The Freud Museum


Theory: Freud & Dreams 7

Freud's last proposition is:

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

But for Freud, what is repressed and forbidden are wishes from childhood - grandiose phantasies of ambition ('I am the greatest') which we learnt were unacceptable in the social world, and sexual phantasies which we learnt were not allowed.

Many students will be surprised to find out that Freud's theory is not all about 'sex'. In fact half of the dreams discussed in the dream book are dreams of 'ambition' (egoistic dreams one might say) or aggressive wishes to other people. Freud is especially candid about his own ambitious wishes, such as in the NON VIXIT or 'Uncle Joseph' dreams. If you interpret your dreams, he says, "One is bound to emerge as the only villain among a crowd of noble characters..."

In other cases the dreamer is the dashing hero of the dream. However Freud points out that even in action adventure stories we usually find a bit of love interest put in somewhere.

So if the wishes which construct dreams are repressed then they must be infantile
wishes. Yet we know from experience that dreams refer to events in the recent past. All of us have had a dream which contains elements from things that happened to us the previous day. Therefore Freud says that dreams have two sources for their construction - happenings in the present (the day's residues of the previous day - little upsets or unfulfilled wishes that we have not been able to deal with from the previous day), and happenings from the distant past (wishes from childhood that have become repressed). The days residues are particularly clear to see in children's dreams, and also in Freud's 'staircase' dream.

Meanwhile emotionally coloured childhood scenes are uncovered in Freud's
analysis of his 'Rome' dreams or the 'Botanical Monograph'.

The dream therefore stands on two legs, one in the present and one in the past. The unconscious wishes are constantly looking for a way out or for a way to express themselves - they are a constant psychical stimulus (tension) threatening to disrupt our sleep, which is dealt with (and dissipated) in the creation of a dream. And the unconscious wish uses the unresolved events of our waking lives as a path to their expression in our dream lives.

The Kaiser Joseph Memorial
('Non Vixit')


Uncle Joseph (II)

Running up stairs

The Botanical Monograph (II)

Rome dreams

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