Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Dreams, daydreams, and fantasies can all be understood as activities of the individual consistent with and expressive of the lifestyle. Adler includes day and night dreams among the five categories essential for exploring lifestyle (pp. 327-328). While Adler acknowledged that Freud was first in recognizing the value of studying patient dreams ("We must honor him for laying the foundation of the science of dream interpretation"), he also said, in a kind of secondborn son's back-handed comment on a first-born son's priority, that he "learned from [Freud's] mistakes" and rejected Freud's idea that dream content has to do with infantile sexual wishes or death wishes (p. 358).
Adler's understanding is that an individual's dreams, daydreams, and fantasies inhere in the unity of the personality, and therefore that "only by considering dreams as one of the expressions of the style of life may an adequate interpretation of them be found" (p. 359). Dreams serve a problem-solving function by moving the individual toward solutions, operating as "a bridge that connects the problem which confronts the dreamer [the exogenous factor] with his goal of attainment" (p. 359). Adler, who claimed that he never dreamed, thought that people with community feeling hardly ever dream, since they solve their problems in waking life. (Research affirms Adler's view that the function of dreaming is to problem-solve, but disproves his notion about the incidence of dreaming, showing that everyone who sleeps dreams every night [Cartwright, 1997]). Dreikurs (1973) quotes Adler as saying that dreams are "the factory of the emotions" (p. 221), and it is the emotions that serve as preparation for action: "The golden rule of Individual Psychology is: 'Everything can be different.' We must modify each dream interpretation to fit the individual concerned. . . . The only valid dream interpretation is that which can be integrated with an individual's general behavior" (p. 363).
[On Sunday, June 18, 1989 the London Observer reported that a "previously unknown manuscript by Sigmund Freud, in which the founder of psychoanalysis describes dreams of appearing naked in public and failing crucial examinations, has been discovered in the archives of a European family. It is understood to have been written privately for Alfred Adler, one of Freud's most influential disciples [sic!]."]
The dream purposefully creates an emotional state in the dreamer (Shulman, 1973, p. 63).
The meaning of dreams can be recognized by an objective and trained interpreter by looking for the PURPOSE which the dream situation might have in the actual life situation of the dreamer. Without knowledge of the patient's problems and conflicts, no dream can be accurately interpreted (Dreikurs, 1973, p. 221).
[A client's] made-up dreams are just as good as his genuinely remembered dreams, for his imagination and fantasy will also be an expression of his style of life (Adler, 1969, p. 70).
The fantasies of children and grownups, sometimes called daydreams, are always concerned with the future. The[se] “castles in the air” are . . .built up in fictional form as models for real activity (Adler, 1957, p. 56).
The inferiority feeling finally culminates in a never-ceasing, always exaggerated feeling of being slighted, so that the Cinderella fantasy becomes complete with its longing expectation of redemption and triumph. The frequent fantasies of children regarding their princely origin and temporary banishment from their “real” home are of this kind (p. 53).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 25).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Adler, A. (1957). Understanding human nature. (W. B. Wolfe, Trans.). New York: Fawcett. (Original work published 1927)
Adler, A. (1969). The science of living. (H. L. Ansbacher, Ed.). New York: Doubleday. (Original work published 1929)
Cartwright, R. D. (1977). Night life: Explorations in dreaming. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Dreikurs, R. (1973, Rev. ed.). Psychodynamics, psychotherapy and counseling: Collected papers of Rudolf Dreikurs, M. D. Chicago: Alfred Adler Institute.
Shulman, B. H. (1973). Contributions to Individual Psychology: Selected papers. Chicago: Alfred Adler Institute.