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Freudian dream interpretation

Much of the text below comes from a group project done with fellow graduate students Sherri Reaume and Nicole Christy at Walden University. While most of the writing is mine, we all collaborated on the content. Sherri wrote the introduction and Nicole contributed dreams for sample interpretations.

This is not intended as a guide to understanding your dreams, but as a guide to understanding what Freud thought about dreams. Any personal understanding you glean from it may or may not be accurate.

overview
dream symbolism examples
the Oedipal complex
sample dream interpretations
guide to self-interpretation
references

Freudian Dream Interpretation: the basics

Sigmund Freud is known for developing many psychological constructs: the id, ego, superego personality theory, the unconscious, dream interpretation, thanatos and libido (the death and life instincts), and more. Few people know, however, that of all these theories his proudest moment was one of his earliest: his insights on dream interpretation, which he called a once-in-a-lifetime insight (Roth, 2000). Today opinions vary on Freud’s work, but this theory is still valuable, both to the psychology student seeking to better understand the roots of her discipline, and to the self-reflective soul seeking to examine his own mind.

This write-up will give the reader the tools necessary to understand and try to interpret dreams from a Freudian perspective. A self-help guide will be added at the end for convenience. This is not intended to provide therapy or advice in any way! It’s intended to provide insight into an important piece of psychological history. Personally, having read The Interpretation of Dreams over twenty years ago, I can say that much of my love of psychology and self-awareness has sprung from this book.

Prior to Freud, dream theories tended to fall into two categories: the mystical (psychic) and the biological. Some felt that dreams might hold clues to mental states, but because the content of dreams can be very confusing, exactly what this might mean was uncertain. Freud put the ability to make sense of a dream into the hands of the dreamer.

During the 19th century, a French doctor by the name of Alfred Maury speculated, through the use of self-experimentation, that external stimuli are the catalyst to all dreams (Schulze, 1997). Modern dream interpretation can trace itself directly back to Maury’s development of the concept of the unconscious. Another profound influence from the 19th century was Joseph Breuer, whose work, though not directly dream-related, inspired Freud:

For several years I have been occupied with the solution of certain psychopathological structures in hysterical phobias, compulsive ideas, and the like, for therapeutic purposes. I have been so occupied since becoming familiar with an important report of Joseph Breuer to the effect that in those structures, regarded as morbid symptoms, solution and treatment go hand in hand. Where it has been possible to trace such a pathological idea back to the elements in the psychic life of the patient to which it owes this origin, this idea has crumbled away, and the patient has been relieved of it…. In the course of these psychoanalytical studies, I happened upon dream interpretation. My patients, after I had obliged them to inform me of all the ideas and thoughts which came to them in connection with the given theme, related their dreams, and thus taught me that a dream may be linked into the psychic concatenation which must be followed backwards into the memory from the pathological idea as a starting-point. (Freud, pp. 83-84)

Also prior to Freud, there was no differentiation between the manifest content of a dream and its latent meaning (Freud). Freud’s insight was that the dream allowed access to the unconscious; he called it the via regia, or king’s road, to the unconscious desires and memories of people. This was a breakthrough in understanding dreams. From Freud:

All previous attempts to solve the problems of the dream have been based directly upon the manifest dream content as it is retained in the memory, and have undertaken to obtain an interpretation of the dream from this content…. We alone are in possession of new data; for us a new psychic material intervenes between the dream content and the results of our investigations: and this is the latent emphasis Freud’s dream content or the dream thoughts which are obtained by our method. We develop a solution of the dream from the latter, and not from the manifest dream content. We are also confronted for the first time with a problem which has before existed, that of examining and tracing the relations between the latent dream thoughts and the manifest dream content, and the processes through which the former have grown into the latter. (p. 260)

Freud’s work also freed people from the need for dream interpreters or dictionaries of dream symbols. In Freudian dream interpretation, the manifest content of a dream does not contain generic symbols that have identical meanings for all dreamers. Instead, while there may be overlap between dreamers in symbolic meaning, the final interpretation must made in context of the dreamer’s personal experience (Freud). Freud also believed that, so long as a dreamer was willing to see himself as clearly as possible, self-interpretation was probably better than the observation of others. As Freud put it, "One has a readily understood aversion to exposing so many intimate things from one’s own psychic life, and one does not feel safe from the misinterpretation of strangers" (p. 87). Freud also pointed out that using interpretations taken from patients could skew the interpreter’s understanding of a healthy person’s dreams, unless they were careful to avoid this.

