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History of Dreams and Dream Analysis

By: Libby Pelham BA - Updated: 22 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Sigmund Freud Carl Jung Dreams Dream

Dream analysis to interpret a dream’s meaning, has long been an interest of humanity. Man has often believed that dreams could heal or predict the future. At one point, man even realised that his dreams were trying to tell him something. To understand the importance of dream analysis, it is important to take a look at its history.

Ancient Cultures
Ancient cultures respected dreams, even though they often didn’t fully understand them. The Greeks built temples (Asclepieions) to help cure those that were ill. How were they cured? They believed they were cured through dreams in which they received divine grace. Many cultures felt dreams were omens of things to come – either good or bad. Many saw the dreams as messages from the gods, instructions if you will on how to live their lives. But Greek philosopher Heraclitus thought that dreams were from the individual, not the gods.

Plato explored the possibility that a dream could change a person’s lifestyle, citing that Socrates had learned music and arts because he was told to learn them in a dream. Aristotle too applied a more rational study to dreams. He felt dreams merely brought up fragments of what had occurred during the waking hours of one’s life. He also felt dreams could actually be used to diagnose an illness that the dreamer was suffering.

In ancient Egypt, priests, who were held in the highest regard, not only acted as spiritual guides but also as dream interpreters. Even the Bible speaks of dreams from God to men such as Joseph. Egyptian writings on papyrus still exist today that offer interpretation of dreams.

Literature
The first really comprehensive book about dream interpretation was called Oneirocriticon or The Interpretation of Dreams. It was written by Artemidorus in the 2nd century. He felt that dreams were unique to each individual and that certain information about that individual, such as health, occupation, status, habits, and age, had to be known before an accurate interpretation of the dream could be made. Artemidorus’ son was an apprentice dream interpreter and Artemidorus wrote two volumes of Oneirocriticon to be used strictly by him for dream analysis. One such volume contained 95 dreams his son could use as examples.

Sigmund Freud
While man continued to be fascinated with dreams throughout the ages, the fascination was renewed when, at the end of the 19th century, Sigmund Freud wrote one of his most important works, The Interpretation of Dreams. In this, he said that dreams were actually the implementation of desires, conscious or not. Freud felt that the conflict between the superego (the part of the psyche that is partially conscious and acts as a moral judge) and id (the childlike part of the unconscious) actually caused us to censor our dreams. While the unconscious would like to act upon a desire, the preconscious will not allow it. Freud based his thoughts on research, including self-analysis and psychoanalysis of his patients.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung, at one time a close friend of Freud, also felt as Artemidorus did – that dream meanings could not be attributed without knowing more about the person him or herself.

With the New Age Movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies, dream analysis was once again a popular way for people to understand what was really going on in their lives as well as understand more about those around them.

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