Trends in Dream Interpretation
Ancient cultures attached great significance to dreams as communication with God or prophecy or out-of-body travel. Much of twentieth century dream theory was influenced by three approaches: Freudian, Jungian and gestalt. Their differences are illustrated in the interpretations they would give to a dream about being chased. Freudians would say the dream represents a repressed wish to be captured and have sex. Jungians would say the pursuer represents a disowned part of the dreamer's personality that may need to be accepted. Gestalt theorists would suggest that every image in the dream represents some part of the dreamer.
"Modern dream work has moved toward metaphor and problem solving, and people should stop trying to fit their interpretations to psychoanalytical theory," says Delaney, author of seven books on dreams, including All About Dreams: Everything You Need To Know About Why We Have Them, What They Mean, and How To Put Them To Work for You. "If they describe their dream to five different theorists, they'll get five different interpretations."
Freeman, who uses dream interpretation primarily to counsel students regarding careers and relationships, tells WebMD most dreams compensate for skewed relationships to the outside world. "For example, if we're too nice, our anger and hostility can come out in dreams," he says. He describes a woman who was so preoccupied with being pregnant that she neglected other aspects of her femininity. In a dream, she was at a party wearing a maternity dress when a voluptuous woman in a miniskirt approached and spilled a drink on her. "My client got very upset and angry in the dream," says Freeman. "The dream was compensating for a lopsided situation in which she'd been too much into her maternal self and ignoring her femininity. Dreams can be self-correcting in that way, letting us know when we're out of balance."
Doing Your Own Dream Interpretation
Both Delaney and Freeman use an interview approach with clients they say individuals can use to interpret their own dreams. Basically the interview unravels the dream metaphor to discover what the dream symbols mean to the dreamer and the dream's relevance to the dreamer's present day life.