Motivation and emotion/Book/2013/Dreams and emotion

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Dreams and emotion:
What do dreams reveal about our emotions?

What is a dream?[edit | edit source]

A dream is a sequence of visual images, ideas and emotions that happen unwillingly in our mind. Dreams occur generally in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) state of sleep. This is due to the fact that the brain is highly active and shows the same activity whilst in REM sleep as being awake. However, dreams can occur during other stages of sleep but these dreams are often not remembered.

  • Dreams can play a role in problem solving. (Schredl, 2000)
  • Dreams provide an array of ideas. (Schredl, 2000)
  • Dreams can last for a few seconds up to 20 minutes.
  • People tend to remember their dreams if they wake up during or straight after the occurrence of one.

FACT: Dreams reveal hidden truths.

  • The average amount of dreams that a person has at nighttime is about three to five.
  • Dreams are the connections between the conscious mind to the unconscious mind. (Schredl, 2000)
  • Dreams are unstructured releases of patterns when the brain is associating with memories previously thought whilst sleeping. (Schredl, 2000)
  • Sleep quality is an extremely important aspect in maintaining a positive well-being and a healthy mental state (Simor et al., 2011).
  • The more people in your dream that appear means that you are a fascination with many people than just a single individual.
  • 80% of dreams are of negatively based emotions and 95% of dreams are not remembered. (Domhoff, 2005)
  • People that dream about social encounters and their intentions with others prepares the person for social events and makes them more confident and less insecure. (Selterman & Drigotas, 2009)

People who have thin boundaries (also known as the dream people) remember their dreams and they generally have more dramatic dreams than people with thick boundaries (also known as the thought people). (Hartmann & Kunzendorf, 2007) This is because people with thin boundaries cannot differentiate between their self identity compared to others and those in their fantasied dreams. (Hartmann & Kunzendorf, 2007) They are creative people and they can easily be manipulated to think unrealistic things.Thin boundary people confuse the everyday life to the fantasies that they believe in. (Hartmann & Kunzendorf, 2007) Whereas, thick boundary people know the difference between the reality and fantasy. They are well aware of their sense of identify and do not confuse themselves to others. (Ernest Hartmann, 2008)

One of the most common dreams that helped a man called Kekule invent the structure of the benzene molecule was when he dreamt of snakes chasing their tails and putting them in their mouths. (Ernest Hartmann, 2008) Another famous dream that helped Elias Howe invent the sewing machine was that he dreamt of being boiled in a pot by native people of which were holding spears and they were dancing around him whilst putting holes in everything. (Ernest Hartmann, 2008)

Types of dreams[edit | edit source]

  • Daydreaming: a daydream is a visual fantasy that occurs when you are awake. (Pesant & Zadra, 2006)
  • Nightmares: a nightmare is a dream that makes the person feel a negative emotional reaction in the mind. (Pesant & Zadra, 2006)Feelings such as terror, anxiousness and sadness. Most dreams and nightmares occur during REM sleep. (Levin & Nielsen, 2009)
  • Night Terrors: Night terrors are similar to nightmares however it is a disorder and generally happens in childhood years. It causes the feelings of terror or fear. (Pesant & Zadra, 2006)
  • Anxiety Dream: is when someone experiences a dream that makes him or her feel anxious and distressed upon waking up. Anxiety dreams occur during REM sleep. Anxiety dreams have an important function of waking up the person when the ego is overworked and resets the ego to neutral. However, people who are dealing with stressful dreams means that they are suffering stress and anxiety in their waking life. (Schredl, 2000)
  • Lucid Dreaming: Lucid dreaming is when one is cognitively aware that they are sleeping over a prolonged period of time (Simor et al., 2011). Lucid dreaming means that someone can take control of their actions, events, and characters in the dream.

