Freuds Theory Of Dreams Essay Writing

"Interpretation of Dreams" redirects here. For other uses, see Interpretation of dreams (disambiguation).

Title page of the original German edition

AuthorSigmund Freud
Original titleDie Traumdeutung
TranslatorsA. A. Brill(first version)
James Strachey(authorized version)
Joyce Crick (most recent version)
SubjectDream interpretation
PublisherFranz Deuticke, Leipzig & Vienna

Publication date

November 4, 1899
(dated 1900)

Published in English

1913 (Macmillan, translation of the German third edition)
Media typePrint

The Interpretation of Dreams (German: Die Traumdeutung) is an 1899 book by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, in which the author introduces his theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation, and discusses what would later become the theory of the Oedipus complex. Freud revised the book at least eight times and, in the third edition, added an extensive section which treated dream symbolism very literally, following the influence of Wilhelm Stekel. Freud said of this work, "Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime."[1]

The book was first published in an edition of 600 copies, which did not sell out for eight years. The Interpretation of Dreams later gained in popularity, and seven more editions were published in Freud's lifetime.[2]

Because of the book's length and complexity, Freud also wrote an abridged version called On Dreams. The original text is widely regarded as one of Freud's most significant works.


Freud spent the summer of 1895 at Schloss BelleVue[3] near Grinzing in Austria, where he began the inception of The Interpretation of Dreams. In a 1900 letter to Wilhelm Fliess, he wrote in commemoration of the place:

"Do you suppose that some day a marble tablet will be placed on the house, inscribed with these words: 'In this house on July 24, 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigm. Freud'? At the moment I see little prospect of it." — Freud in a letter to Wilhelm Fliess, June 12, 1900

While staying at Schloss Bellevue, Freud dreamed his famous dream of 'Irma's injection'.[4] His reading and analysis of the dream allowed him to be exonerated from his mishandling of the treatment of a patient in 1895.[5] In 1963, Belle Vue manor was demolished, but today a memorial plaque with just that inscription has been erected at the site by the Austrian Sigmund Freud Society.


Dreams, in Freud's view, are formed as the result of two mental processes. The first process involves unconscious forces that construct a wish that is expressed by the dream, and the second is the process of censorship that forcibly distorts the expression of the wish. In Freud's view, all dreams are forms of "wish fulfillment" (later in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud would discuss dreams which do not appear to be wish-fulfillment). Freud states: "My presumption that dreams can be interpreted at once puts me in opposition to the ruling theory of dreams and in fact to every theory of dreams..."[6]

Freud advanced the idea that an analyst can differentiate between the manifest content and latent content of a dream. The manifest content refers to the remembered narrative that plays out in the dream itself. The latent content refers to the underlying meaning of the dream. During sleep, the unconscious condenses, displaces, and forms representations of the dream content, the latent content of which is often unrecognizable to the individual upon waking.[7]

Critics have argued that Freud's theory of dreams requires sexual interpretation. Freud, however, contested this criticism, noting that "the assertion that all dreams require a sexual interpretation, against which critics rage so incessantly, occurs nowhere in my Interpretation of Dreams. It is not to be found in any of the numerous editions of this book and is in obvious contradiction to other views expressed in it."[8] Freud acknowledged that "the interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind."[9]

Sources of dream content[edit]

Freud claimed that every dream has a connection point with an experience of the previous day. Though, the connection may be minor, as the dream content can be selected from any part of the dreamer's life.[10] He described four possible sources of dreams: a) mentally significant experiences represented directly, b) several recent and significant experiences combined into a single unity by the dream, c) one or more recent and significant experiences which are represented in the content by the mention of a contemporary but indifferent experience, and d) internal significant experience, such as a memory or train of thought, that is invariably represented in the dream by a mention of a recent but indifferent impression.

Oftentimes people experience external stimuli, such as an alarm clock or music, being distorted and incorporated into their dreams. Freud explained that this is because "the mind is withdrawn from the external world during sleep, and it is unable to give it a correct interpretation ..."[11] He further explained that our mind wishes to continue sleeping, and therefore will try to suppress external stimuli, weave the stimuli into the dream, or compel a person to wake up or encourage him or her to overcome it.

