CHAPTER 11 INTERPRETATION OF STORIES: FROM FREUD TO TODAY
FREUDIAN INTERPRETATION:The Story of Oedipus
- Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother (unknowing to who they truly were)
- A young boy in the phallic psychosexual stage (3-5) desire to have his mother
- Object choice- desiring to have the other in a powerful an sensual manner meaning investing libido in
that person. Young boy seek to possess- to conquer in a powerful and an erotic manner- a primal
feminine love object that exists in fantasies and correspond in reality to their own mothers
- An equally vague & unspeakable thing is a threat as a form of a powerful masculine force that stands in
the way of the boy- represented by a father who threatens to castrate the boy(symbol for take his power
& the mom)- castration anxiety
o So the boy wants to unconsciously kill his father
o The boy then comes to identify with the aggressor of his fantasies, seeking to be like the father
so he can someday have the mother
o The unconscious shift from object choice to identification is a major defeat and victory for the
boy. The loss of power is like a castration (Oedipus blinds himself for what he did). But it is a
win because like Oedipus gains wisdom after he blinds himself, the boy eventually gains wisdom
- Identification leads to the superego
- The boy’s resolution of the Oedipus complex is the prototype for the general tendency of all of civilized
humankind to repress certain instinctual urges and establish in their place great institutions of social
organizations like gov & religion
- For the girl: she has a positive attraction to the mother: both as an object choice and for identifications
but realizes they both don't have a penis (lack of power) so this peeeennnis envy causes her to blame the
- The boy identifies with the father and the girl is already in a way castrated so she can't have castration
fear. If she doesn't have the fear, they don't go through identification and the Oedipus complex lasts a
long time so their superegos are weaker and less independent to men. This can mean that
o Woman are less morally sensible than mess OR
o Woman’s superego is less harsh so their moral decisions are more flexible
- Early object choice of boys/girls may be directed to BOTH mom and dad. Similarily, identifications that
resolve the complex may incorporate both mom and dad.
- The OC does not occur in ALL kids because there if no scientific proof, instead the Oedipus story
INTERPRETED to tell how the characters live out their strong desires regarding love and power and
how they are disappointed in this quest, how they must give up what they want in order to live together
in harmony, how an individual may feel love and hate toward the same person, how men compete with
each other for the favour of a woman, how the young rise up to rebel against authority and how the
rebels becomes authorities themselves. These are UNIVERSAL life-narrative themes.
- Identification with an object may be symbolized as eating the object and internalizing it. Freud thought
of tribes back in the day that had leaders that could have sex with all the women and the other rower
ranks (their sons) couldn’t, they got pissed and kill the leader and ate him and became authorities
THEMSELVES after taking the power over the leader. They let free sex and incest as a normal thing.
This through evolution lead to morals to keep us in order. A Case of Oedipal Dynamics:The Death of Yukio Mishima
- Mishima was a heterosexual, with a family, and was an amazing writer. He was kept limited as a child
by his grandmother and rarely saw his mother. He had homosexual fantasies about a muscular man who
got rid of poop at night (night-soil man); and was intrigued by death. He started working out and
committed suicide when his life was at its best times. He is thought of as someone who went through the
- The psychological meaning of Mishima’s suicide derives from a fundamental and fatal confusion in
“having” and “being”. In Freud’s terms, it would be an Oedipal confusion between object choice and
- According to Freud, a person unconsciously tends to relate to important people in one or both out of 2
o To have the other in a powerful/sensual way (object choice) OR
o To be the other (identification) – happens when the first is thwarted
- Identification with the aggressor is the desire to be the other is mixed with fear/hatred of that same
- Mishima was never able to unconsciously sort out object choice and identification. Instead of being
attracted to his mother and identifying with his father, he projected both object choice & identification to
the same hero: the night-soil man.
- Mishima at 14, then fell in love with a boy names Omi whom he always wanted to be like. Omi was like
the night-soil man and was everything that Mishima was not. His homosexual love stopped when he saw
Omi flawless at the parallel bars. He then realized instead of loving Omi, he wanted to BE Omi.
- Remember: identification with an object may be symbolized as eating the object and internalizing it. So
that day he had a dream where he ate a young boy on a plate.
