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We infer the unconscious through four major mechanisms, namely: failed act , symptom, joke and dream.

What are dreams

Dreams are manifestations of our conscious and unconscious desires. They contain memories of the past, which at first glance seem unimportant in the present.

No impression of a person’s memory disappears permanently. Dreams are influenced by external and internal stimuli and represent the fulfillment of an unsatisfied desire in reality.

Dreams are not always  remembered by memory  and when we do they have different intensity throughout the day, an effect of resistance.

For Freud dreams are a manifestation of repressed desires in the unconscious . They allow us to be what we cannot be, and to say what we cannot say in our most repressed daily lives.

Dreaming evokes intrauterine experiences, the attenuated sounds, the darkness, the way of sleeping, the cozy temperature are recognized, and the most primitive activities of the mental apparatus are taken, that is why it is said to be a way of returning to childhood.

In the world of dreams, there is no logic, there are no real times or spaces, simply mental images linked to desires.

Freud and dreams

Freud  began very early to investigate this last mechanism and in 1900 with his work  “The Interpretation of Dreams”  he shaped his psychoanalytic theory and with it the concept of the unconscious, taking the dream as the royal way to access this.

The father of psychoanalysis  wanted to find a way to analyze dreams  – inheritance of Romanticism – that would move away from mysticism, through a method and an objective – inheritance of Positivism-.

In chapter VII  “The regression”  of his aforementioned work, he takes the dream as  an act a full-fledged psychic act , where its driving force is  an unconscious desire  to be fulfilled. The fact that it is unrecognizable as a desire, as well as its many extravagances and absurdities, are due to the influence of the psychic censorship that it had to endure. In addition, a constraint to the condensation of the psychic material, a regard for its figurability in sensitive images and -although not as a rule- a regard for intelligibility also cooperate in its formation.

Dream work

When one speaks of the dream (as he cites it in Lecture 14 “The fulfillment of desire” of 1910), it refers to the manifest dream, that is, to the product of the dream work itself , that is, to that psychic process that from latent dream thoughts form the  manifest dream .

Laplanche and Pontalis in their “Dictionary of Psychoanalysis” define dream work as the set of operations that transform dream materials (bodily stimuli, daytime remains, dream thoughts) into a product: the manifest dream. And they add that the effect of this work is deformation.

An unconscious desire joins a pre-conscious representation (a diurnal rest that is usually insignificant). But that ICC desire to be able to access the PRCC-CCC system had to circumvent the first censorship that is between the ICC and PRCC systems, which while we sleep goes down since the doors of motility are closed, and for this it is deformed, disguised , making a progressive path as it goes from the ICC system to the PRCC.

As the doors of motility are closed, the perceptual pole is invested and it is when we begin to dream properly speaking, when the look for figurability is given. Now a regressive path is carried out. Then again the psychic energy advances to the PRCC and the dream begins to make sense. This so-called secondary elaboration or consideration for intelligibility begins while we sleep and moves towards wakefulness. Now do a progredient path again.

The dream work, then, has four elements: condemnation, displacement, regard for figurability, and secondary elaboration or regard for intelligibility.


The engine of the dream is always a motion of desire ICC , that is to say, without desire ICC there is no dream. The dream is always a wish fulfillment, where there is always a childish one. That desire ICC, the engine of sleep, constantly pushes to get out and gains access to the PRCC even if it is disfigured. In this sense, it is necessary to distinguish for whom it is a fulfillment of desire, because for the ICC it always is, but dreams of anguish and punitive, for example, do not cause pleasure, they are not at first sight fulfillment of desire for the PRCC since they are react to them, punishing or distressing us. In children , the fulfillment of a wish occurs as such.

It differs from the daytime dream, since the content of representations is not thought but changes into  sensitive images  which are given credit and are believed to be experienced, -although there are dreams made up only of thoughts.

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The change of representations in sensitive images is not exclusive to dreams, but also occurs in hallucinations and visions  that can emerge autonomously in a state of health or as symptoms of psychoneurosis.

The  dreams last seconds and are always rich, complex than we can pass on , because often do not have the proper word for it. They are always in the present but they drag us to the past of the dreamer. The dream dreamed is never coherent  although when we tell it we point to a formal logic.

The work of interpreting the meaning of the psychoanalytic dream with the method of free association tries to circumvent the first censorship (ICC-PRCC).

Dream interpretation

Dream interpretation can be of great help in the psychodiagnosis of latent or emerging diseases.

In dreams the language of images is used , not that of words or concepts. These can reveal our unknown nature, our true desires and personality traits, which we are afraid to admit even to ourselves.

Dreams are made up of two great psychic powers: the desire experienced by a person, and the censor that distorts that desire. Censorship changes desire, distorting it, sometimes in the opposite way.

The content of dreams can be explicit or hidden . Explicit content is what can be communicated after awakening, and hidden content is what can only be understood after interpretation.

How are dreams interpreted in psychoanalysis?

The mental preparation of the patient is key for the psychoanalyst to achieve a successful interpretation of dreams. This mental preparation requires two parts: increasing attention to their mental memories and eliminating judgment , through which patients generally tend to  select  the thoughts that arise in their brain.

It is not easy to abandon criticism or judgment of thoughts, since many of them are unpleasant and disturbing, and the subject tends to be inclined to avoid traumatic memories. Nor is it necessary to look for a desired explanation to a dream, as these will rarely show the explanation that we want to hear.

To analyze dreams, the psychoanalyst must not take a dream in its entirety, but only individual elements of its content. Different people may have similar dreams, with similar shapes and objects, but each shape or each object in a subject’s dream will have a special symbolism, with its own meaning.

The material of dreams

The material of dreams is equivalent to the fabric of our own life. Among the dream material, the kinesthetic sense plays an extremely important role, ranging from those that imaginatively express a simple organic disorder (such as poor digestion or an uncomfortable sleeping position), to the so-called premonitory dreams that indicate a certain way imaginary, for example: the damage to an organ, whose discomfort had become present in the waking state.

Repression in dreams

As the human being grows, he learns to suppress, censor and discard many of the thoughts and ideas that pass through his mind. He represses and censures them, because he basically believes that those thoughts and ideas are wrong or inappropriate for society.

Repression is the defense mechanism that sends the subject’s “inappropriate” wishes – so to speak – to the unconscious, which will later manifest in dreams. This process is responsible for denying and rejecting desire, in which the object of desire changes, but the intensity of the emotion persists.

The repression of desire is formed through the action of censorship, when the desire is asocial – it does not follow the conventional norms of society.

In children, for example, repressed desires often refer to the Oedipus complex , in which the child unconsciously seeks to be the owner of the mother and to get the father and siblings out of the way.

Free association

Free association broadly consists of expressing without discrimination all the thoughts and ideas that come to mind  from a given element (word, number, any representation, image of a dream) spontaneously. But sometimes we run into the resistance that occurs in the  analytical work  that is put in place so that what is repressed remains in the ICC and does not become CCC.

The resistances within the free association occur the patient, at the moment of the interpretation some thoughts are silenced for thinking that they are very trivial, crazy, that they are not relevant or are too painful to communicate them. But when it cannot be reached through association, the symbolisms that try to invert the images of the dream are used and through thought come to discover the desires processed in it.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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