Freud and Dreams

Dreams have been objects of boundless fascination and mystery for humankind since the beginning of time. These nocturnal vivid images seem to arise from some source other than our ordinary conscious mind. They contain a mixture of elements from our own personal identity which we recognize as familiar along with a quality of `otherness' in the dream images that carries a sense of the strange and eerie. The bizarre and nonsensical characters and plots in dreams point to deeper meanings and contain rational and insightful comments on our waking situations and emotional experiences. The ancients thought that dreams were messages from the gods.


The cornerstone of Sigmund Freud's infamous psychoanalysis is the interpretation of dreams. Freud called dream-interpretation the "via reggia," or the "royal road" to the unconscious, and it is his theory of dreams that has best stood the test of time over a period of more than seventy years (Many of Freud's other theories have been disputed in recent years). Freud reportedly admired Aristotle's assertion that dreaming is the activity of the mind during sleep (Fine, 1973). It was perhaps the use of the term activity that Freud most appreciated in this brief definition for, as his understanding of the dynamics of dreaming increased, so did the impression of ceaseless mental activity differing in quality from that of ordinary waking life (Fine, 1973). In fact, the quality of mental activity during sleep differed so radically from what we take to be the essence of mental functioning that Freud coined the term "Kingdom of the Illogical" to describe that realm of the human psyche. This technique of dream-interpretation allowed him to penetrate (Fine, 1973).

We dream every single night whether it stays with us or not. It is a time when "our minds bring together material which is kept apart during out waking hours" (Anonymous, 1991). As Erik Craig said while we dream we entertain a wider range of human possibilities then when awake; the "open house" of dreaming is less guarded (Craig, 1992). Superficially, we are all convinced that we know just what a "dream" is. But the most cursory investigation into the dream's essence suggests that after describing it as a mental something which we have while sleeping," and perhaps, in accord with experiments currently being carried out in connection with the physiological accompaniments of dreaming, such as Rapid-Eye Movements (REM), the various stages and depths of dream activity as reflected in changing rates of our vital signs (pulse-rate, heart-beat, brain-waves), and the time of the night when various kinds of dreams occur, we come up against what the philosopher Immanuel Kant called the "Ding-An-Sich" ('thing-in-itself'), and find ourselves unable to penetrate further into the hidden nature of this universal human experience (Fromm, 1980).
It has been objected on more than one occasion that we in fact have no knowledge of the dreams that we set out to interpret, or, speaking more correctly, that we have no guarantee that we know them as they actually occurred. In the first place, what we remember of a dream and what we exercise our interpretative arts upon has been mutilated by the untrustworthiness of our memory, which seems incapable of retaining a dream and may have lost precisely the most important parts of its content. It quite frequently happens that when we seek to turn our attention to one of our dreams, we find ourselves regretting the fact that we can remember nothing but a single fragment, which itself has much uncertainty. Secondly, there is every reason to suspect that our memory of dreams is not only fragmentary but inaccurate and falsified. On the one hand it may be doubted whether what we dreamt was really as hazy as our recollection of it, and on the other hand it may also be doubted whether in attempting to reproduce it we do not fill in what was never there, or what was forgotten (Freud, pg.512).


Dream accounts are public verbalization and as public performances, dream accounts resemble the anecdotes people use to give meaning to their experience, to entertain friends and to give or get a form of satisfaction ( Erdelyi, 35 ).
In order to verbalize the memory of a dream that there are at least three steps one must take. First putting a recollected dream