Many people often wonder why we have dreams and if they even mean anything. In Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, he claims that dreams are indeed meaningful and the reason why they are is because dreams represent wish fulfillment. In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud goes into specific examples of why dreams convey unfulfilled wishes of the person that is having the dream. Freud's examples are crucial in this work because before it was published most people assumed dreams were universal, not personal.
To begin his argument that dreams are wish fulfillment, Freud uses himself as an example. He says, "If I eat anchovies or olives or any other highly salted food in the evening, I develop thirst during the night which wakes me up. But my waking is preceded by a dream; and this always has the same content, namely, that I am drinking. I dream I am swallowing down water in great gulps, and it has the delicious taste that nothing can equal but a cool drink when one is parched with thirst."(311). Here Freud shows how his dream can be wish fulfillment. He was thirsty when he was dreaming, and in his dream he was rewarded with a glass of water. Freud also states these kinds of dreams as "dreams of convenience". (311).
In Freud's next examples, he uses the comparison of adults and children. In paragraph nine Freud says, "We may expect to find the very simplest forms of dreams in children". Most readers would agree when Freud further explains this statement of his by saying, " since there can be no doubt that their psychical productions are less complicated than those of adults." Freud goes on to explain that dreams that children have are important to the child just as much as they are to adults. The reader might also agree when Freud says that the dreams of children "raise no problem for solution". Freud's points here make sense to the reader, because everyone knows that a child's mind is more simple than that of an adult, so why would dreams on the subconscious level be any different? Freud backs up these statements with examples of his own children's dreams. After reading Freud's examples, the reader can easily understand Freud's statements mentioned above because now the reader has read examples of dreams from adults and children.
Even though Freud's examples are solid and reliable, they are one sided. Freud only uses examples of people close to him, like his children or close friends. What Freud lacks is a survey or a comprehensive study of dreams from the perspective of people he is not close to. Since Freud's theory of dreams was not of the norm during his time, he needs more convincing resources to back his theory. The reader may get the impression that Freud didn't research enough on the subject of dreams, since he uses only close resources. Also, Freud proposes questions about dreams that the reader would want to know the answers to, yet he fails to answer them. Some of the questions that Freud asks, but fails to answer are, "What is the source of the material that has been modified into the dream? What is the source of the many peculiarities that are to be observed in the dream-thoughts - such, for instance, as the fact that may be mutually contradictory?"(310). Freud hesitates to answer the question, and insists to pursue proving that dreams are wish fulfillment. He makes a reliable argument that dreams are wish fullfilment in his first couple of examples. It is here that Freud should move on to the questions unanswered than to ramble on a point that he has already made.
Although his research is biased, Freud does a noteworthy job of explaining how dreams can be wish fulfillment. His examples are thourough and detailed, giving the reader knowledge of his theory. Also, Freud poses many interesting questions about the meaning of dreams that at his time had yet to be asked.
He uses a self-analysis of his own dreams in order to prove the theory he puts forward about how dream psychology works. In the work, Freud differentiates between dreams that are at the surface and unconscious level dreams. He suggests that dreams have their own language and thus need to be interpreted. He suggests that most dreams are a sort of way for the unconscious mind to express its desires. He continues to explain that even the most distorted of dreams, when carefully examined will reveal their meaning. Thus, he proposes that one way of gaining insights into a person's desires is through an analysis of their dreams, no matter how far-fetched they are.
Freud began his work by exploring past literature which had been written on this subject of the dream world. Indeed, there were many theories that had been written on the subject. However, he noted that the interest in dreams over the issue for more than a thousand years had not yielded much. Initially, early man believed that dreams were some sort of divine message form the gods. He also notes that recent scientific theory of his time indicated that dreams originated from excitation of the senses. In other words, it was a way for the sleeping mind to deal with the real world. This was done in an effort to keep the individual from waking up.
However, he was not wholly convinced about this theory of excitation of the senses. For instance, he wondered why a dream did not simply recount the event of the day in a simple manner as they had occurred. In addition, he noted that the theory of physical excitation did not always hold. In fact, the mind would sometimes block out all sensory stimuli. Besides this, he also noted that many dreams people recounted had an ethical angle to them. Consequently, he concluded there was no way dreaming could be that simplistic. His interest in dreams during his practice with mental patients. During their sessions, they would describe to him horrific nightmares. On further investigation, he noted a pattern in this dreams. Thus, he decided to investigate the matter. He noted that when treating the mind, a dream should be regarded as a symptom just like other ailments. When he finally decided to write this work, he had worked on thousands of such cases involving dream interpretation.
He postulates that when someone awakes from the dream, what he or she can recall is the manifest part of the dream. This part of the dream is quite meaningless and of little value to a psychoanalyst, according to him. He adds that one begins to scratch the surface the real meaning of what the dream are revealed. He suggested that this meaning was normally hidden because of the restrictions society places on individuals. In most cases, this deeper meaning tended to have a sexual undertone. The mind thus uses symbolism to hide the real meaning of the dream. This was out of a desire by the mind to protect its moral integrity.
In order to interpret dreams, Freud would utilize a method he termed as free association. He would request the dreamer to relive his dream. After that, the dreamer would be requested to associate various objects with realities of the real world. By so doing, the psychoanalyst could then examine any events in the dreamer's life and draw up a conclusion. He argues that a dream is very important to the continued sane existence of an individual. For instance, instead of one acting out on incestuous desires, the individual can have their odd sexual cravings fulfilled in the dream world and thus they can function normally in society. Further, a dream can help one deal with the loss of a loved, according to Freud. In addition to helping an individual deal with loss, dreams help lower aggression in society. He goes on to explain that an individual who has desire to commit revenge may find fulfillment in a dream. Thus contributing to the peaceful existence of society.
His work, at one point led him to believe that this was one of humanities three humiliations. He noted that the belief long held of humans being in total control of our actions had ow been debunked. This idea brought him into disrepute especially in the United States. The problem with Freud's theory was that there was no way of proving if a treatment had worked. Later studies in the nineteenth century even refuted the idea of dreams being linked to desire. As a result, his work became less and less appealing over time. However, recent research has revived the interest in the link between desire and dreams. For instance, researchers have noted that areas of the mind charged with desire seem overly active during sleep. This conclusion was arrived at by using an MRI scan on a sleeping person. This research does appear to validate Freud's work, albeit cautiously, so many years after it was refuted as pseudoscience.
It is important to note that this theory coincides with a deeply religious time in history. At the time, the common belief was that God or other spiritual beings inspired all dreams. As a result, his work was not given the opportunity to grow and be fully investigated. Since his time, many others have tried to come up with their own theories as to how dreams work. All of them wholly or partially based upon Freud's original work. However, there is no denying that Freud's revelation of the unconscious mind had a great influence on humanity.