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Sample symbols

Please be aware, when applying these definitions, that Freud did not believe in direct symbolic meanings which applied to everyone; in fact, his comments on so-called cipher and symbolic dream interpretation prior to his work was rather scathing (Freud). Rather, he saw some commonalities of theme in typical dreams, which might point an interpreter (preferably the dreamer herself or a skilled psychoanalyst) in a useful line of questioning. The specifics of any given manifest dream symbol, however, should be seen in context of the dreamer’s recent life, together with references to the dreamer’s past (Freud).

The manifest symbols below are those used by Freud in sample dream interpretations. As you read them, please remember they are drawn from nineteenth-century Europeans, and so their application today may not be as appropriate as they were for Freud.

  • Alarm clock: Freud used the sound of an alarm clock as an example of an external neural stimulus affecting a dream. Examples include a dream of preparation for a sleigh ride contained unusually loud sleigh bells, or a dream in which a maid drops china, and the sound of breaking china goes on too long, until the dreamer realizes it is the alarm clock.
  • Egotism in dreams: Freud found that many dreams had an underlying latent theme of egotism, in their self-absorption or reference to early childhood memories of being cared for, fed, etc…. He offered the following anecdote regarding self-delusion:

    While Dr. Jones was delivering a lecture before an American scientific society, and speaking of egotism in dreams, a learned lady took exception to this unscientific generalisation. She thought that the lecturer could only pronounce such judgment on the dreams of Austrians, and had no right to include the dreams of Americans. As for herself she was sure that all her dreams were altruistic. (Freud, p. 229)

  • Falling: Falling can have an interpretation of "falling" by giving in to sexual desire, or can have reference to a childhood fall, which led to being picked up and comforted by a parent (Freud).
  • Flying: Flight is generally associated with a pleasant feeling in Freud’s experience, though for a variety of reasons. Among the examples he offers are the extremely short woman who frequently dreamed of floating a few feet above the ground; the sexually-inspired dreams of German-speakers familiar with a particular German vulgarity, which provided association between birds and sex, and in which "we shall also not be surprised to hear that this or that dreamer is always very proud of his ability to fly" (p. 239); and a suggestion by a Dr. Paul Federn that erections inspired flight dreams (Freud).
  • Hats: Freud had several sample dreams in which hats represented genitalia.
  • Infantile experiences: As in nudity and flight, Freud found the manifest content of many dreams drew on early childhood and infantile experience, when care, feeding, lack of responsibility, lack of moral compass, and pampering provide fodder for wish fulfillment.
  • Nudity: While Freud did mention exhibitionists as having dreams of nakedness, the primary source in most people was memories from early childhood, when nakedness was not frowned upon and there was no sense of shame. Even in dreams when the dreamer feels embarrassment, the other people of the dream generally seem oblivious, lending support to the wish fulfillment interpretation of wanting to leave behind shame and restriction (Freud).
  • Recent experiences: Much of the manifest content in dreams derives from very recent experience, particularly from the past day. Dreams will many times combine elements from different moments and create stories to make connections in the manifest dream (Freud).
  • Somatic source: Prior to Freud, some dream analysts separated somatically-driven dreams from association dreams. While Freud agreed that "nerve stimulus" and "bodily stimulus" could be somatic sources for dreams, he felt that this only influenced the manifest content of dreams, and not the latent themes (Freud, pp. 184-186).
  • Structures: Stairwells, mine shafts, a small building located in a narrow recess, locked doors, and so forth frequently have repressed sexual undertones, particularly in dreams which are "conspicuously innocent" (Freud, p. 241).

