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Sigmund Freud on Dreams, Part 1

October 11, 2009 on 10:55 pm | In Dream Books, Dream Research, Dreamwork, History and Beliefs, Interpreting Dreams | No Comments
Cover of "The Interpretation of Dreams (T...

The Interpretation of Dreams, Cover via Amazon

Sigmund Freud actually called dreams the “royal road to the unconscious.” That statement will probably remain true in psychology forever.

Freud’s classic book, The Interpretation of Dreams, includes some of his finest work. Freud wrote that every dream is a wish fulfillment. He continued to believe that theory to the end, even though he gave up his initial idea that all dreams have a sexual content.

For Freud, the concept of wish fulfillment did not necessarily mean that the dream indicated that the dreamer was seeking pleasure. He said that the dreamer could just as well have a wish to be punished. Nevertheless, this idea of a “secret” wish being masked by a dream remains central to classical Freudian psychoanalysis.

Freud said,

“Dreams are not comparable to the spontaneous sounds made by a musical instrument struck rather by some external force than by the hand of a performer; they are not meaningless, not absurd, they do not imply that one portion of our stockpile of ideas sleeps while another begins to awaken. Dreams are a completely valid psychological phenomenon, specifically the fulfillment of wishes. They can be classified in the continuity of comprehensible waking mental states; they are constructed through highly complicated intellectual activity.”

After Freud noticed how allowing his patients to freely associate ideas with whatever came to mind, he began to seriously explore what he called spontaneous abreaction. Freud himself suffered bouts of deep anxiety, and it was partly this that led him to explore the connection between association of ideas and dreams.

In 1897 Freud wrote this to his friend, Wilhelm Fliess:

“No matter what I start with, I always find myself back again with the neuroses and the psychical apparatus. Inside me there is a seething ferment, and I am only waiting for the next surge forward. I have felt impelled to start writing about dreams, with which I feel on firm ground.”

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