Trevor's Reviews > The Interpretation of Dreams

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
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's review
Mar 25, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: psychology

This was a much more interesting book than I thought it might be. The nature of dreams is something that is hard not to find fascinating. The thing is that we spend quite a bit of time dreaming – not the third of our lives we spend sleeping, but enough time to make us wonder why we dream at all. It seems incomprehensible that our dreams would be completely meaningless. But then, they can be so bizarre it is hard to know just what they might mean.

Freud starts with a quick run through how dreams have been interpreted in the past – from Aristotle on. Aristotle is a good place to start, as he says we dream about things that have been left unresolved from the day – and this is a core idea that Freud also includes in his theory of dreams.

Essentially, Freud sees dreams as playing a key role in helping us to process stuff that happened during the day. But dreams are a truth that likes to hide. Their meaning covers itself in remarkable allusions and images that are often amusingly apt, but sometimes it is as if we are determined to hide the true meaning of our dreams even from ourselves.

Freud makes it clear that this will not be a book of off-the-shelf interpretations – ‘oh, you dreamt of a lion last night, that means you should have been born Leo and spent time chasing gazelle’. To Freud it is impossible to understand and interpret dreams from a list of standard symbols. This doesn’t mean that if you are going to interpret dreams you don’t have to know a lot about symbols and their common meanings – but this knowledge is never enough. Symbols develop their own meanings within the text that is the dream. Just as in Blake’s The Sick Rose the rose can be read to mean anything from nature, to the Christian Church, to female genitalia, so in dreams the interpretation is meaningful within the context of the dream and to the life of the dreamer. And the dream is relevant to the immediate life of the dreamer. It is generally a response to what happened that day – even if the imagery used may well refer back to the childhood of the dreamer so that the deeper significance is a life's work.

The other remarkable conclusion Freud draws is that dreams are wish fulfilments. Now, this seems anything but obvious. Sure, when we have dreams we are having sex with super-models it is pretty obvious that Freud is onto something. But these aren’t the only dreams he sees as being wish fulfilments. Even dreams where loved ones die are seen by Freud as being fundamentally the realisations of wishes – but again, the dream isn’t always as easy to interpret as it might initially seem and the wish may not be as easy to understand as might be immediately apparent from what happens in the dream. The fact we wake screaming and shaking from a dream may not mean there is no wish involved in the thing that terrifies us – although, I would have to say I don’t think he dealt with nightmares nearly as well as he ought to have.

It is here that Freud discusses the Oedipal Complex – how our first sexual attraction is toward the parent of the opposite sex to ourselves and therefore we desire to remove one parent from the scene so as to take their place. While we are children the full implications of this desire are obscure to us – but as we grow older the taboo associated with this desire helps suppress our recognition of these desires, or repress them, rather – but only from the conscious mind. The subconscious mind still remembers what we might prefer to forget and so uses these images, as the first images of our awakening desires, as potent images in our dreams. The meaning of the image may not be anything like that we want to kill our father and have sex with our mother – it might actually refer to an awakening of sexual interest in someone else we have only recently meet – but the dream uses this ‘primal’ image as something to help it make sense of our current world and desires, even if the image then goes on to confuse the hell out of us.

Time for a story. I once worked with a woman called Frances Nolan. She was really lovely, one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with, but I didn’t really fancy her. I mean, she was pretty and incredibly nice, but she was quite a bit younger than me and I just wasn’t really all that interested in her in that way. But every morning I would be walking to the train station and when I got to a certain part of Church Street she would suddenly jump into my head as large as life. I was starting to think that I must have been starting to fall for her – it was the strangest feeling, and quite confusing. Until one day I realised that there is a shoe shop in Church Street that is called Frances Nolan Shoes – and the sign is huge and I would walk under it every day. I really struggle to believe I didn’t consciously notice this sign in all the time I had walked up that street and imagined I was falling for poor Frances.

This book is interesting as I had assumed it would be a much harder read than it turned out to be – I also thought it would be a much sillier book than it turned out too. It is extremely well written. I don’t think I agree entirely with Freud, but he makes a very strong case. My main problems with his theory have to do with Sherlock Holmes. Because that’s what a lot of this sounded like to me. Someone has a dream and Freud does the whole ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ thing. It even gets to the stage where he says that sometimes things mean the opposite of what they seem to mean in the dream. When that is the case then any interpretation is basically about imposing ones preconceptions on the meaning of the symbols in the dream.

