Psychology

How Dreams may Affect the Criminal Mind



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What if your mind did not work like it was designed to do? What if somehow your unconscious mind did not protect your waking mind any more? What if repression was no longer able to hide the things that you do not want to see? Is it your fault that you've been subjected to primal urges or contemplations of the human mind that have long been buried by society and have fell from the grace of social acceptance? More importantly; is your behavior a product of these defaults of a dysfunctional mind and are you being penalized for them mentally and physically?

Freud suggested that through our dreams the unconscious mind would express our most unwanted or in some cases desired, but not acceptable, behaviors or feelings through the use of symbols. These symbols would allow the individual to express these desires in a safe and harmless way, never actually becoming aware to what the symbols actually mean. It was believed by Freud that if this did not take place, and the desires were not expressed through dreams, that the individual in question would become increasingly disturbed and the behaviors would gradually work themselves through into the conscious mind causing all sorts of troubles for that person.

Its my belief however that these symbols can sometimes be removed from dreams altogether and instead be replaced by actual relevant and meaningful images, events and expressions that serve in no way to protect the dreamer but confuse and persuade them, in some extremes, to commit these acts or desires, or believe that they are correct, in their waking everyday lives. Imagine a man, who by no fault of his own, before any acts of perversion or criminal offenses committed by him, constantly dreams about attacking and raping women. These dreams may come so often and so graphically that this man may develop an insight, and possible desires, to commit such acts, especially if he's witnessed it first hand which may be the case in terms of his dream developments. Alternatively a man or women who's dreams are riddled with such appalling images or graphic events may start to question themselves and their mind set which could possibly lead to many types of disorders, or anxiety problems, feelings of self guilt, OCD just to name a few and the list could be endless. Imagine telling your close friends or family that last night you dreamed of having sexual intercourse with a corpse, which is known as necrophilia and is considered, so rightly, to be one of the most atrocious acts that any man can commit. Now these may not be your true desires but people will still judge you according to social norms and they will covertly if not directly impose the same consequences on you whether it is a dream or not. What if in this particular dream you experienced excitement whilst committing these unacceptable behaviors? You will find this pretty hard to come to terms with. Upon waking it is granted that you will immediately feel disgusted by what you have experienced within the dream but the fact remains that somewhere in your unconscious and more importantly now a memory in your conscious mind, these thoughts and now feelings do exist and will remain for a long time.

The Validity of the Dream Senses

In relationship to the above it's important to consider the validity of the senses within dreams and how they compare to our waking senses and the retention of stimuli through these senses. Is an experience in a dream as valid as an experience in the waking world in relation to the multi store memory concept designed by Atkinson & Shiffrin (1974) in which stimuli reacts upon our senses which in turn processes them into our STM and then embeds them into our LTM for future recall, being that they are relevant. It's not a question of whether we remember dreams because that is undoubtedly true. It is however about whether or not this information is stored in the same way as is events and feelings that exist in reality and if they in fact do have the same emotional links that real memories do. In relation to this model if dreams were not valued by our minds then surely they would be discarded as irrelevant material and we could go on without ever thinking about them but it is clear that they do hold relevance. So if we dream of committing such unruly acts then in theory our minds will perceive these events as actually have happened and although we know they didn't we will not be able to ignore the emotional connections stored with these memories.

The Consequence of Dreaming

Assuming that the dreams do hold true emotions and links then this has very important implications for criminals and could be an insight into why they commit the crimes they do. More importantly it can help us to develop ways of treating criminals or disturbed individuals without simply imprisoning them and never actually addressing their problems. It's agreed that obviously all violent crimes such as rape and murder are not caused simply due to an under active mind whilst they sleep but not all undesired behaviors can be explained with today's understanding. Maybe through dream therapy criminals can identify where their desires are originating and work with a clinical psychologist to remove those worrying behaviors. Related to this people who experience such dreams but who have not replayed their experiences into reality could help to explain how they cope with their dream experiences for help with future references and patients. Plus, identifying that the dreams are indeed causing them stress and provoking thoughts of a clandestine but disturbing nature then they can receive help to rid them of such dreams and help remove any guilt they feel which could develop into further problems.

The Cause of Symbol Loss

Symbol loss has been noted mostly by those who work closely with their dreams. Such as those who keep dream diaries and conduct dream interpretation. To aid dream recollection and also the abundance of dream activity individuals can practice certain perception and reality tests to break down the barriers between their unconscious and conscious mind. One example of this technique is imagining a wall separating two areas. In one you should visualize the norms of everyday life, for example green grass, trees bearing fruit, a road with cars passing by, and on the other side aspects of a dream world that are out of the ordinary or fictional, such as strange animals, or trees bearing irregular fruit, people who can fly and so on. When this image has been achieved the individual should then visualize the wall separating each half gradually dissolving and fading away. This image signifies to your mind the coming together of the unconscious and the conscious mind. Numerous other techniques help these dream workers to constantly close the gap on their waking and sleeping lives. This can lead to the unconscious mind dropping its defenses and thus letting some symbolic images portray themselves as what they actually are.

Related to this is the act of Lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is what occurs when a person works with their dreams and then works religiously to try and achieve a sense of waking within their own dreams. When a lucid state has been achieved the dreamer has complete control over the dream-scape and everything within it. Lucid dreamers have reported being able to slow down time within their dreams and have led complete alternate lives. This form of manipulation can lead to the breakdown of symbols and if dreams are not controlled properly they can become unstable, releasing some of the undesired and repressed memories.

It is assumed that the breakdown of the unconscious mind and the dysfunction of symbols can also occur naturally as do many other disorders, diseases, and illnesses. With all this in mind maybe we should place more emphasis on the dreams of society's insurgents and take into consideration that the roots of their behaviors and actions may not have been so self attained as we currently believe.

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More about this author: Ryan Bendall

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