Friday, 30 December 2011

Dream Interpretation 16

DREAM 16  

27 December 2011

Main environment
An interior with a long, brick corridor – I could only see the wall. From the corridor, there was a transition into a non-descript, unfurnished room which contained nothing but medium-sized red boxes (similar to those on ITV show, Deal or No Deal. Then at my desk, in my bedroom at home – which appeared as it does in real-life. The final scene was me looking up at the sky – but I saw nothing else of the outside environment.

The final ‘outside’ seen was during the day – the sky was a very pale, washed out blue – as it is in winter.

Myself (first person perspective – I did not see myself). There was also a male, unknown to me in real-life, but my ‘friend’ in the dream. He shared characteristics similar possessed by many males known to me in real-life which leads me to the conclusion that he is a ‘composite’ character. He was of medium height and very slim build; white or olive complexion (similar to my own); his hair was thick, black and tousled (several inches long) and he was wearing baggy black jeans and black high-top trainers with a white sole. I also associate him with myself, in male form – this is an association which came to mind immediately upon waking. I felt as if I might have seen male ‘twin’ (I am an only child, although I do have a step-brother JM, the same age as myself). There were some females in the dream – I do not recall who they were or what they looked like – I remember their presence and voices in the dream (this may have been another aspect of ‘myself’?). The final character was N – the dog- who appeared transformed (see below).

I was standing in the brick corridor, conversing with the male character. I do not know what was said. He was leaning against the wall, arms stretched. He appeared to be anxious or scared about something. I noticed that his right leg was extended towards me, with his foot at an angle. This was how I saw what he was wearing on his lower body. I was aware that I was trying to convince this male to come into a room with me to open some boxes. I could hear or ‘perceive’ female voices trying to persuade me not to do this and to leave the male alone. I took his hand and the next moment we were in a room, of which I recall no detail. There were many red boxes in the room – I’m not sure if they were on the floor or on a surface – this was not recalled. Myself and the male discussed which boxes to open and began to do so – I didn’t see what was inside them. The next scene, I was in my bedroom, sitting at my desk and using my computer. I was completing an online transaction – paying for something using my credit card. I then became worried that I had used the wrong bank card – i.e. one which was not authorised for online transactions (I do have a bank account in real-life for which I do not have a debit card and therefore cannot use for online payments). I am not sure exactly what happened next, but I had some black gel eye-liner (similar to one I use in real-life). However the consistency was all wrong – too wet and gungy. The application brush was far too big to even dip in the eye-liner put, let alone draw a precise line – it was like a large artist’s paint brush. There was then a transition, and I was outside, looking up at the sky. Above my head was a huge ‘speech balloon’ – which appeared to be N (dog). He was speech-bubble shaped (with his tail forming the ‘point’ of the balloon), but had his same ginger fur and a large, flat, one-dimensional face. I woke up.

Potential Triggers 
I had recently (two weeks ago) watched Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland, and the N character certainly seemed to be reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat. The night prior to this dream, I had been online and used a software application that warned any ‘online transaction confirmations’ would be ‘resent’ if I proceeded. My credit card is (and has been for sometime) sitting on the computer hard-drive, directly in front of me every time I use my computer. Further, Deal or No Deal has been shown on TV quite frequently over the recent Christmas period – a time also associated with the colour red and the opening of boxes. I had used a 24-hour gel eyeliner with a brush the same day as this dream, and additionally, found some photographs of eye make-up designs I had previously created, from the files of my computer.


  1. A passage from one phase to another in your life or being caught between two major aspects of your life 
  2. Spiritual; mental and physical development; self exploration 
  3. A new beginning/initial steps  
  4. Connection from one dream scene to the next 
  5. If stuck – stagnant position; inability to break free; indication of path to be followed to make a transition
  1. Strength, solidness, reliability, or rigidity
  2. Individual thoughts and creative process; ideas, designs, information
  3. A catalyst a creative process, such as resourcefulness or talent
  4. The process of establishing or building something
  5. The process of breaking something down into its smallest components (for example, to examine or understand it)
  6. Weight, load, burden, or feeling weighed down
  7. Hardening of the person by the experience of heartbreak or callousness as a result of previous bad experience; may indicate inner sensitivity despite a tough outer-shell
  8. Defensive actions; protection against future pain; isolation
The brick wall my male companion was leaning against
Leg/foot (of another person):
  1. Admiration for that person; need to adopt some qualities associated with them
  2. Ability to move forward; take action; make progress
  1. Natural desires or devastating/destructive urges; instinctual behaviour; female genitalia 
  2. Restraints; limitation and deterrence
    Aspects of yourself protected; guarded or hidden from the rest of the world 
  3. Self-discovery
Opening a box:
  1. Curiosity 
  2. A desire for understanding or information 
  3. A search for something such as an object, person, opportunity, etc. 
  4. Beginning something new, or a curiosity or desire to do so 
  5. Clarity or a willingness to hear the truth or to be honest with yourself 
  6. Receiving, or a desire to receive something
Consider how your dream self felt whilst opening the box – in my dream, I was eager to convince the male to open the boxes with me, whilst he was hesitant at first. There was some debate over which boxes to open. Perhaps this reflects some form of ‘debate’ with myself over the process of revealing or finding something I’m not sure I really wish to uncover. I am inquisitive and (as a lawyer) have a habit of fishing for evidence/trying to find the ‘truth’ of a situation.
Red boxes
  1. Anger; energy; passion; sexuality – red is a stimulant colour
  2. Highlights something of significance within the dream
  1. Aspects of yourself kept private 
  2. Intimacy; sexuality; carnal desires; romance
Me sitting at my desk, using my computer - as I appeared in the dream
  1. Yourself; your mind or your brain
  2. Technology; information; expertise; progression; modern life
  3. Availability of new opportunities
  4. Lack of individuality; absence of thoughts/feelings; non-expression of own emotions; going along with the flow
  5. Depreciated sense of superiority; desire to break free from conformity and exude your own personality
Desire to communicate/connect with a wider group of people

