Freud believed that dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious”, for it is within an individual’s dream state that their unconscious wishes, needs, and fears are expressed (Corey, 2005, p. 76). Dedicating his work to creating a procedure which could assist with the emergence of unconscious thoughts into the conscious mind, Freud developed psychoanalytical therapy: a therapy aimed at increasing awareness, encouraging insight into the client’s behaviour, and understanding the significance of symbols (Corey, 2005).
Using Freud’s psychoanalytic theory on dream analysis, this reflective essay endeavours to analyse a personal dream. The purpose of this analysis is to offer an interpretation in to any emotional issues that I may be currently experiencing. In order to do this, Freud’s techniques of dream analysis, free association and interpretation will be discussed and applied (Rathus, 2004). Furthermore, due to Freud’s belief that dreams are mainly linked to childhood experiences, an overview of his theory on psychosexual development will be provided, with special focus on the phallic stage (Plotnik, 2002).
Freud hypothesised that the human mind is divided into three main parts: the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious (Strickland, 2001). According to Krapp (2005), the conscious part of the mind contains thoughts and feelings of which one is aware, and plays a crucial role in the development of adaptive functioning. The preconscious functions as a transitional part of the mind between the conscious and the unconscious (Strickland, 2001). It contains content of which an individual is aware of, but not necessarily paying attention to at that precise moment (Straker, 2007).
The unconscious mind is described by Sharf (2004), as a container which houses memories, thoughts and emotions that have been pushed away (repressed) by the preconscious mind, due to being too distressful for the conscious (for example, childhood trauma or abuse). However, as stated by Brians et al. (1999), repressed material buried in the unconscious can surface in a disguised form during a dream. Thus, one of the goals of psychoanalytic therapy is to extract material stored in the unconscious so it can be presented to the conscious, and subsequently, assist the client in obtaining a better understanding of their life and self (Brians et al. 1999). Dream analysis is a technique used in psychoanalysis to explore the role dreams play in the unconscious (Corey, 2005). Freud reputed that while an individual is in their sleeping state, their psychological defences are lowered, and an opportunity for repressed thoughts or experiences to enter the conscious mind, is created (through a dream) (Dixon & Hayes, 1999). Due to the repressed material being too distressing for the dreamer’s conscious however, the content would display itself in a disguised or symbolic form: a form Freud referred to as the manifest content (Dixon & Hayes, 1999).
In contrast, there is also a part of a dream called the latent content (Wilson, 2005). And according to Wilson (2005), the latent content is the part which holds the true meaning behind the manifest content. Freud also expressed the importance of the dreamer’s day residue, and explained how memories or events from the dreamer’s previous day can ignite a connection with the latent content of a dream (Langs, Bucci, Udoff, Cramer & Thomson, 1993).
The dream I am presenting for this analysis, in order to uncover any repressed material that may be stored in my unconscious mind is: I found myself in a motel room with my ex partner, who is also my children’s father. He was standing behind me, not moving, but had a look on his face which indicated to me that he wanted to have sex. I was frantically trying to pack my belongings into a suitcase, as just being near him, made me feel sick. However, the suitcase did not seem to be working. In fact, it seemed that nothing would fit in, or for that matter, stay in, the bag.
I recall crying and feeling extremely upset by this: my chest felt really tight, and I also felt sick. In the background somewhere, but not in the same room, I could picture my current partners face. He was sad and hurting, but nevertheless, waiting for me to resolve my problems with my ex, so that he and I could be together. It upset me further that I could not get to him, as he was the reason I was trying so hard to pack my things and escape, but I could not. In order to extract the latent content from the symbols displayed in my dream, I performed the technique of free association.
Free association is a fundamental tool used to break “through the walls of defense [created by the preconscious] that block a client’s insight into their unconscious” (Rathus, 2004, p. 491). When applying the technique of free association to the manifest content of my dream, I relaxed myself and then focused on the elements and symbols which were emotionally charged: my ex, the suitcase, and my partner (Corey, 2005). Following this, any thoughts, feelings, or images which stemmed from the symbols, were noted without restriction or restraint (Mendham, 2009). * My ex partner – Go. Get out. I do not want you with me. Stay in the past.
You hurt me. Dirty. Sick. Yuk. Out of control. Soiled. Hate. Dad. Peel. Cry. Pain. Betrayed. Lurking. I do not belong to you * Suitcase – Soiled. Dirty. Wasted. Trash. Yuk. Hurt. Pain. Baggage. Scream. They are in me. * My current partner – I am trying. I don’t know how. Sorry. I love you, Mum. I can’t move. They are in me. Mum, I cannot escape. Wait for me. Help me. I need you. I want you. Mum. Where are you? Help me. Please. Why won’t you help me? Mum, where are you. Once the latent content has been extracted through free association, an understanding of it can be explained through the process of ‘dream work’ (Tate Angel, 1999).
