Back to Psych Web Home Page
Back to Table of Contents for The Interpretation of Dreams


ALL other previous attempts to solve the problems of dreams have concerned themselves directly with the manifest dream-content as it is retained in the memory. They have sought to obtain an interpretation of the dream from this content, or, if they dispensed with an interpretation, to base their conclusions concerning the dream on the evidence provided by this content. We, however, are confronted by a different set of data; for us a new psychic material interposes itself between the dream-content and the results of our investigations: the latent dream-content, or dream-thoughts, which are obtained only by our method. We develop the solution of the dream from this latent content, and not from the manifest dream-content. We are thus confronted with a new problem, an entirely novel task- that of examining and tracing the relations between the latent dream-thoughts and the manifest dream-content, and the processes by which the latter has grown out of the former.

The dream-thoughts and the dream-content present themselves as two descriptions of the same content in two different languages; or, to put it more clearly, the dream-content appears to us as a translation of the dream-thoughts into another mode of expression, whose symbols and laws of composition we must learn by comparing the origin with the translation. The dream-thoughts we can understand without further trouble the moment we have ascertained them. The dream-content is, as it were, presented in hieroglyphics, whose symbols must be translated, one by one, into the language of the dream-thoughts. It would of course, be incorrect to attempt to read these symbols in accordance with their values as pictures, instead of in accordance with their meaning as symbols. For instance, I have before me a picture- puzzle (rebus)- a house, upon whose roof there is a boat; then a single letter; then a running figure, whose head has been omitted, and so on. As a critic I might be tempted to judge this composition and its elements to be nonsensical. A boat is out of place on the roof of a house, and a headless man cannot run; the man, too, is larger than the house, and if the whole thing is meant to represent a landscape the single letters have no right in it, since they do not occur in nature. A correct judgment of the picture-puzzle is possible only if I make no such objections to the whole and its parts, and if, on the contrary, I take the trouble to replace each image by a syllable or word which it may represent by virtue of some allusion or relation. The words thus put together are no longer meaningless, but might constitute the most beautiful and pregnant aphorism. Now a dream is such a picture-puzzle, and our predecessors in the art of dream- interpretation have made the mistake of judging the rebus as an artistic composition. As such, of course, it appears nonsensical and worthless.

A. Condensation

The first thing that becomes clear to the investigator when he compares the dream-content with the dream-thoughts is that a tremendous work of condensation has been accomplished. The dream is meagre, paltry and laconic in comparison with the range and copiousness of the dream-thoughts. The dream, when written down fills half a page; the analysis, which contains the dream- thoughts, requires six, eight, twelve times as much space. The ratio varies with different dreams; but in my experience it is always of the same order. As a rule, the extent of the compression which has been accomplished is under-estimated, owing to the fact that the dream-thoughts which have been brought to light are believed to be the whole of the material, whereas a continuation of the work of interpretation would reveal still further thoughts hidden in the dream. We have already found it necessary to remark that one can never be really sure that one has interpreted a dream completely; even if the solution seems satisfying and flawless, it is always possible that yet another meaning has been manifested by the same dream. Thus the degree of condensation is- strictly speaking- indeterminable. Exception may be taken- and at first sight the objection seems perfectly plausible- to the assertion that the disproportion between dream- content and dream-thoughts justifies the conclusion that a considerable condensation of psychic material occurs in the formation of dreams. For we often have the feeling that we have been dreaming a great deal all night, and have then forgotten most of what we have dreamed. The dream which we remember on waking would thus appear to be merely a remnant of the dream- work, which would surely equal the dream-thoughts in range if only we could remember it completely. To a certain extent this is undoubtedly true; there is no getting away from the fact that a dream is most accurately reproduced if we try to remember it immediately after waking, and that the recollection of it becomes more and more defective as the day goes on. On the other hand, it has to be recognized that the impression that we have dreamed a good deal more than we are able to reproduce is very often based on an illusion, the origin of which we shall explain later on. Moreover, the assumption of a condensation in the dream-work is not affected by the possibility of forgetting a part of dreams, for it may be demonstrated by the multitude of ideas pertaining to those individual parts of the dream which do remain in the memory. If a large part of the dream has really escaped the memory, we are probably deprived of access to a new series of dream-thoughts. We have no justification for expecting that those portions of the dream which have been lost should likewise have referred only to those thoughts which we know from the analysis of the portions which have been preserved. *

* References to the condensation in dreams are to be found in the works of many writers on the subject. Du Prel states in his Philosophie der Mystik that he is absolutely certain that a condensation-process of the succession of ideas had occurred. -

In view of the very great number of ideas which analysis elicits for each individual element of the dream-content, the principal doubt in the minds of many readers will be whether it is permissible to count everything that subsequently occurs to the mind during analysis as forming part of the dream-thoughts- in other words, to assume that all these thoughts have been active in the sleeping state, and have taken part in the formation of the dream. Is it not more probable that new combinations of thoughts are developed in the course of analysis, which did not participate in the formation of the dream? To this objection I can give only a conditional reply. It is true, of course, that separate combinations of thoughts make their first appearance during the analysis; but one can convince oneself every time this happens that such new combinations have been established only between thoughts which have already been connected in other ways in the dream-thoughts; the new combinations are, so to speak, corollaries, short-circuits, which are made possible by the existence of other, more fundamental modes of connection. In respect of the great majority of the groups of thoughts revealed by analysis, we are obliged to admit that they have already been active in the formation of the dream, for if we work through a succession of such thoughts, which at first sight seem to have played no part in the formation of the dream, we suddenly come upon a thought which occurs in the dream-content, and is indispensable to its interpretation, but which is nevertheless inaccessible except through this chain of thoughts. The reader may here turn to the dream of the botanical monograph, which is obviously the result of an astonishing degree of condensation, even though I have not given the complete analysis.