Credit cards:
  1. Worth; credibility and value; merit and integrity
  2. Debt; attitude towards finances/frugality
  3. Losing/misuse – carelessness/irresponsibility in real-life
  1. Desire to hide/conceal a personal characteristic from others 
  2. Desire to be more attractive and increase self-esteem/worth 
  3. Enhancement of self image 
  4. Metaphor for a need to ‘make up’ with someone in real-life 
  5. Make-up pot (a small round glass pot filled with sticky liquid substance, together with a long, over-sized brush (see below) to be dipped in for application) – overt phallic imagery
The Maybelline 24-hour gel eye-liner and application brush & artist's paintbrush
  1. Desire to cleanse problems from waking-life
  2. Nonchalant attitude to issues which need attention
  3. Paintbrush – creativity and talent
  4. Oversized object – magnification/exaggeration of symbolic meaning of object
  1. Looking up into a clear sky – hope; possibility; freedom of expression; peace 
  2. Overcast sky – anticipated anguish and hardship 
  3. Grey sky – dampening of optimism; feelings of sadness, melancholy, irritability, grumpiness; wistful reflection
Pale blue sky
Speech balloon/bubble – items which float in the air:
  1. Lightness; happiness; ability to rise above troubles in real-life
  2. Enclosure; self-contained environment
  3. Isolation; ignorance; protection; void
Orange speech balloon - the shape 'N' (dog) appeared in the dream - with a one-dimensional face and the 'tail' in the same location as above
  1. Intuition; loyalty; fidelity; protection; generosity – or a person in real-life possessing such qualities 
  2. Progression as a result of strong values/good intentions 
  3. A forgotten, lost or neglected skill/talent 
  4. A dog which is flying/reaching the top of a building/floating in the air – victory/elevation in status
'N' - the dog
  1. Protection from/fear of an undesirable social experiences or harsh environment
  2. A need to feel powerful over one's environment (often based in feelings of inadequacy)
  3. A sense of entitlement or self-righteousness
  4. Primitive attempt at self-preservation
  5. Lack of compassion or reverence for living things (if the pelt is removed from an animal)
  6. Empty or void of life energy (as above)
Cheshire cat:
  1. Deceit; mockery; mischief 
  2. A person in real-life you are not sure if you should trust/rely upon
John Tenniel's illustration of  the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventure in Wonderland (1865)
This interpretation, on the symbolism alone, is quite interesting – particularly given the fact that I had had an argument directly prior to this dream – on the subject of finances (not my own) which left me feeling as though my opinion on the matter was not being adequately heard or heeded to. In addition, I had also been thinking that my own financial management had substantially improved and I had been planning ways to make money (and increase my ‘status’) from my creative/intellectual talent – i.e. legal and creative writing. Most significantly, the image of the dog (N) is, most certainly linked with another person (PS) in respect of whom I had recently expressed trust issues, despite outwardly being reassured that there was no cause for concern. Thus the juxtaposition of N/Cheshire cat character, hanging over my head may be analysed in terms of my ability to progress whilst such anxieties and mixed emotions are ‘hanging over’ my head. Perhaps, in direct contrast to the fidelity and loyalty represented by the symbol of the dog, the Cheshire cat associations illustrate how I’m trying to see below the surface and find evidence of deceitfulness. The ‘smile’ of a Cheshire cat may symbolise the fleeting and fundamentally unobtainable nature of human happiness, which vanishes as soon as it makes itself visible. This is a particular dream I wish to free associate upon and interpret further and I will post any updates as soon as I have a chance.

In terms of the 'pale blue' sky, which appeared to be washed-out and overcast, there is one observation I think I should make at this juncture, although due to the complexity of this analysis, I undoubtedly will have to research this aspect of my interpretation further. I experience mild 'synesthesia' in my waking-life - it is estimated that 1 in 23 persons also have symptoms of this neurological condition, which has not been subject to extensive study as it rarely inhibits the daily functioning of 'sufferers'. Simply speaking, synesthesia is a condition whereby stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway causes an involuntary experience in a secondary sensory/cognitive pathway - i.e. one sense triggers another and thus associations are made between objects/sensory experiences (i.e. personification of words/numbers; the 'tasting' of words/sounds; colour associations etc). Research has shown that individuals experiencing various synesthesic thought processes also tend to have difficulties in arithmetic (I have dyscalculia - number dyslexia); left-right confusion; and poor distance/spatial awareness (the latter providing me with two excellent justifications for not learning to drive!) although they typically have 'photographic' memory. The majority of those experiencing synesthesia are unaware of the fact until they learn their peers are not perceiving the world around them in the same way - usually in childhood, which is when I first learned the associations which 'sprang' to mind as strong mental images or 'sensory memories' (my own definition, as I had no understanding of this phenomenon until a friend very recently pointed out that she had read an article about it and recognised the experiences I had described to her) had been 'randomly' allocated by my own brain - often without any form of logic. 

For example, a couple of years ago, I used to write articles as a freelance journalist for a online sex shop/information site and whenever I think about this job, I get the mental image of a screenshot from the Playstation game, Call of Duty (Black Ops) - a scene in a warehouse with grated metal mezzanine level. In the mental image, I see the scene as it appears in the game, if the playable character is positioned on the ground floor level, behind a wooden structure, looking up at the mezzanine level and the entrances onto the platform from which 'enemies' can enter the interior. Another one is the word 'grape' - for which I get the mental image of a female's thumbnail with a bruise beneath it. The day 'Wednesday' is burgundy colour and linked to the number '6' and the shape of a kite. A particular man I worked alongside in a law firm several years ago, is associated in my mind with the number '53' and the rough feel of public transport seat covers. The seaside town 'Great Yarmouth' in Norfolk is 'yellow' - I don't 'see' yellow when I'm visiting, the word 'looks' yellow in my head when I think it. The most unusual one, which has been with me for as long as I remember is also the most complex of them all - when I think back to my primary school days, I always remember sitting in morning assembly and the words "Good morning Mr Cooker" (the headmaster). I then associate a feeling of having a huge gobstopper or marble in my mouth, as if it's physically present - although I do not actually recall this being a real-life incident - and a pale green colour. There are many more experiences I could recount here, but I shall leave these for a separate post.

Back to the dream analysis - the notion of a pale, washed-out blue sky is always associated in my mind with the word 'Tuesday' and a particular road corner in my childhood hometown of 'Sheringham'. It is a very 'dynamic' image - i.e. not a one-dimensional photographic 'snapshot' (I can see all angles of the area), although it does not seem to respond to one specific memory. I cannot recall the name of the road I can see, but as Sheringham is a very small town, I will describe it to my mum and see if she knows where this image relates.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Freudian Dream Interpretation (2) - "Irma's Injection"

"Irma's Injection" 
The Specimen Dream of the Psychoanalytical Movement

I will now present Freud’s first self-analytical dream (which he termed his ‘specimen dream’) and some ways in which it has been interpreted, by Freud himself and others. Unfortunately, nearly five years elapsed between Freud’s oneiric experience of “Irma’s Injection” (July 1895) and the publication of his interpretation (November 1899) and so we cannot know of any differences between Freud’s immediate interpretation of the dream upon awakening and that which subsequently appeared in print. For a summary on the history of dream interpretation and a simple background to Freud's psychoanalytic methodology of dream interpretation, please see my earlier post.

