Everybody dreams. Dream images are sometimes vivid and exciting, sometimes terrifying, often bizarre. When we awaken, unless we attend to it immediately, the content disappears. We remember we dreamed but cannot recall the details. Dream characters may be familiar to us or not . Dream sequences may be jumbled, nonsensical, irrational. Although dreams can vividly represent color, shape, depth and movement, they do not accurately measure time. What seems like a long dream encompassing many minutes or even hours, may last only a few seconds.
Dreams occur during a deep phase of sleep when there are rapid eye movements occurring and the body is mostly paralyzed. (REM sleep). They have a characteristic brain wave. Some scientists suggest that dreams play a role in encoding information to permanent memory. Others suggest the dream rids the brain of extraneous information.
Some people place a great deal of importance upon dream content. Some believe they are prophetic. Other scientists believe they are merely noise in the system and not worth our time. Many psychologists believe they are motivated and some insist they are the workings of our unconscious. Therapists often find them helpful in guiding a patient toward self-awareness. They believe that they often have meaning, although perhaps not purpose. An intelligent and creative lay person can interpret their own dreams if they follow some simple guidelines.
Since dreams meanings are personal and there are no "universal symbols," only you can interpret your own dreams, although therapists can help. To interpret your dreams you need to record them immediately upon awakening or relate them to someone. Dream images may have multiple meanings. Freud called them "over-determined." Psychologists believe it is the associations to the dream that may be more significant than the dream itself. The nucleus of the dram is often some insignificant event or observation during the day (the "day residue").
Dream images are often metaphors or slang expressions that become transformed into visual images. A father of a young woman dreamed that the pipes in her daughter's apartment were knocking. The landlord instructed the father to fix them. He replied that they were his pipes so the landlord should fix them himself. The daughter was trying to get pregnant. The landlord in the dream represented his son-in-law. The father, who had always been controlling of his children, was dreaming a message to his son-in-law. In the novel, "Odyssey of a Therapist" by Marvin Rosen, a therapist uses dream analysis in the treatment of a psychopathic personality.