But how, then, are we to imagine the psychic condition of the sleeper which precedes dreaming? Do all the dream-thoughts exist side by side, or do they pursue one another, or are there several simultaneous trains of thought, proceeding from different centres, which subsequently meet? I do not think it is necessary at this point to form a plastic conception of the psychic condition at the time of dream-formation. But let us not forget that we are concerned with unconscious thinking, and that the process may easily be different from that which we observe in ourselves in deliberate contemplation accompanied by consciousness.

The fact, however, is irrefutable that dream-formation is based on a process of condensation. How, then, is this condensation effected?

Now, if we consider that of the dream-thoughts ascertained only the most restricted number are represented in the dream by means of one of their conceptual elements, we might conclude that the condensation is accomplished by means of omission, inasmuch as the dream is not a faithful translation or projection, point by point, of the dream-thoughts, but a very incomplete and defective reproduction of them. This view, as we shall soon perceive, is a very inadequate one. But for the present let us take it as a point of departure, and ask ourselves: If only a few of the elements of the dream-thoughts make their way into the dream- content, what are the conditions that determine their selection?

In order to solve this problem, let us turn our attention to those elements of the dream-content which must have fulfilled the conditions for which we are looking. The most suitable material for this investigation will be a dream to whose formation a particularly intense condensation has contributed. I select the dream, cited in chapter V., of the botanical monograph.


Dream-content: I have written a monograph upon a certain (indeterminate) species of plant. The book lies before me. I am just turning over a folded coloured plate. A dried specimen of the plant is bound up in this copy, as in a herbarium.

The most prominent element of this dream is the botanical monograph. This is derived from the impressions of the dream-day; I had actually seen a monograph on the genus Cyclamen in a bookseller's window. The mention of this genus is lacking in the dream-content; only the monograph and its relation to botany have remained. The botanical monograph immediately reveals its relation to the work on cocaine which I once wrote; from cocaine the train of thought proceeds on the one hand to a Festschrift, and on the other to my friend, the oculist, Dr. Koenigstein, who was partly responsible for the introduction of cocaine as a local anaesthetic. Moreover, Dr. Koenigstein is connected with the recollection of an interrupted conversation I had had with him on the previous evening, and with all sorts of ideas relating to the remuneration of medical and surgical services among colleagues. This conversation, then, is the actual dream-stimulus; the monograph on cyclamen is also a real incident, but one of an indifferent nature; as I now see, the botanical monograph of the dream proves to be a common mean between the two experiences of the day, taken over unchanged from an indifferent impression, and bound with the psychically significant experience by means of the most copious associations.

Not only the combined idea of the botanical monograph, however, but also each of its separate elements, botanical and monograph, penetrates farther and farther, by manifold associations, into the confused tangle of the dream-thoughts. To botanical belong the recollections of the person of Professor Gartner (German: Gartner = gardener), of his blooming wife, of my patient, whose name is Flora, and of a lady concerning whom I told the story of the forgotten flowers. Gartner, again, leads me to the laboratory and the conversation with Koenigstein; and the allusion to the two female patients belongs to the same conversation. From the lady with the flowers a train of thoughts branches off to the favourite flowers of my wife, whose other branch leads to the title of the hastily seen monograph. Further, botanical recalls an episode at the Gymnasium, and a university examination; and a fresh subject- that of my hobbies- which was broached in the above-mentioned conversation, is linked up, by means of what is humorously called my favourite flower, the artichoke, with the train of thoughts proceeding from the forgotten flowers; behind artichoke there lies, on the one hand, a recollection of Italy, and on the other a reminiscence of a scene of my childhood, in which I first formed an acquaintance- which has since then grown so intimate- with books. Botanical, then, is a veritable nucleus, and, for the dream, the meeting-point of many trains of thought; which, I can testify, had all really been brought into connection by the conversation referred to. Here we find ourselves in a thought-factory, in which, as in The Weaver's Masterpiece:

The little shuttles to and fro

Fly, and the threads unnoted flow;

One throw links up a thousand threads.

Monograph in the dream, again, touches two themes: the one-sided nature of my studies, and the costliness of my hobbies.

The impression derived from this first investigation is that the elements botanical and monograph were taken up into the dream- content because they were able to offer the most numerous points of contact with the greatest number of dream-thoughts, and thus represented nodal points at which a great number of the dream- thoughts met together, and because they were of manifold significance in respect of the meaning of the dream. The fact upon which this explanation is based may be expressed in another form: Every element of the dream-content proves to be over- determined- that is, it appears several times over in the dream- thoughts.

We shall learn more if we examine the other components of the dream in respect of their occurrence in the dream-thoughts. The coloured plate refers (cf. the analysis in chapter V.) to a new subject, the criticism passed upon my work by colleagues, and also to a subject already represented in the dream- my hobbies- and, further, to a memory of my childhood, in which I pull to pieces a book with coloured plates; the dried specimen of the plant relates to my experience with the herbarium at the Gymnasium, and gives this memory particular emphasis. Thus I perceive the nature of the relation between the dream-content and dream-thoughts: Not only are the elements of the dream determined several times over by the dream-thoughts, but the individual dream-thoughts are represented in the dream by several elements. Starting from an element of the dream, the path of the association leads to a number of dream-thoughts; and from a single dream-thought to several elements of the dream. In the process of dream-formation, therefore, it is not the case that a single dream-thought, or a group of dream-thoughts, supplies the dream-content with an abbreviation of itself as its representative, and that the next dream-thought supplies another abbreviation as its representative (much as representatives are elected from among the population); but rather that the whole mass of the dream-thoughts is subjected to a certain elaboration, in the course of which those elements that receive the strongest and completest support stand out in relief; so that the process might perhaps be likened to election by the scrutin du liste. Whatever dream I may subject to such a dissection, I always find the same fundamental principle confirmed- that the dream-elements have been formed out of the whole mass of the dream-thoughts, and that every one of them appears, in relation to the dream- thoughts, to have a multiple determination.