“Irma’s Injection” (24 July 1895)
Published in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) 

A large hall - numerous guests, whom we were receiving.  Among them was Irma. I at once took her to one side, as though to answer her letter and to reproach her for not having accepted my 'solution' yet. I said to her: 'If you still get pains, it's really only your fault'. She replies: 'If you only knew what pains I've got now in my throat and stomach and abdomen - it's choking me'. I was alarmed and looked at her. She looked pale and puffy. I thought to myself that after all I must be missing some organic trouble. I took her to the window and looked down her throat, and she showed signs of recalcitrance, like women with artificial dentures. I thought to myself that there was really no need for her to do that. She then opened her mouth properly and on the right I found a big white patch; at another place I saw extensive whitish grey scabs upon some remarkable curly structures which were evidently modelled on the turbinal bones of the nose. I at once called in Dr M, and he repeated the examination and confirmed it ... Dr M looked quite different from usual; he was very pale, he walked with a limp and his chin was clean-shaven ... My friend Otto was now standing beside her as well, and my friend Leopold was percussing her through her bodice and saying: 'She has a dull area low down on the left’. He also indicated that a portion of the skin on her left shoulder was infiltrated. (I noticed this, just as he did, in spite of her dress) ... M said: 'There's no doubt it's an infection, but no matter; dysentery will supervene and the toxin will be eliminated ... We were directly aware, too, of the origin of the infection. Not long before, when she was feeling unwell, my friend Otto had given her an injection of a preparation of propyl, propyls ... propionic acid ... trimethylamin (and I saw before me the formula for this printed in heavy type) ... Injections of this sort ought not to be given so thoughtlessly ... And probably the syringe had not been clean.

Freud outlined what he perceived to be the personal, professional and family context of this dream as follows:

During the summer of 1895 I had been giving psychoanalytic treatment to a young lady who was on very friendly terms with me and my family. It will be readily understood that a mixed relationship such as this may be a source of many disturbed feelings in a psychotherapist. While the physician's personal interest is greater, his authority is less; any failure would bring a threat to the old-established friendship with the patient's family. This treatment had ended in a partial success; the patient was relieved of her hysterical anxiety but did not lose all her somatic symptoms. At that time I was not yet quite clear in my mind as to the criteria indicating that a hysterical case history was finally closed, and I proposed a solution to the patient which she seemed unwilling to accept. While we were thus at variance, we had broken off the treatment for the summer vacation. 

Manifest/associated content:
Setting: a vacation house, grand reception hall in which Freud's wife's birthday might be celebrated – i.e. the juxtaposition of the personal/family/professional aspects of Freud's life.
Initial mood: ‘reproach’ - initial mutual criticism between Freud and his female patient(s); later between Freud and his male colleagues.
Manifest cast of characters: Irma, a ‘hysterical’ widow (thought to be based on one/two female ‘patients’ Freud knew – see below); Otto (Rie), Freud's friend, medical assistant, and paediatrician to his children;  Dr M. (Dr. Josef Breuer), Freud's elder co-author of Studies on Hysteria (1895); Leopold (Dr. Ludwig Rosenberg), paediatrician colleague and friend of Freud and Rie; and Freud himself.

Images & associations:
Hall: Bellevue, wife's birthday
Irma: female hysterics, marriage, sexual abuse and frustration
Irma's pale and puffy face: pregnancy, puffiness
Irma's throat: diphtheria, tuberculosis, shortness of breath
Irma's throat’s curly structures: nasal reflex neurosis, vagina, masturbation
M's beardless face and limp: contempt
Irma's percussed body: eroticism, shame, Freud's own body
propyl trimethylamin: sexual arousal, frustration 

Latent/associated content:
Reproach 1: conjugal vs. professional duty; challenges and temptations of the couch
Reproach 2: professional (in)competence - of Freud; Otto/Dr M/Leopold and Fliess
Reproach 3: the nasal libido, bisexuality, periodicity/other Fliessian theories
Justification 1: the methods, scientific status, personal/professional perils of psychoanalysis
Justification 2: Sigmund Freud's (auto)biography; Eriksonian ‘generativity’
Justification 3: A (Post)modern hermeneutics 

In respect of “Irma’s Injection”, Freud’s analysis queried why dream ‘Irma’ suffered from ailments of the throat and abdomen; and had a pale complexion in contrast to that of his real-life patient (whom he believed ‘Irma’ represented), leading him to conclude that the dream Irma was a substitute. 

With regard to the suggestion that her disorders may be organic (and therefore not within the remit of Freud’s psychoanalytic cure), Freud questioned whether he was experiencing anxiety at overlooking the possibility of somatic illness (by diagnosing and treating her for hysteria instead), or simply relieved that if this was the case, he cannot be reproached for his failure to find an adequate cure. He noted that he has never had reason to inspect her mouth in real-life. He viewed his dream thought regarding Irma’s lack of need for dentures, as first a compliment to Irma (suggesting youth – when contrasted with his mention of a beautiful ‘Governess’ with false teeth) then suggests that the scene by the window recalled a memory of another experience – a meeting with Irma’s close female friend whom Dr M had diagnosed as having a ‘diphtheric membrane’. 

Dr M and the mention of ‘membrane’ are present in the dream. Further, Freud stated that he also believed Irma’s real-life friend to be suffering from hysteria and was aware that she suffered hysterical choking, like the character of Irma in the dream. He relates the ‘resistance’ demonstrated by the dream Irma to his belief that Irma’s real-life hysterical friend might refuse his offer of therapy due to her reserved personality. He cannot relate the idea of dentures with either the real-life Irma nor her friend and thus settles for associations of ‘bad teeth’ which reminds him of another female ‘patient’ (not one of his own) who also displayed unease in his presence. He concluded that he had compared Irma with two females who he imagined would resist his treatment and this led him to interpret the opening of Irma’s mouth ‘properly’ with his wish of wanting to replace her with her friend who he felt might be of greater intelligent and speak more freely (i.e. submit to Freud’s ‘talking cure’).

As Freud interpreted the dream, he makes attempted to censor himself (most likely to preserve details of extra-marital relationships from his family). In respect of the reference to abdominal pain in the dream, he made a further connection to the anonymous ‘third party’ (Irma’s friend?) and stated that he is measuring both his wife and Irma against the ‘ideal’ of the ‘docile and courageous’ female patient. He then acknowledged that his interpretation of this portion of the dream did not delve deep enough (into the ‘navel’ or abyss of the dream) to elucidate any real meaning or explanation with regard to this particular element. 

For example (this being my own interpretation on this section of Freud’s analysis), Freud associated the reference in the dream to abdominal pain to the third party (i.e. Irma’s friend perhaps? Or the real-life ‘Irma’ herself? The characters in the dream are interchangeable and Freud does not provide enough information for me to make a judgement – although he is clearly referring to a female patient). He expressed confusion early in his analysis, stating that he does not wish to be ‘blamed’ for the ‘unsolved’ stomach pains (he later states they turn out to be the result of gall-stones in the patient). 

