Dreams And Freudian Theory Essay Research Paper

Dreams And Freudian Theory- Essay, Research Paper

Dreams and Freudian Theory-

Dreams have been objects of boundless fascination and mystery

for humankind since the beginning of time. These nocturnal vivid

images seem to arise from some source other than our ordinary

conscious mind. They contain a mixture of elements from our own

personal identity which we recognize as familiar along with a quality

of `otherness’ in the dream images that carries a sense of the strange

and eerie. The bizarre and nonsensical characters and plots in dreams

point to deeper meanings and contain rational and insightful comments

on our waking situations and emotional experiences. The ancients

thought that dreams were messages from the gods.

The cornerstone of Sigmund Freud’s infamous psychoanalysis is

the interpretation of dreams. Freud called dream-interpretation the

“via reggia,” or the “royal road” to the unconscious, and it is his

theory of dreams that has best stood the test of time over a period of

more than seventy years (Many of Freud’s other theories have been

disputed in recent years).

Freud reportedly admired Aristotle’s assertion that dreaming

is the activity of the mind during sleep (Fine, 1973). It was perhaps

the use of the term activity that Freud most appreciated in this brief

definition for, as his understanding of the dynamics of dreaming

increased, so did the impression of ceaseless mental activity

differing in quality from that of ordinary waking life (Fine, 1973).

In fact, the quality of mental activity during sleep differed so

radically from what we take to be the essence of mental functioning

that Freud coined the term “Kingdom of the Illogical” to describe that

realm of the human psyche. This technique of dream-interpretation

allowed him to penetrate (Fine, 1973).

We dream every single night whether it stays with us or not.

It is a time when “our minds bring together material which is kept

apart during out waking hours” (Anonymous, 1991). As Erik Craig said

while we dream we entertain a wider range of human possibilities then

when awake; the “open house” of dreaming is less guarded (Craig,


Superficially, we are all convinced that we know just what a

“dream” is. But the most cursory investigation into the dream’s

essence suggests that after describing it as a mental something which

we have while sleeping,” and perhaps, in accord with experiments

currently being carried out in connection with the physiological

accompaniments of dreaming, such as Rapid-Eye Movements (REM), the

various stages and depths of dream activity as reflected in changing

rates of our vital signs (pulse-rate, heart-beat, brain-waves), and

the time of the night when various kinds of dreams occur, we come up

against what the philosopher Immanuel Kant called the “Ding-An-Sich”

(’thing-in-itself’), and find ourselves unable to penetrate further

into the hidden nature of this universal human experience (Fromm,


It has been objected on more than one occasion that we in fact

have no knowledge of the dreams that we set out to interpret, or,

speaking more correctly, that we have no guarantee that we know them

as they actually occurred. In the first place, what we remember of a

dream and what we exercise our interpretative arts upon has been

mutilated by the untrustworthiness of our memory, which seems

incapable of retaining a dream and may have lost precisely the most

important parts of its content. It quite frequently happens that when

we seek to turn our attention to one of our dreams, we find ourselves

regretting the fact that we can remember nothing but a single

fragment, which itself has much uncertainty. Secondly, there is every

reason to suspect that our memory of dreams is not only fragmentary

but inaccurate and falsified. On the one hand it may be doubted

whether what we dreamt was really as hazy as our recollection of it,

and on the other hand it may also be doubted whether in attempting to

reproduce it we do not fill in what was never there, or what was

forgotten (Freud, pg.512).

Dream accounts are public verbalization and as public

performances, dream accounts resemble the anecdotes people use to give

meaning to their experience, to entertain friends and to give or

get a form of satisfaction ( Erdelyi, 35 ).

