In addition to one of the main points made by Freud which accounts for the distortion in dreams, there is another interesting idea concerning dream content: “It has at its disposal the earliest impressions of our childhood, and brings to light details from this period of life, which, again, seem trivial to us, and which in waking life were believed to have been long since forgotten.” (Chapter 5, P51) This sentence opens to a new discussion about the materials and sources of dreams in this chapter, which, basically, can be attributed to the four typical dreams Freud mentioned about.
The first typical dream is of nakedness. It is the dream common in everyone’s life that such case could lead to embarrassment. However, the dreamer, inside the dream, will not be mocked and blamed by other unfamiliar people. In fact, most of this type of dream has these strangers paying no attention to the dreamer’s embarrassing nakedness. “The substitute for these persons offered by the dream, the `number of strangers’ who take no notice of the spectacle offered them, is precisely the counter-wish to that single intimately-known person for whom the exposure was intended.” (Chapter 5, P100) As Freud said, the counter-wish signifies a kind of secret which prompts the meaning of the dream to become so vague that produces unsatisfying effects for people. Since we are born, the content of human nature is always present in our mind, but to some degree censored and suppressed as we grow up: we feel ashamed of exposing our body parts. Therefore, through this censorship, the vivid dream provides the means for the dreamer to avoid such situation in real life.
The second typical dream generally plots the death of relatives. Some portion of the dream has the dreamer does not feel so sad about this, but most of it still makes the dreamer feel deeply regretful for their relatives’ death even during real sleep. This type of dream seems to contradict the Freud’s claim that the latent content – the unconscious – plays a role in the dream’s content, since people really do not want to have their beloved persons die. But if people think of our childhood memories, they do have some uncomfortable experiences with their relatives that prompt the wish of leaving them away. Freud admits: “Many adults who today are devoted to their brothers and sisters, and support them in adversity, lived with them in almost continuous enmity during their childhood.” (Chapter 5, P103) Children always have egocentric thoughts that they consider everything surrounding them under their control. They do not have much sense about death but rather think it will not disturb other living people.
A more confusing element of the second typical dream is about the death of parents, since people tend to love their parents for their nurture. But for Freud, there is another thing needed to be brought out: “It is as though a sexual preference made itself felt at an early age, as though the boy regarded his father, and the girl her mother, as a rival in love — by whose removal he or she could but profit.” (Chapter 5, P106) Naturally, mother will be sexually attractive to son and father is sexually attractive to daughter. During childhood, for example, a son will be permitted to sleep with his mother when his “rival” – father – leaves, proving that the hostility has been testified by the sheer wish-fulfillment that inadvertently has set father dead in his dream.
Although not systematically categorized into the book, the third typical dream is added into the previous part: the dreamer flies with a feeling of ease or falls in terror. What is interesting is that it generally takes part in grown-up adults. Freud debunks other people’s theory that this type of dream is attributed to the present physical sensations while explains this dream as a kind of wish-fulfillment which is suppressed in real life. Children have been experienced in exciting rapid motion which afterwards ends with unhappiness, and as adults recollect back this memory, they are regretful for their inability to do such things again.
The last typical dream centers on examination: the dreamer fails on a test and has to study a subject again or fails to receive doctor degree. This dream is common for people who are going to take an important task such as final exam. But even for those who have already received doctor degree, they still experience this type of dream. “We dream of our matriculation, or the examination for the doctor’s degree … whenever we feel the burden of responsibility.” (Chapter 5, P116) For Freud, this can be attributed to the dreamers’ anxiety of conducting great things they feared of failure, because they are responsible for them. But as the dreamers realize they have succeeded in such tasks in reality, they feel relaxed about their testing experiences, willingly reducing the stress of doing their jobs in the future.
Compare the four types of dream, it is not difficult to find out that they both similar in the subconscious thoughts about fulfilling wishes. While the first and fourth type of dream gives the dreamer a sense of avoiding such cases in real life, the second and third type, though undesired, has its manifestation of the dreamer’s unconscious will to have their beloved persons die or move rapidly, which, as to Freud, are distorted by the strict dream-work. But still, they have common features for the dream content: “the preferential selection of recent and also of infantile material.” (Chapter 5, P82)
I often tend to have the second type of dream, which is about the death of my father. In one such a dream, my parents, after traveling, take airplane to return to Shenzhen, but the plane suddenly crashes when it is landing. As the plane incinerates, my mom successfully escapes through parachute, but my father fails to survive. After several moments, I am notified to participate in the funeral and I cries loudly with my mother. At first I could not understand why I cruelly set him to death during my dream, generally attributing this case as the manifestation of my parents’ personalities: my father being industrious but clumsy, while my mother being intelligent. (Like Homer and Marge) But deliberately, I noticed that it usually happens when my father actually stay at our city for quite long days. He is a good husband who has the will to spend time with his wife to have good experiences, and this really somewhat bothers the relationship between me and my mom. In fact, my mother fulfills my requests more often than my father does, and I am also biased to share some great experiences with her. Moreover, jealousy arises when she talks about my father’s advantages and expect me to act like him. According to Freud’s ideology, these stimuli, which could be regarded as Oedipus complex, prompt me to wish my father to receive a business and leave our city as soon as possible. If that wish comes true, I can take time to hang out with my mother.
Freud, S. (1997) The Interpretation of Dreams (Wordsworth Edition.). New York, NY: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature