In the book “The Interpretation of Dream”, Freud puts forward his theory that the dream is the fulfillment of unconscious wishes, and he elaborately introduces the process of how unconscious wishes are concealed and how they endeavor to break through the consciousness: On its way to consciousness along the path of the thought processes, the unconscious wish is always distorted by the censorship, which transfers it into a recent material, and thus appears unrecognizable to us. Its further progress is then checked by the state of sleep of the preconscious, a system protects the unconscious wish from the diminishing excitations. Therefore, the dream process of regression takes place in the sleeping state and in so doing acquires representability.
While other writers attribute the occurrence of the forgetting of dreams to the mutually alien character of the waking and sleeping states, Freud believes that it’s dream-censorship that makes people forget about some parts of dreams, a way of resistance to the penetration of the dream-thoughts into consciousness. Upon this situation, Freud suggests that we direct our attention to a single element of the dream and find out the involuntary thoughts associated with this element. After we repeatedly do the same process with different component of the dream-content, we will finally come upon the dream-thoughts from which the dream originated. In other words, we should open a new path in our waking state and, along this path, run back from the dream-elements to the dream-thoughts instead of completely focusing on the interpretation-work of nocturnal dreams.
Before the explanation of regression, it’s important to first look at Freud’s interpretation of “psychic apparatus”, which he considers as a compound instrument containing two “systems” – the initial system receives stimulus of perception but retains no memory, while the second system lied behind the initial system transforms the temporary stimulus of the first into lasting traces. According to this structure, because thought-relations are contained in the second system, where they forfeit expression in the regression to the perceptual images, all those thought-relations of the dream-thoughts either lost in the dream-work or have difficulty in achieving expression. Freud conclude this phenomenon of regression as “the structure of the dream-thoughts breaking up into its raw material.”(Chapter 7, P277) At the end of this section, Freud puts forward a much more significant theory upon the regression, saying that we can have insight not only into the phylogenetic childhood but even into the evolution of the human race because dreaming is on the whole an act of regression to the earliest childhood.
Because the nocturnal thought-process stops working during sleeping in order to let preconsciousness have some rest, Freud assumes that the sensory surface of consciousness, which is turned toward the preconscious, is far more difficult to be excited than the sensory surface turning toward the perception in the sleeping state. However, dreams have a waking effect that can stimulate parts of the quiescent energy of the preconscious. Under the influence from this energy, dreams experience “secondary elaboration”, which patches together fragments from materials that seem to be contradictory in order to further disguise the unconscious wishes, just like piecing the cine film together. The absurd dreams, so frequently mentioned by Freud, also experience this secondary elaboration.
Negating the commonly held opinion that consciousness is the general basis in the course of psychic events, Freud considers unconscious as true psychic reality, comparing the unconscious to a larger circle including the smaller circle of consciousness. In addition, although most psychologists think that there are two kinds of unconscious, Freud maintains that one of them is the “unconscious”, which can not turn to the consciousness, and another one is “preconscious”, capable of reaching consciousness after passing through the censorship. Freud also vividly describes preconscious as a screen between the consciousness and the unconscious. Based on the knowledge I learn in class and the analysis in this book, I agree with Freud’s opinion concerning the relationship and the distinction between consciousness and the unconscious. The process such as the regulation of blood pressure works without our awareness, and it must be the unconscious. But sometimes, memory accessible to consciousness only after something calls my attention. For example, I can only remember my experience during childhood until my parents mention the details. According to Freud, those memories that I can only recall with stimulus must be preconscious.
Freud, S. (1997) The Interpretation of Dreams (Wordsworth Edition.). New York, NY: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature