Perhaps all of us pondered on how to interpret our dreams. This question was also a subject of a study by Sigmund Freud.
The basic idea of this theory is that a dream is closely connected to the ideas and desires which occupied our mind before a dream has occurred.
According to Freud, “Dreaming represents a functioning of the mind. It is the fulfillment of a wish. It can be included in the overall chain of psychological perceptions accompanying us during waking moments. This process is a result of a highly complex intellectual activity”.
To decipher the meaning of dreams, Freud used the method of decryption. After he was told about the general content of dreams, Freud would begin inquiring about individual elements of this dream with the same question asking the dreamer: what comes to mind in relation to this element when the dreamer thinks about it?
The person was asked to report any thoughts that would come to mind. A thought that appears in connection with a dream is nothing random, it is associated with the dream subject.
Freud identifies the explicit and the latent content of a dream.
With the explicit content, a dream represents an event in which people are faced with the fulfillment of their desires in symbolic form, in other words, hallucinatory experience.
The latent content can be divided into several categories:
- When a dream is conscious or preconscious;
- When a dream is unconscious.
The contents of the unconscious, as opposed to the contents of the preconscious, are not realized at will by a person. What comes into a dream from the preconscious and what comes out of the unconscious will differ as follows: if spiritual life is reflected in a dream, it affects all feelings, desires, and senses experienced by a person, whereas unconscious dreams contain only hidden desires since they are a domain for secret desires.
According to Freud’s theory, unconscious desires are feelings unacceptable with respect to “ethical, aesthetic, and social norms“.
These desires are self-centered.
- sexual desires (including those prohibited by ethical and social norms, such as incest);
- hatred, purely negative motivational patterns (“the desire for revenge and death, directed to people close in life and loved ones: parents, siblings, spouse, own children, which is nothing out of ordinary. These rejected by the censorship desires are said to arise from the gates of hell; in a woken state, no censorship against these visions does not seem to be harsh enough”).
Freud believed that in order for a hidden dream to become more substantive, it must undergo some special decoding, or “dream processing”, which consists of the following components:
The first one is condensation. The dream is shortened. One character in a dream may be a representation of several people in real life.
The second component is the transition. Important human thoughts can become something appearing insignificant in dreams, and vice versa.
Deformation is the third element in interpreting our dreams.
The fourth component in dream deciphering is reconstruction. Dreams do not dwell on known principles of the waking state. The content of dreams must undergo transformation to translate their content.
During the process of dreaming, the connections which exist between the elements when being awake are lost: thoughts are transformed into images, abstract elements become concrete.
Based on these points, the next, fifth component, the dream symbolism comes to play. Dreaming uses symbols to turn the latent thoughts and perceptions into symbols.
Finally, the last component of this is cycling. If a dream is a product of the unconscious activity, it is also very close to the conscious activity in the waking state when we try to use reprocessing, or cycling, to justify our dreams using common logic.
All these processes have a goal to give our dreams some degree of disconnect in order to conceal their real meaning within their hidden content.
Freud’s theory is interesting and surprisingly coherent, but it is not an absolute answer, but merely an attempt to unravel the mystery of dreams. This theory is relevant and in demand even today, thus the study of dreams lives on.