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Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Sigmund Freud explored the human mind more thoroughly than any other who became before him. His contributions to psychology are vast. Freud was one of the most influential people of the twentieth century and his enduring legacy has influenced not only psychology, but art, literature and even the way people bring up their children.
Freud’s lexicon has become embedded within the vocabulary of western society. Words he introduced through his theories are now used by everyday people, such as anal (personality), libido, denial, repression, cathartic, Freudian slip, and neurotic.
Freud believed that when we explain our own behaviour to ourselves or others (conscious mental activity) we rarely give a true account of our motivation. This is not because we are deliberately lying. Whilst human beings are great deceivers of others, they are even more adept at self-deception. Our rationalizations of our conduct are therefore disguising the real reasons. Freud’s life work was dominated by his attempts to find ways of penetrating this often subtle and elaborate camouflage that obscures the hidden structure and processes of personality.
Freud was the founding father of psychoanalysis, a method for treating mental illness and also a theory which explains human behavior.
Psychoanalysis is often known as the talking cure. Typically Freud would encourage his patients to talk freely (on his famous couch) regarding their symptoms, and to describe exactly what was on their mind.
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 by the data of consciousness as is the external world by the communications of our sense organs.
Freud used to mention the dreams as "The Royal Road to the Unconscious". He proposed the 'phenomenon of condensation'; the idea that one simple symbol or image presented in a person's dream may have multiple meanings.
Freud's discovery that the dream is the means by which the unconscious can be explored is undoubtedly the most revolutionary step forward in the entire history of psychology. Dreams, according to his theory, represent the hidden fulfillment of our unconscious wishes.

Theory: Freud & Dreams 1
"If I cannot bend the Higher Powers, I will move the Infernal regions"
It has justly been said that Freud's book The Interpretation of Dreams- one of the most significant books of the 20th Century - represents the beginning of psychoanalysis proper. It is certainly the start of the theory of a dynamic unconscious, created in childhood, which is operating continuously in both normal and 'abnormal' minds.
Freud called the interpretation of dreams the 'Royal road' to the discovery of the unconscious - that is to say, it is the 'King's highway' along which everyone can travel to discover the truth of unconscious processes for themselves. Everybody dreams, and because of this it is one of the most important ways for students to grasp Freud's theory of psychoanalysis in a practical way.
The Structure of The Interpretation of Dreams.
The argument in Freud's book The Interpretation of Dreams goes something like this:
1.    "Dreams are the fulfilment of a wish"
2.   "Dreams are the disguised fulfilment of a wish"
3.   "Dreams are the disguised fulfilment of a repressed wish"
4.   "Dreams are the disguised fulfilment of a repressed, infantile wish"

Theory: Freud & Dreams

Let's take the first proposition:
(1) Dreams are the fulfilment of a wish
(a) This idea of Freud's has been much criticized as being reductionist. However it is also the part of the theory which accords mostly with common-sense and popular ideas about dreams. We say 'I can only dream of such a thing' to describe something we really yearn for but are unable to have, and we all recognize that in our dreams we often make the world a better place for ourselves where our wishes are fulfilled. In this sense dreams, in Freud's view, have much in common with daydreams, or stories in which the hero or heroine win out in the end and achieve their heart's desire.
But what is a wish? Well it is not too hard to understand really. If a child says 'I wish I had an ice cream', then that's a wish. The only thing is that if she says 'I wish I had an ice-cream' it means that she has asked for an ice-cream and been told that she can't have one. So to create a wish implies a structure something like this:
I want an 
ice-cream ---> No! ----> I wish I had an ice-cream
There is a 'want' and a probibition. A wish is the result. As we get older the prohibition becomes 'internalised' and the forbidden wishes become unconscious. The child's unruly and peremptory impulses are controlled and his overwhening egoism is curtailed. Freud calls this function the 'censorship'.
Children's dreams display the wish-fulfilling character of dreams most clearly, in Freud's view.
The contentious issue is that Freud insists that all dreams are fulfilments of wishes. He argues against the idea that dreams may primarily be concerned with the solution to an intellectual problem, for instance, or with representing a 'worry', or an 'intention', or some other mental product. Even when Freud allows the possibility of anxiety dreams or 'punishment dreams', he still incorporates these within the category of 'wish'. There is something fundamental for Freud about the 'wish'.
(b) Freud sometimes says that dreams are the fulfilment of wishes, and sometimes that dreams represent the fulfilment of wishes. There is an ambiguity here which reflects our own experience - on the one hand we say that dreams are like a 'real experience', and on the other hand we say dreams are like a private 'movie', where we know that 'it is only a dream'. So do dreams represent the fulfilment of a wish, ie. show us a picture of a wish as fulfilled; or is the dream itself the fulfilment of the wish?
This ambiguity is partly resolved by (i) Freud's theory in Chapter VII of the book, where he maintains in effect that in early infancy a 'hallucination' (eg. of the breast) is the same thing as an experience - or rather that it is difficult for a small baby to distinguish between the two; and (ii) Freud's idea that one of the essential wishes for the instigation of a dream is the 'wish to sleep' - that is to say dreams are the fulfilment of this wish, since they protect sleep.
In his essay 'The Censorship of Dreams', (Lecture IX of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis), Freud gives the following definition:
"Dreams are things which get rid of (psychical) stimuli disturbing to sleep, by the method of hallucinatory satisfaction"
The 'psychical stimulus', according to the theory, is a wish or desire which has arisen during the day which has remained unsatisfied.
Freud says that children's dreams or dreams which occur under conditions of privation (especially hunger) display their simple wish fulfilling character most clearly.