In order to verbalize the memory of a dream that there are at

least three steps one must take. First putting a recollected dream

into words requires labeling categories, and labeling categories

involves interpretation. Next since the dream is multimodal, putting

them into words requires the collapsing of visual and auditory imagery

into words. Finally since dreams are dramatizations narrating a dream

is what linguist call a performance or demonstration and the rule, ”

What you see is what you get “, cannot apply, since only one party can

see. (Dentan, PH.D, 1988)

In the case of dream accounts, it is the context, which is

vital. After all, since meaning is context, they are by definition

meaningless. David Foulke, who wrote the book Dreaming: A Cognitive

Psychoanalysis Analysis, correctly states ” that dreams don’t mean

anything “. But people make meaning, ” as bees make honey compulsively

and continuously, until it satisfies their dreams and their lives “. (

Dentan PH.D, 1988 )In analyzing the dreams of Freud’s patients he

would sometimes use a certain test. If the first account of the

patient’s dream were too hard to follow he would ask them to repeat

it. In by doing so the patient rarely uses the same words. But the

parts of the dream, which he describes in different terms, are by

fact, the weak spots in the dream. By Freud asking to repeat the dream

the patient realizes that he will go to great lengths to interpret it.

Under the pressure of the resistance he hastily covers the weak spots

in the dream’s disguise by replacing any expression that threaten to

betray its meaning by other less revealing ones (Freud, pg.515 ).

It will no doubt surprise anyone to be told that dreams are

nothing other than fulfillment’s of wishes. According to Aristotle’s

accurate definition,” a dream is thinking that persists in the state

of sleep.” Since than our daytime thinking produces psychical acts,

such as, judgement, denials, expectations, intentions and so on. The

theory of dreams being wish fulfillment has been divided into two

groups. Some dreams appear openly as wish fulfillment, and others in

which the wish fulfillment was unrecognizable and often disguised.

Others disagree and feel that dreams are nothing more than random

memories that the mind sifts through (Globus, 1991).

The next question is where the wishes that come true in dreams

originate? It is the contrast between the consciously perceived life

of daytime and a psychical activity, which has remained unconscious

and only becomes aware at night. There is a distinguishing origin for

such a wish. 1) It may have been aroused during the day and for

external reasons may not have been satisfied. Therefore it is left

over for the night. 2) It may have arisen during the day but been

repudiated, in that case what is left over is a wish that has not been

dealt with but has been suppressed. 3) It may have no connection with

daytime life and be one of those wishes, which only emerges from the

suppressed part of the mind and becomes active at night. 4) It may be

a current wishful impulse that only arise during the night such as

sexual needs or those stimulated by thirst. The place of origin of a

dream-wish probably has no influence on its capacity for instigating

dreams (Freud, pg. 550-551).

Freud states that a child’s dreams prove beyond a doubt that a

wish that has not been dealt with during the day can act as a

dream-instigator. But it must not be forgotten that it is a child’s

wish. ( Stanely R. Palombo, M.D., 1986 )

Freud thinks it is highly doubtful that in the case of an

adult a wish that has not been fulfilled during the day would be

strong enough to produce a dream. There may be people who retain an

infantile type of mental process longer than others may. But in

general Freud feels a wish left over unfulfilled from the previous day

is insufficient to produce a dream in the case of an adult. He admits

that a wishful impulse originating in the conscious will contribute to

the instigating of a dream, but it will probably not do more than


My supposition is that a conscious wish can only become a

dream-instigator if it succeeds in awakening an unconscious wish with

the same tenor and in obtaining reinforcement from it. (Freud,


Freud explains his theory in an analogy: A daytime thought may

very well play the part of the entrepreneur for a dream, but the

entrepreneur, who, as people say, has the idea and the initiative to

carry it out, can do nothing without capital. He needs a capitalist

who can afford the outlay for the dream, and the capitalist who

provides the psychical outlay for the dream is invariably and

indisputably, whatever may be the thoughts of he previous day, a wish

from the unconscious. (Freud pg. 230.)

Sometimes the capitalist is himself the entrepreneur, and

indeed in the case of the dreams, an unconscious wish is stirred up by

daytime activity and proceeds to construct a dream. ( Palombo, M.D,

1986 ) The view that dreams carry on the occupations and interests of

waking life has been confirmed by the discovery of the concealed

dream-thoughts. These are only concerned with what seems important to

us and interests us greatly. Dreams are never occupied with minor

details. But the contrary view has also been accepted, that dreams

pick up things left over from the previous day. Thus it was concluded

that two fundamentally different kinds of psychical processes are

concerned in the formation of dreams. One of these produces perfectly

rational thoughts, of no less than normal thinking, while the other

treats these thoughts in a manner, which is bewildering and

irrational. Referring to Freud’s quote stated in the beginning, by

analyzing dreams one can take a step forward in our understanding of

the composition of that most mysterious of all instruments. Only a

small step forward will enable us to proceed further with its

analysis. (Freud, pg. 589 & 608 )

