One of the ways that lead to the world of the unconscious is represented by dreams.
Dreams present themselves with the characteristics of inconsistency, incomprehensibility and lack of meaning. The analyst’s task is to follow the fleeting trace given by the dream and try, through it, to decipher the enigma, the secret that the unconscious hides.
The analysis highlights the existence of two levels of the dream:
- manifest content: that is, what is seen during the dream;
- latent content: that is, the true meaning of the dream that must be reconstructed through analysis.
In the context of the manifest content, everything that has been removed from consciousness, and that has re-emerged in the dream, must undergo a disguise before it can enter the dream. The unconscious therefore camouflages the thoughts or images it wants to bring out, in order to avoid the censorship of the ego. This disguise-camouflage can take place in two ways:
- condensation: this process requires that within a single subject there is a superimposition of images of individuals, having a common central point;
- displacement: the psychic intensity of latent ideas is transferred to images and ideas that seem to have little importance in the dream.
The dream uses symbols that must be interpreted.
The analyst’s task is to overcome the patient’s resistance to face the removed contents and carry out, together with him, the analysis of such contents. The method used, whether it starts from dreams or from memories, slips of the tongue or other “failed acts”, is that of free associations. The patient is invited to communicate which images, memories or representations of any kind spontaneously and freely tend to associate with a certain detail or element, for example with a dreamed object.
It is important for the analyst to avoid that consciousness prevents this activity through its ability to censor. Precisely for this reason, the ego must not take over in the interpretation of dreams.
In fact, it tends to rationalize the dream, or to provide a rational and socially acceptable meaning to the dream.
If no aspects emerge from the interpretation of the dream that the ego has censored, then it means that the interpretation of the dream did not take place correctly.
According to Freud the dream is the “veiled realization of inhibited desires”, that is the expression of desires that the conscience disapproves and does not want to be revealed. The conscience therefore exercises a censorship preventing those contents from emerging.
Sleep, causing the relaxation of consciousness, allows these contents to be expressed and reach the consciousness.
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