Sigmund Freud and the Meaning of Dreams

We all dream, night after night. Dreams are important, in fact, we do a lot of daydreaming as well. If you would add up all the popular songs in which a dream is important, you would get quite a list… When you are not dreaming of a white Christmas, you may be dreaming about the love you have lost, or you would like to win. Even in politics and society we know “the dream”: think of Martin Luther King and his “I have a dream” speech.

So we dream… even when we wake up and cannot remember any of them, we have had a couple of dreams. We always dream; and why is that? To keep ourselves from totally psychological disorder. If we wouldn’t dream, our life would be in shambles. Says who?

Enter Doctor Sigmund Freud from Vienna (Austria). The great physician and psychiatrist who made quite a name for himself in the late 19th century and even more so when in 1899 he published his book about dreams: “Traumdeutung”, meaning ‘the explanation of dreams’. According to Freud’s theory all our dreams are a signal from our subconsciousness, and more to the point of our wishes from the subconsciousness that we cannot control but that are there all the time. And according to Freud those wishes are far and foremost sexual wishes we dare not express in our daily life, because of all the rules and regulations, the do’s and don’ts, the inhibitions and shame that come with them.

Does that mean we all are little sneaky perverts deep down inside? By no means… it merely tells us something about our society. Back in Freud’s time – a good century ago – the sexual aspirations one had were not to be discussed, let alone to be accomplished. Everything was pretty much hush hush and it was not for nothing that the practice of Doctor Freud was full of so-called hysterical women… not getting what they were longing for but not able to so express. “Was will das Weib?” was a famous outcry of Freud’s; “what is it the wife wants?”

So our dreams get us where we dare not explore when we are fully awake. There are a lot of Freudian symbols: a tunnel, or a cave: the female genitals. A tower, a snake: the male genitals. Surely you can imagine some more. Artists like Salvador Dalí used a lot of Freudian symbols in his paintings, only to enjoy if you know what they mean.

Should we feel guilty because of what we dream – we do sometimes remember a dream and are very often puzzled by them. Not at all; a dream is a way to express ourselves in our most basic way. Let’s face it, long before we invented all the things we have today cave men and women were contented with a roof over their heads, food, warmth and sex. All the rest is nice to have, but not necessarily to survive as a species…

Much as Freud set the tone with his theory on dreams, his co-workers and followers Adler and Jung, both very much acclaimed in their times, worked out the necessary nuances to it. The dream-theory was the basis to the psychoanalysis used ever since Freud’s theory until now but there is a difference in blindly following Freud or using his theory about dreams as a starting point. Freud felt that by letting his patients freely associate on his/her dreams, he could reach their subconscious and therefore help them getting better. In a way that’s all psychology is about: the problems we have with what we cannot express, accomplish, fulfill…

So next time you dream – remember, you dream every night several times – so next time you remember your dream don’t start explaining them totally according Doctor Freud’s theory… You may well have dreamt about buying a nice new house (great!!) and that would not necessarily mean you have unaccomplished sexual desires. Unless of course the real estate agent is a gorgeous woman with legs up to her armpits (male dream) or a man with a dazzling set of teeth and bedroom-eyes (female dream). Then maybe it is time to check your “state of sexual happiness”, for all it’s worth!