The preliminary conditions of this typical dream were as follows: A father had been watching day and night beside the sick-bed of his child. After the child died, he retired to rest in an adjoining room, but left the door ajar so that he could look from his room into the next, where the child's body lay surrounded by tall candles. An old man, who had been installed as a watcher, sat beside the body, murmuring prayers. After sleeping for a few hours the father dreamed that the child was standing by his bed, clasping his arm and crying reproachfully: "Father, don't you see that I am burning?" The father woke up and noticed a bright light coming from the adjoining room. Rushing in, he found that the old man had fallen asleep, and the sheets and one arm of the beloved body were burnt by a fallen candle.
The meaning of this affecting dream is simple enough, and the explanation given by the lecturer, as my patient reported it, was correct. The bright light shining through the open door on to the sleeper's eyes gave him the impression which he would have received had he been awake: namely, that a fire had been started near the corpse by a falling candle. It is quite possible that he had taken into his sleep his anxiety lest the aged watcher should not be equal to his task.
We can find nothing to change in this interpretation; we can only add that the content of the dream must be overdetermined, and that the speech of the child must have consisted of phrases which it had uttered while still alive, and which were associated with important events for the father. Perhaps the complaint, "I am burning," was associated with the fever from which the child died, and "Father, don't you see?" to some other affective occurrence unknown to us.
Now, when we have come to recognize that the dream has meaning, and can be fitted into the context of psychic events, it may be surprising that a dream should have occurred in circumstances which called for such an immediate waking. We shall then note that even this dream is not lacking in a wish-fulfilment. The dead child behaves as though alive; he warns his father himself; he comes to his father's bed and clasps his arm, as he probably did in the recollection from which the dream obtained the first part of the child's speech. It was for the sake of this wish- fulfilment that the father slept a moment longer. The dream was given precedence over waking reflection because it was able to show the child still living. If the father had waked first, and had then drawn the conclusion which led him into the adjoining room, he would have shortened the child's life by this one moment.
There can be no doubt about the peculiar features in this brief dream which engage our particular interest. So far, we have endeavoured mainly to ascertain wherein the secret meaning of the dream consists, how it is to be discovered, and what means the dream-work uses to conceal it. In other words, our greatest interest has hitherto been centered on the problems of interpretation. Now, however, we encounter a dream which is easily explained, and the meaning of which is without disguise; we note that nevertheless this dream preserves the essential characteristics which conspicuously differentiate a dream from our waking thoughts, and this difference demands an explanation. It is only when we have disposed of all the problems of interpretation that we feel how incomplete is our psychology of dreams.
But before we turn our attention to this new path of investigation, let us stop and look back, and consider whether we have not overlooked something important on our way hither. For we must understand that the easy and comfortable part of our journey lies behind us. Hitherto, all the paths that we have followed have led, if I mistake not, to light, to explanation, and to full understanding; but from the moment when we seek to penetrate more deeply into the psychic processes in dreaming, all paths lead into darkness. It is quite impossible to explain the dream as a psychic process, for to explain means to trace back to the known, and as yet we have no psychological knowledge to which we can refer such explanatory fundamentals as may be inferred from the psychological investigation of dreams. On the contrary, we shall be compelled to advance a number of new assumptions, which do little more than conjecture the structure of the psychic apparatus and the play of the energies active in it; and we shall have to be careful not to go too far beyond the simplest logical construction, since otherwise its value will be doubtful. And even if we should be unerring in our inferences, and take cognizance of all the logical possibilities, we should still be in danger of arriving at a completely mistaken result, owing to the probable incompleteness of the preliminary statement of our elementary data. We shall not he able to arrive at any conclusions as to the structure and function of the psychic instrument from even the most careful investigation of dreams, or of any other isolated activity; or, at all events, we shall not be able to confirm our conclusions. To do this we shall have to collate such phenomena as the comparative study of a whole series of psychic activities proves to be reliably constant. So that the psychological assumptions which we base on the analysis of the dream-processes will have to mark time, as it were, until they can join up with the results of other investigations which, proceeding from another starting-point, will seek to penetrate to the heart of the same problem.