It is certainly not superfluous to demonstrate this relation of the dream-content to the dream-thoughts by means of a further example, which is distinguished by a particularly artful intertwining of reciprocal relations. The dream is that of a patient whom I am treating for claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). It will soon become evident why I feel myself called upon to entitle this exceptionally clever piece of dream- activity:

II. "A Beautiful Dream"

The dreamer is driving with a great number of companions in X- street, where there is a modest hostelry (which is not the case). A theatrical performance is being given in one of the rooms of the inn. He is first spectator, then actor. Finally the company is told to change their clothes, in order to return to the city. Some of the company are shown into rooms on the ground floor, others to rooms on the first floor. Then a dispute arises. The people upstairs are annoyed because those downstairs have not yet finished changing, so that they cannot come down. His brother is upstairs; he is downstairs; and he is angry with his brother because they are so hurried. (This part obscure.) Besides, it was already decided, upon their arrival, who was to go upstairs and who down. Then he goes alone up the hill towards the city, and he walks so heavily, and with such difficulty, that he cannot move from the spot. An elderly gentleman joins him and talks angrily of the King of Italy. Finally, towards the top of the hill, he is able to walk much more easily.

The difficulty experienced in climbing the hill was so distinct that for some time after waking he was in doubt whether the experience was a dream or the reality.

Judged by the manifest content, this dream can hardly be eulogized. Contrary to the rules, I shall begin the interpretation with that portion to which the dreamer referred as being the most distinct.

The difficulty dreamed of, and probably experienced during the dream- difficulty in climbing, accompanied by dyspnoea- was one of the symptoms which the patient had actually exhibited some years before, and which, in conjunction with other symptoms, was at the time attributed to tuberculosis (probably hysterically simulated). From our study of exhibition-dreams we are already acquainted with this sensation of being inhibited in motion, peculiar to dreams, and here again we find it utilized as material always available for the purposes of any other kind of representation. The part of the dream-content which represents climbing as difficult at first, and easier at the top of the hill, made me think, while it was being related, of the well- known masterly introduction to Daudet's Sappho. Here a young man carries the woman he loves upstairs; she is at first as light as a feather, but the higher he climbs the more she weighs; and this scene is symbolic of the process of their relation, in describing which Daudet seeks to admonish young men not to lavish an earnest affection upon girls of humble origin and dubious antecedents. * Although I knew that my patient had recently had a love-affair with an actress, and had broken it off, I hardly expected to find that the interpretation which had occurred to me was correct. The situation in Sappho is actually the reverse of that in the dream; for in the dream climbing was difficult at the first and easy later on; in the novel the symbolism is pertinent only if what was at first easily carried finally proves to be a heavy burden. To my astonishment, the patient remarked that the interpretation fitted in very well with the plot of a play which he had seen the previous evening. The play was called Rund um Wien (Round about Vienna), and treated of the career of a girl who was at first respectable, but who subsequently lapsed into the demimonde, and formed relations with highly-placed lovers, thereby climbing, but finally she went downhill faster and faster. This play reminded him of another, entitled Von Stufe zu Stufe (From Step to Step), the poster advertising which had depicted a flight of stairs. -

* In estimating the significance of this passage we may recall the meaning of dreams of climbing stairs, as explained in the chapter on Symbolism.

To continue the interpretation: The actress with whom he had had his most recent and complicated affair had lived in X-street. There is no inn in this street. However, while he was spending part of the summer in Vienna for the sake of this lady, he had lodged (German: abgestiegen = stopped, literally stepped off) at a small hotel in the neighbourhood. When he was leaving the hotel, he said to the cab-driver: "I am glad at all events that I didn't get any vermin here!" (Incidentally, the dread of vermin is one of his phobias.) Whereupon the cab-driver answered: "How could anybody stop there! That isn't a hotel at all, it's really nothing but a pub!"

The pub immediately reminded him of a quotation:

Of a wonderful host

I was lately a guest.

But the host in the poem by Uhland is an apple-tree. Now a second quotation continues the train of thought:

FAUST (dancing with the young witch).

A lovely dream once came to me;

I then beheld an apple-tree,

And there two fairest apples shone:

They lured me so, I climbed thereon.


Apples have been desired by you,

Since first in Paradise they grew;

And I am moved with joy to know

That such within my garden grow. *

* Faust I.

There is not the slightest doubt what is meant by the apple-tree and the apples. A beautiful bosom stood high among the charms by which the actress had bewitched our dreamer.

Judging from the context of the analysis, we had every reason to assume that the dream referred to an impression of the dreamer's childhood. If this is correct, it must have referred to the wet- nurse of the dreamer, who is now a man of nearly thirty years of age. The bosom of the nurse is in reality an inn for the child. The nurse, as well as Daudet's Sappho, appears as an allusion to his recently abandoned mistress.

The (elder) brother of the patient also appears in the dream- content; he is upstairs, while the dreamer himself is downstairs. This again is an inversion, for the brother, as I happen to know, has lost his social position, while my patient has retained his. In relating the dream-content, the dreamer avoided saying that his brother was upstairs and that he himself was downstairs. This would have been to obvious an expression, for in Austria we say that a man is on the ground floor when he has lost his fortune and social position, just as we say that he has come down. Now the fact that at this point in the dream something is represented as inverted must have a meaning; and the inversion must apply to some other relation between the dream-thoughts and the dream- content. There is an indication which suggests how this inversion is to be understood. It obviously applies to the end of the dream, where the circumstances of climbing are the reverse of those described in Sappho. Now it is evident what inversion is meant: In Sappho the man carries the woman who stands in a sexual relation to him; in the dream-thoughts, conversely, there is a reference to a woman carrying a man: and, as this could occur only in childhood, the reference is once more to the nurse who carries the heavy child. Thus the final portion of the dream succeeds in representing Sappho and the nurse in the same allusion.