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The Oedipal complex

Freud encountered many instances of young men dreaming of the death of their fathers, with and without sorrow, in a variety of manners. Since this concept is often less understood than it is discussed, I think Freud should speak for himself, although the quote is lengthy:

Let us dwell at first upon the relation between father and son. I believe that the sanctity which we have ascribed to the injunction of the decalogue dulls our perception of reality. Perhaps we hardly dare to notice that the greater part of humanity neglects to obey the fifth commandment… The obscure reports which have come to us in mythology and legend from the primeval ages of human society give us an unpleasant idea of the power of the father and the ruthlessness with which it was used. Kronos devours his children…Zeus emasculates his father and takes his place as a ruler… The more despotically the father ruled in the ancient family, the more must the son have taken the position of an enemy….

And there must be a factor corresponding to this inner voice in the story of King Oedipus. His fate moves us only for the reason that it might have been ours, for the oracle has put the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. Perhaps we are all destined to direct our first sexual impulses towards our mothers, and our first hatred and violent wishes towards our fathers; our dreams convince us of it. King Oedipus, who has struck his father Laius dead and has married his mother Jocasta, is nothing more than the realised wish of our childhood. But more fortunate than he, we have since succeeded, unless we have become psychoneurotics, in withdrawing our sexual impulses from our mothers and in forgetting our jealousy of our fathers. (pp. 217, 223)

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Sample dreams

Credit goes to Nicole Christy for provdiing her dream journal and personal interpretations. I provided the "Freud might say" sections.

  1. I had a dream in which I was back in high school. I didn’t know my schedule, or the classrooms I was supposed to be in and just wandered around. I had washed my hair the night before but forgot to rinse the conditioner out, so it looked greasy. I went into the girl’s restroom to rinse it, but I couldn’t brush through it. I finally did get it styled. I then started applying makeup that was really heavy and dark. Instead of wiping it off, I applied more to try to cover it up and looked like a clown. I had to follow another girl into a classroom I thought I was supposed to be in and sat down. I kept applying powder to my face to try to cover up the makeup, but it just made it worse. One of my friends was sitting next to me and was embarrassing me by making loud noises and playing with a toy truck. When it turned 9:00am, she wanted to leave, but I told her class wasn’t over til 9:10am. At lunch time, I couldn’t find any friends to sit with and ended up sitting next to my sister. A girl came up and stabbed another girl who was eating near me. She stabbed her three times while everyone sat in shock. The girl who was stabbed just calmly removed the knives and walked away.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps I am overwhelmed starting school again, and this dream of high school is actually about college. I feel inadequate and unprepared. I feel that I am not ready and keep covering up this feeling by trying harder (applying more makeup). I feel alone and scared. I feel that I may be endangering myself by taking on too much (seeing others getting hurt).

    Freud might say: While the manifest content of this dream is threatening, the dreamer is returned to a time in youth, when despite the emotional demands of modern high school society, less is demanded of her. Like a new student in high school, the dreamer is entering a similarly uncertain online educational environment in her present life. She may be dually anxious her friends do not understand her desire to extend school (childishness with toy truck), and concerned her friends will hold her back. The old rules of high school–appearance, schedule, basic social rules even in the face of hostility–are no longer valid. Wish fulfillment can be seen in the fact that appearance is unimportant; even though the dreamer works to improve her appearance, she is unable to, but this does not cause her difficulty in the school. She has other students to show her the way, but is concerned about the need to rely on other students. Nonetheless, aggressive behavior is acted out against others, not the dreamer.

    Questions for the dreamer: What is her relationship with her sister? Is she supportive or not, and are they close? Also, what are her associations with appearance issues such as makeup, hair, and so forth. Does she like clowns, or does she fear them (in either case, to associate herself with them is to make herself "safer" behind a mask). What are her associations with toy trucks, the specific times, and other pieces of manifest content? Confronting these questions will lead the dreamer to a deeper understanding of her dream.

