Sigmund Freud’s interest on dreams had a psychoanalytic character. He was determined to discover the relation of dreams and human neurosis. In his book ‘Interpretation of Dreams’, he examines their nature, starting by observing their characteristics in order to explore whether a dream can be a neurotic symptom.
According to Freud dreams were considered to be so far an anti-scientific element for research and that was the outcome of their qualities. When a dreamer describes their dream, often he cannot narrate it clearly. It seems like something undefined, an illusion even. How can we trust that the dreamer doesn’t distort or fabricate its content when he remembers parts or just the feeling of the dream? If we can give gravity to the narration of the dreamer and overlook what he might have changed or forgotten when he describes it, then we can start examining its effect on the dreamer. Based on this idea, and the fact that scientists reacted negatively on the overestimation of dreams in Ancient times, Freud dismisses the idea of the anti-scientific and finds it excessive.
He also speaks of psychological impulses that derive from dreams. Often the dreamer wakes up with an emotional temperament from a dream. This mood could last for the rest of his day and it is highly connected with the nature of his dream. It has been noted that dreams can be the cause of our actions during the day, a cause of their psychological effect.
He continues by trying to identify the similarities that dreams have. The first would be sleeping itself. Here he refers to Aristotle’s interpretation: ‘Dream is the animation of the mind while sleeping, an animation that has some similarities with the awaken life and at the same time it differs greatly from it.’ When exploring the psychological character of sleep, Freud comes to the conclusion that it is a state where humans don’t want anything to do with the outside world. He connects it with our intro-uterine state thus a lot of people tend to take an embryo position while sleeping. In the idea of humans only being able to go on in life with often breaks to their original state that of a fetus that every morning is reborn, dreams do not seem to have a natural connection. They seem as an outside interruption of a pure state. With dreams it seems that ‘we failed to avoid a vivid mental activity during sleep which takes as away from the desired prenatal condition’, he says.
Therefore we take for granted that the mind does not stop its operations when the person is asleep. What factor could overcome our desire for prenatal peace and stimulate our mind when sleeping? We can only assume that the brain reacts to natural impulses in a discontinuous manner. Only external or internal impulses could interfere spasmodically and bring the mind to react by forming shapes, forms and images that feel as a real experience where in reality are responses to the characteristics of these impulses. Freud comes to the conclusion that dreams are the remains of mental activity during our sleep and they can only take form or be triggered by reacting to external or internal impulses. These impulses are the first similarity amongst dreams.
Only by examining the nature of these impulses we can start to understand and break the dream codes. For Freud the journey to interpretation is the breakdown of all the dream characteristics. By finding and associating the contrasts and connections of their nature dreams can be found to be the key to our psyche, a useful tool into comprehending the complexity of the human spirit.