Interpretation of Dreams. Part II – The value of Symbols

In its beginnings, Psychoanalyses was more similar in organizational structure to “an eccentric cult” and its pioneering practitioners, including Sigmund Freud, were seen as dangerous professionals by the traditional medical establishment, as we have discussed in our new book Emotional Frustration – the Hushed Plague.

Didn’t you buy it yet? What are you waiting for? That your impossibly chatty neighbor does it first?

After the publication of his book The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, Freud consolidated his operational grip in the still small but growing number of medical practitioners of the new discipline, even expelling a few for apostasy. Freud, an atheistic Jew, behaved like the messianic leader of a completely new religion. However, he was concerned that most of his followers were German-speaking Jews and that “his science” might not be able to cross into “the Austrian mainstream.”

In an excellent article, Sam Dresser, editor at Aeon magazine, wrote: “On February 27, 1907, in Vienna Sigmund Freud fell in love. The object of his affection was Carl Gustav Jung: 19 years younger than Freud, the young psychiatrist was already the young psychiatrist was already the clinical director of the prestigious Burgholzli Hospital and a professor at the University of Zurich. Jung had gained international recognition for his invention of the word association-test, and his practice was renowned for its gentle incisiveness. But when Jung read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), he was startled by his theory and decided to talk with the man himself. And talk they did: for thirteen hours they plumbed the depths of the unconsciousness, the methods of psychoanalysis, and the analysis of dreams.”

Precisely the latter issue would eventually become the bone of contention in their prolific but at the same time agitated professional relationship, which ended in an acerbic, openly public rupture in 1913, after Freud published Totem and Taboo. Freud wanted to defend the core beliefs of the discipline, something he suggestively dubbed as The Cause, as it were a fanatical cult or political movement. Initially he saw in Jung, the son of a Protestant pastor and a distant relative of Goethe, as the perfect dauphin to succeed him, blocking the anointment of another old Jew. He believed that if Psychoanalysis ended up identified with Judaism, it would perish.

Note. This reproduction of a picture of Carl Jung was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Jung had an extremely agitated personality, he considered himself as an intellectual heir of his famous ancestor, and , being raised in a Christian home, he was influenced by the Mystical aspects of the faith, including the dreams. As a young child, he once dreamt that God Almighty was discharging his feces on top of cathedral of Basel. Freud was willing to accept all that, as long as his favorite pupil did not question the central status of the Cause.

Even though the discipline was born out of pure speculation after Freud interviewed patients in his Vienna cabinet and reviewed his clinical notes, Sigismund wanted it to become more scientifically solid, based on evidence and hard data. In 1906, Jung applied his word-association test to Freud’s theory of free association, a critical step in retrieving the swept-away memories we have in the attic of our Unconsciousness.

The majority of the psychoanalysts that had joined the Freudian movement were particularly attracted to his theory that our repressed sexuality is the epicenter of our unconscious desires and libidinal tensions. Jung believed there was much more. As we have discussed in our previous article about Enantiodromia, Jung considered that we have to carefully examine all the symbology of our dreams as it constitutes some kind of psychological compensatory mechanism for ignored attitudes, defects, bad instances, failures, frustrations, which are not only sexual by nature. In a previous article, we discussed the value of certain symbols like Alchemists’ signs in Jung’s opinion.

Note. This reproduction of a picture of Sigmund Freud (left) and Carl Jung (right) was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

In a great article of the Society of Analytical Psychologists, Marcus West wrote: “Jung saw the mind/body/feelings (or what he called the psyche) as all working together. Even negative symptoms could be potentially helpful in drawing attention to an imbalance; for example, depression could result from an individual repressing particular feelings or not following a path that is natural and true to their particular personality. In this way he saw the psyche as a self-regulating system with all psychic contents—thoughts, feelings, dreams, intuitions, etc.—having a purpose. He thought the psyche was ‘purposive.” There are three features of this process:

  1. Individuation: the dreams serve to develop one’s particular personality and self- awareness by drawing our attention to special features we have missed.
  2. Lack of disguise: while Freud believed that the contents of our dreams are disguised in puzzling parables, Jung believed that they do not try to hide.
  3. Symbology: in order to save time and efforts to our beleaguered psyches, Jung believed that our Subconscious uses symbols drawn from religions, alchemy, art, history, geography, etc. He believed that: “a symbol is the best possible formulation of a relatively unknown psychic content.”

Jung considered that a dream is a form of psychic compensation for a certain void. One of his patients was a very intelligent lady that suddenly became very shallow in her therapy sessions. He decided to address this issue in their next encounter, but the previous might he had a particular dream. He was walking down a road at sunset when he suddenly sees to his right a big castle; in the tallest tower there was a beautiful lady that looked down on him. He had to pull himself as far back as he could to check her features. It was none other than his patient. What’s the meaning?

West said: “the interpretation was immediately apparent to him. If in the dream he had had to look up to the patient in this fashion, in reality he had been probably looking down on her—the dream had been his compensation for his attitude toward her.”

