The Interpretation of Dreams: The Musical

What about this guy doesn't say "musical" to you?

What about this guy doesn’t say “musical” to you

The curtains go up. The Interpretation of Dreams, the first version of which was published in November 1899 by Dr Sigmund Freud, is considered to be a landmark in the development of modern psychoanalysis. In fact whatever your opinion of psychoanalysis is made up of, from the mid-1890s onwards, Freud’s life basically is the history of the development of psychoanalysis. In fact, Freud’s autobiography concentrates almost entirely on the development of psychoanalysis with very little mention of his personal life. In 1885 he wrote to his fiancé, stating that he had destroyed many of his notes, documents and manuscripts, adding that he had no wish to make life easy for his future biographers. Freud and a camel then toured the world in a space ship shaped like a bee.

Freud’s theory of dreams still holds some influence, although largely dreams are currently more likely to be thought of in terms of information processing. The word “dream” is also used as a form of verbal punctuation by TV talent show contestants. A large problem is that many of Freud’s theories regarding dreams are simply not testable. The book itself consists largely of Freud stating a part of his theory, describing an example dream in a way which he says illustrates that part of the theory and then shouting “Proved!” If you hold any copy of The Interpretation of Dreams to your ear you can hear a good number of modern research psychologists weeping. Librarians too, but that’s probably just because you’ve got ear wax on one of their books.

Regardless, Freud did believe in the application of the scientific method and perhaps it’s important to recognise that it was Freud who set up the dream as a phenomenon worthy of scientific study and if we’re being generous, the idea that many mental processes could be assessed scientifically. So that’s something to think about and then study the processing of thinking about it because you can.

In a previous blog post I asked if the theory of evolution is so good that it can’t be improved by singing. Musical theatre is a very popular art form that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance to communicate a story and its emotional content. Many in the field of science communication might argue that adding these sorts of layers to the communication of science, particularly the emotional content, improves the efficacy of communication, ultimately promoting enthusiasm and a desire for more science learning. They might even say that they fucking love expressing this enthusiasm for some of the content of scientific findings. As has been hinted, Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams attempts to describe a scientific model by levering a concept onto examples he picked himself, which is far from ideal and shouldn’t be attempted. So can the musical format improve what scientific content there is in The Interpretation of Dreams?

No, obviously not. It’s just a gimmick for describing an influential book by an influential doctor, which is worth reading for historical interest, for an understanding of the foundations of modern psychoanalysis, and because in Freud had an excellent literary style. So, without further suppression, let me introduce The Interpretation of Dreams: The Musical!

R.E.M: the obvious link between sleep, dreaming and musi... oh nevermind!

R.E.M: the obvious link between sleep, dreaming and musi… oh nevermind!

Introductory Remarks

The introduction establishes that Freud believed the interpretation of dreams could be accomplished within neuropathology and that he intended to use his own dreams and those of some of his patients to illustrate his theories.

Song: Brain Dream Rereader

Cheer up, Sleepy Freud
I’ll tell you what dreams mean
To a brain dream rereader
Though I can’t keep it clean

Preface to the Third Edition

Freud said that he still thought his theories were pretty good despite needing a new edition less than a year since the last one, but that he had since attached greater value to symbolism in dreams interpretation.

Song: Rewrite My Idea

Rewrite my idea, expand my theory’s my only desire
Rewrite my idea, symbols show your love
Rewrite my idea, expand my theory’s my only desire
Rewrite my idea symbols show, symbols show, your love, (what to shove!)

I. The Scientific Literature on the Problems of the Dream

Freud states he’s going to show that the interpretation of dreams is a legitimate psychological technique and that by analysing dreams in this way, important processes occurring in the waking mind are revealed. He also argued he was going to show why sometimes dreams are a bit weird and what mental forces produce and shape dreams. Previous writings by people who aren’t Freud are mentioned.

Song: Let’s Get Ready to Analyse

Let’s get ready to analyse
Let’s get ready to analyse

Just a chrysanthe mum.

Just a chrysanthe mum.

Let’s get, let’s get, let’s get
Ready, ready
Let’s get ready, ready
Let’s get ready, ready
Let’s get ready to analyse

Straight up science
A symbolic triumph
It’s a literal appliance
It ain’t no hype!

