18 Jul 2009

Sample Essay: Dream Interpretation

Dream interpretation has been the subject of interest since the ancient age. In ancient Greece dream analysis was used to cure the people. In ancient Egypt the priests interpreted the dream. Dream has been the center of human interest. Aristotle also made an effort to analyze dreams in his own work. He considered the dreams constituting psychological phenomena. He defined dream as a psychic activity of a person who sleeps. Aristotle was much familiar with some of the characteristics of dream life, for example; he was aware of the conversions of slight sensations perceived in sleep into acute sensation through dream. The famous psychologist Sigmund Freud brought the dream interpretation under the study of psychoanalysis at the end of 19th century. In his famous book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud made an effort to analyze the comprehended manifold content to unravel the possible meaning of the psyche of the dreamer. The publication of this book was the foundation stone of ‘Freudian Dream Analysis’ or ‘Contemporary Dream Analysis’.

Sigmund Freud

In his book Freud introduced ego and the theory of unconscious mind to interpret the dream. The dream is argued as some sort of fulfillment of wishes where the attempt is made by the unconscious mind to resolve any type of conflict, either from present or an interval of past. But later on in his book ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ Freud also discussed the dreams that would not appear as wish fulfillment. Freud, in his original formulation introduced the concept of latent dream-thought which could be described as being a subject to an intra psychic force which is referred to as ‘the censor’. In later years Freud used more refined terminology and introduced the discussion in terms of ‘the super ego’ and ‘the works of ego’s forces of defense’. He said that in wakening time all these forces work all together to restrict the repressed wishes of the unconscious mind to enter the conscious mind. Moreover, though these wishes could also emerge during the lower stage of sleep, the resistance could be strong enough to produce a veil behind which the true nature of the desire could easily conceal itself. Freudian theory argues that dreams are compromises to ensure that there is no interruption in sleep, as a disguised fulfillment of repressed desires; they can successfully represent the wishes fulfilled, which could otherwise hamper the sleep and waken the dreamer. However some critics describe him as the source of the most powerful myth of his time. he was ambitious and had psychic bent of mind. (Webster, 1995, 33)

The information in unconscious mind is in a boisterous and often disturbing form, a ‘censor’ in preconscious mind does not pass it unchanged into the conscious mind. In dream the preconscious mind is less active, but it still remains active. Due to this the unconscious mind does distort and redecorate the meaning of the facts to make it via censorship. Moreover, the images in dream are far from what they seem. That’s why Freudian theory argues that the proper and deeper information can help one to realize the structure of the unconscious mind.

Freudian analysis of dream is based on the previous scientific work. Though those were interesting the works did not suffice. Hence he described a number of dreams that he had dreamt for a more realistic illustration of his theory. His method began with analysis of his own dream ‘Irma’s injection’. Moreover he also represented the dreams of his patients as case history. He used famous literatures also for analytical purpose. The best example of this is his discovery of ‘Oedipus Complex’. (“Oedipus Complex”, 2002)

Freud has classified the images of our dreams in the following five ways:

Displacement: It refers to the symbolization of the aspiration for one thing or person through some other thing or person.

Projection: This occurs when a dreamer projects his own desire on any other person.

Symbolization: This is supposed to happen when the quashed aspiration or suppressed desire acts out metaphorically

Condensation: In this process the dreamer likes to conceal his feeling or urges by contraction it or underplaying it. The meaning of this dream imagery may not be obvious.

Realization: It can be said the final stage of dream work. Here an incoherent dream is organized into more comprehensive and logical manner by the dreaming mind. This stage is known as secondary revision

In Freudian theory the experience of nightmares and anxiety dreams were considered as the consequence of failure in dream works: instead of contradicting the wish fulfillment theory, such facts demonstrate the reaction of ego to the repressed wishes which could be very powerful and inadequately disguised. This theory considers the traumatic dreams as the exceptions. Freud was successful the psychoanalytical process of dream interpretation as a ‘royal road to to a knowledge of the unconscious’. However, he was capable of expressing regret and dissatisfaction for the way his revolutionary ideas and thoughts were misapprehended and misunderstood.

