While many theories have been proposed, no single consensus has emerged. Considering the enormous amount of time we spend in a dreaming state, the fact that researchers do not yet understand the purpose of dreams may seem baffling. However, it is important to consider that science is still unraveling the exact purpose and function of sleep itself.
Consistent with the psychoanalytic perspective, Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams suggested that dreams were a representation of unconscious desires, thoughts and motivations. According to Freud’s psychoanalytic view of personality, people are driven by aggressive and sexual instincts that are repressed from conscious awareness. While these thoughts are not consciously expressed, Freud suggested that they find their way into our awareness via dreams.
In his famous book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud wrote that dreams are “…disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes.” He also described two different components of dreams: manifest content and latent content.
Manifest content is made up of the actual images, thoughts and content contained within the dream, while the latent content represents the hidden psychological meaning of the dream.
Freud’s theory contributed to the popularity of dream interpretation, which remains popular today. However, research has failed to demonstrate that the manifest content disguises the real psychological significance of a dream.