Just as the name Sappho has not been selected by the poet without reference to a Lesbian practise, so the portions of the dream in which people are busy upstairs and downstairs, above and beneath, point to fancies of a sexual content with which the dreamer is occupied, and which, as suppressed cravings, are not unconnected with his neurosis. Dream-interpretation itself does not show that these are fancies and not memories of actual happenings; it only furnishes us with a set of thoughts and leaves it to us to determine their actual value. In this case real and imagined happenings appear at first as of equal value- and not only here, but also in the creation of more important psychic structures than dreams. A large company, as we already know, signifies a secret. The brother is none other than a representative, drawn into the scenes of childhood by fancying backwards, of all of the subsequent for women's favours. Through the medium of an experience indifferent in itself, the episode of the gentleman who talks angrily of the King of Italy refers to the intrusion of people of low rank into aristocratic society. It is as though the warning which Daudet gives to young men were to be supplemented by a similar warning applicable to a suckling child. *

* The fantastic nature of the situation relating to the dreamer's wet-nurse is shown by the circumstance, objectively ascertained, that the nurse in this case was his mother. Further, I may call attention to the regret of the young man in the anecdote related to p. 222 above (that he had not taken better advantage of his opportunities with his wet-nurse) as the probable source of his dream.

In the two dreams here cited I have shown by italics where one of the elements of the dream recurs in the dream-thoughts, in order to make the multiple relations of the former more obvious. Since, however, the analysis of these dreams has not been carried to completion, it will probably be worth while to consider a dream with a full analysis, in order to demonstrate the manifold determination of the dream-content. For this purpose I shall select the dream of Irma's injection (see chapter II). From this example we shall readily see that the condensation-work in the dream-formation has made use of more means than one.

The chief person in the dream-content is my patient Irma, who is seen with the features which belong to her waking life, and who therefore, in the first instance, represents herself. But her attitude, as I examine her at the window, is taken from a recollection of another person, of the lady for whom I should like to exchange my patient, as is shown by the dream-thoughts. Inasmuch as Irma has a diphtheritic membrane, which recalls my anxiety about my eldest daughter, she comes to represent this child of mine, behind whom, connected with her by the identity of their names, is concealed the person of the patient who died from the effects of poison. In the further course of the dream the Significance of Irma's personality changes (without the alteration of her image as it is seen in the dream): she becomes one of the children whom we examine in the public dispensaries for children's diseases, where my friends display the differences in their mental capacities. The transition was obviously effected by the idea of my little daughter. Owing to her unwillingness to open her mouth, the same Irma constitutes an allusion to another lady who was examined by me, and, also in the same connection, to my wife. Further, in the morbid changes which I discover in her throat I have summarized allusions to quite a number of other persons.

All these people whom I encounter as I follow up the associations suggested by Irma do not appear personally in the dream; they are concealed behind the dream-person Irma, who is thus developed into a collective image, which, as might be expected, has contradictory features. Irma comes to represent these other persons, who are discarded in the work of condensation, inasmuch as I allow anything to happen to her which reminds me of these persons, trait by trait.

For the purposes of dream-condensation I may construct a composite person in yet another fashion, by combining the actual features of two or more persons in a single dream-image. It is in this fashion that the Dr. M of my dream was constructed; he bears the name of Dr. M, and he speaks and acts as Dr. M does, but his bodily characteristics and his malady belong to another person, my eldest brother; a single feature, paleness, is doubly determined, owing to the fact that it is common to both persons. Dr. R, in my dream about my uncle, is a similar composite person. But here the dream-image is constructed in yet another fashion. I have not united features peculiar to the one person with the features of the other, thereby abridging by certain features the memory-picture of each; but I have adopted the method employed by Galton in producing family portraits; namely, I have superimposed the two images, so that the common features stand out in stronger relief, while those which do not coincide neutralize one another and become indistinct. In the dream of my uncle the fair beard stands out in relief, as an emphasized feature, from a physiognomy which belongs to two persons, and which is consequently blurred; further, in its reference to growing grey the beard contains an allusion to my father and to myself.

The construction of collective and composite persons is one of the principal methods of dream-condensation. We shall presently have occasion to deal with this in another connection.

The notion of dysentry in the dream of Irma's injection has likewise a multiple determination; on the one hand, because of its paraphasic assonance with diphtheria. and on the other because of its reference to the patient whom I sent to the East, and whose hysteria had been wrongly diagnosed.

The mention of propyls in the dream proves again to be an interesting case of condensation. Not propyls but amyls were included in the dream-thoughts. One might think that here a simple displacement had occured in the course of dream-formation. This is in fact the case, but the displacement serves the purposes of the condensation, as is shown from the following supplementary analysis: If I dwell for a moment upon the word propylen (German) its assonance with the word propylaeum suggests itself to me. But a propylaeum is to be found not only in Athens, but also in Munich. In the latter city, a year before my dream, I had visited a friend who was seriously ill, and the reference to him in trimethylamin, which follows closely upon propyls, is unmistakable.

I pass over the striking circumstance that here, as elsewhere in the analysis of dreams, associations of the most widely differing values are employed for making thought-connections as though they were equivalent, and I yield to the temptation to regard the procedure by which amyls in the dream-thoughts are replaced in the dream-content by propyls as a sort of plastic process.

On the one hand, here is the group of ideas relating to my friend Otto, who does not understand me, thinks I am in the wrong, and gives me the liqueur that smells of amyls; on the other hand, there is the group of ideas- connected with the first by contrast- relating to my Berlin friend who does understand me, who would always think that I was right, and to whom I am indebted for so much valuable information concerning the chemistry of sexual processes.