I tend to think that dreams probably don’t mean nearly as much as we like to think they do – but what they do do is throw up lots of random images, images which we try to make sense of and it is that ‘making of sense’ that says interesting things about us. And whether it is dream images or tarot cards or ink dots on paper – our making sense of random images says interesting things about us. But we should go gently into this stuff. We should go on tip-toes. Because stories have lives of their own and we are weaker than a good story and always will be.

I once read a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I think in that book she says that lines have a momentum that is very hard to control – but controlling the momentum of lines is a large part of what drawing is about. Stories also have a momentum that is very hard to control. The narratives we tell about ourselves are one thing – the narrative we tell about our dreams are quite another.

Personally, I think I prefer Freudian readings of novels to Freudian readings of people – but I can certainly see why this book made such an impact. If the problem with the book is Freud playing Holmes, it is only a problem because he is so damn clever he gets away with it. I’m surprised I’m going to do this – I would never have thought I would have when I started reading - but I think I would recommend this book. It is a fascinating read, even if it has left me somewhat less than convinced.
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Started Reading
March 25, 2012 – Shelved
March 25, 2012 – Shelved as: psychology
March 25, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-45 of 45) (45 new)

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Owlseyes "....I would have to say I don’t think he dealt with nightmares nearly as well as he ought to have".
Freud changed somehow his conception of how human psyche works,especially after WWI: he started speaking about Eros and Thanatos; latter one would explain some kind of dreams, nightmares...a kind of repetition of bad experiences; of course for elaboration.

Owlseyes -The Interpretation of Dreams (German: Die Traumdeutung)-1899
-essay:"Beyond the Pleasure Principle" (first published in German in 1920, as Jenseits des Lustprinzips.
Jung went way beyond Freud in the chapter of dreams interpretation.

message 3: by AC (new) - rated it 5 stars

AC Yes..., a masterpiece. You should take a look at the the work he wrote BEFORE publishing Die Traumdeutung. It is called the Unfinished Project, and attempts a physical description of mental activity based, in part, on the the idea (derived from Maxwell-Faraday's model of the ether) that thoughts cut an actual groove in the synapses and that it is those actual grooves that create habits of thought. Freud gave it up (hence, the title Unfinished Project) with profound consequences. Because it shows, what elsewhere he states, that his model of the mind -- ego, id..., all of it... is not to be taken TOO literally, that the whole apparatus is merely a heuristic device.

In other words, he did with the older psychology -- precisely (and I think with full consciousness) what Kant did with the older epistemology (of Leibniz). It is all a façon de parler... if I can put it that way.

Obvioiusly -- Freud, too... like you..., was unconvinced ... and changed, altered, rejected nearly everything he had published in Dreams -- even proposing, by 1939 ("Analysis Terminable and Interminable") that therapy itself was an utter failure and suggesting (with a clear note of despair) that perhaps we do, in fact, possess inherited memories... and so are doomed.

The problem with Freud is not Freud, but simply that people don't know how to read him..., how to cope with his protean genius.

But he will far outlast his critics. Even when every last proposal has been refuted or superseded.

message 4: by Stephen M (last edited Mar 25, 2012 10:43AM) (new)

Stephen M "Personally, I think I prefer Freudian readings of novels to Freudian readings of people".

I completely agree. I think Freud can be a great deal of fun to apply to movies, literature and art, but when applied to the real world, it seems quite antiquated. Good on you for reading this! Probably one of the most influential works in lit theory.

Trevor Thanks for the wonderful comments, very interesting. AC this is the first text by Freud I've read and I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I'd read Popper's criticisms of Freud and expected to just find that - but this was much more interesting than just saying 'reinforced dogma' three times while clicking one's shoes together. It is really interesting that you feel he came to see this all as a bit of a mistake - like the later dialogues of Plato and his implicit rejection of the theory of the forms. Very few people live up to the standard - I love Plato very much, but I love truth more. But then, I hope I'm never put to that test, is there a more courageous act?

It is so obvious the impact this work has had on lit theory. That was part of the reason why I read it.

Jose, I will eventually have to read more. Thanks for your suggestions.

message 6: by AC (new) - rated it 5 stars

AC I wouldn't put it quite that way ... "bit of a mistake". But Freud's thinking was always evolving. Freud, though, is essential reading, and in depth. I would proceed chronologically, and there are probably about 10 works or so that one has to read. it's worth the time.

