Frederick Perls, a psychologist in the mid-1900s who died in 1970, based his dream theories on gestalt theory, a holistic psychology that focuses on the exact moment and seeing all sides of the situation or problem. He was a follower of Freud, though he modified Freud’s theories to reflect a more unified view of the human person. According to Frederick Perls, dreams are often ignored aspects of our personalities or problems that we are facing, which come out in dreams because they are repressed in waking consciousness. Each dream symbol is highly personal for Perls, to the extent that only the very broadest interpretation research can even hope to be accurate, as each dream is as unique as the dreamer and the same symbol will never have the same meaning for two dreamers.
Pearl’s Theories and Perspective
In Perls’ dream theory, there is something to be learned from all sides of the dream, and understanding of the dream can only come from taking the side of all parts of the dream in order to understand how all the pieces fit together. For instance, if you dream that you are being chased, you see the dream from your own perspective. If you then turn around and ask your pursuer why he (or she) is chasing you, you will gain another perspective.
Still another perspective can be gained from being a bystander outside of the chase, watching it from a third-person viewpoint. Another way of getting a different perspective on the dream is simply to have a dialogue with every element or character in the dream, even inanimate objects. Then do the same thing, from the perspective of the dream object. This will reveal feelings and underlying issues that you were not previously aware of. Each of these different perspectives can give you insight into the meaning of your dream, according to Frederick Perls’ dream theories.
One hallmark of gestalt therapy, as pioneered by Frederick Perls, is an emphasis on allowing the patient to feel, notice, and recognize his own feelings. In dream interpretation, this translates to observing every detail of the dream, narrating it in the present tense, and interacting with the dream as though re-entering it, when recalling it or describing it. This makes the dream more immediate and more real, and helps the dreamer remember more details or important parts.
In fact, narrating the dream in the present tense – re-living it, essentially – can even somewhat bring the dreamer back into the dream world, continuing the dream, discovering a back story, or moving into other scenes in the dream. All of this helps to build up the world of the dream, and of course every aspect of the dram is a projection in some way of the dreamer, so every aspect helps to give the dreamer information and insights about him or herself.
Theories about Project and Gestalt
Frederick (Fritz) Perls’ dream theories about projection and gestalt are important lessons that are extremely important for a dreamer to remember. Every thing in the dream, every character, every item, is a projection of ourselves. If you dream about your mother, you are not really dreaming about your mother – you are dreaming about your image of your mother, or else you are dreaming about the voice in your own head that so often takes your mother’s face, whether that is the voice that judges and condemns you or the voice that uplifts and praises you. The same thing is true for every person you dream about.
Your spouse in your dream is not really your spouse. He or she is your projection of your spouse, the encapsulations of the feelings you have about your spouse, your spouse as he or she exists in your own imagination, all combined with the misunderstandings and insecurities that you feel around your spouse and your feelings and perceptions of yourself as they are reflected to you in your spouse. Another function of projection in these dreams is simple Freudian projection: taking elements of yourself that you do not want to believe exist, knowing them to be undesirable and shameful, and attributing them to others around you.
This sort of projection happens completely unconsciously, and can destroy relationships. By understanding that the dream characters are projections, it becomes possible to understand that the actual people in your waking life, whose faces your projections took in your dreams, may be completely different than your subconscious believes. This is the first step toward reconciliation of difficult relationships, for many people.
Your Dream is a Projection of Yourself
It can be disturbing for people to learn that the entirety of their dream is a projection of themselves. If something terrifying and cruel happens in the dream, it is because something terrifying and cruel exists in the dreamer, according to Frederick Perls. We do not want to know about or acknowledge the darker parts of our being, because they would horrify us if we knew they were us. This is a very dark view of dream interpretation, when we like to believe that the frightening things in our dreams represent our fears of the other. However, we can take comfort and gain confidence in the idea that “awareness is curative.”
That is, when examining your dreams and learning about the aspects of yourself that your dreams are telling you about, simply learning that they exist can help to cure your problems. This goes beyond the Alcoholics Anonymous saying that “the first step is admitting you have a problem.” For internal problems, simply knowing that they exist can help you to stop the behaviors that are causing the problems. For instance, if a dream reveals to you that you are selfish, it is unpleasant to admit this fault to yourself, but from the moment you admit it to yourself, you will start to act in ways that are more unselfish.
It may help to trace the roots of your selfishness and determine if there are any other issues contributing to it and making it difficult for you to put others before yourself, but that is a journey you will naturally begin once you know that this is a problem you have. Thus the concept of Frederick Perls’ dream theory, that dreams reveal aspects and projections of yourself, and the psychological therapeutic idea that awareness is curative go hand in hand.