The Interpretation Of Dreams Summary (7/10) — Unearned Wisdom
In The Interpretation of Dreams, one of the classic works of psychology in the 20th century, Freud wrote that dreams were created by two processes in the mind. The first comes from an unconscious force which construct a wish that is expressed in the dream. The second is censorship which distorts the expression of the wish. All dreams, according to Freud are forms of “wish fulfilment.” Although, Freud apparently revokes this idea in his later works and writes about dreams that are not wish fulfilments.
While many have accused Freud’s theories about dreams of requiring sexual interpretation, Freud denies the accusation, and says that the book does not mention this at any point. The criticism may be based on Freud’s belief that the unconscious originated from libidinal drives.
Four Kinds of Dreams
Freud thought that dreams tended to correlate with recent events. But these connections were usually minor and not essential to the content of the dream. Generally, there are four kinds of dreams.
1) Mentally significant experiences represented directly.
2) Many recent and important experiences combined into a one form through a dream.
3) Several recent and important experiences which is represented by indifferent experience.
4) An internal significant experience, such as a memory, that is represented in the dream through a recent but indifferent impression.
Often, people experience things during sleep, such as an alarm clock or someone knocking on the door. This stimuli is often seamlessly incorporated into the dream which led many before Freud to assume that dreams were simply the expressions of the variations of sensations experienced during sleep. But it is key to note that in the dream, this sensation is distorted in some way.
Freud thought that this happened because the mind is withdrawn from the external world durin g sleep and cannot give the sensation an accurate interpretation. And since the mind wants to continue sleeping, it will often find a way to weave the sound or sensation into the dream.
Freud thought dreams were puzzles, not the random by-product of a brain systematically carrying out its routine functions. In other words, dreams meant something, they contained rich information about the nature of the self.
What Causes Dreams?
Freud mentions a considerable amount of work on dreams that go back as early as Aristotle and mentions others such as Maury, Burdach, Delage, and Strumpell. While Freud credits these authors, he does not think that we have made any scientific progress in trying to understand dreams.
While people once thought that dreams were inspired by a divine force, the modern scientific viewpoint became that dreams were merely the result of sensory excitation.
Freud acknowledged the role of sensory excitation, as mentioned before, but he did not think they were sufficient to explain dreams. There was just too much poetic richness in dreams to be reduced to sensations. In addition to sensations, there was childhood memories and recent events. But there was also a kind of message.
Freud thought dreams contained a moral dimension. He thought that dreams were also indicators of a person’s mental health, based on his work with patients who experienced psychosis. He also observed that dreams often focus on subtle things that go unnoticed by the conscious mind. That dreams are far from random and often convey a story which must be pieced together. That dreams are always about the person’s perception of themselves and never about external events which have nothing to do with them.
Freud belonged to the trend of the great “unmaskers” of human intentions. He saw dreams as the primary method by which the unconscious communicated its thoughts to the conscious self. But Freud wondered why dreams were so obscure and difficult to decode.
If they were trying to communicate something, why were they so mysterious and vague? He thought that the reason was that many of our deepest desires are repressed, and they can only reach our conscious awareness if they are disguised in some way.
A dream can seem like the opposite of what we wish for because we may be defensive about what we truly want. Freud that this “dream distortion” was similar to what frequently occurred in politics. Machiavelli was a writer who wanted to gain power and favor from the prince. He likely had some very harsh words, but of course, he could not come right out and say them. Instead, he wrote ‘ The Prince’ which was a conniving manual that flattered the prince. But it can also be interpreted as a message in reverse.
By revealing the ways of the pragmatic ruler so clearly and openly, he was in another sense, undermining the morality that informed such behavior. What better way to mock a prince than to make so clear the ugliness of his ways and the ways of those in power in general? Recall that Machiavelli was severely mistreated and forced to exile, and it is not unlikely that he harbored feelings of resentment towards the ruling class.
Either way, the idea of communicating disguised messages is not foreign to the human experience. When a political writer’s life is in danger, he must learn to distort the expression of his opinion so that he cannot be persecuted for what he says.
In the same way, the psyche wants to send a message, but it must censor it so that it can be received. It cannot be too harsh. In fact, there is an interesting clue to why this may be true. We often forget dreams rather quickly after having them. That is why it is suggested to keep a dream journal and record one’s dreams directly after waking up. Why do we forget our dreams so quickly? Freud thought that this was our way of subduing the influence of the unconscious on our waking life.
Originally published at https://unearnedwisdom.com.