What we recollect of the dream, and what we subject to our methods of interpretation, is, in the first place, mutilated by the unfaithfulness of our memory, which seems quite peculiarly incapable of retaining dreams, and which may have omitted precisely the most significant parts of their content. For when we try to consider our dreams attentively, we often have reason to complain that we have dreamed much than we remember; that unfortunately we know nothing more than this one fragment, and that our recollection of even this fragment seems to us strangely uncertain. Moreover, everything goes to prove that our memory reproduces the dream not only incompletely but also untruthfully, in a falsifying manner. As, on the one hand, we may doubt whether what we dreamed was really as disconnected as it is in our recollections, so on the other hand we may doubt whether a dream was really as coherent as our account of it; whether in our attempted reproduction we have not filled in the gaps which really existed, or those which are due to forgetfulness, with new and arbitrarily chosen material; whether we have not embellished the dream, rounded it off and corrected it, so that any conclusion as to its real content becomes impossible. Indeed, one writer (Spitta) * surmises that all that is orderly and coherent is really first put into the dream during the attempt to recall it. Thus we are in danger of being deprived of the very object whose value we have undertaken to determine.
* Similar views are expressed by Foucault and Tannery.
In all our dream-interpretations we have hitherto ignored these warnings. On the contrary, indeed, we have found that the smallest, most insignificant, and most uncertain components of the dream-content invited interpretations no less emphatically than those which were distinctly and certainly contained in the dream. In the dream of Irma's injection we read: "I quickly called in Dr. M," and we assumed that even this small addendum would not have got into the dream if it had not been susceptible of a special derivation. In this way we arrived at the history of that unfortunate patient to whose bedside I quickly called my older colleague. In the seemingly absurd dream which treated the difference between fifty-one and fifty-six as a quantity negligible the number fifty-one was mentioned repeatedly. Instead of regarding this as a matter of course, or a detail of indifferent value, we proceeded from this to a second train of thought in the latent dream-content, which led to the number fifty-one, and by following up this clue we arrived at the fears which proposed fifty-one years as the term of life in the sharpest opposition to a dominant train of thought which was boastfully lavish of the years. In the dream Non vixit I found, as an insignificant interpolation, that I had at first overlooked the sentence: As P does not understand him, Fl asks me, etc. The interpretation then coming to a standstill, I went back to these words, and I found through them the way to the infantile phantasy which appeared in the dream-thoughts as an intermediate point of junction. This came about by means of the poet's verses:
Selten habt ihr mich verstanden,
Selten auch verstand ich Euch,
Nur wenn wir im Kot uns fanden
So verstanden wir uns gleich! *
* Seldom have you understood me,
Seldom have I understood you,
But when we found ourselves in the mire,
We at once understood each other!
Every analysis will afford evidence of the fact that the most insignificant features of the dream are indispensable to interpretation, and will show how the completion of the task is delayed if we postpone our examination of them. We have given equal attention, in the interpretation of dreams, to every nuance of verbal expression found in them; indeed, whenever we are confronted by a senseless or insufficient wording, as though we had failed to translate the dream into the proper version, we have respected even these defects of expression. In brief, what other writers have regarded as arbitrary improvisations, concocted hastily to avoid confusion, we have treated like a sacred text. This contradiction calls for explanation.
It would appear, without doing any injustice to the writers in question, that the explanation is in our favour. From the standpoint of our newly-acquired insight into the origin of dreams, all contradictions are completely reconciled. It is true that we distort the dream in our attempt to reproduce it; we once more find therein what we have called the secondary and often misunderstanding elaboration of the dream by the agency of normal thinking. But this distortion is itself no more than a part of the elaboration to which the dream-thoughts are constantly subjected as a result of the dream-censorship. Other writers have here suspected or observed that part of the dream-distortion whose work is manifest; but for us this is of little consequence, as we know that a far more extensive work of distortion, not so easily apprehended, has already taken the dream for its object from among the hidden dream-thoughts. The only mistake of these writers consists in believing the modification effected in the dream by its recollection and verbal expression to be arbitrary, incapable of further solution, and consequently liable to lead us astray in our cognition of the dream. They underestimate the determination of the dream in the psyche. Here there is nothing arbitrary. It can be shown that in all cases a second train of thought immediately takes over the determination of the elements which have been left undetermined by the first. For example, I wish quite arbitrarily to think of a number; but this is not possible; the number that occurs to me is definitely and necessarily determined by thoughts within me which may be quite foreign to my momentary purpose. * The modifications which the dream undergoes in its revision by the waking mind are just as little arbitrary. They preserve an associative connection with the content, whose place they take, and serve to show us the way to this content, which may itself be a substitute for yet another content.
* Cf. The Psycho-pathology of Everday Life.
