Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams.Translated by James Strachey. Middelsex: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1985.

Vol. 4 -5\Dreams\Repression\Displacement\Condensation\distortion\opposites\forgetting\symbols\theory\

Marc's Notes:

Considering the length of this book, I will not enter a discussion of the first five and the seventh chapters. Instead I will concentrate upon Chapter six where we find the bulk of and the most extensive formulation of Freud`s dream theory. In this 300 page chapter Freud outlines the notions of the dream work, distinguishes between the concepts of latent and manifest dream contents, the wishful nature of dreams, and so on.

A] Condensation: (383)

Freud had noticed that when comparing the manifest (the dream content visible in the dream image itself) and the latent (the dream material that lies in the background and informs the manifest content--i.e., it is not necessarily present in the actual dream) that a mechanism called condensation occurred. That is, he came to the conclusion that the latent dream thoughts had been compressed, probably because the material was too objectionable for the dream censor (that which censors material that is too objectionable and hence wakes us when it appears), in order to present a more fecund and acceptable dream image. Freud thought that it is impossible to judge how much condensation occurs at any time, but still recognized that dream thought could never be considered to be complete.

Freud first answer to the question why there is condensation is as follows: If we could remember the dream (vs. the fragments that we do remember), it may prove to be as extensive and lengthy as the dream thoughts themselves. Thus this answer is one from the point of view of the economy of the psychical system. Freud hypothesized that condensation occurred during the process of the dream work and is not inhibited by the possibility of its being forgotten.

Freud questioned whether it is justifiable to assume that all associative thoughts occurring in the dream thoughts were actually active and present in the dream work. His concern is based upon the notion that it is possible that new trains of thought may arise during dream analysis. (384) Nonetheless, he recognized that it more likely the case that the great bulk if thoughts revealed in analysis were already active during the dream's formation. He concludes that there is no need to form a `plastic` idea of psychical conditions during the formation of dreams. That is, we are dealing with an unconscious process of thought which can easily be differentiated from what we perceive during conscious and purposeful reflection.


Since it is theorized that only a small amount of dream which thoughts are revealed are represented in the dream through their ideational elements, (385) we might conclude [1] condensation comes from the omission of elements of the dream thoughts. Freud Claims that this notion is not a sufficient one to explain the phenomena because the outstanding question is `what is the conditions that determine the selection of the material?`(386) Therefore he offers other possible solutions: [1] elements occur in dreams because their ideational associations most accurately reflect the dream thoughts or causes thereof. This notion implies that the accepted representation is constituted of nodal points with several meanings that connect with the dream thoughts at several locations. [2] Dream elements seem to be over determined-i.e., they are represented several times over. And conversely [3] individual dream thoughts are represented in dreams by several elements. (388) Therefore Freud concludes:

A dream is constructed, rather, by the whole mass of dream-thoughts being submitted to a sort of a manipulative process in which these elements which have the most numerous and strongest supports acquire the right of entry into the into the dream-content....(389)

It follows, therefore, that it is only through analysis that one learns whether the dream-contents came from unconscious wishes or from memory (repressed or otherwise). (394)

To Freud condensation works to produce composite figures. From his point of view this is the chief method of condensation in dreams. (400) Freud continues by noting that the mechanism of displacement often takes the place of condensation. (401)

Condensation often occurs via a compromise of some sort or another. That is, there is a compromise of a kind that allows tow groups of ideas to converge. Thus a intermediate common entity is constructed which admits a multiple determination during dream analysis. It is through this intermediate entity that the dream ideas enter the dream-content more readily. (402) Thus condensation in dreams is characteristic of the relationship between the dream-thoughts (the thoughts behind the construction of the actual dream) and the dream-content (the images represented in the actual dream). The activity of condensation occurs for both imagery and language. (407- 413) In both cases several ideas or images are condensed into an single image or word representation which effectively associates with the multitude of ideas put forward.


Freud notes that the roles of elements of the manifest contents of dreams need not display the same role in the dream-thoughts. Therefore what is clearly the essence of the dream-thoughts need not be represented in the dream at all. (414) Thus we see that the dream is differently centred from the dream-thoughts--i.e., the contents of the manifest dream had different contents as their central point.