In the psychoanalytical process of treatment Freud was successful to introduce the concept of unconscious mind. Before that he experimented hypnosis on his neurotic patients. But after failures of this process to cure some cases he abandoned the aforesaid one and started a process of talking with the patients about their own problems. This came to be known as the process of talking cure, though feeling cure could be more accurate one, as the ultimate goal of the process was to trace and unravel the strong emotional energy that had initially been rejected, and chained in the unconscious mind. This denial of emotion is termed ‘repression’ by Freud. He believed that this repression was often hindering to the normal functioning and behavior of the psyche, and could also hamper the physical smooth functioning of the patient. He used to call it psychosomatic symptoms.

The ultimate goal of Freudian therapy, or psychoanalysis, was to bring the repressed thoughts and feelings at the light of consciousness. His successors think that, the goal therapy encourages the patients to develop a stronger ego. According to others, the goal therapy tries to lead the analysis and to acknowledge his limitations and inability to fulfill his desires.

Classically, the bringing of the thoughts of unconscious mind to the conscious mind is possible through encouraging the patient to talk in free association and talk about dreams. Another important part of psychoanalysis is the relative lack of direct involvement from the side of the analyst. This is meant to encourage the analysis and to project his or her thoughts and feelings onto the analyst. This is known as the process of transference. By this the patient can reenact and resolve repressed conflicts.

Later Freud distinguished between three concepts of unconscious; the descriptive unconscious, the dynamic unconscious and the system unconscious. The descriptive unconscious refers to the features of mental life that people are subjectively aware of. The dynamic unconscious is a more specific construct that refers to the mental processes and contents, which are defensively removed from the consciousness as a consequence of conflicting attitudes. The system unconscious is subject to the idea that when mental processes are repressed, they become organized by the principles, which are different from those of the conscious mind, such as condensation and displacement. Eventually Freud abandoned the concept of the system unconsciousness and introduced the concepts of ego, super ego and identity.

A patient called Sergei Pankejeff was brought to Freud in January 1910. His original name was Pankajeff. His nervous problem included his inability to have ‘bowel movement’ without the assistance of ‘enema’ and debilitating depression. He also had the problem of thinking that there was a veil cutting him from the world. (Gamwell, 2000, 21)

Freud centered his treatment with analysis of a dream. The patient dreamt that he was lying on bed, which was near the window. Suddenly the window opened and he could saw some wolves sitting on the walnut tree, which was just facing the window. The wolves were quite white and looked like sheep dogs having tail like fox and ear pricked like dogs. They were attentive to something else. In a great terror of being eaten up by those voracious wolves the boy woke up. The dream was such a life like clear picture that it took a long time for the nurse to assure the boy that it had only been a dream. At last the nerve of the boy was soothed and he thought that he had been able to escape a great danger.

Freud analyzed the dream eventually on the base of the input provided by Pankajeff. His analysis of the dream was that it was a result of a ‘primal scene’ that Pankajeff had witnessed. Once, at a very young age, he saw his parents having sex from behind. Later on Freud added in his paper that the boy had instead witnessed copulation between animals, which was displaced to his parents.

The analysis of Pankajeff’s dream played a major role in formulation of the famous Freudian theory of ‘psychosexual development’ and it was one of the most significant dreams for the formulation of Freudian theory. This case became the prime one used by Freud to prove the validity of psychoanalysis. It was the first case study, which did not involve Freud himself that brought together the basic aspect of catharsis, the unconscious, sexuality and dream analysis put forward by Freud in his ‘Studies of Hysteria’, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ and his ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’.

Carl Jung

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung formulated another famous theory of psychoanalysis. He was the founder of the new school of psychological studies, which is now popular as the ‘School of Analytical Psychology’, or Jungian Psychology. Jungian psychology is different from that of Sigmund Freud but there are so many similarities between the two. The new psychological concepts aim at understanding and integration of the deep forces underlying human behavior. This is achieved through the practice of an accumulative phenomenology around the significance of dream, folklore and mythology. Depth psychology and archetypal psychology are related in the way such that they both utilize the model of unconscious mind to heal the individual and develop their situation. In this context he developed his own distinctive approach of studying the human mind. During the time of working with schizophrenic patients and working with Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalytic community he watched sincerely the unfathomable and mysterious depth of human unconscious mind. It made him interested to unravel the mystery for which he devoted his entire life. He realized the significance of an empirical investigation of the world of dream, myth and soul that could represent the most promising way towards deeper understanding. When he wrote about his concept of building an asylum, he specified what he actually wanted, saying, ” I am not thinking of a lunatic asylum of the usual sort, but of an institute that would admit ill people of all kinds, whose cure could be attempted by means of psychological treatment” (Bair, 2003, 12)