In analysing the dreams of patients I impose the following test of this assertion, and never without success. If the first report of a dream seems not very comprehensible, I request the dreamer to repeat it. This he rarely does in the same words. But the passages in which the expression is modified are thereby made known to me as the weak points of the dream's disguise; they are what the embroidered emblem on Siegfried's raiment was to Hagen. These are the points from which the analysis may start. The narrator has been admonished by my announcement that I intend to take special pains to solve the dream, and immediately, obedient to the urge of resistance, he protects the weak points of the dream's disguise, replacing a treacherous expression by a less relevant one. He thus calls my attention to the expressions which he has discarded. From the efforts made to guard against the solution of the dream, I can also draw conclusions about the care with which the raiment of the dream has been woven.
The writers whom I have mentioned are, however, less justified when they attribute so much importance to the doubt with which our judgment approaches the relation of the dream. For this doubt is not intellectually warranted; our memory can give no guarantees, but nevertheless we are compelled to credit its statements far more frequently than is objectively justifiable. Doubt concerning the accurate reproduction of the dream, or of individual data of the dream, is only another offshoot of the dream-censorship, that is, of resistance to the emergence of the dream-thoughts into consciousness. This resistance has not yet exhausted itself by the displacements and substitutions which it has effected, so that it still clings, in the form of doubt, to what has been allowed to emerge. We can recognize this doubt all the more readily in that it is careful never to attack the intensive elements of the dream, but only the weak and indistinct ones. But we already know that a transvaluation of all the psychic values has taken place between the dream-thoughts and the dream. The distortion has been made possible only by devaluation; it constantly manifests itself in this way and sometimes contents itself therewith. If doubt is added to the indistinctness of an element of the dream-content, we may, following this indication, recognize in this element a direct offshoot of one of the outlawed dream-thoughts. The state of affairs is like that obtaining after a great revolution in one of the republics of antiquity or the Renaissance. The once powerful, ruling families of the nobility are now banished; all high posts are filled by upstarts; in the city itself only the poorer and most powerless citizens, or the remoter followers of the vanquished party, are tolerated. Even the latter do not enjoy the full rights of citizenship. They are watched with suspicion. In our case, instead of suspicion we have doubt. I must insist, therefore, that in the analysis of a dream one must emancipate oneself from the whole scale of standards of reliability; and if there is the slightest possibility that this or that may have occurred in the dream, it should be treated as an absolute certainty. Until one has decided to reject all respect for appearances in tracing the dream-elements, the analysis will remain at a standstill. Disregard of the element concerned has the psychic effect, in the person analysed, that nothing in connection with the unwished ideas behind this element will occur to him. This effect is really not self-evident; it would be quite reasonable to say, "Whether this or that was contained in the dream I do not know for certain; but the following ideas happen to occur to me." But no one ever does say so; it is precisely the disturbing effect of doubt in the analysis that permits it to be unmasked as an offshoot and instrument of the psychic resistance. Psycho- analysis is justifiably suspicions. One of its rules runs: Whatever disturbs the progress of the work is a resistance. * -
* This peremptory statement: "Whatever disturbs the progress of the work is a resistance" might easily be misunderstood. It has, of course, the significance merely of a technical rule, a warning for the analyst. It is not denied that during an analysis events may occur which cannot be ascribed to the intention of the person analysed. The patient's father may die in other ways than by being murdered by the patient, or a war may break out and interrupt the analysis. But despite the obvious exaggeration of the above statement there is still something new and useful in it. Even if the disturbing event is real and independent of the patient, the extent of the disturbing influence does often depend only on him, and the resistance reveals itself unmistakably in the ready and immoderate exploitation of such an opportunity. -
The forgetting of dreams, too, remains inexplicible until we seek to explain it by the power of the psychic censorship. The feeling that one has dreamed a great deal during the night and has retained only a little of it may have yet another meaning in a number of cases: it may perhaps mean that the dream-work has continued in a perceptible manner throughout the night, but has left behind it only one brief dream. There is, however, no possible doubt that a dream is progressively forgotten on waking. One often forgets it in spite of a painful effort to recover it. I believe, however, that just as one generally overestimates the extent of this forgetting, so also one overestimates the lacunae in our knowledge of the dream due to the gaps occurring in it. All the dream-content that has been lost by forgetting can often be recovered by analysis; in a number of cases, at all events, it is possible to discover from a single remaining fragment, not the dream, of course- which, after all, is of no importance- but the whole of the dream-thoughts. It requires a greater expenditure of attention and self-suppression in the analysis; that is all; but it shows that the forgetting of the dream is not innocent of hostile intention. *
* As an example of the significance of doubt and uncertainty in a dream with a simultaneous shrinking of the dream-content to a single element, see my General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis the dream of the sceptical lady patient, p. 492 below, the analysis of which was successful, despite a short postponement. -
A convincing proof of the tendencious nature of dream-forgetting- of the fact that it serves the resistance- is obtained on analysis by investigating a preliminary stage of forgetting. * It often happens that, in the midst of an interpretation, an omitted fragment of the dream suddenly emerges which is described as having been previously forgotten. This part of the dream that has been wrested from forgetfulness is always the most important part. It lies on the shortest path to the solution of the dream, and for that every reason it was most exposed to the resistance. Among the examples of dreams that I have included in the text of this treatise, it once happened that I had subsequently to interpolate a fragment of dream-content. The dream is a dream of travel, which revenges itself on two unamiable traveling companions; I have left it almost entirely uninterpreted, as part of its content is obscene. The part omitted reads: "I said, referring to a book of Schiller's: 'It is from...' but corrected myself, as I realized my mistake: 'It is by...' Whereupon the man remarked to his sister, 'Yes, he said it correctly.'" *(2)
* Concerning the intention of forgetting in general, see my The Psycho-pathology of Everyday Life.
