The New York Times published an intriguing — albeit somewhat unsatisfying — article about dreams today, in which a team of scientists asserts that our interpretations of dreams are subject to overwhelming individual biases. The team’s study found that most people are more inclined to ascribe meaningfulness to positive dreams than negative ones, dismissing omens of infidelity, for example, while seizing upon a prophesized lottery win. Although the insight is interesting, the Times’ John Tierney makes an unfortunate decision to focus on this fairly intuitive “discovery,” while nearly ignoring the wider issue of interpretation.
That the interpretive process is riddled with subjective holes doesn’t render Freud a foolish hack — it makes him a brilliant artist. The fact that he is often “wrong” is irrelevant; his work remains invaluable as literature, not science. And of course, interpretation produces meaning, which is as “real” as any test result.
One of the scientists acknowledges this aspect of interpretation in a hilariously round-about fashion. “It may also be a good idea not to tell people about their undesirable behavior in your dreams,” he cautions, “as they may infer that your dreams reveal your true feelings about them.” In other words, your dream might just be a random, unconcsious hallcination, but what really matters is how it’s interpreted.
Have you had dreams that you were afraid to share? We won’t tell. Just post ’em anonymously in the comments, and let the internet be your therapist.