As to Plato and the later dialogues, we'll have to save that for another day...

message 7: by AC (last edited Mar 25, 2012 08:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

AC One other point... About using Freud to interpret art, etc... Freud did do that. But on his own principles, he shouldn't have, and the exercise is worthless. For only the patient, through the method of free association, can unlock the meaning of any symbolic association... as the connection, for Freud, between sign and signified is necessarily contingent. As such, one cannot do psychoanalysis "at a distance".

message 8: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker "Because stories have lives of their own and we are weaker than a good story and always will be."

I love this insight, Trevor.

Helen (Helena/Nell) Loved the bit about Frances Nolan.

Coincidentally I have just been working with a remarkable lady called . .. Frances Nolan. But she is a world apart, and so far as I know, we have no shoe shops here called that...

Trevor Thanks Whitaker. I don't just mean it because it sounds good (another problem I must confess to) - I'm quite certain it is true. And I like that there are more than one remarkable Frances Nolans in the world, Nell.

message 11: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Graye The reason I love Freud (and the reason I could never abandon him totally) is that he read people like he read books.

Trevor I really was surprised by this book, Ian - another example of why it is best to go back to the source.

message 13: by AC (last edited Apr 01, 2012 08:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

AC If you keep reading Freud, I think you will become even more amazed.
After InteDreams, the case studies (Dora, Rat Man, Little Hans) and Three Essays on Sexuality continue the libido psychology.

But the REAL pay-off comes when you get to Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Ego and Id, and Civilization and its Discontents - those three.

Thomas Baughman AC wrote: "If you keep reading Freud, I think you will become even more amazed.
After InteDreams, the case studies (Dora, Rat Man, Little Hans) and Three Essays on Sexuality continue the libido psychology.


I would also recommend Totem and Taboo. A Beautifully argued work.

message 15: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Graye I suppose what I was trying to say is that Freud (and to a certain extent, Marx and others who sat and read in Libraries all day) was a literary stylist and story-teller.

He was both a reader and a writer, which laid the foundation for his works.

message 16: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Heh, Freud as Sherlock Holmes - that's great.

Francie Nolan is the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so I did a double-take at your use of the name!

Trevor For god's sake - she's taking over.

message 18: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Great, sympathetic review. I have real problems with Freud conceptually, which I'm hoping you can help address. For starters, I'd thought that Freud's theories had been thoroughly discredited by cognitive neuroscientists if not debunked outright? And from what I've gathered, psychology is still very much a backwater science, with the workings of the brain (and maybe even nervous system as a whole?) only just beginning to be understood.

And while I'm going out onto a limb of my own limited erudition, doesn't Freud inherently fail the Popper test for science, in that his theories fail to make specific predictions that can be validated or rejected? Premised on such objections, I'd always found his lingering influence, like that of other famously wrong thinkers (Karl Marx comes to mind), as puzzling and disturbing as that of most cults. And if in fact Freud's ideas were ultimately absolutely cock-a-doodle (no matter how well-considered, well-written, and/or well-intentioned), what ultimately distinguishes the impact of his work from that of any other quack or L. Ron Hubbard?

message 19: by AC (new) - rated it 5 stars

AC Bruce wrote: "Great, sympathetic review. I have real problems with Freud conceptually, which I'm hoping you can help address. For starters, I'd thought that Freud's theories had been thoroughly discredited by ..."

Perhaps if you thought of Freud (as Marx) as a philosopher, as once examining and probing first premises, rather than as a scientist, it might help. The fact is, that neither politics nor psychology (qua behavior, obviously) are scientific -- they are essentially rhetorical -- and that it is those who would try to reduce them to hard science (whether natural or exact) who are the quacks.

This is not offered as a study in optimistism. It would be nice if they WERE scientific. It would be nice, for example, if the future of history or even the short term movements of markets or the best course of a novel or any number of such things could be predicted. But so it goes....

This distinction between science and rhetoric - you might prefer other language, of course -- goes back to Plato and the Gorgias (who distinquishes techne from *tribe* or knack, and of course survives -- through the Medieval trivium and quadrivium, into the modern division of the Sciencies and the Humanities. So it is a real distinction, and is one (as the Plato and Aristotle knew and demonstrated) that is based on logical differences between science and rhetoric.

That these two subjects are, in the modern system, placed in the so-called "social sciences" is more a comment on us, than on Marx or Freud.