What is an emotion?[edit | edit source]

In 1884, William James started an ongoing argument with other scientists about what the definition of emotion is. However, there are numerous ways people have tried to describe what emotion means. Scientists of all disciplines argued with the meaning of emotion. (Scherer, 2005) Scherer defined an emotion as

Emotions are caused from a significant event or person that has impacted on your life. (Izard, 1993) eg. someone close to you passing away influences the feeling of sadness. But what is the difference between emotion, feelings, attitudes and mood? Feeling is known as the synonym of emotion and is described as the sensation of touching something or someones heart. (Izard, 1993) Attitudes are the morals and beliefs that someone has towards certain situations and people. (Scherer, 2005) Mood is a state of mind where someone feels different feelings with or without reason and can last up to a few days. (Scherer, 2005)

Freud's theory & discovery[edit | edit source]

Sigmund Freud 1856 - 1939

Freud believed that dreams are the safe way of releasing thoughts and act as manager of emotional levels. (Bell & Cook, 1998)

The id, ego & superego[edit | edit source]

Id: is the unconscious component of the mind that takes care of human drives such as hunger, sexual desires etc. (Doige, 2002) The Id influences the mediation of any impulse that would ease the desire. (Doige, 2002) For example, if someone were extremely hungry: the Id would make him or her start without any manners because the Id is primarily all about releasing that desire.

Ego: is the mediator of reality and the Id and the superego. (Doige, 2002)

Superego: is the part of the brain that has been taught of moral and cultural values. (Doige, 2002) For example, a parent teaches their son to always stand up on the bus if an elderly lady has no seat and the lady takes their seat. The superego would reinforce this moral and make the boy participate in this action. (Doige, 2002)

Therefore, the Id is the self gratificator, the superego behaves in morally and socially acceptable behaviour and the ego has to maintain and associate them both to work together. (Doige, 2002)

Psychoanalytic dream interpretation[edit | edit source]

Dream interpretation “is the process of explaining the meaning of the way the unconscious thoughts and emotions are processed in the mind during sleep.” (Sigmund Freud, 1899)

Freud focused on the preconscious, conscious and unconscious mind.

  • Conscious: is all the feelings, emotions that can be easily retrieved at any time. (Izard, 1993)
  • Preconscious: is the storage place for all emotions and feelings. (Izard, 1993)
  • Unconscious: is the most important part of the mind. This part of the mind stores all information (long term) such as childhood experiences and desires. (Thwaites,2007)

Freud believed that dreams provide an easy pathway to the unconscious mind.

Freud broke the dreams into two categories:

  • the manifested content: which is the information remembered when we wake up (Thwaites,2007)
  • the latent content: which is the information of the dream that we do not remember. (Thwaites,2007)
    • Latent content is broken up into three sections:
      • The sensory imprints during the night
      • The left over memories prior to dreaming
      • The id’s drives that are part of the individuals thought processes. (Thwaites,2007)

Jung's theory of dreaming[edit | edit source]

Jungs theory of dream interpretation:

  • Dreams are messages from the unconscious mind that is alarming you of what mistakes you are making in life. (Ernest Jones, 1910)
  • Dreams protect your insanity and mental health by informing you of what you need to fix for your safety. (Ernest Jones, 1910)
  • Dreams can reflect what may happen in the future or the mood you were in the day before you went to sleep. (Ernest Jones, 1910)

REM sleep and dreams[edit | edit source]

  • Emotional adaptation (EA) is the relationship between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the occurrence of emotional stimuli. (Lara-Carrasco et al., 2008)
  • REM sleep facilitates many emotional memories and these memories influence the quality of sleep and the emotions that arise from them (Simor et al., 2011).
  • People that are high in deprivation of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep have greater chances of negative pictures when they are aroused than those who are low in deprivation of REM sleep. (Lara-Carrasco et al., 2008)
  • REM sleep increases negative emotions when you wake up in the morning.(Lara-Carrasco et al., 2008)
  • Studies have shown that negative emotions in dreams are more prominent than positive ones. The emotions that are most commonly felt are fear and anxiety. (Lara-Carrasco et al., 2008)
  • Research believes that going to bed after a stressful event or having the feeling of stress can influence the chances of having bad dreams or nightmares.(Lara-Carrasco et al., 2008)
  • Strong REM sleep is associated with negative emotions during the morning evaluation then people who have more of a slow wave sleep. (Lara-Carrasco et al., 2008)
  • Studies suggest the REM sleep can increase the reoccurrence of negative emotional dreams and stimuli. Also researchers believe that deprivation of REM sleep can inhibit the chances of negative emotions in dreams. (Lara-Carrasco et al., 2008)

