Sigmund Freud's Method and Theory of Dream Analysis Essay
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I wrote this paper to get a better understanding of Sigmund Freud’s method and theory of dream analysis. The purpose of the paper will be to show the principals of Freud’s dream related theory that focuses on the physiology, interpretation, and psychology of dreams and to explain concepts such as latent and manifest content of dreams, the part of unconscious process, and the nature of dreams role in the determination of dream content. I would like to explore Sigmund Freud’s explanations of psycho-analytic and psychological theory and method to reveal whether Freud’s continuous revising to sexually based conclusions are able to support his own arguments. One of his themes was the amount of activity that goes on in our brains without us even…show more content…
There are numerous theories regarding the function of our dreams, they are mainly based on speculation more than research. This enchanted place of consciousness is what got me interested about dreams. Dreams are based on the individual in that we usually dream of ourselves. I feel that greater understanding of our dreams will have a major influence for individuals to understand themselves better. Why people dream, what they dream of, and what is the meaning of their dreams, are topics of interests with many types of researchers, artists, and some clinical practitioners. Freud believed our dreams gave insight to our deep desires of love, money, and acceptance or any yearning of the individual. The point of view of which Freud interprets and examines the manifest of dreams content to obtain their latent meaning is of a professional psychologist and clinical observer who looked for a way to explain how our minds work and how the individual psychology functions. He based his work on clinical experiences and clinical neurosis of the matter of his own interpretations to be able to confirm his theories as a proven fact. The result Freud gets from the patients he observes and interpretation of their dreams are stereotyped to the complete human condition. Our dreams are objects of endless enchantment and mystery for mankind as far back as the beginning of time. The nocturnal
I. Overview of Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory
Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis has endured because it (1) postulated the primacy of sex and aggression-two universally popular themes, (2) attracted a group of followers who were dedicated to spreading psychoanalytic doctrine, and (3) advanced the notion of unconscious motives, which permit varying explanations for the same observations.
II. Biography of Sigmund Freud
Born in the Czech Republic in 1856, Sigmund Freud spent most of his life in Vienna. In his practice as a psychiatrist, he was more interested in learning about the unconscious motives of patients than in curing neuroses. Early in his professional career, Freud believed that hysteria was a result of being seduced during childhood by
a sexually mature person, often a parent or other relative. In 1897, however, he abandoned his seduction theory and replaced it with his notion of the Oedipus complex, a concept that remained the center of his psychoanalytic theory.
III. Levels of Mental Life
Freud saw mental functioning as operating on three levels: unconscious, preconscious, and conscious.
The unconscious includes drives and instincts that are beyond awareness but that motivate most human behaviors. Unconscious drives can become conscious only in disguised or distorted form, such as dream images, slips of the tongue, or neurotic symptoms. Unconscious processes originate from two sources: (1) repression, or the blocking out of anxiety-filled experiences and (2) phylogenetic endowment, or inherited experiences that lie beyond an individual's personal experience.
The preconscious contains images that are not in awareness but that can become conscious either quite easily or with some level of difficulty.
Consciousness plays a relatively minor role in Freudian theory. Conscious ideas stem from either the perception of external stimuli (our perceptual conscious system) or from the unconscious and preconscious after they have evaded censorship.
IV. Provinces of the Mind
Freud conceptualized three regions of the mind: the id, the ego, and the superego.
A. The Id
The id, which is completely unconscious, serves the pleasure principle and contains our basic instincts. It operates through the primary process.
B. The Ego
The ego, or secondary process, is governed by the reality principle and is responsible for reconciling the unrealistic demands of the id and the superego.
C. The Superego
The superego, which serves the idealistic principle, has two subsystems-the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience results from punishment for improper behavior whereas the ego-ideal stems from rewards for socially acceptable behavior.
V. Dynamics of Personality
Dynamics of personality refers to those forces that motivate people.
Freud grouped all human drives or urges under two primary instincts-sex (Eros or
the life instinct) and aggression (the death or destructive instinct). The aim of the sexual instinct is pleasure, which can be gained through the erogenous zones, especially the mouth, anus, and genitals. The object of the sexual instinct is any person or thing that brings sexual pleasure. All infants possess primary narcissism, or self-centeredness, but the secondary narcissism of adolescence and adulthood is not universal. Both sadism (receiving sexual pleasure from inflicting pain on another) and masochism (receiving sexual pleasure from painful experiences)
satisfy both sexual and aggressive drives. The destructive instinct aims to return a person to an inorganic state, but it is ordinarily directed against other people and
is called aggression.
Freud believed only the ego feels anxiety, but the id, superego, and outside world can each be a source of anxiety. Neurotic anxiety stems from the ego's relation with the id; moral anxiety is similar to guilt and results from the ego's relation with the superego; and realistic anxiety, which is similar to fear, is produced by the ego's relation with the real world.
VI. Defense Mechanisms
According to Freud, defense mechanisms operate to protect the ego against the pain of anxiety.
Repression involves forcing unwanted, anxiety-loaded experiences into the unconscious. It is the most basic of all defense mechanisms because it is an active process in each of the others.
B. Undoing and Isolation
Undoing is the ego's attempt to do away with unpleasant experiences and their consequences, usually by means of repetitious ceremonial actions. Isolation, in contrast, is marked by obsessive thoughts and involves the ego's attempt to isolate an experience by surrounding it with a blacked-out region of insensibility.
