Why do we dream?
  The expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming
sleep and dreams

Two houses of cards collapse:
The seminal dreams of Freud and Jung reinterpreted

“Do you suppose that some day a marble tablet will be placed on the house, inscribed with these words: In this house, on July 24th 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr Sigmund Freud”. Sigmund Freud on 12th June 1900 [1]

Freud’s whole system of psychoanalysis, which for a hundred years dominated people’s thinking about psychotherapy, is based upon his dream theory. Not only that, much cultural thinking, fiction and poetry in the Western world has been deeply influenced by psychoanalytical ideas. So, if Freud’s interpretation of this dream is not correct, the whole of psychoanalysis disintegrates and so do many of the Western cultural studies of the past hundred years.

The dream known as ‘The dream of Irma’s injection’ is the key dream sequence in Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams.[2] Freud had this dream on the night of 23rd–24th July 1895. He regarded it, and his interpretation of it, as so significant that he called it his ‘specimen dream’ and devoted some fourteen pages to its analysis.

>> Read the re-interpretation of this dream which shows that indeed, Freud's interpretation was hopelessly wrong.

The major psychodynamic alternative to Freudian psychoanalysis, and its interpretation of literature and history, is the one that his one-time pupil Carl Jung developed. His psychoanalytical practice too derived from his own theory of dreaming. In his biography, Jung says, “One [dream] in particular was important to me for it led me to the concept of the collective unconscious.”[3]

The 'collective unconscious' was Jung’s unique contribution to the theory of the mind. This particular dream, and his interpretation of it, was as important in the development of his theories as was Freud’s interpretation of the dream of Irma's injection to Freudian psychoanalytical thought and practice. Showing that Jung's interpretation of this dream is wrong should therefore be good reason for consigning Jungian, as well as Freudian, psychoanalysis to history.

>> Read the reinterpretation of Jung's famous 'House' dream

Now that Freud and Jung’s dreams can be analysed in the light of modern psychobiological insights, we can see that the two most influential schools of therapy of the past 100 years were based upon theories of dreaming that were false.

Although the popularity of dream interpretation in therapy has, along with psychoanalysis, waned in recent decades, the mistaken pattern of dream interpretation begun by Freud continues to be actively practised by nearly a third of psychotherapists in America[12] and his mistaken ideas of repressed emotion still underlie much of the psychotherapeutic practice going on in the world today.

Apart from needlessly prolonging therapy, these ideas have led many therapists to generate false memories of abuse. We can easily see how this would happen. Suppose a woman goes to see a therapist about an eating disorder. If the therapist is one who believes the commonly held but scientifically unsupported view that eating disorders are most frequently caused by sexual abuse in childhood, this belief might be conveyed to the client by the type of history taking that is done. Questions will be asked about possible sexual abuse in childhood. Even if they have no conscious memories at all of such abuse, they will still, quite understandably, introspect about this emotionally charged suggestion, which in turn will give rise to metaphorical dreams about abuse. If these dreams are then reported to the therapist, the therapist may well interpret them as providing independent evidence of abuse having taken place — a mistake with potentially tragic consequences, as the client, initially astounded and disbelieving, may come to accept that the imagined abuse did take place. There are many cases where therapists have encouraged clients to stop seeing their parents and siblings after ‘remembering’ childhood abuse.

(Of course, much genuine abuse does take place. And, when people suffer the symptoms of post traumatic stress as a result, they need specific interventions to help them overcome the trauma and move on in their lives.[4] However, such interventions are very different from the psychodynamic approaches derived from Freud’s ideas.)

1] Masson, J. M. (1985) (ed.) The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fleiss, 1887-1904. Harvard University Press

2] Freud, A. (1953) The Interpretation of Dreams. Page 647 of the standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, Strackley, J. (Ed.). Hogarth Press

3] Jung, C. (1965) Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books, 158-159.

4] Griffin, J. Tyrrell, I. (2003) Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. Human Givens Publishing Ltd.



house of cards


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