Freud believed that dreams have a meaning which can be interpreted through the use of symbolic relationships[1]. Dreams can be divided into three categories in relation to their manifest and latent content[2]. The first category is dreams that are intelligible and that can be easily related to one’s mental life[3]. The second category is dreams which, although sensible and clear, have a confusing effect because they do not fit with our mental life[4]. And the third category is dreams that are incoherent, disconnected and seemingly meaningless[5]. It is the second and third categories which are significant concerning the manifest and latent content of dreams[6]. The manifest content of a dream is the fragmentary and illogical story that it tells[7]. The latent content of a dream is concerned with the ‘dream thoughts’ that occur within this dream story[8]. Freud asserts that, on analysis, the manifest content of a dream deals with material that is quite different to the latent thoughts[9]. The distinction between the two contents show that the essential content of a dream is obscured, playing a subordinate role and the most latent content is not even present or is only remotely alluded to it[10]. The more obscure the dream, the more displacement has occurred[11].


[1] Freud, Sigmund. “On dreams (extract)” in The Essentials of Psycho-Analysis , Freud, Sigmund; Freud, Anna , 1986 , p.88

[2] ibid.

[3]ibid. p.89

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] Smith, Dr. N., Lecture 20, The Unconscious, in “Mind, Meaning and Metaphysics”, PHI130, Macquarie University, 2011

[8] ibid.

[9] Freud, S. , “On dreams (extract)”, p.98

[10] ibid.

[11] ibid. p. 99

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