For Freud the
‘perception of the dream element is not something primary and substantial, but a substitute for something unknown for the dreamer, exactly like a subjective intention of a fault. It is a substitute for something that the person is truly aware of but it is not approachable to their knowledge.’
This information lies in the ‘unconscious’ which means that it is known by the dreamer but it is not accessible momentarily. In order to bring to consciousness this hidden sections we would need to approach the elements of the dream that are conscious using free associations.
Freud speaks of three principal rules that need to be taken into consideration in order to be able to interpret our dreams:
1. We should not confuse the superficial meaning or storyline of the dream with the ‘unconscious thoughts that we are requesting to understand’. The surface is not important but only the elements that stand out.
2. We should not rush on the unconscious thoughts but let them stand out spontaneously.
3. We should follow the road of these elements without judging their relationship with our mental state or considering the fact that they can take us away from the original element.
It is not important whether we remember our dreams exactly or not. By trying to change the details of a dream we gain a tool into the realization of the unconscious thought. These distortions work on our behalf giving us quicker access to our psyche. We can use our false recollection that happened on purpose by decoding its distortion to understand what is really troubling us.
But how do our associations really work?
People have a tendency not to accept their associations concerning a dream but instead they tend to judge them either as irrelevant to the subject, foolish or incompatible. When we are interpreting a dream on the presence or with the help of another person we may even be ashamed for the content of our association judging it as unpleasant or even rude. So we may seem as we are trying to self-sabotage our work of dream interpreting by not letting our mental connections to flow freely but trying to keep them close to the original element or judging their content. So it would seem natural to try not to surrender to these judgments and when we are interpreting for someone else to prompt them to avoid them and let themselves follow freely these links even if they are too embarrassing to be brought into light.
Usually the dreamer would agree to follow this advice but we would later notice that they are unable to keep this in mind and act by it during the process. Here we can notice a resistance towards the interpretation of dreams and we can assume that this resistance is deliberate since even by understanding its existence it does not cease to occur. Why would we want to hide something unless it was too important to reveal it? The significance of this resistance has a great value. Freud suggests that all the associations that face this kind or resistance are the most important ones and the ones closer to the unconscious thought.
The combination of the frequency and the intensity of our resistance with the amount of associations we would need to make in order to interpret our dream are highly connected with the time that the whole process would take. ‘The number of the necessary associations varies according to the intensity and frequency of our resistance.’
It is important to understand these ideas in order to continue our trip into the interpretation of dreams. Here we notice that in psychoanalysis no mistake or judgmental behaviour comes by chance and everything has a meaning. In order to understand and enter our inner world we should learn to value these ‘faults’.