Dreaming is an experience that has fascinated people for a very long time. Although researches about dreams have been limited in the past, it has developed tremendously in its field of science. There are many explanations why people dream, but there are three main theoretical explanations for why there is dreaming: the biological view, the cognitive view, and the psychoanalytic view. I will be assessing a dream of my own, using all three perspectives. All three views have been debated thoroughly in the past, but it is the psychoanalytic view that has created the most attention to me. In the end, I will show why I find the psychoanalytic view most valuable.
I recently had a very simple dream of going fishing with my dad at a lake. The dream was very vivid, in that I went through a series of steps. The initial step was setting up the fishing gear, the second step was the actual fishing, and the last step was catching fish. I frequently have this dream and it has reoccurred throughout my life. Maybe dissecting my dream with these three theories will help explain why I dream of this so frequently.
Perhaps one of the most important discoveries for neurobiology of dreams occurred in 1953. It was the discovery of the rapid eye movement(REM)(Piero, 3). REM is a stage of sleep marked by rapid eye movements, high frequency brain waves, and dreaming (Huffman, 144). It is this stage that influenced the coming of the first theory I will talk about, the biological view or also known as the activation-synthesis hypothesis. It was Alan Hobson and Robert W. McCarley in 1977, who showed that most physiological and cognitive characteristics of REM sleep are associated with the same brainstem physiological control system that activates body and mind in the waking state (Antrobus, 2). In other words as certain cells in the sleep center of the brain stem are activated during REM sleep, the brain struggles to make sense out of random stimulation by manufacturing dreams (Huffman, 147). So when I dreamt of fishing on a lake with my dad, my brain was just processing an experience when I was in my waking state. This seems logical because I frequently go fishing, therefore explaining why I would dream of this particular situation.
The second theory explaining dreams is the cognitive view. The cognitive view states that dreams are a form of information processing, that help people sift and sort our experiences, solve problems, and think creatively. That dreams are an extension of everyday lifea form of thinking during sleep (Huffman, 150). One way this view may be applied to my dream was that my brain was trying to solve a problem. The information that it is trying to sort out is how to catch a fish in my dream. It is very clear the steps that I go through are in order to solve a problem. It goes through clear steps of special techniques while fishing and certain setups of the fishing line. These two are very important while fishing that could be the difference between having no fishes to a lot at the end of the day. This would explain why I am constantly dreaming of fishing. I am trying to figure out how to catch a lot of fish.
One of the oldest and I find most interesting theory is the psychoanalytic view or called wish fulfillment theory. This theory was presented by Freud, which suggests that dreams are disguised symbols of repressed desires and anxieties (Huffman, 149). What I find interesting about this theory is how it believes that dreams have a direct relationship with peoples wishes. Unfortunately, most people focus on the content of dreams than the form of dreaming. This would impact Freuds work because scientist were looking for the meaning, rather than for the source(Piero, 3). I find this theory most valuable because if the source is suppressed anxieties, and the dreams help your body relieve some, it is very important or else one might have a breakdown.
Reasons why I may have manifested fishing on a lake could possibly mean that I am releasing some suppressed desires. Something that would have provoked me to dream of fishing would be because I have not gone fishing lately due to schooling. This longing to go fishing may have created a desire that would carry to my dreams. So then, the latent content or true meaning of the dream is my suppressed anger towards not being able to go fishing anymore.
Recently new findings were uncovered to give some truth behind Freuds hypothesis. Using positron emission topography (PET), Allen Braun of the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found that the limbic and paralimbic regions of the brain were highly active during REM sleep. In addition areas of the prefrontal cortex, were inactive (Carpenter, 2). There are many parts of this research that may help support Freuds theory. The data are consistent with a number of elements of classical Freudian theory, Braun says.
Still many people are skeptical to these new finding. But it is still exciting to see the advancements of the research. All three theories are very important in that they help provide a path to new discoveries in this infant field of dreams.
Huffman, Vernoy, and Judith Vernoy. Psychology in Action.
New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1987.
Antrobus, John. Dream Theory 1997: Toward a Computational
Neurocognitive Model. http://bisleep.medsch.ucla.edu/srs/antrobus.html. 1997.
Carpenter, Siri. American Psychological Association (APA),