The Freud Museum


Theory: Freud & Dreams 3

Freud's second proposition is:

(2) Dreams are the disguised fulfilment of a wish

We all know that dreams often do not seem to 'make sense'. They may appear like a jumble of disconnected images which do not follow a logical structure. Therefore if dreams are the fulfilments of wishes, they must be disguised in some way. Hence they have to be 'interpreted' because their 'manifest content' (as Freud calls it) is not the same as their hidden or 'latent' content (the instigating and underlying 'dream thoughts').

Freud's theory therefore proposes two levels in the structure of dreams (the manifest content and latent dream-thoughts) which are nevertheless tied together in some way. Freud calls the system of transformations which connect up the two levels the 'dream-work'. That is to say the dream-work is the mechanism which takes the raw material of the dream-thoughts and combines it together into a dream. Sometimes the manifest dream can have a completely opposite emotional content to the latent dream thoughts, as in Freud's dream of his father looking like the heroic Garibaldi. Garibaldi dream

Dream-work consists of the following type of transformations:

(i) Condensation

In a sense the word itself says it all. A number of dream-elements (themes, images, figures, ideas etc) are combined into one, so that the dream becomes more compact or condensed than the dream-thoughts. There are different kinds of condensation, with everyday applications.

(a) Pop videos and so on often show one image overlaid onto another one, so that parts of both image are discernible in the new composite one. This is one kind of condensation, such as in Freud's description of a dream image of his uncle 'with a yellow beard': "The face that I saw in the dream was at once my friend R's and my uncle's. It was like one of Galton's composite photographs. (In order to bring out family likenesses, Galton used to photograph several faces on the same plate). So there could be no doubt that I really did mean that my friend R. was a simpleton - like my Uncle Joseph."

(b) Groups are often formed out of disparate individuals on the basis of an element common to each of them. For instance you could give half the class a red badge and call them the 'red' group. The condensation operates in this case by taking one element from a number of individuals and using it as the basis for forming a single entity. In a dream this might mean that if both your mother and boyfriend or girlfriend have red hair then the element 'red' might signify the condensation of both these figures.

In this respect condensation seems like a very basic psychical process, connected to the formation of categories in general.

(c) Condensation also operates in language, in the creation of neologisms and so on. For instance, suppose a guest of mine has overstayed his welcome. As he is finally leaving I might say "I am slad to see you go". This is because I might be trying to say "I am sad to see you go", but really I think "I am glad to see you go". The two words 'sad' and 'glad' have been condensed into the single (nonsense) word 'slad'.

Or jokes and riddles can operate by condensation:
'When is a door not a door?'
'When it's ajar'.
The two meanings ('a jar' and 'ajar') are condensed into the single expression.
'My wife went to the West Indies'
'Jamaica?' ('Did you make her [go]?')
'No, she went of her own accord.'




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