Dreams, the Unconscious, and the Real Self in the Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud and the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
In 19th -20th century societies, the prevailing philosophical discipline and way of living among people is centering one's attention to the 'Self.' The concept of the Self is influenced by the individualist society prevalent in Western societies. Indeed, individualism through introspection is evident in the main themes discussed among discourses and literary works of this period.
Among these revolutionary thinkers that have helped develop and influence the 20th century philosophy and thought are Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka, psychologist and literary writer, respectively. Both have been influential in introducing the theme of individualism through introspection, mainly through the method of psychoanalysis and subsistence to the philosophy of existentialism.
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian physician and founder of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a branch of psychology where unlearned biological instincts and experiences influence the way people think, feel, and behave. It emerged as one the new methods where analysis of psychological illnesses (mental and emotional) is diagnosed through a study and investigation of the patient's childhood. Primarily, Freud looks at the early relationship of the patient with his/her parents; this is because Freud believed that an individual's early environment shapes and influences the personality of the individual as s/he grows up. Hence, psychoanalysis is an approach where there is emphasis on the unconscious part of the mind, conflict between biological instincts and society's demands, early family experiences.
Franz Kafka, on the other hand, subsisted to the use of existentialism as his primary theme in his literary works. Also an Austrian in nationality, Kafka is known for his use of symbolism in his works to illustrate the theme of confronting the unconscious, or the discovery of the 'real Self.' Influenced by the great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky's works, Kafka created a literature that centers on individual existence, freedom, and choice, which are characteristic of the nature of individualism and introspection in 20th century.
Both Freud and Kafka's works reflect one common theme that is vital for understanding the human psyche -- that is, confronting the unconscious to discover an individual's real Self. This theme has been dominantly discussed in Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams and Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. Both authors, in order to convey this theme in their works, had used dreams as an essential element for an individual to know the truth about their existence and their Self.
The concept of the Self as it relates to the two author's works is distinguished from the "impersonal one." Separating the "impersonal one" from the Self means that an individual has to let go of all his/her repressions in life, where s/he will know himself/herself not through the society, but by his/her own actions, behavior, and thinking. The Self and the "impersonal one" play an essential factor in understanding the themes discussed by both authors, especially when the issue of dreaming and dreams is taken into account.
Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) delves closely into the theme of the Self and the "impersonal one." According to his analysis of experience that he had diagnosing patients who have psychological problems, Freud posits that dreaming, or the 'dream-experience,' "appears as something alien interpolated between two divisions of out life which otherwise fit into each other perfectly and continuously" (12). This passage illustrates how dreams act as mirrors or reflections of the other part of the whole, or the individual. By speaking of "two divisions" within the human psyche, Freud believes that the individual is composed of two parts: the Self and the "impersonal one," also identified as unconsciousness and consciousness, respectively.
Furthermore, Freud goes beyond providing a historical account and analysis on the study of human consciousness. Apart from establishing the historicity of analyzing the 'dream experience,' Freud also theorized, through review of literature, that "in the dream-life only a fragment of our physical activity finds expression," which describes the existence of the other half of the Conscious Self, which is the Unconscious, or the 'real Self' (64).
Freud discusses how the individual is divided and in conflict with the Unconscious Self, as people tends to be more aware of their conscious selves. According to Freud, " The Unconscious must... be assumed…