In comparison to adult dreams, childhood dreams are very clear and brief. They are easy to understand and have not gone through any kind of distortion. Especially children until the age of five seem to have the least distorted dreams and these dreams are considered to have a ‘childhood character’. Sometimes these kinds of dreams can occur to older children or even adults. Analyzing them will help us develop a more complete view on their nature.
Based on Freud’s views, childhood dreams are associated with the events that have occurred on the previous day of the child’s dream. They are a reaction to this event and we need to keep this in mind while helping a child understand them. We should not try to analyze them based on a specific technique but simply by asking questions based on the elements of the apparent content that could be related to the child’s life.
Here is an example of a child’s dream taken from the ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud:
‘A child aged 22 months is asked to give to someone a basket full of cherries as a gift. The boy gives them away even though he feels quite discontent about it, despite his reward being some cherries for him to enjoy. The next day he narrated his dream: He was eating all the cherries.’
At this point it is important to make some observations on the character of these dreams. According to Freud childhood dreams are
‘comprehensible and complete psychological activities’
where for an adult they can be random reactions. He also notices that a child can have a better and deeper sleep than an adult can.
In children’s dreams the apparent content of the dream and the ‘false’ notions, that we previously analyzed, are almost always completely identical. There might be a slight distortion and in that case the content and the notion might differ insignificantly.
Children dreams often accomplish the gratification of inner desires. They are based on events from the previous day and they are fulfilling real unsatisfied desires based on actual facts. A child is psychologically stimulated by an unfulfilled desire that disturbs their sleep. The reaction is dreaming. Based on this idea we can come to the conclusion that dreams can be considered as the protector of sleep because they satisfy these desires and stop any psychological stimulation that have threaten our sleep. Dreams actually make sleeping possible.
Here we can distinguish two basic characteristics of dreams. The content of a dream is to act out on the desire that is not ‘materialized’, to make it real, to accomplish satisfaction. This is the first characteristic. The second characteristic is the form that this desire takes in our dreams. When the desire is realized it comes in the shape of a psychic illusion and not only the manifestation of a thought. Through experiencing a thought, a dream becomes the vehicle to reproduce and then extinguish any stimulation with an active assimilation. These two characteristics help us understand a very counteractive relationship between dreaming and sleeping. Dreaming is assisting the fulfillment of our inner needs while we sleep and because of that we can continue sleeping.
The essence of these desires is something completely personal. Even if in our dream the desire is phenomenally addressed to another person it doesn’t stop being our desire either for them or for us. By understanding the nature and characteristics of our dreams we can discover ourselves truly. We can become aware of all the hidden aspects of our psyche even if what we encounter is not that pleasing, it is still useful in order to have complete self-realization.