- He then wanted to be Omi throughout adulthood by weightlifting and became that hero he likes at age 4
(night-poop man). Be becoming Omi and the night soil man, he unconsciously became his own lover. So
if he was to become OMI, he must have himself which lead to 2 things:
o The result of this unconscious dynamic was narcissism (literally fell in love with himself)
o Suicide – seppuku is the Japanese rite in which Mishima always had a sexual significance. Since
4 he had always romanticized death and his novels were full of erotic ways of death and killing.
Seppuku for him was the sexual union with himself. It enabled him to be AND have Omi so in
thrusting the dagger into his stomach, he became both the lover and the beloved, both the penis
and the vagina and at his moment of death, he was finally able to became the tragic hero of his
oedipal dreams and to have that same tragic hero simultaneously, in a deadly sexual union.
The Case of Dora
- Dreams need to be interpreted because Freud said not to trust what you see, the surface is deceptive and
the real truth lies between the lines & beyond the obvious
- Dora was well off, articulate and smart but wasn’t happy with her life. She would experience physical
symptoms of HYSTERIA- coughing, fainting, headaches and difficulties in breathing. They didn’t have
a physical cause though.
- She was depressed and had thoughts of suicide so her father made her see Freud
- Every time he thought he was close to breaking through, she would stop therapy - Dora’s father had an affair with Frau K. Frau’s husband (Herr K) put up with the affair in return for
sexual interest in the teenage Dora by sending her gifts and taking walks. Dora was a babysitter for the
K’s children and frequently talked with Frau about intimate topics like sexuality. Dora’s mother
helplessly cleaned the house. The 4 adults tried to keep their messed up lives away from Dora but she
knew everything from the affair to her father overlooking Herr’s sexual interest in Dora. She also
suspected that her father will make Freud convince her that there is no affair taking place. When the
father found out that Freud was actually trying to get to the truth, he did not protest Dora’s termination
Two Traumatic Events
- There were 2 times Herr K made a sexual advance on her
1)After a long walk, Herr K proposed his love to her and asked the 16 year old to make love to him. She
told her mom and her mom told her dad who confronted Herr K who denied it all & claimed that she
was obsessed with sexual matters anyway (his wife told Herr K this). Dora’s father took his word
2) When Dora was 14, (2 years before this) Herr K suddenly embraced and kissed Dora, she broke away
disgusted to the streets. Neither of them spoke about his (until Dora told Freud) but she was still nice
to him after that. Only after him asking her to have sex with him she started hating him.
- Freud said that neurotic symptoms are symbolic manifestations of unconscious fears, desires, conflicts,
- He made her go through free association- allowing Dora to let her mind wander in response to a
stimulus and reporting all thoughts (associations) aloud to the therapist as they occur. Freud believed
that the unconscious rises to the surface through this and that the therapist can interpret the association
in order to make psychological sense of the case
- He thought Dora had a reversal of affect- she had feelings for the handsome Herr K. And disguised her
excitement when he kissed her as disgust. This is because a pleasurable feeling is threatening
(excitement) and is replaced with an un-pleasurable and less threatening feeling (disgust). ALSO,
displacement of sensation transferred the positive sensation of sexual arousal from the lower region of
the body (Dora’s genitals) to the upper region (thorax and mouth). Since the incident, she kept having
hallucinations in which she could feel Herr K’s embrace on the UPPER part of her body, which meant
she felt his erect penis on the LOWER part of herself through their clothes. (she also didn’t like walking
past any man talking to a woman, maybe because she didn’t want to see the man’s excited penis)
- He said her whole life was based on oral things. She was always a thumb sucker and she through of her
father as impotent and Frau K. can only satisfy him orally ehich all caused her oral hysteria: her
persistent cough; after she accepted this, he cough disappeared.
The Dream of the Jewel Case
- She constantly has a dream where the house was on fire and saw her father standing beside her so she
dressed quickly. Her mother wanted to stop and save the jewellery box but the dad said that he won’t let
everyone risk being burnt for the jewellery box, and when they ran outside she wakes up.