To Freud the multiple determinants that are involved in the determination of what is included in a dream is not always a primary factor in dream construction. Rather it is often the secondary product of a psychical force which is still unknown to us. Therefore, he concludes, it is plausible to view the dream work as a psychical force that operates by [1] striping elements with high psychical value of their intensity or [2] through over determination, create, from elements of low psychical value, new values. (415)

What Freud is in effect saying is that there are two way that displacement works. First, it removes or reduces over-intense affectual energy from an idea and second it creates and attaches to an idea, by several repetitions, a higher level of affective energy. From this Freud claims that a transference of psychical intensities occurs. Its result is that there difference between the `texts` of the dream-content and the dream- thoughts appear. From here Freud concludes that displacement and condensation are the two governing forces to whose activities we may ascribe the from assumed by dreams. A consequence of displacement, thus, is that the dream-contents no longer represents the core of the dream-thoughts and that the dream offers no more than a distortion of the dream-wish that exists in the unconscious. (417) Freud continues to note that he thinks that displacement could be said to be the chief cause of dream distortion and that the elements of the dream-thoughts that take it into the dream `must escape the censorship imposed by resistance.` (419)


Freud notes that there are two other means of influencing the material choices of dreams. The first is here described as the process involved in dream interpretation (i.e., secondary revisioning, see pp. 628ff). (420) This method proposes the completion of dream analysis through a process of synthesis. That is, as the interpretation proceeds the analyst collects the dream thoughts and then goes on to reconstruct the processes through which the dreams are formed. Freud makes a cautionary statement in that he feels that such synthesis is inadequate as there is an incredible wealth of material for one to go through and hence such synthesis is rarely convincing. Still Freud notes that even though there is a great deal of material collected through such exercises, not all of it is of value. That is, there are dream which are of direct importance to the dream and there are dream thoughts which have no real bearing upon the dream. (421)

Freud notes, therefore, that his primary interest is in the essential dream thoughts. Such dream thoughts are usually a complex of thoughts and memories of [1] the most intricate structures of the psyche, [2] attributed to trains of thought familiar in conscious life, [3] generally have several points of origin, [4] and each idea is accompanied by an antithetical. Freud then continues by asking the obvious question of the logical, normally conscious connections of thoughts (language) in dreams. He concludes, through experience in dream interpretation, we find that the formation of dreams is not a result of intellectual work performed during the dream itself. Rather what is produced is the subject matter as manipulated by the dream- thoughts and not the mutual relationships between the dream thoughts. [see note p. 583] (422) A second aspect of the dream thoughts has to due with spoken sentences in dreams. Freud considers such spoken passages to be unmodified reproductions of speeches held in one's `memory banks`. As such they are said to be an allusion to some recent event in the dream thoughts but their meaning in the dream may be completely different. Freud concludes that logical relationships between dream thoughts is not given any separate representation, but rather appear as contradictions. As [1] contradictions of the dream itself, [2] contradictions due to subject matter. Thus Freud writes: "a contradiction can occur in an exceedingly indirect manner to a contradiction between the dream thoughts." What he means is dreams differ widely in this context, it may combine whole groups of material into a single situation or event.


A) DEPENDENT CLAUSE: Freud suggests that the if-then clause is a legitimate way of describing the manifestations of dreams. That is, he thinks that in a dream sequence it is often the case that one dream is followed by the `main dream.` Sort of like the cartoon that precedes the dream. These sequences operate in two main ways. These are as follows: [1] the sequence make some sort of ideational or emotional connection but this is not always the case. [2] the two dreams may overlap so that what is at the centre of one may hint at the other.

B) CAUSAL RELATION: this is the case when there is a metamorphosis of the one image of the dream to another image.

In both cases above causation is represented by a temporal sequence in [a] the sequence of the dreams or [b] the direct transformation of the one into the other.

C) EITHER-OR: This causal relation, Freud says, is not represented in dreams whatsoever. That is, he thinks that both alternatives of such dichotomies are given equal validity in the dream. It is only during interpretation, he continues, that the `either-or` situation arise. Thus Freud proposes a rule of thumb for the interpreter: treat the two apparent alternatives with equal validity--replace the `either-or` with `and.` His reasoning is that the either-or configuration allows for two possible explanations (Cf. Hillman) that are dialectally opposed. Freud feels, on the one hand, this is important because his understanding of the dream is that it prefers combining contraries into unities (PV) and represent them as one an the same thing (the paradox of dream images). The dream may, on the other hand, feel itself to be at liberty to represent any dream element as its wishful contrary.


