The narrative of dream reports
Two questions are addressed: 1) whether a dream is meaningful as a whole, or whether the scenes are separate and unconnected, and 2) whether dream images are an epiphenomenon of a functional physiologicaL process of REM sleep, or whether they are akin to waking thought. Theories of REM sleep as a period of information-processing are reviewed. This is Linked with work on the relationship between dreaming and creativity, and between memory and imagery. Because of the persuasive evidence that REM sleep is implicated in the consolidation of memories there is a review of recent work on neural associative network models of memory. Two theories of dreams based on these models are described, and predictions with regard to the above two questions are made. Psychological evidence of relevance to the neural network theories is extensively reviewed. These predictions are compared with those of the recent application of structuralism to the study of dreams, which is an extension from its usual field of mythology and anthropology. The different theories are tested against four nights of dreams recorded in a sleep Lab. The analysis shows that not only do dreams concretise waking concerns as metaphors but that these concerns are depicted in oppositional terms, such as, for example, inside/outside or revolving/static. These oppositions are then permuted from one dream to the next until a resolution of the initial concern is achieved at the end of the night. An account of the use of the single case-study methodology in psychology is given, in addition to a replication of the analysis of one night's dreams by five independent judges. There is an examination of objections to the structuralist methodology, and of objections to the paradigm of multiple dream awakenings. The conclusion is drawn that dreams involve the unconscious dialectical step-by-step resolution of conflicts which to a great extent are consciously known to the subject. The similarity of dreams to day-dreams is explored, with the conclusion that the content of dreams is better explained by an account of metaphors we use when awake and by our daily concerns, than by reference to the physiology of REM sleep. It is emphasised that dreams can be meaningful even if they do not have a function.