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Anger Displacement as a coping mechanism in the Pandemic

The following text is an excerpt of our upcoming book Emotional Frustration- the hushed plague.

—”Doctor…when I get home, I can’t help lashing out at the kids—so bad.”

Verschiebung. This German term can be translated as “shift” or “move.” It was used by Sigmund Freud to describe a psychological defense mechanism; it entails the shifting or displacement of an aggressive emotion from an important person or object into other ones that are less relevant and often lame. [i] Our patient had many situations of Emotional Frustration in her blue-collar job with her despotic boss and his unreasonable demands but, being a single Mom, she hid her anger towards him and the system, fearful of losing her job in tough  times. Often, she scolded her children a little bit too much for just some obnoxious but inconsequential pranks.

This unconscious defense mechanism is an expression of what Freud dubbed as the mortido—our basic aggressive drive. There are three main mechanisms:

  1. Displacement of object
  2. Displacement of attribution
  3. Bodily displacements.

Unfortunately, as we slowly come out of our forced Social Distancing and we interact much more with other human beings, we are loaded up with stress and, as a natural consequence, we will have a shorter fuse, easily snapping away. We will have a hard time containing ourselves, even with an act of mea culpa [ii], if we allow our emotions to get the best of ourselves in the mad frenzy for survival.

Note. This reproduction of Un episodio de la Fiebre amarilla en Buenos Aires, the great painting from our fellow Uruguayan artist Juan Manuel Blanes, was taken from Wikimedia Commons. Even though it is shockingly gory to watch, it does convey the message that there are many dangerous things that we can bring home and affect our families’ well-being – the virus is just the most lethal.

One of the most disregarded aspects of the Social Isolation that we have all been enduring for almost one year already is its serious emotional toll on us. Like the young women and men that went into isolation in a Florentine villa in the Decameron, those coming out of seclusion will not be the same ones that went in. There will be multiple changes in our societies, especially for labor opportunities. The economic analysts are already predicting that, besides the contraction of consumer spending due to loss of jobs, there will be a two-speed labor market.

On one hand there will be persons that can work at a distance, with little physical contact. But on the other hand, there will be those that will be dangerously exposed to contagion. This will bring a generalized angry mood in the street like we have never witnessed before. No longer will we be able to take for granted the barista’s familiarity when we arrive at our Starbucks; she might be too worried about being infected while mulling about her son’s day care. After her shift is over, she might be too stressed out to hang out with her girlfriends. A self-sustaining vicious circle.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.


[i] Sigmund Freud, New Introductory letters on Psychoanalysis, George Allen and Unwin, London, January 1940,

[ii] This term in the Latin language refers to the ancient act of contrition of Christians in front of the Holy Cross when they beat up their chests while they publicly assumed responsibility for their sins or faults.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.




-“Doctor…I sleep with only one eye closed—my son sleepwalks.”

Brenda X. is a pleasant lady in her thirties that has been babysitting her son aged seven years since he was three years old because he has a special clinical condition that can expose him to harm. She is always on the watch because he has frequent bouts of somnambulism and she dutifully escorts him around during his nightly forays.

When we were a little child, we often sat up suddenly in bed and walked to the living room of our apartment in Montevideo to sit down and chat; sporting a glazed over look, we were tagged by our dear father Mario who kept watch: he never tried to “wake us up”, a bad idea according to Dr. Penco, our great pediatrician. He reassured our parents that usually those episodes disappear as children grow up;  in fact, after peaking at 3- 4 years old, this activity started to wane and then stopped. We never had any more episodes nor any recollections of  them.

The sleep walking episodes occur during the initial or Non-REM phase of sleep in the initial third phase of the cycle when slow activity predominates. Sleepwalking is more common in children and its prevalence can reach up to 10% of the population; it can be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. Patients with sleepwalking have a rise of brief arousals in the EEG tracing.

Sigmund Freud said that the unconscious sexual desires of the “Id” are usually repressed by the “Super Ego” during the waking period but when the conscience dims down, they surface to take control of the person’s volition. Those impulses metamorphose into dreams and in certain cases into motor impulses that can prod the individual to walk and talk. Sleepwalking has been adduced to be an attenuating factor in many crimes by the defense attorneys. It could be a trait in persons with agitated legacies like being born in the convulsed Celtic festivity of Samhein.

The above article was originally written in May 2017 for the series Emotional Frustration, which constituted the scaffolding for our homonymous book. As many years have passed since we presumably had one incident of sleepwalking, we thought that were totally. However, during the Social Distancing imposed by the pandemic, my son Gian Luca and I shared the same apartment for six months. He told us that once or twice, he would come in in the wee hours when I was asleep but that I would sit up on my bed to chat wide-eyed with him several minutes about where they had gone, what they had eaten, etc. Then I would immediately go back to resume my sleep. The following day, I would greet him when he was waking up and asked how the outing was.  He looked at me blankly.

-“Dad, we talked all about it last night…Can’t you remember?” he said, a little exasperated.

-“Talked with me? No…After going to bed early last night, I slept the whole night like a baby.”

Mmm…it seems that our nightly adventures might still be far from over…

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.