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6 months ago

Sigmund Freud

a little hostility mixed

a little hostility mixed in with the thanks would come as no surprise. Parapraxes, dreams and symptoms all express wishes, according to Freud’s theories, but these wishes have to be separated into their individual elements before they can be understood. The analytic process of dream interpretation, and the tools which make this interpretation possible, are the best places to look to understand the ramifications of psychoanalytic theories of reading. I will turn now to this important question of the process of making sense in psychoanalysis.

THE TOOLS OF PSYCHOANALYTIC INTERPRETATION: FREE ASSOCIATION, DREAM-WORK, TRANSFERENCE Is there such a thing as a comprehensive psychoanalytic analysis of a dream? In Freud’s theory the interpretation of the dream itself, the actual process of reading the dream, is also always subject to more interpretation. The patient relates her dream to the analyst and then proceeds to freeassociate about what recent events, what words, what memories, the dream reminds her of. This process of retelling the dream and discovering what associations the dream brings up uncovers what Freud calls the dream-work, the process by which the thoughts and desires that lie behind a dream become translated, so to speak, into the surface content of the dream (see Wollheim 1971:69–72). The dream-work can be understood only by seeing the relation between the two different kinds of content that dreams contain – the manifest content and the latent content. The manifest content of the dream is that which we experience or remember, what the dreams appear initially to be about; the latent content of the dream is its hidden meaning – the repressed unconscious wish or infantile desire. Like symptoms, dreams come in distorted forms; when we dream we have already translated one form of unacceptable desire into another form of potentially obscure or illegible meaning. In order to protect ourselves from the content of our own thoughts we make those thoughts difficult to interpret. According to Freud, only through a process of psychoanalytic interpretation can we reconstitute the latent meaning of the dream from the manifest content. All dreams are subject to unconscious distortion: that is, the process by which the latent content is transformed into the manifest content. Distortion may give the dream a nonsensical or absurd form, but it won’t make one feel guilty or ashamed, the way the undisguised dream-wish might. Condensation is another dream process which contributes to the dream’s final form. Freud noticed that ‘the manifest dream has a smaller content than the latent one’ (Freud 1916–17:205). In other words, the unconscious material of the dream is condensed, so that each element of the dream we remember represents more than one thought or desire. All the latent dream-thoughts are squeezed into the overdetermined symbolic elements that we remember in the morning. Overdetermination suggests that each element of the dream contains several wishes and desires which go towards constituting its final form. Therefore, the dream will have different possible interpretations or extractable meanings: It is with greatest difficulty that the beginner in the business of interpreting dreams can be persuaded that his task is not at an end when he has a complete interpretation in his hands – an interpretation which makes sense, is coherent and throws light upon every element of the dream’s content. For the same dream may perhaps have another interpretation as well, an ‘over-interpretation’, which has escaped him. (Freud 1900:669) Dreams may express several wishes, contain several meanings. An initial reading may always be supplemented by another, by further information or associations. If one considers the fact that visual and verbal meanings both come into the interpretation of dreams, the ramifications of overdetermination become clearer. A simple example may help here. My friend Talia broke her arm and dreamt that she was Napoleon. Napoleon carried his arm the way one does when it is broken, tucked into his jacket as if it were in a sling; yet he was also a

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