The Psychology of Dreams

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Why we dream: an analysis of contemporary research and theory on the function of dreaming Krista L. Hulm

Essay Topic
Why do we dream? Discuss with reference to psychological theories and research.
Within classical psychoanalytic psychology, Freud’s (1900) conception of dreams is the most prominent dream theory among modern Western culture (Fosshage, 1983). Freud theorised that dreams serve a dual, compromise function. He suggested that unconscious, instinctual drive energy pushes for discharge, moving toward the expression of a consciously unacceptable impulse. The reduction in conscious restraints characteristic of sleep allows a symbolic, disguised dream expression of the repressed wish. The overt (manifest) content of the dream represents a compromise between the instinctual forces (latent content) striving for expression, on one hand, and the repressive forces of consciousness on the other (Freud, 1900). Freud assumed that the energy pushing for action would awaken the sleeper if not for the dream which, through symbolic discharge, allows a return to sleep. Therefore the dream is seen as serving the biological function of preserving sleep, with the psychological function of discharging an unacceptable wish that might otherwise burst destructively into waking life (Dallet, 1973). Various aspects of Freud’s dream theory have undergone review from the point of view of contemporary dream research (Breger, 1967; Foulkes, 1964). It is generally agreed that with respect to dream function in particular, the sleep preservation view is invalid and the underlying model on which the wish-fulfilment theory rests requires extensive revision. A study on REM sleep deprivation and its effects on depression found that when dream sleep was experimentally repressed in depressed patients, they were found to be more outgoing, energetic, more likely to engage with others and generally less unhappy (Cartwright, 1993). This may be due to dreams of...
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