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Dream Interpretation from Sigmund Freud’s perspective.


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Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture II

2nd November, 1934

Last time we spoke of the three main different conceptions of dream analysis.

I recommend three books to you on this subject:

I) Die Psychoanalyse by W. M. Kranefeldt.

This is written chiefly from a philosophical standpoint.

II) Organismus der Seele by G. R. Heyer.

This is written more from a medical standpoint.

III) Entde ckung der Seele by G. H. Adler.

This is quite a new book and is exceedingly clear and practical.

We have seen that Freud conceives of dreams as disguised wish fulfilments in hallucinatory form.

He speaks of two contents of the dream:

I) The manifest content.

This is the text of the dream, the facade, the simple outside story.

II) The latent content.

This is also a story, but one which has been censored, that is, carefully disguised by the factor which Freud calls the censor, therefore the
thought it contains cannot be directly understood.

It is only possible to translate the manifest content into the latent content by careful study and work, for the hidden wishes have been
both morally and aesthetically censored.

Freud goes so far as to say that the censor is not only morally active, but that it is also the protector of our sleep and wards off those
contents which are likely to disturb it and only allows them to approach as unrecognisable allegories.

We do in fact have dreams which seem specially designed to protect our rest:

We know for instance that we are to be called at a certain hour by a knock or by an alarm clock and we have a dream which incorporates the noise so that we shall not be disturbed, we can even dream that we get up and dress; then the thing is accomplished and we can sleep on.

These facts do to some extent justify Freud’s theory.

Freud devised a whole series of methods by which to reach the language of the latent content of the dream:

I) Abbreviated translation:

Things which appear shortened into words or signs.

You are, for instance, in a considerable conflict over something during the day.

That night you dream of it shortened into one word – war.

If you dreamt of the conflict it would disturb your rest, but even in sleep you know that the war dreamt of is not an actual war, or it would be in the newspapers, so you can go on sleeping and register what happens quite calmly.

To give a concrete example:

A patient brings me a dream in which he has dreamt of Mr. X.

He says that he cannot imagine why he should dream of him, that he hardly knows him, but he believes that he heard something about him the other day and has forgotten it.

I wait, for one can always afford to wait, it comes, and in a minute he adds “Oh yes, I remember I heard that his wife
had run away from him”.

This patient has most strained relations with his wife, she had unfortunately as yet not run away, but the dream puts the complicated situation in a nutshell: “Mr. X is a lucky man.”

II) Displacement:

This is shifting the emotion onto an indifferent figure.

My patient for instance should dream of his wife and he actually dreams of Mr. X.

The dream is then free to speak without emotion, for why should my patient be affected by the state of affairs between Mr. X and his wife?

He does not see the reason for any emotion, so he is left in peace about it.

In the dream about the crab-lizard monster, which we are considering, Freud would s ay that the peasant woman replaced the patient’s mother in a form which would not disturb his sleep.

III) Visualisation:

Seeing the situation as a picture.

To dream of proverbs and sayings might make us uneasy for all proverb s contain situations, collectively expressed, which can hold a great deal of emotion.

If we dream “He has fallen into the soup ” we at once feel alarmed and think that we must have done so.

We are probably really in a difficulty and we immediately translate it and are disturbed, but if we dream of really falling into an actual hole there is no likeness to the concrete situation and so it causes no emotion.

We no longer visualise the words we use and have distorted their real meaning.

Take for instance the German word “Behandlung” (treatment – handling), who thinks of actual handling, touching with the hands,
when he uses this word now?

If we visualise the word, as a dream might do, it gives a very queer picture.

IV) Expression through the opposite:

This mechanism plays a very important role in dreams. “Les extremes se touchent”, we are constantly entangled in the opposites without realising it.

When we s ay “Sacrecamr” for instance we mean sacred, but when we say “Sacre nom de chien” it means exactly the opposite.

In primitive languages there is often exactly the same word for black and white, it is left to the tone of voice or the context to show which is meant at the time.

You get the same idea in the Swiss dialect word ” g’sp assig” (funny).

You say “g’spassig” when you mean humorous, and also when you mean something very different, something sinister, creepy
or unexpected.

We use such a word for fear of calling a sinister thing by its dangerous name; it might come if you called it by name!

In speech we “touch wood” all the time , not necessarily because we are personally superstitious, but because it has grown into the language, so that we cannot help it.

In low German the word for good is “bat” which is almost the same as the English “bad”.

(Here were given several examples of words which have an opposite meaning in different languages.)

The meaning and sense of a word changes with time.

The French word “pucelle” meant, in the time of Joan of Arc, “vierge” (virgin) used in the sense of the Virgin Mary.

A little later it came to mean chamber-maid, it was still respectable but very humble, from the Latin word pulex, a flea: the pucelle was the “flea of the noble lady”.

Later still, 150 years ago, in Voltaire’s time, it just meant “houri”.

Now the meaning of the word has risen again and it again means virgin as it did in the time of Joan of Arc.

So a word degenerates and rises again, it is the play of the opposites.

The Spanish language is full of curses, Spaniards would hardly be able to talk if they ever thought what they were saying; this is also true of the Swiss dialect, but it is used automatically.

The word “chaib” for instance means corpse of a stallion; but it is used just to emphasize what you are saying.

If you dreamt of a decaying stallion in front of a beautiful view, you would find the dream difficult to interpret, but, if you were Swiss, it would just mean that it was a very beautiful view!

V) Fear:

Freud claims that in dreams in general you separate yourself as a defence from an incompatible wish which you fear.

“I wish it all too much” and then naturally I am terribly afraid of it.

We are even more afraid of inevitable things, things I know I must do.

Freud, therefore, sees the dream as the expression of a collection of censored incompatible wishes, things that we could know but which are suppressed and buried for certain reasons.

The unconscious has stored all these away with the things we have forgotten, unpleasant thoughts which we have pushed away from us.

We will now consider Freud’s method as applied to concrete dreams.

Perhaps you think that I am being unnecessarily fussy over the difference which exists in the ways in which dreams are conceived of.

But this is immensely important, for the way we look up on the dream is the conception which we shall adopt and act up on.

You remember the two simple dreams our dreamer had first, what could be the disguised wish in them?

It is quite clear in the dream where he was back in his own village with his earlier school companions.

“Oh s elig, oh selig, ein Kind noch zu s ein ” [what a blessed state it would be if one were still a child).

The dreamer wishes he were a schoolboy in his village.

There is nothing disturbing in the manifest conception of the dream.

In the second dream, the one of the train disaster, wild haste, excitement and compulsion are portrayed.

Freud, it is well known, always interprets from the sexual motive, so we can safely employ this theme here.

The first picture in the dream is very harmless, it is just going to the station, but then the censor relaxes his guard a little and the catastrophe happens.

The wish was to run off the rails, to have an adventure outside matrimony and the dream represents a disaster, but a wish fulfilment – for it is off the rails – which of course, the dreamer cannot see consciously at all.

So the meaning of the two dreams from Freud’s point of view is:

1) That he wishes to be a child

2) That he would like to have an extra marital adventure.

We come next to our special dream, the one of the crab-lizard monster.

The dream opens very simply and harmlessly, this is already a suspicious circumstance, evidently the censor has been highly successful.

We can, however, guess the Mother behind it and already intuit a conflict, the Oedipus complex which is Freud’s special pet.

The second picture in the dream is the proposed journey to Leipzig; he boasts to the Mother, hoping that she will think “He is a fine fellow”.

This wish to make an impression was already visible in the schoolboy dream, but now it is much intensified.

We can guess that something has been planned, which is altogether too bad to be made conscious.

He desires the Mother, he wishes to commit incest, this is very awkward, it is much better to disguise it.

The details, if we picture them, are really very disagreeable; this is a pity, but in order to understand Freud’s idea I am afraid we must face them.

“Going on foot” is a curious detail.

These sort of details should never be overlooked.

The foot has a phallic significance , though it seems so innocent, so Oedipus is the arriere pensee again – Freud always conceives of primitive man as living in a kind of degenerate lust, always planning how to commit an incest.

This is not true at all, the primitive does not find sex exciting, it is much too easy to obtain.

There are plenty of women and sex is to him the simplest and most natural of things; the food supply is more precarious and therefore far more exciting.

Where sexuality is obstructed, these phantasies and repressed wishes undoubtedly do exist.

The more it is obstructed, the more exciting it becomes.

When a conversation approaches dangerous ground, someone changes the subject and says “Apropos” and the dream
is now getting dangerous, so it says “apropos the haymakers”.

The arriere pensee was becoming too obvious, so the censor steps in and the whole thing begins at the beginning again – but in this case the idea is really anxious to become conscious, so it walks up over the hill, in the form of the crab-lizard monster.

This is the Oedipus complex again, the Mother in her most monstrous form.

The dreamer feels like an ant beside the crab-lizard and the childhood situation is again fulfilled, he is a small child with his
huge monster mother.

This is a childhood memory of the time when the mother appeared as fabulously large.

We have all experienced going back to places and finding that what we remembered as so large is quite small and

It takes the normal individual 20 or 30 years to find out that his parents are ordinary sized mortals and not Napoleons, saints or devils,
and some people never find this out, but carry these images with them throughout their lives. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture II 2Nov1934 Pages 143-146