Freud believed that dreams were picture-puzzles, and though they may appear nonsensical and worthless on the surface, through the process of interpretation they can form a "poetical phrase of the greatest beauty and significance."[12]

Condensation, displacement, and representation in dreams[edit]

Dreams are brief compared to the range and abundance of dream thoughts. Through condensation or compression, dream content can be presented in one dream. Oftentimes, people may recall having more than one dream in a night. Freud explained that the content of all dreams occurring on the same night represents part of the same whole.[13] He believed that separate dreams have the same meaning, though often the first dream is more distorted, and the latter is more confident and distinct. Displacement of dream content occurs when the manifest content hardly resembles the actual meaning of the dream thought. Displacement comes about through the influence of the censorship agent. Representation in dreams represents the causal relations between two things. Freud argues that two persons or objects can be combined into a single representation in a dream (see Freud's dream of his uncle and Friend R).[14]

On Dreams[edit]

An abridged version called On Dreams was published in 1901 as part of Lowenfeld and Kurella's Grenzfragen des Nerven und Seelenlebens. It was re-published in 1911 in slightly larger form as a book.[15]On Dreams is also included in the 1953 edition and the second part of Freud's work on dreams, Volume Five, The Interpretation of Dreams II and On Dreams. It follows chapter seven in The Interpretation of Dreams and in this edition, is fifty-three pages in length.[16] There are thirteen chapters in total and Freud directs the reader to The Interpretation of Dreams for further reading throughout On Dreams, in particular, in the final chapter. Immediately after its publication, Freud considered On Dreams as a shortened version of The Interpretation of Dreams. The English translation of On Dreams was first published in 1914 and the second English publication in the James Strachey translation from 1952.[17] Freud investigates the subject of displacement and our inability to recognize our dreams. In chapter VI, page 659, he states: "It is the process of displacement which is chiefly responsible for our being unable to discover or recognize them in the dream-content" and he considers the issue of displacement in chapter VIII, page 671 as: "the most striking of the dream-work."[18]


The first edition begins:

"In the following pages, I shall demonstrate that there exists a psychological technique by which dreams may be interpreted and that upon the application of this method every dream will show itself to be a senseful psychological structure which may be introduced into an assignable place in the psychic activity of the waking state. I shall furthermore endeavor to explain the processes which give rise to the strangeness and obscurity of the dream, and to discover through them the psychic forces, which operate whether in combination or opposition, to produce the dream. This accomplished by investigation will terminate as it will reach the point where the problem of the dream meets broader problems, the solution of which must be attempted through other material."[19]

Freud begins his book in the first chapter titled "The Scientific Literature on the Problems of the Dream" by reviewing different scientific views on dream interpretation, which he finds interesting but not adequate.[20] He then makes his argument by describing a number of dreams which he claims illustrate his theory.

Freud describes three main types of dreams: 1. Direct prophecies received in the dream (chrematismos, oraculum); 2. The foretelling of a future event (orama, visio) 3. The symbolic dream, which requires interpretation (Interpretation of Dreams 5).

Much of Freud's sources for analysis are in literature. Many of his most important dreams are his own — his method is inaugurated with an analysis of his dream "Irma's injection" — but many also come from patient case studies.

Influence and reception[edit]

The Interpretation of Dreams was first published in an edition of only 600 copies, and these took eight years to sell. The work subsequently gained popularity, and seven more editions were printed in Freud's lifetime, the last in 1929.[2] The Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler wrote to Freud in October 1905 that he was convinced of the correctness of The Interpretation of Dreams as soon as he read it.[21]

Otto Rank was impressed by the work when he read it in 1905. Rank was moved to write a critical reanalysis of one of Freud's own dreams, and perhaps partly for this reason came to Freud's attention. It was with Rank's help that Freud published the work's second edition in 1909.[22] The classicist Norman O. Brown, writing in Life Against Death (1959), described The Interpretation of Dreams as one of the great applications and extensions of the Socratic maxim "know thyself."[23] The philosopher Paul Ricœur, writing in Freud and Philosophy (1965), described Freud's work as his "first great book", and argued that like Freud's other works it posits a "semantics of desire".[24]