Whilst the concept of blameworthiness in the analysis tends to point towards that of a professional nature i.e. Freud’s competence in recommending and carrying out certain forms of medical treatment – I think Freud’s twice mentioning of the fact he did not wish to be associated with or blamed for the stomach pains of another reveals more than he himself is willing to disclose in background detail. I think this is a hint that he has engaged in sexual intercourse and fears a resultant pregnancy outside of marriage. His own wife, Martha, was pregnant with their sixth child, Anna Freud around this time. He mentioned in annotation to the text that the dream did not turn out to be prophetic - which might also implicate him in unethical professional behaviour and the need to exonerate himself, albeit ambiguously. 

Further, Freud’s ‘replacement’ of Irma with her more docile, favourable friend at the point in the dream where Irma is encouraged to open her mouth properly signifies his desire to exchange the resistant and withdrawn female for her more forthcoming rival – something I choose to view in a sexual sense. My interpretation is credible – Freud’s paradigm of dream analysis places emphasis on sexual symbolism and the wishful fulfilment of the sexual urges of the ‘id’. The opening of the mouth relates to a submission to the ‘talking cure’ but also to the possibility of oral penetration (i.e. she is making her mouth available for Freud’s penis). 

Taking this association further – the mouth is a cavity and thus, an archetypal Freudian symbol for the female sex organs (see below – Freud relates the structures he sees in Irma’s nasal/cavity to the vagina in his own interpretation of “Irma’s Injection”) and thus, generally, Irma’s substitute is shown to be more readily available to her therapist, both psychiatrically and sexually. Even if no physical acts took place between Freud and  a female patient in real-life, my interpretation remains wholly operational within Freud’s ‘wish fulfilment’ model of dream analysis – he is unconsciously satisfying his desire to penetrate the mind and body (mouth/vagina) of a willing female analysand and thus achieving domination on two counts.

The white spots in Irma’s throat are associated with diphtheria (and therefore Irma’s friend); a serious illness previously suffered by Freud’s eldest daughter, Mathilda (Mathilde); and his concerns about his own health, in particular his prior ‘medicinal’ use of cocaine, which had caused the untimely death of a friend. The presence of Dr M in the dream is linked, not only with Dr M’s real position in their professional circle (i.e. someone of respected opinion), but recalls a memory of a previous patient of Freud whom he had ‘poisoned’ by prescribing sulphonal and had subsequently been treated by Dr M. 

The dream allegedly reminded Freud that his poisoned patient shared the same name as his elder daughter - Matilda. He saw this as him seeking every opportunity to reproach himself for his lack of medical conscientiousness, referring to ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ – i.e. that his daughter’s illness might be retribution for her patient namesake’s  earlier suffering as a result of Freud’s negligence.

Freud acknowledged that the character of Dr M in the dream appears to be a fusing of the real-life ‘Dr M’ (Dr Josef Breuer) and Freud’s elder brother – due to their similar physical characteristics (shaved chin; walking with a limp) – and concluded that this fusion might be due to a real-life disagreement he had with his brother and Dr M regarding a certain proposal of his which both had rejected. The appearance of Otto (Rie)/Leopold (Rosenberg) is explained by Freud in terms of the two real-life persons these dream characters were thought to represent – both relatives; competitors in the same profession; and previous assistants of Freud. He stated that the dream sequence recalled real-life situations when the three men were examining child patients. He compared the nature of the two men (Otto/Leopold), identifying Otto as prompt/alert and Leopold as cautious – then drew analogies between Irma and her friend. 

The dream associations took Freud from the notion of the sick child to a children’s clinic. The ‘dullness’ low on the left side of the dream Irma, enabled Freud to once again make a connection to her more favourable friend who had actual symptoms imitating tuberculosis. The ‘infiltrated’ skin on the shoulder is also associated with Freud’s own body – the rheumatism he suffered in his left shoulder at night. 

The noticing of Irma’s skin (at the same time as Leopold) ‘despite’ her wearing a dress is said by Freud to be ambiguous and intending to mean ‘feel on my own body’ i.e. relate to his own body. He noted the unusual phrasing of  ‘infiltrated portion of skin’, contrasting it with similar, yet differently worded medical terminology which related to symptoms associated with tuberculosis – again leading to further associations with Irma’s friend. The phrase “despite the dress” is held by Freud to be an interpolation. He contrasted the usual method of examining children (undressed) with that of an adult female patient – often examined over their clothes.

Dr M’s comments about dysentery, infection and poison are thought bizarre by Freud, but nonetheless he viewed this section of the dream as having significant latent meaning. He stated that he found local diphtheritic symptoms in his patient and had, on a separate occasion, discussed the condition around the time of his daughter Matilda’s illness (diphtheria). In the dream, Leopold demonstrates the existence of this illness in Irma, pointing out the dull patch which would indicate a metastatic cause of her continued pain. To Freud, the symptoms in the dream are more consistent with pyaemia. 

Freud saw the comment “but no matter” as a consolation – Irma’s suffering stemmed from an organic cause and Freud recognised this aspect of the dream as  an attempt to shift blame from himself – as a psychiatrist he is not responsible for physical illness. However he expressed anxiety that he had created such a serious illness for his dream Irma, with the sole purpose of exculpating himself as it seemed ‘cruel’. Therefore in seeking consolation, he believed he made the right (dream) choice in placing the consolatory words in the mouth of Dr M. 

Yet he saw the fact that he placed himself as a figure of superiority in the dream as requiring further explanation and felt that the content of the dream, when analysed, rendered the Dr M’s consolation nonsensical. For example, Dr M’s theory that the toxins of dysentery might be eliminated via the intestine is far-fetched and therefore Freud saw himself as ‘mocking’ Dr M’s habit of curious diagnosis. 

The mention of dysentery also reminded Freud of a male patient suffering intestinal problems, diagnosed by another doctor as anaemia with malnutrition, but appearing to Freud to be a case of hysteria. Unwilling to treat him with psychoanalysis, Freud sent him on a sea-voyage, latterly receiving a letter from the patient (who was then in Egypt) reporting a fresh onset of illness, which was diagnosed by a doctor as dysentery. Freud thought this to be a misdiagnosis by an ignorant peer, fooled by the patient’s hysteria, but also felt concerned he had placed a patient at risk of organic illness in addition to his hysterical condition. He likened the word ‘dysentery’ to ‘diphtheria’ – a word which does not itself occur in the dream. The comment made by Dr M -  “dysentery will develop” -  is perceived as a further mocking of Dr M, as Freud is reminded of story told to him by Dr M of a real-life patient who was seriously ill. When Dr M’s colleague was informed that albumen had been found in the patient’s urine, he appeared unconcerned and said “that does not matter, my dear sir, the albumen will soon be excreted!” 

