meaning, and neither was he the first to analyse them. Several ancient societies including those in Egypt and Greece, believed that dreaming was a way of supernatural communication and that those message could be unravelled by people with certain special powers. Some people even believe that dreams can foretell the future.
While claims of any predictive powers of dreams are scoffed at and rubbished in today’s world, dreams do play a role in modern psychoanalysis as a useful interpretive tool for understanding the subconscious.
As a part of our research for this article, we found several websites, claiming to offer “dream dictionary” services offering to provide a “reading” and “interpretive session” with users (some preliminary work for free, and a more detailed “reading” for a fee).
Delhi-based psychiatrist, Dr S.P. Sharma has no faith in these websites. “They are merely a means of entertainment,” he believes. He feels that dream interpretation may have a broad theoretical basis, but it requires a psychoanalyst who has worked with you personally to be able to work on interpreting your dreams.
“A dream in isolation cannot be interpreted to mean definitely this or definitely that,” says Dr Sharma, “it is only with the complete knowledge of the case and a personal interaction between the doctor and the patient that the significance or interpretation of a dream is possible.”