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Interpretationof Dreams? By all means.

Every man dreams. However, when you tell someone you dream, people will have different reactions depending where they are from. People in the East seem to think that dreams are vain. After all, it is just a dream and it will not exactly happen but it can mean something else. Sometimes, the Eastern people think that dreams are premonitions to something upcoming. For example, if you dream about flying in the sky, many Asians will tell you that you are likely to get promoted to a higher position. On the other hand, people in the West think that dreams are something to uncover and unravel. They believe that dreams are about the past not the future. According to them, dreams are replaying what you have experienced. Looking at different perspectives on dream, how people view dreams differ from country to country and culture to culture.

The Eastern Perspective: Life in Vain and Future Indicatorspage1image19936

Zhuangzi and "Dream of Butterfly" :

Zhuangzi, a Chinese Taoist philosopher talked about reality and illusion through a dream he had. While Zhuangzi fell asleep, he dreamt of a butterfly. It was such a vivid dream that when he woke up, he was confused whether he was a man who just dreamt of a butterfly or was he a butterfly who just dreamt of being a man. Through this dream, Zhuangzi argued about assimilation with nature and life in vain. The latter opinion of his is the motif for the Eastern mindset that appears frequently when talking about a dream. Furthermore, Zhuangzi’s idea influenced Taoism along with Laozi.

Dream of Red Chamber (or The Story of the Stone):

Dream of the Red Chamber was written in the 18th century by Cao Xueqin during the Qing Dynasty. It is one of the four great classical novels of China. The first chapter beings with a couplet, “Truth becomes fiction when the fiction’s true; / Real becomes not real when the unreal is real.” This means that there is no clear distinction of reality from illusion and truth from falsity. Like the vain dream of Zhuangzi, the Dream of Red Chamber talks about the emptiness of dreams. The main character is Jia Baoyu, who was born with a jade in his mouth. His family is of nobility and well-to-do. Baoyu feels affection toward Lin Daiyu but because of his grandmother, who is the head of the family, he marries another woman. Unfortunately, Baoyu does not feel affection to his wife, as he does for Daiyu. Disappointed, Baoyu leaves the house for the secluded world. While Baoyu’s conflict of marriage goes on, his family is being ruined. This novel concludes that “Roses and maidens soon lose their bloom.” Or “All that’s fair must fade.”

Gu Wun Mong :

Gu Wun Mong was written by Kim Man Joong in the 17th century during the Chosun Dynasty. It is about a Buddhist monk named, “Seong Jin.” He was sent to express gratitude to the King of Dragon. While he was staying at the palace, he was offered a few shots of alcohol. Being drunk, Seong Jin goes back to the monastery and on his way, he meets eight beautiful women. He regrets that he cannot enjoy the worldly affairs because he is a monk. Knowing what has happened to Seong Jin, the Buddhist master sends him and the eight women to the human world. There, Seong Jin is born as Yang So Yu, marries all of the eight women and lives happily. Soon, Seong Jin realizes that what he needs is not money, power nor women. Therefore, he goes to a monastery and he learns that he was a monk in his previous life. He makes an apology for what he did in the previous life and with his eight wives, Yang So Yu becomes a monk.

Premonition dreams:

Premonition dreams are dreams that will predict what will happen. Because of scientific advancement, premonition dreams have become a superstition, and yet, there are still cases where dreams do seem to have told people what would happen in the future. Conception dreams are one of them. A conception dream is a precognitive dream of conceiving a child. It is dreamt by the mother, the father or close members of the family. They say if you dream fruit, it is likely that you will give birth to a girl and if you dream of an animal, it will be a boy. However, it is likely that premonition dreams being real are due to probability. For example, if you dream of your house on fire. According to Korean culture, a house on fire in a dream tells you that your wishes will come true. However, you will occasionally experience something good, then, you might attribute your fortune to your dream. Furthermore, it is said that the status of the dreamer must be taken into consideration. Therefore, promotion dreams lack reliability because interpretations can vary.

The Western Perspective: Something to Uncover

Sigmund Freud

Symbolic Interpretations :

It is wrong to assume that the West never thought of interpreting dreams as the East did. In Ancient Greece and Rome, Asclepieons played a role that is similar to today’s hospital. Asclepieons was a temple but it was not only limited to physical cures but also mental cures. The name Asclepieons was a reference to the God of medicine, Asclepius, whose serpent-entwined rod represents medicine even these days. There were two steps to cure the sick at Asclepieons. The first step was to purify through pring the body or emotions and eating clean. The next step was to stay at the temple for a night. Ancient Greeks believed that the God Asclepius would personally visit them in their dreams and cure them. If the patients were not visited by Asclepius, a priest or a dream-interpreter would seek for ways to cure them. Furthermore, Artemidorus from Greece wrote Oneirocritica or The Interpretation of Dreams. He believed that dreams were an omen to what would happen in the future. He based his book on his travel through Greece, Italy an Asia. Just like Asian dream interpretations, Artemidorus said that there must be consideration of a dreamer’s age, sex, and social status.

Carl Jung

Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams :

In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud says, “The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life.” Therefore, to Freud, dreams were “wish fulfillment” in which people express repressed feelings of their reality. Freud first introduced the idea of unconsciousness. In dreams, the unconscious takes over the job of preconscious which censors unruly ideas. However, unconscious does not express the repressed feeling as it is. They are often disguised into something else so Freud interpreted dreams using psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis utilizes free associations and symbol interpretations. In free association, clients will talk about one thing and that will lead to another topic and another topic. In symbol interpretations, Freud tended to sexualize every detail in dreams. For example, if his client saw a cave or a box in a dream, Freud would interpret that the object represents a womb. Although Freud was indeed a pioneer of the concept of unconsciousness, he was severely criticized. He said that personal conflict were sexuality problems derived during childhood and it is through dreams that those conflicts emerge. Freud put too much emphasis on instincts and sexuality.

Carl Jung’s Collective Unconsciousness :

Carl Jung was one of Freud’s best students but Jung left him because Freud put sexual meaning to details. Jung had different opinions from Freud’s. For example, while Freud believed that dreams were about sexual, instinctual and repressed feelings, Jung thought that dreams were a road to your unconscious and it was supposed to tell you the solutions to the conflicts in real life. Among the many things in your dream, there are some similar features to other people’s dreams called, “collective unconscious” or “archetypes.” There are seven archetypes: the persona, the shadow, the animus, the divine child, the wise man or women, the great mother and the trickster. These are also called “mythic dreams because as myths around the world are similar to one another dreams are also similar in the sense that they represent the commonalities.

Whether dreams tell you the future or the past, dreams have been influential throughout numerous cultures. Dreams brought out people’s curiosity to discover what they are. However, there must be many years yet to come before we can unravel the truth about dreams.

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Lee Yoorim  yoorimlee2014@gmail.com

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