In terms of the odd and eccentric art, practice, or science of dream analysis and interpretation, Sigmund Freud argued that “the dreamer does know what his dream means, but does not know that he knows, and therefore believes he does not know.” Thus, Freud’s two basic assumptions about dream analysis and interpretation were that for one, the dream is a ‘psychic’ phenomenon rather than a ‘somatic’ phenomenon, and that there are things about the unconscious mind which the dreamer knows but does not know that he or she knows.
Dream analysis and interpretation is similar to psychoanalysis and its primary technique of ‘free association’ in that the association of ideas and thoughts which are conveyed through ‘free association’ ultimately fall into ‘logical chains’ whereby “certain central ideas” end up emerging. In turn, a dream is a “substitute” for the “thought-processes” which operate during waking life, but are nonetheless filled with emotion and meaning. As a result, a dream either has a “symbolic interpretation” or the dream represents a “code” which is to be unlocked in order to reveal the deeper meaning behind the dream.
More often than not, dreams are a form of ‘wish-fulfilment’ and are signs of wishes that seek to be fulfilled in waking life. Dream analysis and interpretation also requires “compression” or “condensation” of the dream material, given that each element of a dream will “branch out” in different directions. In turn, there is a “common characteristic” between the elements or objects of dreams which one combines or condenses during dream analysis and interpretation. Also, the ‘psychical intensity’ of the dream content translates into ‘sensory vividness’ during the dream, as Freud argued.
Behind the generation of dreams is the “relaxation of the censorship” of the unconscious mind, or the removal of “repression.” Hence, a dream is “the representation of a fulfilled wish” which is sought in waking life and the “obscurity” of this wish in both a dream and waking life is “due to alterations in repressed material made by the censorship” in waking life. Once awake, the conscious mind immediately brings the censorship and repression over the unconscious into full force. It follows that dreams contain ideas or images which “struggle for a piece of ground” in the conscious mind and in waking life. But in the bigger scheme of psychical life, it is such that: “The unconscious is the larger sphere, which includes within it the smaller sphere of the conscious.” Freud added:
“The unconscious is the true psychical reality; in its innermost nature it is as much unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is as incompletely presented by the data of consciousness as is the external world by the communications of our sense organs.”
Ultimately, dreams occupy a place “in a wider sphere of phenomena” but are nevertheless unique amongst all other psychological and social phenomena, in the sense that sleep not only shuts off the mind from the external world and in turn generates dreams, but it also shuts down all the normal mental processes which would normally occur in waking life. Because there are no ordinary or normal mental functions or processes which are occurring during sleep and in the generation of dreams, many cultures, philosophers, and prophets of antiquity were under the impression that dreams come from divine and supernatural sources, thus the assumption that dreams do contain emotion and meaning which in turn are to be deciphered and understood by the dreamer through various ways and means.