*(2) Such corrections in the use of foreign languages are not rare in dreams, but they are usually attributed to foreigners. Maury (p. 143), while he was studying English, once dreamed that he informed someone that he had called on him the day before in the following words: "I called for you yesterday." The other answered correctly: "You mean: I called on you yesterday."
Self-correction in dreams, which to some writers seems so wonderful, does not really call for consideration. But I will draw from my own memory an instance typical of verbal errors in dreams. I was nineteen years of age when I visited England for the first time, and I spent a day on the shore of the Irish Sea. Naturally enough, I amused myself by picking up the marine animals left on the beach by the tide, and I was just examining a starfish (the dream begins with Hollthurn- Holothurian) when a pretty little girl came up to me and asked me: "Is it a starfish? Is it alive?" I replied, "Yes, he is alive," but then felt ashamed of my mistake, and repeated the sentence correctly. For the grammatical mistake which I then made, the dream substitutes another which is quite common among German people. "Das Buch ist von Schiller" is not to be translated by "the book is from," but by "the book is by." That the dream-work accomplishes this substitution, because the word from, owing to its consonance with the German adjective fromm (pious, devout) makes a remarkable condensation possible, should no longer surprise us after all that we have heard of the intentions of the dream-work and its unscrupulous selection of means. But what relation has this harmless recollection of the seashore to my dream? It explains, by means of a very innocent example, that I have used the word- the word denoting gender, or sex or the sexual (he)- in the wrong place. This is surely one of the keys to the solution of the dream. Those who have heard of the derivation of the book-title Matter and Motion (Moliere in Le Malade Imaginaire: La Matiere est-elle laudable?- A Motion of the bowels) will readily be able to supply the missing parts.
Moreover, I can prove conclusively, by a demonstratio ad oculos, that the forgetting of the dream is in a large measure the work of the resistance. A patient tells me that he has dreamed, but that the dream has vanished without leaving a trace, as if nothing had happened. We set to work, however; I come upon a resistance which I explain to the patient; encouraging and urging him, I help him to become reconciled to some disagreeable thought; and I have hardly succeeded in doing so when he exclaims: "Now I can recall what I dreamed!" The same resistance which that day disturbed him in the work of interpretation caused him also to forget the dream. By overcoming this resistance I have brought back the dream to his memory.
In the same way the patient, having reached a certain part of the work, may recall a dream which occurred three, four, or more days ago, and which has hitherto remained in oblivion. *
* Ernest Jones describes an analogous case of frequent occurrence; during the analysis of one dream another dream of the same night is often recalled which until then was not merely forgotten, but was not even suspected.
Psycho-analytical experience has furnished us with yet another proof of the fact that the forgetting of dreams depends far more on the resistance than on the mutually alien character of the waking and sleeping states, as some writers have believed it to depend. It often happens to me, as well as to other analysts, and to patients under treatment, that we are waked from sleep by a dream, as we say, and that immediately thereafter, while in full possession of our mental faculties, we begin to interpret the dream. Often in such cases I have not rested until I have achieved a full understanding of the dream, and yet it has happened that after waking I have forgotten the interpretation- work as completely as I have forgotten the dream-content itself, though I have been aware that I have dreamed and that I had interpreted the dream. The dream has far more frequently taken the result of the interpretation with it into forgetfulness than the intellectual faculty has succeeded in retaining the dream in the memory. But between this work of interpretation and the waking thoughts there is not that psychic abyss by which other writers have sought to explain the forgetting of dreams. When Morton Prince objects to my explanation of the forgetting of dreams on the ground that it is only a special case of the amnesia of dissociated psychic states, and that the impossibility of applying my explanation of this special amnesia to other types of amnesia makes it valueless even for its immediate purpose, he reminds the reader that in all his descriptions of such dissociated states he has never attempted to discover the dynamic explanation underlying these phenomena. For had he done so, he would surely have discovered that repression (and the resistance produced thereby) is the cause not of these dissociations merely, but also of the amnesia of their psychic content.
