According to Freud dreams are a mental phenomenon and not a physical phenomenon. If we consider dreaming as a physical effect then there would be no space for psychological research. He supports that the dreamer has already the knowledge for interpretation in his mind without being aware of the existence of this knowledge. Only by attempting a specific technique the dreamer would be able to retrieve and recall this information.
He attended a series of experiments on the topic of hypnosis made by Liebau and Bernheim in 1889 where a man was hypnotized and was the subject for that kind of research. When the man came out of the hypnosis it seemed like he was not able to recall any memory of what had happened during the act. Bernheim encouraged him to go back to his experience and retrieve all the information needed. The man was not conscious of the fact that he possessed this knowledge and yet he did. From this experiment we understand that since the memory exists in our mind, under specialized influence we will be able to make the necessary connections and regain awareness of that memory.
Freud connects the experience of the man under hypnosis with that of a dreamer. It is very likely that the dreamer is aware of the meaning of his dream but he is not able to have access to its source. Being more conscious of his inner self, mental and physical condition, ideas and worries, interests and experiences the dreamer is more able to break the code of the disguised visual imagery of his dream than an external factor.
How would the dreamer be able to access this information since they are not aware of its existence?
By simply answering to the question; How come you had this dream? Disregarding the idea that the dreamer thinks he has no knowledge about his dream, his answer is the solution to the puzzle. According to Freud when we request from the dreamer to interpret his dream we ask him to translate its meaning based on ‘FREE ASSOCIATIONS’. These connections are not a derivative of thought but a derivative of ‘FREE CHOICE’ that is linked to the subject of research. A lot of people can be resistant to this method and we may have to be more precise when requesting the nature of the association in order to give the dreamer more freedom to reply. Others can be more eager and quick to make such associations.
Freud connects experiments made on the process of psychotherapy based on guided associations with the use of the same technique for the interpretation of dreams. He speaks about one of his patients that had many relationships with girls and describes an experiment he tried. He asked the patient to tell him the first female name that came to his mind and as one would think he would start listing a number of female names the patient replied ‘Albin’ when he had never met a woman with that name. The man was blonde and Freud often referred to him as ‘albino’ for a joke. Freud then comes to this conclusion; ‘In the request of the female element on this man’s nature, he was the ‘woman’ that interested him the most.’
The same principles will apply to the associations based on dreams. The dreamer can be able to decode the enigma of the visual imagery by having the choice and freedom to associate them with his psychological state. In order to understand the nature and function of these connections we will need to take into consideration that there is no element of ‘chance’.