The self-organization theory of dreaming proposes that the sleeping brain is a self-organizing system that can combine discontinuous and incongruous neuronal signals (i.e., different elements of dreams) into a relatively continuous narrative during sleep (Kahn and Hobson, 1993; Kahn et al., 2000, 2002). This theory also implies that dreams are not independently functional but rather a coproduct of the sleeping brain, reflecting the dreamer's physiological and psychological activities such as memory consolidation, emotion regulation, and reception of external stimuli (Zhang, 2016).
By contrast, Freud regarded dreams as a royal road to the unconscious; dream interpretation has thus been an important psychoanalytic technique. His theory of dreams mainly refers to two key points: (a) what are the materials of a dream? and (b) how do these materials work together? The answers to these questions are closely related to an understanding of dream interpretation. In this article, we refer to the self-organization theory of dreaming and seek to elucidate its meaning for dream interpretation.