Friday, May 8, 2009

The Science of Dreams

Sigmund Freud is considered to be one of the major intellectual figures of the 20th century.  His theory and development of psychoanalysis – a form of psychotherapy used by some qualified psychotherapists to help treat mild to moderate continuous life issues by using information, supplied by the patient, of their conscious and unconscious thought process.  The unconscious thought process is evaluated by the patient re-telling their dreams to the psychotherapist.  This is how the psychotherapist is able to determine the patient’s habitual thought process and in turn, assist the patient with solving their own issues by understanding how their brain works. 


When Freud’s dream analysis, psychoanalysis, reached the United States, German scientists and students had already began interpreting dreams and practicing his approaches at treating patients with his new dream theory.  In an article published on June 1, 1913 in The New York Times titled “A DREAM SCIENCE: Prof. Freud’s Ingenious System of “Psychoanalysis”” the piece address the key finding of Freud’s Dream Analysis:


“Prof. Freud’s teachings may be summed up as follows: In a dream the scenes which we remember, with their grotesque figures and actions and their curious emotional coloring, are called the “manifest content.”  The manifest content is usually strange to us and cannot be intelligibly connected with our waking experience.  Behind these appearances, however, is the “latent content” – the underlying thought of the dream – the impulses and ideas contributing to dorm it, of which underlying though the remembered dream is a distorted, fictitious, or, one might almost say, dramatic representation.  The dream is a group or series of significant symbols.  Its interpretation is like that of a dumb-show or a charade. It is a matter of finding the meaning: which lurks behind, actuated, and explains these strange appearances.  When this meaning is found the dream is no longer unintelligible. No matter how apparently disconnected and absurd a dream may be, it has nevertheless a real meaning and value, and is connected and systematic when traced in full.  The underlying though off every dream is the same - an ungratified wish.  It is this thought which the dreamer the dreamer symbolizes and expresses. In children, this is frank and open; but in adults it is veiled and hidden in a mass of symbolism and dream-imagery, which it is the task of the dream interpreter to explore and explain.”


The article itself is, in actuality, soliciting the translated version of Freud’s book.  Dr. Brills is credited later in the article for his excellent translation and embodiment of Prof. Freud himself.  This article is the first of many about Freud and his concepts which show the early interest we humans had, and still have, of wanting to figure ourselves out.  Freud’s dream analysis was a monumental achievement in the field of psychology and for the behavioral science world as a whole.  I think this piece does a wonderful job at addressing how important and applicable Freud’s theory is, although it lacks information on some of the other psychological fields that were being developed at the time.  Towards the end of the piece, the author does note the opposing works and view points of other top scientists in the field of psychology, such as Carl Jung and Dr. Morton Prince, and I think this piece could have benefited by including a brief amount of information on the theories these individuals have worked on, or why they oppose Freud’s concepts.  By doing this, the author could better include other sides of this story.


The New York Times had another piece about Freud’s theories, not entirely based upon his discovery and development of psychoanalysis, but about the unconscious motives and actions humans perform on a daily basis.  Titled, “WHAT CAUSES SLIPS OF THE TOUNGE? WHY DO WE FORGET? Prof. Sigmund Freud, the Noted Viennese Psychologist, Has Interesting Theories About the Unconscious Motives in Our Everyday Activities,” which was published on October 18, 1914.  Within the piece, it is said that forgetfulness and “slips of the tongue” are all intentional acts of our unconscious thinking.


I believe that both of these pieces are milestones in the importance of how American people are ever intrigued by our own beings.  I think these two pieces in particular highlight the endeavor that the world of psychology has ventured over centuries in order to get us to the knowledge and science we have today about mental health and the treatment for those handicapped by their own minds. 


I liked that the second piece was more of an informational feature piece – sort of a ‘how to guide’ for discovering thoughts and actions of your unconscious process.  As a psychology minor myself, I am always fascinated in reading materials such as these.  I think the author framed the story appropriately and kept the information at a tangible level for the rest of the population to read and understand, with out it getting to far in to technical writing.  I think the author was best able to achieve this by supplying examples of the unconscious behaviors he was addressing – such as being at a dinner party and having a guest make a remark about the stingy spread accidently, simply by saying meal, rather than deal with the thought that this was actually an intentional act of this persons unconscious thinking.


(I’ll spare this post an example since I have far exceeded the word count already).  

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