Critically Compare How the Concept of Dreams Has Been Theorised by Freud and Two Other Psychoanalytic Theorists

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Last updated: April 11, 2019

The dream is an often studied area of psychology, and looked upon with great detail in the area of psychoanalysis. Historically, dreams were first thought to be supernatural in origin. People assumed that a dream was an attempt, by some god or ghost, to contact the terrestrial realm with the goal of portraying a vision of the future. It would seem that with differing attitudes towards spirituality and religion, came differing attitudes towards exactly what certain dreams meant.Sometimes dreams were described as being of positive intention, sent from good willed gods as a way of aiding humanity in some way, while at other times, dreams are reported as being ‘daemonic,’ having nought but bad intentions behind them, sabotaging the lives of those unlucky enough to suffer a nightmare. This chaotic period of time, before psychoanalysis became prevalent, saw no exact conclusion as to the intrinsic meaning of dreams, or even a sound attempt at a method of working out why certain people were having certain dreams or how to decipher such dreams.

It wasn’t until the work of psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud that a passable method of identifying dream meaning emerged. In the wake of Freud came other theorists, proposing different methods of looking at the content of dreams but a general theme seemed to remain; that the content of dreams was a collection of symbols pertaining to the inner most desires of an individual. This being an essay on dreams, it would make sense to first discuss how the material in dreams comes to be, or rather, why is it we see the things we see when we’re dreaming?In ‘the interpretation of dreams,’ Freud states that all the material that makes up the content of dreams is ‘in some way derived from experience. ‘ This makes sense, as it would be impossible for the unconscious mind to create images and scenarios from nothing, with no point of reference. What is odd, however, is that a lot of the dream material comes from events in our past, be it recent or distant, that we have little or no conscious recognition of.Not to say we have blocked out these occurrences, but rather dreams seem to bring back memories of events we simply didn’t commit to conscious memory.

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Perhaps they were particularly mundane, or things that we do so often that we do not make note of them. This highlights the interesting ability of dreams to enhance many of our cognitive faculties while we are in the dream state. Dreams sometimes occur where the dreamer finds themselves in an arbitrary situation and for quite some time after waking, the dreamer pays no attention to what they have experienced.At a later date, the dreamer might experience something that suddenly brings to mind the event that had caused them to have the previously discussed dream, revealing that they had retained the memory of a long passed event and not even noticed! Freud calls this phenomenon the ‘hypermnesic dream.

‘ There have also been reports of multilingual people experiencing a greatly improved fluency when speaking or recalling words from their secondary language while dreaming (Vaschide 1911).Aside from these interesting effects dreams seem to have on our minds; it seems more productive to focus on the more basic side of the material in dreams, as this is the foundation of Freud’s theorisations. According to Freud, the dream is nothing more than the fulfilment of a wish, an unconscious desire. Unconscious desires seemed to Freud to be linked much more often than not to the id, which is the fully unconscious, animalistic section of the unconscious mind.The id is the only section of the mind that we posess when we are born, making the infant merely a vessel for the id.

We develop the other sections of the mind as we mature. The id works only on the pleasure principle, meaning that all the id wants for the person is to fulfil their basic instinctive desires. It just so happens that these desires are mainly sexual in nature and always aimed at averting anxiety. An example which quite poignantly and simply explains this theory of why we dream is as follows:A common example of a general dream many people have might be a dream of needing to urinate, usually quite desperately. This is an example of how small physical stimuli the dreamer experiences while asleep can be amplified during the dream. during the course of the dream, the dreamer might find their desire to urinate increase so much, that they dream that they are actually urinating, in whatever situation they find themselves in. pon waking, a sharp, sudden fear that the dreamer has wet themselves might take hold, but unless the dreamer has significant psychological issues that would make them exempt from ‘the average dreamer’ status, the case is usually that they remain completely dry, and don’t desire to urinate anywhere near as intensely as they did only moments before during their dream. What the person has just experienced is the mind fulfilling the urge to urinate during the dream so that the person wouldn’t have to awaken and go to the effort of doing it in real life.

The dream is the fulfilment of the desire to urinate.Carl G. Jung, another well-known and highly respected figure in the realm of psychoanalysis, writes about his own views on the area of dreams in a lot of his works. A large part of these views are quite similar to Freud’s, which is to be expected, Freud being somewhat of a mentor to Jung, as is common knowledge amongst the psychological community. One of these many similarities is the importance placed upon symbols when speaking of the unconscious mind. Jung likens every conscious act to light and sound in quite a poetic and delineative manner, putting forth an interesting way of viewing cognitions.He states that, as sound has frequencies inaudible to our naked ears and light has frequencies which our bare eyes cannot see, each conscious act has a ‘subliminal aspect’ which the person cannot know themselves. This undistinguishable area of the conscious act is the area of symbols; symbols which appear to us in our dreams.

