Freud's Theory on Dreams


Dream Symbolism

Welcome to our page on Freud's theory of dreams.

Before embarking on Freud’s means of dream analysis, we must first assess what he perceived dreams to be. Essentially in his view, dreams were made up of two principles, Wish Fulfilment, and Manifest v. Latent Content.

Wish Fulfilment

Freud considered dreams to be keyholes into our unconscious mind where the fears, desires and emotions exist that we suppress in some form or another to hide from conscious thought. In other words, we don’t want to know about them so they get driven into the recesses of the subconscious. Thus, with respect to the concept of wish- fulfilment and dreaming, we are “wishing” that the thing that concerns us in the subconscious, expressed via the dream, does not happen. Therefore, on this basis, both “negative” and “positive” (things we wish do happen) dreams are the result of wish-fulfilment.

Freud believed that although our dreams were the result of this wish-fulfilment concept, the subconscious does not directly relay the important message. That is, the message is provided in symbolism and must be decoded. Not because the subconscious wants to make things difficult, but due to symbolism being it’s only means of communication; the conscious, if you recall, is attempting to bury these desires, instincts, and emotions. Thus, the subconscious is unearthing them in an effort to say, “Hey, this is the true you and your unwillingness to acknowledge as much is causing you problems.”

Manifest v. Latent Content

Freud made a differentiation between what we actually dream (manifest content) and the unfulfilled wish that the dream represents (latent content). On this topic Freud offered the following:

“All previous attempts to solve the problems of the dream have been based directly upon the manifest dream content as it is retained in the memory, and have undertaken to obtain an interpretation of the dream from this content.... We alone are in possession of new data; for us a new psychic material intervenes between the dream content and the results of our investigations: and this is the latent emphasis... We develop a solution of the dream from the latter, and not from the manifest dream content. We are also confronted for the first time with a problem which has before existed, that of examining and tracing the relations between the latent dream thoughts and the manifest dream content, and the processes through which the former have grown into the latter.”

In Freud's theory of dreams, the content of dreams is hardly ever presented in direct form that requires no coding. Rather, dreams are complex, made up of symbols that best represent the message presented. Think of this as akin to Christmas shopping for a few people. You peruse the items and pick the ones that are suited to each individual. The unconscious does something similar; it selects the symbols from the individual’s life that they will best understand. This is then followed by arranging these symbols into a narrative structure that best represents the message.

Often the end production is raw in its truthfulness. Dreams are never sugar-coated or watered down. If the subconscious perceives the timing is right to relay its secret code, it will not hold back. Freud suggested that because of this raw production, our conscious mind attempts to reject the messages in our dreams. In other words, even when the message has been sent, opened, and read (not interpreted); our wakeful mind tries to "repress" this knowledge.

Related Pages

* Sigmund Freud Theory on the Id, Ego and Superego

* Freudian Dream Analysis

* History of Dream Interpretation

* Interesting Dream Facts


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