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< Back to question Are dream interpretations accurate? Show more Show less

Understanding dream meanings has fascinated mankind for millennia. In ancient Greece, physicians believed dreams conveyed indications of diseases present in the body. Sigmund Freud thought dreams revealed repressed desires. Since then, pop psychologists, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts have all begun offering interpretations of clients' dreams. But are dream interpretations accurate?

Dream interpretations are complete hokum Show more Show less

Dream interpretations are nothing but idiosyncrasy and guesswork.
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A personal dream vocabulary

Even if they hold value, dreams cannot be interpreted because each of us has a personal dream vocabulary that cannot be translated through any objective interpretive framework.
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We don’t all have the same pool of experiences to draw from or the same cultural associations. Therefore, one dream can mean one thing for one person and another thing for another person.

The Argument

Different objects have different meanings to different cultures. These meanings can change over time. Even if there is a link between real-world experiences and dreams, it would be impossible to accurately interpret this link because it would depend entirely on the individual’s relationship with that object. For example, if I have a dream in which I am using a pair of crutches to stabilise my walking, it might be a positive omen. I may have been forced to use crutches during a particularly formative period of my life and associate them with immense personal development. Another person, however, may have been badly beaten with a crutch at some point in their life. The appearance of a pair of crutches in their dream may have an entirely different meaning. We each have our own dream vocabulary and language. Without having access to every detail of someone’s culture and personal experience, it is impossible to understand and translate someone else’s dream vocabulary. Therefore, dream interpreters carried out by someone else cannot possibly give an accurate interpretation.

Counter arguments

Even though the same dreams have different meanings for different people, it is possible to accurately interpret them. By simply working through a person’s relationship with an object, it is possible to understand the meaning of a dream. In the example of Freud’s patient. Freud knew that his patient frequently referred to his sister-in-law as a dog. Therefore, when the patient dreamt of strangling a dog, Freud was able to accurately infer that his patient was harbouring a secret desire to kill his sister-in-law.[1] Some methods of dream interpretation can also reveal the individual’s personal dream vocabulary. For example, hypnotherapy allows the dream interpreter to interact with the subconscious mind. He or she may ask questions and get the dreamer to explain their personal dream vernacular.


[P1] Our dreams are based on our own subjective experiences and relationships. [P2] It is impossible to ever fully access and understand another person's subjective experiences and relationship with a person or object. [P3] Therefore, it is impossible to fully understand another person's dream. [P4] Therefore, dream interpretations cannot be accurate.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] It is possible to understand enough of a person's relationship with something to produce an accurate dream interpretation.



This page was last edited on Monday, 1 Jul 2019 at 12:58 UTC


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