  2. I had a dream in which I had a party at my house but I couldn’t attend it because I was in the kitchen the whole time cleaning. Every time I thought I was done, something else needed to be cleaned. I then had to start cooking food that people had requested. People came in to the kitchen expecting a buffet laid out, saying they had purchased tickets for it, and wanted it to be ready.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps I am feeling overwhelmed about starting school again after a long break. Every time I finish one project, there is always something else to do such as another reply to post or more research to do. Perhaps I feel I will never catch up and will not have time to enjoy life.

    Freud might say: The dreamer has many responsibilities unrelated to school, making constant demands on her time. Eventually these escalate to responsibilities that extend to other people’s requirements, so that where the dreamer spends her time matters to more people than just herself. The wish fulfillment lies in the fact that this makes school, which also makes frequent, constant demands of the dreamer, less important. In the dream, the ongoing interests of others outweigh the academic interests of the dreamer. The dreamer might consider that the demands of school do eventually end, bringing with that end a degree and more career options; and with that, more ways the dreamer can do well for others as well as herself.

  3. A coworker had a dream in which she was 36 years old, was married to her now fiancé whom she lives with, but in the dream he looked like Johnny Depp. They lived on a ranch with ranch hands and the setting was in the early 1900′s. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other and were totally in love. She was doing laundry and he would come up behind her and caress her. She was admired and envied by all. She had a miniature show horse who was 13 years old and had never won before, but was supposed to win some kind of contest this time.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps she is stressed about her upcoming wedding and pictures her fiancé as a hunky movie star being totally in love with her to reassure herself she is making the right decision about him and getting married. She probably wants to feel that everyone will admire her choice and wish they were as happy as she will be.

    Freud might say: The interpretation seems pretty on target; this is appropriate wish fulfillment for someone in the dreamer’s situation. The 13-year-old horse who has never won is either the dreamer, recalling herself at that age and placing herself in a strong, beautiful form (the horse), or someone else she hopes will have a happy turning point in their life; possibly both.

  4. I had a dream in which I was on a cruise ship in a foreign country and we landed and embarked. There was a scavenger hunt which everyone had to participate in. We all went in to town and I bought some pretty shoes. There was only one restaurant in town and everyone went there to drink and eat. Everyone ate dinner and got really drunk from beer and shots of tequilla.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps being on a ship signifies that I feel scared and trapped in the middle of an ocean or a big decision, and that landing signifies making a decision. Shoes may signify being grounded with the decision. Eating and being merry may signify being content with the decision.

    Freud might say:
    There are a lot of questions a modern-day Freud might ask the dreamer. Do the cruise ship/ foreign location/ scavenger hunt have personal associations, or are they associated with any current "reality" shows or other indirect context? Knowing this could deeply affect the meaning of these pieces of manifest content. If the shoes and the merry-making mean what the dreamer thinks, interpretation may be that straightforward, except that wish fulfillment requirements would make it a dream about wishing the dreamer is content and grounded with a decision.

    Freud might also be tempted to apply sexual undertones to the sea, the pretty shows, and the making merry, although again a great deal depends on the personal associations and meaning of these things for the dreamer.

  5. I had a dream in which I went down a riverbed of rocks on a mountain with some other people following. We ended up at a hotel which was really scary looking. There were barbie dolls and barbie clothes strewn all over on the ground. The "host" came out to greet us and picked three of us to play a game. I was one of them. I was supposed to walk around and select a mate for myself. I couldn’t do it because everyone was too weird. We all slept in the hotel lobby in bunkbeds.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps I am at a place in my life in which I am going down a path which is scary and looking for a mate is always scary. I am not ready for this new step in my life and choose to stay solo.

    Freud might say: The rocky riverbed is probably symbolic of the same kind of fear (the scary "looking for a mate") being transferred to whatever root fear the dreamer is confronting. Some questions might be: are there any personal associations with childhood (bunk beds, barbie dolls) that could be associated with a past scary decision? Wish fulfillment is here distorted; it might be the desire to have less personal responsibility and someone else to take that job over (the host), but the wish for independence wins out (refusal to choose).

