Psychological Self-Help

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what really matters is if the interpretation, right or wrong, helps us
change. We can measure that. We might even be able to measure
changes in specific adjustment situations, in emotional reactions, and
in coping skills (see chapter 2 and method # 5 above). Wiser living
should be the outcome of dream analysis. 
Freud thought dreams were symbolic--sort of a private language
made up by each of us (Jung says the collective unconscious provides
the symbols) in order to express our unconscious feelings and wishes
without having to consciously admit them to ourselves. But the same
symbol may mean different things in different people. Example: if a
person dreams of going to school naked, it may mean in one person
that he/she wants to disclose certain secrets to others while in another
person it may mean that he/she is experiencing a lot of anxiety and in
still other people it may mean the dreamer is ashamed or proud of
his/her body, and on and on. One of Freud's major goals in therapy
was to break the patient's symbolic code so his/her unconscious but
true wishes become known. This, of course, would seem to require the
intensive study for a year or so of the history, psychological make-up,
and current situation of one individual as well as the symbols. (No
wonder there are no definitive research studies, yet, of Freudian
dream analysis.) Such an intensive self-study is part of your task in
using this method. If you do such an extraordinary self-analysis, then
you may be able to research dreams more thoroughly than science has
ever been able to do, thus far. The only measure of your accuracy and
effectiveness in analyzing your dreams is an assessment of how much
you improve your adjustment or life skills (if you can rule out all other
causes--which, of course, is the rub). So, again, you are your own
therapist and your own researcher. You can start tonight. 
The advantages of the method are that everyone dreams and most
people find their dreams interesting, at least occasionally. Some
insight is possible, but there is a risk that one will attribute more
significance to his/her dreams than they warrant. Remember, it is
possible that the dream images are rather meaningless neuronal brain
activity. This was discussed in the "general idea" section. Besides the
dream context being of dubious significance, other disadvantages are
the time involved, the long delay of most benefits, the uncertain
effectiveness of the "dream analysis" work, and perhaps the
psychological stress involved. Being upset by the dreams or their
implications are the only known dangers. If this should happen, talk to
a friend and/or divert your attention to something else. In general,
however, I would assume it is less dangerous to cautiously explore the
possible implications of our dreams (and daydreams) than to assume
that dreams have absolutely no significance or utility at all. 
Bibliography
link on the book title page). Please note that references are on pages
according to the first letter of the senior author's last name (see
alphabetical links at the bottom of the main Bibliography page).
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