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Dream Interpretation-Sigmund Freud

Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born on May 6, 1856 in the Austrian town of Príbor. He is regarded as the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. 

He wrote vastly influential texts on the unconscious mind and repression, along with creating the clinical practice of psychoanalysis.

The Interpretation of Dreams

It was in late 1899 that Freud’s work, Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams) was first published. On commenting about the book Freud stated, “Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.” Initial interest was slow (the first print of 600 copies took years to sell) however its impact was tremendous.

There are a great many websites offering free dream analysis and free dream interpretation and many sites still use Freud’s methodology. Freud believes that the world of dreams allows a person to exercise subconscious desires which have been suppressed during waking life. These desires are manifested symbolically during dreams. Within this article, a fictional dream symbol of a dog peeling a banana will be analyzed.

The Freudian Subconscious

Freud famously classified the subconscious in three different sections:

  • The Id – The ‘id’ contains the most primal and primitive desires, such as unrestrained sexual desire and the pursuit of pleasure.
  • The Ego – The ego is the self-aware section of the mind. It is the section which is aware of the perceptions and senses of the world and works them into understanding to aid the functions of the individual.
  • The Superego – The superego acts as a censor of the id. This is the section which will suppress desires and prevent a person who performing the actions that may be interpreted (in a modern society) as immoral. It is the part which will turn desires of the id into the symbolic figures inside dreams.

During the waking day, the id will be suppressed by the superego. When a person is asleep, the influence of the superego will be lessened the id with reveal the mind’s deepest inner desires. This is why dreams may seem strange and unrealistic and also why they are difficult to remember, as the superego will immediately try to wipe them away once the conscious awakened cycle is resumed.

Tools to Read Meaning In Dreams

Freud believed that there were two varieties of content within dreams: the manifest content (referring to the nonsense story of the dream) and the latent content (referring to the actual meaning).

By using psychological free-association, it is possible to attempt to decipher the latent content of a dream from the memory of the manifest content. During this dream symbols will be presented to the participant and they will be asked to state the first thing that comes into their mind. For example a person who had a dream with an image of a dog peeling a banana may be given the word “banana” and asked the very first thing that comes into their mind. Free-association attempts to “contact” and receive input from the subconscious by asking for immediate and unconsidered answers.

Processes of Determining Meanings of Images Within Dreams

Freud also gave five different classifications of images within dreams. These can also be used within analysis of meaning.

  • Displacement – This happens with an inner desire is referenced by a symbol. So within the example of a dog peeling a banana dream, displacement could be shown within the banana. The act of revealing inner-worth within an object by removing the tough outer skin to find the fruit inside. This could reference hard work or emotions of finding happiness within effort.
  • Projection – This occurs when the dreamer forces inner desires onto an acquaintance or peer. This is difficult in the example of the dream of the dog peeling a banana, as there are no people in the image. However, the dog could perhaps represent a friend or family member, perhaps finding success in work or a hobby (i.e. winning or earning the banana.)
  • Symbolization – This occurs when the id reveals the inner desires through actions with an object in the dream. In the example of the dog peeling a banana, the image of the banana would have given some certain ideas and suggestions to Freud, which are fairly obvious to even the most innocent reader. The action of peeling the banana could reveal a repressed sexual urge or desire. When combined with projection this could represent witnessing or painfully imagining a friend or acquaintance with a desired partner.
  • Condensation – This occurs when an image conceals a desire. For example within the described dream, the dog could represent the inner “tamed” anger towards something which has occurred. Once again mixing this with the previous two examples could reveal a feeling of anger towards losing a desired partner.
  • Rationalization – This is simply the stage within a dream where the subconscious constructs a relatively understandable image. So this is the stage where the subconscious constructed the image of a dog peeling a banana from the emotions and inner desires felt by the dreamer.

Is Freud Accurate?

In such a business as dream interpretation it is simply impossible to answer whether or not techniques are accurate or not. By near every definition a dream is a collection of a mixed mesh of memories and associations.

As has been shown within the example of the dog peeling a banana dream, it is possible to form “back-story” and meaning within even an imagined symbol. Therefore, is it plausible that this can seriously be used for analysis of the inner working of the human mind? As with many things within psychology and investigating the sub-conscious, it simply comes down to subjective opinion and realistic beliefs.

Readers may also enjoy learning theories of dreams by Carl Gustav Jung.


  • Freud, S (1899) The Interpretation of Dreams, Wordsworth Press.
  • Storr, A (2001), Freud, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford Paperbacks.

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