Diagnosing Personality By Analysis Of Dreams
"A dream is, therefore, among other things a projection: an externalization of an internal process."
Since the publication of Freud's monumental work, Die Traumdeutung, the interpretation of dreams as a diagnostic method for the analysis of personality has remained the exclusive property of psychoanalysis. The psychologist, except for an occasional investigator who experiments with dreams as perceptual phenomena, has not concerned himself with dreams as psychological data. This neglect was understandable as long as the psychologist concentrated his attention on laboratory dissections of sensation, perception, learning, memory, and thought.
Now that he has widened his experimental horizons to include personality, character, and temperament, disregard of the dream can no longer be justified. For the dream possesses two characteristics which should make it highly eligible for serious and systematic investigation. It is a personal document and it is a projection. As a personal document it is more frank and intimate than a diary and as a projection it requires no ink-blots or pictures to bring it into existence. In our opinion the dream is more purely personal and more purely projected than any other material which the psychologist has available for the study of personality.
It may be asked, have not the psychoanalysts established dream interpretation as a dependable scientific tool? One familiar with the psychoanalytic literature on the dream will answer in the negative. Psychoanalysts have poured forth an opulent array of hypotheses and theories. Their speculations are shrewd, sophisticated and, to the uninitiated, often esoteric. At their best, the psychoanalytic theories appear impressively insightful; at their worse, they appear impressively fraudulent.
Good or bad, they are rarely dull. Die Traumdeutung probably contains the richest fabric of theory to be found in any modem psychological treatise. Stekel's works on the interpretation of dreams leaves the reader with the feeling that the dream "tells all, "that it is the portal into the most secret recesses of the inner personality. It cannot be denied that the psychoanalysts, in addition to their penchant for theorizing, make brilliant use of dream interpretation in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders. For them, the dream is not only a datum about which to speculate; it is also a datum to be put to work. If practice verifies theory, what then is lacking?
The principal deficiency to be found in the psychoanalytic writings is that they fail to meet the standards of the scientific method. Like animal psychology prior to Lloyd Morgan, the psychology of dreams is still in the anecdotal stage. Psychoanalysis has not recognized the importance of controls, of statistical treatment of its data, of validation. It erects a top-heavy theoretical structure on the foundation of selected examples. It has not designed experiments for the purpose of checking its speculations. It has a flair for dogmatism and excathedral statements, and a distaste for quantification and control.
We propose, therefore, to make a scientific study of dreams for the purpose of establishing the interpretation of dreams as a valid method for diagnosing some facets of the personality which currently elude accurate description. We believe that through the analysis of dreams, important and significant information about the inner dynamics of the personality can be discovered. It is our hope that this belief may be corroborated by the application of those experimental procedures which have been used to validate other diagnostic tools.
Hall, C. S. (1947). Diagnosing personality by the analysis of dreams. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 42, 68-79.
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