Biological Rhythms, Sleep and Dreaming - Freud Research Notes

AQA A2 psychology

Biological Rhythms, Sleep and Dreaming

Freud on dreaming

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A2 PSYCHOLOGY NOTES Biological Rhythms, Sleep and Dreaming
Freud ­ Dreaming Research
Sigmund FREUD:
In 1896 Freud coined the term psychoanalysis to refer to the study of mental as opposed to physical causes
of psychiatric disorder. He is thus known as the father of psychoanalysis ("the talking cure").
Much of Freud's work is today considered dated or suspect however there is no denying the influence he has
had on modern psychology and personality theory. Even those who reject Freud's theories will usually accept
that he has had some influence on the evolution of their own approach.
One of Freud's main themes was the amount of activity that goes on in our minds without our awareness. This
resulted in his proposing the now famous model of Ego, Super ego, ID
EGO concerned with the conscious, the rational, the moral and the selfaware aspect of the mind.
SUPEREGO the censor for the id, which is also responsible for enforcing the moral codes of the ego
ID centered on primal impulses, pleasures, desires, unchecked urges and wish fulfilment.
Freud was fully aware of the importance of dreams and described them as the "royal road" to understanding
the unconscious.
When you are awake, the impulses and desires of the id are suppressed by the superego. Through dreams,
you are able to get a glimpse into your unconscious or the id. Because your guards are down during the
dream state, your unconscious has the opportunity to act out and express the hidden desires of the
id. However, the desires of the id can, at times, be so disturbing and even psychologically harmful that a
"censor" comes into play and translates the id's disturbing content into a more acceptable symbolic form.
This helps to preserve sleep and prevent you from waking up shocked at the images. As a result, confusing
and cryptic dream images occur.
According to Freud, the reason you struggle to remember your dreams, is because the superego is
at work. It is doing its job by protecting the conscious mind from the disturbing images and desires
conjured by the unconscious.
Psychological theories of dreaming:
Freud's `wish fulfilment'
Freud published his `Interpretation of Dreams' in 1901. For Freud dreams were the `Royal Road to the
Unconscious' providing the analyst with an insight into the repressed thoughts and desires of the human mind.
Central to Freud's general theory of personality was the idea of repression: the removal of socially unacceptable
thoughts from the conscious mind to the unconscious mind. According to Freud there are two primary motivating
Libido or life force which expresses itself sexually or sensually
Thanatos or death instinct that is aggressive either towards others or towards ourselves.
The activities of these two forces need to be monitored and any undesirable thoughts they produce
need to be repressed. Hidden in the dark recesses of the unconscious mind they would be unable to
damage the ego and cause psychological disturbance. However, at night when we sleep the ego is
relaxed, it loses some of its controlling influence and repressed desires and thoughts are able to
bubble to the surface and potentially damage the conscious mind. Freud quoted the proverb `Pigs
dream of acorns, geese dream of maize' to illustrate the point. However, in the human mind things are
not this simple. The kind of repressed material we may dream of in our desire to fulfil our wishes may
be too disturbing for the conscious mind to become aware of, for example a boy dreaming of his
unconscious desire for his mother would in all probability be traumatised. For Freud dreams are the
mind's attempt to disguise the real underlying meaning of these repressed wishes. They act as a
`psychic safety valve' allowing us to release what would otherwise be potentially damaging desires. At
night we carry out dream work in which the latent content of our dreams (the real meaning) is
converted into the manifest content (the material that appears in our dreams). This process of
symbolic transformation in which symbols are used to represent our unconscious urges, acts as
censor protecting our sleep.
Most of Freud's analyses were performed on a sexually repressed middle class so not surprisingly his theory of
dreams, like his theory of personality and development in general, is characterised by a predisposition to the sexual
act and to sexual anatomy. So although most dreams are not sexual in content, Freud believed that most adult
dreams can be traced back, by analysis, to unconscious, erotic wishes. In his `Interpretation of Dreams' Freud cites
over 100 symbols that represent the male genitalia and a similar number for those of the female.
According to Freud, dreams are spy holes into our unconscious. Fears, desires and emotions that we are usually
unaware of make themselves known through dreams. To Freud dreams were fundamentally about wishfulfilment.
Even "negative" dreams (punishment dreams and other anxiety dreams) are a form of wishfulfilment the wish
being that certain events do not occur. Very often such dreams are interpreted as a warning.

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A2 PSYCHOLOGY NOTES Biological Rhythms, Sleep and Dreaming
Freud ­ Dreaming Research
Manifest content (appears in the dream):
Aeroplanes, trains, neck ties, guns and other weapons, bullets, hoses, snakes, fish, umbrellas, screwdrivers and
other tools. Latent content real meaning: Male genitalia.
Bottles, pots and pans, caves, ovens, pockets, tunnels, jars real meaning: Female genitalia.
Driving a car, riding a horse, entering a room, climbing stairs or ladders, train entering a tunnel real meaning:
Sexual Act.
Freud is particularly preoccupied with sexual content in dreams.…read more

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A2 PSYCHOLOGY NOTES Biological Rhythms, Sleep and Dreaming
Freud ­ Dreaming Research
constitutes a typical cross section of the general population (even of Austria). A word of advice: do not talk about
middle class Vietnamese women. As far as I'm aware Freud never visited SE Asia.
Similarly, the theory was developed at the turn of the 19th century, in a sexually repressed society. It is unlikely that
repression, particularly of matters sexual would be repressed to anything like the same extent in 21st century
Europe.…read more


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