  6. I had a dream in which I was at the mall but I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot to leave.

    Personal interpretation: I have had this dream several times in different variations, but feel that it may represent feeling anxious about making the right decision, and not being able to find my way towards the answer. Maybe I start things easily, but find it hard to finalize them.

    Freud might say: A repeated place in a dream might have larger implications for the dreamer than in this one dream. For example, a woman dreamed frequently of intertwining highways and exits, with some ramps completed and some under construction. Over the years, as self-understanding increased, knowledge of the way and completion of parts of the road increased. Finding the way around the mall parking lot may have similar latent associations for this dreamer. The dreamer might track these dreams, and their relation to current events in the dreamer’s life, to better understand the wish fulfillment behind them.

  7. I had a dream in which an ex-boyfriend of mine was reunited with about 8 different ex-girlfriends of his, including me. He had to kiss each one of us and tell us what he liked about us. He told me I was "the most honest, believable, loving one" and picked me to reunite with.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps I am still in love with someone from my past and feel that we should be together. Maybe I honestly believe that we are soulmates and have regrets over the break up.

    Freud might say: From a wish fulfillment perspective, the dreamer wishes for someone to understand and appreciate her completely; this takes the form of a former boyfriend. The appropriateness of the boyfriend for the role depends on past experience and knowledge, which would help determine the depth of the wish.

  8. I had a dream in which two women had babies. One of the women came to me when her baby was two days old and brought her baby to me to watch so she could pack her stuff to move. Her baby was only about 2 inches long. She kept wrapping it up so it could barely breathe. The other baby, who was also 2 days old, was about the size of a shoebox, but it was already talking and was trying to climb out of the shopping cart she was sitting in.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps I am judging others in their ability to parent properly and feel that I or someone else can do a better job. Maybe I feel that some mothers do not know how to sufficiently care for their children and need supervision and assistance. Maybe I have doubts about my own parenting skills.

    Freud might say: This seems likes straightforward wish fulfillment in the form of being given a maternal role. The dreamer is aware of the differences of different children, able to perceive their individual needs, and receives support (being given responsibility at one point) that she is or would be a good parent. The wish fulfillment may spring from insecurity, but the dream seems positive overall.

  9. I had a dream in which I was at a party with my sister and a friend. My sister had sex with a guy right next to me while I was passed out asleep because I was drunk. I slept for a few hours and then woke up and went back to the party. There was a guy there who had two visor hats over his face and everybody was afraid of him. We then started driving and racing. Everybody pulled over for him to pass them, except for me. He was really mad that I wouldn’t pull over and was getting violent. He tried to crash into me, but I pulled ahead and got away. Then there was an accident behind me with two other cars.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps I am feeling resentment for a family member or friend and view them as having more than me, as I am currently not in a relationship and not having sexual relations. Maybe the scary man represents men in general and me being intimidated by them and not being able to trust in order to date. If I did date someone at this time, it might be a mistake, causing an "accident."

    Freud might say: The dreamer is asserting strength and independence against problems known (sister issues, which may be in a completely different form than in the dream) and unknown (the visored male driver). The latent associations for the visor and threatening drivers should be explored. This may be the desire of the female to have control over the masculine influence in her life, or a generally threatening influence.

  10. I had a dream in which people were trying to kill me. They were breaking into my apartment in groups and ambushing me and my friends. I was hiding in a closet under some blankets with my baby wrapped up and hidden. People found me and were trying to get me, so I started throwing tv sets at them as they each entered the room.

    Personal interpretation: Perhaps I am afraid that others are out to get me because I don’t feel that I have done an adequate job at work, or in my personal life. Maybe I feel that I must defend myself to their criticism by fighting back.

    Freud might say: It’s possible this is the same wish fulfillment theme seen in dreams #8 and #9, in which the dreamer finds herself capable in confronting threats and protecting her child. Less direct threats from the dreamer’s life are transformed into killers; less tangible strengths are transformed into directly useful ones for the dreamer. The dreamer is capable (and may be in the process) of translating these strengths into useful form in real life.