What elements in the Otto group are to attract my particular attention are determined by the recent circumstances which are responsible for the dream; amyls belong to the element so distinguished, which are predestined to find their way into the dream-content. The large group of ideas centering upon William is actually stimulated by the contrast between William and Otto, and those elements in it are emphasized which are in tune with those already stirred up in the Otto group. In the whole of this dream I am continually recoiling from somebody who excites my displeasure towards another person with whom I can at will confront the first; trait by trait I appeal to the friend as against the enemy. Thus amyls in the Otto group awakes recollections in the other group, also belonging to the region of chemistry; trimethylamin, which receives support from several quarters, finds its way into the dream-content. Amyls, too, might have got into the dream-content unchanged, but it yields to the influence of the William group, inasmuch as out of the whole range of recollections covered by this name an element is sought out which is able to furnish a double determination for amyls. Propyls is closely associated with amyls; from the William group comes Munich with its propylaeum. Both groups are united in propyls- propylaeum. As though by a compromise, this intermediate element then makes its way into the dream-content. Here a common mean which permits of a multiple determination has been created. It thus becomes palpable that a multiple determination must facilitate penetration into the dream-content. For the purpose of this mean-formation a displacement of the attention has been unhesitatingly effected from what is really intended to something adjacent to it in the associations.

The study of the dream of Irma's injection has now enabled us to obtain some insight into the process of condensation which occurs in the formation of dreams. We perceive, as peculiarities of the condensing process, a selection of those elements which occur several times over in the dream-content, the formation of new unities (composite persons, mixed images), and the production of common means. The purpose which is served by condensation, and the means by which it is brought about, will be investigated when we come to study in all their bearings the psychic processes at work in the formation of dreams. Let us for the present be content with establishing the fact of dream-condensation as a relation between the dream-thoughts and the dream-content which deserves attention.

The condensation-work of dreams becomes most palpable when it takes words and means as its objects. Generally speaking, words are often treated in dreams as things, and therefore undergo the same combinations as the ideas of things. The results of such dreams are comical and bizarre word-formations.

1. A colleague sent an essay of his, in which he had, in my opinion, overestimated the value of a recent physiological discovery, and had expressed himself, moreover, in extravagant terms. On the following night I dreamed a sentence which obviously referred to this essay: "That is a truly norekdal style." The solution of this word-formation at first gave me some difficulty; it was unquestionably formed as a parody of the superlatives colossal, pyramidal; but it was not easy to say where it came from. At last the monster fell apart into the two names Nora and Ekdal, from two well-known plays by Ibsen. I had previously read a newspaper article on Ibsen by the writer whose latest work I was now criticizing in my dream.

2. One of my female patients dreams that a man with a fair beard and a peculiar glittering eye is pointing to a sign-board attached to a tree which reads: uclamparia- wet. *

* Given by translator, as the author's example could not be translated.

Analysis.- The man was rather authoritative-looking, and his peculiar glittering eye at once recalled the church of San Paolo, near Rome, where she had seen the mosaic portraits of the Popes. One of the early Popes had a golden eye (this is really an optical illusion, to which the guides usually call attention). Further associations showed that the general physiognomy of the man corresponded with her own clergyman (pope), and the shape of the fair beard recalled her doctor (myself), while the stature of the man in the dream recalled her father. All these persons stand in the same relation to her; they are all guiding and directing the course of her life. On further questioning, the golden eye recalled gold- money- the rather expensive psycho-analytic treatment, which gives her a great deal of concern. Gold, moreover, recalls the gold cure for alcoholism- Herr D, whom she would have married, if it had not been for his clinging to the disgusting alcohol habit- she does not object to anyone's taking an occasional drink; she herself sometimes drinks beer and liqueurs. This again brings her back to her visit to San Paolo (fuori la mura) and its surroundings. She remembers that in the neighbouring monastery of the Tre Fontane she drank a liqueur made of eucalyptus by the Trappist monks of the monastery. She then relates how the monks transformed this malarial and swampy region into a dry and wholesome neighbourhood by planting numbers of eucalyptus trees. The word uclamparia then resolves itself into eucalyptus and malaria, and the word wet refers to the former swampy nature of the locality. Wet also suggests dry. Dry is actually the name of the man whom she would have married but for his over-indulgence in alcohol. The peculiar name of Dry is of Germanic origin (drei = three) and hence, alludes to the monastery of the Three (drei) Fountains. In talking of Mr. Dry's habit she used the strong expression: "He could drink a fountain." Mr. Dry jocosely refers to his habit by saying: "You know I must drink because I am always dry" (referring to his name). The eucalyptus refers also to her neurosis, which was at first diagnosed as malaria. She went to Italy because her attacks of anxiety, which were accompanied by marked rigors and shivering, were thought to be of malarial origin. She bought some eucalyptus oil from the monks, and she maintains that it has done her much good.

The condensation uclamparia- wet is, therefore, the point of junction for the dream as well as for the neurosis.

