The Freud Museum


Theory: Freud & Dreams 5


The last transformation which affects the form of dreams is:

(iii) Secondary revision

Although many dreams do not seem to 'make sense', many others appear to be quite coherent and logical. Freud says that it is the function of secondary revision which creates this appearance of narrative coherence - it "fills up the gaps in the dream-structure with shreds and patches".

The secondary revision turns dreams into something more closely resembling coherent 'daydreams' or depictions of reality than they would otherwise be. Sometimes the dream appears to be a simple retelling of events from the previous day, as in the dream of tuning the piano.

Secondary revision, as the name implies, occur at the end of the lengthy process of dream-construction and can basically can be thought of as the application of conscious thought processes to the dream material. In much the same way a poem or story might be made out of initially disparate ideas and feelings, and gradually built up into a first draft. Once a first draft is written we then look at the work in a different way and start to revise it according to conscious and often formal criteria, taking into account things like logical coherence and who the intended audience is for the work. Freud points out that dreams, however, are not necessarily intended to be understood.

These three functions (with the considerations for representability often regarded as a fourth) constitute the central mechanisms for the construction of dreams. It is evident that these mechanisms also operate in art, music, literature, jokes, and in the formation of neurotic symptoms.

This widespread applicability is perhaps one reason why Freud regarded dreams in such a high regard as the 'royal road' to the unconscious, and The Interpretation of Dreams as his most significant book.

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