EVERYBODY dreams, and every dream means something, no matter how fragmentary and ridiculous it may appear. It may be symbolic of something deep-seated in the personality of the dreamer, or it may indicate something trivial, but in every case, the dream has a meaning, which can only be discovered through an analysis of the dream itself. It is the purpose of this book to describe such analysis of dreams in simple language.
The various psychological theories of dreams have ascribed their origin to physical and organic stimuli which pour into the brain during sleep. In the light of modern investigations in the field of psycho-analysis, this view-point has been proven to be too superficial, because such an interpretation does not explain, for instance, how an uncovered foot may at one time give rise to a dream of freezing to death amid Arctic snows, and on another occasion, in the same individual, lead to a dream of being bound hand and foot before a gigantic electric fan as a form of martyrdom for some religious belief. The central problem of dream psychology, therefore, must answer the question as to why the dreamer interprets the physical or organic stimulus as he does, and why the same stimulus often gives rise to widely different types of dreams.
The theory of dream formation as elaborated by Freud does indeed admit that external stimuli may often enter into the complex machinery of the dream, but only as an instigator or starter of the dream, in much the same manner as the self-starter of an automobile, which throws all the cylinders of the motor into action. The real makers of the dream, however, according to psycho-analysis, are certain unconscious mental processes. The psychoanalytic view-point goes a step further and shows in addition how the unconscious and ofttimes latent mental process may be transformed into a most complex dream by means of certain well-known dream mechanisms. Therefore, any stimulus, -physical, organic, or ideational, - is merely the instigator or activator of important mental processes in the formation of the dream. We must emphasize the term "important", since no dream ever deals with trifles, but only with subjects of great personal interest to the dreamer.
Because the dream undergoes such an elaborate transforming process, it must conceal within itself not only the unconscious thoughts which actually give rise to it, but also all the stimuli, physical or mental, which have thrown these mental mechanisms into activity. Therefore, the dream must be deciphered or analyzed in order to be understood. The deciphering of a dream is one of the functions of psycho-analysis, which, in its broadest sense, may be defined as that method which, without the use of hypnosis, investigates human motives and the content of the unconscious.
Such an analysis demonstrates that while on the surface the dream may appear to be a weird, absurd, and disconnected phantasmagoria, yet the unconscious thoughts which give rise to it are arranged in a logical order and have a definite purpose in the protection of the mental well-being of the dreamer. The dream, therefore, is a symbol of certain mental processes, and as will be demonstrated later, it represents the fulfillment of a wish which for years may have lain dormant in the unconscious.1 This is why the dream is so important a factor for a proper understanding of human personality, normal and abnormal, and for a proper interpretation of human character. The dream has likewise a genetic meaning and can be used to interpret the unconscious desires of both the race and society. A man's motives and character cannot be judged by his conduct or his speech, because his conduct may conceal his inner feelings, or the conventionalities of modern civilization may have taught him to suppress and thus rationalize his real emotions and desires. In the true interpretation of man, the psycho-analysis of dreams comes to our rescue. Dreams are not the disordered phantasmagoria of a partially sleeping brain, but are logical and well ordered, and conceal within themselves our true wishes and desires. The dream reveals the true inner man, his various motives and desires, hidden from the view of others and often hidden from his own conscious thoughts. Consequently, when rightly interpreted, dreams are the real key to the riddle of human life, because through them the door is unlocked to our unconscious and our real selves. The unconscious is our true self, not our conscious thinking, with its rationalization of all our mental processes.
1 The term "unconscious" is used in this book, not in the popular sense of loss of consciousness, but as meaning mental processes of which we are not aware, but of which we may become aware in dreams or through certain technical devices.
