Study Guide

The Interpretation of Dreams Chapter 6, Section B

By Sigmund Freud

Chapter 6, Section B

The Work of Displacement

  • The second of the dream-work processes that Freud takes up is "displacement"—the method by which dreams disguise their "latent" content by foregrounding apparently unrelated "manifest" content instead.
  • Given his earlier demonstrations that dreams contain multiple dream-thoughts, Freud now clarifies that "[t]he ideas which are most important among the dream-thoughts will almost certainly be those which occur most often in them, since the different dream-thoughts will, as it were, radiate out from them" (6.3.1).
  • Freud also notes that dreams will sometimes omit elements that are "highly stressed" (that have a substantial amount of value attached to them), while instead emphasizing other elements that are "reinforced from many directions" (6.3.1).
  • Freud adds another crucial point to his argument here, as he notes that dream-analyses often reveal dream-contents that seem far removed from the "kernel" (the core meaning) of the dream.
  • Freud argues that these elements are usually the ones that create connections between the various other elements of the dream, and "if these elements were weeded out of the analysis the result would often be that the component parts of the dream-content would be left not only without overdetermination but without any satisfactory determination at all" (6.3.2).
  • With this in mind, Freud concludes that "in the dream-work a psychical force is operating which on the one hand strips the elements which have a high psychical value of their intensity, and on the other hand, by means of overdetermination, creates from elements of low psychical value new values, which afterwards find their way into the dream-content" (6.3.3).
  • Freud describes this process as "a transference and displacement of psychical intensities," and says that it is "the essential portion of the dream-work" (6.3.3).
  • On top of that, Freud says that the powerful "psychic force" that puts dream-condensation and dream-displacement in motion is the same psychical "censor" that we met earlier.
  • Freud closes this section by noting that in order for dream-thoughts to make it into our dreams at all, "they must escape the censorship imposed by resistance" (6.3.5).

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