Watch us expert cite
Watch us expert cite
Psyche!

II. Method of Dream Interpretation: The Analysis of the Sample Dream

It is argued that dreams have hidden meanings that are substitutes for other thought processes and that this meaning can be revealed by looking at parts of the content of the dream separately rather than analysing the dream has a whole.

Song: The Snoop Snoop Song (It’s in the Dream)

What do you wish?
I wanna know!
What’s the info in your frontal lobes?

(Is it in the eyes?)
Oh no! That’s cataracts!
(Is it between the thighs?)
Oh no! Please have some tact!
It’s only sciencish
But if you need the wish
It’s in the dream!
(If you look at the bits!)

III. The Dream is the Fulfilment of a Wish

Freud states that dreams always represent the fulfilment of a wish of the person having the dream. He gives the example of a woman who had dreamed her periods had stopped and states that this was a “clever way of giving notice of her first pregnancy” and that the wish fulfilment was her wanting to enjoy her freedom before motherhood began. So forget those pregnancy tests! It also contains the following incredible sentence;
“The dreams of little children are simple fulfilments of wishes, and as compared, therefore, with the dreams of adults, are not at all interesting.”

Just a banana.

Just a banana.

Song: Ring of Desire

Dreams, can be seen as deep
And they happen, in REM sleep
Psychoanalysts enquire
To reveal your hidden desires

Dreams reveal your hidden desires
And you’ll frown, frown, frown at the therapist you hired
But you’ll learn, learn, learn
Your hidden desires, your hidden desire

IV. Distortion in Dreams

Freud argues that even painful, fearful or indifferent dreams are examples of wish fulfilment, just better disguised wish fulfilment. The reason for this disguise is that the person doesn’t like that they have that wish and so it’s not expressed properly in the dream.

Song: Don’t worry (About a Dream)

Don’t worry, about a dream
‘Cause every little wish, is revealed at night
Singin’: “Don’t worry, about a dream
Even if that little dream, gives you a fright!”

Rise up this mornin’
Frowned at the risin’ sun
Had a nightmare
Dreamt I was falling
But Freud’s theory
Said my fear was undue
Sayin’, (“Dreams are sex wishes by you-ou-ou”)

V. The Material and Sources of Dreams

This chapter states that the content of a night’s dreams comes from the events of the preceding day, but can come from events at any time in the person’s life if something connected to those events has occurred that day. So basically they can come from any event in your life. Freud also states that there are no series of associations in dreams which cannot be adapted to the representation of sexual facts. Will he get away with that?

Song: The Batman Theme

Penis Penis Penis Penis
Penis Penis Penis Penis
Batman!

VI. The Dream-Work

Freud describes the mental processes (dream-work) by which the contents of the dream are rendered less disturbing to the individual. I don’t know if that’s why the company that made Kung Fu Panda is called that. These processes include condensation (the fusing of ideas into a single image), displacement (disturbing idea replaced with a connected but less disturbing idea), representation (thoughts are converted to visual images) and symbolisation (neutral objects stand for aspects of the person’s sexual life they’d prefer not to recognise or would rather keep mum about).

Just a lighthouse.

Just a lighthouse.

Song: Dream-Workin’ Night to Night

Dream-workin’ night to night,
What a way to make a symbol
Makes a tunnel rude
It all seems fairly simple
You just use your mind
And let your deep subconscious edit
It’s enough to womb you penis
If you let it

 

VII. The Psychology of Dream Activities

Freud tries to explain certain phenomenon associated with dreams. For example explaining why people forget their dreams by saying that they don’t really forget them and even if they remember them incorrectly, important information is still obtained. Apparently not an excuse they’ll accept when you’re taking exams.

Song: It’s the End of The Dream as We Know it (And I Can’t Remember It)

That’s great, it starts with a something, nurr nurr nurr aeroplane,
Something, Something… Chorus!

It’s the end of the dream as we know it
It’s the end of the dream as we know it
It’s the end of the dream as we know it, I shouldn’t have had wine

The curtain closes while the Freud dancers smoke cigars in a cave.

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