The mythologist Joseph Campbell described the book as an "epochal work", noting that it was "based on insights derived from years devoted to the fantasies of neurotics".[25]Max Schur, Freud's physician and friend, has provided evidence that the first dream that Freud analyzed, his so-called "Irma dream" was not very disguised, but actually closely portrayed a medical disaster of Emma Steinbeck, one of Freud's patients.[26] The psychologist Hans Eysenck, writing in Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (1985), argued that the dreams Freud cites not only do not support his dream theory, but actually disprove it.[27]

The philosopher Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and the psychologist Sonu Shamdasani argued that Freud's analysis of the dream of Irma's injection was partly based on Belgian psychologist Joseph Delboeuf's analysis of the "dream of lizards and of the Asplenium Ruta muraria" in Sleep and Dreams. In their view, Freud's work should be placed in the context of the "introspective hypnotism" practiced by figures such as Auguste Forel, Eugen Bleuler, and Oskar Vogt. They charged Freud with selectively citing some authors on dreams (including Marie-Jean-Léon, Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys and Louis Ferdinand Alfred Maury), passing over others (including Jean-Martin Charcot, Pierre Janet, and Richard von Krafft-Ebing) in silence, and with systematically avoiding "citing the passages in the works of his predecessors which came closest to his own theories."[28]


The first translation from German into English was completed by A. A. Brill, a Freudian psychoanalyst. Years later, an authorized translation by James Strachey was published. The most recent English translation is by Joyce Crick.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Memorial plate in commemoration of the place where Freud began The Interpretation of Dreams, near Grinzing, Austria
  1. ^SE iv. p. xxiii
  2. ^ ab"Freud's book, "The Interpretation of Dreams" released 1900". A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries. PBS. 1998. Retrieved August 21, 2012. 
  3. ^Storr, Anthony (1989). Freud: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-19-285455-1.  
  4. ^Storr, Anthony (1989). Freud: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-19-285455-1.  
  5. ^Storr, Anthony (1989). Freud: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-19-285455-1.  
  6. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. p. 121. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  7. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. p. 205. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  8. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. p. 407. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  9. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. p. 604. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  10. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. p. 192. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  11. ^Freud, Sigmund (1955). Strachey, ed. The Interpretation of Dreams. Basic Books. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-465-01977-9. 
  12. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. p. 296. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  13. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. p. 328. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  14. ^1856-1939., Freud, Sigmund, (2010). The interpretation of dreams. Strachey, James. New York: Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group. pp. 162–163. ISBN 9780465019779. OCLC 434126117. 
  15. ^Gay, Peter edit. Freud, Sigmund author The Freud Reader WW Norton New York 1989 pages 142-142
  16. ^Freud, Sigmund (1953). The Interpretation of Dreams (Second Part) and On Dreams. London: The Hogarth Press. pp. Introduction 686 633. ISBN 0-7012-0067-7. 
  17. ^Freud, Sigmund (1953). The Interpretation of Dreams (Second Part) and On Dreams. London: The Hogarth Press. pp. 631–633 contents page 659 671 686. ISBN 0-7012-0067-7.  
  18. ^Freud, Sigmund (1953). The Interpretation of Dreams (Second Part) and On Dreams. London: The Hogarth Press. pp. 659 671. ISBN 0-7012-0067-7. 
  19. ^Freud, Sigmund The Interpretation of Dreams the Illustrated Edition, Sterling Press 2010, page 9
  20. ^Freud, Sigmund The Interpretation of Dreams the Illustrated Edition, Sterling Press, 2010, pages 9-68
  21. ^Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel; Shamdasani, Sonu (2012). The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-521-72978-9. 
  22. ^Lieberman, E. James; Kramer, Robert (2012). The Letters of Sigmund Freud & Otto Rank: Inside Psychoanalysis. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1–2, 4. ISBN 978-1-4214-0354-0. 
  23. ^Brown, Norman O. (1985). Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-8195-5148-1. 
  24. ^Ricœur, Paul (1970). Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-300-02189-5. 
  25. ^Campbell, Joseph (1968). The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. London: Secker & Warburg. p. 650. 
  26. ^Schur, M. (1972) Freud: Living and Dying. New York: International Universities Press
  27. ^Eysenck, Hans (1986). Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books. pp. 35, 119. ISBN 0-14-022562-5. 
  28. ^Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel; Shamdasani, Sonu (2012). The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 43, 111. ISBN 978-0-521-72978-9. 

Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous figures of the twentieth century. His theories had quite an impact on psychology at the time, but they also tended to be rather controversial. In addition to his grand theories of human psychology, he was also a prolific writer, publishing more than 320 different books, articles, and essays.

The following list represents a selection of some of his most famous and influential books. If you are interested in learning more about Freud and his theories, considering reading a few of his original writings to get a better grasp of Freudian theory directly from the original source. There are many textbooks that summarize his ideas, but sometimes nothing beats consulting the original writings to gain greater insights and perspectives on his many ideas. 


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Studies on Hysteria, or Studien über Hysterie, was co-authored by Freud and his colleague Josef Breuer. The book described their work and study of a number of individuals suffering from hysteria, including one of their most famous cases, a young woman known as Anna O. The book also introduced the use of psychoanalysis as a treatment for mental illness.

The Interpretation of Dreams was originally published in German under the title Die Traumdeutung. Freud often identified this book as his personal favorite, and it has gone on to become a perennial classic in the history of psychology. The book lays out Freud's theory that dreams represent unconscious wishes disguised by symbolism. If you're interested in learning more about Freud's approach to dreams and the unconscious mind, this book is a must read.

The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, or Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, is considered one of the major texts that outlines Freud's psychoanalytic theory. The book takes a closer look at a number of deviations that occur during everyday life, including forgetting names, slips of the tongue (aka Freudian slips) and errors in speech and concealed memories. He then analyzes the underlying psychopathology that he believed led to such errors.

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, or Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, is considered one of Freud's most important works. In these essays, he outlines his theory of psychosexual development and introduces other important concepts including the Oedipus complex, penis envy, and castration anxiety.

In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, or Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten, Freud observed how jokes, much like dreams, could be related to unconscious wishes, desires, or memories. Freud's theory of humor is based on his theory of the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud, the superego is what allows the ego to generate and express humor.

Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics, or Totem und Tabu: Einige Übereinstimmungen im Seelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker, is a collection of four essays that apply psychoanalysis to other fields including religion, anthropology, and archaeology.

In On Narcissism, or Zur Einführung des Narzißmus, Freud outlines his theory of narcissism. In the book, he suggests that narcissism is actually a normal part of the human psyche. He referred to this as primary narcissism or the energy that that lies behind each person's survival instincts.

As one of Freud's most famous books, Introduction to Psychoanalysis (or Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse), Freud outlines his theory of psychoanalysis including the unconscious mind, the theory of neuroses and dreams. The preface, written by G. Stanley Hall, explains, "These twenty-eight lectures to laymen are elementary and almost conversational. Freud sets forth with a frankness almost startling the difficulties and limitations of psychoanalysis, and also describes its main methods and results as only a master and originator of a new school of thought can do."

In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, originally published in German as Jenseits des Lustprinzips, Freud explored his theory of instincts in greater depth. Previously, Freud's work identified the libido as the force behind human actions. In this book, he developed a theory of drives that are motivated by the life and death instincts.

In The Future of an Illusion, originally published as Die Zukunft einer Illusion, Freud explores religion through a psychoanalytic lens. He describes his own ideas about the origins and development of religion, and suggests that religion is an illusion made up of "...certain dogmas, assertions about facts and conditions of external and internal reality which tell one something that one has not oneself discovered, and which claim that one should give them credence."

Civilization and Its Discontents, or Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, is one of Freud's best known as most widely read books. The book centers on Freud's ideas about the tension between the individual and civilization as a whole. According to Freud, many of our most basic desires are at odds with what is best for society, which is why laws prohibiting certain actions are created. The result, he argues, is an ongoing feeling of discontentment among the citizens of that civilization.

In Moses and Monotheism, first published in 1937 as Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion, Freud utilizes his psychoanalytic theory to develop hypotheses about events of the past. In this book, he suggests that Moses was not Jewish but was instead an ancient Egyptian monotheist. This was Freud's final work, and perhaps one of his most controversial.

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