‘Interpreting Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud

Published by Penguin in 2006. Download link added on 24. June 2021.


Interpreting Dreams ranks among the most influential books of the twentieth century. Here Freud reflects on his own dreams and those of others to argue powerfully for the first time that all dreams serve simply to provide wish-fulfilment for the unconscious mind. From a child’s simple sleeping fantasy to the bewildering horror of an adult nightmare, all can be understood, through analysis, to symbolize the satisfaction of the repressed desires of childhood. It is not, Freud argues, that dreams are prophetic or meaningless – but that in order to understand them we have to learn a new way of interpreting the complex symbols and tangled language of the unconscious mind.

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Moravia; between the ages of four and eighty-two his home was in Vienna: in 1938 Hitler’s invasion of Austria forced him to seek asylum in London, where he died in the following year. His career began with several years of brilliant work on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. He was almost thirty when, after a period of study under Charcot in Paris, his interests first turned to psychology; and after ten years of clinical work in Vienna (at first in collaboration with Breuer, an older colleague) he invented what was to become psychoanalysis. This began simply as a method of treating neurotic patients through talking, but it quickly grew into an accumulation of knowledge about the workings of the mind in general. Freud was thus able to demonstrate the development of the sexual instinct in childhood and, largely on the basis of an examination of dreams, arrived at his fundamental discovery of the unconscious forces that influence our everyday thoughts and actions. Freud’s life was uneventful, but his ideas have shaped not only many specialist disciplines, but also the whole intellectual climate of the twentieth century.


Introduction by John Forrester
Translators Preface

Forewords to second to eighth editions

(1) The Scientific Literature on Dream-Problems
A How dream relates to waking life
B Dream-material – memory in dream
C Dream-stimuli and sources of dream
D Why are dreams forgotten after waking?
E Psychological distinguishing characteristics of dream
F Ethical feelings in dream
G Dream-theories and function of dream
H Links between dream and mental illnesses

(2) Method of Dream-Interpretation: Analysis of a Specimen Dream

(3) Dream is Wish-Fulfilment

(4) Dream-Distortion

(5) Dream-Material and Sources of Dream
A The live and the neutral in dream
B The infantile as dream-source
C Somatic dream-sources
D Typical dreams
i The embarrassment dream of being naked
ii Dreams of the deaths of loved ones
iii The examination dream

(6) Dream-Work
A Compression
B Displacement
C Dream’s modes of representation
D Dream’s concern for what can be represented
E Representation by symbols in dream -further typical dreams
F Examples – counting and speaking in dream
G Absurd dreams – intellectual performance in dream
H Affects in dream
I Secondary processing

(7) On the Psychology of Dream-Processes
A How dreams get forgotten
B Regression
C Concerning wish-fulfilment
D When a dream wakes one up – the function of dream – the anxiety-dream
E Primary and secondary processes – repression
F The unconscious and consciousness – reality

Other Literature
A Up until publication of the first edition (1900)
B From the literature since 1900

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