Psychological Self-Help

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and productive joy (red). At least, the archaic symbolic interpretations
may cause you to think. But don't take them too seriously. 
During the middle ages, Christian theologians were obsessed with
sex (see chapter 10) and sin. They were deadly serious. Dreams were
thought to be the travels of our souls outside our bodies during the
night. Certain church authorities preached that the devil was
responsible for dreams. In fact, your dreams might have been
interpreted by churchmen to indicate if you were chaste or lustful. And
if you were seen as lustful, and if you were a woman, and if there was
any hint that you might have had sex with an evil character (the devil)
in your dreams, you might have been burned alive (Van de Castle,
1971). Males' explanations of dreams have a fascinating history (but it
tells us more about men than about dreams). 
There have been many reports that dreams have led directly to
great novels, musical compositions, scientific discoveries, and political-
military decisions (surely dreams have also led to terrible blunders too,
wonder why we don't hear about those?). Dreams have also often
been regarded as messages from gods or the devil; no wonder they
are considered important. However, as we will see later, current
science suggests that dreams do not have much meaning. 
Hopefully, you will not take your dreams as seriously as some
alchemists, some generals (Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Genghis Kahn),
some dictators (Hitler), or some religious folks and witch burners
have. But while we hardly know more about the meaning of our
dreams than the Babylonians 5,000 years ago, it is possible that
dreams reflect our traumatic memories, our needs, and our
unconscious "thoughts." So, dreams are thought to tell us something
about ourselves we did not know. But the truth is: we don't know for
sure why we dream almost two hours every night or what the dreams
mean. We know dreams are strange; impossible things happen there.
We can only speculate as to why (and we do here). We need to know
Freud did not believe in a god, but he still attached great
significance to dreams. Freud said dreams were a peep hole (well,
really he said a "royal road") into our unconscious which directs much
of our lives... and our dreams. The unconscious was made up of
forbidden childhood wishes (e.g. to do away with little brother),
intense impulses (let's zap Dad away too), our strong needs for love
(and sex, whatever that means to a 4-year-old). Freud thought
dreams were venting our emotions or fulfilling our unconscious wishes,
except we had to conceal the really awful stuff (like wanting to have
Mommy all to ourselves), because such thoughts would wake us up.
Thus, for insight Freud thought analysts needed to separate the
surface or manifest dream content from the repressed forbidden
feelings and urges, which were the real causes of our problems. That
is what "dream analysis" involves, i.e. figuring out the symbols, the
distortions, the displacement, and the reversal of feelings (all designed
to hide the real purpose of dreams and calm us down so we can
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