Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, dedicated a large part of his work to the study of dreams, their symbolism and interpretation. He published the results of his studies under the title “The Interpretation of Dreams”.
Releasing Repressed Impulses
The key point of his dream theory is that what we dream about represents our repressed impulses and urges. Sigmund Freud believed that in order to live and function in a civilized society, people repress many of their impulses, but these have to be released in some way.
Therefore, according to Freud, dreams are the way our body and mind let us fulfill our wishes, without the consequences that we would have if we attempted to do the same things in real life. However, it is not just wishes that we see fulfilled in our dreams: it is also our deepest fears.
During the dream state our subconscious protects us from the shock of coming face-to-face with our deepest impulses and fears by transcribing them into symbolic images. Thus dreams are symbolic representations of those impulses and fears.
Sigmund Freud on the Id, Ego, and Super Ego
Sigmund Freud describes the mind in three parts – each with a specific role:
- The id – is all about our deepest wishes, urges and impulses. It is about pure desire fulfillment.
- The ego is the part of the mind that is responsible for self-awareness and rationality. It also functions based on a set of moral codes.
- The superego is responsible for the censorship of all the uncontrolled urges of the id and it also enhances the mind’s ability to follow specific moral codes.
When we fall asleep and dream, according to Sigmund Freud, we get an understanding of what our id really is, as it is no longer suppressed by our superego.
Sigmund Freud believed that if we fully understood the id, we would be traumatized by our own, often disturbing, desires. And we would most certainly wake up in anxiety. This is why, in our dreams, our mind disguises the id’s urges into symbolic images, which often seem to not make sense.
The superego might not be able to suppress our id when we dream, but it can stop us from remembering our dreams. People with a strong superego usually find it hard to recall the signals their id has been sending them.
Encoding Your Id’s Desires
With careful observation, you can see patterns emerging in your dreams and start connecting your waking life to the dreams you have at night. This way you can begin to understand the dream language.
Sigmund Freud further postulates that there are different ways in which your mind encodes the wishes of your id: displacement, projection, symbolization, and condensation.
- Displacement is when your desire for one person or thing is transferred onto something or someone else in your dream.
- Projection happens when you dream but you project your own fears and desires onto another person in the dream.
- Symbolization is a large part of Freud’s studies. It is the appearance of symbols in dreams. As Sigmund Freud believed that a big part of our dreams have to do with repressed sexual urges, he would see many elongated objects as symbols of the male genitalia and any hollow objects as female symbols. A tree can represent the male and a house the female, for example.
- Condensation is another way your mind protects you from your deepest wishes and fears. It works by using only brief images to give you the message, instead of extended dreams.
Finally, your brain stitches all these symbols and images together into a seemingly coherent dream with a plot. This is called rationalization.
Keeping a dream journal can help you decipher your own dreams and be in contact with your deepest desires and fears so you can eventually deal with them. Why not give it a try?
It’s your turn, Dreamer
I’d love to hear from you. Do the dream theories of Sigmund Freud resonate with you? If so, how do you see his ideas coming through in your dreams? Share your stories and opinions in the comment section below.