  11. A coworker had a dream when she was fifteen years old. She was wearing a negligee walking down a dark alley in a European town, with rain gutters on the sides of the streets and loud noises coming from it which scared her. Hands were grabbing at her from the gutter and then pulled her down into the sewer to a dark tunnel. She came into a room with brick walls and a chandelier and a bed in the center which was high. There was a creature who had a hairless male body. His body was beautiful, but his face and hands were that of a troll. He picked her up, carried her up the ladder, and put her on the bed. She’s very scared, but very excited. He then left. When she looked up, her name and number were written all over the wall.

    Personal interpretation:
    She and her sister both interpreted this dream as the loss of virginity dream. At this time in her life, she was just embarking on having sex for the first time. She was afraid, but excited about this new venture in her life. Wearing a neglige represented her being ready for this endeavor. Walking down a dark alley represented the scary path she was taking, with gutters representing the way people viewed sex as being dirty and she probably felt guilty about having her "head in the gutter". Being pulled down into this dark sewer represents feeling she was being drawn into something that maybe she felt was evil. The tunnel could represent a woman’s genitals. The chandelier may represent the light at the end of the tunnel, justifying her desires. The bed being placed so high probable represents her journey to another level, that she then viewed as not evil, but righteous. The creature having a beautiful body probably represented her desire for the male body, but his head being that of a monster probably represents her feeling guilty about her desire for the flesh. The creature leaving her on the bed probably represents her questioning whether she was actually ready for this venture. Seeing her name on the wall probably represented her feeling that others would view her as a slut.

    Freud might say: The dreamer probably interpreted this dream correctly. The wish fulfillment is, obviously, the desire for sexual fulfillment despite society’s negative reaction and fear of the unknown. It would be interesting to know of any latent associations with specific manifest content, such as the chandelier, or the high bed.

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Guide

You will need:

  • something to write on
  • something to write with
  • brutal self-honesty

While you, the dreamer, are the best potential interpreter of your own dreams, you can also hold yourself back (Freud). To properly understand your dreams in terms of Freudian latent content and wish fulfillment, you must begin by abandoning self-censorship and critique. When you begin to analyze the manifest content of your dream, be completely open and honest. Write your associations without reflection, as much as that is possible, and your eventual understanding of the latent theme of your dreams will be more authentic.

Step one

Describe your dream. Write quickly, including feelings or events that happened within the dream, but not interpreting or censoring your memory.

Step two
List specific items from the manifest content of your dream. Try to break up the "story" in the dream and look at the individual items and events.

Step three
Write down any associations with the manifest content, such as recent events, old memories, and personal interests.

Now look at the latent associations. Freud points out three "peculiarities of recollection" in dreams, which prior to him were never explained:

  • That the dream distinctly prefers impressions of the few days preceding.
  • That it makes its selection according to principles other than those of our waking memory, in that it recalls not what is essential and important, but what is subordinate and disregarded.
  • That it has at its disposal the earliest impression of our childhood, and brings to light details from this period of life which again seem trivial to us, and which in waking life were long ago forgotten. (pp. 138-139)

As you study your own dream’s content, see if the associations you’ve written down fit into either recent events or possible childhood memories. Try to ignore the "logic" of the manifest content, which can frequently contradict or distort the latent theme.

Step four
Find the wish fulfillment in your dream. If Freud is right, the ultimate latent theme of every dream, no matter the source of the content, is wish fulfillment. Occasionally our wishes are unpleasant to our conscious mind, and in these cases the wish is hidden or distorted. "Wherever a wish-fulfilment is unrecognisable sic and concealed, there must be present a feeling of repulsion towards this wish, and in consequence of this repulsion the wish is unable to gain expression except in a disfigured state" (Freud, p. 120).

While you study your dream, keep in mind these aspects of dream analysis that Freud brings to our attention:

  • Condensation. Dreams can put layers of complex meaning within very simple manifest content.

