Next: Can you interpret this dream for me? Up: Introduction to the DreamFAQ Previous: Dream interpretation and symbols
A. Symbols are one way of interpreting dreams. Researchers have tried to find, for each common dream occurence, a psychological situation that matches the dream in some way and link it as a cause. A well-known example of this approach is Freud's interpretation. Asking for symbols allows for (sometimes too easy) interpretation of dreams by given rules.
Other people question this approach. Dream interpretation by catalog of symbols doesn't take into account individual differences between dreamers. You can imagine this flaw by taking into account that the cultural background is an important point that should not be neglected. Freud's theories, that give high importance to hidden signs of sexual desires, are based on a society that has suppressed sexuality. And so on. In a more global context, asking for special symbols is of dubious value. Nonetheless, in a certain given context, these symbols can have a valuable meaning.
[Editor's note: The FAQ is too gentle about the "fixed symbol" approach, which is utterly worthless. If you read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, available in full on this site, you will see highly complex and individualized dream interpretations...this despite Freud's notorious tendency, expressed in his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, to see sexual symbols in common objects such as pencils and purses.
Nevertheless, many internet sites are happy to bottom troll by supplying gullible people with dream dictionaries where they can look up a single word (like "bear") and find out what the dream means ("you will have a financial reversal"). For Wall Street traders, maybe!
To see such foolish sites, use Google to look up "dream dictionary." More than a dozen exist. The truth, backed up by decades of research, is that (a) dream symbolism does occur (often as an image which expresses an emotion or common saying), but (b) dream symbolism is not primarily sexual, contrary to Freud, and (c) the meaning of dream symbols typically relates to details of an individual's life which a stranger could not predict.--RD]
Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.