Just my two cents, obviously.

message 20: by Bruce (new)

Bruce AC wrote: "Perhaps if you thought of Freud (as Marx) as a philosopher, as once examining and probing first premises, rather than as a scientist, it might help..."

Your thinking about the distinctions between philosophy and science may be too deep for a literalist like myself, AC. I define philosophy as any system of belief and so think of science (or at least the scientific method) as a philosophy in its own right. To me, the value inherent in any given philosophy lies in its capacity to tell me something useful about the world and my place in it. I don't have a problem with the pursuit or classification of various social sciences, as sciences when they follow and accept the consequences of the scientific method... along those lines I don't see why behavioral sciences like economics should fail to be quantifiable and predictive, provided you could describe a model that managed to identify (let alone control for) enough of the relevant variables.

However, to the extent you would distinguish Freud's work as rhetoric (by which I'd guess you mean, proposing a structure of the language of dreams?) and not as science, to what end would you make use of it? If Freud was more philosopher than scientist (and I'd agree he was), is he one that still speaks (or ought to speak) to our time? If so, how? Aside from the fact of his original and wide-reaching influence (which I'll allow probably had worthwhile offshoots in their time), what else makes his work important?

message 21: by AC (new) - rated it 5 stars

AC Bruce wrote: "Your thinking about the distinctions between philosophy and science may be too deep for a literalist like myself, AC. ..."

Ha..! I doubt it...!! ;-)

I will answer only one of your questions, since time is short.

My reference to rhetoric had nothing to do with what you suggested (the fault is entirely mine, for the term admittedly is ambiguous).


Aristotle (from which the classical divisio I referenced derives) distinguishes three types of logos: scientific (= apodeictic; which is what Plato means by *techne* in the Gorgias passage and which, as we would put it today, is fully formalizable); dialectic (which is analytical and which does not concern us today); and rhetoric (what Plato calls a knack, or what we would call an 'art' in counterdistinction to a 'science').

Science and rhetoric, both of which are discursive, are formally identical, and differ only in the status of their premises. Thus, the apodeictic syllogism ("All men are mortal/Socrates is a man/therefore, Socrates is mortal") starts with premises that are certain (or thought to be certain); the rhetorical syllogism (called the enthymeme; though this term is also used sometimes with another sense), starts from premises that are merely probably ("Good men don't kill/Socrates is a good man/therefore, Socrates does not kill") - and as the conclusion cannot be stronger than the weakest premise, this is called a probabilistic syllogism. All of ethics, politics, etc. falls into this sphere, since its premises are true only "for the most part".

In induction, scientific induction should be complete or as complete as possible, whereas rhetorical induction rests on one or two instances (the anecdote, example, etc.).

Since first principles -- the ultimate subject of most philosophical inquirey, including Freud's and Marx' -- cannot be known with any certainty, either by induction (which can never be complete) or by deduction (which always rests on unproved assumptions), philosophy (including Freud's and Marx') cannot be scientific.

Whether that makes it of no value is a topic we will have to take up another time, mon vieux...

Likewise, the problem of whether, in fact, science -- by this rigorous standard -- exists.

(All the above may be wrong, of course -- but it is, at least, what I meant to say when I said that they were 'rhetorical' and cannot be measured against the cannons of Popper. Of course, neither can Popper's own theory be so measured, as you cannot build a boat in which you are standing, as Neurath so nicely put it.)

Trevor It is funny, Bruce, but I was thinking of Popper throughout this and his 'reinforced dogma' ideas. Someone once asked him how his theory of refutability could be refuted - one of those endless hall of mirrors, I suspect.

I think it is probably a little harsh to call both Marx and Freud 'famously wrong'. It is hard to be right or wrong with this stuff. My metaphor of choice at the moment is that of a candle - probably has something to do with the surname. A candle throws light, but it also throws shadows - it illuminates and it distorts. I guess that is how I see any theory, if it didn't illuminate at all it would hardly have been influential for so long, if it answered all of the questions we could sit back and enjoy nirvana, or your grunge band of choice.

