Freud's Dream Psychology & Analysis

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  • 0:04 The Meaning of Dreams
  • 1:08 The Mind
  • 2:33 Freud's Dream
  • 3:46 Dream Breakdown
  • 5:22 Freudian Dream Criticism
  • 6:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mandy Gerhard

Mandy has taught a variety of age groups, from early childhood through adult learners. Mandy has a master’s degree in education.

Sigmund Freud did extensive research into the human mind in order to explain human behavior. One of his focus areas was dream analysis. In this lesson you will learn about Freud's research and findings related to dream analysis. You will also learn about what critics say in relation to his research.

The Meaning of Dreams

Have you ever heard the expression 'dream on' or 'only in my dreams'? Throughout history there have been many references to the dreams people have and what they mean. In the Bible, the Pharaoh had a reoccurring dream for two years as referred to in the book of Genesis. In Frankenstein (the famous novel by Mary Shelley), the character Frankenstein was inspired by a waking dream. Even Paul McCartney has referred to hearing the music for the hit song 'Yesterday' in a dream. Albert Einstein refers to a dream in discovering his principal of relativity. As you can see, dreams have been referred to quite often. But what does it all mean? What do those dreams at night stand for and where do they come from?

Sigmund Freud asked those same questions. Freud is considered today to be the father of psychoanalysis, a form of treatment for mental illness. Psychoanalysis is also a theory that explains human behavior. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) lived and worked in Vienna for most of his life, moving there with his family when he was four years old.

The Mind

To understand Freud's ideas about dreams and where they come from, you first need insight into his understanding of the mind. According to Freud, there are three aspects of the mind. These areas are called the id, ego, and superego. Freud uses an iceberg to visualize these three aspects since they are not actual physical areas of the brain: like an iceberg, most of the contents of the brain are 'hidden' in the unconscious mind.

The id is the unconscious level of the mind. This area centers around the 'pleasure principal', which holds that we are gratified when our basic instincts or urges are satisfied. This is also where life and death instincts are located. Life instincts, or more commonly referred to as sexual instincts, refer to what is needed in order to create and sustain life, such as food and shelter. Death instincts refer to the drive that pushes a person towards death or self-destructive behaviors. These are the instincts that push people to commit acts of murder or bullying. The ego is developed during infancy out of the id. The ego's goal is to satisfy the urges and needs of the id in a safe and socially acceptable way. The ego is part of both the conscious and unconscious mind. Lastly, the superego develops in early childhood. This is what motivates us to behave in socially acceptable ways. The superego centers around morals.

Freud's Dream

Dreams, according to Freud, provide clues on how the unconscious mind works. Freud's dream analysis began with a personal dream that he had in July of 1895 about a patient named Irma. Irma was not responding to treatment as well as Freud had hoped. This created feelings of guilt. Freud had dreamed that he met Irma at a party and evaluated her. In his dream, he saw the chemical formula from a drug that was given to her by another doctor. He realized that Irma's condition was the result of a dirty syringe used by another doctor. Freud was relieved that Irma's condition was not his fault.

This dream led Freud to develop his theory of dream analysis. He proposed that all dreams are a form of wish-fulfillment of repressed wishes or the representation of wish-fulfillment. These repressed wishes are wants that have been denied and have become part of the unconscious mind. During a dream, the ego's defenses are down and the repressed material (or wishes) comes through to the conscious mind. In Freud's situation, he was feeling guilty about the lack of improvement in his patient. He felt that it was his fault. His dream fulfilled his wish that Irma's condition be someone else's fault, not his.

Dream Breakdown

There are three key aspects to Freud's dream analysis. The first is the manifest content. Manifest content is the part of the dream that the individual remembers. The manifest content is typically related to what happened in the individual's life that day. The second aspect of the dream is the latent content. The latent content is the symbolic meaning of the dream or the repressed wish. The process by which the latent content (the repressed wish) is transferred to the manifest content (the remembered part of the dream) brings us to the third aspect of a dream, called dream work. The purpose of dream work is to develop the forbidden wish into a non-threatening form so the individual can remain asleep.

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