Relationship between emotions & dreams?[edit | edit source]

  • Aggressiveness: People who are very aggressive tend to fantasize and think about aggressive behaviour during the day however their dreams may not always be aggressive. (Bell & Cook, 1998)
  • Sexual dreams: people who have frequent sexual behavior dreams do not necessarily participate in frequent sexual activity. However, they usually participate in frequent masturbation and fantasise about sexual activities. (Bell & Cook, 1998)
  • Dominance and Aggression: People who are highly aggressive or dominate have a high positive correlation in relation to having bad dreams/nightmares. (Bell & Cook, 1998)
  • High in expression: people who are high in expression in day-to-day activities and are very enthusiastic experience more sexual and angry dreams. (Scherer, 2005)
  • Anxious: people who are anxious have extremely intense images and have more dreams each week and their dreams are longer in duration. (Selterman & Drigotas, 2009)

These are a few emotions that you may feel in your dreams and are examples of what they might mean:

  • Afraid: if you are dreaming that you are afraid this means that you are feeling incompetent, self-doubt and have a fear of something in waking life.
  • Aggression: Aggression in dreams means you have sexual frustrations and desire in waking life. (Bell & Cook, 1998)
  • Anger: if you experience anger in your dreams this means that you are in an awful situation in waking life. It also means that someone close to you will let you down. If others are angry at you in your dream, this means that your friendship or association with them is struggling.
  • Betrayal: if you dream of being betrayed by someone whether it would be in a serious relationship or friendship. This usually means that you are insecure of your feelings and can be going through major commitments in your life.
  • Depression: people who are depressed in waking life have dreams of depression or nightmares. Make note of the things that are influencing you in the dreams that are making you depressed as this can be related to waking life.
  • Distress: dreaming that you are in distress by yourself or with others means that something in your waking life is making you unhappy or worried.
  • Envy: When dreaming about being envious of something or someone else this is related to unconscious thoughts of this thing or person. If you dream of other people being envious of you then you are very self-confident and think a lot of yourself.
  • Hunger: dreaming that you are hungry means that you are unsatisfied with a department of your life whether it would be financial income, relationship etc.
  • Lazy: dreaming that you are lazy means that you are emotionally drained in waking life.
  • Love: dreaming of love means that you are satisfied and happy in your waking life. Also means that you are content in your relationship.
  • Sad: dreaming that you are sad is related to having the feeling of sadness in your waking life. You may be disappointed in your self and are way too hard on yourself.

(all referenced from Scherer, 2005)

Cultural and ancient meanings of dreams[edit | edit source]

Dreams date back to the 5000-4000BC. They believed in the culture of Greek and Roman, that dreams were messages directly from the gods or people who have deceased and that of which predicted the future. Also in many other cultures, dreams were a decision-making skill that helped them decide there path in life. (Ernest Hartmann, 2008)

Romantic relationships and how they relate to our dreams?[edit | edit source]

Individuals who are in a romantic relationship are different with their feelings of attachment security and this causes negative emotions in their relationship.

