Wish fulfillment dreams are dreams that are in some way (although often not straightforwardly) satisfying some desire in the sleeper. These desires can and often are multilayered: for example, a dream about one’s boss dying being both a wish fulfillment for the death of one’s boss, but also the subsequent financial gain.
On a deeper level, it may also be fulfilling the unconscious wish for one’s own father to die whom the dreamer has projected onto their boss! It is worth noting that some neurological research from the past several decades known as “neuropsychoanalysis” has given more credit to Freud’s theory of wish fulfillment than previous psychologists have in the past.
Some dream interpreters, like Freud, argue that all dreams are fundamentally wish fulfillment dreams. Indeed, he would argue that if one can interpret the wish in a dream, then the rest of the dream will often unravel its meaning more easily from that thread.
Other psychological theories, usually ones that do not give much weight to the role of the unconscious in the mind, argue that this only applies to some dreams. Even if someone thinks all dreams are at bottom wish fulfillment, one may still choose to mark different dreams into other categories that go beyond mere, direct wish fulfillment.
In psychoanalytic theory, a wish that manifests into a dream requires sufficient mental charge, which comes initially from not just a wish, but also some sort of inhibition towards the wish that does not permit the wish being expressed in conscious thought or action, usually occurring the day before the dream.
For example, a nanny tells a little girl she is eating too many strawberries. The child understands that strawberries are now regulated by rules. She goes to bed hungry, and dreams of eating strawberries.
Freud used this example he observed in his young daughter, Anna Freud, concluding that wish fulfillment dreams in children are often very simple, but become more layered and complex as they grow up due the development of more self-regulatory prohibitions.
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