The Brief: Analyse each others dreams in the style of Freud, Jung or WH Rivers.


Jennifer's Dream

(1 Main Dream) I was at my parents house in Birmingham.  My mum and dad were there and so was my brother Martin.  But in place of my other brother Stephen was Patrick Baxter (i don't know if he was my brother in the dream but he was acting like it).  Anyway Patrick was in my parents bedroom and he was packing his bags really stroppily and stamping around so I went to see what was the matter and he said 'why don't you ask your mother, she's being such a bitch' and he stormed off into my bedroom (NOT, where he was sleeping).  I stayed in my parents room and started looking at all my mothers shoes which were really glamorous brightly coloured ones - green, orange, electric blue.  They were all really nice 70's styles.  My mum came in the room and started yelling at me to get out and we had a really bad verbal fight.  So then I stormed off into my bedroom (dunno what happened next, I don't think Pat was still in there).  A while later it was tea time so we all sat around the dinner table.  My Dad was there laughing and joking, martin was there being quiet as normal and me and pat were there still smarting about our argument with my mum.  My mum just sat there giving us dirty looks but my dad was chatting away as if nothing had happened. 

(2 Following night) There was loads to the dream but the main bit was where I went to a clothes shop and bought three pairs of boots - a red pair, a black pair and a silver pair. The red and black pair were very similar to a pair of ankle boots that I own but the silver ones were knee high and glittery and really really glam and spangly.  I wore them out to the park and put the other pairs in my bag.  Everyone in the park commented on how nice my boots were.  After a while I thought i'd change into one of the other pairs but when I looked in my bag they were broken!  The heels had snapped off both pairs which was weird cos I hadn't worn them.  I took them back to the shop then went to a festival to watch the Vines play (they were no 3 in the chart).  I was going out with their bass player - who's called Patrick.  Hmmmm.


Shoes aren't really my thing.  I prefer coats.  And as for Patri - well, much as I like PB i can't say i give him much thought out of working hours.  Patrick Vine is just some bloke.  Prob wouldn't even recognise him of he passed me in the street.  BUT, Tracey did fancy him at the aftershow (real life) and she was at the festival (dream) I did say to you last night that I wanted new clothes...(and I bought a really cute mini skirt in my dream).

Freudian Dream Analysis

According to Freud, dreams are spyholes into our unconscious. Fears, desires and emotions that we are usually unaware of make themselves known through dreams. To Freud dreams were fundamentally about wish-fulfillment. Even "negative" dreams (punishment dreams and other anxiety dreams) are a form of wish-fulfilment - the wish being that certain events do not occur. Very often these dreams are interpreted as a warning.

Freud believed that although our dreams contain important messages, they are encoded - disguised. The unconscious mind doesn't speak any verbal language therefore it must communicate with us via symbols. Some of these symbols are near-universal, others very personal. Freud distinguished between the "manifest content" of dreams (what we actually dream) and the "latent content" of dreams (the unfulfilled wish that the dream represents).

Dream content is rarely presented by the mind in a simple and direct fashion. Instead a complex dream is constructed from the basic elements. The raw dream symbols are distorted via "condensation" (compression, conflation and omission of dream elements) and "displacement" (shifting emphasis). This is followed by a process of "secondary revision" that takes all these (by now distorted) elements and assembles them into some more or less coherent structure.

Freud went further and suggested that very often our conscious mind actively tries to reject the messages of our dreams; we "repress" this knowledge. Dreams are often an expression of a repressed wish that we would rather not admit to - they thus indicate conflict that can in turn be at the core of mental disturbance.

Freud's main technique for analysing the dream was "free association". Here the dreamer is encouraged to look not at the direct content of the dream but at the thoughts and emotions it generates. These will then lead to other thoughts and emotions and so on. At it's simplest free association is simply saying whatever comes into your head.

The job of the Freudian analyst is to record the chain of associations and assist the dreamer's self-understanding. Freud would look at each individual component of a dream and use each as a starting point for free association then attempt to pull all the threads together into an overall analysis. In this way the dreamer can "sneak up" on repressed emotions.

Freud famously mapped apsects of the mind to a trio of components, very loosely: the ego (self image) , the id (desiring, wanton, unrepressed), the super-ego (ego control, watchman, "the thing my ego is trying to trying impress or appease even when other people aren't there"). He also had a theory of infant sexuality which he said lead to a complex he called the Oedipus complex (his definition: child subconsciously seeks sexual congress with parent of the opposite sex).

The Dream Analysed (in the style of Freud)

The following analysis is partly based on Freud's approach to a dream by a girl called Irma whom he analysed in the summer of 1895.

1. Establish overall theme (take away the detail leave only the action). Match the overall theme to an area of the person’s life (one’s duty to one desires)

Overall theme - "Conflict". An anxiety dream - the overall wish-fulfillment is that something does not occur.

Summary: Displacement of brother by another non-family member (PB). PB in conflict with mother, moves to J's room. J investigates mother's possessions, judges them positively. Mother enters and tells J to leave. Conflict. J returns to her room, PB may or may not be there. Later, at dinner father is unaware of conflict, other brother is normal, J and PB still unhappy about conflict. Mother still aggravated.

