How accurate are books about dream interpretation

Summary of The Interpretation of Dreams

Little story of dream interpretation

Dreams are a phenomenon that has fascinated and terrified people throughout their history. In ancient times, dreams were considered a way of contact with the gods. Homer referred to the dream as a "winged being" that brings divine messages. The Greek philosopher Democritus suspected divine messages in space that enter the dream through the pores of the skin. Only Aristotle assumed that dreams are an inside view of people and do not come from outside. The Stoics in ancient Rome, however, tended again to the thesis of the divine messages received by the dreamer. The early Christians were of the same opinion. In the Bible, for example, one reads of the famous dream interpreter Joseph, who interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh while in captivity. The church fathers then turned against dreaming again with skepticism: Augustine suspected the work of the devil in them rather than divine inspiration. The rational Enlightenment fundamentally rejected dreams as fantasy structures, while the romantics were particularly fond of dreaming. Novalis described dreams as a "defense against the commonplace".

Nineteenth-century science did not attach much importance to dreams - until Sigmund Freud in 1900 his Dream interpretation published and brought the scientific preoccupation with dreams to a new bloom. Freud was sure that his dream interpretation was the "Via regia", the royal road to the knowledge of the soul. He founded the new discipline of psychoanalysis, which - initially strongly opposed by many quarters - proved to be very effective in the 20th century.


On the night of July 23rd to 24th, 1895, Sigmund Freud had the dream of “Irma's Injection”, which is a must in any psychology manual today. When the Viennese neurologist discovered that the dream had fulfilled his secret desires, he began to record and analyze his own dreams. This collection formed the basis for his dream theory, which he entitled in November 1899 The Interpretation of Dreams published. However, the book was pre-dated to the year 1900: It was supposed to be a work of the 20th century, a real book of the century. Obviously proud the author writes 23 years after the first publication: “Psychoanalysis was born, so to speak, in the twentieth century; the publication with which it appears before the world as something new, mine Dream interpretation, bears the year 1900. "

Impact history

TheDream interpretation didn't sell very well at first. It took ten years before the 600 copies of the first edition could be sold. But then interest increased sharply and actually turned the work into a book of the century that sold millions of copies and became the foundation of psychoanalytic theory. Freud broadened the horizons of medicine by opening the view to the life of the soul, dreams and repressed desires. He earned respect from his admirers, but was repeatedly attacked by specialist colleagues: He would represent his theses too self-righteously and unscientificly. The fact that he almost compulsively combined the most banal dreams with sexual desires gave him the reputation of an erotomaniac in disguise. The two closest confidants of Freud's circle broke with him and founded their own psychoanalytic school: Both Alfred Adler in Vienna as well Carl Gustav Jung in Zurich, among others, Freud's overestimation of sexuality. Jung refined the concept of the “collective unconscious” already recognized by Freud.

In the middle of the 20th century, sleep researchers discovered REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), which is linked to a particularly intense dream phase. They also proved that persistent sleep deprivation caused personality breakdown. In doing so, they supported Freud's thesis of sleep as the guardian of mental integrity. There is still no valid and reliable statement about the meaning of dreams. In return, the preoccupation with dreams and sleep, which began with Freud, led to the development of a new direction in neuropsychology: sleep medicine, which searches for the causes of sleep disorders.

Other sciences as well as the arts of literature, painting and film were also heavily influenced by psychoanalysis in the 20th century. This was shown most clearly in Surrealism, in which the unconscious and the dreamlike played a major role.