Contrary to Freud ’s theories , n eurotic dreams, particularly recurrent dreams, are attempts to deal with imprinted pain. Monsters, chaos, and catastrophes all depict the condition of the dreamer's feelings rather than the fulfillment of the dreamer's wishes. In the dream, no matter what the story, there is often a feeling of impending doom; the same feeling that arises just before a patient slips into a devastating pre-verbal primal.
While some dreams may contain wish fulfillment, it is definitely not the essence of dream material. Dream material is woven out of the concrete events of waking realities. If Pain is the chronic ingredient of that reality, it likewise will be the prime mover of dream activity.
Wish fulfillment is a seductive concept that again veils Pain behind a dangerous illusion of insight. Worse, it rarefies the unnecessary Pain of deprivation into an inevitable conflict of infantile desires.
For Freud and his followers, the preferred method of dream analysis – that has r emain ed unchanged for the last century -- use s language, words, and ideas a s the main tools of unravelling. Freud believed that when traced back to its origin, a neurotic idea would "crumble" and the patient would be "freed from it." Unfortunately, intellectual tracing seems quite limited because the neurologic system allow s us to go only so far before barring the gates. Ideas can alter, deny, distort, and repress feelings, but they cannot crumble them. Feelings don't "crumble." They are felt and resolved. And with that resolution goes the ideas which were used to defend against them.
Dreams utilize the first and second levels of consciousness -- primarily the second -- and are another type of language. They use scenes, pictures, sounds, scents, and images to portray feeling. While dreams are still symbols for the feeling, they are closer than third-level ideas to the inner reality. Making associations -- interpreting dreams -- thinking about meaning, just results in more symbols to cover the feeling
Analyzing dreams is the same as analyzing an idea and finding flaws in its logic. You can analyze a paranoid idea -- "people are laughing behind my back," for example -- all day long and not change it one bit. When one succumbs to the feeling of the dream, then one is directly experiencing the unconscious. That means giving into the feeling -- which might be one of terror or blind panic -- and riding the feeling to wherever it leads in the unconscious.
Structuring the Dream
Freud's dream work model requires that the analyst structure the dream for the patient. This action in itself modifies the dream, for the analyst can only superimpose his own view and theory. The dream will have a Freudian slant in psychoanalysis, and a Jungian slant in Jungian analysis. The theory is a preconceived set of ideas laid onto the dream in order to make sense of it. However, no theory is necessary at all, because the memory-imprint is all that is needed to make sense. The dream when felt will lead precisely to the time and place of the trauma. No theory need intervene. The analyst cannot possibly know more about the patient's unconscious than the patient himself. And even if his guess is correct, his insight communicated to the patient will not alter the problem within the patient. It will only give him one more idea to think about, and one less reality to feel. Only the dreamer, not the analyst, knows for sure what a dream means, but he won't know until Pain opens the gates and diminishes repression.
Let's take one of the examples Freud used to show how the application of his technique explained the dream.
A lady related that as a child she very often dreamt that God had a pointed paper cap on his head. How are you going to understand that without the help of the dreamer? It sounds quite nonsensical; but the absurdity disappears when the lady says that as a little girl she used to have a cap like that put on her head at table, because she wouldn't give up looking at the plates of her brothers and sisters to see whether any of them had been given more than she. Evidently the cap was meant to serve the purpose of blinkers; this piece of historical information was given, by the way, without any difficulty.
The interpretation of this element and, with it, of the whole short dream becomes easy enough with the help of a further association of the dreamer's: 'As I had been told that God knew everything and saw everything, the dream could only mean that I knew and saw everything as God did, even when they tried to prevent me.' This example is perhaps too simple.
For Freud it was "easy enough" to see the historical parallels between the dream symbols and the dreamer's past. The patient as a little girl was made to wear the cap, so in her childhood dreams she puts the same cap on God -- she saw the plates of food "even when they tried to prevent me." And Freud believed that arriving at an "accurate" understanding or interpretation in this way was sufficient to undo the trauma.
There is a certain intellectual satisfaction in arriving at such a neat and clear parallel. In fact, Freud felt that "this example is perhaps too simple" because the meaning was so easily discerned. We have found that no matter how simple and transparent the meaning of the dream is, experiencing its feeling is, without exception, never "simple." While the intellect can view the connections as a well-fitted package, the body experiences the connections only through confusion, fear, and finally , agony.
What matters in this dream is the Pain that drove this little girl to her compulsive behavior, and the further Pain of her parents' reaction to it. Beneath her insistent need to see if her brothers and sisters had been given more could be the Pain of rejection and neglect. The dinner food was only a symbol for the love she wasn't getting. It would have been best left to her to tell us what it means, which she could have done had she been encouraged to sink into the feelings in the dream, feeling the Pain of that little girl as a little girl at the dinner table. She must re-experience the rejection and the lack of love; she must feel the Pain that drove her compulsive glances. She must feel the even deeper hurt inflicted by her parents. Not only did they not recognize her desperate need, they punished and humiliated her for it
Outline of Psychoanalysis, p. 124.