that we can call upon, and every person has a set of defence mechanisms that
they rely on most frequently to protect them from anxiety (that core concept
referring to the conflicts between the various structures of the psyche – when the
ego is loosing control over the ID or the superego).
Extending from these concepts to the arena of human behaviour, we must now
entertain the discussion on the distinction Freud made between text – manifest
content and subtext – latent content; there is how things seem on the surface,
and then how they really are underneath, and that difference must be respected.
Things are never as they seem! And so, there is always with regards to human
behaviour, the appearance of behaviour, the surface level, the conscious level of
personality – the manifest content/level. (the thoughts that are going through your
mind, the dream you had last night, etc)
Freud would argue, however, that in order to truly understand personality, one
must understand that the manifest emerges out of a horde of competing latent
material, that there is all of this hidden, latent, unconscious material, that gives
rise to the manifest level. There is the dream you recall having, and than there is
the underlying content of the dream. And in a Freudian sense, if you have been
dreaming properly, you won’t know the meaning of your dream.
Therefore, the latent content DETERMINES the manifest content. But there is so
much latent material, that any manifest behaviour is not just determined, but
This notion that there are so many latent elements that are competing to be
expressed, according to Freud, is best viewed as a kind of treaty. Any time you
act, you dream, it’s a compromise, a treaty, which served to keep all the
competing elements at bay.
Think of it as a dam. There is a massive amount of water, held back by a dam.
And this dam has one release point, a small aperture through which all this body
of water is trying to escape. When looking at it this way, we can understand how
the resulting behaviour, the manifest content, is a compromise between all the
elements “rushing” to escape through the little “aperture” of the ‘dam”.
Some everyday examples are dreams, neurotic symptoms and slips of the
tongue. The notion is that in each of these regular day behaviour, they are all
indicators of what our conscious mind will allow us to experience.
Dreams are a very interesting example of this kind of compromise formation.
Freud is widely known, and often stereotyped, for his interest in dreams. He did
say that “dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.”