on February 5, 2002
In a letter to his confidant and friend, Wilhelm Fleiss, the then middle aged neurologist, Sigmund Freud, was in the midst of researching and writing his beloved 'dream book'. He wrote the following:
"Now I have finished and am thinking about the dream book again. I have been looking into the literature and feel like a Celtic imp."Oh, how I am glad that no one, no one knows..." No one suspects that the dream is not nonsense but wish fulfillment."
Indeed, this is the premise of Freud's entire thesis: dreams are no more than repressed unconscious wishes, battling for expression and consummation.
In his own words, Freud had 'dared' to rally against the 'objections of severe science, to take the part of the ancients and of superstition.' In 1900, the official year of the book's publication, its reception, despite its provoctive title, was tepid, and in the course of six years, only sold 351 copies. Freud never gave up hope, and 30 years later, in the preface of the third English edition, he wrote, "It contains, even according to my present day judgement, the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once a lifetime.' In present day, one can question any Freud scholar about ~The Interpretation of Dreams~ and they will say the same thing: the book contains everything that 'is' psychoanalysis.
Anyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis and the mind of Sigmund Freud, reading this book is an absolute must. The reading runs along too, quite easily, as Freud was an excellent writer: his unique prose style even shines through some clumsy translations.
If you are interested in the book's process of development, I would suggest reading ~The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Fliess~; another gold mine for understanding the growth of psychoanalysis.
on August 21, 2001
It does not really matter whether we love or hate Sigmund Freud. What is important to acknowledge is that he revolutionized the way we think about ourselves. Some of this revolution can be traced back to The Interpretation of Dreams, the turn of the century masterpiece that outlined his theory of unconscious forces in the context of dream analysis. Joyce Crick's groundbreaking new translation is based on the original text published in November 1899 and it is clearly a more readable and accurate picture of Freud's original work.
It is apparent that Freud concentrates to a larger extent on the use of words in dreams and on the difficulty of deciphering them. Freud's ideas of dreams as wish-fulfillment, his ideas of the retelling of the dream as a continuation, as well as the dream's manifest and latent content, are covered much more clearly than in any of the later editions of the same text. The fact that Joyce Crick's translation is faster-moving and definitively lighter than previous versions enhances the understanding of the material and engages the reader. It established a sense of dialogue with the reader.
While reading Joyce Crick's translation the author of the review remembered her first encounter with Freud's original German version Die Traumdeutung while she was an undergraduate student. The German version was definitely much more difficult to read and caused some confusion for the reader. The author valued Freud's elaboration on the symbols of dreams, but viewed the statement that all psychopathic phenomena derive from the suppression of sexual desires as difficult to comprehend (for an undergraduate student). However when comparing The Interpretation of Dreams with Freud's discussion of dreams in his work Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis it has to be pointed out that the latter is probably an easier way of gaining insight into his views about dreams. Dreams are covered in Part II of the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, which Freud delivered in two successive winter terms (running from October to March) in 1915-16 and 1916-17 at the University of Vienna. The new translation is targeted at the psychoanalytically minded postgraduate student or psychiatric registrar who had previous exposure and an understanding of basic concepts such as the preconscious, unconscious and conscious as well as the id, ego and superego. However some explanation about these concepts is provided at the end of the book.
Freud's work on dreaming has recently regained interest because among many other opportunities, the ability to conduct studies in sleep laboratories and the neuropsychological assessment of brain-injured patients has assisted us in finding some scientific evidence for some of his theories. Neuroscience has proven that dreaming can be switched on or off by a neurochemical pathway whose main function is to "instigate goal-seeking behaviors and an organism's appetitive interaction with the world" (Panksepp, 1985, p. 273). This means that neuroscience has contributed to the evidence of a radical hypothesis that is more than 100 years old (i.e. that dreams are motivated phenomena, driven by our wishes and the dopamigergic mechanisms, the appetitive (i.e. libidinal) 'command system' of the brain (Panksepp, 1985, 1998)). The Interpretation of Dreams edited by Ritchie Robertson is meeting the challenge for psychoanalysis to refresh Freudian theory, "which now has an unpalatable and distinctly post-Victorian flavor for many" (Panksepp, 1999, p.35). It assists in moving psychoanalysis towards a modern and dynamic mode of thought that continues to be rejuvenated by the accumulating evidence in neuroscience, thus consolidating its presence in the twenty-first century.
References Freud, S. (1900). Die Traumdeutung. GW Bd 2-3, 1-642.
Freud, S. (1966). New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis 1933. In Strachey (Ed & Trans). The complete introductory lectures on psychoanalysis (pp. 471-646). New York: Norton. (Original work published in 1933).
