What is Sigmund Freud's opinion about dreams

- 35 -

Sigmund Freud's dream theory

It is generally agreed that
that the dream interpretation is the cornerstone of the
psychoanalytic work is, and that theirs
Results the most important contribution of psychoanalysis
to represent psychology.

Sigmund Freud

Who Was Sigmund Freud?

Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856 in the Moravian Freiberg (today: Pribor, about 30 km southwest of Ostrava, CSSR. His father, Jakob Freud, was a cloth merchant; because of the poor economic situation he left Moravia in 1859 and moved with his family Leipzig to Vienna. At the age of nine Freud entered the Leopoldstädter Kommunalreal- und Obergymnasium, and passed the final exam with distinction in 1873. Under the influence of Goethe's work "Nature" he decided to study medicine. Freud stayed at the school for almost eight years Vienna University, where he mainly deals with physiology, brain anatomy and neurology. During this time, several of his works on the anatomy of the spinal cord appeared. From 1882 Freud practiced as a doctor at the Vienna General Hospital, and in 1885 he became a lecturer in neuropathology he started his own practice, at which time Freud was already a well-known neurologist through more than twenty publications ologist. He was hardly interested in psychiatry. Significant work followed in the next few years

Sigmund Freud

- 36 -

about aphasia (disorders of speech and language comprehension) and polio. This work alone would have been enough to secure Freud's name in clinical neurology, according to the words of the Swiss neurologist Rudolf Brun (Brun 1936, p. 205).

Freud's interest in psychology and psychiatry developed in the second half of the 1880s. At that time Freud was in France several times to get to know hypnosis. In 1887 he began to hypnotize his patients himself. Later he gave up this procedure - we shall see why later -, resorted to other methods and came to the treatment of dreams in the treatment of the sick.

In November 1899, Freud's first major psychoanalytic work, "The Interpretation of Dreams" (predated to the year 1900), was published.

Title page of the "Interpretation of Dreams"

In the last 39 years of his life, Freud published 231 papers. Most of them were devoted to psychoanalytic theory and treatment of the sick, but a large part also to the application of psychoanalysis to culture and society. With this step from individual to mass psychology, Freud also made the transition from natural science to an ahistorical-idealistic worldview. Despite the questionable nature of Freud's criticism of society, culture and religion, two publications in this area should be briefly discussed here: In the correspondence between him and Einstein published in Paris in 1933, Freud discusses ways of preventing war and warns that a coming war might Will destroy humanity. Freud then ends his letter with the sentence: "Everything that promotes cultural development works against war" (Freud, study edition, vol. IX, p. 286). Freud's attitude to the capitalist society in which he lived was also critical; as early as 1927 he wrote in his book "The Future of an Illusion": "It doesn't need to be said
 
 

- 39 -

that a culture which leaves such a large number of participants unsatisfied and drives them to rebellion has neither the prospect of lasting, nor deserves it "(Freud, study edition, vol. IX, p. 146). Freud himself then became a victim of National Socialism, the cruelest form of the social order he had criticized: in 1933 the Nazis burned his books, and in 1935, two months after the fascists occupied Vienna, Freud had to emigrate to London, where he died 23 days after the start of the Second World War (On the work and effects of S. Freud see also the instructive afterword by A. Thom in Freud 1954.)

What is psychoanalysis and what role does the dream play in it?

In 1923 Freud himself distinguished the following three meanings of "psychoanalysis" (Freud 1923): These three aspects of psychoanalysis are of course closely intertwined. For the purpose of presenting Freud's dream theory, however, we limit ourselves here to the second aspect, the treatment of neurotic disorders.

Neuroses are physical or mental illnesses, the cause of which lies in the experience-related disruption of the person-environment relationship. In order to treat the neurosis, one must know the experience or experiences which led to the disturbance of the person-environment relationship. Freud used the for this

- 40 -

Hypnosis: With its help, he was able to bring back what had been forgotten by the patient. Then the conflict causing the disease or the experience could be discussed with the patient. However, Freud soon gave up hypnosis because, firstly, he failed to hypnotize all the sick and, secondly, the success of the treatment was short-lived. Freud replaced hypnosis with the method of free association; That is, he required his patients to forego any conscious thought and only to communicate their spontaneous ideas, even if they were apparently nonsensical, unimportant or offensive. The expectation that Freud attached to this new method was that free association would in reality prove to be strictly determined, in the sense that after the conscious thought-contents had been suppressed, the unconscious material would emerge. This unconscious material was supposed to lead Freud on the trail of what had been forgotten by the patient and thus to the cause of a neurosis.

