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Dreams are something that have defied man’s intellect since time immemorial. Right from 1899 when Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, took the world by storm with his ground-breaking work, Interpretation of Dreams, lots of light has been shed on the mysterious and mesmerising Borgesian labyrinths of dreams.

Psychology expert S Swaminathan, who has retired from a long stint in the School Education Department and delved deep into the puzzle that is the human mind, says that it is only a dreamer who has the key to open up his/her world of dreams. Dreams are something that travels along what Freud calls the ‘royal road to the unconscious.’

Swaminathan shares his insights with inmathi.com. Following are the excerpts from the interview:

Q: Can you give a general interpretation of dreams?

A:  Not possible. Dreams differ from person to person. A person’s dreams are tied up with his/her background, lifestyle and so on. When a salt trader dreams of raining, it may indicate his hidden fears of business loss and hindrances to his efforts. On the contrary, if a farmer dreams of rain, it may hint at a bumper harvest.

A person’s dreams are tied up with his/her background, lifestyle and so on. A salt trader dreams of rain; it may indicate his hidden fears of business loss and hindrances to his efforts. On the contrary, if a farmer dreams of rain, it may hint at a bumper harvest

Q: Can you explain this further?

A: I used to visit my grandma’s houses during school vacations, mostly after the half-yearly, quarterly and annual exams. The holidays would spell freedom from books and classrooms, freeing my mind from stifling schedules. In the cosy comfort of my grandma’s love and care, the food she made me tasted like never before.

During village festivals, elephants used to be brought in. In the insouciant atmosphere, my friends — though new to me at that time — and I had fun and frolic, playing around in the razzmatazz of the rural festivals. Indeed they were fantastic vacations!

We would cajole the mahout into telling us story after story about the elephants and from his personal life.

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There was a forest near our school and most of my classmates hailed from the villages around the forest. Their families had agricultural lands where plantain, coconut and tapioca used to be cultivated. Herds of elephants would trespass on the lands and plunder the crops. There were also instances of elephants trampling humans to death. As I would watch the pachyderms, my eyes widened in disbelief, and my classmates living near the forest would throw surprised glances at me.

There was a police station near our school. Near the station once I happened upon a lorry loaded with stacks of bamboo sticks horizontally spread so the heavy vehicle seemed out of sight. The driver had to slither his way into his seat. Looking at it, I felt curious and made enquiries with my classmates who said that it was a precautionary measure to keep elephants at bay on the way. In case the lorry broke down en route, there would be no guarantee for the driver’s security.

My friends used to tell me awfully scary stories about elephants. When a bull elephant grows into adulthood, it is said to be in musth, turning aggressive. How to avert such elephants’ attacks? My friends used to tip me off on the strategies to be adopted in dangerous situations.

So, quite naturally there would be differences between the ways I would see elephants in my dreams and they in their dreams.

The deepest thoughts buried in the recesses of the human mind must be ferreted out and analysed so that there will be a synergy between body and mind. A mind that becomes calm and composed will spell a tranquil life

Q: What does an analysis of dreams have to do with this experience of your boyhood?

A: The phantasmagorias the dreams unfold have several scenes, figures and things which are unconsciously rooted in all our experiences in day-to-day life. So, interpretations of dreams are based on such deep connections between dreams and reality. From this, the fact is crystal clear: Interpretation of a dream is only possible by the person who has the surrealistic experience.

Q: Then what exactly is the role of psychoanalysts and psychiatrists?

A:  A psychoanalyst, well trained in dissecting dreams and subjecting them to an analysis, will guide you in unravelling your dreams and step-by-step getting to know their roots. The expert will initiate his efforts to first know how the scenes, persons and things you happen upon in your dreams will impact your reality.

Several fields of human activity have their own code languages. For example, people will use the colour black to denote toddy and white to denote arrack. Bargaining on cattle prices through a piece of cloth covering the right hands of both seller and buyer is a coded transaction. Such types of codes may figure in dreams too. But their meaning can be understood only by the dreamer concerned for they may be part of his/her reality.

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Q: Why should dreams be deconstructed and analysed?

A: The deepest thoughts buried in the recesses of human minds must be ferreted out and analysed so that there will be a synergy between body and mind. A mind that becomes calm and composed thus will spell a tranquil life. A balanced mind will help you take vital decisions on your crucial issues without being swayed by emotions. Will a particular work suit your mindset or not? Will the road ahead be ideal for your travel? Such questions likely to torment an average mind will be easily fixed by an analytical mind.

Even in the police department, some personnel who seem physically and mentally strong sometimes tend to go into a tailspin to the point of ending their lives. Even a few doctors reputed for both physical and mental health have ended their lives. The reason is that they don’t give due importance to mental health in reality.

So, interpretation of dreams helps one get to know exactly the state and health of one’s mind.


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