3. In a rather long and confused dream of my own, the apparent nucleus of which is a sea-voyage, it occurs to me that the next port is Hearsing, and next after that Fliess. The latter is the name of my friend in B, to which city I have often journeyed. But Hearsing is put together from the names of the places in the neighbourhood of Vienna, which so frequently end in "ing": Hietzing, Liesing, Moedling (the old Medelitz, meae deliciae, my joy; that is, my own name, the German for joy being Freude), and the English hearsay, which points to calumny, and establishes the relation to the indifferent dream-stimulus of the day- a poem in Fliegende Blatter about a slanderous dwarf, Sagter Hatergesagt (Saidhe Hashesaid). By the combination of the final syllable ing with the name Fliess, Vlissingen is obtained, which is a real port through which my brother passes when he comes to visit us from England. But the English for Vlissingen is Flushing, which signifies blushing, and recalls patients suffering from erythrophobia (fear of blushing), whom I sometimes treat, and also a recent publication of Bechterew's, relating to this neurosis, the reading of which angered me. *

* The same analysis and synthesis of syllables- a veritable chemistry of syllables- serves us for many a jest in waking life. "What is the cheapest method of obtaining silver? You go to a field where silverberries are growing and pick them; then the berries are eliminated and the silver remains in a free state." [Translator's example]. The first person who read and criticized this book made the objection- with which other readers will probably agree- that "the dreamer often appears too witty." That is true, so long as it applies to the dreamer; it involves a condemnation only when its application is extended to the interpreter of the dream. In waking reality I can make very little claim to the predicate witty; if my dreams appear witty, this is not the fault of my individuality, but of the peculiar psychological conditions under which the dream is fabricated, and is intimately connected with the theory of wit and the comical. The dream becomes witty because the shortest and most direct way to the expression of its thoughts is barred for it: the dream is under constraint. My readers may convince themselves that the dreams of my patients give the impression of being quite as witty (at least, in intention), as my own, and even more so. Nevertheless, this reproach impelled me to compare the technique of wit with the dream-work.

4. Upon another occasion I had a dream which consisted of two separate parts. The first was the vividly remembered word Autodidasker: the second was a faithful reproduction in the dream- content of a short and harmless fancy which had been developed a few days earlier, and which was to the effect that I must tell Professor N, when I next saw him: "The patient about whose condition I last consulted you is really suffering from a neurosis, just as you suspected." So not only must the newly- coined Autodidasker satisfy the requirement that it should contain or represent a compressed meaning, but this meaning must have a valid connection with my resolve- repeated from waking life- to give Professor N due credit for his diagnosis.

Now Autodidasker is easily separated into author (German, Autor), autodidact, and Lasker, with whom is associated the name Lasalle. The first of these words leads to the occasion of the dream- which this time is significant. I had brought home to my wife several volumes by a well-known author who is a friend of my brother's, and who, as I have learned, comes from the same neighbourhood as myself (J. J. David). One evening she told me how profoundly impressed she had been by the pathetic sadness of a story in one of David's novels (a story of wasted talents), and our conversation turned upon the signs of talent which we perceive in our own children. Under the influence of what she had just read, my wife expressed some concern about our children, and I comforted her with the remark that precisely such dangers as she feared can be averted by training. During the night my thoughts proceeded farther, took up my wife's concern for the children, and interwove with it all sorts of other things. Something which the novelist had said to my brother on the subject of marriage showed my thoughts a by-path which might lead to representation in the dream. This path led to Breslau; a lady who was a very good friend of ours had married and gone to live there. I found in Breslau Lasker and Lasalle, two examples to justify the fear lest our boys should be ruined by women, examples which enabled me to represent simultaneously two ways of influencing a man to his undoing. * The Cherchez la femme, by which these thoughts may be summarized, leads me, if taken in another sense, to my brother, who is still married and whose name is Alexander. Now I see that Alex, as we abbreviate the name, sounds almost like an inversion of Lasker, and that this fact must have contributed to send my thoughts on a detour by way of Breslau.

* Lasker died of progressive paralysis; that is, of the consequences of an infection caught from a woman (syphilis); Lasalle, also a syphilitic, was killed in a duel which he fought on account of the lady whom he had been courting.

But the playing with names and syllables in which I am here engaged has yet another meaning. It represents the wish that my brother may enjoy a happy family life, and this in the following manner: In the novel of artistic life, L'OEuvre, which, by virtue of its content, must have been in association with my dream- thoughts, the author, as is well-known, has incidentally given a description of his own person and his own domestic happiness, and appears under the name of Sandoz. In the metamorphosis of his name he probably went to work as follows: Zola, when inverted (as children are fond of inverting names) gives Aloz. But this was still too undisguised; he therefore replaced the syllable Al, which stands at the beginning of the name Alexander, by the third syllable of the same name, sand, and thus arrived at Sandoz. My autodidasker originated in a similar fashion.

My phantasy- that I am telling Professor N that the patient whom we have both seen is suffering from a neurosis- found its way into the dream in the following manner: Shortly before the close of my working year, I had a patient in whose case my powers of diagnosis failed me. A serious organic trouble- possibly some alterative degeneration of the spinal cord- was to be assumed, but could not be conclusively demonstrated. It would have been tempting to diagnose the trouble as a neurosis, and this would have put an end to all my difficulties, but for the fact that the sexual anamnesis, failing which I am unwilling to admit a neurosis, was so energetically denied by the patient. In my embarrassment I called to my assistance the physician whom I respect most of all men (as others do also), and to whose authority I surrender most completely. He listened to my doubts, told me he thought them justified, and then said: "Keep on observing the man, it is probably a neurosis." Since I know that he does not share my opinions concerning the aetiology of the neuroses, I refrained from contradicting him, but I did not conceal my scepticism. A few days later I informed the patient that I did not know what to do with him, and advised him to go to someone else. Thereupon, to my great astonishment, he began to beg my pardon for having lied to me: he had felt so ashamed; and now he revealed to me just that piece of sexual aetiology which I had expected, and which I found necessary for assuming the existence of a neurosis. This was a relief to me, but at the same time a humiliation; for I had to admit that my consultant, who was not disconcerted by the absence of anamnesis, had judged the case more correctly. I made up my mind to tell him, when next I saw him, that he had been right and I had been wrong.