There are obviously problems with Freud - the idea that things in dreams can be literally the same as they are in real life or mean the opposite or anywhere inbetween, makes for interesting logical problems - surely that just means the story fits whatever the guy reading the story wants it to fit? But, as I also said in the review, from Popper's criticism I'd have thought this would have been much worse than it turned out. In fact, it was really very interesting. Yeah, there's shadows, but there's also light.

message 23: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Fair enough. I thought AC and I might have been talking past one another in a number of ways (me thinking in terms of Freud's relevance to science and he to art). Indulge me a couple of paragraphs, and then I'll try to stop being coy and come right out with the macrolevel problems I find with Freud.

I'm not sure I was following AC's argument, so to be fair to him, I'll try to restate it. AC begins by distinguishing Freud's writings from scientific inquiry by relying on Aristotelian or Platonic categories of logos. (That's all Greek to me... I'm not confident these remain applicable to the contemporary meaning of science, but what do I know? I'm not really a scientist, and in any case, who cares whether or not they remain applicable as I think everyone entitled to make use of any taxonomy they please. And I guess it's Freud himself who brings Aristotle into the picture to begin with, so if anyone's viewing Freud with an inapropros lens, it's probably me... but I'll forge ahead with Hempel and Popper anyway... and as a brief aside, what is it with these science philosophers? Is everyone not named Kuhn named Carl?)

Back to AC... having set up that distinction (Freud's works should be viewed rhetorically as opposed to scientifically in that they derive from incomplete or fallible premises), he seems to go on to suggest that scientific inquiry (in the Aristotelian view, if not the modern, though perhaps these are in fact the same) requires complete, or infallible premises from which to derive meaningful conclusions (existence of infallible premises being something I think we would all question the possibility of); that such inquiry works by way of syllogism (which I am tentatively willing to grant), and that Popper's views are probably unscientific. Of each of these statements, I am certainly prepared to agree with the last, as I read Popper's ideas as a philosophic refinement of the scientific method, not as the practice of science itself. In any case, and in line with your hall of mirrors, I've taken Kurt Godel's (good lord, another 'K') word for it that no logic can be completely self-consistent or -contained.

However, I don't think that means we throw the science baby out with the fallibility bathwater. So whether or not it's the best means of uncovering the ways of the world we have (it's probably the best we know right now) science exists, even if it isn't ideal (let not the perfect be the enemy of the good, I'm always telling my clients -- they never seem to like that, but it does save them money and time). I think we still end up with an ever-improving picture of what constitutes reality by following scientific precepts.

Art (or Aristotelian rhetoric?) is another matter, and follows its own rules for the revelation of internal and external truths. Logistical requirements of structural consistency aside (that is, poor craft, which is a whole separate basis for criticism), I think artistic value must ultimately be judged subjectively on its personal impact and objectively on the number of people it reaches and affects.

All this is neither here nor there when it comes down to my main beef with Freud, which is that I think he intended his model of id, ego, and superego and his method of psychoanalysis to be used as a tool. Even if that was not his true intent, it certainly has been his legacy, and this tool is... well, if not demonstrably wrong... could I say useless? Or perhaps if not useless, how about... no better than the Zodiac or Tarot, which is to say that psychoanalysis' therapeutic value lies entirely with the sympathies of its practitioners and not at all with any inherent merit.

Freud's theories of dream interpretation (among others) are not like a hammer that many goofs try to use like a saw; they're like a hammer made out of foam, which is to say, a badly-made hammer. When it comes to applying them to (god forbid) medicine, they can be more harmful than a placebo. And so I fear that to consider Freud on his merits today, no matter how elegant his design or eloquent his articulation, is to perpetuate the very confusion he so influentially spawned. I just can't see past these (for me) very scary shadows for whatever faint light his work still has to offer.

AC seems to believe bias like mine is unjustified, or if justified, that any faults in Freudianism are wholly excusable where his thinking is applied outside a scientific context. I think Freud's theories are pseudoscience, too easily confused to apply to any context. Having just read him, do you think I am wrong or unfair to Freud in believing this? And would you still recommend his writing for serious, as opposed to avocational, application to anyone who thinks as I do?

message 24: by AC (new) - rated it 5 stars

AC Magnificent and fascinating post/response, Bruce!! Please pardon me
If it takes me a couple of days to reply..., as dayjob
Is killing me right now. But we are in the same
Universe of discourse (a rarity!), and so a response, be assured,
I will make :-)

Meanwhile, take a look at "Analysis Terminable and Interminamle",
Where Freud makes your point against himself - and on
Very rich and suggestive grounds. That fact alone might
Suggest that Freud, qua philosophy, is well worth reading.

message 25: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Will do, thanks, AC!

