Freud: Mastermind or (Fill in Negative Adjective Here)?
Freud is a well-known name in the world of psychology. His ideas are either ridiculed or followed faithfully. On one topic, at least, his views remain such a strong influence that they have been integrated with current concepts based on new and improved information.
The topic in question is that of dreams and dream interpretation. Dream interpretation is a hotly-debated topic of discussion, and Freud’s ideas and theories as to the correct handling of these interpretations has been thoroughly examined inside and out as the years have gone by.
These days, dreaming is a field of research that scientists and doctors have been looking into in hopes of finding correlations between what we now know of the brain, the formation of memory, how people handle certain issues, and mental disorders.
Analyzing the meaning of a dream takes a certain amount of intuition as well as knowledge of all the various aspects of the mind that were just mentioned. With that in mind, is it any wonder that while some methods of dream interpretation have been taken and adapted to fit in with changing times and expanding knowledge, other ideas have been dropped altogether?
1. Freud: The Father of Psychoanalysis
Freud was born on May 6th, 1856 and died on September 23rd, 1939. As a neurologist, Freud first made a name for himself by founding a psychoanalytic school of psychiatry. In other words, he created a school meant to question why people are as screwed up as they are. Freud is well known for his theories and experiments concerning the unconscious. It was his delving into the Id, Ego, and Super-Ego that built the foundation for many of the new psychological practices used today.
Early research on sexual desires, repression, and defense mechanisms pretty much cemented Freud as the go-to man for all things free association and unconscious insight. His ideas on psychosexual development both helped and injured his popularity, and those known as Neo-Freudians have taken most of his research and have either improved on it or thrown it out entirely.
Not all of his work was dismissed, however, and that’s where his ideas on dream interpretation come into play. Because he specialized in what is known as ‘unconscious desires,’ his theories on transference were especially valuable and much of what he worked on is used as a way to find deeper insight into aspects of the human mind that would have normally been beyond our reach.
His belief was that because of our society, people make a habit of suppressing their true selves as well as their desires. According to Freud, there are parts of our psyche that even we aren’t aware of.
What this belief breaks down into is that nothing we do is by chance or accident. If we say something rude to someone, that’s simply an expulsion of our real feelings and real self. Anything that is planned or predicted can’t be trusted as the ‘real’ part of someone’s personality because in order to truly understand them, you have to watch for any seemingly random, impulsive acts.
These instances are a person’s real urges breaking through, and one of the most common forms that these break-outs take is that of a dream. Freud held the belief that many of our repressed urges and natural impulses would be a disturbing reality to present to our ‘civilized’ selves. For this reason, our dreams usually came chock-full of symbolism and hidden meanings. This way, whatever we can’t handle is cushioned until we’re ready to recognize and accept it.
2. Dream Analysis According to Freud
Dreams usually have two layers according to Freud. The manifest meaning is what appears to be happening on the surface of the dream, while the latent meaning is the meaning that’s hidden beneath the manifest.
The manifest layer often makes no sense, but there is always a latent section of dreams just waiting to be analyzed. Free association helps you understand the latent meaning by using pictures.
By saying or writing down the first thing that comes to mind after viewing an ink blot or regular picture, you can better understand what your dreams are trying to keep hidden from you.
The pictures can usually allow your dreams to fall into five categories: displacement, projection, symbolization, condensation, and rationalization.
Here it is:
- Displacement is having a need or desire for one thing that is then symbolized (or represented) by something/someone else.
- Projection is projecting a desire onto something or someone else (i.e. a boy’s need for a mother prompts him into dating controlling/nurturing women).
- Symbolization occurs when a dreamer’s unspoken urges are performed in a metaphorical way.
- Condensation, by contrast, is when the dreamer is aware of their feelings and therefore works to downplay or hide their urges and desires through dreams. ‘The lady doth protest too much’ sort of thing.
- Rationalization involves organizing incomprehensive dreams into something understandable and logical.
In addition to these categories, Freudian interpretation of dreams often takes a sexual turn, which means formally innocuous things like forks, knives, trees, poles, etc., are inherently phallic in nature. The same holds true for the female portion of the genitalia, which is represented by symbols like bowls, holes, cups, caves, etc.
Freud’s method of interpretation may seem far-fetched in some cases, but there’s no denying that his methods have proven to be successful in some instances. When it comes to certain types of mental disorders, involving serial killers, someone who has been traumatized in their childhood, and so on, Freud’s methods have proven to be more than effective. But again, the success only holds true under certain circumstances.
The very fact that these methods can’t be used for everyone is enough of a reason to try and continue to improve on the foundation that Freud’s studies have helped to create. Understanding the subconscious is an art form, and Freud gave it a good shot. In the end, the process proved impossible, even for the man known as the father of psychoanalysis. Every person is different and therefore is affected differently by various things.
- A Young Girl’s Diary (1921) (ISBN 9781436758703): Eden Paul, Cedar Paul, Sigmund Freud
- An Outline of Psycho-Analysis. (ISBN 9781578989911): Sigmund Freud
- Basic Freud: Psychoanalytic Thought for the 21st Century (ISBN 9780465037162): Michael Kahn
- Civilization and its Discontents (ISBN 9781617200762): Sigmund Freud
- Dream Psychology: Psychoanalysis for Beginners by Sigmund Freud (PDF)
- The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud (Psychopathology of Everyday Life, the Interpretation of Dreams, and Three Contributions To the Theory of Sex) (ISBN 9780679601661): Sigmund Freud, A.A. Brill
- The Ego and the Id (ISBN 9781451537239): Sigmund Freud
- The Freud Reader (ISBN 9780393314038): Sigmund Freud, Peter Gay
- The Interpretation of Dreams: The Complete and Definitive Text (ISBN 9780465019779): Sigmund Freud, James Strachey
- The Penguin Freud Reader (Penguin Modern Classics Translated Texts) (ISBN 9780141187433): Sigmund Freud, Adam Phillips
- The Works of Sigmund Freud eBook: Sigmund Freud, Golgotha Press, M.D. Eder
- Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex (ISBN 9781609420857): Sigmund Freud
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