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What Are You Hiding? Psychoanalysis and The Unconscious

| Articles | August 27, 2013

When you sleep, what do you dream of? Do you dream of enjoyable things like lounging in the beach? Do you dream of being in a situation you’ve never even thought of?

What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is a specific treatment wherein a trained professional, or an analyst, listens to a patient’s thoughts, then formulates and explains the unconscious basis behind the person’s behaviour or condition. In some cases, analysts ask about what the patient dreamt about the previous night and interpret information based on those images. This treatment was founded the man who introduced the concept of unconscious function Dr. Sigmund Freud.

Who is Sigmund Freud?

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and psychologist who started the psychoanalytic school of psychology. He introduced the idea of the unconscious mind and its mechanism of repression. He also said that dreams are the window to a person’s unconscious desires.

The Unconscious Mind

Throughout the evolution of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories, he considered the unconscious mind as a sentient force of will influenced by human drive and yet operating well below the perceptual conscious mind. For Freud, the unconscious is the depository of instinctual desires, needs, and psychic actions. While past thoughts and memories may be deleted from immediate consciousness, they direct the thoughts and feelings of the individual from the realm of the unconscious.

Freud divided mind into the Ego, or the conscious mind, and the two parts of the unconscious: the Id or instincts and the Superego. The id is seen as the source of drives demanding immediate satisfaction, and the superego as internalized parental and social authority, the work of the ego being to mediate the resultant conflicting demands. He used the idea of the unconscious in order to explain certain kinds of neuroses.

Defense mechanism

Freud believed that people develop defense mechanisms to protect the conscious mind from certain aspects of reality that it may have difficulty accepting. Examples of defense mechanisms are: repression, reaction-formation, regression, displacement, and rationalization.

Repression

This is the most commonly manifested defense mechanism among the ones mentioned above. It is the act of excluding desires and impulses from the conscious mind and attempting to hold it in the subconscious. Repression is commonly associated with traumatic or harsh event that happened in the past. But it appears that trauma more often strengthens the memory due to heightened emotional and/or physical sensations.

Dreams

Freud postulated that dreams were wish fulfillments. That it provides a fantasy satisfaction of inner desires that have been pushed back to the unconscious. Freud also said that the unconscious itself is timeless and does not mature. Even as the body and the conscious mind age and mature, our unconscious remains infantile, and demands immediate gratification of its desires.

When you’re asleep, your repressed desires and impulses are relaxed. It doesn’t, however, mean that your inner desires will appear directly in your dreams. Freud said that these desires get filtered by a process he calls “dream work”. He believed there are four kinds of dream work:

Condensation. Multiple thoughts merge into a single symbol in the dream.

Displacement. Inner desires manifest themselves as objects related to it.

Symbolization. Ideas and/or impulses are turned into pictures.

Secondary revision. This is the rational gloss we put on a dream, turning the dream into a manageable story as we remember it.

Freud believed dream interpretation should concentrate on the underlying symbols in the dream, rather than the story of the dream, which he believed to be just a disguise.

As what the late Sigmund Freud said, your dreams are an extension of your innermost desires and wishes. The next time you dream of something, check and see if it has any relevance to what you’re feeling. Your unconscious may already be telling you something.

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