Analyzing a Dream the Psychoanalytic Way

A few weeks ago, I analyzed a dream using Freud’s method in “The Interpretation of Dreams” for another class.  I don’t usually remember my dreams, so it was perfect timing for that assignment.  Now that we’re talking about Freud, and now that we need to do a psychoanalytic reading of “Anecdote of the Jar,” I thought I’d share my dream analysis here on this blog.

This is what I dreamt:  I was in Victoriaville mall with my friend, Kyle.  I tell him that in the past, my brother and I used to go up to the second level above the food court and shimmy around the outside of the railing.  He decided that sounds like fun, so he left me to try it.  There is a father with some young children, a boy and a girl, who are watching him.  The father complains to me about Kyle going around the outside of the railing; it is a bad influence for his children.  We all go upstairs to find Kyle sitting at a table, waiting for us.  The balcony is a strange, unstable shape and Kyle is sitting at the spot that juts out over the green.  After sitting for a little while, he decides it is a good idea to start jumping up and down in an effort to tip the balcony over onto the green.  (Names have been changed).

Before I get into the analysis, I just want to clarify a few things.  Victoriaville is the mall by the Brodie bus terminal.  What I call “the green” is an area by the food court that used to be green carpet.  It’s on a lower level from the rest of the mall.  With those things clarified, here then is the analysis that I wrote for my assignment:

I then tried to follow Freud’s method of dream analysis from “The Interpretation of Dreams.”  Analyzing the dream in this fashion allowed me to make many connections to both my past and present.  One of these connections includes the fact that I had been thinking about my friend Kyle of late.  The two of us went to Walmart where he bought a movie we had to watch that night, even though I had brought some other movies along and I really did not want to watch the new one.  This incident reminded me that Kyle thinks only of himself, much like a child; my dream shows this by having Kyle acting like a child.

Another connection was to Victoriaville itself.  The level above the food court, where most of my dream takes place, is where a public library was once located.  I work at the public library, and was scheduled to work today at the County Park branch, which is also located within a mall.  Other than once hosting a library, Victoriaville was also the place where my brother, mother and I would meet my grandmother.  My brother and I spent many afternoons playing on the green (it used to be an area of green carpet, but I believe it is now grey tile) while my mother and grandmother had coffee.  Last night, before going to bed, I was thinking I needed to get some exercise.  When the green appeared in my dream, I immediately connected it to my need for activity.  Also at that time, the balcony was a mysterious, special place because we were not allowed up there alone while my mother and grandmother were having coffee. 

A third and final connection I will only make tentatively.  I asked myself what Freud would think of this dream, and came up with some rather disturbing answers.  The father figure in the dream had two kids, a boy and a girl.  This structure parallels my own family when my mother is not present.  Freud might relate this lack of the mother to what he terms the Electra complex, which is the version of the Oedipus complex that occurs in girls.  These complexes are “Freud’s hypothesis that little boys want an exclusive relationship with their mothers, and little girls want an exclusive relationship with their fathers” (Westen 408).  I also thought that Freud would relate the jumping up and down at the end of the dream to sex, perhaps symbolizing the motions of sex.

Analyzing the dream in this way allowed me to make many connections between my memories and the events in the dream.  I was also able to make more connections when I looked at the dream from another angle.  Examining the dream in the way that Freud would brought some vastly different interpretations than those I initially made while looking at the dream from my own perspective.  Suddenly I was seeing sexual conflicts such as the Electra complex, as well as myself in a strange maternal role.  These latter connections, brought on by Freud, really emphasized the importance of framework for interpretation.  Changing the framework brought different aspects of the dream to the foreground of my analysis, while bringing others into the background.  This is exactly how literary theory works in English studies: you choose the framework you want to use, which will allow you to concentrate on certain aspects of the text while ignoring others. 

Freud’s method of analysis as demonstrated with my dream was a fascinating mental exercise.  While this method created many interesting connections, some were much stronger than others.  The ideas about my friend Kyle and about work are stronger connections because these were matters I was thinking of before having the dream.  The ideas about the Electra complex and sex are not as strong because they had no basis in my thoughts prior to this analysis.  For this reason, I think that Freud’s method should not be taken too seriously, especially when using his framework to generate these connections.

Freud, Sigmund.  “The Interpretation of Dreams.”  Literary Theory, An Anthology.  Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.  2nd Ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.  397-414. 
Westen, Drew.  Psychology: Brain, Behaviour, & Culture.  3rd ed.  New York: Wiley, 2002.

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