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Our dreams could be so complex and confusing at times that they appear incomprehensible to us. Understanding where dreams come from and what dreams are made of is the first step in decoding our dreams.

When we wake up in the morning from a shaky nightmare, we want this to end. And when we are forced to exit a beautiful idyllic dream, we wish it could last forever. But though we have tried several times to figure them out, do we truly understand what our dreams mean? Probably we never will, or maybe this is the first step towards it. But until then, all we can do for now is understand and try to apply the hypotheses that have already been formulated regarding the interpretation of dreams.

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Ancient Beliefs

Centuries ago, people used to believe that dreams were a voice from beyond, a mean to communicate with some supernatural or untouchable force. And even today those beliefs persist, both in local traditions and cultures and in some religions. For instance, according to the Catholic Religion and the Bible, God appeared to several of his disciples in a dream, instructing them to do perform a specific action. Undoubtedly, this belief is justified and supported by many. However, not all dreams have a prophetic meaning.

Other peopple used to believe that dreams were created as a sort of warning regarding events and life changes to come. In that sense, dreams were just like prophecy. With regards to that, not everyone was thought to be able to prophesize, and not all prophecies were to be taken seriously, as they would automatically have a strong social and cultural connotation. 

Freud’s Work on the Interpretation of Dreams

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis published a wonderful piece of artwork to help us understand what our dreams mean. His commonly cited masterpiece, The Interpretation of Dreams, uses the theory of the unconscious to explain how dreams are formed, and how they are categorized into dreams and nightmares.

Many psychoanalysts have also studied this topic, and luckily their theories somehow corroborate with Freud’s work. 

According to the Austrian psychoanalyst, dreams are primarily the expression of internally repressed emotions, thoughts and feelings that could not be expressed in our conscious state but remain buried deep down in our unconscious mind.

This includes but is not limited to painful childhood memories, traumatizing events (such as the loss of someone dear) or any other traumatic experiences. In that sense, the repressed feelings that those negative experiences created in us are forcing themselves to be liberated and are expressed in our most vulnerable state: when we dream.

In that same logic, dreams can also be the perfect media of expression of our repressed internal impulses that are morally unacceptable. Additionally, dreams can also be made from the repetition of our daily routines, simply because they are the images most frequently played in our head. The mind is more likely to play and work with newly created images compared to older ones. In addition, the stronger the impact a recent memory had on us, th more likely it is to appear in our dreams. This could also explain the reason why when we compare trivial events (going to the store to get some milk) might not appear to our dreams, unless there is a specific punch line or strong emotional connection to it (going to the store to get some milk, falling flat on the floor and get laughed at).

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