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Laney College Jennifer Iljas

What Dreams May Come

Evan Hiraga

Section 41511
A clock shows 15.7 seconds. A crowd shouts and yells things I don’t understand.

I am huddled on the sideline with the team watching my coach draw up a play for the

winning basket. A horn sounds as we jog back to the court. I glance at the scoreboard.

We are down by one point. The ball is in-bounded, as I free myself from the defender

and call for the ball. With the ball in hand I look up at the clock showing 7, 6, and 5. I

jab with my left foot as the defender slowly backs away. I quickly transfer the ball from

my left to my right hand and drive towards the hoop, past my defender. My legs feel

strong and I quickly plant both feet, feeling that I can jump higher then any defender. I

extend my right arm in the air with the ball in hand, as I soar to the basket. The basket

disappears as I open my eyes, lying in bed. It was just a dream.

Dreams are a part of everyone’s everyday life. Our dreams consist of images

and events that sometimes feel like we are living another life in a different world. In our

dreams we can be anybody we want to be or do anything we want to do. Sometimes our

dreams can be scary and traumatizing, other times it can be filled with joy and happiness.

In either scenario, scary or joyful, when we awake that we tend to contemplate and

question why did we just dream that or what did that dream mean. The mind in an

unconscious state, like when we dream, has been always mysterious and a debatable

topic. There are numerous reasons and justifications that psychologist and other people

use to rationalize and give meaning to why we dream. Even more debatable are the many

reasons why we dream certain things and how it relates to ourselves. I will briefly

discuss the physiology of dreaming and how our brain produces images while we sleep. I

will also give background into some of the many theories behind our dreams.

To first understand when and how we dream, we must understand our sleep cycle

and how our body achieves a dream state. A sleep cycle consists of four stages of sleep

that repeat themselves when you are sleeping. Dreams can occur in any of the four stages

of sleep, but most of the dreams we remember are during the fourth stage of sleep also

known REM sleep or rapid-eye movements. Each stage consists of different levels of

brain waves as well as different levels of body functions. The beginning stages comprise

of alpha waves, which are the brain waves we emit while we are awake. These waves

became small and irregular as we drift into deeper sleep. Our body tends to relax, as our

body temperature decreases and our heart rate slows, as it prepares to repair the body.

The beginning stages of sleep are also known as NREM or non-rapid eye movements as

opposed to the last stage of REM sleep. During the last stage of sleep, delta waves are

dominant and our body is in a deep sleep. This stage is also the most restorative part of

sleep and occurs at about 90-100 minutes after the onset of sleep (,


The sleep cycle repeats itself about an average of four to five times per night, but

may repeat as many as seven times (, 2009). Throughout the night as

the sleep cycle repeats, you spend less time in stages 1 to 3 and more time dreaming in

stage 4. Thus, you can have several dreams per night. Most of the time we remember

the last dream we have if we are awakened during REM sleep. Sometimes we wake up

and can’t remember a dream at all. Just because you can’t remember your dreams

doesn’t mean you didn’t have a dream. With a good nights rest and without any outside

influences everyone dreams as they sleep.

One of the theories behind the influence of our dreams is the Activation Synthesis

Theory proposed by Allan Hobson. This theory states that the waves that are produced

during the dream state originate from the lower brainstem and travel to the primary visual

cortex. These brainwaves serves as a powerful unstructured stimulus in which the

sleeping brain seeks meaning, finding it in the creation of the images that we experience

as dreams (Iljas, 2009). More recently David Kahn, Stanley Krippner, and Alan Combs

stated that the dreaming brain “relaxes” into natural patterns of self-organized activity,

which often reflects the residual moods, stresses and concerns of waking life (Iljas,

2009). This means that our brain activity during sleep is very organized and influenced

by the way we are feeling at the time. They also theorize that brain activity creates

certain patterns that cause our dreams to form.

Physiologically brain waves that our body produces as it is asleep has great affect

on the dreams we produce. Certain patterns create certain images, which is why we

dream. Yet, there is still great debate on what actually is the cause of our dream content.

Why is it that we have happy dreams one night or sad dreams another? Considered the

father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud revolutionized the study of dreams with his

book The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud and his followers considered dreams to be the

primary tools of self-analysis as well an important aspect of their treatment (Ringel,

2002). He believed that humans were driven by sexual and aggressive instinct and every

action and thought is motivated by your unconscious at some level. During the times we

are conscious we have the ability to hold back our sexual and aggressive instincts, thus

having dreams in order to release those instincts that we tend to hold back when we are

conscious. Freud was the founder of Freudian psychology, which views human behavior

as a dynamic interplay of what is termed id, or endless desires; ego or some sense of

discipline, that delays gratification; and the super ego, that part of us that incorporates our

societal and parental values (Iljas, 2009). When you are awake the id is suppressed by

your superego, but through dreams you lose the ego and superego and are controlled only

by the id. This is because in the dream state you have no control and you have the

opportunity to act out and express the hidden desires of the id.

Others like Thomas French and Erika Fromm had other ideas about the reasons

for our dream content. They believed that dreams were related or linked to a person’s

actual life. Most of the time our dreams are problems that need to be solved, or fantasies

that need to be uncovered. This was also very similar to the view of Alfred Adler, who

believed that dreams are an important tool to mastering control over your waking lives

(, 2009). He believed that dreams brought better understanding to

problems on your conscious. Also dreams were an open pathway toward your true

thoughts, emotions, and actions. Similar to Freud, Adler believed that in your dreams it

is easier to do things that you normally might not do when you are conscious.

Another psychologists Frederick Perls believed that dreams contain the rejected,

disowned parts of the self. Dreams promote greater self-awareness and insight. Every

character and every object in a dream represents an aspect of the self. Each dream is

unique to the individual who dreamt it and there is no universal meaning to the dreams

we have. These dreams also help with self and interpersonal communication. Another

theory of dreams relating to self-psychology is that dreams have been seen to represent

one’s sense of self and to have an important role in integrating fragmented and

disconnected self-states (Ringel, 2002).

There are also many other interpretations to the meanings of our dream content.

Others interpret dreams of having problem-solving functions. Dreams offer resolutions

to problems that you have on your conscious when you are awake. Traumatic events

often cause dreams that reflect problems that have not yet been resolved. Dreams can

offer a way to experience these problems in a safe environment and give ways on how to

resolve these issues. Others claim that dreams also contain material about issues that are

most important and/or most threatening at the time. They reveal the dreamers immediate

concerns. Sometimes dreams can also act as a metaphor for the patient’s inner life,

relational experiences, and the transference-counter transference interplay (Ringel, 2002).

I believe that many of my dreams relate to the theories of French and Fromm, that

dreams are related to actual life. But I also think that dreams are related to our inner

desires and aggressive instincts that Freud had originally theorized. I feel that our dreams

contain double meanings. For example the dream that I mentioned in the beginning of

my paper was related to my life in that I was playing high school basketball at the time.

But there was also a deeper meaning of wanting to be aggressive and soar higher in

competition and in life, but afraid of taking the risks and having the outcome be decided

by my hands. Until the end of time there will always be a debate on the meanings

behind our dreams. I believe that Perls is correct that each dream has a unique meaning

to the individual and only the individual has the ability to decipher their dreams. For

myself I will not dwell to much into the meanings of my dream, but instead enjoy them

and share them, for I know there will always be more dreams to come.


An Online Guide To Dream Interpretation. (2009, September 3). Retrieved October 12,

2009, from

Iljas, J. (2009). Introduction to Psychology. United States of America: Iljas-Angel



Social Work Journal, 30(4), 359-367.