The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud

About the Book


Sigmund Freud’s audacious masterpiece, The Interpretation of Dreams, has never ceased to stimulate controversy since its publication in 1900. Freud is acknowledged as the founder of psychoanalysis, the key to unlocking the human mind, a task which has become essential to our survival, as science and technology have rushed ahead of our ability to cope with their consequences. Freud saw that man is at war with himself and often unable to tolerate too much reality. He propounded the theory that dreams are the contraband representations of the beast within a man, smuggled into awareness during sleep. In Freudian interpretation, the analysis of dreams is the key to unlocking the secrets of the unconscious mind.

The Author

Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, who created an entirely new approach to the understanding of the human personality. He is regarded as one of the most influential – and controversial – minds of the 20th century.

Sigismund (later changed to Sigmund) Freud was born on 6 May 1856 in Freiberg, Moravia (now Pribor in the Czech Republic).  Freud’s family was Jewish but he was himself non-practising.

In 1873, Freud began to study medicine at the University of Vienna. After graduating, he worked at the Vienna General Hospital. He collaborated with Josef Breuer in treating hysteria by the recall of painful experiences under hypnosis. In 1885, Freud went to Paris as a student of the neurologist Jean Charcot. On his return to Vienna the following year, Freud set up in private practice, specialising in nervous and brain disorders. The same year he married Martha Bernays, with whom he had six children.

Freud developed the theory that humans have an unconscious in which sexual and aggressive impulses are in perpetual conflict for supremacy with the defences against them. In 1897, he began an intensive analysis of himself. In 1900, his major work ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ was published in which Freud analysed dreams in terms of unconscious desires and experiences.

Although the medical establishment disagreed with many of his theories, a group of pupils and followers began to gather around Freud. In 1910, the International Psychoanalytic Association was founded with Carl Jung, a close associate of Freud’s, as the president. Jung later broke with Freud and developed his own theories.


  • Aristotle expressed himself by saying that the best interpreter of dreams is he who can best grasp similarities.
  • A dream is, as a rule, not to be translated into other languages.
  • It has been found that the dream represents a wish as fulfilled. The dream is the (disguised) fulfilment of a (suppressed, repressed) wish. Even dreams with a painful content are to be analysed as wish-fulfillments.
  • Young children often have more complex and obscure dreams than adults.
  • “When desire bestir itself, then comes fantasy, and presents to us, as it were, the object of desire” -Plotinus
  • We should assume that in every human being there exist, as the primary cause of dream formation, two psychic forces(tendencies or systems), on of wich one forms the wish expressed in the dream, while the other exercises a censorship over this dream wish, thereby enforcing on it a distortion.
  • The stimulus of a dream always lies among the experiences of the preceding day.
  • The material and sources of dreams;
    1. The dream clearly prefers the impressions of the last few days.
    2. It makes a selection in accordance with principles other than those governing our waking memory, in that it recalls not essential and important, but subordinate and disregarded things.
    3.  It has at its disposal the earliest impressions of our childhood, and brings to light details from this period of life, which seems trivial to us, and wich in waking life were believed to have been forgotten a long time ago.
  • The dream may select its material from any period of life, provided only that a chain of thought leads back from the experiences of the day of the dream of that earlier period.
  • The source of a dream may be:
    • A recent and psychologically significant event which is directly represented in the dream.
    • Several recent significant events, which are combined by the dream into a single whole.
    • One or more recent significant events, which are represented in the dream content by allusion to a contemporary but indifferent event.
    • A subjectively significant experience(recollection, train of thought) which is constantly represented in the dream by allusion to a recent but indifferent impression.
  • Infantile experiences are one source for dreams.
  • The deeper we go into the analysis of dreams, the more often are we put on the track of childish experiences wich play the part of dream sources in the latent dream content.
  • The dream often appears to have several meanings; not only may several wish-fulfillments be combined in it, but one meaning or one wish fulfilment may conceal another, until the lowest stratum one comes upon the fulfilment of a wish from the earliest period of childhood.
  • In a way, all dreams are convenience dreams; they serve the purpose of continuing to sleep instead of waking. The dream is the guardian of sleep, not its disturber.
  • Typical dreams;
    • Embarrassment – dream of nakedness
    • Dreams of the death of a beloved person
    • Examination dream
  • Censorship and dream distortion; prevents the development of anxiety or other forms of painful affect.
  • All dreams are absolutely egoistic; in every dream the beloved ego appears, even though in disguised form. The wishes that are realised in dreams are invariably the wishes of this ego.
  • You can never be really sure that you have interpreted a dream completely.
  • The dream when written down , fills half a page; the analysis, which contains the dream thoughts, requires six, eight, twelve times as much space.
  • The dream content is tremendously condensed in comparison  with the dream thoughts.
  • Every element of the dream content proves to be over determined – that is, it appears several times over in the dream thoughts.
  • The construction of collective and composite persons is one of the principal methods  of dream condensation.
  • Generally speaking, words are often treated in dreams as things.
  • Dream displacement and dream condensation are the two craftsmen to whom we may chiefly ascribe the structure of the dream.
  • The person in the dream who is subject to an emotion which I am aware of while asleep is the one that conceals my ego.
  • “In interpreting dream stories one must consider them the first time from the beginning to the end, and the second time from the end to the beginning.” -Artemidorus
  • The form of the dream or of dreaming is employed with astonishing frequency to represent the concealed content.
  • Generally speaking, in the interpretation of any element of a dream it is doubtful whether it;
    • is to be accepted int the negative or the positive sense (contrast relation)
    • is to be interpreted historically (as a memory)
    • is symbolic
    • its valuation is to be based upon its wording
  • Dreams never tell us whether elements presented by it are ro be interpreted literally or metaphorically.
  • A majority of the dreams of adults deal with sexual material and give expression to erotic wishes.
  • Dreams of the same night, even though they are separated in the memory, spring from the same thought material.
  • The judgements which are passed upon the dream as it is remembered after waking, and the feelings which are aroused by the reproduction of the dream, belong largely to the latent dream content, and must be fitted into place in the interpretation of the dream.
  • An act of judgement in a dream is merely the repetition of an original act of judgement in the dream thoughts.
  • The psychic activity in dream formation resolves itself into two achievements: the production of the dream thoughts and the transformation of these into the dream content. The dream thoughts are perfectly accurate, and are formes with all the psychic profusion of wich we are capable; they belong to the thoughts which have not become conscious, from which our conscious thoughts also result by means of a certain transposition.
  • All dreams can not be interpreted.
  • A whole series of dreams, continuing for weeks or months, may have a common basis, and should therefore be interpreted as a continuity.
  • The state of sleep makes dream formation possible by reducing the endopsychic censorship.
  • The dream is a psychic act full of import; its motive power is invariably a wish craving fulfillment; the fact that it is unrecognisable as a wish, and its many peculiarities and absurdities, are due to the influence of psychic censorship to which it has been subjected during its formation.
  • According to Aristotle, the dream is a continuation of thinking in sleep.
  • The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life.
  • Find out all about dreams, and you will have found out all about insanity. -Hughlings Jackson
  • In all persons an interest in dreams greatly increases the number of dreams remembered.
  • The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious element in our psychic life.
  • What is the theoretical value of the study of dreams? It lies in the additions to psychological knowledge and the beginnings of an understanding of the neuroses which we thereby obtain.

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