C. Reaction Formation
A reaction formation is marked by the repression of one impulse and the ostentatious expression of its exact opposite.
Displacement takes place when people redirect their unwanted urges onto other objects or people in order to disguise the original impulse.
Fixations develop when psychic energy is blocked at one stage of development, making psychological change difficult.
Regressions occur whenever a person reverts to earlier, more infantile modes
Projection is seeing in others those unacceptable feelings or behaviors that actually reside in one's own unconscious. When carried to extreme, projection can become paranoia, which is characterized by delusions of persecution.
Introjections take place when people incorporate positive qualities of another person into their own ego to reduce feelings of inferiority.
Sublimations involve the elevation of the sexual instinct's aim to a higher level, which permits people to make contributions to society and culture.
VII. Stages of Development
Freud saw psychosexual development as proceeding from birth to maturity through four overlapping stages.
A. Infantile Period
The infantile stage encompasses the first 4 to 5 years of life and is divided into three subphases: oral, anal, and phallic. During the oral phase, an infant is primarily motivated to receive pleasure through the mouth. During the second year of life, a child goes through an anal phase. If parents are too punitive during the anal phase, the child may become an anal character, with the anal triad of orderliness, stinginess, and obstinacy. During the phallic phase, boys and girls begin to have differing psychosexual development. At this time, boys and girls experience the Oedipus complex in which they have sexual feelings for one parent and hostile feelings for the other. The male castration complex, which takes the form of castration anxiety, breaks up the male Oedipus complex and results in a well-formed male superego. For girls, however, the castration complex, in the form of penis envy, precedes the female Oedipus complex, a situation that leads to only a gradual and incomplete shattering of the female Oedipus complex and a weaker, more flexible female superego.
B. Latency Period
Freud believed that psychosexual development goes through a latency stage-from about age 5 until puberty-in which the sexual instinct is partially suppressed.
C. Genital Period
The genital period begins with puberty, when adolescents experience a reawakening of the genital aim of Eros. The term "genital period" should not be confused with "phallic period."
Freud hinted at a stage of psychological maturity in which the ego would be in control of the id and superego and in which consciousness would play a more important role in behavior.
VIII. Applications of Psychoanalytic Theory
Freud erected his theory on the dreams, free associations, slips of the tongue, and neurotic symptoms of his patients during therapy. But he also gathered information from history, literature, and works of art.
A. Freud's Early Therapeutic Technique
During the 1890s, Freud used an aggressive therapeutic technique in which he
strongly suggested to patients that they had been sexually seduced as children.
He later dropped this technique and abandoned his belief that most patients had
been seduced during childhood.
B. Freud's Later Therapeutic Technique
Beginning in the late 1890s, Freud adopted a much more passive type of psychotherapy, one that relied heavily on free association, dream interpretation, and transference. The goal of Freud's later psychotherapy was to uncover repressed memories, and the therapist uses dream analysis and free association to do so. With free association, patients are required to say whatever comes to mind, no matter how irrelevant or distasteful. Successful therapy rests on the patient's transference of childhood sexual or aggressive feelings onto the therapist and away from symptom formation. Patients' resistance to change can be seen as progress because it indicates that therapy has advanced beyond superficial conversation.
C. Dream Analysis
In interpreting dreams, Freud differentiated the manifest content (conscious description) from the latent content (the unconscious meaning). Nearly all dreams are wish-fulfillments, although the wish is usually unconscious and can be known only through dream interpretation. To interpret dreams, Freud used both dream symbols and the dreamer's associations to the dream content.
D. Freudian Slips
Freud believed that parapraxes, or so-called Freudian slips, are not chance accidents but reveal a person's true but unconscious intentions.
IX. Related Research
Freudian theory has generated a large amount of related research, including studies on defense mechanisms and oral fixation.
A. Defense Mechanisms
George Valliant has added to the list of Freudian defense mechanisms and has found evidence that some of them are neurotic (reaction formation, idealization, and undoing), some are immature and maladaptive (projection, isolation, denial, displacement, and dissociation), and some are mature and adaptive (sublimation, suppression, humor, and altruism). Valliant found that neurotic defense mechanisms are successful over the short term; immature defenses are unsuccessful and have the highest degree of distortion; whereas mature and adaptive defenses are successful over the long term, maximize gratification, and have the least amount of distortion
B. Oral Fixation
Some recent research has found that aggression is higher in people who bite their finger nails than it is in non-nail biters, especially in women. Other research found that people who are orally fixated tend to see their parents more negatively than did people who were less orally fixated.
X. Critique of Freud
Freud regarded himself as a scientist, but many critics consider his methods to be outdated, unscientific, and permeated with gender bias. On the six criteria of a useful theory, psychoanalysis is rated high on its ability to generate research, very low on its openness to falsification, and average on organizing data, guiding action, and
being parsimonious. Because it lacks operational definitions, it rates low on
XI. Concept of Humanity
Freud's concept of humanity was deterministic and pessimistic. He emphasized causality over teleology, unconscious determinants over conscious processes, and biology over culture, but he took a middle position on the dimension of uniqueness versus similarities among people.