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Freud’s “Secondary Revision” of Dreams

wordscraft – Sigmund Freud

In Sigmund Freud‘s seminal work on dreams and the unconscious, The Interpretation of Dreams, secondary revision is said to occur whenever we remember a dream’s content.¹

Freud says the original dream content is usually obscure, incoherent and highly symbolic, so our memory of it is fragmented, at best.

On waking, the conscious mind fills in the gaps to make sense out of the dream, even though our waking interpretation doesn’t necessarily fit with the actual dream content.

Encyclopedia Britannica says:

The final function of the dreamwork is secondary revision, which provides some order and intelligibility to the dream by supplementing its content with narrative coherence.²

In his Dictionary of Psychology, J. P. Chaplin calls this secondary elaboration, and says we essentially try to make a better “story” out of the dream content.³

¹ The Interpretation of Dreams (German edition: 1899 & 1900).


³ Dictionary of Psychology (Bantam: 1985).


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Splitting (Freudian concept)

Split Up: ViaMoi

Split Up: ViaMoi via Flickr

In Freudian theory splitting is a defense mechanism where the ego divides into one or more parts to attempt to deal with anxiety. One part remains fully conscious and is experienced as the real self, while the other may become unconscious and projected onto an object (a Freudian term that includes another person).

When a split-off aspect of the ego is projected, the object is often unrealistically seen as alternating between being “good” and “bad.”

Wikipedia sums up

Splitting (also called black and white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) is the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism used by many people.[1] The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).¹

It should be noted that Freud, himself, did not coin the term. Instead, one of his followers, Ronald Fairbairn developed the concept in his object relations theory. Freud, however, did write about the idea of splitting, especially in regard to fetishism and psychosis.² — ¹ ²

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Syntonic Counter-Transference

Watch Over me

Watch Over Me by stonethestone via Flickr

In 1957 the psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, Michael Fordham, forwarded the term “syntonic counter-transference” (SCT) to describe a kind of transference where the analyst enters into a “primitive identity” with the analysand. With SCT the analyst apparently senses the patient’s unconscious feelings, usually at the same time as the patient. However, sometimes the analyst picks up on the patient’s feelings before the patient becomes aware of them.

A somewhat mysterious idea that is difficult to verify, SCT raises questions that figures like Stanislav Grof and C. G. Jung have looked at within their respective schools of transpersonal psychiatry and analytical psychology.

One problem with SCT arises if the analyst becomes grandiose, falsely believing he or she arrives at the truth of a dynamic before the client does. The potential for abuse relating to a dysfunctional relationship and misplaced trust in the analyst is arguably no small matter. To counteract this issue, responsible therapists speak of a “therapeutic relationship” where doctor and client learn something from each other while maintaining emotional objectivity. But this is the ideal, of course. It’s a well known fact that Jung, himself, had an affair with Sabina Spielrein, one of his clients.

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Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, ...

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC. Found at the south-west corner of the temple. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanatos is a Greek word meaning death. In Greek myth he is the personification of death. Mentioned often, he doesn’t visit mortals too regularly—otherwise there would be few alive to tell his tale.

According to the poet Hesiod, Thanatos is a son of Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness), and the twin brother of Hypnos, the benevolent god of sleep who lives in the underworld

Sigmund Freud used the term Thanatos to symbolize a hypothesized death instinct, which counterbalances Eros, Freud’s hypothesized life instinct.

Freud’s theories have been routinely challenged by depth psychologists, transpersonal psychologists and by spiritualists. At the other end of the spectrum, his ideas also have been questioned by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

But Freud still looms large in the humanities, mostly because he arguably was the first to try to systematically (some say scientifically) explore the hidden workings of the mind. So like him or lump him, he does deserve some respect.

¹ With help from –

English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...

Group photo in front of Clark University Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. Photo taken for Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts publication. Česky: Foto z Clarkovy univerzity roku 1909. Dole (zleva) Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung, nahoře (zleva) Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Related Posts » Civilization and its Discontents, Dreams, Id, Libido, Repression



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Black’s Medical Dictionary (39th edition) defines the unconscious as “a description of mental activities of which an individual is unaware” (p. 567).