Trevor You see, the problem is that for most of my life I’ve thought that all of psychology and psychiatry were essentially nonsense. This is something I still believe today – but perhaps a little less so. And the more it pretends to be science the more nonsense and dangerous it is. But, I think there is little question that the most dangerous of the mind scientists are the ones most likely to meet Popper’s definition of science. There is a very interesting book on those bastards called Doctoring the Mind: Is Our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good? that I can’t recommend too highly.

Ok – I guess my main view on all this is that people are basically meaning making machines. Can I prove that beyond Popper’s Refutability Criterion? Probably not – but I’m not as enamored of Popper as you seem to be Bruce. I’ve never liked his fundamental subjectivism and I think there is only so far you can go with a negative criterion of truth. But then, I tend to think most philosophy is ultimately bullshit too, so it does quickly get to the point where one should probably just shut up and say nothing.

Yes, of course Freud caused lots of harm – I’d be surprised if anyone would argue against that. But I do think that he was on a much more interesting track than psychiatry which sees ‘fixing the brain’ as purely a biological question and does not follow the fundamental principle that ought to be followed in this stuff – first do no harm.

Freud started what I like to think of as the talking cures. Now, another of those beliefs I have that probably wouldn’t meet Mr Popper’s wonder truth criterion is that we are more Homo Narratus than Homo Sapiens (I really do think we should give up on the whole ‘wise man’ crap as a bit of a bad joke) – we are the stories we tell about ourselves. On this I think Freud was pretty much on the money. That doesn't mean I believe we should all put on tweed suits and ask each other about our mothers and whether she had nice tits. Much of that is clearly crap. But I do think that people do suffer from mental disturbances (if not ‘illness’ – which might just put this stuff automatically into the wrong paradigm) and I do believe much of these disturbances is misdiagnosed (in being diagnosed, in fact) by current and historical theories, I’ve mentioned Doctoring the Mind, but another excellent book attacking the talking cure side is The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves.

But if we are talking babies and bathwater, I do think there is much to be said for Freud’s intuition that there is stuff that goes on below the surface in our minds that impact on the lie that is our conscious awareness. Perhaps ‘lie’ is to emotional a word, but it is a remarkably apt one too – as most of the books I’ve read lately on brain research, from Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts through to Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, testify. If I need to make a choice on my own form of therapy and that choice is between the science that meets Popper’s criterion in mind cures – and that is the science of altering brain chemistry, psychiatry – or a narrative-based chat with someone about the sense I think I can make of the random images presented to me in my dreams – well, I reckon I’d be much safer chatting with Freud than with the guy with the pills.

Do I think Freud is worth reading other than from historical reasons – yeah, I think so. I think he is dead wrong about a lot of stuff, but if I was ever assessed as a bit nuts – or a bit more nuts than I assume I am already assessed – then I would much rather someone schooled in literary criticism was farting around with my mind than someone schooled in biology and chemistry. And I think they would be much more likely to find a ‘cure’ – even if, ultimately, such a notion is, yet again, from the wrong paradigm.

message 27: by Bruce (last edited Apr 05, 2012 01:00PM) (new)

Bruce Trevor wrote: "...Now, another of those beliefs I have that probably wouldn’t meet Mr Popper’s wonder truth criterion is that we are more Homo Narratus than Homo Sapiens (I really do think we should give up on the whole ‘wise man’ crap as a bit of a bad joke) – we are the stories we tell about ourselves."

Actually, a friend of mine recently sent me a couple of links (the second is a fascinating Radiolab piece) in which Jonah Lehrer discusses memory studies that would absolutely seem to support your belief. If I remember rightly (ha!), the gist is that every time we tell a story we overwrite our memories of the event. So, talking helps to expunge our traumatic reactions to traumatic events by re-encoding the memories in ways that are less disruptive. (That's surely not exactly what's going on neurologically, but I'm stuck with my limited understanding of the metaphor.)

I'm totally in agreement with you about psychiatry and psychology and would possibly extend that further into non-surgical medical treatment that isn't as simple as administering an antibiotic or analgesic. I wouldn't lay the fault of drug-administering mind curers with Popper, but rather with pharmacological zealots too ready to dispense drugs when all indications remain that we really, really, REALLY still do not understand all the variables that make up the function of our brains or nervous systems (almost certainly fairly dynamic, interconnected, and interdependent systems at that). It seems that every day a news item emerges about the unintended consequences of particular treatments administering particular brain chemicals (dopamine, oxytocin, seratonin, etc.) and it would not surprise me in the least to learn that each person's brain is a unique snowflake in the interlockings of their respective pieces such that exact treatment may never be possible... at least not ones that are guaranteed to first do no harm. So I guess I'd blame hubris more than Popper here, as I do believe that science that meets Popper's criterion will do better than Freud to help us learn more about what makes us tick.