This is just what I do in the dream. But what sort of a wish is fulfilled if I acknowledge that I am mistaken? This is precisely my wish; I wish to be mistaken as regards my fears- that is to say, I wish that my wife, whose fears I have appropriated in my dream-thoughts, may prove to be mistaken. The subject to which the fact of being right or wrong is related in the dream is not far removed from that which is really of interest to the dream- thoughts. We have the same pair of alternatives, of either organic or functional impairment caused by a woman, or actually by the sexual life- either tabetic paralysis or a neurosis- with which latter the nature of Lasalle's undoing is indirectly connected.

In this well-constructed (and on careful analysis quite transparent) dream, Professor N appears not merely on account of this analogy, and my wish to be proved mistaken, or the associated references to Breslau and to the family of our married friend who lives there, but also on account of the following little dialogue which followed our consultation: After he had acquitted himself of his professional duties by making the above- mentioned suggestion, Dr. N proceeded to discuss personal matters. "How many children have you now?"- "Six."- A thoughtful and respectful gesture.- "Girls, boys?"- "Three of each. They are my pride and my riches."- "Well, you must be careful; there is no difficulty about the girls, but the boys are a difficulty later on as regards their upbringing." I replied that until now they had been very tractable; obviously this prognosis of my boys' future pleased me as little as his diagnosis of my patient, whom he believed to be suffering only from a neurosis. These two impressions, then, are connected by their continuity, by their being successively received; and when I incorporate the story of the neurosis into the dream, I substitute it for the conversation on the subject of upbringing, which is even more closely connected with the dream-thoughts, since it touches so closely upon the anxiety subsequently expressed by my wife. Thus, even my fear that N may prove to be right in his remarks on the difficulties to be met with in bringing up boys is admitted into the dream-content, inasmuch as it is concealed behind the representation of my wish that I may be wrong to harbour such apprehensions. The same phantasy serves without alteration to represent both the conflicting alternatives.

Examination-dreams present the same difficulties to interpretation that I have already described as characteristic of most typical dreams. The associative material which the dreamer supplies only rarely suffices for interpretation. A deeper understanding of such dreams has to be accumulated from a considerable number of examples. Not long ago I arrived at a conviction that reassurances like "But you already are a doctor," and so on, not only convey a consolation but imply a reproach as well. This would have run: "You are already so old, so far advanced in life, and yet you still commit such follies, are guilty of such childish behaviour." This mixture of self- criticism and consolation would correspond with the examination- dreams. After this it is no longer surprising that the reproaches in the last analysed examples concerning follies and childish behaviour should relate to repetitions of reprehensible sexual acts.

The verbal transformations in dreams are very similar to those which are known to occur in paranoia, and which are observed also in hysteria and obsessions. The linguistic tricks of children, who at a certain age actually treat words as objects, and even invent new languages and artificial syntaxes, are a common source of such occurrences both in dreams and in the psychoneuroses.

The analysis of nonsensical word-formations in dreams is particularly well suited to demonstrate the degree of condensation effected in the dream-work. From the small number of the selected examples here considered it must not be concluded that such material is seldom observed or is at all exceptional. It is, on the contrary, very frequent, but, owing to the dependence of dream interpretation on psychoanalytic treatment, very few examples are noted down and reported, and most of the analyses which are reported are comprehensible only to the specialist in neuropathology.

When a spoken utterance, expressly distinguished as such from a thought, occurs in a dream, it is an invariable rule that the dream-speech has originated from a remembered speech in the dream- material. The wording of the speech has either been preserved in its entirety or has been slightly altered in expression. frequently the dream-speech is pieced together from different recollections of spoken remarks; the wording has remained the same, but the sense has perhaps become ambiguous, or differs from the wording. Not infrequently the dream-speech serves merely as an allusion to an incident in connection with which the remembered speech was made. *

* In the case of a young man who was suffering from obsessions, but whose intellectual functions were intact and highly developed, I recently found the only exception to this rule. The speeches which occurred in his dreams did not originate in speeches which he had heard had made himself, but corresponded to the undistorted verbal expression of his obsessive thoughts, which came to his waking consciousness only in an altered form.

B. The Work of Displacement

Another and probably no less significant relation must have already forced itself upon our attention while we were collecting examples of dream-condensation. We may have noticed that these elements which obtrude themselves in the dream-content as its essential components do not by any means play this same part in the dream-thoughts. As a corollary to this, the converse of this statement is also true. That which is obviously the essential content of the dream-thoughts need not be represented at all in the dream. The dream is, as it were, centred elsewhere; its content is arranged about elements which do not constitute the central point of the dream-thoughts. Thus, for example, in the dream of the botanical monograph the central point of the dream- content is evidently the element botanical; in the dream- thoughts, we are concerned with the complications and conflicts resulting from services rendered between colleagues which place them under mutual obligations; later on with the reproach that I am in the habit of sacrificing too much time to my hobbies; and the element botanical finds no place in this nucleus of the dream- thoughts, unless it is loosely connected with it by antithesis, for botany was never among my favourite subjects. In the Sappho- dream of my patient, ascending and descending, being upstairs and down, is made the central point; the dream, however, is concerned with the danger of sexual relations with persons of low degree; so that only one of the elements of the dream-thoughts seems to have found its way into the dream-content, and this is unduly expanded. Again, in the dream of my uncle, the fair beard, which seems to be its central point, appears to have no rational connection with the desire for greatness which we have recognized as the nucleus of the dream-thoughts. Such dreams very naturally give us an impression of a displacement. In complete contrast to these examples, the dream of Irma's injection shows that individual elements may claim the same place in dream-formation as that which they occupy in the dream-thoughts. The recognition of this new and utterly inconstant relation between the dream- thoughts and the dream-content will probably astonish us at first. If we find, in a psychic process of normal life, that one idea has been selected from among a number of others, and has acquired a particular emphasis in our consciousness, we are wont to regard this as proof that a peculiar psychic value (a certain degree of interest) attaches to the victorious idea. We now discover that this value of the individual element in the dream- thoughts is not retained in dream-formation, or is not taken into account. For there is no doubt which of the elements of the dream- thoughts are of the highest value; our judgment informs us immediately. In dream-formation the essential elements, those that are emphasized by intensive interest, may be treated as though they were subordinate, while they are replaced in the dream by other elements, which were certainly subordinate in the dream-thoughts. It seems at first as though the psychic intensity * of individual ideas were of no account in their selection for dream-formation, but only their greater or lesser multiplicity of determination. One might be inclined to think that what gets into the dream is not what is important in the dream-thoughts, but what is contained in them several times over; but our understanding of dream-formation is not much advanced by this assumption; to begin with, we cannot believe that the two motives of multiple determination and intrinsic value can influence the selection of the dream otherwise than in the same direction. Those ideas in the dream-thoughts which are most important are probably also those which recur most frequently, since the individual dream-thoughts radiate from them as centres. And yet the dream may reject these intensely emphasized and extensively reinforced elements, and may take up into its content other elements which are only extensively reinforced.

