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Sigmund Freud on Dreams, Part 3

November 5, 2009 on 9:36 pm | In Dream Research, Dreamwork, History and Beliefs | No Comments

Without the powerful personal experience of working with his own dreams, during which his forgotten or unexpected emotions and fantasies welled up from his unconscious, Freud could not have so passionately believed in his theories of dreams and the unconscious.

As in many of his theories, Freud associated dreams with sex. Fundamental to his view of dreams was the belief that the purpose of dreams is to allow us to satisfy in our fantasies the instinctual urges that society considers unacceptable, such as certain sexual practices. That was partly why he experienced such the enormous opposition and criticism from scientists and the public alike.

When Freud was young, only men were thought to have powerful sexual urges. When Freud showed that repressed but obvious sexual desires were equally at work in women this created a social uproar. Perhaps his second finding in regard to sexuality surprised even him.

During Freud’s analysis of women patients, sexual advance or assault by the woman’s father was often revealed. Freud struggled with this, wondering whether the assault was memory of an actual event, or a psychic reproduction of it. He eventually came to the conclusion that hysterical and neurotic behavior was often due to the trauma caused by an early sexual assault by the parent.

Where there was not evidence of physical assault, Freud felt that the neurosis was due to sexual conflict or a trauma caused by some other event. That conflict was often manifested through dreams. That led to his theories being rejected by university colleagues, fellow doctors, and even by patients.

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