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Do Our Dreams have Meanings?

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Written by Elif Gulce Batgi

Think that you had an exhausting day and you want to take a rest. When you fall asleep, you feel like you are going deeper and deeper, suddenly you start to see some images or even a storyline. It is called a dream. Dreams are experiences that happen during certain stages of sleep. It involves thoughts, images, and sensations, occurring in a person’s mind. Why do dreams occur? What causes them? What do they mean? Let’s take a look.

First of all, we should start by stating that conducting an experiment on dreams is a really hard thing because the experiments can only be conducted according to what people remember and tell you about their dreams. That’s why it is still a mysterious thing and there are a lot of theories about how they occur instead of an exact explanation [Why and, 2022]. Ancient civilizations believed that dreams are messages from God [The science, 2021]. Then, in the late 1800s, Sigmund Freud theorized that our dreams take form based on our repressed desires [The science, 2021]. Dreams might be ways of facing emotional dramas in a person’s life [Roland, (n.d.)]. The reason why dreams may be the way of facing emotional dramas is that the brain is activating much more emotion, compared to when we are awake [Roland, (n.d.)]. According to an extensively held theory, the purpose of dreams is to store important memories and clear out unimportant memories [Roland, (n.d.)]. Also, there is a frightening or upsetting type of dream which is called a nightmare. Nightmares are in the tendency of being caused by stress, anxiety, or sometimes a reaction to medications [Roland, (n.d.)].

Now, we have a great question: Do our dreams have meanings? Some experts believe they have meanings. For instance, Sigmund Freud, a psychologist, suggested that while sleeping, the brain creates a “manifest dream” from snippets of every day including images, memories, and experiences. It simplifies, reorganizes, and conceals the “latent dream,” or repressed and unconscious desires [Do dreams, (n.d.)]. Another psychologist Calvin S. Hall defined dreams as thinking progress while we are sleeping [Do dreams, (n.d.)]. Dreams, which reflect elements of daily life, can give important insight into how you view yourself and other people, your problems and conflicts, or briefly, the world. On the other hand, many experts do not believe dreams can have meaning. However, they have a couple of theories, too. For the sake of example, there is a theory called threat simulation theory. According to this theory, we may use our dreams as a way to identify, avoid, and protect ourselves from potential threats [Do dreams, (n.d.)].

Even though there is no exact result of how dreams occur or why they occur, there are some theories that I abovementioned. I believe the dreams will be demystified later on. Until that time, there is no accuracy about them.

  1. Crystal Raypole. (2021, July 18). Do Dreams Actually Mean Anything? It Depends Who You Ask. Healthline.

  2. Roland, J. (n.d.). Why do we dream? The role of dreams and nightmares. Healthline.

  3. The science of dreams: What happens in the brain when we dream. (2021, June 3). Muse.

  4. Why and how do we dream? (2022, August 24). Quanta Magazine.


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