Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Interpretation of Dreams 2

I have already referred to Dr Helen Graham and her trenchant criticism of Freud - that his approach to the human mind is very mechanistic and that his structural model of the mind operates like a engine or machine.  She goes on further to contend that pure Freudian psychoanalysis was like fixing a machine and that the psychoanalyst was rather like an engineer who could look into the complex psychic machinery of the psyche and identify its problems through careful analysis of its workings and, in principle at least, set it working again.  See this link: Graham.   Undoubtedly, Freud thought of himself as a scientist and was indeed quite reductionist when it came to the human mind, but as I've already contended I would not go along 100% with Graham's position.  I mentioned in a previous post that I'd possibly agree with her criticisms to a factor of 80%.  I might even reduce this by a further factor of 10%.  It's also interesting to point out that Freud saw himself as researching, exploring and promoting the ultimate science of the mind as it were.  I have already alluded to the fact that he did not tolerate disagreements with his own well-thought out principles - indeed he did not brook much opposition, if any at all.  Moreover, with respect to The Interpretation of Dreams, it's very important to note the emphasis on the definite article here, namely that his approach is the approach, the one and only way, the ultimate scientific approach to dreams.

I note with a certain pleasure Freud's sheer confidence.  I certainly do not call it arrogance, for having read some half of this book so far I can honestly say that our may is not arrogant at all.  He is rather like a confident and sure-footed donkey or horse going up and over a small mountain.  Note this confidence in the very opening sentence of The Interpretation:

In the following pages I shall provide proof that there is a psychological technique that allows us to interpret dreams, and that when this procedure is applied every dream turns out to be a meaningful psychical formation which can be given an identifiable place in what goes on within us in our waking life.  I shall further try to explain the processes that make the dream so strange and incomprehensible and infer from them the nature of the psychical forces in their combinations and conflicts, out of which the dream emerges.  (The Interpretation of Dreams, Oxford University Press, 1999, 6)

I have bolded and italicized what I consider the essentials of Freud's style and method.  As a psychiatrist and clinician who saw himself in the role of a professional scientist he uses words like - "proof,"  "psychological technique" (the psychoanalytic method), "procedure" (medical term), "apply" (like a medicine), "formation", "processes" (medical), "infer" (logic) and "psychical forces" (physiology/physics).  Freud is writing his book as an expert who is confident in so being.  It is also interesting to note the emphasis on "combinations and conflicts" that he sees as being the very nature of the "psychical forces."

Peter Gay is at one with me here.  In commenting on Freud's opening proclamation as it were, he declares that:

Freud asserted not just that dreams have meanings open to interpretation, but that they can be interpreted only if one follows his procedure.  He was putting the reader on notice that he was about to launch on a work making large claims.

Above I have uploaded a picture I took of a lovely piece of artwork in Ionad an Bhlascaoid, Dún Chaoin, Contae Chiarrai.

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