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Chapter 1: The scientific literature of Dream-problems (up to 1900)

The Freudian Theory of Dreams can be seen as placed at the opposite side of the minimalist theory: it credits dreaming with a very important function and a great specific psychological significance. This theory is anchored on the basic concept of the unconscious as the entity accountable for personality and mental health. Freud invoked the authority of science. He started his book with a chapter on The Scientific Literature Dealing with the Problems of Dreams (online). He was not concerned with the biological basis of dreams. Instead, he hypothesized that this dream work process translates abstract thoughts into visual images and dramatic narratives.

From the psychoanalytic point of view, it is crucial to address a disease from the root cause, and not merely to prescribe a palliative for its symptoms. The interpreter then concentrates on the individual’s manner of conceiving and perceiving reality, mainly transpiring in the therapeutic and counseling sessions where the processes of “transference, counter-transference, and resistance are focused on (Fuchs, 2003, p. 320).  Based on his theory, an individual’s dream identity is undergoing continuous development accounted for by novel stimuli and experiences which are encountered through interface with significant others. Apart from this component, the concept of competence is also emphasized, the development of which drives cognition, affect, and behavior.  

Chapter 2: The Method of Dream Interpretation

Freud provides an associative method of dream-interpretation, in which he analyzed tone of his own dreams as a ‘specimen’ dream. Freud accepts that popular notion anticipated his belief that dreams have meaning, yet he questions two basic methods traditionally employed to uncover this meaning. Both methods attempt to replace the dream content by a corresponding sense. Symbolic interpretation ‘views the dream content as a whole and tries to replace this through another, comprehensible and in certain respects analogous content” (online). Freud cites the example of Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream (online). Freud objects that Joseph’s method depends solely on the interpreter’s intuition, and can only develop as an art.

The second method of dream interpretation Freud used is a process of deciphering, which at first sight represents the opposite extreme. Rather than rely on the Freud’s intuition concerning the entire dream, the method of decoding ‘treats the dream as a kind of secret writing, in which every sign will be translated into another sign with a known meaning, according to a fixed key’ (online). This conception leads to a mechanical approach that employs a code to decipher individual dream images.

Chapter 3: The Dream as a Wish-Fulfilment

Freud’s theory does not entail that the wish should be there simply to read off the dream. When he says that the content of the dream is a wish, he is referring to the fact that the latent thoughts that create the dream express a wish (online). Such thoughts do not find direct expression in the dream; the dream is often absurd and the latent thoughts cannot be directly comprehended by the dreamer. One form of interpretation is anchored on rational emotive theory which puts more premium on being action oriented and delves with the individual’s capacity for modifying his own behavior, and eventually his own life. This interpretive technique emphasizes the congenital rationality of the human being, and yet also acknowledges that despite this rationality, people may fall prey to being illogical. In effect, Freud banks on the human being’s capacity for logical thinking, sound judgment, and being action-oriented (online). In essence, the interpreter utilizes structured, direct therapy. Still as an offshoot of these core principles, those who hold on to the cognitive behavioral therapy state that psychopathology are an outcome of such irrationality and illogical thinking, and the corresponding behavior that springs from it.

Chapter 4: Distortion in Dreams

In this chapter, Freud underlines how the phenomenon of condensation is important for distortion. In fact, the face in the dream represents Freud compares the phenomenon of distortion to the photographs by Galton (online), who, in order to emphasize family resemblances, had several faces photographed in the same plate. As always – and against all the evidence again – purity is found in children: “the dreams we are looking for are met with in children – short, clear, coherent, and easy to understand, they are free from ambiguity and yet are unmistakable dreams” (online). Yet is Freud’s delightfully ambiguous sense of this purity that arouses interest. “You must not think, however, that all dreams in children are of this type” (online). Distortion in dreams begins to appear very early in childhood. The point is that even if all dreams were distortions, Freud would insist on the possibility or intelligibility of dreams in which distortion is absent. Distortion-less images are crucial if examining distorted images.

This school of thought emphasizes the power of choice. The interpreter ought to make his dreamers realize that they are empowered to make choices in their lives – be it at the level of cognition, emotion and most especially of dreams. In setting goals for the dreamer, concepts may be borrowed from reality theory. This emphasizes the accountability of the individual in the selection and attainment of their goals and for the life that they are living. There is also a substantial emphasis attached to personal choice and for being forward-looking – and not delving on the past.

Chapter 5: The Material and Sources of Dreams

The material and sources of dreams is to show that there is no such thing as an ‘innocent’ dream. Freud’s order of exposition seems scientific, because it mimics the narrowing down of a search for causes of dreams, whereas all those that most interest him. Yet he persists in referring to dreams in general, without qualification (online). There also seems to be some benefit in analytic group interpretation in which the interpreter aims to reveal the root causes of psychopathology and psychosomatic issues from family dynamics and conflict among siblings through transferences and portrayals of family association. One benefit that has been cited for this technique is its capacity to elicit more regressive developments than if the individual is treated on his own (online). This is especially true as the interpreter exhibited expertise and knowledge about coping mechanisms and fantasies of the group’s unconsciousness. Still on the strengths of psychodynamic therapies, the analytic couples and family therapy is also worth discussing.