It is worth noting that Freud himself, viewed all strongly-smelling body fluids (including menstruation; sweat; faeces) as being an excretion by the sexual metabolic system. Influenced by Darwinian thought, he even propounded the theory that man evolved into upright stature to distance himself from his sexual organs and the smell created by the body through sexual metabolism.

Freud concluded that the part of the dream relating to his examination of Irma and Dr M’s consolation clearly expressed derision for those of his colleagues who were ignorant of the condition hysteria. He is led to wonder whether Dr M (who diagnosed tuberculosis in Irma’s friend) had considered the possibility of hysterical illness or allowed himself to merely be fooled by her psychosomatic  symptoms. The fact that, within the dream, both Irma and Dr M accept Freud’s solution, is perceived as a revenge on both these characters – Irma, in the words “if you still have pains it is your own fault” and Dr M, in the nonsensical consolation placed in his mouth.

Freud referred to his sudden realisation as to the cause of Irma’s infection in the dream as ‘remarkable’. Otto (Rie)  had recounted a real-life story of visiting a nearby hotel to administer an injection to an unwell patient, during his recent stay with  the real-life ‘Irma’s’ family. The thought of ‘injection’ again reminded Freud of his friend, who had died as a result of cocaine use. Freud had recommended the use of cocaine, for internal use, during withdrawal from ‘morphia’ (morphine) only i.e. not recreationally, but his friend had chosen to inject the drug himself, against Freud’s advice, and died as a result.

The associations drawn from the dream preparation of “propyl... propyls...propionic acid” are complex.  The chemical equation propyl->trimethylamin [(CH3)3CNH2] reflects the ‘triadic’ structure of the dream construction itself, whereby figures appear in sets of three – i.e. Freud associates to ‘Widows’ (Irma, her friend, Martha); to ‘Elders’ (Dr M/Breuer, Fleischl, Emanuel); and to ‘Equals’(Otto/Rie, Leopold/Rosenberg, Fliess). The number three in a dream was thought by Freud to be symbolic of the male phallus.

Freud referred to the writing up of his patient case study the evening before the dream, after which his wife had opened a bottle of liqueur, named ‘Ananas’ which was a gift from Rie (with whom the ‘Otto’ character is substituted). The drink smelled so strong of fusel oil that Freud refused to drink it and joked that his wife should not poison their servants with it by passing the unwanted gift onto them. The smell of fusel oil (amyl) awakened Freud’s memory of the whole sequence – (propyl, methyl etc) which appeared in the formula for the dream preparation which appeared in heavy-type before his eyes. He recognised that he has effected a substitution in smelling amyl and dreaming of propyl  and further linked the name ‘Ananas’ to the real-life ‘Irma’s’ own name (Anna) although he referred to her ‘family name’ which may have been an attempt to add a shield of semi-anonymity. 

The fact that trimethylamin, appeared in this heavy typeface in the dream, was thought to be of some significance. Freud associated it with a conversation he had had with a close friend (Fliess) who had disclosed to him a ‘groundbreaking’ theory regarding the presence of trimethylamin in sexual metabolism. This friend was currently suffering from rhinitis.

These thoughts led Freud onto the subjects of sexuality - which he believed to be the basis of the neurotic condition suffered by the widowed Irma - and Irma’s friend, whom  also happens to be a young widow. Thus, the importance of the word ‘trimethylamin’ is an allusion for the all-important factor of sexuality. Freud stated that his friend (Fliess) had developed remarkable theories linking the turbinal bones in the nose with the female sex organs and in fact he had referred the real-life ‘Irma’ to his friend for diagnosis/treatment. The three curly structures in Irma’s throat are linked to the turbinal bones in the nose, and thus, the vagina. Freud also believed that the images in the dream were ‘oral’ in the psychodynamic sense – and hence pre-Oedipal. At the time of this dream, Freud had a concurrent interest in the connection between neurosis and oral sex acts; his interest in the sexuality of the nose formed the ‘prototype’ for his later theories on orality and obsession. 

Within the dream, reproach is directed towards Otto, being the person who rashly administered the injection to Irma. Freud referred to an incident the afternoon prior to dream where the real-life Otto (Rie) had made a comment to Freud which Freud took to be a veiled insult about his professional conduct and a sign Rie was taking sides against him. He then connected this remark with thoughts of his deceased friend, who died from injecting cocaine. Freud is keen to point out that he did not intend his friend to continue injecting himself with the drug and had merely wanted to help him overcome his morphine addiction. In identifying his reproach of Otto in the dream, Freud  is then reminded once again of the patient Matilda – the pretext for which similar criticism was levelled at Freud following his negligent administration of intravenous sulphonal.

The notion of the dirty syringe is associated, by Freud, with an incident the previous day, when he met an elderly patient to whom he administered two daily injections of ‘morphia’. He heard the patient was suffering phlebitis and had wondered if the cause might by infiltration by a dirty syringe. He was at pains to state he had never infected her, nor any other patient, with an unclean syringe. The phlebitis is then associated with Freud’s wife who suffered from a bout of thrombosis during pregnancy and Freud concluded that this brought to mind three related incidents which justified the linking of his wife; Irma and the patient Matilda in his unconscious. He does not elaborate on what real-life incidents he was referring to – another attempt to censor what might be ‘sensitive’ material from his audience.

It is at this point that Freud declared he was certain he had interpreted his dream, stating that he had been careful to avoid all comparisons between the dream-content (manifest content) and the dream-meaning (latent content) hidden beneath. He identified his intentions or motivation for having the ‘Irma’s Injection’ dream as the fulfilment of several wishes awakened within him by the events of the previous day (Rie’s visit/the writing of the patient’s case history). Following Rie’s disparaging comment about Irma’s imperfect cure, Freud’s dream fulfilled the function of absolving from him all blame, and redirecting reproach towards ‘Otto’. The dream acquits Freud of the cause of Irma’s pain and provides an organic explanation, presenting a certain state of affairs as Freud wished them to exist. The motive of the dream is thus a wish; and its content, wish fulfilment. 

Freud’s ‘revenge’ against Otto takes place for three reasons: (i) too readily taking sides against him, professionally; (ii) the injection given to Irma; (iii) the bad liqueur. The avenging of Freud continues, in the comparison of Otto with his more reliable colleague (Leopold), demonstrating Freud’s contempt towards his friend. Freud, similarly, takes revenge on Irma, his disobedient patient, exchanging her for her friend whom he perceived to be more sensible and docile. With regard to Dr M – Freud viewed his appearance within the dream as an allusion for Freud’s view that he was an ‘ignoramus’ and thus within the dream ‘replaces’ him with his friend (Fliess) who in real-life, supported Freud’s psychoanalytic cure. Freud is therefore identifying the characters represented by Otto, Irma and Dr M – and replacing them with three favourable persons.