- She free associated each part of the dream:
o Her parents had a recent argument about locking the brother’s door and the father said something
might happen so its important be able to leave the room (like a fire, Frued suggested). And even
at the house by the lake her father worried about fires because they house was made out of would and could burn easily (this is when the dreams started because Herr K asked her to have sex with
o He goes back into the house after the walk with Herr K she naps and wakes up, startled to see
Herr K at her side (like her father was in the dream). He protested being prevented to come into
his own room. She made a key for the lock for the bedroom lock but Herr K stole it!! After that,
she would always dress quickly (like the dream) fearing he would barge in. In the dream, the
father SAVED her from the fire by taking her through the unlocked door so she can escape, in
doig so, he symbolically saved her from the “fiery” sexual advances of Herr K.
o The significance of sexuality is the jewellery box. Herr K also bought her one and jewellery box
in German means a virgin girl’s “genitals”
o The dream concerns to make her jewellery case his own (to have sex with her) and her
contradictory wished: to escape & to have sex with him
o The father in the dream represents both her father and Herr K- both who she loves, fears and
o The image of her mother represents both her other and Frau K- both she resents and still who she
wants to be.
o On a conscious level, she knows they both her mother and Frau K don't sexually satisfy their
husbands so consciously SHE BELEIVES SHE CAN BE A BETTER WIFE FOR EITHER OF
- Freud further interpreted her dream to match her symptoms:
o She remembered an argument where the mother wanted pearl drops and he bought her a bracelet.
Drops could mean water which means bedwetting (also opposite of fire and also is something
that you may have to leave the room for like the father said in the dream). She remembers that
both her brother and her had bet wetting problems in childhood. It got very serious and stopped
and then she got her first neurotic symptom: difficulties in breathing/nervous asthma.
o Freud associated bedwetting to masturbation but she would not conscious admit that she did. The
next session she brought a little reticule/purse in which she opened it, put her finger in it and
closed it and kept unconsciously doing which Freud thought was support for his masturbation
o She thought both bed wetting and masturbation was dirty and felt more dirty knowing she was
born to a father who had a venereal disease (STD) so she blames her father for her illness and
feel like she herself has a sexually transmitted disease. Her reeocuring vaginal mucus was a
psychological “proof” for Freud that her many problems in life are her father’s fault. She not
only gave her a disease (so she thought), but he also “handed her over” to Herr K.
She is his daughter
She like him is sick and dirty
This is all because of sex
So all sexual phenomena is dirty to her that is also why she felt disgusted when
Herr K kissed her when she was 14.
o The father also had troubled breathing. This was showing herself that she indeed is his daughter
and this would start up when her father left on business trips so she would identify with her lost
lover-her father by acting in a way that remind her of him.
- All this was of course, unconscious.
Dora Revisited - Dora revisited Freud to tell him that she confronted Frau and her father’s affair and Herr K about his
- There was no further therapy
- She saw another therapist, got marries, had a son but her neurotic symtoms still stayed and she was still
- Freud realized he thought of some aspects of Dora too late. She may have went through transference
and unconsciously transferring feelings of father/lover/enemy onto Freud and he might have been
counter-transferring his own unconscious feelings about young neurotic woman on Dora.
- Freud was quick to dismiss her ranting of betrayal and innocence (due to the patriarchal time they were
in). Dora could have been searching for fidelity– honesty and truth in relationships, when in reality, she
was being betrayed by everyone
Principles of Interpretation
Text and Treaty
- For Freud, human behaviour is like a TEXT with multiple meanings and levels that may be interpreted
in different ways. There is no single complete interpretation of anything, no single answer. Ex in Dora’s
dream, the jewellery body was not only her genitals
o We are master novelists, unconsciously constructing literary masterpieces liek our dreams,
symptoms and relationships with others that can be interpreted on more than a single level so
psychoanalysts should be skilled in the interpretation of multivalent texts.
