The Significance of Dreams in Mental Life

The Significance of Dreams in Mental Life

The Significance of Dreams in Mental Life 700 340 Paterakis Michalis
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Significance of Dreams in Mental Life: One of the three elements that is very often used in psychotherapy for the patient to better understand his hidden emotions, are dreams. But why are dreams so precious? Why do we use them for therapeutic purposes? What are they telling us? Why are they so confusing? Let’s see the answers.

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Why do we use them for therapeutic purposes?

In our mental life we often hide our feelings from ourselves. Our culture itself forces us to cover up our aggressive and sexual urges, and that is why people have found other ways to express them. Humor, art, play and professional creativity are the most common ways. So in this way, one does a “treatment” in a way. This is how, for example, actors often say: “theatre is therapy for me”, or dancers: “dance is therapy for me”, etc. In the pathological case, the aggression comes out in a violent way, immediately. You take a knife and start killing as we have seen in recent years with the attacks in Europe, or rape women as we often hear in the news. These are direct expressions of the drives, they are ways in which culture has failed to influence, or has influenced in an excessive and heavy way, or there have been disturbances in the personality which have led to an immediate “passing into action.”

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The important influence of culture

But in culture no one grabs a woman’s breast on the street because he liked it, because there is a moral barrier, or even if there is no such barrier, he knows he will get into trouble so he is afraid to do it. So the truth is that all these ways that people use to express their aggressive and sexual urges without problem are not a cure but an attempt to resolve the conflicts between desire and prohibition. This effort is also shown in dreams. Dreams, to a large extent, are the depiction of this effort. It is not a cure but a way to approach an emotion indirectly. That is why the dream process presents things with hints and contrasts. Knowing a dream we immediately have access to the unconscious space of the patient. The dream, no matter how confusing it is, has open gates that one simply cannot pass through alone because at the same time there are soldiers guarding them. But with the help of the therapist, who knows what weapons to use in order to distract the soldiers, one can go into the unconscious and “see” what emotions exist and which are addressed.

The timeless of the unconscious

So it is very important to use dreams in therapy because they give us access to the timeless unconscious. We call the unconscious ageless because age is lost there. One can be a child and an infant and an adult at the same time. There you can be a murderer, a rapist, a showman, a thief, abnormal, evil, kill your parents and siblings, have sex with your parents, change your gender, have orgies, be omnipotent, control the always. In the unconscious there are no rules. Everything is, grows, functions, exists, is forgotten, dies or is reborn according to bodily stimuli, smells, skin touch, desires and the all-powerful  imagination. To get in there and see what’s going on and understand how we feel, we need dreams. As we also need to observe slips of the tongue, misdemeanors and all behavior that in other cases we would not give it the necessary importance. All this is done in a therapeutic process.

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So what do dreams tell us?

Dreams tell us what we have inside. Paradox, one might say. How can anyone claim that we are not conscious of what we have inside us when it concerns ourselves? Ourselves; This question is easily answered when one remembers how many times in his life he has done something or said something, or wished something that he could not then justify, or was surprised by what he thought. Dreams often tell us things that are contrary to our usual thinking and behavior. Things we cannot understand. But dreams are ours. Since they are theoretically ours, we should understand them. And indeed they are ours.

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Then why don’t we understand them?

We don’t understand them because the dream wants to tell us something very important but also very difficult at the same time. If we knew that, there would be no need for all this diplomatic process. it tells us slowly, confusedly, vaguely. He doesn’t want to wake us up but he wants to send us the message. He doesn’t want to scare us but he also wants to inform us about what is happening. Let’s not be left without information. It is our very self that is the dream. As if to say: I want to tell you something. Don’t worry it’s nothing serious but you need to learn something. He tells us so because if the soldiers at the gates sleep for a while, then the dream becomes a nightmare.

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Dreams and symptoms

Dreams and symptoms have the same roots. They are made of the same mechanisms. It’s just that the symptoms appear when the person constantly ignores the dreams and resists the warnings of the self. There they take over the symptoms which are also those that lead in most cases to the specialist. But imagine that one doesn’t even get there if one doesn’t go through an organic doctor first. The man thinks that the almighty father, doctor, will save him.


That with a pill or a tip from the one “who knows”, that everything will be magically resolved. This is certainly an infantile thought, where everything is resolved magically and the binary trajectory with the mother is powerful. A bit of magical thinking and a bit of paternal protection are activated and one expects to resolve the symptoms organically. Many suffer like this for years until this suffering becomes unbearable whereupon one begins to suffer others or makes the decision to do a real cure.

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Therapy is the therapeutic relationship

Psychotherapy, as I have said many times in articles and videos, is the relationship that the patient develops with his therapist. There you can see exactly who the self is, who was hurt, when, how and why it remained fixed in this stage or in these conditions. There the patient relives his childhood and tries to repeat the same situations and the same results but without succeeding. Because in a proper treatment the therapist understands what is trying to be repeated and does not allow the same repetition to happen.

Dreams are extremely important in this process and we study them in a special way which can be applied in the special therapeutic context in such a way that the emergence of the repressed emotions can begin and little by little the restorative experience as we basically call the therapy .

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*Republication of the article is prohibited without the written permission of the author

See also: Coping with stress

The process of psychotherapy requires commitment, dedication and is addressed only to those who seriously see that they need to change their lives. If you are thinking of starting this journey, call me at 211 71 51 801 to make an appointment and see together how I can help you.

Mixalis Paterakis

Psychologist Psychotherapist

Accepts By Appointment

Karneadou 37, Kolonaki

Tel: 211 71 51 801


    Πατεράκης Μιχάλης
    Ψυχολόγος Αθήνα


      Psychologist Athens