Irma’s pains are not attributable to Freud – they are organic and thus outside the remit of psychic treatment and in any event, her own fault as she has refused to accept his solution. He suggested that Irma’s suffering was satisfactorily explained by her widowhood, a state he cannot alter. Additionally, Irma’s suffering is also the result of the negligent injection given by Otto. All these aspects of the dream unite to, in effect, acquit Freud by absolving him of any possibility of blame regarding Irma’s condition. He pointed out in the text that the absolving elements of the dream do not ‘agree’ with one another and even work to exclude each other conclusion – i.e. they are contradictory and provided an analogy by way of explanation:

The whole plea - for this dream is nothing else - recalls vividly the defence offered by a man who was accused by his neighbour of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. In the first place, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all. A complicated defence, but so much the better; if only one of these three lines of defence is recognised as valid, the man must be acquitted.

Freud examined the other themes present in the dream – some of which, the connection to his non-responsibility for Irma, is not instantly apparent. These themes included: his daughter’s illness; his patient Matilda; the dangers of cocaine; the male patient in Egypt; concern about the health of his wife, brother and Dr M; his own physical troubles; anxiety for his friend Fliess, suffering rhinitis. These themes were combined into a single train of thought, labelled as ‘concern for the health of myself and others; professional conscientiousness’.

Freud warned that his interpretation should not be considered entirely complete nor flawless (having also previously admitted attempts to censor himself with regard to personal facts relevant to the background of the dream, yet alluded to in his analysis). Therefore I have taken time to analyse subsequent alternative interpretations of Freud’s dream, which I shall post separately.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Freudian Dream Interpretation (1) - Self-Analysis & Dreaming

The art of self-analysis
Self-analysis is the interpretation of one's own preconscious and unconscious material (for example, dreams; parapraxes; memories; fleeting thoughts; and intense emotions). Psychoanalysis was to a great extent, the resultant theoretical paradigm developed from Freud's self-analysis between 1895 and 1902. The analysis of his own dreams supposedly brought Freud confirmation of what he found in the dreams of his analysands and, reciprocally, he argued that he better comprehended their dreams on the basis of his own (the subjective bias in Freud’s interpretation of the dreams of others is one aspect of his work which has come under the more intense academic criticism). Freud's self-analysis only became systematic after the death of his father in October 1896, and from that point onwards, it complemented and sustained his project of writing a book on the interpretation of dreams (eventually published in 1899). 

The method of self-analysis developed by Freud included four steps: recording the material obtained; breaking it up into sequences; free associating on each of the sequences; and finally, forging links based on the associations produced - these links thus taking on an interpretive significance. 

In his first conception of psychoanalytic training, Freud assumed that what was needed was a preliminary experience of self-analysis based on his model. Later, he took the position that the experience of a personal analysis should be required of all future analysts. The risk of self-analysis is that it favours narcissistic self-satisfaction or obsessional rumination. Self-analysis could never be a purely solitary mental activity: Freud developed it in the course of a scientific, emotional, and fantasy exchange with his friend Wilhelm Fliess from Berlin. An active self-analysis takes place within the context of interrelations (with family or analysands, for example). Furthermore it presupposes a subjective commitment to remain in analysis despite the development of personal crises.  

Self-analysis can be fruitful if it prolongs the psychoanalytic work of which it is an echo. The main difficulty is the neglect of transference/counter-transference relationships. One solution to this problem might be an 'introjection' of the image of the analyst as an ideal object, with whom an interior dialogue may then be pursued – like an imaginary session with a fictional analyst (a technique apparently used by avant-garde novelist and playwright, Samuel Beckett).

* The beginnings of Freudian dream interpretation: the initial dream of psychoanalytic movement
Freud’s first interpreted dream was “Irma’s Injection” (24th July 1895) and it was this experience – which he saw as a landmark in his career as a psychoanalyst -which enabled him to recognise dreams were a form of imaginary wish fulfilment. Didier Anzieu (1975) has argued that Freud’s ‘Irma’s Injection’ dream contains symbolism reflecting condensed themes associated with mid-life crisis. Indeed, the ‘Irma’s Injection’ dream has attracted substantial academic scrutiny, leading to the assumption that this was in fact the base point of Freud’s psychoanalytical movement, cementing his status as the ‘First Analyst’. Due to the fact The Interpretation of Dreams (conceived in 1886; drafted in 1899 and published in November of that year) was dated ‘1900’ to celebrate the turn of the century, this text has been distinguished as an important work of literature marking a new modernist culture. The perceived significance of the psychoanalytic movement in the transition to modernism and modern culture and learning, was not lost on Freud himself, who wrote to Fliess around this time, confiding that he imagined his own commemoration by way of a plaque one day being placed at Bellevue, Himmelstrasse, Vienna which would be inscribed: Here, on July 24, 1895, the secret of the dream revealed itself to Dr Sigmund Freud. This wish was fulfilled, in 1977 when the plaque was indeed placed there. 

One view of Freud’s self-analytical work, typically that held by historians and students of the psychoanalytic movement, is that it was both heroic and revolutionary – with “Irma’s Injection” marking a conceptual breakthrough and the ‘cornerstone’ of Freud’s exploration of the previous unchartered depths of the human psyche. It may be that Freud’s own beliefs that he was responsible for revolutionising psychiatry within a wider framework of substantial cultural shift which allowed him to attribute such fundamental value to his ‘pilot dream’ which became the paradigm for all subsequent interpretation. Therefore, Freud’s interpretation of “Irma’s Injection” (the dream itself is incidental – it is the interpretation of its content in which Freud’s great psychoanalytic breakthrough lies) has been referred to as the ‘great creation myth’ of the psychoanalytic movement containing the genetic code for all successive theory and practice. In terms of ‘initial dreams’ (as such significantly enlightening experiences are referred by some dream analysists), Carl Jung stated: “It frequently happens at the very beginning of the treatment that a dream will reveal to the doctor, in broad perspective, the whole programme of the unconscious”. This should be borne in mind when considering the interpretation of “Irma’s Injection”. 

Despite notable acclaim within twentieth century history and the transition to a zeitgeist of modernism and modernity in European culture, numerous academic studies have sought to deconstruct the ‘Freudian myth’. For example, some scholars have highlighted inconsistencies throughout Freud’s published dream interpretations – for example, at times Freud appears to be concerned with sharing the truth, whilst at others he is discreet, making attempts to censor personal material by anonymisation and fragmentation of his accounts. It is also said that Freud attributed parts of his own dream recollection/interpretations to various analysands and tended to ‘cut-up’ their dreams, dispersing fragmented excerpts throughout his texts, rather than presenting them in a logical or linear narrative. Anzieu rearranged the disparate passages of Freud’s self-analysis to reproduce a dynamically different chronologically ordered discourse which enables a subsequent reading of Freud’s theories in light of biographical explanations. 

