[Research knowledge] Why do we dream?

Published by Medical Students' Association of Rwanda on

According to Freud Sigmund, a man had simply believed dreams to be a manifestation of a higher power, either demonic or divine. However, this notion, claiming that dreams come from individual’s own self was rejected. Dreams are normally influenced by an event occurring within the last twenty-four hours, or as Freud called it, the “dream day.” This Freudian notion of dreams coming from a person’s own self soon became widely recognized, “Today only a small minority of educated people doubt that dreams are a product of the dreamer’s own mind.” (143) To support this theory he said that the unconscious causes our dreams. He also claimed that the mind has three fundamental structures: the ego ,part of our mind that deals with the world, the id ,which is where the energy of the mind comes from and is always striving to achieve its desires, and the superego which is the source of conscious and serves as a buffer from the relentless drives of the id. When we sleep the superego weakens and allows more of the id to reach the ego. Freud points to this as the result of dreams. The ego becomes flooded with desires from the id and then produces dreams. Therefore, dreams originate in a part of our mind, which is kept in check, while awake, by the superego.

In addition to researching about the origin of dreams, we also focused on the nature of dreams. Dreams are classified based on two characteristics, the manifest content and the latent content. The manifest content in a dream is the part that can be clearly recalled while latent content is the dream that we do not remember which is considered part of the unconscious. Thus, the overall content of a dream is usually derived from repressed memories or thoughts. During sleep, our deep unconscious mind is able to reach the ego, allowing repressed thoughts to influence our dreams. This implies that our dreams are never random, but created by things we have repressed within our mind. If what make its way into the content of dreams are impressions as well as material which are indifferent and trivial rather than justifiably stirring and interesting, that is only the effect of the process of displacement.” (156) Dreams are important and meaningful, and that only through displacement can it appear otherwise. All dreams come from one’s self and represent repressed feelings and thoughts.

Another major aspect concerning the nature of dreams involves three types of dreams identified by Freud which are intelligible dreams, bewildering dreams, disconnected dreams. Intelligible dreams can easily be understood and fit within the context of our mental life. Bewildering dreams can be recounted but do not relate to your life. The confused, disconnected, and meaningless dream is the most common type of dream and has the strongest manifest and latent content. “The contrast between the manifest and latent content of dreams is clearly of significance only for dreams of the second and more particularly the third category.” (149) because we do not fully understand the second or third type of dream, psychoanalysis must be used to reveal the latent content. Thus, these different types of dreams play a role in determining the nature of our dreams in terms of how they relate to manifest and latent content.

In order to understand the content of dreams, dream-work deals with the idea of displacement. Displacement causes dream content to have a different center from the dream-thoughts. Freud uses displacement in the process of dream-work. Displacement helps move from latent content to manifest content. Analysis of dreams undoes displacement, allowing us to obtain truth between the instigators of dreams and their connection to waking life. Henceforth, it is important to use psychoanalysis to ensure that displacement doesn’t mask the true meaning of a dream.

Furthermore, the transformation of latent dream-thoughts into manifest dream-content is important because it is the change to a mode of expression we can understand. In order to get from latent to manifest content a process called dream-work is needed. “It follows that the dream-work is not creative, that it develops no phantasies of its own, that it makes no judgements and draws no conclusions; it has no functions whatever other than condensation and displacement of the material and its modification to pictorial form.” (162) this quote represents the role that dream-work plays in interpreting dreams. It should only analyze what the dreamer remembers and help move from the latent content to the manifest content.


Dream composition is another crucial part in the process of dream-work .This part demonstrates how some dreams work. By observing the dream composition, a person can reveal the origin of the activity in their dream and fully understand the purpose or meaning of the dream. Dream composition can also serve to confuse a person if it is set up in a way that doesn’t readily make sense. This can cause us to misinterpret a dream by trying to relate it to something already known to us. “Its function would then consist of arranging the dream constituents in a way that they form an approximately connected whole, dream composition. In this way the dream is given a kind of façade and thus receives a first, preliminary interpretation, which is supported by interpolations.” (161) this quote demonstrates how dream composition can either help interpret dreams, or create false conclusions about a dream.

The final aspect of dreams focuses on the function of dreams in our lives. One purpose  of dreams is providing fulfillment of our fantasies and wishes by allowing our minds to believe they have acquired a wish within a dream. An example of this is demonstrated by Freud’s dream on page 140 where he learns that Otto is responsible for Irma’s pain and not him. The dream provided wish fulfillment for him and was motivated by a wish. “Dreams which are intelligible and have a meaning, we have found that they are undisguised wish-fulfilments; that is, that in their case the dream-situation represents as fulfilled a wish which is known to consciousness, which is left over from daytime life, and which is deservedly of interest.” (165) Therefore one function of dreams is to fulfill people’s wishes that they are unable to obtain in their daytime lives.

In addition to fulfilling our wishes, dreams act as a method for protecting sleep from disturbances. Dreams make it easier for our mind to succumb to sleep because it is still able to work and strive for its desires through the process of dreaming. Therefore, our minds can find ease in this knowledge, making it easier for people to fall asleep. Another way dreams protect sleep is by distracting us from external stimuli or noises. Dreams will either incorporate an external noise into our dream or provide internal stimuli for our minds to focus on. “Every dream which occurs immediately before the sleeper is awaken by a loud noise has made an attempt at explaining away the arousing stimulus by providing another explanation of it and has thus sought to prolong sleep, even if only for a moment.” (169) this quote demonstrates how dreams can effectively serve as protection for sleep. I myself often find that when my alarm sounds in the morning, there is often a buzzing noise present in my dream that is created by a different object such as a microwave or a bell. However, once I wake up I realize that the real source of the buzzing noise is, sadly my alarm clock. This is an example of Freud’s theory that dreams function as a means for protecting sleep.

Overall, Freud made many great advances in the field of psychoanalysis, but none have influenced later generations as much as his work with the unconscious mind. His theories on the origin, nature, and function of dreams are still widely accepted today and held in high regard. His work revealed that dreams are the production of our own minds, stemming from repressed thoughts. Manifest and latent content of dreams were used by Freud to explain the nature of our dreams along with the three distinct types. Furthermore, he explained the function of our dreams as a mean of wish fulfillment and sleep protection. More than sixty-eight years after his death, Freud is still a prominent and leading figure in the ever-going study of men’s minds.


This article was written by SCOPH dream team with purpose of giving people access to information regarding the origin, nature, and function of dreams as many do not agree on the truth behind the dreams.


you can access audio to listen here:audioSCOPH

Here below is the link for reference.


Done by Niyigena Eric.

Categories: Uncategorized

1 Comment

Serge · July 11, 2020 at 8:01 pm

Well done team, I didn’t know about this but the Ego Id superego thing makes sence!! Kudos

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