Dreams contain artefacts from the external world, subjective experiences, and mental
activity. According to the father of psychoanalysis, dreams are the royal road to our
unconscious (Freud, 1900). When we suppress what we perceive as unacceptable including
intolerable aggressive and sexual instincts in our conscious lives, these unfulfilled instincts
and wishes become distorted and disguised in our dreams (Freud, 1900).
Conversely, Jung (1969) suggested that dreams reveal rather than conceal content i.e.
dreams are not distorted, they are exactly what they represent. Whether dreams hide or
reveal, they hold meanings specific to the dreamer that he/she does not wish or may not be
ready to know. In this sense, dreams can be considered as a meaningful psychic act that
serves as a powerful tool for communication.
What does this all mean? Does dreaming of violence mean I have violent tendencies? Does
dreaming of an ex-partner mean I’m still not over that person? Because dreams can be
derived from but not always identical to real life, they could represent manifest (more surface
content or images seen in the dream) or latent (deeper, more hidden unconscious thoughts
and affects in the dream) content.
Things are not always what they seem. If we take things as is, the violence could reflect
some form of aggressiveness, and dreams about an ex could represent unresolved feelings
that linger. On the other hand, violence could also represent the chaos/disorganisation in our
psyche, and the ex could represent a part of the self that has not yet been integrated.
Regardless of the meanings of our dreams, they are always about us i.e. the dreamer. The
better we can understand and integrate how these dream images relate to us and our lives,
the more we can generate better awareness of ourselves. Contemporary analysts have also
found improvements in mental state and functioning when dreams are reworked (Roesler,
2023). Taken together, dreams offer a rich reserve for a more textured understanding of the
self that is not accessible in our day-to-day lives, and afford a more profound way of
connecting with the self.
I am a clinical psychologist with over 8 years of experience working with adolescents and adults across a variety of Government and Community settings in Western Australia and Singapore. This includes individuals within in- and out-patient hospitals, rehabilitation centres, and in prison settings. I work primarily from dynamically oriented and attachment based approaches, where my focus is on addressing underlying issues that often mask as problematic symptoms. I believe in the value of attending to core issues and the context with which one’s distress develops, lest they remain under- or unprocessed, creating other problems that can manifest in various ways later in life.