Psychodynamic and Psychoanalytic theory suggest that early stages of human development have a significant impact on our relationships and our ego throughout the life span. According to Freudian theories, manifested behavior is based on latent problems of the past. The therapeutic process of psychoanalysis is designed to help the client become aware of past problems or latent desires that have been suppressed during the process of psychological development. Key themes that emerge in the literature on psychoanalytic theory include the role of the unconscious mind in shaping self-concept and behavior, dreams as the language of the unconscious mind, and the development of ego defense mechanisms as psychological coping mechanisms.


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Dream analysis is one of the hallmarks of Freudian theory and central to psychoanalysis. In this article, Hebbrecht (2013) presents several case studies from clinical practice to illustrate some of the ways dream recollection can be stimulated during therapy, and how dreams can be used to unlock the unconscious mind. Each case study is analyzed and presented differently, one to demonstrate the manifestation of countertransference in therapy, another to reveal the mechanisms used in systematic dream analysis, and a third to show therapists how to reflect and process changes in the clients dream content. The visual language of dreams may have metaphysical meanings, but psychoanalytic theory is less interested in the meta-narrative of dreams as with their implications for individual psychological development. However, Jungian psychoanalytic frameworks blend Freudian theory with metaphysics. Speaking both from the perspective of a traditional Freudian analyst and a Jungian one, Perera (2013) discusses the uniqueness of dreams among an older age cohort. The Jungian perspective offers fresh insight into dream analysis and symbolism, allowing the researcher and therapist to blend elements from mythology, symbolism, metaphysics, and transpersonal psychology. As the symbols of the subconscious mind during the waking state blend with the unconscious minds dream lexicon, the therapist can easily aid the older client to find meaning and resolve existential crises.


The process of psychotherapy can be used to trigger improved dream recall, which then allows the client to reflect on the surfacing material. Manifest material in dreams can offer clues to its latent content: which in turn reveals clues to ego defense mechanisms and neuroses. This is particularly true among clients who have experienced trauma (Hebbrecht, 2013). Hebbrecht (2013) also found that dream recall may improve as the therapeutic relationship strengthens. Likewise, dream lucidity may also increase during therapy. Dream lucidity may be uncomfortable for some clients, which is why this article provides useful techniques to be incorporated into clinical practice. Furthermore, Perera (2013) draws an important connection between dreams and the death wisha core Freudian concept. The death wish is a suppressed function that usually leads to self-destructive behavior when not properly integrated into the ego. Working with an older population that naturally contemplates mortality and death more readily and consciously, Perera (2013) shows how clients can come to terms with the death wish in their own psyche to resolve conflicts and .


A historical or historiographical approach presents opportunities for the therapist to better understand the processes of dream analysis for revealing ego defense mechanisms and other functions of the unconscious mind. Johannson (2007) focuses on the history of psychoanalysis from a cultural and historical context. Starting with the authors experience as a scholar of psychoanalysis in Sweden, Johansson (2007) discusses the importance of the clinicians self-reflection and introspection. Self-awareness can prevent problems like transference and counter-transference, which can impede the therapeutic relationship. Historians of psychoanalysis promote methodological integrity by enhancing the therapists ability to self-reflect. As Perera (2013) also points out, self-awareness during the dream recollection process can enhance the value of heroic agency: the egos self-assertion in the dream state. Dreams can be harnessed and used for ego integration and to resolve past trauma. Free association is another method used in psychoanalysis to uncover unconscious desires.


Freudian theory and psychodynamics are typically referred to in the context of individual therapy. Yet as Kluners (2014) shows, psychoanalysis has broader historical, sociological, and philosophical applications. Like Newirth (2015) and Johannsson (2007), Kluners (2014) demonstrates the way Freudian theory was a paradigm shift that helps understand global patterns in human behavior. Collective human trauma, such as the repressed memories of genocide or war, can lead to similar ego defense mechanisms among an entire culture. Applying Freudian concepts of the unconscious, dreams, and ego defense mechanisms to societies can help illuminate pathways to healing, just as with individual psychotherapy. The collective dreams of a culture are manifest in legends, myths, and folklore. Newirth (2015) discusses cultural symbols and icons, particularly with regard to heroic agency. Thus, Pereras (2013) Jungian approach to dream analysis is therefore equally as applicable to sociological issues. Sir Lancelot, the Wizard of Oz, and Sherlock Holmes are the three examples from English literature that Newirth (2015) discusses from the perspective of Freudian theory.

The collective unconscious and the collective dreams are made manifest in a societys literature, art, media, and popular culture. Ego defense mechanisms in cultures could be anything from xenophobia to aggression. A historical-philosophical approach to psychoanalytic theory can therefore be successful integrated into international relations, political theory, and foreign policy. On the individual level, psychoanalysis also serves a symbolic role in the society. Complex activities such as psychoanalysis…are hard to describe in linear discursive language and may best be understood through metaphors, which function as evocative, multidimensional, presentational symbols, (Newirth, 2015, p. 308). Psychoanalysis is both a collective and an individual process with multiple layers of meaning. As it unveils the unconscious mind of the individual and the society, psychoanalysis helps resolve internal and collective problems. Summers (2006) describes Freuds methods of dream analysis and Freuds theory of psychological development as both hermeneutic and metapsychology, describing the implications of Freudian theory (p. 327). Freud also outlined the architecture of the unconscious mind, including the id, the ego, and the superego to illustrate the processes of ego development and the evolution of the egos defense mechanisms.