In the West, the idea of the unconscious has an interesting history. It’s found in the ancient Greek literature of Sophocles, with related ideas like hubris, and in Shakespeare and more recent luminaries like James Joyce.

Philosophical debates about its character flourished in the 18th century among thinkers like John Locke and David Hume. In the 20th century, Freud, Pierre Janet, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and many others presented their unique theories about the unconscious.

Arthur Koestler believes the idea of the unconscious was already known before the actual word was coined. Koestler cites several examples where the notion of the unconscious is implied in the arts and philosophy (e.g. Dante, Kepler and Kant). Koestler also says that consciousness and unconsciousness are not discrete states but exist along a continuum.¹

From Koestler it seems reasonable to suggest that the range and character of this experiential continuum varies among individuals. In other words, some people access different types of thoughts and emotions than others.

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Maca...

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Macauley and Flannery O’Connor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But we should remember that the unconscious is just a concept. All too often it’s reified. Reification means ideas are assumed to represent some real entity or thing–for instance, the sociological idea of “the state.” Reified concepts may even point to detailed legal entities.²

A common misunderstanding among contemporary writers is to say that Freud sees the unconscious as uniquely personal while his former protege Carl Jung sees it as collective.³ In fact, both theorist recognize personal and collective aspects within their respective theories of the unconscious.

¹ Koestler, Arthur. The Act of Creation. New York: Penguin [Arkana], 1989: 147-177.

² Reification is also a concept. So the question remains as to whether the thing written or talked about actually exists as described.

³ See shadow, archetypes

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Conscience is a somewhat mysterious and much debated concept. In contemporary psychology it’s understood as a conscious system of moral values, or that aspect of the self that the person experiences as giving voice to these values–i.e. “my higher self says I shouldn’t do this.”

According to Freudian psychoanalysis, the conscience differs from the superego in that the former refers to moral values (the “still, small voices”) held in our conscious mind. The superego, on the other hand, contains moral values that are, in part, unconscious.

In religion, we find some belief systems claiming that the conscience comes from a higher plane or realm (e.g. astral or heavenly). But conscience is sometimes contrasted, in Catholicism for instance, with the Will of God. The belief here is that an unenlightened person may suppose they’re making good choices when they’re not.¹

¹ See, for instance, the Catholic devotional book, My Daily Bread by Father Anthony Paone.

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The Doors

English: Mug shot of Jim Morrison.

Mug shot of Jim Morrison, who had run-ins with the law on more than one occasion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Doors were a 1960s and early 70s rock band from Los Angeles, California, consisting of Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore and lead man Jim Morrison.

Morrison was one of the bad boys of rock who also had poetic substance, charisma and exceptional singing ability. The group charted several classic tunes. Light my Fire, Hello I love you, L.A. Woman, Riders on the Storm and recorded other songs with lasting influence, such as Break on Through, Love Street, The Spy, The End, Soul Kitchen and the live epic Celebration of the Lizard.

Morrison is also a recognized poet, and his song lyrics advocate an inner journey to the psychological underworld, urging fans to “break on through to the other side.”

English: Jim Morrison Memorial in Berlin-Baums...

Jim Morrison Memorial in Berlin-Baumschulenweg. The Memorial has been set up among other by a Berlin merchant in 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Morrison apparently had a photographic memory. Biographers Danny Sugarman and Jerry Hopkins say that Morrison would ask his friends to open up and tell him the page number of any book in his library. Morrison would then apparently recite from memory all the words on that particular page.¹ If this story is true, it’s conceivable that Morrison was remote viewing and not necessarily reading from memory.

Like his sometimes melancholic (and depressing?) contemporary Jimi Hendrix, Morrison’s drug induced mysticism ended up in tragedy. He died at age 27 in his Paris apartment bathtub, surrounded by rumors of ongoing substance abuse. Despite his bad end, his music, personal philosophy and raw energy still inspires young and older fans to this day.

¹ Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, No One Here Gets Out Alive, New York: Warner Books, 1980.