Sigmund Freud's couch. His patients lay on it during the analysis

Freud soon realized, however, that the patient put up a not inconsiderable resistance to the uncovering of what had been forgotten. Thereupon he assumed that the same forces had worked in the patient before and led to the suppression of a psychological conflict. Because of this repression into the unconscious, this conflict becomes the cause of the disease, i. that is, it is now expressing itself as a neurotic symptom.

In the further course of his psychotherapeutic practice, Freud came to the conclusion that the dream is no different from a neurotic symptom. He believed, however, that in dreams the repressed impulse is more clearly expressed in waking life. Precisely for this reason Freud considered the study of dreams to be the best approach to the knowledge of the repressed unconscious and thus to the treatment of neuroses (cf. p. 115f.). How did Freud imagine the mechanism of the

- 41 -

Where did he see the essence and function of the dream?

At first, in contrast to the medicine and psychology of his time, Freud assumed that every dream has a meaning. The strangeness that often clings to our dreams is the result of distortions made to its original meaning. Freud now works out a technique with the help of which we can get from the dream as we remember it after awakening - called "manifest dream content" by Freud - to its hidden meaning, the "latent dream thought". The latent dream thoughts are as a rule unconscious wishes, which for one reason or another are not admitted to consciousness by the "dream censorship". The only way to pass this dream censorship is to distort the latent dream thoughts. This distortion takes care of the "dream work". It condenses several ideas into a single one or shifts the emphasis from one moment to the next. The dream work can also resort to symbols. But more about that below.

The illustration is intended to illustrate something about Freud's conception of the dream. But it needs some explanations:
 

Schematic representation of Freud's conception of dreams

- 42 -

First. Freud is not interested in the dream as we dream it; H. for the "real dream", but only for the dream as we remember it after awakening. Many criticisms of his dream theory are based on ignoring this fact. The question is often asked whether the memory coincides with the dream actually dreamed. Freud got this problem out of the way by not considering the real dream at all and only interested in the translation of the latent dream thoughts into the dream memory.

Secondly. Both manifest dream content and real dream are not unconscious phenomena. According to Freud, only the latent dream thoughts and dream work are unconscious processes.

Third. Freud called the technique that leads us from the manifest dream content to the hidden meaning of the dream, to the latent dream thoughts, "dream interpretation". Dream interpretation is a process that is exactly the opposite of dream work. So if you know the mechanisms of dream work, every dream can be interpreted. But it is precisely these mechanisms that Freud claims have been heavily criticized because they open the door to arbitrary interpretation.

What does the implementation of Freud's dream theory look like in practice?

The basic idea of ​​Freud is as follows: behind the dream as we remember it after awakening, i. H. behind the manifest dream content are the latent dream thoughts. According to Freud, these consist mainly of unconscious wishes.

The interpretation of the dream must reverse the process of dream work; H. Dissolve condensation and adjust shifts again. If she succeeds in doing this, she can guess the ideas behind the manifest dream content. Concentration and displacement, the two most important forms of dream work, can be found in Freud

- 43 -

numerous examples. In a "collective" or "mixed person", the traits of two or more people are condensed into a dream image, apparently meaningless word creations turn out to be a conglomerate of several individual words and the like. When it comes to postponement, things are a little more complicated and less obvious. In the center of the manifest dream content there are other things than in the center of the latent dream thoughts, indeed sometimes the essential content of the dream thoughts does not appear in the manifest content at all. Freud, the close relationship between dream and joke

saw, the shift has inter alia. made clear by the following joke (Freud, study edition, vol. IV, p. 49) Two Jews meet near the bathhouse: "Have you taken a bath?" asks one. The other asks. “Is one missing?” The technique of this joke lies in shifting the accent from “bathe” to “take”. If the question had been: “Have you bathed?”, This shift would not have been possible Very similar things happen in dreams, only that they rarely appear funny to us and we - as long as we dream - take no offense at the postponement.

