Where do dreams come from?

I have patients come in and say they don’t believe in the unconscious. I ask, “Well, where do dreams come from?” There is a silence when I ask that question.

Psychoanalysis originated with Freud interpreting his own dreams. People are fascinated with dream interpretation. I have patients come in, they tell me a dream and then ask, “What does it mean?” When they ask me what it means, I’m applying my own symbols and thoughts to it as opposed to theirs. My first question is, “What does that mean to you?” I can give my interpretation, but I don’t think it’s as meaningful as helping the patient figure out what their symbols and metaphors may be in a dream.

The unconscious and the delivery of dreams is amazing to me. When one wakes up from a very vivid dream, and may remember the dream for a few seconds, it’s very quickly gone when the doors to the unconscious slam shut. When you do remember a dream and you discuss it, what you remember and what you present, is the manifest content. It’s what you’re remembering. The latent content is really what was occurring, but you have to think what you remember is going be different than what actually happened. Anyone who doesn’t believe in the unconscious, I challenge them to tell me where dreams come from. It’s always fascinating.

Then there are universal symbols, which I don’t know that I believe that much in. I’ve been to so many garage sales where you can buy dream encyclopedias and dream dictionaries where you can open up and read what a donut is, or hot dog. I’m more interested in what it means to my patients than what a dream dictionary might tell me. ~ Rafael Sharón, NCPsyA, SCPsyA, Psychoanalyst in Princeton NJ