A postmodern, sociological exploration of current dream-related discourses and practices
Nell, Hermann Werner
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The study was prompted by the lack of existing research with regard to what people locally think and believe about dreams. The study aimed to uncover, explore, and describe current, local dream related beliefs, discourses, and practices (in the Vaal-Triangle area of South-Africa), using a postmodern, social constructivist, as well as a generally sociological approach. In support of this aim, a literature review of various religious, cultural, and psychological dream related discourses was executed. Semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with twenty respondents who were purposively selected from the administrative database of a Vaal-Triangle University on the basis of culture and gender. The interviews were recorded and the edited transcriptions thus derived served as basis for a thematic qualitative analysis of the respondents' dream related beliefs and practices. The findings were also examined with regard to cultural and gender related patterns, as well as in relation to existing dream discourses. Findings included that dreams were accorded differing degrees of importance by the respondents, that dreams were believed to originate both from internal factors such as an individual's mental and emotional state and neurological processes, as well as from external factors such as daily events and experiences, deceased relatives, and God. Furthermore, dreams were believed to serve several different functions such as mental processing, releasing pent-up emotions, expressing fears or desires, predicting the future, or providing warnings and solutions to problems. Dreams also often served as basis for decisions and actions, most often in order to avoid a negative outcome, or actualize a positive scenario shown by a dream. Several types of unusual dream experiences were reported, including precognitive dreams, dreams that provided contact with a deceased relative or ancestor, spiritual experiences in dreams, as well as sleep paralysis. The most significant sociological findings included that dreams often influence the nature and content of social interaction between individuals, frequently serving as a source of humour and entertainment; that the mother often serves as the "keeper" of knowledge about dreams, and that local dream discourses and practices might in part be transmitted matrilineally.
- Humanities