  • If the persons in the relationship are slightly insecure it causes stress and jealousy in ones dreams. (Schredl, 2012)
  • Partners that were anxious in there relationships experience more stress and anxiety in their dreams. (Schredl, 2012)

Studies have shown that there are gender differences between romantic partners and their dream thought patterns. The man in the relationship has more frequent dreams about their romantic partner and their dreams are of sexual erotic themes compared to the female in the relationship. (Schredl, 2012)

People that are in relationships process their everyday emotions and thoughts into their dreams and they correlate positively. If they are unhappy with their partner, it continues on into the dream and causes negative emotions to occur. (Selterman & Drigotas, 2009) Having anxiety in your relationships influenced significantly with the feeling of jealously in dreams. Women also experience more negative emotions than the male in the relationship. (Selterman & Drigotas, 2009)

Gender and age differences with dreams[edit | edit source]

Age differences

Research shows that age is a contributing factor to the amount of dreams an individual stimulates. St-Onge et al. (2005) suggests that the occurrence of dreams decreases with age. They performed a study on older women compared to college women. Studies showed that females who attended college had a greater variety of dreams compared to elderly women (St-Onge et al., 2005). Researchers also discovered that elderly women experience more emotions of joy, and happiness compared to college women who experienced more of the emotions of fear, anger and anxiousness (St-Onge et al., 2005). The amount of dreams that the young women have was much more frequent than the older women. However, when the elder women experienced a dream their emotions were regulated more positively then the younger women (St-Onge et al., 2005).

St-Onge et al. (2005) also investigated the location of the applicant sleeping and whether this will influence the emotions inflicted on the woman whilst asleep. The locations that they tested were the Laboratory and the Home. The younger women experienced more emotions when they were sleeping in the laboratory compared to the older women (St-Onge et al., 2005). The older women experienced less emotional dream recall when they were situated in the laboratory. The final results of the location study of emotional dream recall was that more negative emotions were impacted on the younger female when they were situated at the laboratory compared to when they were situated in the home and also compared to the older females (St-Onge et al., 2005). In the laboratory a higher amount of positive dreams were recorded for both older and younger females (St-Onge et al., 2005). Therefore, the location is of a lessor impact on females and their emotional dream recall compared to the age differences between older and younger females (St-Onge et al., 2005).

Gender differences

You may have speculated that women dream more than men due to the fact that they verbally communicate their emotions. Schredl (2010) demonstrated a study comparing males to females. Significant findings were found to the relationship that women do dream more frequently due to the fact that they are poorer sleepers and wake more regularly during the night. People who suffer from insomnia do have higher frequency of dream recall due to their increased awakenings at nighttime. (Schredl, 2010)

Neuroticism is a significant contributing factor to high frequency of dream recall. Neuroticism and depression are positively correlated of people recording more negative based dreams. (Schredl, 2010)

Another contributing factor is that people who are more in touch with their emotions and are more interested in their dreams actually have a higher dream recall due to the fact that they are interested in finding out what their dreamt meant compared to people who don't care. People who are generally interested in their dream recall are women as they are more in touch with their emotions. (Schredl, 2010)

Mindfulness[edit | edit source]

Mindfulness is a state of focused attention and awareness and is a skill that helps increase the importance of well-being (Simor et al., 2011). Mindfulness helps reduce the levels of stress, and enhances positive emotions (Simor et al., 2011). Mindfulness is related to positive quality of sleep (Simor et al., 2011). Studies have shown that having an improved quality of sleep is related to having a high level of mindfulness (Simor et al., 2011). Having a low level of mindfulness can lead to increased risks of anxiety disorders (Simor et al., 2011). It is also a great skill to have to eliminate the levels of negative emotional states and can help for a faster recovery of stressful situations (Simor et al., 2011). Having positive emotional content prior to going to sleep can reduce the chances of negative dreams from occurring. This is because the person prior to sleeping is maintaining a positive high level of mindfulness (Simor et al., 2011). On the contrary, having a negative state of mind can enhance the anxiousness during sleep and this can also be related to the chances of depressive symptoms (Simor et al., 2011).