    The dream is reserved, paltry, and laconic when compared with the range and copiousness of the dream thoughts…. One is really never sure of having interpreted a dream completely; even if the solution seems satisfying and flawless, it still always remains possible that there is a further meaning which is manifested by the same dream. Thus the amount of condensation is—strictly speaking—indeterminable. (Freud, pp. 261-262)

  • Displacement. Dream content is not used in dream thoughts in the same way it manifests in the dream. "That which is clearly the essential thing in the dream thoughts need not be represented in the dream at all. The dream, as it were, is eccentric; its contents are grouped about other elements than the dream thoughts as a central point" (Freud, p. 283).
  • Representation in dreams. Manifest dream content ignores the "if, because, as though, although, either-or and all the other conjunctions, without which we cannot understand a phrase or a sentence" (Freud, p. 288). It makes only the most cursory attempt at logic in tying together the manifest elements into a story. It is up to the interpreter to see the latent logic beneath this.

Keep your interpretation, and refer to it later to see if you still agree with your thoughts, or have found deeper interpretations to apply. Remember, there’s no limit to exploration of self-knowledge, and your dreams are the via regia to your inner self.

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References

Christy, N. (2004, April 11). Dream Journal (File Exchange document). Document posted to Walden University Blackboard, History and Systems of Psychology, Group 2 File Exchange; login required for access.

Freud, S. (1994). The Interpretation of Dreams (A. A. Brill, Trans., 3rd ed.). New York: Barnes & Noble. (Original work published 1899)

Interpreting Dreams within the Freudian System. Nicole Christy, Alex O’Neal, and Sherri Reaume, Walden University, April, 2004. www.cognitions.net/walden

Roth, M. S. (Ed.). (2000). Freud: Conflict and Culture (companion volume to the Library of Congress exhibit). New York, NY: Knopf Publishing.

Schulze, B. (1997). Dreams & Dreaming. Retrieved April 8, 2004, from ThinkQuest Library Web site: http://library.thinkquest.org/11189/nfhistory.htm

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I find it hard to believe, after all these years, dreamy debate and analysis continues even though no legitimate brain science can prove perception of dream activity has known causal factors.

    Although I can’t site an old article, I agree Freud’s dream analysis was simply a convention he had to proffer to do psychoanalysis. Simply, affluent, turn of the last century Austrian men and mostly women, were not likely to share their true thoughts and feelings, their trauma, without the guise of dreams. Certainly the stoical husbands would not have thought it proper for their wives to tell such things to anybody especially a man. Hence, he had to create a new culture of “dream analysis” to give his subjects “plausible deniability” and allow them to go to memories and experiences they would never have shared otherwise. Dream vs. Trauma–essentially the same in German but very different in English.

    It’s one of those conventions that the medical industry has to abide as a fundamental underpinning of practice. For instance, the convention that says: Addictive pharmaceuticals aren’t addictive if taken as prescribed. Certainly we know addictive substances are plainly addictive no matter what is written on the prescription pad. Nonetheless, if medicine could not have this given, though flawed assumption, psychopharmaceuticals, could not be prescribed without crippling liability.

    The other big unknown is that any type of psychoanalysis, and indeed many psychopharmaceutical adjunct therapies, have any significant edge over the placebo effect including such things as talk therapy, empathy or the ubiquitous sugar pill. Sure, we all have our preferences in treating emotional distress yet there is very little direct science that says one form of “treatment” is markedly more productive than the rest. We all know that most care is tautological–it works until it doesn’t. Or, perhaps more accurately–it is perceived to work until it is no longer perceived to work.

    And, if Freud had ever admitted this convention to anybody, he would have been accused of false pretenses. I wonder, though, if he discussed this so much he came to believe that dreams had identifiable content or if he just used it as a perception test for other Doctors and researchers. In other words, I don’t even believe Freud believed in dreams. In his sequel book on dream analysis he differentiated between authentic and non-authentic dreams. I suspect this was a nod to his fellows who got “it”–the esoterica. So, I’m not saying we should call him Dr. Fraud–just recognize his pioneering work could not have been done on more than a handful of patients without this clever ruse.

  2. James Oaks says:

    Although I may agree, to some extent, with the freudian coments here. I can not help but wonder what results a cross reference with jungian phylosophy might produce.

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