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.