Theory: Freud & Dreams

Freud's second proposition is:

(2) Dreams are the disguised fulfilment of a wish
We all know that dreams often do not seem to 'make sense'. They may appear like a jumble of disconnected images which do not follow a logical structure. Therefore if dreams are the fulfilments of wishes, they must be disguised in some way. Hence they have to be 'interpreted' because their 'manifest content' (as Freud calls it) is not the same as their hidden or 'latent' content (the instigating and underlying 'dream thoughts').
Freud's theory therefore proposes two levels in the structure of dreams (the manifest content and latent dream-thoughts) which are nevertheless tied together in some way. Freud calls the system of transformations which connect up the two levels the 'dream-work'. That is to say the dream-work is the mechanism which takes the raw material of the dream-thoughts and combines it together into a dream. Sometimes the manifest dream can have a completely opposite emotional content to the latent dream thoughts, as in Freud's dream of his father looking like the heroic Garibaldi. Garibaldi dream
Dream-work consists of the following type of transformations:
(i) Condensation
In a sense the word itself says it all. A number of dream-elements (themes, images, figures, ideas etc) are combined into one, so that the dream becomes more compact or condensed than the dream-thoughts. There are different kinds of condensation, with everyday applications.
(a) Pop videos and so on often show one image overlaid onto another one, so that parts of both image are discernible in the new composite one. This is one kind of condensation, such as in Freud's description of a dream image of his uncle 'with a yellow beard': "The face that I saw in the dream was at once my friend R's and my uncle's. It was like one of Galton's composite photographs. (In order to bring out family likenesses, Galton used to photograph several faces on the same plate). So there could be no doubt that I really did mean that my friend R. was a simpleton - like my Uncle Joseph."
(b) Groups are often formed out of disparate individuals on the basis of an element common to each of them. For instance you could give half the class a red badge and call them the 'red' group. The condensation operates in this case by taking one element from a number of individuals and using it as the basis for forming a single entity. In a dream this might mean that if both your mother and boyfriend or girlfriend have red hair then the element 'red' might signify the condensation of both these figures.
In this respect condensation seems like a very basic psychical process, connected to the formation of categories in general.
(c) Condensation also operates in language, in the creation of neologisms and so on. For instance, suppose a guest of mine has overstayed his welcome. As he is finally leaving I might say "I am slad to see you go". This is because I might be trying to say "I am sad to see you go", but really I think "I am glad to see you go". The two words 'sad' and 'glad' have been condensed into the single (nonsense) word 'slad'.
Or jokes and riddles can operate by condensation:
'When is a door not a door?' 
'When it's ajar' . 
The two meanings ('a jar' and 'ajar') are condensed into the single expression. 
'My wife went to the West Indies' 
'Jamaica?' ('Did you make her [go]?') 
'No, she went of her own accord.' 

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