Latent Content of Dreams

Manifest and latent content of dreams

The manifest content of a dream is that which we can remember and report as the images and plot or theme of the dream. Freud pointed out that this obvious and reported dream intermingled the residues of immediate daily experience with the deepest, often most infantile wishes. It did this by condensing a massive amount of associations and feelings in any given dream image. Almost any social symbol does this in fact. If you take the symbol of the Red Cross, for instance, at first you might say it represents an international organization that cares for the wounded, sick, and homeless in wartime. Beyond that however are millions of other things you could associate with it, such as its history, events or incidents it took part in, even personal memories and feelings of wartime experience.

The Seneca Native Americans Were Ahead of Freud 

The Seneca Indians held much the same views. Similarly they believed dreams had a latent and manifest content; that is, a hidden, or difficult to understand meaning behind the obvious events in the dream. Also, Freud maintained that all dreams are potentially understandable. They all arise from some cause, and if understood this cause becomes revealed. That is not to say, of course, that all dreams are understood.

 Jung does not go along with Freud’s idea that there is a censor at work when we dream, causing disguise or distortion between the latent content and the manifest content (i.e. between the dream message and the actual dream story). According to Jung, what the unconscious is saying to us in our dreams is presented in a totally undisguised way. If we cannot understand our dreams, therefore, it is only because in the modem world we have lost touch with the language of symbols, which is the language of dreams. Anyone who is at home in the world of symbolism – as so-called ‘primitive’ people were and are – will have no great difficulty in understanding dreams.

Jung Saw Dreams as Undisguised Statenents

 Freud saw the symbols in a dream as concealing the dream’s message, keeping it from the dreamers conscious attention. For Jung, on the other hand, dream symbols are both ‘expressive’ and ‘impressive’: they express what is going on at an unconscious level of the psyche; and they make an impression – leave their imprint – on the dreamer, influencing the direction of his or her personal development from that moment on. For example, a withered tree in dreams may symbolise – ‘express’ – a life that has been lived too intellectually, too much in the head; and the impression that symbol makes on the dreamer may bring about a reshaping of his or her personality by re-rooting the dreamers life in instinct or Nature.

 J. Allan Hobson, in his book The Dreaming  Brain, write that, “Although the brain-based theory that I will develop runs deeply counter to the psychoanalytic theory of the interpretation of dreams, I do not mean to imply that I disagree with its psychodynamic spirit. But I do mean to propose alternative explanations for all of its important claims. And the result is a radically opposite approach to interpretation.  

 I differ from Freud in that I think that most dreams are neither obscure nor bowdlerised, but rather that they are transparent and unedited. They reveal clearly meaningful, undisguised, and often highly conflictual themes worthy of note by the dreamer (and any interpretive assistant). My position echoes Jung’s notion of dreams as transparently meaningful and does away with any distinction between manifest and latent content.” 

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