Panksepp, J. (1985). Mood changes. In P. Vinken, C Bruyn, H. Klawans (Eds) Handbook of Clinical Neurology, Vol. 45 (pp.271-285). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Panksepp, J. (1998) Affective Neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Panksepp, J. (1999) Emotions as Viewed by Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience: An Exercise in Consilience, Neuropsychoanalysis, 1,1, 15-37.
on February 24, 2002
This edition of "Interpretation of Dreams" hits all the marks-it has extensive introductory notes, bibliography, and a more than adequate index. Moreover, specific dreams in the text are referenced in a separate index. They also have the English translations of the foreign-language footnotes, which is always helful for those of us who only speak three and not seven languages. The editors understand all facets of "user friendly," which means that this book not only friendly to the user, but friendly for use. It has every bell and whistle that any student, scholar, or savant could want in a book, which is a rare thing.
Moreover, the cover art is very eye catching, since the blurred water-color profiles have a dream-like quality about them, reinforcing, but not distracting from the books subject and contents. In many ways, the book is the cover.
I admire the heavy secondary research Freud put into his book. Keeping in mind Freud's ideas were gestating in the late 1800's, when there was none of the perfected scientific research and research methods that we have today. Like Darwin, Galileo, or Newton, Freud did so much with so little in the way of technological gizmos. This adds even a greater luster to his genius.
However, there are two issues I have with Dr. Freud's methodology. First, his has a very odd universe of sampling, namely himself and his neurotic patients (136, 138). First of all, relying on his own dreams for analysis tends to make his research solipsistic, which is to say we may be looking more at Freud than his research and conclusions. Moreover, relying on neurotic patients does not yield statistically balanced data. His skewed sampling leads to a skewed conclusion.
Secondly, Freud comes to the reductionist conclusion that all dreams are wish fulfillment. Keeping in mind the strange and limited universe of sampling, it is no wonder that Freud came to this rather odd conclusion. Part of the problem is that Freud completely ignored the creativity aspect of dreams. The classic example of the creativity in dreams is Elias Howe's invention of the sewing machine needle. He was an English inventor trying to invent the sewing machine. He had all the parts in place expect the needle, which was giving him problems. He fell asleep at his inventor's table and dreamt cannibals were chasing him, whose spears that had holes in the tops. He woke up and put the hole in the top of the machine needle, and presto! A new industry.
I recognize that this book is an essential the historical literature of psychology. And I have no qualms about typical and ubiquitous Freudian sexology. Sex, or better yet reproduction, is a power drive in humanity, although I do not concede that it is the one and only drive.
on June 9, 2000
Most reviewers see the value of this great work, which lays out the dynamics of the unconscious mind. Others have a variety of misconceptions: first, he was not a cocaine addict. He misunderstood cocaine [as most people did] and, briefly, recommended it to others, including his fiancee. When his close friend died of it, Freud realized his error.
Second, one reader states that you can't find "measurements" to prove anything about dreams. As one who has practiced in the field, I can say that the reader can measure the truth of Freud's theory by using it to understand him or herself, by analyzing one's own dreams.
The dynamics of dreams are:
first, dreams are phylogenetic, i.e., inherited as a species; they are not ontogenetic, i.e., created by environmental factors.
R.E.M. studies have shown for fifty years that our eyes move rapidly while dreaming as is we were watching a film. However, all of the people in a dream are different fragments of ourselves, of our wishes, of our interests.
Second: this phylogenetic inheritance includes an innate propensity to think in pictures. Moving up the scale of consciousness, in Ucs. [unconsciousness, thinking is mostly pictorial but sometimes verbal]; in Pcs. [preconsciousness, i.e., in daydreaming, thinking is pictorial and verbal and partly in our control]; in Cs. [consciousness, thinking is mostly verbal but partly pictorial].
Dreams have two main dynamics: one, displacement [in which the mind protects itself by displacing the troubling thought with a symbol]; two, condensation [in which the mind places symbols on top of one another in layers in order to make the troubling thought hard to find].
Schizophrenics are hard to understand because much of their thinking is dominated by displacement and condensation while they are awake. Their speech has numerous layers of symbols - condensation.
In displacement, there is a manifest meaning [that which appears evident] and a latent meaning [that which one has to dig for by piercing the condensation of the displacements.
Any thinker, who chooses to simply understand, should avoid preconceptions or anger or a need to disdain or to repress. He or she should merely use the dynamics of dreaming to unravel his or her own dreams and daydreams [which can be analyzed with the same dynamics, except it is much easier because condensation is not as severe].
Freud was originally sceptical of his own insights and, as a result, he sat on this work for about a year, being reluctant to believe himself. He finally realized he was being defensive, that he was trying to repress disturbing truths about himself that were also true of us as a species.
In analysis, the analyst doesn't speak much because the best person in a position to understand himself is the patient . . . just as the best person in a position to understand his/her dream is the dreamer. Further, an analyst doesn't talk because he wants the patient to speak until he/she finally understands him/herself. That takes time.
