Analyzing the Meaning of Snakes in Dreams

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Dreams have a unique significance to each branch of psychology; therefore, it is appropriate to evaluate the meaning of a snake from each psychological perspective. The perspectives of psychoanalytic, cognitive, biological, socio-cultural, and behavioral psychology are all included regardless of their study of dreams because of the importance of analyzing situations from each perspective in any psychological analysis.

Psychoanalytic psychology is the branch of psychology that was founded on the beliefs of Austrian Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Freud was a champion of the concept of the unconscious, and dreams were included in his views. In this situation, the snake would be the “manifest content” of the dream; it would be what occurred explicitly in the dream. The implied meaning, or “latent content”, could range from a variety of meanings. Knowing Freud, and his ideal that sexual desire was the prime motivator in life, the snake from a psychoanalytic perspective would resemble a phallic symbol. The presence of a snake in a dream, from the psychoanalytic perspective, is a symbol of a longing for sexual interaction.

Cognitive scientists study the thoughts and feelings of human beings and other life forms. To a cognitive scientist, the snake represents a recurrence of thought. Perhaps the dreamer had seen a snake earlier that day, or had been learning about them. The presence of the snake is a reflection of the thoughts that the person was having prior to falling asleep.

Biological scientists study how the functions of the brain and body affect our mental nature. Dreams occur during the stage of sleep called REM sleep, in which the eyes move rapidly behind their lids, and biologists believe that dreams are the brain's interpretation of that rapid neural firing. Another biological hypothesis about dreams is that dreams are a result of heavy activity on behalf of the cortex. The interaction between the cortex and the limbic system is what helps to produce our conscious experiences of feelings and sensations, and dreams could be a result of the cortex exerting a strong influence over our unconscious when we are sleeping. In either situation, the snake in the dream does not have any significance by itself; it is merely an interpretation of biological interactions that are occurring within the body while the dreamer is asleep.

Socio-cultural scientists study the interactions between humans and the situations in which they are involved. A snake in a dream would signify a feeling of fear or anxiety caused by the dreamer's surrounding environment. Perhaps the dreamer is being abused physically/verbally, or just feels disenfranchised in society. Either way, the snake represents the anxiety that the dreamer feels as a result of the poor treatment the dreamer has experienced at the hands of other people, work, government, or any other aspect of society.

To behavioral scientists, dreams mean nothing. One of the foundations of behavioral psychology is to ignore all cognitive processes. Although this rule has become more lax recently, it still stands. While behavioral scientists may have beliefs about the reason we dream, the actual content of the dream is of no significance to them.

Overall, the meaning of a snake in a dream is debatable, as the meaning of all symbols in dreams is still highly-disputed today. Each branch of psychology has its own belief about dreams and the significance of dreams and there will never be a concrete answer to why we dream what we dream. All we can do is decide how the symbols are personally significant to us, while at times considering the implications that the symbol may have for the different branches of psychology, as outlined above.

More about this author: Eileen Bailey

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