That dreams are as little forgotten as other psychic acts, that even in their power of impressing themselves on the memory they may fairly be compared with the other psychic performances, was proved to me by an experiment which I was able to make while preparing the manuscript of this book. I had preserved in my notes a great many dreams of my own which, for one reason or another, I could not interpret, or, at the time of dreaming them, could interpret only very imperfectly. In order to obtain material to illustrate my assertion, I attempted to interpret some of them a year or two later. In this attempt I was invariably successful; indeed, I may say that the interpretation was effected more easily after all this time than when the dreams were of recent occurrence. As a possible explanation of this fact, I would suggest that I had overcome many of the internal resistances which had disturbed me at the time of dreaming. In such subsequent interpretations I have compared the old yield of dream-thoughts with the present result, which has usually been more abundant, and I have invariably found the old dream-thoughts unaltered among the present ones. However, I soon recovered from my surprise when I reflected that I had long been accustomed to interpret dreams of former years that had occasionally been related to me by my patients as though they had been dreams of the night before; by the same method, and with the same success. In the section on anxiety-dreams I shall include two examples of such delayed dream-interpretations. When I made this experiment for the first time I expected, not unreasonably, that dreams would behave in this connection merely like neurotic symptoms. For when I treat a psychoneurotic for instance, an hysterical patient, by psychoanalysis, I am compelled to find explanations for the first symptoms of the malady, which have long since disappeared, as well as for those still existing symptoms which have brought the patient to me; and I find the former problem easier to solve than the more exigent one of today. In the Studies in Hysteria, * published as early as 1895, I was able to give the explanation of a first hysterical attack which the patient, a woman over forty years of age, had experienced in her fifteenth year. *(2)
* Studien uber Hysterie, Case II.
*(2) Dreams which have occurred during the first years of childhood, and which have sometimes been retained in the memory for decades with perfect sensorial freshness, are almost always of great importance for the understanding of the development and the neurosis of the dreamer. The analysis of them protects the physician from errors and uncertainties which might confuse him even theoretically.
I will now make a few rather unsystematic remarks relating to the interpretations of dreams, which will perhaps serve as a guide to the reader who wishes to test my assertions by the analysis of his own dreams.
He must not expect that it will be a simple and easy matter to interpret his own dreams. Even the observation of endoptic phenomena, and other sensations which are commonly immune from attention, calls for practice, although this group of observations is not opposed by any psychic motive. It is very much more difficult to get hold of the unwished ideas. He who seeks to do so must fulfil the requirements laid down in this treatise, and while following the rules here given, he must endeavour to restrain all criticism, all preconceptions, and all affective or intellectual bias in himself during the work of analysis. He must be ever mindful of the precept which Claude Bernard held up to the experimenter in the physiological laboratory: "Travailler comme une bete"- that is, he must be as enduring as an animal, and also as disinterested in the results of his work. He who will follow this advice will no longer find the task a difficult one. The interpretation of a dream cannot always be accomplished in one session; after following up a chain of associations you will often feel that your working capacity is exhausted; the dream will not tell you anything more that day; it is then best to break off, and to resume the work the following day. Another portion of the dream-content then solicits your attention, and you thus obtain access to a fresh stratum of the dream-thoughts. One might call this the fractional interpretation of dreams.
It is most difficult to induce the beginner in dream- interpretation to recognize the fact that his task is not finished when he is in possession of a complete interpretation of the dream which is both ingenious and coherent, and which gives particulars of all the elements of the dream-content. Besides this, another interpretation, an over-interpretation of the same dream, one which has escaped him, may be possible. It is really not easy to form an idea of the wealth of trains of unconscious thought striving for expression in our minds, or to credit the adroitness displayed by the dream-work in killing- so to speak- seven flies at one stroke, like the journeyman tailor in the fairy-tale, by means of its ambiguous modes of expression. The reader will constantly be inclined to reproach the author for a superfluous display of ingenuity, but anyone who has had personal experience of dream-interpretation will know better than to do so.