Conflict 1 (the Raw State): Professional duty (present) vs Oedipal duty (absent). Colleague (displaced), mother

Conflict 2 (the Revision, the making sense): Conjugal duty (present) vs Oedipal duty (present). Bedroom; shoes (female sexuality), mother (chiding)

Post-Revision (the Coherent Structure): Oedipal duty. Colleague (displaced). Mother (chiding)

2. Examine the details – free associate

Displacement brother - Patrick Baxter (Later a displaced boyfriend called Patrick). "I can't say I give him much thought out of working hours." Free Association: Patrick, Man, Woman, Me, You, Jennifer.

Patrick = Irish? (But also implied by above, displaced family (why are they there?) Why professional duty vs Oedipal?)

Shoes - glamorous brightly coloured (green, orange, electric blue), really nice 70's styles. Free association: Electric, Dreams, Sleep, Wake. Blue, Red, Yellow, Sun, Rain, Cloud. Shoe, wear, clothes. 

(Following night boots (sexuality grown in size/expressiveness?: red, black, knee high glittery and really really glam and spangly silver)

"Shoes aren't really my thing."

Dinner table, food, eat, swallow

Stephen, family man, absent probably due to having his own family

70s, glam, rock, roll, bread. Vivid memories of the 70s and being a child, didn't spend the 70s in Birmingham though.

PB's behaviour - stroppy, stamping, smarting

J's behavior - stormed off, smarting

Mother's behaviour - such a bitch; really bad verbal fight, dirty looks

Martin's behaviour - quiet, normal

Dad's behaviour - laughing and joking

Conflict 1 (raw state): Ego (self image- brother - ie on same 'level' - only thought of when he's visible) vs Super-ego (chiding, absent mother - on 'superior' family level - bitch)

Conflict 2 (the Revision, the making sense): Self vs Super-ego (complaining - really bad verbal) distortion being Id (Oedipal sexuality - childhood - glamourous, really nice)

Post-Revision (the Coherent Structure): Self and Ego structure (dinner table) the distortion (atonement with father - laughing, joking) with the Super-ego. No resolution (Although other brother - quiet, 'normal')

3. Outstanding questions

Freud calls this the "navel" of the dream, the descent into which J either will not make or will not share with us or herself, where J appears to abandon or censor very personal thoughts connected with the dream.

Question in conflict 1 (raw state): What was conflict about? "Ask your mother." Ego suggests to self that super-ego is 'over-regulating'. Because "He was in her room." Only implied. Why was PB in the room at all? Did he want the mother's shoes?

Question in conflict 2 (the Revision, the making sense): Was PB still in self's bedroom? Ego / libido issues.

Question post-revision: Not stated or strong. Possibly, why does dad act like nothing happened? Why doesn't conflict happen to the other family members? Other brother 'quiet' and normal - is this the structure sought?

4. 'Psycho'Analysis

J's self image is at odds. Her 'public' 'professional' 'grown up' self image is out of place with her 'private', Oedipal structure. (J's infant desire was to have sex with her father. Sensing her mother represented the reason she could not have sex with her father, J had to compete with her mother to flirt with the father. The dad-mum-me triangle sets a shifting and transferable blueprint / default we return to.) She hopes something she fears could happen won't. Externally, this appears to be conflict, internally it may be a sense of persecution, or of being misunderstood. There appears to be no active resolution at the dream's end, which suggests that her wish-fullfillment on this occasion is internal ie she wishes she would stop feeling a certain way, rather than wishing a particular incident wouldn't happen.

How does she make sense of how she is feeling? Why does she think she is misunderstood? Her libido is being regulated by her super-ego, a normal condition (we'd be like rabbits otherwise), but it appears to be over-regulated, causing her distress. Sexuality (shoes - but not boots) is the strongest symbol here, combined with an almost overwhelming Oedipal theme. There may be frustration at not being allowed to assume a maternal role. Indeed there are three colours of shoe - possibly suggesting an even deeper representation of the Oedipal triangle. The 'missing piece' - was Patrick in the bedroom? may have been J 'removing' her mother to have congress with her father.

The super-ego's reasoning for regulating is again libido. J examines the shoes. Obviously, they are not being worn (lack of sexual congress) and are only shoes (not fully fledged boots) and J herself is told to get out (which could suggest a masturbation guilt). J's boyfriend is from Ireland, maybe the green (catholic), orange (protestant) may be significant, the electric ('dreams' - the detail within the detail - possibly pure libido flow, energy) blue. However, ancient battles (and antique war machinery) are pure Oedipal imagery. J's original sexual 'blue'print is out of sync with her day to day 'grown up' blueprint, causing her to feel she is misunderstood, and possibly persecuted.

After J attempts to structure (the dinner table) her feelings, her father is pleased (laughter at the end), so in an Oedipal sense she has returned to her childhood blueprint. 'We'll always be together, forever in electric dreams', however the persecution by her super-ego is still there. As J attempts to shift her position in the Oedipal triangle, her desire for an assumption of the mother role may be being partly rebuked but partly desired.