By the time Freud embarked on self-analysis he was 40 years old; with a decent professional reputation (if a somewhat mediocre career) and the majority of his academic output in the sphere of neurology, as opposed to psychiatry. He had recently made the decision to become celibate with the approaching birth of his sixth child. He was concerned with the subject of neurosis and psychosomatic disorder and suffered from persistent thoughts of death; periods of depression and various phobias, leading to Anzieu suggesting that the resultant self-analysis could be viewed as a “defensive elaboration of his depression”. Freud’s shift in focus from physiological to psychical theories of mental disturbance, and the extensive time dedicated to the therapy of his analysands, were partly responsible for his isolation from the scientific community. 

I do not propose to undertake to provide a biographical account of Freud’s personal and professional life, as I could do neither justice within the confines of my project. Nor do I wish to summarise the entire psychoanalytic movement as this is not of assistance to myself, nor my readers, who would benefit from reading Freud’s texts (especially the Interpretation of Dreams (1899); and For the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement (1914)) directly alongside a critical text, such as Didier Anzieu Freud’s Self-Analysis (1975), referred to above. My purpose is providing a backdrop to my own project of self-analysis.

Many commentators have noted that Freud’s self-censorship with regard to personal affairs often distorts a reading of his work and enables various theories to be read into the vague or limited material he offers by way of explanation. This will become evident upon studying Freud’s interpretative account of his dream further. Of course, I highly recommend reading Freud’s lengthy analysis of “Irma’s Injection” from the primary source itself (which is easily accessible being regarded as a ‘modern classic’ by most publishers – I first purchased The Interpretation of Dreams for a pound from the classic literature stand in a small provincial bookstore back when I was a high school student and it’s available in most libraries and online, so there’s no excuse for not skimming through, even for the non-Freudian dream analysts!) In any case, I’ve summarised Freud’s interpretation of his seminal dream, adding my own annotation where necessary. 

* A brief history of dream interpretation
Prior to Freud, dream theories tended to fall into two broad categories: the mystical (psychic) and the biological. Some felt that dreams might hold clues to mental states, but because the content of dreams can be very confusing, exactly what this might mean was uncertain. Freud put the ability to make sense of a dream into the hands of the dreamer.

During the 19th century, a French doctor Alfred Maury, speculated, following the use of self-experimentation (self-analysis), that external stimuli are the catalyst to all dreams (Schulze, 1997). Modern dream interpretation can trace itself directly back to Maury’s development of the concept of the unconscious. Another profound influence from the 19th century was Joseph Breuer, whose work, though not directly dream-related, inspired Freud. However, although Freud is heralded as the ‘father’ of dream interpretation, the art of using dreams to uncover hidden meaning, has extensive historical and cross-cultural heritage.

The Sumerians, the first cultural group to reside in Mesopotamia, left dream records dating back to 3100 BC. According to these early writings, deities and royals (such as the 7th century BC scholar-king Assurbanipal) paid careful attention to dreams. Within Assurbanipal's archive of clay tablets, portions of the story of the legendary king Gilgamesh were found. In this epic poem – one of the earliest known classical stories – Gilgamesh reported his recurring dreams to his goddess-mother Ninsun, who made the first recorded dream interpretation. His dreams were taken as prophecy and used to guide actions in the waking world. These attitudes recorded in the Gilgamesh epic provide a valuable source of information about ancient dream beliefs.  

The ancient Hebrews believed dreams were connections with God. The biblical figures Solomon, Jacob, Nebuchadnezzar and Joseph were all visited in their dreams by God or prophets, who helped guide their decisions. It was recognized and accepted that the dreams of kings could influence whole nations and the futures of their peoples. The Talmud (written between 200 and 500 AD) includes over 200 references to dreams. It states that "dreams which are not understood are like letters which are not opened".

The ancient Egyptians also gave the dreams of their royal leaders special attention since gods were more likely to appear in them. Serapis (the Egyptian god of dreams) had temples in which dream incubation occurred. Before going to these temples, dreamers would fast, pray and draw to help ensure enlightening dreams.

The Chinese considered the dreamer's soul to be the guiding factor of dream production. The ‘hun’ (spiritual soul) was thought to leave the body and communicate with the land of the dead. They also practiced incubation in dream temples, which served a political purpose through the 16th century. Any high official visiting a city reported to a temple on the first night to receive dream guidance for his mission. Judges and government officials were also required to visit dream temples for insight and wisdom.

The Sacred Books of Wisdom, or Vedas, (written in India between 1500 and 1000 BC) stated that dreams of violence were thought to lead to success and happiness if the aggression was pro-actively handled in the dream, even if the dreamer gets hurt in the process. If the dreamer remains passive and becomes hurt by his own passivity, however, it was considered a bad omen. The Upanishads (written between 900 and 500 BC) articulates two perspectives on dreams. The first maintains that dreams are merely expressions of inner desires. The second closely resembles the Chinese belief of the soul leaving the body and being guided until awakened. It was also thought that if the sleeper was awakened abruptly, the soul might not return to the body quickly enough and the sleeper could die.

The earliest Greek view of dreams was that the gods physically visited dreamers, entering through a keyhole, and exiting the same way after the divine message was delivered. The fifth century BC marks the first known Greek book on dreams, written by Antiphon, an Athenian statesman. During this century, the Greeks developed the belief (through contact with other cultures) that souls left the sleeping body. The practice of dream incubation was as important to the Greeks as it was among Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Chinese. Aesculapius was a Greek healer who was believed to be the son of Apollo. He was linked with cults that began the practice of incubation and was believed to visit sleepers, miraculously curing them. A shrine to Aesculapius was established at Epidaurus in the fifth century BC. There are thought to be around 410 Aesculapian sanctuaries near Athens, generally being active from the sixth century BC until the third century BC.

Hippocrates (469 - 399 BC), the father of medicine and Socrates' contemporary, wrote On Dreams. His theory was simple - during the day, the soul receives images; during the night, it produces images. Therefore, we dream.

Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) thought that dreams could be indicators of conditions within the body and did not believe they were divinely inspired. He hypothesised that external stimuli are absent during sleep, so dreams are manifestations of a profound awareness of internal sensations which are expressed as dream imagery. 

Galen, a Greek physician born in 129 AD, emphasised the need to observe dreams carefully for clues to healing. He was so trusting of dream messages that he carried out operations on the basis of his dream interpretations.

