TCP Home PageSyllabi Class ExercisesLonger ProjectsBooks and ManualsEssaysSite Index
What follows are excerpts from the manual that William Sharp uses with his students.


Introduction to Dreams
Dream Lore
Culture and Dreams
Psychoanalytic (Freud's) Theory of Dreams
Jung's Theory of Dreams
Dream Assignments
Your Dream Journal
Tips to help you remember your dreams
Tips for dream analysis
Your Dream Theory

Introduction to Dreams

Dreams. They have been a part of the human psyche since before recorded time. They have been said to have different purposes at different times throughout the ages. Some divined messages from omnipotent beings in dreams, others later saw them as a window to the unconscious. Some dismiss them as nothing more than a biochemical reaction occurring as the brain rests, recovers, and resets itself from day to day. What do you think they mean? Should psychologists study dreams to see if they tell us something about human behavior? Do you take the behaviorists standpoint that since we can not directly study the contents of dreams, then they are not something that the SCIENCE of psychology should be concerned with. (Note: the behaviorists, therefore, are not mentioned anywhere else in this workbook.) In this "metatheoretical approach", you will begin to answer some of these questions, and develop your beliefs.

What should you take from this exercise then? Well, you will note some "themes" in psychology that we have discussed before in class. First, psychology is theoretically diverse. We will see that as you learn about the different orientations (approaches) in dealing with dreams. Second, you will see psychology evolved (and still evolves) in a sociohistoric context. It is with this second theme that we take a look at how dreams have been used in human history. Finally the "types" of dreams according to "pop" culture will be considered, before we begin to look at the major theoreticians in the field of psychology, mainly, Freud and his followers.

Dream Lore

Sigmund Freud is considered by many to be the impetus for studying dreams and the unconscious in psychology. His work with the neurotic of Vienna, however, provided a venue for others with similar ideas to express their beliefs. Closer examination of the human race reveals that there have always been dreams, and "analysts" for those dreams.

Freud was classically educated. He was probably aware of much of the following Dream Lore, and many biographers cite examples from Freud's own theories of "borrowing" from these early civilizations. His use of the Greek civilization is very apparent, as in his Oedipal and Edipus complexes. It is therefore appropriate the we look at the early civilizations, and what they believed dreams signified, to get a firm grasp of where we are today, and where your dream theory may be going.

Culture and Dreams

Babylonians -saw dreams as messages from the supernatural beings (good dreams came from the gods, bad dreams came from demons)

Assyrians -saw dreams as omens. Bad dreams demanded action, i.e. exorcisms. Other dreams were seen as "advice"

Egyptians -believed that the gods revealed themselves in dreams, demanding pious acts, or warning of impending doom

Greeks -dreams were good or bad. Sometimes, a treatment, or sleep ritual would be worked up to help incubate good dreams. This "treatment" would include abstaining from sex, meat, and drink. Dreams often told a prophecy. Aristotle postulated that dreams may be premonitions of an illness coming from within the body, where some "unconscious" mind recognized early symptoms, but the absolute sensation threshold had not been crossed to alert the "waking self". (Sounds like he was way ahead of his time, huh?) The Romans had similar beliefs.

Hebrews -dreams were a vision or prophecy from a god (keep in mind that we see monotheism emerging here)

Hindus -dreams are prophetic, and the timing of the dream will indicate how soon the prophecy will come to pass

Japanese -dreams are sought as visions to help answer questions that are plaguing the waking self. Usually the answers come from ancestral spirits.

Muslims -dreams and astrology are closely related in this culture. True dreams come from god, false ones from the devil.

Australian Aborigines -the spirits from underground rise and wander in the land of the living, and when they pass through a mortal being, a "greater vision" is momentarily acquired.. this would be what we call a dream

North American Indians -hidden wished of the soul are addressed and fulfilled in dreams. Visions can also be sought after in the hopes of answering a question or resolving a conflict.

Psychoanalytic (Freud's) Theory of Dreams

Dreams and Meanings

Dream interpretation requires that you ask the dreamer what he/she thinks the dream means. The first words out of their mouths are usually the most telling (significant, or important). There is no "quick reference" book available that can identify what objects in dreams symbolize. The objects undergo changes that only the individual can gain an understanding of, and the psychoanalyst can learn of through the "talking" cure.


There are obstacles that the patient's own unconscious throws up to keep the meanings of dreams hidden (remember, this is the function of dreams according to Freud). These obstacles can be in the form of forgetting the content of a dream, being uncooperative in analysis, censorship in what they do say about the dream, and other forms of resistance.

It is also important to realize that there are two levels to every dream. The MANIFEST and the LATENT content. The origin of the manifest content is easier to determine, and is generated by things like "day residue" (the left over remnants of the day that the mind uses as a stage to hide the deeper issues of a dream). The latent content is the one that is important for understanding the unconscious conflicts that the dreamer is experiencing. The latent or hidden part is where the greatest understanding can be uncovered.

