Urs Truly was taught and trained in the axiom dreams mean something. Dr. Freud made mistakes – a few of the howlers – but he was spot-on the contents of dreams are able to tell us things of which we are not conscious. Some dreams, anyway. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes what’s parading around in your pumpkin in the wee hours of night is just scramble. [1] Dream interpretation done in the Freudian way is reductive viz. taking all the vague and disguised contents and distilling them down to an unconscious wish. [2] Spo-fans know I am a Jungian. Jung took a different approach to dreams. He used them like springboards to expand into conscious exploration. Dreams sometimes are personal (the Personal Unconscious) but often archetypal, something he called The Collective Unconscious.[3] Both fellows tried to make sense of something mankind has always been fascinated with: why do we dream and what do they mean? All cultures took dreams seriously. The Old Testament has Joseph providing dream analysis to Pharaoh to guide him in his life choices.

Of course all this was so, prior to learning how the brain works. We still don’t know exactly why we dream – or why we need sleep for that matter – but the most recent science supports the brain needs sleep to clean out the crap and form connections and memories: it’s down time to repair and coalesce. As neuroscience advances, the contents of dreams become less important compared to the form. [4] Other than some booklets for sale at the grocery store check out line with titles like ‘What your dreams mean’, no one seems interested anymore in dream analysis. Rather, they obsess with getting enough sleep and ‘REM’ time.

Mind! There is little if any good supportive evidence the content of dreams means anything; this is based on countless cases throughout time of folks/analysands making great insights to their worker of dreams. It isn’t science.

The notion dreams are just neuronal firing at night as the brain trying to repair and cleanse itself is both a comfort and a disappointment. I’m glad we are focusing on getting enough sleep. All the same there is a loss of individual humanity to throwing out looking at dream contents. No one dreams the same way and no one’s dream’s contents mean the same thing. They are as individual as fingerprints. I find it sad not using this unique and potentially knowledge-bringing tool delegated to the bottom of the medical tool box. Patients do not come to me anymore to do dream analysis; they come it get meds.

When I first entered Jungian psychoanalysis the psycholgist asked me a few preliminary questions and then said ‘tell me your dreams’. He was trying in his way to get to know me as an individual. It felt intimate.

Although I practice good sleep hygiene and am careful to get enough sleep, I seldom remember my dreams and when I do they are as mish-mashed as my hummingbird brain, no surprise. Once in awhile I get a ‘proper dream’ that makes me sit up and think and expand and learn about something.

So long as some folks are curious to learn about themselves, dream analysis remains in the tool box, not the most important one anymore but still a good one.

[1] Medicines serotonin-based like antidepressants are notorious for causing dreaming side effects. The two adjectives I often hear about are ‘vivid’ and ‘weird’. I tell thems dreaming on duloxetine to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

[2] Nearly always about sex or death. It’s pretty predictable.

[3] Overall more interesting and more fun than reducing everything down to child-parent conflicts.

[4] For thems who poo-poo the notion ‘dreams mean something’: a common symptom in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is recurring nightmares of the trauma or something similar to it. This is the wounded brain valiantly trying to work through the memory but unable to resolve the matter. Don’t tell folks with trauma-related dreams theirs don’t mean anything.