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How can you interpret dreams?

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Quick Answer

Dreams are usually interpreted by the dreamer recalling the events of the dream and assigning them a larger meaning. The events, objects or people in a dream are sometimes viewed as symbols that represent problems that the dreamer is uncomfortable with or unable to face in a conscious way.

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Dream interpretation is not seen in the Western paradigm as a science because it is highly subjective, and methods of dream interpretation vary. The first Westerner and scientist to take dream interpretation seriously was Sigmund Freud, the German psychologist and founder of the field of psychoanalysis. Freud believed that dreams consisted of "manifest content", meaning the images, thoughts and feelings of which the dreamer is actually aware, and the "latent content," the hidden psychological meaning of the dream.

Freud thought that the content of dreams related to hidden psychological desires in the dreamer. He believed these desires to be hidden from the dreamer in order to protect them from difficult thoughts and feelings. Freud also believed that understanding the hidden meaning behind a dream allowed people to better understand themselves and resolve the difficult issues in their lives. He even created an encyclopedia of "dream symbols" to help people interpret their dreams.

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