The dream may also use popular and even strange phrases in its symbolism, reminding one strongly of punning and witticisms. In fact, Freud's theory of wit is based upon the same mental mechanism as that of dreaming. For instance, a woman had the following dream. She seemed to see a fair-haired child, resembling the Cupid which appears on Valentines and with a pink scarf about the body, sitting on an elephant and driving it. The analysis of this apparently absurd dream was most interesting. Two types of instigators of the dream could be determined: a physical one, some pictures of recently acquired elephants at a Zoological Garden; and a mental one, a desire to buy Valentines for some children. In this woman there was a strong wish for motherhood, which for certain reasons was difficult of fulfillment. She felt that if she had a child at her period of life it might be a great burden to her. Therefore, the unconscious deliberately picked out the elephant as an instigator, because it served its purpose as a pun, -namely that a child might be "an elephant on her hands."
Thus "the interpretation of dreams is, in fact, the via regia to the interpretation of the unconscious, the surest ground of psycho-analysis, and a field in which every worker must win his convictions and gain his education" (Freud). Dream interpretation, even in a practical, so-called materialistic state of society, is not a form of interesting and idle scientific play, but a practical method of the utmost importance, since it gives us an insight into the inner nature of man, into his real motives and desires, into his unconscious mental life.
From the period of the earliest Babylonian records up to modern times, a belief in the interpretation and the veracity of dreams, particularly in foretelling the future, was possessed by the mass of people. The popular point of view has always been that a dream is a symbol and has something of importance concealed within it, and this hidden meaning, often cryptic, can be interpreted. For years psychologists have held the opinion that the dream was a senseless grouping of ideas which ran rampant in the brain of the sleeper, claiming indeed that the sleeping brain was incapable of any form of logical thinking. Therefore, dreams became mere curiosities, not worthy of study by any intelligent individual. On the one hand we were confronted by the superstitious and the prophetic value ascribed to dreams which existed for centuries and on the other by the psychological skeptic.
The year 1900 is one of great significance for psychology in general and for the psychology of dreams in particular. In that year, the Viennese neurologist, Doctor Sig-mund Freud, first published his "Traum-deutung" ("Interpretation of Dreams"), a work of profound erudition and representing years of study and close observation. This work opened a new vista in the interpretation of dreams and of the unconscious mental life, and so epoch-making was it that it made all previous attempts in this direction seem almost absolutely worthless. In it Freud showed for the first time that the dream was of great importance psychologically and was really the first link in the chain of normal and abnormal psychic structures. For the first time, too, there was opened a certain road to the explanation of unconscious mental processes, processes which are admitted today to contain the greater portion of human personality. As a result of these investigations the dream became divested of the triviality ascribed to it by the academic psychologist and the superstition which so long had held the masses of people and been portrayed in the popular dream-book. Dream mythology had become a genuine dream psychology; the dream was no longer the "child of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy." The dream had become of practical importance, on the one hand to the psychologist in interpreting unconscious mental processes, and on the other to the physician, in giving him for the first time a method for the clear understanding of such abnormal mental states as phobias, obsessions, delusions, and hallucinations. The dream had become the real interpreter of normal human life and of abnormal mental mechanisms, and through the elaboration of the psychoanalytic method which was made possible through this new dream psychology, the dream had also become the most potent instrument for the removal of the symptoms of certain functional nervous disturbances.
Thus the "Traumdeutung" has come to occupy the same central and important place for abnormal psychology as the "Origin of Species" did for biology. Through the researches of the active workers in the field of psycho-analysis, certain modifications have crept in and are continuing to creep in, the same as in the later work of De Vries and Mendel for evolution and the origin of species, without, however, in either case changing the fundamental principles as set forth by the original discoverer.
The technique of dream-interpretation is most difficult. A dream of an instant may require dozens of pages for its proper interpretation, thus showing how condensed a product the dream is. Without training in neurology and psychiatry, and without an accurate knowledge of Freud's theories, one cannot hope to succeed in dream-analysis, which is the basis of the psychoanalytic treatment of the neuroses, any more than one can do a complicated chemical analysis without training in the elements of chemistry.