Key developmental terms, processes and challenges that individuals may face up through adulthood include types of fixation. The stages of development proceed from the oral and anal stages of early childhood through the phallic and latency stages of middle childhood, and ultimately the genital stage from adolescence onward. Fixations at any one of these stages can lead to behavioral problems or neuroses later in life. The causes of the fixation may be different for each person but may include trauma, verbal or physical punishment, social stigma, embarrassment, or shaming. During the process of psychotherapy, fixations are addressed by unearthing the past through bold explorations of the unconscious mind. One of the main tools of psychoanalysis is dream analysis. The psychotherapist encourages the client to recall dreams, which have a visual and symbolic language all their own. The unconscious mind speaks through dreams, which then offer cues as to the origin of fixations or stagnant psychological development. The ego often develops its defense mechanisms to resolve conflicts between the id as the pleasure principle, and the superego as the conscience or repository of social norms and rules. Too much ascription to the superego could lead to a dysfunctional suppression of desires, causing fixations and hang-ups, neuroses, habits, or fetishes. The conscious mind may remain unaware of the instincts guiding behavior. Most instincts can be categorized loosely into either sexual longing or aggression, and a combination of the two is possible. Iin fact, both the Oedipus and Electra complexes combine repressed sexual desire with aggression and ego assertion.


Often, the unconscious mind becomes a battleground upon which the egos fights are played out. Kluners (2014) states, the ego and passions as antagonists that often fight against each other, (p. 8). The passions refer to the ids desire for pleasure. Fulfilling the desire for pleasure is frequently impeded by anything from social norms to internalized guilt. Free associations and dream analysis help the client unearth the suppressed desires, as well as the suppressed guilt. Another cornerstone of Freudian theory is the process of repression itself. Freud had postulated, psychic energy was continually exerted in the effort of consciousness to maintain the repression of unacceptable desires, (Summers, 2006, p. 328). The effort it takes to resolve ego conflicts can be exhausting. In therapy, the client learns how to liberate the energy consumed by repression. In addition to talking about the past, the client also offers a nonlinear narrative through free association or recalling manifest content of dreams. Freud would interpret dreams and free associations to enable the client to resolve conflict and gain ego integration. Each manifestation of the unconscious mind is possessing a deeper level of meaning than the patient had been aware, (Newirth, 2015, p. 328). Sexual thoughts or urges are the ones most frequently stigmatized, and thus, the ones most frequently repressed, according to Freud. Freuds fixation on sexuality has garnered criticism as well as accolades for the theorys insightfulness (Johansson, 2007).

The unconscious mind speaks in metaphors and symbols, which is why dreams are so important to psychoanalysis. During the psychoanalytic process, the therapist helps to reveal the ego defense mechanisms being used to protect the person against guilt, fear, or anxiety. The primary defense mechanisms Freud proposed include repression, denial, projection, displacement, regression, and sublimation. Often more than one of these defense mechanisms may be operating at the same time, due to the same triggering issues. The process of psychoanalysis is the discovery of disowned and repressed wishes and unacknowledged actions or attempts to repair repetitive, , (Newirth, 2015, p. 311). All types of defense mechanisms protect the ego, preserving the self-concept. As much as they protect the ego, they also lead to neuroses or dysfunctional behaviors. Some defense mechanisms may then be used to justify or rationalize dysfunctional behaviors, which is especially true with denial. As defense mechanisms evolve in the unconscious mind, the unconscious mind also perpetuates these mechanisms through the language of symbolism and dreams.


All dreams are essentially wish fulfillments, according to Freud: either the fulfillment of an aggressive activity or a sexual desire. Even if the manifest content of the dream does not contain aggression or sexuality, Freud believed that its latent content would. Freud also believed that the individual needed the psychotherapist as a guide to help decipher the dreams lexicon. Not only is dream symbolism mystifying, but it exists precisely to prevent those deeper latent meanings to become part of the persons conscious awareness. The therapist helps the person to subvert the ego defense mechanisms by coaxing the unconscious, latent material into conscious awareness in a safe environment. Occasionally, the manifest content can be readily understood as having connections to sexuality or aggression. Whereas Freud might have remained content with the act of bringing unconscious material into conscious awareness, contemporary psychotherapists working within the Freudian framework view the development and strengthening of the self as the goal of the analytic process, (Summers, 2006, p. 337). Psychoanalysis can be easily combined with other therapeutic techniques.


The cornerstones of psychoanalytic theory and the psychoanalytic perspective include unconscious mind, dreams, and ego defense mechanisms. Understanding the interplay between these three key factors is important to understand from the psychoanalytic perspective as it informs theory, practice, and paradigm. Dream interpretation and related processes like free association are important because they reveal the language, symbols, and metaphors used by the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind may be acting out wish fulfillment, because the actual fulfillment of the desires is socially unacceptable. Dreams allow for wish fulfillment to take place in a socially safe way, but in ways that can cause neuroses and ego defense mechanisms. The psychodynamic and psychoanalytic theories have evolved to suggest that early stages of human development from early childhood to adolescence will have a significant impact on our relationships and our ego throughout the life span. Historically and culturally significant, Freudian theory can be applied to sociological and other global constructs as well as to individual psychotherapy, which is why many contemporary researchers focus on the impact of Freuds theory on multiple fields of interest.















Hebbrecht, M. (2013). The dream as a picture of the psychoanalytic process. Romanian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 6(2), 123142. Retrieved from

Johansson, M. (2007). Historiography and Psychoanalysis. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 16(2), 103-112

Klners, M. (2014, July). Freud as a philosopher of history. The Journal of Psychohistory, 42(1), 55-71

Newirth, J. (2015, April). Psychoanalysis’ past, present, and future: Sherlock Holmes, Sir Lancelot, and the Wizard of Oz. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 32(2), 307-320

Perera, S. B. (2013). Circling, dreaming, aging. Psychological Perspectives, 56(2), 137148.

Schut, A. J., & Castonguay, L. G. (2001). Reviving Freud’s vision of a psychoanalytic science: Implications for clinical training and education. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(1), 40-49

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