Freud explained his theory in detail with the help of a dream of his own. It is about the "dream of Irma's injection" (Freud, study edition, vol. II, p. 126ff.). Freud's presentation and interpretation take up 14 pages. Nevertheless, we want to try to reproduce the essentials here:

1. Freud's preliminary report

"In the summer of 7 1895 I had psychoanalytically treated a young lady who was very close to me and my family. It is understandable that such a mingling of relationships can become a source of manifold excitement for the doctor, especially for the psychotherapist. Personal interest of the doctor is greater, his authority less. Failure threatens the old friendship with the relatives of the

- 44 -

To loosen up sick. The treatment ended with partial success, the patient lost her hysterical fear, but not all of her somatic symptoms. At that time I was not quite sure about the criteria that would designate the final settlement of a hysterical case history, and expected the patient to come up with a solution that she found unacceptable. In such disagreement we discontinued the treatment because of the summer time. - One day I was visited by a younger colleague, one of my closest friends, who had visited the patient - Irma - and her family while they were in the country. I asked him how he found her and got the answer: She is doing better, but not quite well. I know that my friend Otto's words or the tone in which they were spoken annoyed me. I thought I heard a reproach, for example that I had promised too much to the patient, and attributed - rightly or wrongly - Otto's alleged partisanship to me to the influence of relatives of the patient who, I assumed, never liked my treatment had seen. Incidentally, I did not realize my embarrassment, I did not express it. That same evening I wrote down Irma's medical history so that, as if to justify myself, I could give it to Dr. M., to a mutual friend, the leading personality in our circle at the time. In the night following this evening (probably more in the morning) I had the following dream, which was fixed immediately after waking up "(Freud, study edition, vol. II, p.126).

2. The dream

"A large hall - many guests we receive. - Among them Irma, whom I immediately take aside to answer her letter, as it were, to reproach her for not yet accepting the" solution ". I tell her: If if you are still in pain, it is really only your fault.

- 45 -

test the pain I now have in my throat, stomach and body, it constricts me. - I get scared and look at her. She looks pale and puffy; I think in the end I am overlooking something organic. I take her to the window and look down her throat. In doing so, she shows a bit of reluctance, like women who wear artificial teeth. I guess she doesn't need to. - The mouth then opens well, and I find a large white spot on the right, and elsewhere I see extensive white scabs on strange, curled structures that are evidently modeled on the turbinates. - I'll call Dr. M., who repeats and confirms the examination ... Dr. M. looks completely different than usual; He is pale, limps, has a beardless chin ... My friend Otto is now standing next to her too, and friend Leopold percusses her over her bodice and says: She has a cushioning on the lower left, also points to an infiltrated area of ​​skin on the left shoulder down (which I can feel despite the dress as he does) ... M. says: No doubt, it's an infection, but it doesn't matter; there will also be dysentery and the poison will be excreted ... We also know immediately where the infection comes from. When she was feeling unwell, friend Otto recently gave her an injection with a propyl preparation, propylene ... propionic acid ... trimethylamine (the formula I see in bold in front of me) ... Such injections are not made so lightly ... The syringe was probably not clean either "(Freud, ibid.).

3. The interpretation of the dream by Freud himself (Freud, ibid, pp.128-140 and 293-297)

I reproach Irma for not accepting the solution: I say: If you are still in pain, it is your own fault. "I notice ... by the sentence I uttered to Irma in a dream that above all I don't want to be to blame for the pain that she still has. If it is Irma's own fault, then it can

- 46 -

not be mine. Should the intention of the dream be sought in this direction? "

She looks pale and puffy. "My patient was always rosy. I suspect that someone else is being involved here."

I am shocked to think that I have overlooked an organic affectation. "If Irma's pains are organically justified, then I am ... not obliged to heal them. My cure only removes hysterical pains. It actually seems to me as if I should wish for an error in the diagnosis; of failure so eliminated. "

Such injections are not made so lightly. "Here the accusation is thrown ... directly against friend Otto."

Probably the syringe wasn't clean either. Another reproach against Otto - "

In conclusion Freud then writes: "I noticed an intention which is realized through the dream and which must have been the motive of the dream. The dream fulfills some wishes, which were made by the events of the last evening (Otto's message, the writing of the medical history The result of the dream is namely that I am not to blame but to Irma's still existing suffering and that Otto is to blame for it. Now Otto has annoyed me with his remark about Irma's imperfect healing, the dream avenges me in him by turning the reproach back on himself ... - The dream represents a certain state of affairs as I would like it to be; its content is therefore a wish fulfillment, its motive a wish "(Freud, study edition, vol. II, 137, emphasis added by Freud).

