Okay, Die Traumdeutung is a work about the nature of dreams. And we all dream. Whether it’s about your right foot invading London or your hairdo assaulting God with a plunger, they happen. And they’re odd.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) in this legendary work makes the bold decision to say dreams have meanings—the human subconscious in action. Well, do they?
The Interpretation of Dreams
We’re pretty new to Freud, so apologies if we mess any of his theory up—this review is merely our interpretation. Yeah?
His work is from 1899, but the nature of dreams is still rather unusual and confused. Sleep is complex and even the brightest minds to this day struggle to explain it.
Why do we sleep? Until recent human history, it was a potentially disastrous pursuit where we lay flat for eight hours at a time, opening us up to all manner of predatory attacks.
So, what’s the purpose? Why do we need to do it? Why can’t we, like the perfectly lucid Elon Musk, stay up all night working?
And why oh why, when we do zonk out, does our brain take on a life of its own? It turns into a homemade cinematic experience of your creation. What the ruddy hell?
Freud postulated the idea of the unconscious and the nature of dream symbolism.
In psychoanalytics, the theory is humans receive motivations from “unseen” forces. Such as ego. Rather than having control over the conscious with rational thoughts. In Freud’s words:
"Properly speaking, the unconscious is the real psychic; its inner nature is just as unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is just as imperfectly reported to us through the data of consciousness as is the external world through the indications of our sensory organs."
Let’s not forget Freud also documented narcissistic personality disorders—a topic that interested us thoroughly in 2019 after meeting someone with a covert NPD.
But in this work, his interest is on the nature of dreaming. It’s a complex beast, no doubt, which is why the book is hundreds of pages long.
To summarise it all is tough going, but select quotes help to showcase his theories:
"The dream is the liberation of the spirit from the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter."
He goes on to add:
"The dream-thoughts and the dream-content lie before us like two versions of the same content in two different languages, or rather, the dream-content looks to us like a translation of the dream-thoughts into another mode of expression, and we are supposed to get to know its signs and laws of grammatical construction by comparing the original and the translation."
In Freudian theory, dreams are shaped in two ways. These are:
- To make the dream compact, themes and thoughts are combined together.
- Displacement occurs, the repressed thoughts in your brain return in one way or another.
As such, Freud’s theory is dreams show our deep and innermost desires that we normally don’t express. So you can see dreams as a type of wish fulfillment exercise.
Which might be why we had the dream in 2004 about a T. Rex attacking out university. A T. Rex with Brad Pitt’s head for its head. We did make friends with the T. Rex/Brad Pitt hybrid in the end.
Freud also suggests here what became the Oedipus complex, with a great deal of sexual inference from that. Although he revised his work eight times to adjust to his ever evolving ideas.
We’ve been a bit late getting to Freud, having been a bit obsessed with Japanese literature and philosophy over the last seven years.
But we get the impression, despite his genius and input into his theories, he couldn’t possibly be happy with any of The Interpretation of Dreams. There was still so much open for development.
And in 1900, when the work launched, it failed to sell out its 600 copies. That took almost a decade—eight years in total.
He though the work was possibly too complex. So he released an abridged version: On Dreams.
If you want to take on this one, or his truncated work, it’s fascinating all the same.
He twists and turns across radical concepts that seem quite alien even here in 2020. How dreams are a gateway to the psychic life of individuals.
Yes, one to read for students. One to read if you’ve ever wondered what on Earth made your brain come up with some of the bizarre things you’ve dreamt about.
Professional Moron’s Dreams
Right, so this had us thinking about Blue Velvet and the above Roy Orbison song. Dreams, eh? In dreams.
It’s inaccurate to consider dreams as a type of personal safehaven—they can sometimes be unsettling and disturbing. Terrifying, even.
As kids, we used to have nightmares about nasty pink elephants who used to pester us. What do you reckon that was all about, Freud?
In 2004 it was T. Rex/Brad Pitt hybrids. Circa 2012 we had an astonishing lucid dream that seemed to cross transmundane boundaries.
We were aware we were dreaming in our flat in Manchester, but as we couldn’t wake up presumed we’d entered into a different (but genuine) reality.
And it was horrible! Full of monsters just rushing around bumping into each other. Yeah, not fun. We were glad to wake up from that one.
Of course, there’s that whole forgetting much of your dream afterwards. That’s due to neurochemical activity in the brain during REM sleep (the most crucial part of our sleepy bo-bos).
The ones we partially remember are when we’re half asleep, half awake. Or the lucid dreams. The latter are often stunningly vivid.
Shockingly, we remember in one dream last year we killed someone accidentally. Mortified, the dream played out like some thriller film.
Waking up from that and realising it wasn’t reality certainly took a lot of anxiety off us. Whew!
So… sleeping is fantastic, sure. We love it. But dreams can be a bit unsettling. Especially if you trip in your dream and wake up with a start. That’s a right bugger.
Or you wake up drenched in sweat due to a nightmare (we promise we never wet ourselves, it was sweat). Horrible. This is why you don’t eat cheese before your bedtime.
Anyway, enough rambling! What about your dreams? Feel free to share your weirdest moments in the comments below. Or don’t bother. Like we care.