Chapter 6: The Dream-Work

This chapter is devoted to determining how the translation of the dream-thoughts into the dream-content is carried out, to formulating the laws or principles that govern the translation. In other words, the Freud’s task is to distinguish and to describe the various forms of work, the modes of working, which, taken together, constitute the dream-work as such (online). Throughout the delimitation of these moments of the dream-work, there remains continuous tacit reference to the translational character of the work carried out. Indeed, in the case of one moment, the work of displacement, the translational character is so emphasized that a word translatable as translation becomes a synonym for the proper name of the moment. As to Freud’s account, the work of displacement is what brings it about that the dream is centered differently from the dream-thoughts (online). The value had by particular elements among the dream-thoughts is not retained in the dream-content; the most valuable elements among the dream thoughts are stripped of their value, and the place is taken by other elements to which little value was attached at the level of the dream-thoughts (online). Thus, the work consists here in a displacement of psychical intensity of the individual elements, as in Freud’s own dream of the botanical monograph in which the element of the dream-thoughts concerned with ‘the complications and conflicts arising from obligations incurred by services between colleagues’ (online) is displaced into the botanical.

Chapter 7: The Psychology of the Dream-Processes

In this final chapter, Freud investigates the nature of the mental apparatus which not only produces dreams but seems to require them for its effective functioning. The main feature of this chapter is the intent to change the individual’s way of perceiving the world. While psychodynamic theory focuses on past experience and the subconscious while experiential approaches concentrate on the phenomenology and subjective experience of the person, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on dysfunctional assumptions and cognition of the client – of himself, significant others and the world in general. From a realization of these assumptions, the practitioner ought to aim to teach the client how to change these erroneous views and undertake means to cope (Alford & Beck, 1997, p. 67). Depending on the needs of the patient, a more comprehensive eclectic approach may be used, but also having some focus on cognition; that is, cognitive behavior theories and its corresponding therapy. This also encompasses techniques targeting emotion and behavior apart from cognition.

The psychoanalytic theories of Freud have implications on the understanding of personality, of psychological diseases and the corresponding interventions. Freud asserts that interventions should consider that the human being is made of mind and body and that the synthesis and consistency of behavior, affect and cognition must be strived for to attain mental health. I also agree with his view of the individual’s ability to reflect and learn from their dreams and to rid themselves of dysfunctional influences. Critical aspects of this interpretation include inculcating a keen awareness in the patient of his accountability for his life, problem avoidance, closing unsettled issues and awareness of the here and now. These help the client experience his current life more fully and to be empowered. Moreover, the individual is made steward of himself, rather than a dependent of any other individual. The specific techniques that may be used by Gestalt therapists include confrontation, analysis of dreams, polarities dialogue and simulated role play. 

This interpretation underlines the importance of family dynamics in the treatment of psychopathology. It thus advocates both one’s predisposition and environment as accountable for healthy mental development.  It specifically points out the role of the family and important others – that is, their interaction and communication patterns – in the development of neurosis (Leuzinger-Bohleber & Target, 2002, p. 63). This systemic view of interpreting is indeed sensible, since family members are interacted with by the individual and exerts considerable influence on cognition. I would say that inclusion of the family in therapy will facilitate the resolution of psychopathological issues.

However, even if the individual is made to realize such power of choice, he is also taught the constraints and the ironies of being a human being in the existential approach. And yet, these limitations must not hinder him from having a purpose and from living a purpose-driven life. With greater structure, in contrast with this school, this is more spontaneous and free flowing. And yet, even with such a weakness its conception of the interpretation of dreams or as someone who is marked with openness, permitting particular situations and contexts to develop is logical. The interpreter is also described as an assistant to other human beings in allowing them to have fuller understanding of life in a non-threatening, meaningful way. In effect, whatever is revealed in the session is peculiar to the individual and is spontaneous.

The distinguishing traits of this type of interpretation encompass the belief that particular traits of the interpreter are requisites for effective treatment. It also believed in the medical model and emphasized the growth model of an individual’s change process. Moreover, it has advocated the close relationship between the therapist and the client and has encouraged the focus on the human being’s subjective experience. It has also focused on the here and now and believes that personality is fluid rather than rigid. In effect, people are capable of changing themselves – their cognition, affect, and behavior and that this principle encompasses all patients. 

The goals of the therapy are also worth working for, namely self-esteem and being open to experience. While not being explicit about “purpose”, it does discuss the goal of clients to resolve discrepancies between their actual and ideal conceptions of themselves. Among the other goals of person-centered therapy are as follows: “better self-understanding; lower levels of defensiveness, guilt, and insecurity; more positive and comfortable relationships with others; and an increased capacity to experience and express feelings at the moment they occur” (quoted verbatim from Thedepressiontreatment.com, online).  This suggests openness on the part of the therapist, and does not give judgment to the client – advocating unconditional positive regard.

This perspective also promotes personal encounters since these are deemed effective means of improving understanding of oneself and greater openness. This interpretation also believes in self-actualization, where an individual is able to make full use of one’s capabilities through such interpersonal exchanges. Overall, Freud’s goals of interpretations of dreams are also worth adapting.

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