Examples of specific types of people and their dreams[edit | edit source]

Child Molester: A male child molester dreams about little girls and their genital parts or fantasizes sexually about young children when predisposed to them. He has countless amounts of dreams about his mother and sister; none of his father. He has multiple dreams about sexual fantasies and limited dreams of sexual intercourse. This is significantly different to a regular male who dreams more of sexual intercourse than sexual fantasies. Research was performed on the emotional activity and stability of the male child molester. Researchers found that the male is extremely dependent on his mother and sister, very immature, compulsive masturbator, has no friends and prefers to be situated around children. They believe that he suffers from gender confusion and researchers believe that because his father was never mentioned in his dreams he either was never around or his father sexually abused him.

Neurotic Patient: Studies were examined on a neurotic patient. Neurotic patients have minimal friends, are highly aggressive however they are not physically assertive as he or she doesn’t have victims. The patient dreams of him being very angry and aggressive and believe that the world is unfriendly. He is also very active in his dreams and is always involved in including himself in activities.

Blind People: People who are blind from birth do not have visual dreams. However, their dreams are related to the sensations such as smell, touch and sound that the obtain from birth. (Fraser, 1917)

How to analyse dreams?[edit | edit source]

Analysing dreams is a myth. There is no specific way to tell what your dreams mean. However, you can keep track of what the most thought emotions and visuals are by writing down them into a book. With this information you can draw conclusions by making patterns to see what your emotions mean. (Solomon, 1914-1915)

  1. Note down your emotions in a book every night before you go to sleep. Write how you are feeling presently and note down your memories and emotions of your dreams in the morning. (Solomon, 1914-1915)
  2. Once noting the dreams and feelings you felt each day; you can see a pattern of what you dream about the most and whether it is related to your everyday life. (Solomon, 1914-1915)

This is an example of what to set up into a notebook.

Steps Description
Date 6/12/13
1.Feelings Prior to sleep eg. Content, Happiness
2.Feelings in your dream eg. Happiness
3. Content of the dream eg. Passing my final exam
4. Recurring thoughts in your dreams eg. Happiness

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Furthermore, we have learnt about the processes behind emotions and dreams. Dreams and emotions are very hard to determine whether they are related to waking life. I hope this was useful to you. There is a quiz below to test your knowledge.

Quiz[edit | edit source]

1 Dreams are 80% negatively based emotions?


2 Dreaming is the communication between the conscious and unconscious mind?


3 Blind people have visual dreams?


4 REM sleep stands of random eye movement?


5 Dreams can last up to 3 hours?


See also[edit | edit source]

Dreams and motivation


References[edit | edit source]

Brenning, Katrijn M. Braet, Caroline (2013); Personal Relationships, Vol 20(1), Mar, 2013. 107-123. [Journal Article]

Jones, Ernest. (1910) Freud’s Psychology. The Psychological Bulletin. Vol 7(4), 109- 128. doi:10.1037/h0075780

King, David B., DeCicco, Teresa L., (2009) Dream Relevance and the Continuity Hypothesis: Believe it or Not? Dreaming. Vol 19(4), 207-217. doi: 10.1037/a0017612

Schredl. Michael, (2010). Explaining the Gender Difference in Dream Recall Frequency. Dreaming. Vol 20(2), 96-106. doi: 10.1037/a0019392

Pesant, Nicholas, Zadra, Antonio. (2006). Dream Content and Psychological Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study of the Continuity Hypothesis. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Vol 62(1), 111-121. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20212

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Kai-Ching Yu, Calvin. (2013) The Structural Relations Between the Superego, Institual Affect, and Dreams. Dreaming. Vol 23(2), 145-155. doi: 10.1037/a0032606

Levin, Ross, Neilsen, Tore. (2009) Nightmares, Bad Dreams, and Emotion Dysregulation: A Review and New Neurocognitive Model of Dreaming. Current Directions in Psychological Science. Vol 18(2) 84-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01614.x

Thwaites, T. (2007). Reading Freud: Psychoanalysis as cultural theory. London, SAGE Publications Ltd.

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Fraser, C. F, (1917) Psychology of the Blind. The American Journal of Psychology. Vol 28(2) 229-237. doi: 10.2307/1413723

External Links[edit | edit source]