The unconscious is the true psychical reality, in its

innermost nature it is as much unknown to us as the reality of the

external world, and it is as incompletely presented, as is the

communications of our sense organ. There is of course no question that

dreams give us knowledge for the future. But it would be truer to say

instead that they give us knowledge of the past. For dreams are

derived from the past in every sense. Nevertheless the ancient belief

that dreams foretell the future is not false. (Freud, pg. 662) By

picturing our wishes as fulfilled, dreams are after all leading us

into the future. But the future, which the dreamer pictures as the

present, has been molded by his indestructible wish into a perfect

likeness of the past. ( Palombo, M.D, 1986 )Although there has been

some descriptive study of the incidence and character of feeling in

REM dreaming, there has been no investigation of the appropriateness

of dream feelings to accompany dream imagery. It has been suggested

that, the generation of affect in dreaming may not be as reliable as

the generation of other forms of dream imagery. Dream affect generally

seems to be consistent with the larger narrative context of the

dreams. (David Foulkes & Brenda Sullivan, 1988) Research by Cohen and

Wolfe has shown that a simple distraction in the morning had a strong

negative effect on dream recall. The study concerned a variable

relatively neglected in dream research, the level of interest the

subjects have about their dreams. One finding was that interest in

dreams appeared to vary with sex: woman reported that they more

frequently speculated their dreams and discussed them with other

people than did men. These differences could reflect a greater

tendency for woman to pay more attention to their emotional life and

inner self. (Paul R. Robbins & Roland H. Tanck, 1988)) One assumes

naturally that the past events incorporated in his patient’s dream

imagery may be defensive substitutions for other more objectionable

events of the past. Through its relation to the dream, the screen

memory, like the day residue, provides access to the associative

structures of memory in, which are embedded the wishes and events,

whose repression lies at the core of the neurotic process. ( Palombo

M.D, 1986 )

But dreams do not consist solely of illusions, If for

instance, one is afraid of robbers in a dream, the robbers, it is

true, are imaginary- but fear is real. ( Freud, pg. 74 )

Affects in dreams cannot be judged in the same way as the

remainder of their content, and we are faced by the problem of what

part of the psychical processes occurring in dreams is to be regarded

as real. That is to say, as a claim to be classed among the psychical

processes of waking life. (Freud, pg. 74 ) The theory of the hidden

meaning of dreams might have come to a conclusion merely by following

linguistic usage. It is true that common language sometimes speaks of

dreams with contempt. But, on the whole, ordinary usage treats dreams

above all as the ” blessed fulfillers of wishes “. If ever we find our

expectations surpassed by the event, we exclaim, ” I should never have

imagined such a thing even in my wildest dreams “! ( Freud pg.

132-133 )


Anonymous. Journal of the Association for the study of Dream. Vol.1

(1) 23 25, Mar. 1991

Craig, Eric (1992) Article presented to the Association for the Study

of Dreams. Charlottesvile, Va.

Dentan, Robert Knox, “Butterflies and Bug Hunters : Reality and

Dreams, Dreams and Reality,” Psychiatric Journal at the University of

Ottawah, Jun. 1988, Vol.13(2) pp. 51-59.

Foulkes, David and Sullivan, Brenda, “Appropriateness of Dream

Feelings to Dreamed Situations,” Cognition an Emotion, Mar. 1988,

Vol.2(1) pp. 29-39.

Freud, Sigmund, “The Interpretation of Dreams, ” Basic Books A

Division of Harper Publishers, year unknown.

Globus, M.D., Gordon G. Journal of the Association for the study of

Dream. Vol.1 (1) 27 . 40, Mar. 1991

Palombo, Stanley R. M.D, “Day Residue and Screen Memory in Freud’s

Dream of the Botanical Monograph,” Journal of the American

Psychoanalytic Association, May, 1996, pp. 881-903.

Robbins, Paul R. and Tanck, H. Roland, “Interest in Dreams and Dream

Recall,” Perceptual and Motor Skills,Feb. , 1988, Vol.66 (1) pp.




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