This is the relation of similarity, metaphor, or the `just-as.` Freud calls this the primary foundations of dream construction. It is assisted by the mechanism of condensation (see pp. 383ff) in two ways: [1] through identification with singular persons--i.e., in terms of names, physical characteristics, gestures, understanding; and [2] composition--of both things and persons--where two separate objects are condensed together. (432) Because either the things or the persons are unified they become accessible to the dream contents without the censor interfering. Thus, it may be said that condensation satisfies the claims of the dream censor. When this happens displacement is said to occur which further facilitates the accessibility of the dream content.

Freud points out three purposes of unification: [1] to represent a common element in two individuals; [2] to represent a displaced common element; and [3] express a common wishful element. (434)

Freud then refers to composite structures. These structures are represented [1] one thing which accompanies the knowledge that specific attributes of the dream thought belong to another dream thought. [2] Or through the combination of features of the two dream thoughts to form a new image. Freud notes, that is the construction is too large, the dream is content to represent one part distinctly and the other vaguely.


Such cases appears as: [a] the exchange of the idea or image into its contrary; (438) [b] as situation described as `just-the reverse.` (439) That is, something in the dream is represented by its opposite; and [3] a chronological reversal. (440) From this Freud concludes that it is often necessary to perform reversals when interpreting dreams. (441)


A) Freud asks what it is that determines the vividness of dream contents. He proffers two attributes: [1] the disregarded external stimulae in the subjects daily life and [2] psychical stimulation-- which Freud considers to be the most stimulating aspect of dreams. (443) Freud, however, thinks that the above is not sufficient cause for the determination of dream vividness. He therefore cites two other and independent points: [i] elements that have roots in wish-fulfillment have a special intensity, and [ii] the most vivid element, Freud says, is the starting point of the dream as at that point there is the most numerous trains of thought available. He writes: "The greatest intensity is shown by those elements of a dream on whose formation the greatest amount of condensation has been expended." (444)


1] Displacement reveals itself in a change of verbal expression-- i.e., a single element has its verbal form replaced by another, thus the dream thoughts are transformed into their most succinct and unified expressions through the means of finding the most appropriate verbal transformation of vivid thoughts. (455)

2] When any dream element is interpreted it is in general doubtful: [a] whether it should be taken in a positive of negative sense; [b] whether it is to be interpreted historically; [c] whether it is to be interpreted symbolically; and [d] whether its interpretation is depend upon its wording.

The distinction between dream interpretation from the verbal point of view compared to the symbolic is evident to Freud. The key to the symbolic point of view is the ambiguity of the interpreters choices of the symbolic content. With the verbal interpretation, however, the key is generally known and laid down firmly as can be by linguistic usage. (457)

3] Representability in terms of the peculiar psychical material of which the dream makes use. For the most part this material is visual in nature, yet the dream-work mechanisms do not shirk from the effort of recasting unadaptable ideas into a new verbal form so long as this activity facilitates representation. (460) Freud considers this to be an analogous activity as the return of repressed material to the conscious sphere in the form of jokes, allusions, slips and so on. Freud concludes by stating "There is no necessity to assume that any particular symbolizing activity of the mind is operating in the dream work, but that dreams make use of any symbolization which are already present in unconscious thinking, because that fit in better with the requirements of dream-construction on account of their representability and also because as a rule they escape censorship." (465)


Freud questions whether sexual symbols do not occur with permanent and fixed meanings. Freud writes: "Symbolism is not peculiar to dreams, but it is characteristic of unconscious ideation." (468) He implies that in order to do justice to symbols it is necessary to carry us beyond the scope of dream-interpretation. HE thinks that symbolic representation in dreams is a form of indirect representation. Often, he follows, the relationship between the symbol and object is obvious but it is often puzzling. To Freud it is the puzzling symbols that must ultimately throw light on meaning in symbolic representation. He suggests that things that are symbolically linked today were probably so in prehistory through conceptual and linguistic identity. Thus some may be as old as language itself while others are still being coined. (468)