RULES for Interpretations:

Types of Dreams

Dreams fall into one of the following categories, and serve these particular functions: 1) the satisfaction dream, 2) the impatience dream- where the dreamer dreams about being at a party or function, that is in the near future, that they "can not wait to get to" so the dream takes you there, and 3) the comfort dream


As stated, Freud would never write a "dreamers" dictionary, because you can not identify what each element of a dream is supposed to represent until you hear the patient talk and free associate. However, he did find that many times, certain "items" of the real world, were represented the same way between different people. Some of these "generalities" are listed here:

Jung's Theory of Dreams

A disciple and friend of Freud, Carl Jung was one of the elite in Freud's inner circle. He learned however, that you can admire Freud, use Freud's ideas, but you can not question them or attempt to change them. His ideas about a personal unconscious were synchronous with Freud's, but his theory that there was something beyond that, what he called a "collective unconscious" that all humans share (perhaps on some spiritual level) lead him to be booted out of the Freudian crew. Jung started his own movement, and began to look for universals, or "common themes, symbols, and ideas" that are present in all humankind (and for our concerns, all the aforementioned, dreams.) These Neo-Freudians (new Freudians as they are now categorized) continued to emphasize not only the individual (personal) unconscious, but also the collective unconscious.

In this reading, you will be exposed to some sample dreams, and see how Jung interprets them, often without even talking to the client, or knowing anything about them. Instead, he relies on his knowledge of the "traditional" or "shared" human conflicts.

Some of the terminology you will need to read this section and understand the Jungian approach, are listed below.

archetypes - emotionally charged images and thoughts, that have universal meaning, irregardless of who expresses them

anima vs animus - the female v maleness issues that all humans face. Jung believed that no one is all male or all female, but rather some percentage of each (a theory that holds water according to most modern psychologists). This will cause a struggle that everyone has to deal with. This type of "dichotomy" is common in Jungian analysis.

Dream Assignments

Analyze one of your dreams, categorizing it into one of the "types" that you read about in the introduction section. Write a one paragraph interpretation of what it means (the whole dream or parts) or why you believe it doesn't mean anything (note: if this is the case, what are dreams for you? Why?

Analyze one of your dreams from a pure Freudian perspective. Write a two to three paragraph interpretation of what it means (the whole dream or parts). Use the terminology from this section of your readings whenever possible.

For this analysis, you may want to reference a couple of your dreams. Write a one to two paragraph essay on some common themes your listed dreams may represent, concentrating on issues, conflicts, or concerns that are shared by everyone (universals).

Your Dream Journal

Sigmund Freud said "Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious". He wrote several books on dreams, dream content, and dream interpretation. Everybody dreams, though there are those who say they do not. This is perhaps because they cannot recall their dreams. Most dreams occur during REM sleep, which takes up about 25% of total sleep time and occurs on an average of every 90 minutes. This exercise is designed to help you become more aware of your dreams, how often you dream, and what (if anything) can you learn from your dreams.

First, staple several sheets of loose leaf paper together, around 10 should suffice (not pages ripped out of a spiral notebook), or get a small steno pad. This is going to be your dream journal.

You will be making entries in these as described below.

Grades will be based on: following directions, insights gained, and thoroughness. Late assignments for reasons other than illness will not be accepted. If you have any questions, please see me IN ADVANCE of the due date. Start recording your dreams right away, and continue until you have about 4 to 5 reams.

PART I. Sleeping Dreams

Before falling asleep, DECIDE you are going to remember your dreams. Be patient; it may take a night or 2 for your unconscious to get the message. The most important thing to remember is that EVERYONE dreams and that once you believe you will remember them, you will!

Keep the journal and a pen close to your bed and write down dreams you recall immediately, without interpretation. You may have more than one entry per night (everyone dreams between 4 and 6 times) of varying lengths (REM sleep gets longer, therefore, your dreams get longer later on in night).

What should you record? Basically everything, uncensored, as you remeber them... do not worry about proper english for this part. To be more specific write down:>

If it's to difficult to record a part of the dream in writing, sketch a picture.

Part II. Written Report

Once you have about 4-5 dreams in your journal, try to analyze them using the following questions as guides (but feel to create your own "questions" also).

In other words, what did you learn about yourself by writing in the journal?

Write a thesis statement, and support it with references directly from your dreams (you may even refer to a particular date of a dream and tell the reader to go to certain lines.) Summarize the dreams you discuss in your report. Consider comparing settings, plots, characters, emotions, and colors.

The report should be in essay/paragraph form. Do not just write sentences answering each question, rather have a thesis in mind that connects all the individual ideas.

The journal may be handwritten. If there are any dream entries that you do not want read, please mark these "Personal" across the top of the pages. The written report is to be types, around 2 pages, double spaced.

Hand in all three parts by the due date.

Tips to help you remember your dreams:

Tips for dream analysis:

Ask yourself the following Questions:

Your Dream Theory

This is the major element of this project. Once you have completed the entire workbook and readings on the different approaches, you will develop your own theory, using the criteria below and your own, as a guide.

It will help you to go back and reread your individual dream analysis's. Think about how you felt while you were writing them. Did you agree or disagree with some of the requirement of the approach? This should help you decide what you want to include and exclude from you theory.

Once that is done, you may begin writing your theory. This is to be typed, and turned in with your completed workbook, and dream journal.

General Guidelines

These questions are to help you begin organizing your thoughts about your theory. You may change the order in which you address them and add your own points as necessary. REMEMBER- this paper is to be in paragraph form!!!! Do not just answer the questions and turn in a "choppy" and illogical report. Good Luck, and I look forward to reading your theory.

1) Define your theoretical orientation

2) Outline the theory
3) Analyze One of your Dreams

You may transcribe a simulated session between counselor and client or take an approach similar to what you have done in this workbook, however complete the entire analysis, not the abridged version that we did here.

The length of the paper will be determined by the depth of your theory. Please make sure you address all points. I suppose that most papers will be between 3 and 4 pages.

Syllabi Class ExercisesLonger ProjectsBooks and ManualsEssaysSite Index

back to the Teaching Clinical Psychology home page