By a detailed investigation of dreams Freud discovered a way of exploring the unconscious, recognized that dreams, like neurotic symptoms, are products of a conflict and compromise between conscious and unconscious impulses and was able to classify the differences between the primary and secondary processes of thought - between the modes of functioning in the unconscious and conscious regions of the mind. In addition, Freud was led to revise his methods of treatment for neurotic patients by introducing the valuable technical adjunct of dream-interpretation and to develop, largely based on this work, his revolutionary theories of the Oedipus complex and on the profound importance of infantile life and sexuality for the development of adults.
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Whether we love or hate Sigmund Freud, we all have to admit that he revolutionized the way we think about ourselves. Much of this revolution can be traced to The Interpretation of Dreams, the turn-of-the-century tour de force that outlined his theory of unconscious forces in the context of dream analysis. Introducing the id, the superego, and their problem child, the ego, Freud advanced scientific understanding of the mind immeasurably by exposing motivations normally invisible to our consciousness. While there's no question that his own biases and neuroses influenced his observations, the details are less important than the paradigm shift as a whole. After Freud, our interior lives became richer and vastly more mysterious.
These mysteries clearly bothered him--he went to great (often absurd) lengths to explain dream imagery in terms of childhood sexual trauma, a component of his theory jettisoned mid-century, though now popular among recovered-memory therapists. His dispassionate analyses of his own dreams are excellent studies for cognitive scientists wishing to learn how to sacrifice their vanities for the cause of learning. Freud said of the work contained in The Interpretation of Dreams, "Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime." One would have to feel quite fortunate to shake the world even once. --Rob LightnerFrom the Back Cover:
Freud's discovery that the dream is the means by which the unconscious can be explored is undoubtedly the most revolutionary step forward in the entire history of psychology. Dreams, according to his theory, represent the hidden fulfillment of our unconscious wishes.
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