Freud continues to note that dreams use symbols of disguised representatives of latent dream thoughts. To Freud the presence of symbols in dreams [1] facilitates and [2] inhibits interpretation-- i.e., free association of symbols is not considered to be scientific enough, therefore there is a need for a combined method of interpretation which employs both the dreamer's intuitive capacities and the analyst's knowledge of symbols. Further difficulties in dream interpretation are due to [3] the analysts limited knowledge of symbols and [4] the multivalent characteristics of symbols. (470)

Later in the text Freud warns of the problem of overestimating the importance of symbols in the dream-thoughts. That is, he warns against restricting the work of dream translation to a project of merely translating symbols. He also warns against abandoning the technique of relying overmuch upon the dreamer's free association. He concludes by stating that these two methods need to be used complementary with one another. (477)

From pages 478-506 Freud offers several examples of typical dreams.


There are two classes of typical dreams: [1] those which always have the same meaning, [2] those which, in spite of having a similar content, must still be interpreted in the greatest variety of ways. (507) The term "typical dream" refers to the same manifest dream- content which is found in the dreams of different persons. Types of such dream include: [a] those with pleasurable memory associations, and [b] anxiety dreams. (519) Freud notes that the more we interpret dreams, the more we see that the majority of adult dreams deal with erotic wishfulfillments. Still he suggests that we should avoid the exaggeration of attributing exclusive importance to sexual dreams. (520) Other types of dreams besides sexual ones include: dreams of thirst, hunger, convenience and so on. ("The assertion that all dreams require a sexual interpretation against which critics rage so incessantly, occurs no where in the Interpretation of Dreams." [See note #2, p. 244])

(521) Still other types of dreams include those that approach the Oedipus complex, birth, intestinal stimulus and so on. (429)


Freud gives a number of examples of speeches in dreams before assigning the fourth factor (that which governs the formation of dreams) of the dream work its proper place. Freud refers to the importance of onomatopoeia where the verbal phrase is depicted literally--i.e., visually--as such the sound of the word is the important factor in contrast to the words spelling. Freud also notes that dreams often employ puns and turns of speech. (532)

Freud notes that the dream-work employs any method with in its reach, whether or not waking criticism regards the theme as legitimate or not for the purpose of providing visual representation. (537) The dream work often can represent proper names in the very refectory material--i.e., through far-fetched use of out-of-the-way associations. (339) In terms of numbers and calculations the dream work proceeds by functioning similarly to its work with puns and proper names (etc.) but this process does not necessarily cause the numbers to appear visually. (542)


Freud is of the opinion that the dream work cannot carry out any calculations at all. It merely throws into the form of a calculation numbers which are present in the dream-thoughts and can therefore, serve as allusions to specific dream material that cannot be revealed in any other way. Freud makes the claim that the dream work follows the same procedure with speeches and proper names (etc.). That is, the dream extracts the material from the dream-thoughts and employs them as such in order to make up the dream work. In other words, the dream- work does not create this stuff itself. Hence, Freud claims that the dream-work deals with fragments of dream-thoughts in an arbitrary fashion--i.e., it takes cut-outs and pastes them up like one does when one make a montage of images. (545)

Freud comments that speeches and the like that the dream feels the she or he has not previously heard are probably out of unmodified thoughts that the person had during waking life. The same applies to what one has read during waking hours. (547)


Freud claims that dreams are made absurd if a judgment that something is absurd appears among the dream elements in the dream thoughts. Freud also notes that absurdity is one way of representing contradictions or exploitation of sensations of motor activity. In dream interpretation, Freud notes, absurdities are not to be strictly translated as a "no" but as something that is intended to reproduce the mood of the dream-thoughts which is said to combine derision or laughter with the contradiction. (564)

To Freud the problem of absurdity in dreams and dream-thoughts is that they are never absurd. The dream-work produces absurd dreams and the dream may contain absurd elements only if it is forced by the necessity of representing criticism, ridicule or derision which may be represented in the dream-thoughts. (576) In fact, Freud thinks that "everything that appears in dreams as the ostensible activity of the function of judgment is to be regarded not as an intellectual achievement of the dream but as belonging to the material of the dream- thoughts and as having been lifted from them into the manifest content of the dream as a ready-made structure." (577) Thus in terms of dream- interpretation, Freud notes, we should disregard the apparent coherence between a dreams constituents as an unessential illusion, and we should trace back the origin of each of its elements on its own account.


