The Freud Museum


Theory: Freud & Dreams 6

Freud's third proposition is:

(3) Dreams are the disguised fulfilment of a repressed wish.

So far we have looked at the meaning and the mechanism of dreams. But there is a third 'm'-word which is also crucial to the way Freud constructs his theories. That is the word 'motive'.

Freud considers both the motive for the dream (which he insists is an unconscious 'wish'), and the motive for the distortion of dreams. If dreams are disguised Freud argues it must be that the 'wish' is not apparent or manifest in the dream. The wish is hidden from the conscious appreciation of the dream - it is repressed. This then gives us a motive for the distortion in dreams, for what is repressed is not only hidden from consciousness, but 'forbidden' in some way by the conscious part of the mind. Dreams of the death of a loved one ('an absurd dream', 'sibling rivalry'), or of unacceptable sexual desires ('violets'), show clearly the existence of wishes which are normally repressed.

Hence, according to Freud the dream is constructed out of two conflicting forces, an unconscious wish or desire on the one hand, and a force which opposes it, on the other hand. Freud calls this opposing force the censorship, and he likens it to the censorship of political newspapers or works of art. The techniques of the dream work are in a sense in the service of the censorship, although from another perspective they could be called the means by which the dream gets around the censorship.

Freud says:

"If we can uncover a dream's MOTIVATING FORCE, we shall obtain unsuspected information about the repressed impulses in the unconscious; and on the other hand , if we can undo its distortions, we shall overhear PRECONSCIOUS THOUGHT taking place in states of internal reflection which would not have attracted consciousness to themselves during the daytime."

That is to say the motive for the dream is a 'wish' insofar as it is repressed or at the least forbidden.

Dreams are therefore a 'compromise structure' created out of a situation of psychic conflict. The notion of psychic conflict is one of the essential tenets of psychoanalysis.

'An Absurd Dream'

'Sibling rivalry'

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