~ William Dement
Regular exercise and relaxation exercises may help reduce the incidence and frequency of nightmares. Avoiding late night snacks is also advisable, as the metabolic activity they stimulate may be another cause of nightmares.
There are many different theories about what dreams may mean, interpretations influenced by culture, religion and beliefs.
Sigmund Freud was one of the most influential figures in twentieth century psychology, and his theories of dream analysis provide an enduring narrative as to the form and content of dreams. To Freud, dreams were repressed thoughts and feelings projected in a warped, funhouse mirror version of their pure and literal form. He would interpret dreams in accordance with this theory. Freud believed the literal, or manifest content of a dream shrouded a symbolic, inner meaning (latent content) which related to a wish or desire. Freud examined the idea of symbols in dreams, objects which were linked to specific meanings. Many were sexual, in keeping with the idea of phallic symbols: swords, guns and poles. Sigmund Freud perceived the unconscious mind as animalistic, a place where base instincts lay dormant, reaching out into the conscious mind through the medium of dreams.
Carl Jung was a protégé of Freud who shared many of his ideas about the unconscious mind. Jung’s interpretation of the phenomenon was spiritual rather than primal and sexual. This divergence of beliefs led Jung to branch out alone, leaving his own legacy of dream interpretation theory. Jung’s view of dreams was perhaps less cynical than Freud’s. Rather than repression released, he viewed dreams as windows to inner thoughts and feelings, a way of connecting with the essence of self to achieve peace and harmony. Jung believed that the literal or manifest content of the dream could be as important as the latent or symbolic meaning. Jung recognised archetypal characters or symbols which he believed represented universal concepts common to all people. Jung also believed the dreamer could interpret their own dreams.