Wilson (2005) claims that dream work is the process by which latent content transforms into manifest content through condensation, displacement, symbolism, or secondary vision. In my dream, it appears to have taken place primarily through displacement and symbolism (Wilson, 2005). That is, displacement is when true (latent) emotion or desire regarding a person, is transferred onto an unrelated object or symbol, in the manifest dream (Tate Angel, 1999). For example, in my dream the latent emotions I possess towards my father were transformed into the manifest of my ex.
And likewise, the latent yearning I posses for my mother, was transformed into the manifest of my partner. Furthermore, the manifest of my partner appears also to represent my day residue, as the day prior to my dream I was feeling down due to the lack of intimacy between him and I. Symbolism is where complex concepts (latent) convert into a less invasive object (Tate Angel, 1999). Freud believed that because most dream symbols (symbolism) are sexual in meaning, a more appropriate object is created to avoid the dreamer from waking disturbed (Wilson, 2005).
For example, a box, chest or suitcase, would represent the female genitalia, and elongated objects (such as a tree trunk, stick or weapon) would represent the male organ, or an erection (Wilson, 2005). As such, symbolism would therefore explain the suitcase in my dream and the unfavourable emotions that I associated to it, through free association. Interpretation is the process whereby an analyst will elucidate to the dreamer, the meanings of behaviours displayed in their dream and free associations (Corey, 2005).
However, in order to do this successfully, an understanding of the dreamer’s personality and background factors which have contributed to their difficulties, must also be understood (Corey, 2005). Therefore, an overview of Freud’s psychosexual development theory will be examined. Freud hypothesised that every child develops according to five psychosexual stages, and each stage is marked by potential conflict between the parent and child (Plotnik, 2002). The five stages include: oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital (Sigelman & Rider, 2006).
However, for the purpose of this essay, I will only be discussing the phallic stage. Throughout the phallic stage (aged between three and six), I was undergoing an “especially treacherous time” (Sigelman & Rider, 2006, p. 35). Freud believed that during this stage, I would have been developing an unconscious incestuous desire for my father, and striving for his love and approval (Plotnik, 2002). Had I have resolved this stage effectively; I would have identified with my mother and internalised her values (Rathus, 2004).
However, due to the fact that my mother was absent throughout this period, and I was being abused by my father, I have become locked into this stage as an adult, and my ability to love or engage in intimacy has been affected (Krapp, 2005). By applying the techniques of free association and dream analysis to my dream, and by exploring Freud’s psychosexual development theory, I am now able to offer a possible interpretation. The elements associated with my ex, have resurfaced feelings regarding my father which, in turn, offers an understanding as to why I have been unable to engage in loving relationships as an adult.
It also represents my unconscious desire for those feelings to stay in the past, so as that it stops impacting on my present. The suitcase represents my genitalia and the abuse it endured as a five year old girl. The process of free association revealed the unconscious concept I hold of my genital region and sex, and this offers an explanation as to why I currently have trouble engaging in intimacy. The element of my dream which contained my partner, represents the absence of my mother throughout a stage in my life where her presence, was imperative.
It also represents my yearning for an attachment figure I could trust throughout childhood, and a wish that I could develop attachments now as an adult. In all, I believe that this dream represents my unconscious fear of intimacy and love, but my desire to experience it. It also informs me that the trouble I am experiencing in my current relationship stems from being unconsciously locked into the phallic stage. In conclusion, this essay demonstrated the use of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory on dream analysis.
It has evidenced, that through the application of Freud’s techniques of dream analysis, free association and interpretation, an insight into one’s own unconscious can be explored, and a better awareness of one’s self and life can be accomplished (Corey, 2005). This reflective essay has revealed to me some unconscious fears, desires, and wishes, which I believed were resolved years ago. It also offered, through the exploration of Freud’s psychosexual development theory, an explanation as to why I currently experience difficulties with love and intimacy.
Hence, I now feel that I have a better understanding of myself and my life, and through the achievement of this, I also now obtain the power to begin the amendment of these issues. Freud believed that dreams provided a spy-hole into our unconscious: from the revelations extracted through this analysis, I now find myself in concordance (Mendham, 2009). Reference List Brians, P. , Gallwey, M. , Hughes, D. , Hussain, A. , Law, R. , Myers, M. , et al. (1999). Reading about the world (3rd ed. ). New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishing. Corey, G. (2005). Theory and Practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy (8th ed. . Pacific Grove, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. Dixon, M. R. , & Hayes, L. J. (1999). A behavioral analysis of dreaming [Electronic version]. Psychological Record, 49(4), 613-628. Krapp, K. (2005). Freud, Sigmund Schlomo. Retrieved October 30, 2009, from Gale Virtual Reference Library via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS Langs, R. J. , Bucci, W. , Udoff, A. L. , Cramer, G. , & Thomson, L. (1993). Two methods of assessing unconscious communication in psychotherapy [Electronic version]. Psychoanalytical Psychology, 10(1), 1-16. Mendham, T. (2009).
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