We have left out many details of the interpretation and limited ourselves to the essentials,. However, we still want to point out one of the condensation that Freud noticed in this dream.It is about the main character of the dream, the patient Irma. Freud writes: "The position ... in which I have it

- 47 -

examining the window is based on a memory of another person, of the lady with whom I would like to swap my patient ... Insofar as Irma reveals a diphtheric coating that reminds the concern of my eldest daughter, she arrives at the Representation of this child of mine, behind which, linked to him by the same name, the person of a patient lost through intoxication [5] is hidden. In the further course of the dream the meaning of Irma's personality changed (without the image you saw in the dream changing); she becomes one of the children we examine in the public ordination of the children's hospital. The reluctance to open her mouth makes the same Irma an allusion to another lady I examined, and also, in the same context, to my own wife. In the pathological changes that I discover in her throat, I have also collected allusions to a whole series of other people "(Freud, study edition, vol. II. P. 294).

Freud's thesis that dreams are wish-fulfilling has been widely criticized. In fact, it is an extremely weak point in his theory and can only be sustained by using quite speculative hypotheses. As an argument for his view, Freud uses the dreams of children, in which desires are indeed often expressed. Children's dreams do not provide any riddles to be solved, but they are of course invaluable for proving that the dream is essentially a wish-fulfillment "(Freud, study edition, vol. II, p. 145). Freud illustrates it with a dream of his daughter Anna : "My youngest girl, then nineteen months old, had vomited one morning and was therefore kept sober for the day. On the night that followed this hunger, she was heard excitedly shouting from her sleep:

- 48 -

Anna F.eud, Er (d) beer, Hochbeer, Eier (s) peis, Papp. At that time she used her name to express the assumption of possession; the S menu probably included everything that had to appear to her as a desirable meal "(ibid, 5.148).

Such "childhood dreams" can of course also be had by adults. So it cannot be denied that there are dreams that represent a wish-fulfillment. Freud's assertion goes further: for him all dreams are pipe dreams. Freud counters the argument that there are also anxiety dreams with the remark that his theory is not based on the appreciation of the manifest dream content, but on its interpretation. and with the help of this interpretation Freud actually succeeds in turning every fearful dream into a pipe dream. Of course, objectivity often falls by the wayside.

According to Freud, the main function of the dream is that of the guardian of sleep. On the one hand, external stimuli are built into the dream in such a way that they do not lead to awakening. As an example, Freud gives inter alia. Napoleon, who weaves the sound of an exploding infernal machine into a battle dream. We've all probably experienced something similar when the alarm goes off. The dream fulfills its role as guardian of sleep, but not only through the incorporation of external stimuli into the dream event, but also through the fulfillment of unconscious wishes, the latent dream thoughts. If these wishes were not presented as fulfilled, they would, according to Freud, represent a constant stimulus that does not allow a peaceful sleep.

One cannot talk about Freud's dream theory without making a few remarks about dream symbolism. In many places in his works Freud pointed out that dream symbolism is not an invention of psychoanalysis, but can be found in fairy tales, myths, pranks, jokes, in folklore and also in poetry and everyday language. Even before Freud, Scherner (1861) in particular had used symbols

- 49 -

len busy in dreams. Freud followed up on this, and - among his written dream interpretations there is hardly one that does not resort to symbols. Sex symbols are of particular importance within Freudian psychoanalysis. - Freud writes: "All elongated objects, sticks, tree trunks, umbrellas .., all elongated and sharp weapons: knives, daggers, pikes, want to represent the male member ... boxes, boxes, boxes, cupboards, stoves correspond the female body, but also caves, ships and all kinds of vessels "(Freud, study edition, vol. II, p. 348). For the validity of the female sexual symbols, Freud uses expressions from everyday language such as: "old box". "Woman's room" etc. According to Freud, the sexual act is symbolized by climbing ladders, stairs, stairs, dreaming about flying and traveling by train. Male masturbation is represented in the dream by tooth loss. Here, too, Freud points to the vernacular: "To tear yourself off" is a vulgar description of masturbation.

Contrary to a widespread belief, Freud also knew symbols outside of the sexual sphere and did not limit himself to just sexual symbols when interpreting dreams. In Freud's time, the dreamer's parents were often symbolized by the emperor and empress, and the dreamer himself by the prince or princess. The father is often represented by a figure of authority (Freud cites Goethe as an example). According to Freud, death is often symbolized by not reaching a train or by "leaving" Freud's assumption is also interesting that dreams that occur in cities are symbols for unattainable goals (Freud, study edition, vol. II, p. 206 ).