The expression of affects in dreams cannot be dealt with in the same contemptuous fashion in which, after waking, we dismiss their content. That is, our feelings tell us that an affect experienced in a dream is not, in any way, inferior to one of equal intensity in waking life. Dreams insist with a greater energy upon their right to be included among our real mental experiences in respect to their affective opposed to their ideational content. It is important to note, however, that during waking life we cannot include the affective content strictly as we cannot make any assessment of an affect unless it is attached to ideational material. "If the affect and the idea are incomplete in their character and intensity," Freud writes, "our waking judgment is at a loss." (595) It is often the case, Freud notes, that when one is awake the ideational content undergoes displacement but this process leaves the affective content unaltered.

To Freud, the affect is the least effected dream content by the censorship function. The affect can alone provide the pointer as to how we should fill in the missing thoughts. (596) Often a person equates the affect of the dream with the ideational content (which may have been displaced, etc.). It is the task of psychoanalysis to put people on the right path by recognizing the affect being justified and seeking for the idea to which it belongs but has been repressed and replaced by a substitute. What this implies is that the affect and the idea do not necessarily belong together and that they can be separated and analyzed. (597) Often, Freud continues, the affect will be completely separated from the complex (the combination of the affect and idea) and is thus introduced at a different point in the dream. (598)

Freud finds that wherever there is an affect in the dream, it is also to be found in the dream-thoughts but the reverse is not true. That is, the dream-work is often reduced to a level of indifference no only in content but also with the emotional tone of one's thoughts as well. "It may be said that the dream-work brings about a suppression of affects." The opposite can also be true. That is, lively affects cab work their way into dreams as well. Freud then notes that a number of dream appear indifferent, but it is never possible to enter into the dream-thoughts without being moved. (603)

Therefore, Freud follows, "the inhibition of affect, accordingly, must be considered as the second consequence of the censorship of dreams, just as dream-distortion is its first consequence."

A second way of dealing with affects is by inversion. That is, they are represented by their opposites. This function serves as [1] a function of displacement, [2] the function of wishfulfillment, and [3] for dissimulation. In summation, affects are dealt with through [a] elimination, [b] diminution and [c] reversal--from the dream thoughts to the dream work. (608)

Freud later notes that it appears that affects in dreams are fed from a confluence of several sources and are over determined in their reference top the material of the dream thoughts. Freud writes: "During the dream-work, sources of affect which are capable of producing the same affect come together in generating it." (618) Thus we can say that affects rely upon the ideational or memory content of an individual in terms of how the dream work uses them. (622)

Affects are said to arise out of experiences, thoughts of the preceding day or out of somatic sources. In any case it is accompanied by trains of thought which are appropriate to the dream contents. Freud notes that it is unimportant how the moods evolve in the dream thoughts--i.e., whether they are deemed primary or secondary by the dreamers emotional disposition. The construction of dreams, however, is subject to conditions that state that the dream can only represent something which is a fulfillment of a wish and come out of wishes from which it can derive its psychical motive force. Thus a currently active mood is treated in a similar manner as a sensation arising and becoming active during sleep--i.e., it is either disregarded of given a fresh interpretation. Hence the more strongly intense part played by the mood in the dream thoughts, the more certain that it is a strongly suppressed wishful impulse and the more certainly will it make use of any opportunity allowing it to achieve representation. (627)


This is the fourth factor in the construction of dreams. It is said to appear in case in which the dreamer is annoyed, disgusted, surprised, repelled, etc. by a piece of the dream content itself. Such reactions, Freud notes, are not a part of the dream-content itself but a result of the dream-thoughts. Still some of the dream material may have no obvious correlate in the dream-thoughts. Freud says that the aim of such material is to reduce the importance of that which is experienced and thus to make it possible to tolerate that which follows it. (628) That is, secondary revision appears as a function of the dream-work when the censor feels that it has been taken by surprise and cannot function to its extent. This, to Freud, is evidence that a not everything which is in dreams arise out of the dream-thoughts. Rather material may arise out of a psychical function which is indistinguishable from our waking thoughts.

