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Cartwright, R. (2006). Commentary on “Freudian Dream Theory, Dream Bizarreness, and the Disguise-Censor Controversy”. Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(1):20-23.

(2006). Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(1):20-23

Commentary on “Freudian Dream Theory, Dream Bizarreness, and the Disguise-Censor Controversy” Related Papers

Rosalind Cartwright

One of Freud's explanations for why dreams are difficult to understand is that this is due to their representing a compromise between a primitive wish and learned inhibitions to their expression. This is challenged by current research from brain-imaging studies, studies of memory consolidation and dream function. Recent evidence appears to support not a conflict but a continuity of emotional/cognitive concerns across the wake-sleep cycle, with little evidence of motivated distortion. Dreaming is an opportunity to observe the formation of connections between present and past organizing structures we bring to interpreting current experience.

In the target article in this issue, Simon Boag takes up a debate between those neuroscientists who have critiqued Freud's explanation of why dreams are difficult to understand and some responses to these challenges by psychoanalytic theorists. The author clarifies a distinction between two mechanisms that Freud had suggested as responsible for the bizarreness of dreams. The first is that dreams are disguised in order to circumvent a vigilant censor. This implied the presence of an active control system to prevent unacceptable wishes from reaching awareness. The author agrees that this dream “dictator” is difficult to locate and thus to support. However, the second explanation Freud offered—that dreams are bizarre because they represent a compromise between two competing motives—is one that Boag suggests has been underappreciated.

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