This section is from the book "The Psychology Of Dreams", by William S. Walsh. Also available from Amazon: The Psychology of Dreams.
Each individual is constantly at odds with the many sides of his nature which seek to control his actions and his thoughts. Naturally, most mentally normal persons endeavour to live true to their ideals, that which they recognize as their better selves. How successful they will be depends upon many factors, as early training, environment, circumstance, will power. However favourable these may be, and however uprightly one may live, there come to each person urgings, impulses, desires to be untrue to the better self. Though these may, at times, conquer, if only in the imagination, they are, as a rule, repressed. The will forces them out of consciousness, though it may do so only after a struggle. But when sleep comes on the bars are let down; the will reposes; self-control goes on a vacation; the relaxed state of the mind permits thoughts which are crowding about the door, so to speak, of consciousness to come through. We may not like these thoughts, but we are unable to keep them from entering; we cannot control them. Sometimes we recognize the nature of the thoughts at once, and are disturbed. Sometimes we do not; they are distorted, symbolized, and we appreciate their true nature only when the dream has reached its climax. Often, too, we may note a resemblance, possibly slight, which a dream image has to a repressed thought; the mere act of recognition is sufficient for the unwelcome thought to make an appearance. It may happen that the dreamer toys with a thought, but he finds that he cannot call the play to an end, once it seems to be not to his liking. But, as a rule, we note and are aware of what the dream is dealing with, and then we react as would be the waking bent. Should we be unconcerned we will find a good explanation in the mental dissociation present; the ideas of the better self are submerged; for the time being they are unknown to consciousness.
Sometimes, when one dreams of upright persons acting in a manner foreign to their ordinary actions, it is found that the dream proves true. This has led some persons to credit the sleeping mind with better reasoning than waking consciousness. As regards the prophecy of a few of these dreams, such is merely a matter of chance. The dreams themselves may be instigated in many ways. They may have been instigated by doubts; we may have wondered if So and So was really the person he or she professed to be. They may have been instigated by wishes; for instance, we may have wished that a gruff person be more kindly; or we may be consciously or unconsciously jealous of a certain person and wish that he or she had some failing; as we will learn shortly, dreams often bring about the realization of wishes. Possibly, sleeping consciousness may effect the change; for instance, if one who antagonizes us appears in dreams sleep is disturbed, but if the antagonism is lacking, or replaced by the opposite, we may wonder but sleep is free from anxiety and so continues. But however these dreams may be instigated, the fact that the wayward actions of the dream characters excite our emotions little or none, especially when the actions do not refer to us, is not surprising. If it would really satisfy our jealousy to know that a certain person was, in real life, as bad as the dream alleged, we cannot expect to experience other than agreeable emotion, or, at least, no painful feeling. And, after all, few of us are as surprised or chagrined as much as we profess to be when we learn something actually true about a person, and which is unfavourable to that person's merit or reputation; an exception must be made, of course, to those near to us. There is, probably in every one, a personality which is secretly gratified whenever it learns of other people's failings; it seems to feel that the downfalls of others will contribute, in some way, to the betterment of the main personality's interests. Of course, this pleasure-feeling is repugnant to the true personality's sense of ethics, and is suppressed. But in dreams we do not need to play to observers, who might censure us; we see instead of hear, and thus are not called upon to express the expected and customary surprise ; in short, we are as unconcerned as we would be in real life were we to do away with pretence and false expressions of surprise of any kind.