Freud also notes that the censor also works to construct dreams-- i.e., it is responsible for interpolations and additions to the dream. Freud says that interpolation are easy to recognize. He refers to them in terms of "as though." That is, they are not vivid and are always introduced at points at which they can serve as links between two parts of the dream. (629) Hence secondary revision functions to fill the gaps of the dream with shreds and patches of dream material. To Freud this results in the diminution of absurdity and disconnectedness in dreams. Thus Freud makes the connection between secondary revision and conscious thinking. (630) Hence he concludes that dreams are already interpreted once prior to being experienced or remembered by the conscious, waking mind. From this Freud follows by noting that this fourth factor in the formation of dreams has the ability to create new contributions to dreams and exerts its influence through its preferences and selections from psychical material in the dream thoughts that have already been formed. (631)


Freud notes that secondary revision functions in attempts to mold the material offered to it into something like a dream. But if a day dream is in the nexus of the dream thoughts (i.e., if there has been a day dream during the previous day) secondary revisioning will prefer to appropriate it and introduce it into the night's dream. Freud notes that such material is unconscious fantasies and it is very difficult to recognize them as such. (633) Still, Freud finds that the notion of unconscious phantasies sheds some light on the puzzle of unconscious thinking. (636) Paradoxically, Freud suggests that such unconscious phantasies are not gone through during dreaming but are only a recollection that the dreamer experiences upon waking. He writes: "after waking he remembers in all its details the phantasy which was [sic] stirred up as whole in his dream." (639)

In terms of the relationship between secondary revisioning of the content of dream and the remaining factors of the dream work, Freud assumes the from the first the demands of the revisioning constitute one of the conditions which the dream must satisfy and that this condition (like condensation, censorship and representability) operates simultaneously in a conducive and selective sense on the mass of material present in the dream thoughts. Freud identifies secondary revisioning with waking thought (the preconscious). That is, our preconscious thinking behaves towards perceptual material in the same way that secondary revisioning behaves towards dreams. Hence both work to establish order in the material at their disposal and then to make the material conform to our expectations of a intelligible whole. [my emphasis] (641) Freud follows by noting that there is no doubt that it is our normal thinking that is the psychical agency which approaches the content of dreams with a demand for intelligibility, which subjects it to a first interpretation and which consequently produces a complete misunderstanding of it. Therefore, Freud follows, it is the range between the confusion and the clarity which the dreams depend upon. Hence he finds that in a successful revision is clear, unsuccessful and obscured. (642)

A second, less significant aspect of secondary revisioning is, as Freud phrases it, the `subjective state.` In this instance the thoughts or images of a person as he or she is half asleep work their way into the dream. Sometimes, Freud notes, the images that arise have nothing to do with the dream thought that is being dealt with, rather it is represented through the dreamer's "subjective state" or the individual's mental images and thoughts arising just before sleep. (645- 648)


  1. The mind does not employ all of its faculties in the dream- construction.

  2. There are two distinguishable functions of mental activity during dream-construction: (a) the products of the dream thoughts and (b) THE Transformation of the dream thoughts into the content of the dream.

  3. Freud says that the dream thoughts are rational: i.e., they are (a) constructed with the expenditure of all available psychical energy with which we are capable; and (b) the dream thoughts are located within the preconscious thought processes.

  4. The second function of mental activities during dream- construction (i.e., the transformation of unconscious thoughts into dream-content) is peculiar to dream life and a characteristic of it.

  5. The dream-work is completely different from the waking processes in a qualitative sense and therefore the two are not comparable--i.e., one cannot calculate or judge them in any way as the dream-work restricts itself to giving things new forms.

  6. The dream avoids censorship at all costs and therefore the dream-work uses displacement of psychical intensities to such a point that it trans-values all other psychical intensification.

  7. Dream thoughts must be reproduced predominantly in material of visual and acoustical traces, this is what results in the "considerations" of representability for carrying out fresh displacements.

  8. In many cases it is probably the situation that more psychical intensities are produced than are present in the actual dream-thoughts, hence the reason for the mechanism of condensation.

  9. Little attention is paid to the logical relations between the dream-thoughts; the relations are ultimately given a disguised representations in certain formal characteristics of dreams.

  10. Any affect attached to dream-thoughts undergoes less modification than the ideational content.

  11. Affects (as a rule) are usually suppressed and when they are retained they tend to be separated from the ideas to which they properly belong.

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