Latent Dream Thoughts

From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
Jump to: navigation, search

The expression "latent dream thoughts" comes up frequently in the writings of Freud; while the term as a whole has a very definite meaning, the same cannot be said for "thoughts."

"Latent" was opposed to "manifest" in the context of the "manifest content" of the dream and its "latent content." Taking advantage of the weakening of the censorship during sleep, the dream fulfills wishes repressed during the waking state. This can only happen at the cost of transformations and distortions created by the dream work, which translates the latent content into manifest content (or dream narrative). The interpretation of the dream follows the same route in reverse, decoding the transformations effected by the dream work so as to bring out the latent on the basis of the manifest content. Freud illustrated this with great flair, for instance, in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), and in his case histories of Dora (1905e) and the "Wolf Man" (1918b).

This "latent content" is made up of what Freud calls "latent thoughts." This expression, always used in the plural, was never precisely described. In fact, however, the context of its use made it quite clear that it connoted representations, affects, wishes, and conflictual patterns, all deeply marked by infantilism and fantasy. Latent thoughts also subsume whatever supplies the dream's "raw material": the day's residues, somatic sensations, and excitations that directly impact instinctual impulses.

Such a use of the word thoughts might be questioned, thoughts usually being described as conscious. Yet Freud was very explicit in this respect: The term is justified because it referred to psychic contents and processes, albeit preconscious or unconscious ones. Freud explained on a number of occasions after 1912 (e.g., 1912g, 1940a) that latent dream thoughts were generally preconscious; they are utilized by the dream-work because they serve as a relay point and medium for unconscious cathexes.


See also: Dream; Sense/nonsense; Translation. Bibliography

   * Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. Part I, SE, 4: 1-338; Part II, SE, 5: 339-625.
   * ——. (1912g). A note on the unconscious in psychoanalysis. SE, 12: 255-266.
   * ——. (1940a). An outline of psycho-analysis. SE, 23: 139-207.