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Dreamwork refers to the interpretation of dreams as a central aspect of human psychic activity.

It has a long and ancient history and is central to the experience of psychodynamic therapy.

Dreams are a reflection of sub-conscious psycho-emotional material rising into consciousness to be resolved consciously through therapy. Learning methods of dream interpretation therefore allows one to understand the message of the dream.

A major difference between psychological theories and pre-psychological theories of the dream is that interpretation is based on the situation of the individual in time rather than on a gloss of fixed references. For example, a black cat need not be a sign of bad luck.

Several different approaches to the dream stand out among the many modern theorists on dreams, most notably those of Freud, Jung, Adler and Boss.

Freud was convinced that all dreams contained specific individual meaning within the particular psychic domain of any individual. His seminal work The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) was the foundational text for the approach later to be termed psychoanalysis. He believed that dreams refer to things other than what their manifest obvious content is 'about'. The dream, he felt, was the best way to understand what is going on in our psyche, and could be seen as 'the royal road to the unconscious.'

His disciple Carl Jung differed with his view of the individual psychic creation, believing that many dreams are instances of what he termed the collective unconscious, and represents our fundamental connection with the experience of being humans. Jung added mythic interpretation of the dream to his prevailing Freudian approach in order to explain why recurring figures in dreams resemble old cultural phenomena that he called archetypes.

Alfred Adler, another disciple of Freud, developed a theory of dreams that saw the dream as a way of working out conflicts in the daily life of the person, especially moments in which we feel inferior and helpless.

Medard Boss, the founder (with Martin Heidegger) of Daseinsanalysis offered a very different view of the dream, valuing its surface meanings rather than what they suggested.

It is likely that no single approach is fully adequate. A skilled therapist specializing in dreamwork understands how to use these different approaches and perspectives to help the client gain a better personal understanding of the dream. Over time one learns to understand one's own personal dream language, symbols, activities and settings. Dreaming is one of the most powerful means of revealing our own internal acts of self-communication.
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