Alfred Adler on Dreams

Posted by NikH

Adler quotes Hebbel who wrote this 50 yrs before Freud:

adler dreams 01

Individual Psychology agrees with Freud’s interpretation on basis of:

  1. Affective attitudes in a dream indicate indicated more closely its real meaning than do figurative or verbal elements.
  2. The distinction between manifest and latent contents of the dream.
  3. Dreams are not unique mental phenomena.
  4. Method of verbal associated is valid for obtaining the latent content of a dream.

To assign to dreams just fulfillments of infantile sexual wishes is too simplistic.


Freud also saw in dreams an unconscious desire to die. Individual Psychology considers this idea of Freud to be highly figurative and metaphorical. Adler also things it does not say how the whole personality is reflected in dreams. Adler thinks that striving for gratification is only one aspect of a motive to strive for superiority.

adler dreams 02Expressions of the Style of Life

Unity of personality also characterizes dream. There is unity in sleep and wakefulness, and a sense of worth … behavior of a human being fits into a unit which is an expression of the individuals style of life.

Conscious and unconscious are not contradictory, but a single unity…  true… like in “figure and ground” idea in gestalt therapy?

“Semi-conscious life” is the life of dreams, like conscious life, it can be used to learn more about unconscious.

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p.359 Made up dreams are as valid.

Think so too… most of what’s interpreted counts as what s present, hence it doesn’t matter if dreams were real or made up or if interpretation is “right”.

Forward Looking, Problem Solving Function

Adler considers the dream as bridge to connect the dreamer with his goal attainment… “Dream come true”…  The self draws strength from the dream fantasy to solve imminent problem.

This sounds funny to me.

The subjectively felt difficulty has to do with social interest and so we dream(?) In other words, every dream state has a exogenous factor.

This means more than Freud’s “day’s residue” Adler thinks that person is put to a test and seeks the solution.

adler dreams 04

Seems like we are trying to differentiate what isn’t really different. We seek goals for what? to fulfill wishes. So Freud’s idea is not so far different.


Dream Metaphors

adler dreams 05Dreams strive to solve problems, by a metaphorical expression of the situation. The dreamer does not recognize the purpose of this metaphor. It is a self deception, in the interest of his own individual goal. The more this goal is in sync with reality, the less he dreams.

Emotion-Producing Function

What may be the purpose of not understanding or forgetting the dream. Emotions and feelings evoked by the dreams is the dream purpose; not reason and judgment.

When what happens when our reality comes in conflict with our preferred style of life, emotions are aroused by means of ideas and pics which we do not understand.

In dreams the goal is reachable and the person has emotional power which impels him toward it.


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A Dream Expressing Fear of Marriage

It is a case of neurotic anxiety which has taken the form of agoraphobia and accompanied by heart symptoms.  The man was 35yrs old. He dreamed

“I crossed the border between Austria and Hungary and they wanted to imprison me.”

The dream showed the man wanting to standstill, due to fear of crossing over to another place.


A Dream During Recovery from Depression

The aim of Individual Psychology treatment is to increase courage to meet the problems of life. This is a case of a woman who was not happy with her marriage but was afraid to leave her husband.

adler dreams 07The client thinks “It is better to stay by my husband than to expose myself to dangers alone”.  Adler disagrees with her interpretation, and thinks she is not ready for independence.

I disagree with Adler in that if it is the client’s truth that she’d rather be safe than in another situation which she thinks is a happier situation, than we can respect that. This dream in my opinion is therapeutic as it put her at ease with her situation. 


Common Dream Elements

We cannot explain a dream without knowing its relationship to the other part of the personality.

“Everything can be different.” Each dream interpretation is individualized.

Dreams of falling: fear of loss of prestige.

Dreams of flying: bouyancy and courage… overcoming difficulties

Dream of paralysis: current problem is insoluble.

Dreams of examinations: a feeling of not being prepared for challenge, or you can pass since you’ve done it before.

Dreams about dead people: remains under the persons influence.

Missing a train: escaping a dreaded defeat by arriving too late or letting opportunity slip.

Dreams about being improperly clothed:  fear of being detected in imperfection.

Sexual dreams: sometimes show inadequate training for sexual intercourse, other times reveal a retreat from a partner and a withdrawal upon oneself.

Dreams of homosexuality: training against teh other sex.

Dreams of cruelty:  rage or craving for revenge.

Dreams of soiling: as above

Children who wet the bed dream that they are doing in a proper place. (As with Freud’s concept that dreams are there to protect sleep). Or there is anger at being neglected.

Anxiety dreams: reflect heightened anyiety in place of defeat,

Pleasant dreams reflect more vigorous “fiat”.. contrast to existing situation. Meant ot provoke all the stronger feelings of aversion.

Forgotten Dreams … the emotional tone is strong.

Recurrent dreams: style of life expressed with great clarity. Gives us a definite indication as to the individuals goal of superiority.

adler dreams 08

Short dreams: finding a short cut.

Long dreams: seeking excessive security by means of circumventing detours.

Absence of dreams: forgotten and only emotion remains. lack of imagination…


Ansbacher, H. L., & Ansbacher, R. R. (1956). The individual psychology of Alfred Adler.

Freud, S. (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Basic Books.