Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century. He is, undoubtedly, one of the most criticized scientists. At that, he had a great impact on the development of the western society. Of course, it is possible to criticize his ideas, it is possible to call them unscientific.
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Nonetheless, it is simply impossible to ignore Freud and his ideas. Thus, On Dreams (1914) is one of the most popular books of this controversial author. The book was written after the success of another work The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). In his book On Dreams Freud revealed his ideas on dreams to make them understandable for non-professionals. Of course, the book can also be interesting for psychiatrists, scientists, neurologists, etc.
It is possible to state that the book is a result of Freud’s self-analysis, his private practice and his theoretical orientation. Notably, Freud was influenced by the work of Jean-Martin Charcot who paid a lot of attention to hypnosis. Sigmund Freud got inspired by the ideas of unconscious mind. However, soon he adopted another method.
Freud’s friend and mentor Joseph Breuer had a very specific approach. He did not rely on hypnosis, but he used conversations to help his patients. The case of Anna O. made him as well as Freud understand that talking to patients and making them recall some events and dreams can be very effective, even more effective than hypnosis.
Such ideas became the basis for Freud’s numerous works, and especially his book On Dreams. It is possible to state that this book is one of the most well-known books by the author. The book is worth reading as it makes the world of psychopathology more understandable.
There are quite many books written by Freud. However, the book under consideration occupies a very special place as it is on the border between the world of scientists and the rest of the world. The book helps people learn more about one of the most influential theoretical approaches in psychopathology.
In his book On Dreams Freud reveals the major mechanisms of dreams. Thus, one of the central ideas of the book is that the dream is “the guardian of sleep” (Freud, 2010, p. 38). The scientist notes that sleep is one of the most important physiological processes, which helps the human organism to accumulate energy to start a new day.
Freud (2010) also notes that people can be easily distracted from sleep by various stimuli: light, sounds, physical needs, etc. Nonetheless, dreams keep people sleeping as they transform the stimuli into a more appropriate form, i.e. the form of visions which keep people in the unconscious state.
The scientist also expresses his ideas on the dream work (Freud, 2010). The researcher defines four major stages of the dream work. Freud (2010, p. 28) defines the dream work as “the transference of dream thought to dream content”. First, the researcher dwells upon condensation, i.e. combination of two or more thoughts, concepts or ideas. Freud explains that dreams are constituted by these concepts taken from the real life experiences.
Displacement is the second stage of the dream work. According to Freud (2010) specific intentions, desires or thoughts are transferred into quite different concepts. These concepts are often unrelated to the particular object or idea.
The third stage of the dream work can be referred to as symbolism. The author claims that the concepts created are then transformed into certain situations or images which the individual have experienced. At this point, it is possible to note that Freud pays special attention to sexual symbols. More so, the researcher insists that the majority of desires and ideas experienced during a day (during a lifetime) which are then reflected in dreams are of sexual character.
Finally, the fourth stage of the dream work is secondary revision. During this stage the concepts and symbols are transformed into some meaningful scenarios which are similar to those experienced in a day life. Thus, people often see particular scenes from their everyday lives in their dreams.
The researcher also notes that dreams can reveal some concepts which negatively effect people’s mood and even people’s lives. Freud (2010) mentions that dreams are constituted by the concepts which have certain importance for people. Often people ignore or even fail to perceive their intentions and desires which can result in various complexes and anxiety. The researcher claims that making people aware of their real intentions and desires can help them avoid anxiety.
It is necessary to note that the book under consideration contains various interesting ideas which can be helpful for both psychologists and non-psychologists. Freud (2010) analyses mechanisms associated with dreams. Admittedly, the four stages of the dream work are worth consideration. It is impossible to deny that the mechanisms are described in detail. It is impossible to deny that dreams are connected with people’s experiences. It is impossible to deny that dreams are often symbolic.
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Nonetheless, some stages are quite groundless. For instance, such stage as displacement is somehow overlooked. Thus, concepts do not necessarily transform into unrelated images. More likely, dreams reflect people’s experiences. Sometimes images and symbols can be combined. This is why real intentions can be difficult to identify. However, there is certain meaning in every dream.
Another important shortcoming of the book (as well as Freud’s ideas) is that the researcher pays too much attention to sexuality. The author claims that
no other class of instincts has required so vast a suppression at the behest of civilization as the sexual, whilst their mastery by the highest psychical processes are in most persons soonest of all relinquished. (Freud, 2010, p. 41)
Notably, people may suppress some sexual desires. However, people are not fixated on sexual issues. It is possible to admit that in the end of the nineteenth century the society was somewhat different from the contemporary world. Thus, people did suppress various ideas, inclinations and desires as societal conventions were too strong. People were ashamed of many things which are now perceived as normal and acceptable. Of course, nowadays people may freely talk of many things, which prevents them from developing various complexes.
However, Freud overestimated the role of sexuality in the lives of people who lived in the end of the twentieth century. He largely based his assumptions on his own experiences and memories. It goes without saying that it is really unscientific to rely on such scarce data. He tried to see sexuality in every symbol in every memory and vision.
As far as the book itself is concerned, it is possible to note that it is written concisely. It has specific chapters which deal with specific topics and themes. It is easy to follow the author’s ideas. He uses simple terms to explain his ideas and assumptions. The book is targeted at the public.
The author reached his aim as even non-psychologist will be able to understand everything perfectly well. Freud (2010) provides particular examples to illustrate his theoretical approach. He depicts his dreams and experiences. He also mentions his patients’ dreams and ideas.
As far as I am concerned, I loved the book. Even though I do not agree with some ideas articulated, I think the book under consideration is worth reading. One of the major features of the book I like most is its clearness. I believe it is important to be able to explain some difficult concepts in simple terms. Of course, I learnt a lot about dreams and the nature of people’s dreams. Now I can be more attentive to my dreams and my thoughts.
I would definitely recommend the book to everyone. It can be interesting for psychologists, neurologists, etc. In fact, it can be interesting to all people irrespective of their jobs.
In the first place, it can enrich people’s knowledge about the nature of dreams. It can also be some kind of a frame to start with. In a way, this can be a kind of a self-help book as it helps people understand themselves. Of course, those interested in psychology will find it interesting as well as it is impossible to be a professional in the field without being aware of some basic concepts articulated by Freud.
Finally, I would like to note that the present project was very helpful as I found out more about people’s dreams. Now I know more about a scientist who was bold enough to reveal his revolutionary ideas. I have always known that psychology is a very important discipline which can help people become successful. Now I am sure that psychology can help people succeed in every part of their lives.
Freud, S. (2010). On dreams. New York, NY: Cosimo, Inc.