"The Interpretation of Dreams" by Sigmund Freud

History and Significance

Sigm. Freud
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If you are interested in Sigmund Freud or dream interpretation, this is a must-have text for your collection. As one of Freud's earliest books, the theories and ideas described within The Interpretation of Dreams helped set the stage for psychoanalytic theory.

Pros of The Interpretation of Dreams

  • This classic text is probably the best-known book on dream interpretation.
  • Freud was a prolific writer, and his work is always engaging and intriguing.
  • The case studies Freud describes present a glimpse into his psychoanalytic work.

Cons of The Interpretation of Dreams

  • The research described in The Interpretation of Dreams lacks scientific rigor.
  • Many of Freud’s ideas have received little or no substantiation from current dream research.
  • Freud's theories have not fared well, especially in recent decades.

Why It's Important

The Interpretation of Dreams is the classic text on dream analysis and interpretation. Freud introduces many key concepts that would later become central to the theory of psychoanalysis. The book also emphasizes the role of the unconscious mind, which is one of the underlying principles of Freudian psychology.

The History Behind the Book

When Freud famously started analyzing himself, he used his dreams quite frequently in the process. Always a vivid dreamer, Freud had by this time also noticed the impact of dreams on his patients, including psychotic patients whose hallucinations were similar to dreams.

Between his own experience and that of his patients, he concluded that dreams are almost always expressions of unfulfilled wishes.

Believing sincerely in the importance of dreams and realizing no one had written much, if anything, about the subject, Freud spent two years writing The Interpretation of Dreams. 

Originally published in German under the title Die Traumdeutung in 1900, initial sales of the book were slow and disappointing and largely ignored by the scientific community.

By 1910, Freud's other work was becoming well-known and so the book became more popular. It was translated into English and Russian in 1913 and six more languages by 1938. Seven more editions were also printed during his lifetime.    

Historical Significance of The Interpretation of Dreams

The Interpretation of Dreams stands as a unique and classic work in the history of psychology. No matter what you may think of Sigmund Freud’s psychological theories, the cultural impact and historical importance of this book are without question. For those interested in dream research, this book serves as an excellent introduction to many of his major ideas.

Freud was an incredibly prolific writer, publishing more than 320 different books, articles, and essays. Out of this impressive body of work, Freud described The Interpretation of Dreams as his personal favorite as well has his most significant contribution to the understanding of human thought.

"[It] contains… the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime," he explained.

The book outlines Freud’s belief that dreams are highly symbolic, containing both overt meanings, called manifest content, and underlying, unconscious thoughts, known as latent content. Dreams, he suggested, are our unconscious wishes in disguise.

Despite Freud’s tendency to over-generalize, his lack of scientific evidence, his overemphasis on sex, and his frequently chauvinistic viewpoints, this seminal work remains important in the history of psychology. The Interpretation of Dreams marked the beginning of psychoanalysis and is a fascinating text revealing Freud’s unique talent as a writer and ambitious theorist.

Source:

PBS: A Scientific Oddysey: People and Discoveries. "Freud's book, 'The Interpretation of Dreams' released 1900."

Continue Reading