Freud's Theory of Dream Interpretation

Dream interpretation

Freud's theory of dream interpretation refers to Sigmund Freud's studies of psychoanalysis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Freud was born in 1856. He studied to become a doctor, but specialized as a psychiatrist. While modern psychiatry and psychology questioned Freud's work, his work remains a vital component in the field of dream interpretation.

Understanding Freud's Theory of Dream Interpretation

Freud believed that dreams were the keyhole through which humans could understand their subconscious. Freud broke down the human mind and consciousness to the ego, the superego and the id. Under the supposition that fears, anxiety, passion and other powerful emotions are sublimated as part of day to day life, dreams were the human mind's way of coping with them.

Freud's theory of dream interpretation breaks down dreams as:

  • Wish Fulfillment
  • Free Association
  • Stress Processing
  • Memory Exploration

Sigmund Freud's research into psychoanalysis depended largely on free association. He applied this technique to his studies of dreams and to dream interpretation. Free association required the dreamer to think less about the direct content within the dream and to detail what the dream made he or she feel and think. At its most basic, free association means to say the first thing that comes to mind. It can be as simple as responding to words, details and more.

For example, if a person dreams about sitting in their living room with puppies wiggling and playing, what would Freud make of that dream?

He wouldn't look at the content of the puppies so much as how the puppies made the dreamer feel. If the dreamer experienced deep contentment and joy, then the puppies could mean satisfaction with current circumstances. If the dreamer experienced anxiety, fear or unease, then the puppies could represent the dreamer is overwhelmed by day-to-day events.

What Does a Dreamer Wish For?

To be alive is to know fear, pain, joy and hope. Freud believed that just because a person experienced emotion didn't mean they were aware of it and that dreams were the only way to reveal those fears, desires and emotions. Dreams were a form of wish fulfillment whether it was a wish that the dreamer desired greatly or a wish that a dream desired desperately to avoid.

It was Freud's belief that these messages were vital to a person's understanding of self, particularly because he thought that the mind sought to repress the information obtained through dreams. The conflict of desiring and repressing those desires were at the heart of mental disturbance that could affect the conscious mind and thus the day to day life of the dreamer.

Freud's Theories Take Time

No matter the content of the dreams, Freud's theories of dream interpretation take time to explore, catalog and analyze. As with anything in Freud's work, dream analysis isn't simple. In order to cope with what Freud believed to be the mind's need to reject dreams and their associated emotions, he analyzed the dream component by component.

He would assist the dreamer by taking it one element at a time and begin free association. Because dreams can have so many components, Freud's theories and applications can take a great deal of time in practice. For example, a dream that takes place in a park would require the free association of the location, the type of park, the benches in the park, the people in the park, the weather around the park and more.

Learn More About Freud and His Theories Regarding Dreams

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Freud's Theory of Dream Interpretation