Artemidorus (his contemporary) wrote on The Interpretation of Dreams (Oneirocritica). This text is said to be the best source for the dream interpretation practices of antiquity known to us. His theory is extensive, but within the five books he wrote, he describes two classes of dreams: somnium (which forecasts the future); and insomnium (which deal with contemporary matters and are affected by the state of the body and mind). He stated that the dream interpreter should have information about the dreamer including: 
  1. images that are natural, lawful and customary for the dreamer:
  2. circumstances at the time of the dream;
  3. dreamers occupation and personality. 
The western post-classical view of dream interpretation was very different from the antique one. During the European Middle Ages, dreams were often studied in the context of their relationship to God. Questions typical of the period were ‘Are dreams sent by God to a person of superior virtue? Or are they sent by demons to a person who has fallen from grace?’ Beginning with the dawn of the Christian era until the time of Sigmund Freud, dreams were not regarded as important. As society became more structured, dreams fell into disrepute, particularly due to the powerful influence of organised religion - churches had little appreciation for the use of dream interpretation.

Freud’s seminal text The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) was published during the rise of the modernist movement – the intellectual and cultural revolt against conservative values of realism which saw the views associated with the Enlightenment diminish with the rise of secularism – or the ‘death of God’.

* The basic methodology of Freudian dream interpretation
When we become tired of receiving of and responding to stimuli from environment we try to fall asleep. The main characteristic of psychical state of a sleeper is therefore a withdrawal from reality and cessation of taking all interest in it - we try to fall asleep by disconnecting from all sources of external stimuli and minimising input from environment. Of course, an absolute withdrawal in which we would cease to perceive our environment is not possible; the sleeper does not have a 'switch'. Therefore stimuli from our environment disturb us also during  sleep, and our mentality is forced to respond to them - with dreams.

Freud derived dream symbols from the resistance of dream interpretation. He noticed that resistance regularly occurred with certain elements of dreams  - even in dreams of mentally healthy people. He claimed that formation of visual answer on stimulus (dream) is not coincidental and further, the manifest layer of dream content contained associative connections to the deeper layer of latent content. Freud called these manifest elements ‘symbols’ - to which he ascribed constant (although not generic and inflexible) meaning. The dream symbols are in his opinion more or less sexual. Number ’3’in the symbolic language dreams has meaning relating to a man's sexual organs. All dream ideas which consist of three parts (‘triadic’ or ‘tripartite’) have phallic connotation. Phallus is symbolically substituted with all things that are similar to it by their form - namely long things that jut out such as mountains; rocks; sticks; umbrellas;  poles; trees...Then objects for which the penetration in the body and harming is characteristic  - for  example, weapons; knifes; daggers; lances, sabres; swords; and fire arms.  Obviously, the phallus is also substituted with objects from which water runs – pipes; watering-cans; fountains; gushing champagne bottles etc; and with objects that can be lengthened, combusted or erected - hanging lights; extensible pens; aerials; balloons; airplanes; helicopters; rockets, etc. are symbols of erection. Less evident male sexual symbols are reptiles and fish, especially the symbol of snake. A hat and a coat as well as various machines and appliances have the same masculinised meaning. Female genitalia are symbolically represented with hollow objects or receptacles that can contain things – shafts; pits and caves; vessels and bottles;  boxes; suitcases; tins; pockets; closets; stoves; ships...The same holds for houses with entrances; passages and doors; churches; chapels; castles; mansions; fortresses and even landscape itself. The material such as wood and paper as well as objects made of them - a table, a book... symbolise the same. Typical female symbols among animals are molluscs, such as snails and mussels and their shells – as they visually resemble the female sex organs and orifices. Apples, peaches and fruits in general symbolise breasts. 

All kind of playing (playing instruments also); sliding; slipping and breaking branches are symbols of masturbation. The teeth falling out and extraction of them are symbols of castration as a punishment for masturbating (castration's complex). Various rhythmical activities such as dance; riding; raising and threatening with weapons etc symbolise sexual intercourse itself. Typical activities that symbolise sexual intercourse are also climbing and going down the ladder or stairs and running inside a house. The queen and king or empress and emperor and similar relations symbolise parents. The fall into water or raising out of it symbolises birth. Falling in dreams may symbolise the giving in to sexual desires; or relate to a childhood incident of falling where the child was comforted by a parent.

Many dreams which seemed puzzling before, become more clear when considering Freud's symbols and the censorship of dream. Although dream symbols allow for direct interpretation of dreams, this does not assist in accessing the unconscious mind. The dream can be understood, Freud held, only in light of the dreamer's associations to it. After recalling the dream, the dreamer should make ‘free associations’ stimulated by certain elements of the manifest dream content, allowing the spontaneous flow of thoughts and feelings. There should be no attempts to censor or control the output of  the free association exercise, as "a rule that must not be broken: when telling [dreams] s/he must not leave out any idea even if s/he gets one of four objections: that idea is irrelevant, too senseless, that is not connected with the issue or is too embarrassing" (Freud, 1977). 

On the methodology for the psychoanalytical interpretation of dreams, Freud stated:

You entirely disregard the apparent connections between the elements in the manifest dream and collect the ideas that occur to you in connection with each separate element of the dream by free association according to the psychoanalytic rule of procedure. From this material you arrive at the latent dream-thoughts, just as you arrived at the patient’s hidden complexes from his associations to his symptoms and memories…The true meaning of the dream, which has now replaced the manifest content, is always clearly intelligible.

Freud identified distorting operations which he claimed were applied to repressed wishes in forming the recollected dream. It is due to these distortions (the so-called ‘dream-work’) that the manifest content of the dream differs so greatly from the latent dream thought reached through analysis - and it is thus by reversing these distortions that the latent content is uncovered.

Condensation - one dream object stands for several associations and ideas.
Displacement - a dream object’s emotional significance is separated from its real object or content and attached to an entirely different one that does not raise the censor’s suspicions.
Representation  - a thought is translated to visual images.
Symbolism  - a symbol replaces an action, person, or idea. 

To these might be added ‘secondary elaboration’ - the outcome of the dreamer’s natural tendency to make some sort of ‘sense’ or ‘story’ out of the various elements of the manifest content as recollected. (Freud stressed that it was not merely futile, but actually misleading, to attempt to ‘explain’ one part of the manifest content with reference to another part as if the manifest dream somehow constituted some unified or coherent conception). Freud considered that the experience of anxiety dreams and nightmares was the result of failures in the dream-work. Rather than contradicting the ‘wish-fulfilment’ theory, such phenomena demonstrated how the ego reacted to the awareness of repressed wishes that were too powerful and insufficiently disguised. Traumatic dreams (where the dream merely repeats the traumatic experience) were eventually admitted as exceptions to the theory.

Due to the lengthy nature of this particular post, I’ve made the editorial decision to break it down into several smaller articles. Please see my next post on Freud’s “Irma’s Injection” dream and the method of psychoanalytical interpretation of dreams.