* The psychic intensity or value of an idea- the emphasis due to interest- is of course to be distinguished from perceptual or conceptual intensity.

This difficulty may be solved if we follow up yet another impression received during the investigation of the over- determination of the dream-content. Many readers of this investigation may already have decided, in their own minds, that the discovery of the multiple determination of the dream-elements is of no great importance, because it is inevitable. Since in analysis we proceed from the dream-elements, and register all the ideas which associate themselves with these elements, is it any wonder that these elements should recur with peculiar frequency in the thought-material obtained in this manner? While I cannot admit the validity of this objection, I am now going to say something that sounds rather like it: Among the thoughts which analysis brings to light are many which are far removed from the nucleus of the dream, and which stand out like artificial interpolations made for a definite purpose. Their purpose may readily be detected; they establish a connection, often a forced and far-fetched connection, between the dream-content and the dream-thoughts, and in many cases, if these elements were weeded out of the analysis, the components of the dream-content would not only not be over-determined, but they would not be sufficiently determined. We are thus led to the conclusion that multiple determination, decisive as regards the selection made by the dream, is perhaps not always a primary factor in dream- formation, but is often a secondary product of a psychic force which is as yet unknown to us. Nevertheless, it must be of importance for the entrance of the individual elements into the dream, for we may observe that, in cases where multiple determination does not proceed easily from the dream-material, it is brought about with a certain effort.

It now becomes very probable that a psychic force expresses itself in the dream-work which, on the one hand, strips the elements of the high psychic value of their intensity and, on the other hand, by means of over-determination, creates new significant values from elements of slight value, which new values then make their way into the dream-content. Now if this is the method of procedure, there has occurred in the process of dream-formation a transference and displacement of the psychic intensities of the individual elements, from which results the textual difference between the dream-content and the thought- content. The process which we here assume to be operative is actually the most essential part of the dream-work; it may fitly be called dream-displacement. Dream-displacement and dream- condensation are the two craftsmen to whom we may chiefly ascribe the structure of the dream.

I think it will be easy to recognize the psychic force which expresses itself in dream-displacement. The result of this displacement is that the dream-content no longer has any likeness to the nucleus of the dream-thoughts, and the dream reproduces only a distorted form of the dream-wish in the unconscious. But we are already acquainted with dream-distortion; we have traced it back to the censorship which one psychic instance in the psychic life exercises over another. Dream-displacement is one of the chief means of achieving this distortion. Is fecit, cui profuit. * We must assume that dream-displacement is brought about by the influence of this censorship, the endopsychic defence. *(2)

* "The doer gained."

*(2) Since I regard the attribution of dream-distortion to the censorship as the central point of my conception of the dream, I will here quote the closing passage of a story, Traumen wie Wachen, from Phantasien eines Realisten, by Lynkeus (Vienna, second edition [1900]), in which I find this chief feature of my doctrine reproduced:

"Concerning a man who possesses the remarkable faculty of never dreaming nonsense...."

"Your marvellous faculty of dreaming as if you were awake is based upon your virtues, upon your goodness, your justice, and your love of truth; it is the moral clarity of your nature which makes everything about you intelligible to me."

"But if I really give thought to the matter," was the reply, "I almost believe that all men are made as I am, and that no one ever dreams nonsense! A dream which one remembers so distinctly that one can relate it afterwards, and which, therefore, is no dream of delirium, always has a meaning; why, it cannot be otherwise! For that which is in contradiction to itself can never be combined into a whole. The fact that time and space are often thoroughly shaken up, detracts not at all from the real content of the dream, because both are without any significance whatever for its essential content. We often do the same thing in waking life; think of fairy-tales, of so many bold and pregnant creations of fantasy, of which only a foolish person would say: 'That is nonsense! For it isn't possible.'"

"If only it were always possible to interpret dreams correctly, as you have just done with mine!" said the friend.

"That is certainly not an easy task, but with a little attention it must always be possible to the dreamer. You ask why it is generally impossible? In your case there seems to be something veiled in your dreams, something unchaste in a special and exalted fashion, a certain secrecy in your nature, which it is difficult to fathom; and that is why your dreams so often seem to be without meaning, or even nonsensical. But in the profoundest sense, this is by no means the case; indeed it cannot be, for a man is always the same person, whether he wakes or dreams."

The manner in which the factors of displacement, condensation and over-determination interact with one another in dream-formation- which is the ruling factor and which the subordinate one- all this will be reserved as a subject for later investigation. In the meantime, we may state, is a second condition which the elements that find their way into the dream must satisfy, that they must be withdrawn from the resistance of the censorship. But henceforth, in the interpretation of dreams, we shall reckon with dream-displacement as an unquestionable fact.

On to Chapter 6, Section C

Back to Psych Web Home Page ...or.... Top of this file.

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.

Custom Search