Despite the detail with which Freud goes into dream symbolism in many passages of his works, it is by no means the case that Freud had given priority to the interpretation of symbols, on the contrary: he warned more-

- 50 -

fold from their abuse. In 1909 he wrote in the second edition of his "Interpretation of Dreams": "But I would like to expressly warn against overestimating the importance of symbols for dream interpretation, for example limiting the work of dream translation to symbol translation and abandoning the technique of utilizing the dreamer's ideas. .. Practically as well as theoretically, however, priority remains to the procedure that attaches decisive importance to the utterances of the dreamer, while the symbol translation carried out by us is added as an aid "(Freud, study edition, vol. II, p. 354). And in 1916 in the "Lectures for Introduction to Psychoanalysis" we read: "Interpretation based on knowledge of symbols is not a technique that can replace or compete with the associative. It is a complement to it and only provides useful results when inserted into it "(Freud, study edition, Vol. I, p. 161).

In the "New Series" of these lectures, Freud also countered the claim that dreams were interpreted exclusively on a sexual level. He wrote: "Some formulas have become common knowledge, including those that we have never advocated, such as the sentence that all dreams are of a sexual nature ..." (Freud, Studienausgabe, Vol. I, 5.452).

Freud's conception of dreams from today's perspective

Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig called Sigmund Freud a "guide to previously unimagined worlds of the human soul", and Albert Einstein saw in him one of the "greatest teachers" of his generation (cf. Grotjahn 1976, p.131 ff.). Even so, a large part of today's psychologists consider his theories speculative and untenable. In fact, many attempts to experimentally test Freudian hypotheses have come out to the disadvantage of psychoanalysis: Either

- 51 -

the allegations were refuted or proved to be not verifiable at all (cf. Kiener 1978).

What does this situation look like especially in relation to Freud's dream theory?

The easiest to test is the hypothesis of the dream as "keeper of sleep". If the dream actually has the function of continuing sleep, then the wake-up threshold should be raised during the dream. In fact, in 1972 it was experimentally proven that humans during the i; Dreams are more difficult to wake up than in the sleep phases without a dream (Günther 1972). Of course, this does not automatically confirm Freud's assertion that this "guardian function" of the dream is guaranteed through wish fulfillment.

Freud's hypothesis that a connection to the experiences of the last day can be found in every dream could also be confirmed experimentally. So it was shown z. For example, that the dreams of people who have been subjected to certain experiments regularly contain elements of this experimental situation on the previous day (Pötzl 1917, Domhoff and Kamiya 1964, Cartwright 1968, Bakeland 1970). Are z. If, for example, films are projected to test subjects before they fall asleep, elements of the film plot can be found in their dreams.

The basic idea of ​​Freud, however, the idea of ​​unconscious ideas behind the manifest dream content, seems hardly to be experimentally verifiable. This thought is probably plausible, but it stands and falls with the recognition or rejection of the existence of the unconscious. This point has been disputed for more than a hundred years, but without a generally accepted solution emerging. One of the sharpest critics of the unconscious, especially the unconscious dream work, is the Swiss psychotherapist Medard Boss. He even accuses Freud of inventing these things in order to incorporate dreams into his psychoanalytic theory

- 52 -

to be able to. The conclusion of Boss is: "Freud's entire conception of dreams ... therefore rests on a purely invented foundation" (Boss 1976, p. 195).

The most prominent critic of the unconscious was Max Planck. In his little pamphlet "Scheinprobleme der Wissenschaft" he wrote: "There is no science of the unconscious or the subconscious. It would be a contradictio in adjecto, a contradiction in terms. What is subconscious, one does not know. Therefore, all problems are relate to the subconscious, pseudo-problems "(Planck 1947, p. 17). The great physicist here mixes up the unconscious and the subconscious (to differentiate between them see Helm 1965 and Arnold 1955). In addition, the development of psychology in the last few decades has shown that we cannot do without the category of the unconscious. Soviet psychologists refer to this (Bassin 1974, Prangishvili et al. 1975, Zintschenko and Mamardaschwili 1951).

As a preliminary conclusion to the studies of the last few years, Sintschenko and Mamardashvili (1981, p. 257) write: "Today there is no doubt that the psychological ideas of Freud and the Neofreudians had a strong influence on the development of research into higher psychological processes." Especially the Freudian distinction between the conscious and the unconscious had "a great influence on the development of the whole of psychological science".