As to whom to chat with, I think I'd first go with a transactional analyst... their dialogues are much more witty than racy, but hey, whatever floats your boat. Then again, not all Popperians are pill-pushers. You identify Daniel Ariely already. And don't forget other behaviorists like Skinner, Milgram, and Paco Underhill. Forget organic chemistry; show me (briefly) predictable results!

May we all be protected from those who would seek to cure us of our unique selves, whatever guise they may take. And while I won't ever lie on someone's couch, I'll be only too happy to run through someone's maze. That maze is stocked with chocolate, isn't it? It's not worth my time otherwise.

message 28: by Yousef (new) - added it

Yousef Very nice review.
Thanks guys!

Trevor They always promise chocolate Bruce. Even the Catholic Church promises chocolate, and bunny rabbits. But the next thing you know theyve nailed some guy to a tree. I've learned to be careful when chocolate is concerned. Although obviously one can only ever be just so careful.

message 30: by Daniel (new) - added it

Daniel Great review Trevor, I liked the Frances little story. I will certainly add this one to my shelvs. Thanksss

message 31: by Nicolle (new) - added it

Nicolle da Silva Amazing description in your review!

Trevor Thanks Nicolle and a belated thanks to Daniel too.

message 33: by Lada (last edited May 01, 2014 01:34PM) (new)

Lada thank you for the review. dreams are a serious stuff

message 34: by Lada (new)

Lada thank zou for the review

message 35: by Lada (new)

Lada thank zou for the review

Trevor Thanks Lada - dreams are indeed serious stuff

message 37: by Ashley (new) - added it

Ashley Castaneda I so agree with Trevor.

message 38: by Sara (new)

Sara Yousry Can i get free download link of this book

Trevor I was hoping project gutenberg might have one - but it seems not. They do have some Freud, though.

Harry It has been on my reading list for some time. In the meantime, I have seen many negative comments on Freud's masterpiece. I have not started reading yet, but I have fairly high expectations for this book, as it would be a lucid reasoner and interpreter, unveiling some of the mysteries of dreams, whilst I still remain skeptical about the book's influence on non-western cultures, and some of its partial explanations solely or largely based on the writer's personal experience, as many skeptics may argue. Anyway, hope it will be an enjoyable read.

Trevor I really have no idea what his influence has been on non-western cultures - I would be fascinated to find out. I don't know nearly enough about non-western ideas concerning psychology.

Harry I am a Chinese, and as far as I know, Chinese people are tremendously different from western people(sorry to group people from a number of different countries into the single word "western", but it is easier to generalise) psychologically. I am not an expert of psychology or sociology myself, but by observing how different people react towards different kinds of things, a basic conception can be constructed. The difference is more dramatic and interesting when it comes to symbolisation, for example, the factor, according to Freud, plays an important role in dreaming. Symbolisation of colours can be understood fairly easily as one of the major psychological/cultural differences between Chinese people and western people. In China, for instance, red symbolises happiness, white death, yellow power, purple wealth, etc. As a westerner(or are you not), you can easily perceive the difference without having me to list western people's interpretations of these colours. Actually I am still reading the Interpretation of Dreams for the moment, but as far as I am concerned, I do not think Freud's theory is generally applicable to Chinese people, perhaps including Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, whose cultures bear similarities to Chinese culture. As a matter of fact, we have our own philosophers and psychologists(or sort of) in ancient times, including Confucius, Meng Zi, Lao Zi, as you might know. Though these great thinkers are still influential today, it is a shame, however, they were born more than 2,000 years ago, and the field of philosophy and psychology have been unoccupied and fruitless from then onwards as people's creative thoughts have been miserably suppressed and intellectuals eradicated by the authorities in defence of totalitarianism under the cloak of stability as well as morality. Unfortunately it is still the case today. As a direct or indirect result, we do not have Sigmund Freud in China, and people who are interested in psychology and want to explore reasons behind dreaming, like me, can only resort to exotic ideas.