- Second metaphor is of a political TREATY. It’s a compromise among conflicting forces. Much of what
we do or say or experience is a compromise among internal conflicting forces. The internal forces were
deeply repressed wishes concerning sexuality and aggression.
o At a given moment, there are thousands of voices are making demands that are conflicting. We
behave and experience in such a way as to appease as many of these voices as we can
o While overtly displacing her hatred for her father to Herr K, she could consciously claim that she
loved her father while continuing to hate him through Herr K. He had reason to hate Herr K too,
so by slapping him when he asked her to have sex with him and openlyexpressed her disgust
with this behaviour enabled Dora to kill many birds of the unconscious with the same
behavioural stone, forging a cautious peace treaty among the wishes and desires at war within
Manifest & Latent
- Manifest level of the dream is what Dora actually remembered
- The latent levels of the dream consist of the hidden forces, conflicts and wishes. They are the
unconscious building blocks of the dream. There is ALWAYS much more material here than in the
manifest and never comes to be conscious.
- The manifest content is over-determined by the latent content. Over-determination is the Freudian idea
that all behaviour is caused by different, unconscious, conflicting factors.
- Dream analysis-moving from the manifest to the latent content
- Dream work- working backward from dream analysis – moving from the latent to the manifest - The text is written, a treaty is forges an a dream is made all unconsciously. And what story comes from
the manifested dream is a masterpiece. Ex. Dora’s innocent dream about fire masks an unconscious
story about sexual love, hatred, sickness and filth, betrayal and bedwetting.
- Method into dream work:
o Condensation- dreamer compresses different laten elements into a single manifest image/theme.
It’s with this, a dream can say so much w/ so little
Ex. in Dora’s dream, the manifest father standing at her bedside is a condensation of her
real father, Herr K & others who she loves/hates
o Displacement- shift of emphasis in a dream from an important but potentially threatening source
to a trivial but safer one, as when one displaces a powerful emotion from its intended object to a
ex. Dora displaces her hatred for her diseased/dishonoured father onto Herr K, feeling
overwhelming disgust in his presence, rather thn her father’s presence
o Symbolism- through symbolism, the dreamer conjures up concrete images and actions that
convey hidden, but common meanings.
Ex. hollow things that things can be inserted into like the jewellery box/reticule could
represent female genitals.
o Secondary revision- dreamer unconsciously smooths over the dream’s rough spots, fills in gaps,
clears up ambiguities, and edits the dream experience into a coherent story with setting,
characters, and a plot. The smooth narrative is the manifest content of the dream.
Symptoms & Everyday Life
- Dora’s neurotic symptoms stem from ingenious products of complex unconscious dynamics, where
internal conflicts were translated into physical infirmities
- All neurotic symptoms-obsessions, phobias, and compulsions can be interpreted as over-determined
texts or treaties with disguised creative meanings at many levels.
- These creative works are not only in the neurotic level, it occurs in every life to in Freudian slips ,
forgetting name and mistakes in writing and reading can be interpreted as indicators of unconscious
o Ex. Dora’s fiddling with her reticule indicated masturbations
- Human life is a creative deceit- virtually all of behaviour is meaningful, but we unconsciously deceive
ourselves and others so that we and they don't know what the behaviour means. Our deceptions are the
complex treaties and texts that we unconsciously weave.
- Psychoanalytical interpretation attempts to unravel our deceits and expose the truths that lie behind the
creative cover-ups of everyday life.
JUNGIAN APPROACH: MYTH & SYMBOL
A Collective Unconscious
- Freud said that the secrets of each person’s soul is in their unconscious and is linked to sex and
aggression. Because we all have different experiences, we all have different unconsciousness.
- Carl Jung said the opposite. He said we all have certain features of the unconscious that are the same. - With respect to motivation, he didn’t agree with sex and aggression, he said we are motivated by lots of
unconscious forces (urges, images about death and unity, wisdom, innocence, sex and aggression- all of
which are the result of our common evolutionary heritage. The wellspring for these sources of everyday
behaviour is called the collective unconscious. It is the storehouse of archaic remains of humankind’s
evolutionary past. It is the most deepest and more inaccessible part.
- The major structural components of the collective unconscious are archetypes. They are the universal
patterns/predispositions that structure how all humans consciously and unconsciously adapt to the world.
o They are inherited and flexible, they are not images or behaviours, but are predispositions to
develop universal images and to enact universal behavioural sequences.
- We have a genetic predisposition/unconscious prototype of what a mother is so they are predisposed to
react to her in certain ways. The infant’s perception of the m