Dream Analysis Essay Example


The dream begins at the base of a large mountain. Two of my friends and I are attempting to climb to the top. The path to the top of the mountain is grassy and looks more like a very steep hill. It is narrow and lined with rocks to keep climbers on this particular path. The top of the hill is a perfect circle also lined with rocks. The path looks like it should be easy to climb but it is dark outside and very windy. My friends and I have to climb up the hill nearly on our hands and knees in order to avoid getting knocked over. I eventually reach the end of the path and try to hoist myself onto the top but the wind causes me to fall all the way down the hill to the bottom. My friends are already there and we begin the climb again. This dream, although frustrating, was still relatively friendly and I was more curious about what was at the top of the mountain more than I was upset about the fact that I had fallen. There were no other significant objects in this dream besides the hill and my friends. This dream is in color - the grass is particularly vibrant - and for some reason I know that I am at a mountain in Ireland or Scotland. I have never gone mountain climbing before and it does not appear to directly correlate with the day’s events.

I tend to have very vivid, bizarre dreams and because of that, I have kept a dream journal for about a year. Whenever I have a particularly strange dream I write it down as a way of remembering it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to discover the factors that influence these vivid dreams and they seem to be more random. Some of my dreams are normal such as going on a walk near beautiful flowering trees whereas others are more intense and strange. Often, my dreams will start and I will already have prior knowledge as if I had experienced the dream before or it will seem as though it is a continuation of another dream. All of my dreams have a form of color present and some of them are centered around a particular color such as a dream I had where I was walking in a city in which every light was purple. Occasionally, I have a lucid dream where I realize that I was dreaming halfway through the dream and am able to have more conscious control over my actions in the dream.

One method of dream interpretation is Hobson-McCarley’s Activation Synthesis Method. This method states that dreams are a product of random stimuli created by the brain as well as the brain's tendency to assign meaning to these stimuli. Hobson and McCarley assert that the pons creates random stimuli during REM sleep and that the forebrain which is responsible for conscious thought attempts to create a coherent story in response to the pons. For example, if the pons creates stimuli that resemble the stimuli created while running or talking, the forebrain will interpret this signal as running or talking in a dream. To create a more coherent story, the dream might also borrow from recent memories so if you had recently been frightened by a particular character in a movie, this character might be interpreted as a person you are running from in your dream. This would explain the wind and my inability to reach the top of the mountain. The pons in my brain created a stimulus that resembled climbing and my forebrain could’ve concocted a scenario in which I was hiking up a mountain. Furthermore, my forebrain could have drawn from an image I had seen a few days prior that I did not think was important but was used to create the mountain I would see in my dream. This theory would also explain the illogical nature of this dream as I continued climbing after falling even though I never consciously made that decision. However, the Activation Synthesis Method has its flaws. Primarily, it does not account for logical dream progressions or lucid dreaming. If dreams are simply responses from random stimuli then there should be no reason for a dream to make logical sense. 

Another theory of sleep is the Cognitive Development Theory that describes dreaming as a form of therapy or play. This theory postulates that dreams, like play, are experiences that allow a person to practice survival - based situations in a safe environment. This would account for why dreams typically have a primary survival-related theme such as health, aggression, sexuality, and death. This would explain the wide range of dreams sleepers often experience from calming, friendly dreams, to nightmares involving threat of death. This would explain why in my dream I experienced both fear and perseverance along with other emotions because it would allow me to to gain experience in areas that I have never gone through such as falling from a cliff or the work needed to continually try again to reach the top. This theory is still open to dreamers pursuing deeper, symbolic meaning which means that it is more flexible and open for interpretation. However, this does not fully explain dreams in which nothing happens or where there are no emotions present which is not uncommon for a dream but would not make sense if dreams are to be fully understood under the Cognitive Development Theory. 

The last popular dream theory is Carl Jung’s theory of dreaming as identity unifiers. This theory asserts that dreams are reflections of a person’s psyche - or “personality” - and that different parts of a psyche accounts for different types of dreams. He listed that the psyche was composed of the ego level, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.  The Ego level indicated a personal sense of self-identity while the personal unconscious were composed of forgotten or repressed memories and were responsible for what he called “little dreams”. The collective unconscious, however, was responsible for “big dreams” and consisted of archetypes that interacted with all parts of the human psyche. These dreams included five main archetypes: the persona, anima (feminine attitudes), animus (masculine attitudes), the shadow, and the self, and also drew heavily from myths. In this theory, different significant objects in dreams would reveal important personal information to the dreamer that might not have been known. This approach would interpret my dream as relating to the mythology of Sisyphus. A man who was cursed to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a hill only for it to fall back down again as soon as he neared the top. This would indicate that I am experiencing a sisyphean endeavor in my own life where I feel that I am doomed to fail no matter what I do or how hard I try. While this theory is one of the more interesting schools of thought and the easiest to apply to common dreams, it is certainly not without flaws. For instance, there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that metaphors used while awake have any meaning in dreams. Instead, this has simply been assumed by psychologists such as Jung and Freud. Although the Jung theory may be interesting, it does not have significant evidence to back up his claims. 

Dreams may never fully be understood and with the constant influx of new compelling albeit contradictory theories, there may never be one clear, consistent explanation for interpreting dreams. While all schools of thought such as the Activation Synthesis, Cognitive Development and Jung’s Theory all have their support, they all have their flaws as well. However, based on my own personal experiences, the Activation Synthesis theory seems to be the closest to understanding  the meaning of dreams as it explains the inconsistency and illogical tendencies of dreams. Many of my dreams are not one long story but shift to different settings and characters without reason and without question. The Activation Synthesis theory acknowledges this aspect of dreams and is able to explain it unlike the other two theories. Jung’s theory and the Cognitive Development theory seem to be more focused on assigning meaning to waking events where there might not be any and directing too much attention at seeing dreams as a concise story when in actuality, the majority of dreams are short bursts of content that change rapidly and illogically. Although the Activation Synthesis may not be completely accurate, it appears to be the most appropriate method to analyze both this most recent dream as well as dreams that have occurred years ago.  

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