Trevor It is interesting - the difference in colours would be something Freud would be delighted with. He situates his interpretations much more on the lived experience of the individual person, rather than on more 'universal' ideas of what particular symbols mean. His advice is to know about these 'universal' ideas, but to know they are likely to be of little or no help in your interpretation. I went to a lecture recently where a woman was discussing her research into architecture. She was actually talking about the use of colour in architecture and how different architects use colours in ways to affect the moods of those entering their spaces. Remarkably interesting, but as she said, there has been very little of what could reasonably be called 'scientific' analysis done on this - though I've heard lots over the years about this. Apparently there is a sports team in the US that has soft-pastle colours for the visiting teams change rooms and bold colours for the home team's change rooms and this, supposedly, impacts on sporting ability. I also read a book recently called If It's Purple, Someone's Gonna Die: The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling. And although it was interesting, it also was hardly 'scientific'. Not that scientific should be the sole criterion for judging such things, but I think that if you can test these sorts of things someway, it would be interesting to see what comes out of such tests.

Recently I read a wonderful book about China and the West's notions of China Knowledge, Desire and Power in Global Politics. It has made me particularly aware of my own ignorance about China and other Asian intellectual traditions. I am very surprised you do not believe there have been any philosophers or psychologists in China for 2000 years.

Harry Presumably the ideas put forward by you about colours are more convincing and scientific, and I find the stories of architecture an changing room really interesting. The interpretations of colours, as a universal conception, however, are just one of the examples that illustrate the huge difference between Chinese and Western culture. And what I am trying to say is that psychology is not really internationally applicable, especially when it comes to sectors as subtle as dreams. Admittedly, Freud situates his interpretations much more on one's experience, rather than the universal perceptions, but it must be noted that one's experience cannot remain entirely independent and uninfluenced by the surroundings, an ordinary individual, in fact, is to a great extent assimilated into the culture and traditions and somewhat a representative of his or her own culture, although differences between individuals unavoidably exist. That, in turn, makes people from one cultural group differ from people from another psychologically. To make it clearer, an individual is not entirely an individual because he or she has been moulded or remoulded in accordance with the cultural environment, and perceptions about certain things deeply embedded into one's memory. One example in real life is that rarely do we see foreigners major in psychology and eventually work as psychologist in another country, at least it is the case with Chinese students who are studying in foreign countries. And for Chinese people who are studying or working overseas, even if they get permanent residency and have been living in the country for decades, they still prefer Chinese-born psychological consultants, although it is tremendously difficult to find Chinese consultants. What is more, Chinese culture is inconceivably complicated, even for myself, a native Chinese. I have to admit that we know so little about ourselves, ironically, due to some sort of insularity which is the last word Chinese people would generally think of to describe Chinese culture. But honestly it is the case, meanwhile we always label our country as one of the most hospitable, friendly countries around the world. They are both true. It seems contradictory, but actually not. I am not going to give more examples in support of it, for it would take pages even for a starter, but I am sure that you will find Chinese culture fascinating if you delve into it a little. I am interested in the book about China you mentioned because I really want to learn what China is known amongst the English-speaking countries. Would it be hugely, unacceptably different from the traditional Chinese viewpoints? I think so, as the thoughts of Chinese people are usually shaped by the education system so that stability would be guaranteed. As I may put it, though, the only way to eliminate prejudice is to look at both sides of the coin.

Trevor I am very interested in the work of Foucault and Bourdieu and they say much the same as you have about the relationship between the individual and society. At work I have been helping my boss put together a book on Asia literacy in Australia - essentially, what do Australians know about Asia and how can we increase that knowledge. It has been a very large problem in Australia for a very long time. We are geographically close to Asia, but psychologically we could not be further away. Although, this is changing very quickly. I believe one-in-six people in Australia today is either from Asia or has one or more parents from Asia.

One of the chapters in the book is about Tianxia 天下 and how this concept is quite different from the Western notion of Orientalism. Utterly fascinating idea - I learnt a lot from it. I was born in Ireland, and the Irish have much the same problem as the Chinese. They are known as being very friendly - but they are also known for getting into fights with other people and amongst themselves. Racial stereotypes are bizarre things, even when they are accepted by the people they refer to themselves, they are often contradictory and explain far less than they cover.

And, like you, I believe our best hope to eliminate prejudice is through understanding - and in understanding difference as much as similarity.

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