Sigmund Freud about dreams
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Sigmund Freud about dreams

We've all heard references to the work of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis (the theory and therapeutic treatment of neuroses) and the first physician to see dreams as a "window to the soul." Before Freud, there had been considerable philosophical interest in dreams, but it was he who began to turn it into a science. Freud started his medical career as a neurologist, and initially sought to discover neurological causes of dreams. Finding no evidence to support this hypothesis, he turned toward psychology, studying hypnosis, which aroused his interest in looking at mental illness from a psychological rather than a physiological point of view. In time, he created a system for the individual interpretation of dreams that would change the course of dreamwork forever. As the first contemporary theorist to reexamine dreams as a wholly psychic (mental) process, Freud was a pioneer, bringing the study of dreams into the modern scientific world. Freud not only used the study of dreams in his work with his patients, but also in conducting his own self-analysis. Examining his dreams led Freud to deduce that his dreams revealed he was actually happy about the death of his father, biographers say, which motivated him to explore dreams as expressions of emotions typically held back in waking life. Freud published the results of his work with the dreams of psychiatric patients in twenty-six different volumes, including The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), which he liked to call his "dream book." Although it initially aroused little interest, selling only 351 copies in the first six years, Freud himself considered it to be his "most significant work"; in the preface to its third edition in 1931, he called it "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.'' This landmark book chronicles his use of free associationsaying whatever comes to mindas a technique for understanding how the content of dreams is connected with a patient's waking life; Freud's technique of noting all of the dreamer's associations with a dream or dream symbol is still popular in dream interpretation today. Freud believed dreams came from the unconscious, that part of the brain that represses (holds back) or forgets memories, though even these supposedly lost emotions can usually be recalled. (Some people refer to it as the subconscious, though unconscious is the preferred term.) In trying to imagine the unconscious, it may help to think of your brain as an office building: The front room is your waking experience; the back room is your memory, easily accessible, logically filed; and the storage area beyond the back room is your unconscious, hard to get to sometimes, and elaborately cross-referenced with everything you have experienced in some surprising ways.

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