59 pages 1 hour read

Sigmund Freud

The Interpretation of Dreams

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1899

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Chapter 4

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis: "Distortion in Dreams"

Some dreams, such as nightmares, seem on their surface not to be wish fulfillments. However, “our doctrine is not based upon the estimates of the obvious dream-content, but relates to the thought-content” (97, emphasis added) of the dream—thus, even a nightmare can contain a hidden wish. Freud refers to these two different streams of content as the “manifest” (obvious) and “latent” (hidden thought) content (98). Dreams disguise their latent content through manifest content, and it is in the latent content that the wish is held. Freud calls this process of disguise “distortion” (98).

To relate the purpose of distortion in dreams, Freud relates another of his own dreams: a dream of his friend’s and uncle’s faces merged with altered features, in context of the real-life situation of his own anxiety over a professorial position in contest with this friend. Freud then interprets the dream through associations with his uncle as a criminal and simpleton to indicate that the dream argues his friend is not worthy of the position, while he is. He does not believe this in real life, and as such the dream is a wish fulfillment. The distortions exist “as a means of disguise” (102) to allow the latent content of the dream—negative opinions of his friends—into waking consciousness without the rejection of these thoughts were they to arise undisguised.