The point at which Freud and Jung differ in opinion reveals itself when one reads into the methods each of the two psychoanalysts’ uses to decipher the dreams themselves.Jung shies away from the overuse of free association when contemplating the content of dreams. An instance in Jung’s past, being told of a friend who seemed to take an interest in the Cyrillic script he noticed while taking long journeys on railway systems, caused Jung to mistrust the free association method due to the fact that his friend seemed to draw associations from the random parts of script which lead him back to his complexes and neuroses, not supposed manifest content in dreams.

Perhaps this meant that dreams were not that important in discovering the deeper mental processes?It is Jung’s belief that to properly decipher the meaning of a dream, one must stick very closely to the features of the dream itself, or, in other words, Jung places much more importance on the manifest content of the dream than his mentor, Sigmund Freud, to quote Jung himself: ‘only the material that is clearly and visibly indicated as belonging to the dream by the dream images themselves should be used for interpretation. ‘ Every-day, commonplace words are taken for granted when speaking of symbolic meaning in psychology.In day to day conversation, for example speaking with a co-worker or friend, we assume that the words we use are being received and interpreted in the same way we, ourselves, would interpret them.

According to Jung, however, this is not necessarily true. Concepts that cause us to feel a certain way, e. g. the issue of money, might incite very different emotions in another individual. One who is very well off and financially secure would obviously not associate his or her wealth with anywhere near as much negativity as someone who has perhaps fallen on hard times.

In day to day life, this difference of meaning plays very little part in the grand scheme of things, but when we are talking about dreams, these small differences in meaning can become largely important. This observation causes Jung’s theorisation of dreams to take on a slightly different shape to that of Freud. Jung asserts that the manifest content of each dream is vastly important to the individual, or rather, that the individual is the core around which the manifest content should be examined.Jung tells that the better one knows the individual whose dream is being analysed, the better the outcome of analysis will be. This is because the symbols in the dream mean different things to different people.

An identical occurrence in the dreams of two people can symbolise very different things depending on the meaning that each individual associates with said occurrence, or the characteristics of the occurrence. In addition to this, the area of sexuality should be addressed whenever comparing the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.A simple glance over the writings of Freud would reveal to anyone that he attributes the function of many of the mental processes to urges of a sexual nature within the psyche of an individual.

Carl Jung differs in this aspect, leaning more towards viewing the unconscious mind from a more spiritual level and steering clear of subjects of a sexual nature. This appears to be part of the reason that Jung and Freud ended their partnership. Owing to the objective of this essay being to compare three theorists on the concept of dreams, an important academic point rears its head.Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung appear to be, by far, the leading authorities on the interpretation of dreams, at least as far as a second year psychology course in present day Britain would have the student know. It appears that the only feasible option from this point onwards would be to bring up some aspects of the career of another well-known psychological figure whose main academic attention rests mainly on other areas of the subject, and to contrast their work with that of Freud and Jung in an attempt to display how it impacts on the previously studied points.This being the case, some of the works of Melanie Klein shall be looked at and studied in detail, in the hopes that doing so should illuminate other areas of psychoanalysis that don’t require some poor soul describing the scene in their head as they lay in bed hours before travelling to lay on a couch and profess to some stranger their deepest and most non-sense mental stories. Klein often studied the minds of very young children, and in certain particular texts, writes of her study of anxiety in infants.

A lot of the work done by Freud and Jung mentions the area of anxiety, but as this essay pertains only to the theorisation of dreams, only the anxiety attributed to dreams is of any importance. Anxiety is reflected in many of the dreams which were studied by Freud and Jung, and this reflection usually takes the form of certain symbols within the manifest content of the dreams. Perhaps the dreamer might find themselves in a particularly difficult situation during the dream.One that they cannot overcome no matter how hard they try, for example being faced with violence and having no weapon with which to defend themselves, or perhaps a weapon that happens to be completely useless in that situation. Klein makes numerous links between anxiety and an infant’s aggressive impulses in her work, as well as stating that the route of anxiety comes from the ‘death instinct,’ which is essentially the fear of the ‘annihilation of life. These theories provide testament to just how diverse the mind and mental state can be, being that there can be so many causes for anxiety within one individual, however Melanie Klein doesn’t appear to study the area of dreams whatsoever in any of her works.

While often referring to Freud, none of the references have anything to do with dreams and when looked at from a comparative point of view, the reason could be a very simple and a very obvious one. If infants are the main subject of Klein’s studies, then it would be impossible for Klein to sit the infant down and question it on the content of its dreams.At such a young age, most of Klein’s subjects would not even be able to speak! Even so, Klein builds, in her work, a very thorough and complete model of the conscious and unconscious mind, and this takes away from the literature on dreams in such a manner that might render them slightly pointless. If no dreams have to be studied at all to gain enough knowledge on the mind to accurately explain neuroses, then did Freud and Jung waste their time picking away at the various symbols and signs in the unconscious storylines of themselves and others?Perhaps. The theorists looked at in this essay provide very diverse and very interesting points of view on the subject of dreams. Shelves upon shelves worth of books could be written on the mysterious stories that come into being in the heads of every person and what they mean, but to assume that the surface of such a rich area of psychology could even be scraped in one single essay is very wishful thinking indeed.

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