Sleep and Dreaming Manifest Content of Your Dreams By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry Facebook Twitter Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 16, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Image Source / Getty Images The manifest content of a dream is the actual literal content and storyline of the dream. This is usually contrasted with what is referred to as the latent content or hidden meaning of the dream. For example, imagine that you have a very vivid dream that you fly out your bedroom window and soar around your city. The sights, sounds, and storyline of the dream are the manifest content. A dream interpreter might suggest that your dream reveals a hidden desire to seek freedom from your day-to-day life. This symbolic meaning behind the literal content of the dream is known as the latent content. Two Types of Dream Content According to the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the manifest content of a dream includes the actual images, thoughts, and content contained within the dream. The manifest content is the elements of the dream that you remember upon awakening. In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud suggested that the content of dreams is related to wish fulfillment. Freud believed that the manifest content of a dream, or the actual imagery and events of the dream, served to disguise the latent content or the unconscious wishes of the dreamer. Understanding Your Dreams For example, if you dreamed that you were being chased by an ominous creature through the dark streets of a strange city, that would be the manifest content of the dream. What that dream might actually mean, or the interpretation of its symbolic meaning, would be considered the latent content. In this case, a dream analyst might suggest that the manifest content of your dream suggests that you are running from something in your life or worried about an upcoming change in your life. Unconscious Thoughts So why does the latent content of a dream end up being hidden by the manifest content? Freud believed that the unconscious mind contained desires, urges, and thoughts that are unacceptable to the conscious mind. These might involve traumatic memories, secret desires, or socially objectionable urges that might cause distress if they were brought into awareness. As you recall, Freud believed that dreams served as a form of wish fulfillment. Since we cannot act on our unconscious desires in our waking life, we can explore these feelings in dreams. However, we tend to do this in hidden, symbolic forms. According to Freud, the mind uses a number of different strategies to censor the latent content of a dream. For example, imagine a new person just started working at your office. Everyone else seems to like this person, but you still feel a strange sense of ambivalence. One night, you dream that the new co-worker hates you and is going out of their way to sabotage your efforts and work with the goal of getting you fired. In the dream, they spread untrue gossip about you throughout the office and even starts taking credit for your work. While the dream is obviously stressful, it does not really reflect the actions of this co-worker. The events of the dream represent the manifest content, but there is clearly something else behind this strange and rather frightening dream. By censoring the unconscious wishes and disguising them in the manifest content, we can explore our hidden thoughts and memories in a way that protects the ego from anxiety. Freud might suggest that you are using a psychological strategy known as a projection to disguise your true feelings about the new co-worker. This defense mechanism involves projecting your feelings onto someone else. The reality is that you deeply dislike the new co-worker, but you realize that these feelings are not shared by your officemates and would be deemed socially unacceptable. So you instead project these feelings onto the co-worker, dreaming that she hates you when it is actually the other way around. By doing this, you can explore your unconscious feelings in a way that seems more acceptable. Some other common ways that the mind censors latent content include displacement, symbolization, rationalization, and condensation. 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Zhang W, Guo B. Freud's Dream Interpretation: A Different Perspective Based on the Self-Organization Theory of Dreaming. Front Psychol. 2018;9:1553. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01553 Additional Reading Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.