Do Dreams Really Mean Anything?
By: Beth McHugh 2006
We all have weird dreams from time to time. Some dreams make no sense at all, others seem to follow recurring themes and visit us at night on a regular basis. Often we are being threatened in a dream and we cannot scream. Another common theme is falling, or tripping over. Sometimes present-day activities will take place in our childhood home of long ago. We dream of people and places that are both strange and very familiar. But do any of the nocturnal adventures really mean anything?
Given the number of books on dream analysis that are available and the popularity of specialized dream analysis columns in the media, it seems there’s a lot of people who are fascinated by what goes on in their brains at night.
Even Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst had a fascination with dreams which lead him to write “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Although many of Freud’s theories have fallen into disfavor, it seems that everyone from Freud down to the man in the street has a theory on the importance or otherwise of dreams.
However, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia have discovered that dreams can be significant but do not hold the answers to life’s problems. The team of psychologists studied the dreams of 270 recent divorcees to determine whether dreams were a useful aid in assisting with the trauma of the relationship breakdown.
Their findings concluded that most dreams were a continuation of waking thought but served no real purpose in solving everyday difficulties. One interesting aspect to come out of the study was that those divorcees who dreamed most about their problems surrounding the end of their relationship were less well adjusted one year down the track.
This would suggest that dreams act as an outlet valve for problems that we experience during waking hours. If we do not, or cannot, effectively deal with pressing problems in our lives we often dream about them during the night. This is what was found in the present study. However, what the study implies is that, by effectively dealing with issues that are causing us distress, we have less need to dream about them at night.
One conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that recurrent dreams about a particular issue are an indication that we are not facing and resolving that issue in real life. Alternatively, addressing our fears, choosing a better lifestyle, talking about our problems with friends, family, and even in formal counseling helps us to adapt and accept our new situation in life. Hence the frequency of dreaming about that particular issue will decrease.
Recurrent dreams on recurring themes may well be an indication of unresolved
issues in our lives. However, the “analysis” of dreams via
the array of so-called dream analysts in the media, while fun, is meaningless
and a waste of time and money. Those dreams that are of real importance
make themselves so clear to us that we are left in no doubt as to what
is causing the issues, as was found in this recent study on divorcees.
Dreams serve as a useful outlet for our day-to-day problems but recurrent distressing dreams with obvious themes are an indication that we are not dealing with our life problems and that we are “stuck.” What our dreams are telling us is that it is definitely time to talk by day so that we can sleep better at night!