A Fountain Full of Lillypads

As a student, I can’t help but use my new acquired knowledge of concepts to analyze events of past for a more accurate understanding. I study psychology and within psychology, there is so much to learn about the mind and the intricate ways in which it processes events, experiences, people. But more than that, how our mind uses specific processes that we aren’t even aware of, to stop us from behaving in a certain way. Our subconscious. What Freud would argue to be the holy grail of our existence. So much data analysis occurs at the subconscious level and at a whopping three times as fast as our active consciousness. Our subconscious perceives information for everyday actions that we aren’t aware of. For example, you go see a movie, say Wonder Woman (can’t wait to actually see this, the excitement is real). We all know those awesome previews before the actual movie. You know, that show the trailers of all the other cool movies soon to come out that you would have never seen had you not gone to see Wonder Woman? Well let’s say, for experimental reasons, in between two frames of a trailer, there was a single frame that read “HUNGRY? EAT POPCORN.” This frame passed by so fast that you didn’t actually see it but your mind did. A now widely known market researcher known as James Vicary actually attempted this tactic, known as Subliminal Advertising. His particular study yielded results as grand as 50% increase in sales of popcorn. Although he later admitted that he falsified his data, many future studies have shown that subliminal messages can in fact change behavior in very small ways.

However, the subject of this particular post is not about subliminal messages (it could fill up an entire blog post though). You see, subliminal messages are not the only methods to activate our subconscious to pass along a message. If you have heard of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung or you have taken a course in psychology, than you definitely have heard of something called Dream Analysis. Dream Analysis is exactly what you may think it is, but not nearly as easy as you may think it is.

There are 2 parts to a dream according to Freud. The manifest content and the latent content. The manifest content represents the actual dream. What you see. The latent content is the meaning behind the manifest content. What you think. If you dream of buying a dog, you may come to belive that your subconscious is telling you, you want a dog. Sounds simple right? It’s not. The latent content is much harder to analyze than simply determining what the manifest content means. The subconscious follows a set of operations to hide the true meaning of the latent content. In other words, the manifest content is distorted to hide the true meaning behind it. Dreaming of buying a dog may not actually mean your subconscious wants a dog. There are many operations the subconscious can perform.

  • Displacement – desire for a person or object is symbolized by someone or something else (for example your desire to buy a dog may be shown by your manifest content illustrating a cat)
  • Projection – a person’s personal desires are placed onto another person (your desire for buying a dog may be shown by your manifest content illustarting your friend buying a dog)
  • Symbolism – a symbol may replace a person, place, or action (your desire to buy a dog may be shown by your manifest content illustrating a paw print)
  • Condensation – the feelings of the dreamer are hidden by minimizing its content (your desire to buy a dog may be shown by your manifest content failing to illustrate any dog or animal related content)
  • Rationalization – a dreamers attempt to organize incoherent information into something logical

Doesn’t seem so simple now does it? Well, understanding the subconscious isn’t suppose to be easy. However, learning about these techniques made me reflect on past dreams I’ve had when I was a young girl. There is one particular dream of mine that stands out, and i’ll be honest with you, it was quite traumatizing.

This dream was about a pair of shoes. A very particular pair of shoes. A pair of shoes that were my favourite pair of shoes. However, they were not my pair of shoes, not at first. I had a friend in elementary school, I was maybe around 8 or 9. This friend, we’ll call her Sam, had the nicest pair of purple shoes that I had ever seen in my 8 years of living. She grew out of the shoes and, knowing how much I loved them, she gave them to me. Now, don’t get the wrong impression, I did not come from a poor family, I just really loved those shoes. I went home wearing the shoes and didn’t take them off until it was bed time. That night was the start of a very torturous dreaming experience. I was in a park soccer field. You know, the kind where they have goal psots but no actual net? My parents were at the sidelines of the field, and my brothers and I were in the field, kicking around a ball. My older brother kicks the ball my way. I kick it back to him but its not the soccer ball that takes air, but my right shoe. I watch it land a few meters from the soccer field under a very large water fountain. Not one of those drinking water fountains, or garden fountains. I mean an incredibly large, fancy, expensive water fountain. What that water fountain was doing in the middle of a park is beyond reason, but dreams are beyond reason. I ran over to the water fountain and saw my shoe so gracefully lying under its base. I laid down on the grass, reached my leg under the fountain, and kicked the shoe out from under the fountain. Immediately after, my entire body magically turns into a pile of lillypads. Scary right? This dream was persistent. I had it every night, until one night. I had grown so terrified of my dream becoming reality that I did the one thing my rational 8 year old mind could think of. Defeated by my favourite pair of purple shoes, one month after getting the shoes and inturn the dreams, I threw them away. That night I slept like a baby, or rather, I just slept (babies are known to dream much more frequently than any other age group).

How odd that a pair of purple shoes could influence my subconscious enough to create what felt like a nightmare. How odd that by ridding myself of these shoes, could I experience dreamy freedom. I’m no Freud, so I’m not going to begin to interpret what the latent content of my dream meant, but I’m definitely not going to deny the obvious. Those shoes had a bad omen. 

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