On the other hand, I cannot accept the opinion, first expressed by H. Silberer, that every dream- or even that many dreams, and certain groups of dreams- calls for two different interpretations, between which there is even supposed to be a fixed relation. One of these, which Silberer calls the psycho- analytic interpretation, attributes to the dream any meaning you please, but in the main an infantile sexual one. The other, the more important interpretation, which he calls the anagogic interpretation, reveals the more serious and often profound thoughts which the dream-work has used as its material. Silberer does not prove this assertion by citing a number of dreams which he has analysed in these two directions. I am obliged to object to this opinion on the ground that it is contrary to facts. The majority of dreams require no over-interpretation, and are especially insusceptible of an anagogic interpretation. The influence of a tendency which seeks to veil the fundamental conditions of dream-formation and divert our interest from its instinctual roots is as evident in Silberer's theory as in other theoretical efforts of the last few years. In a number of cases I can confirm Silberer's assertions; but in these the analysis shows me that the dream-work was confronted with the task of transforming a series of highly abstract thoughts, incapable of direct representation, from waking life into a dream. The dream- work attempted to accomplish this task by seizing upon another thought-material which stood in loose and often allegorical relation to the abstract thoughts, and thereby diminished the difficulty of representing them. The abstract interpretation of a dream originating in this manner will be given by the dreamer immediately, but the correct interpretation of the substituted material can be obtained only by means of the familiar technique.
The question whether every dream can be interpreted is to be answered in the negative. One should not forget that in the work of interpretation one is opposed by the psychic forces that are responsible for the distortion of the dream. Whether one can master the inner resistances by one's intellectual interest, one's capacity for self-control, one's psychological knowledge, and one's experience in dream-interpretation depends on the relative strength of the opposing forces. It is always possible to make some progress; one can at all events go far enough to become convinced that a dream has meaning, and generally far enough to gain some idea of its meaning. It very often happens that a second dream enables us to confirm and continue the interpretation assumed for the first. A whole series of dreams, continuing for weeks or months, may have a common basis, and should therefore be interpreted as a continuity. In dreams that follow one another, we often observe that one dream takes as its central point something that is only alluded to in the periphery of the next dream, and conversely, so that even in their interpretations the two supplement each other. That different dreams of the same night are always to be treated, in the work of interpretation, as a whole, I have already shown by examples.
In the best interpreted dreams we often have to leave one passage in obscurity because we observe during the interpretation that we have here a tangle of dream-thoughts which cannot be unravelled, and which furnishes no fresh contribution to the dream-content. This, then, is the keystone of the dream, the point at which it ascends into the unknown. For the dream-thoughts which we encounter during the interpretation commonly have no termination, but run in all directions into the net-like entanglement of our intellectual world. It is from some denser part of this fabric that the dream-wish then arises, like the mushroom from its mycelium.
Let us now return to the facts of dream-forgetting. So far, of course, we have failed to draw any important conclusion from them. When our waking life shows an unmistakable intention to forget the dream which has been formed during the night, either as a whole, immediately after waking, or little by little in the course of the day, and when we recognize as the chief factor in this process of forgetting the psychic resistance against the dream which has already done its best to oppose the dream at night, the question then arises: What actually has made the dream- formation possible against this resistance? Let us consider the most striking case, in which the waking life has thrust the dream aside as though it had never happened. If we take into consideration the play of the psychic forces, we are compelled to assert that the dream would never have come into existence had the resistance prevailed at night as it did by day. We conclude, then, that the resistance loses some part of its force during the night; we know that it has not been discontinued, as we have demonstrated its share in the formation of dreams- namely, the work of distortion. We have therefore to consider the possibility that at night the resistance is merely diminished, and that dream- formation becomes possible because of this slackening of the resistance; and we shall readily understand that as it regains its full power on waking it immediately thrusts aside what it was forced to admit while it was feeble. Descriptive psychology teaches us that the chief determinant of dream-formation is the dormant state of the psyche; and we may now add the following explanation: The state of sleep makes dream-formation possible by reducing the endopsychic censorship.
We are certainly tempted to look upon this as the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the facts of dream-forgetting, and to develop from this conclusion further deductions as to the comparative energy operative in the sleeping and waking states. But we shall stop here for the present. When we have penetrated a little farther into the psychology of dreams we shall find that the origin of dream-formation may be differently conceived. The resistance which tends to prevent the dream-thoughts from becoming conscious may perhaps be evaded without suffering reduction. It is also plausible that both the factors which favour dream-formation, the reduction as well as the evasion of the resistance, may be simultaneously made possible by the sleeping state. But we shall pause here, and resume the subject a little later.
