Object of the Month: July

First edition of The Interpretation of Dreams

With The Interpretation of Dreams, published by Deuticke in 1899 and post-dated to 1900, Freud became the founder of psychoanalysis and modern dream interpretation. The history of interpreting dreams goes back thousands of years, but these interpretations always referred to possible future events, never to their roots in past experience. Freud’s innovative approach was based strictly on unconscious processes and he recognised dream interpretation as the “royal road” to a knowledge of the unconscious. Freud’s research was based on his patients’ dreams and an extremely thorough observation of his own dreams and their connections to occurrences in the outside world. For Freud, self-analysis was an important means of exploring the psyche and endopsychic connections.

Based on an in-depth interpretation of his dream of “Irma’s injection”, Freud presents the method of dream interpretation and his realisation that every dream is the (disguised) fulfilment of a (repressed) wish. In the dreamer (Freud), past events fight their way to the surface and explain his concealed feelings of guilt arising from the not wholly successful treatment of this patient. He projects his own mistake on to a colleague and fulfils the wish of rectifying his colleague’s – i.e. his own – mistake in the dream. Freud identifies the following laws of the dream and mechanisms of “dream-work”: displacement, condensation, considerations of representability, and secondary revision.

Freud’s seminal and probably most well-known work is regarded as the “primal book” of psychoanalysis and as its methodological foundation. In fact, the dream and its interpretation is among the basic elements of depth psychology; alongside free association, it is a key instrument of therapy. Freud presented seven more editions, some revised, by 1930.

His work would not only have a major influence on the development of psychoanalysis. Contemporary writers including Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Thomas Mann or Arthur Schnitzler already displayed great interest in the literary possibilities to be found in the approaches of this new interpretation of dreams.

The copy owned by the Sigmund Freud Private Foundation was donated to the collection. It is a typical edition for the time, bound only in paper, and is currently on show in the museum’s special exhibition.

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