The overarching goal of Jung’s analysis is the reconciliation of the life of an individual with the world of supra-personal archetypes. The individual’s encounter with the unconscious is the lynchpin of this process. The unconscious is always experienced by the individual through the symbols that he has to encounter in all aspects of life: dream, art, religion and the symbolic dreams people enact in relationships and life pursuits. The learning of symbolic languages is very much essential to the encounter with the unconscious, and the reconciliation of individual’s consciousness with the broader world. The individual can set a harmony in his or her life with the supra-personal archetypes if and only if he adopts an attitude of attention and openness to this world.

According to this theory Neurosis appears as a consequence of disharmony between the individual’s consciousness and greater archetypal world. The task of psychotherapy is to enable the patient to re-establish the required harmony and healthy relationship to the unconscious (neither being swamped by it- a state characteristics of psychosis-not completely shut off from it – a state that results in malaise, empty consumerism, narcissism, and a life cut from deeper meaning.). The life is enriched and psychological development is possible only through the encounter between conscious and the symbols arising from the unconscious. Jungian theory emphasized that this process of psychological development and maturation (he also call this the process of individualization) could be considered having critical importance to the human being and the modern society.

To undergo individuation process an individual must be open to the part of himself or herself beyond his or her own ego. To perform this, the modern individual should be attentive to own dreams, explore the world of religion and spirituality, and probe the assumptions of the operant societal worldview instead of living life blindly in accordance with dominant norms and assumptions

The personal unconscious is a potent part-probably the most active part- of the human psyche is the basis assumption. There must be a proper and reliable communication between conscious and unconscious parts of the psyche, which is the most necessary thing for wholeness. Similarly the belief that dream shows the ideas and feelings, of which the human beings are not properly aware, but need to be, and such facts should be expressed in a personalized vocabulary of visual metaphor, is very crucial one. Things, known but unknown belong to the unconscious and dream is the medium to channelize those towards the conscious mind.

There are personal unconscious and collective unconscious. The Jung concept of collective unconscious has a chance of being misinterpreted and hence it should be clarified. That’s why we should know Jungian archetypes. The archetypes of collective unconscious might be thought as human DNA. Actually all human beings share common physical heritage and a predisposition towards common specific gross physical forms. That’s why all human beings have common innate psychological predispositions in the form of archetypes that compose common unconscious. Unlike materialistic world the subjective domain of archetypes can’t be plummeted through the quantitative techniques of research. Rather we can use the examination of the allegorical communications of the human space such as dreams, arts, religion, myth and the themes of human behavioral patterns. Jungian theory postulates that certain symbolic themes exist across all cultures, all epochs, and every individual.

In 1919 Jung introduced the use of psychological archetypes, which was later on adopted by the social scientists. Jung, in his psychological framework, described archetypes as the innate universal prototype of ideas that could be used to interpret the observations. A group of memories and interpretation associated with an archetype is termed as complex; for example, a mother complex is associated with the archetypes of the mother. Jung described the archetypes as psychological organs, similar to physical organs in the sense that both were morphological givens, which arose through evolution.

Jung’s writings have created interest to people of many backgrounds and interests. But Jung was mostly a practicing psychiatrist and involved in treating patients through his whole life. He hypothesized a medical basis of schizophrenia that was beyond the reach of the then medical science. Perhaps, it can best be said that schizophrenia is a medical as well as a psychological matter. A medical understanding could never change the fact that schizophrenia is lived by those who have it psychologically; that is to say, as theorists and scientists, we may say that schizophrenia happens in genes, brains and electrochemical, but once who has schizophrenia it also happens for his mind and experience. So we can say that a pure medical treatment is inadequate for mental illness, as is a purely psychological treatment of major mental illness.