We must now consider another series of objections against our procedure in dream-interpretation. For we proceed by dropping all the directing ideas which at other times control reflection, directing our attention to a single element of the dream, noting the involuntary thoughts that associate themselves with this element. We then take up the next component of the dream-content, and repeat the operation with this; and, regardless of the direction taken by the thoughts, we allow ourselves to be led onwards by them, rambling from one subject to another. At the same time, we harbour the confident hope that we may in the end, and without intervention on our part, come upon the dream- thoughts from which the dream originated. To this the critic may make the following objection: That we arrive somewhere if we start from a single element of the dream is not remarkable. Something can be associatively connected with every idea. The only thing that is remarkable is that one should succeed in hitting upon the dream-thoughts in this arbitrary and aimless excursion. It is probably a self-deception; the investigator follows the chain of associations from the one element which is taken up until he finds the chain breaking off, whereupon he takes up a second element; it is thus only natural that the originally unconfined associations should now become narrowed down. He has the former chain of associations still in mind, and will therefore in the analysis of the second dream-idea hit all the more readily upon single associations which have something in common with the associations of the first chain. He then imagines that he has found a thought which represents a point of junction between two of the dream-elements. As he allows himself all possible freedom of thought-connection, excepting only the transitions from one idea to another which occur in normal thinking, it is not difficult for him finally to concoct out of a series of intermediary thoughts, something which he calls the dream-thoughts; and without any guarantee, since they are otherwise unknown, he palms these off as the psychic equivalent of the dream. But all this is a purely arbitrary procedure, an ingenious-looking exploitation of chance, and anyone who will go to this useless trouble can in this way work out any desired interpretation for any dream whatever.
If such objections are really advanced against us, we may in defence refer to the impression produced by our dream- interpretations, the surprising connections with other dream- elements which appear while we are following up the individual ideas, and the improbability that anything which so perfectly covers and explains the dream as do our dream-interpretations could be achieved otherwise than by following previously established psychic connections. We might also point to the fact that the procedure in dream-interpretation is identical with the procedure followed in the resolution of hysterical symptoms, where the correctness of the method is attested by the emergence and disappearance of the symptoms- that is, where the interpretation of the text is confirmed by the interpolated illustrations. But we have no reason to avoid this problem- namely, how one can arrive at a pre-existent aim by following an arbitrarily and aimlessly maundering chain of thoughts- since we shall be able not to solve the problem, it is true, but to get rid of it entirely.
For it is demonstrably incorrect to state that we abandon ourselves to an aimless excursion of thought when, as in the interpretation of dreams, we renounce reflection and allow the involuntary ideas to come to the surface. It can be shown that we are able to reject only those directing ideas which are known to us, and that with the cessation of these the unknown- or, as we inexactly say, unconscious- directing ideas immediately exert their influence, and henceforth determine the flow of the involuntary ideas. Thinking without directing ideas cannot be ensured by any influence we ourselves exert on our own psychic life; neither do I know of any state of psychic derangement in which such a mode of thought establishes itself. * The psychiatrists have here far too prematurely relinquished the idea of the solidity of the psychic structure. I know that an unregulated stream of thoughts, devoid of directing ideas, can occur as little in the realm of hysteria and paranoia as in the formation or solution of dreams. Perhaps it does not occur at all in the endogenous psychic affections, and, according to the ingenious hypothesis of Lauret, even the deliria observed in confused psychic states have meaning and are incomprehensible to us only because of omissions. I have had the same conviction whenever I have had an opportunity of observing such states. The deliria are the work of a censorship which no longer makes any effort to conceal its sway, which, instead of lending its support to a revision that is no longer obnoxious to it, cancels regardlessly anything to which it objects, thus causing the remnant to appear disconnected. This censorship proceeds like the Russian censorship on the frontier, which allows only those foreign journals which have had certain passages blacked out to fall into the bands of the readers to be protected.