It takes time for a person to crack the layers of condensation in his/her own thinking and to see all of the displacements.
After 100 years, Freud's book remains one of the great gifts anyone ever gave men and women to understand themselves.
on June 26, 2001
The value of this book as a reference can not be overstated, as it has consistantly been a help to me as an academic aid, in addition to a personally interesting read. Though much Freudian Theory has, to my knowledge, been cast in a fair amount of doubt since publication, there is still merit in the contents of this book. Given the impact of this work, regardless of its accuracy, it is important for any scholar to be familiar with it.
In addition, many of the individual interpretations are quick, engaging reading material, if one does not wish to undertake the task of reading the entirety of the work from beginning to end (which, as I understand it, was not the intended procedure, anyway).
on January 10, 2002
by the ever-turgid Strachey, who loves medical metaphors and Latinized phrasings more than Freud loved literary clarity; but aside from that, THE classic of psychoanalysis, and the first (and, for Freud, the favorite) of Freud's great works.
One can imagine that modern dream research would have interested Freud as much as its reductionist speculations would have amused him. Certainly he'd never have argued that because a patient's stomach hurt during a painful recital of an early memory, this indigestible piece of emotional trauma was "caused" by the gastronomic rejection of a burnt piece of toast eaten just before the session. OF COURSE psychical activity has a physical substrate. And, perhaps, vice versa. What he'd have wanted to know was: in what psychological situation was all this embedded?
One can't help but admire the boldness and honesty with which Freud presented his own dreams and associations. We might speculate in hindsight that Irma, the partially cured patient whom Freud tried to talk out of her hysteria, showed up in his dream with throat and stomach symptoms and an illness caused by a bad injection to protest the way he injected women with his sex-etiology theories, thereby in effect silencing their true voice; and smile at Freud's dream of an orator named Lecher, a dream he had shortly after accepting a position in which he did a lot of public speaking about psychology.
But that we can speculate thus we owe largely to the techniques inspired by Freud himself. He was often wrong, but the spirit of his endeavor lives on.
on May 25, 2001
This is the book that started the revolution in our view of human psychology: it uncovered the (always disputed) existence of the unconscious mind as well as created an entirely new mode of thinking about the human psyche.
Strangely enough, it is also a fun and very informative read: there are great case studies of patients, charming autobiographical asides, and a rigorous snapshot of the science of dreams at the time. It is also beautifully written: ironically, though never the recipient of the Nobel prize, Freud did win the Goethe prize in Germany for his writing style. As Walter Kaufman said so eloquently, with his rich ironies and attention to the individual, Freud offered a way to reintroduce poetry into science.
Certainly, much of what Freud thought is now disputed and discredited. Like Copernicus, whose model of our solar system failed in many respects, Freud also made fundamental errors, in particular his notorious over-emphasis of sexuality and the phallus. But we do not blame Copernicus for not seeing what Kepler, Newton, and later Einstein discovered: we value him as a step towards the unknown, as a pioneer, however timid. Freud will come to be seen the same way, as the discoverer of the unconscious mind.
on March 16, 2001
I read this book when I'm the student of a high school. It was not so easy to understand the theoretical part in contrast to the practical interpretation of dreams. It was so interesting that I could interpret the symbols of dreams. However it is different between the understanding and the assurance. I thought his assertion was false in spite of the logical coherence. All psychopathic phenomena derive from the suppression of the sexual desires! How foolish! For a rural young boy it seemed that "Love" by Standhal was more realistic. In a few weeks, I shut out the content of this book from my brain because I took it serious. This effect was too pessimistic to interpret the human being.
This book shows two important results. At first, the psychopathic is understandable if the unconsciousness exists. At second, the neuroses disappear if the unconscious sexual desires are made conscious. These findings will help the understanding of the later psychoanalysis and psychiatry.
As the unconsciousness is one of the most important discoveries in the 20th century, this book should be read.
on February 20, 2000
Make up your own mind about Freud, but in the meantime, this is one of his great works that anyone can read without having technical knowledge about psychology. Freud included much about his own dreams, and the reader will suspect that he didn't "tell all" about his own introspection--nor would most of us! But this work, along with "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life" and "Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious" are for all readers. It is worth your while to peruse one of the most influential books in human history. As for the violence of the controversy that Freud inspires--well, that vehemence must mean something: a hundred years later, we are still at it. Decide for yourself.
on January 20, 2000
This book changed my life in a profound way. Freud taught me that everything is connected. He used dreams to illustrate this. During the few weeks I was reading this book, I began looking at everything around me as possibly symbolic and/or connected. It is amazing what is available when you are receptive to this information. Freud can teach you to see the meaning in your dreams, but these lessons apply to all of life.
Freud also has such a disarming way of writing that I felt as if I knew the man as a friend once I was done reading.