A person called Larry visited Jung with his problems. He dreamt that he was driving with someone on a high hill curvy lane of California hills with some mountain sceneries and some desert like slopes. One place they stooped and while they got down they saw lotus of purple violet blooming everywhere. He also found lots of wiry grasses and arid desert plants. Moreover, some small evergreen plants were noticed. He felt the scarcity of moisture. Some rocks were found here and there. At that time the dreamer identified his companion. It was one of the students of the school in which he taught. They started to plant the pine seedlings. He felt great pains to instruct the student where to plant the seedlings. Since the rainfall was scarce he pointed out the places at which the seedlings will be able to place the root for survival. They set about planting seedlings, looking for loose soil, near watershed slopes of as many flat rocks as possible. They were working very fast. He was feeling great urgency to plant as many seeds as possible. He was afraid that they would not be able to cover the land by plants. The scene ends there. (“Jungian Therapy”, 2008)

Here the therapist would go through a question answer session with Theo. By doing this he gave assistance to the client to obtain a clear mental picture of the dream keeping the main sequence intact, clarifying mental response to the dream images. He had to ensure that Theo was not losing the true dream images by commingling them with waking events that had occurred since the dream. Clarifying dream context is a very crucial thing prior to proceeding towards further amplification.

A session was devoted for the amplification of the scenes of the dream of the client .the therapist and Theo carefully and step-by-step verbally sorted through the audio taped image, order of the events, symbols, motifs and Theo’s emotional associations with people, activities and scenes in the dream. Then they used the tape recording of the client’s dream amplification to study, reflect and collaboratively dissect certain components. By this way they reached the root of the unconscious mind and solved the questions regarded.

Hyman Spotnitz

Hyman Spotnitz, the American psychologist, can be termed as the founder and developer of a new body of theoretical and clinical knowledge namely Modern Psychoanalysis. He was also a follower of the great psychologist and philosopher Sigmund Freud. Spotnitz was very much successful in extending the Freudian theories so as to make them improved and more appropriate in such a way that could become applicable to the fullest spectrum of emotional disorder. These types of modern psychological inventions are mainly intended to provide an emotional-maturational communication to the patients, instead of promotion of an intellectual insight. (“Dr. Hyman Spotnitz”, 1991)


Though these theoretical schools differ, most of them continue to emphasize the powerful influence of the unconscious elements that affect the mental life of the incumbent. Sufficient works have also been done on consolidating elements of the conflicting theory. This approach emphasizes the development of the narcissistic transference approach in which the patient communicates to the therapist as if he is not a separate person, rather a part of his own mind. This theory depicts that most neuroses and severe mental illness originate in the preoperative period, before the development of language. The transference, which develops with these patients, then is largely enacted through behavior, symptoms, and symbolic communications and significantly, the transmission of feeling states, otherwise known as induced or influenced feelings. The ‘narcissistic defense’ is deemed central to most mental disturbances and is characterized by self-hate rather than self-love. Patient becomes aggressive towards the self in order to protect the object. The treatment then stresses on helping the patient to better metabolize their aggressive drives, by gradually being able to express their aggression in treatment. Spotnitz initially emphasized joining with the patient’s resistance instead of challenging and using the counter transference feelings of the therapist to help understanding the patient. His central focus on the clinically useful nature of the therapist’s counter transference was later on taken up by self-psychology and intersubjective approaches to the psychoanalysis. In this process of counter transference and self-analysis the dream has a significant role to play. The therapist should allow the patient to talk about his dream and in this way the therapist would be able to communicate the patient and help him to reach and realize self-psychology.


Bair, D. (2003). Jung: A Biography. Back Bay Books

“Dr. Hyman Spotnitz” (1991), available at: http://mmi.edu/spotnitz.htm (accessed on 17th January 2008

Gamwell, L, (2000), Dreams 1900-2000, Cornwell University Press

“Jungian Therapy”, available at: http://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/208/213942/jungian.pdf (accessed on 17th January 2008)

“Oedipus Complex” (2002), available at: http://www.cla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/theory/psychoanalysis/definitions/oedipus.html (accessed on 17th January 2008

Webster, R. (1995). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science, and Psychoanalysis. Basic Books

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