* Only recently has my attention been called to the fact that Ed. von Hartmann took the same view with regard to this psychologically important point: Incidental to the discussion of the role of the unconscious in artistic creation (Philos. d. Unbew., Vol. i, Sect. B., Chap. V) Eduard von Hartmann clearly enunciated the law of association of ideas which is directed by unconscious directing ideas, without however realizing the scope of this law. With him it was a question of demonstrating that "every combination of a sensuous idea when it is not left entirely to chance, but is directed to a definite end, is in need of help from the unconscious," and that the conscious interest in any particular thought-association is a stimulus for the unconscious to discover from among the numberless possible ideas the one which corresponds to the directing idea. "It is the unconscious that selects, and appropriately, in accordance with the aims of the interest: and this holds true for the associations in abstract thinking (as sensible representations and artistic combinations as well as for flashes of wit)." Hence, a limiting of the association of ideas to ideas that evoke and are evoked in the sense of pure association-psychology is untenable. Such a restriction "would be justified only if there were states in human life in which man was free not only from any conscious purpose, but also from the domination or cooperation of any unconscious interest, any passing mood. But such a state hardly ever comes to pass, for even if one leaves one's train of thought seemingly altogether to chance, or if one surrenders oneself entirely to the involuntary dreams of phantasy, yet always other leading interests, dominant feelings and moods prevail at one time rather than another, and these will always exert an influence on the association of ideas." (Philos. d. Unbew., IIe, Aufl. i. 246). In semi-conscious dreams there always appear only such ideas as correspond to the (unconscious) momentary main interest. By rendering prominent the feelings and moods over the free thought-series, the methodical procedure of psycho-analysis is thoroughly justified even from the standpoint of Hartmann's Psychology (N. E. Pohorilles, Internat. Zeitschrift. f. Ps. A., I, , p. 605). Du Prel concludes from the fact that a name which we vainly try to recall suddenly occurs to the mind that there is an unconscious but none the less purposeful thinking, whose result then appears in consciousness (Philos. d. Mystik, p. 107).
The free play of ideas following any chain of associations may perhaps occur in cases of destructive organic affections of the brain. What, however, is taken to be such in the psychoneuroses may always be explained as the influence of the censorship on a series of thoughts which have been pushed into the foreground by the concealed directing ideas. * It has been considered an unmistakable sign of free association unencumbered by directing ideas if the emerging ideas (or images) appear to be connected by means of the so-called superficial associations- that is, by assonance, verbal ambiguity, and temporal coincidence, without inner relationship of meaning; in other words, if they are connected by all those associations which we allow ourselves to exploit in wit and playing upon words. This distinguishing mark holds good with associations which lead us from the elements of the dream-content to the intermediary thoughts, and from these to the dream-thoughts proper; in many analyses of dreams we have found surprising examples of this. In these no connection was too loose and no witticism too objectionable to serve as a bridge from one thought to another. But the correct understanding of such surprising tolerance is not far to seek. Whenever one psychic element is connected with another by an obnoxious and superficial association, there exists also a correct and more profound connection between the two, which succumbs to the resistance of the censorship.
* Jung has brilliantly corroborated this statement by analyses of dementia praecox. (Cf. The Psychology of Dementia Praecox, translated by A. A. Brill. Monograph Series, [Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases Publishing Co., New York].)
The correct explanation for the predominance of the superficial associations is the pressure of the censorship, and not the suppression of the directing ideas. Whenever the censorship renders the normal connective paths impassable, the superficial associations will replace the deeper ones in the representation. It is as though in a mountainous region a general interruption of traffic, for example an inundation, should render the broad highways impassable: traffic would then have to be maintained by steep and inconvenient tracks used at other times only by the hunter.
We can here distinguish two cases which, however, are essentially one. In the first case, the censorship is directed only against the connection of two thoughts which, being detached from one another, escape its opposition. The two thoughts then enter successively into consciousness; their connection remains concealed; but in its place there occurs to us a superficial connection between the two which would not otherwise have occurred to us, and which as a rule connects with another angle of the conceptual complex instead of that from which the suppressed but essential connection proceeds. Or, in the second case, both thoughts, owing to their content, succumb to the censorship; both then appear not in their correct form but in a modified, substituted form; and both substituted thoughts are so selected as to represent, by a superficial association, the essential relation which existed between those that they have replaced. Under the pressure of the censorship, the displacement of a normal and vital association by one superficial and apparently absurd has thus occurred in both cases.
Because we know of these displacements, we unhesitatingly rely upon even the superficial associations which occur in the course of dream-interpretation. *
* The same considerations naturally hold good of the case in which superficial associations are exposed in the dream-content, as, for example, in both the dreams reported by Maury (p. 50, pelerinage- pelletier- pelle, kilometer- kilograms- gilolo, Lobelia- Lopez- Lotto). I know from my work with neurotics what kind of reminiscence is prone to represent itself in this manner. It is the consultation of encyclopedias by which most people have satisfied their need of an explanation of the sexual mystery when obsessed by the curiosity of puberty.
The psycho-analysis of neurotics makes abundant use of the two principles: that with the abandonment of the conscious directing ideas the control over the flow of ideas is transferred to the concealed directing ideas; and that superficial associations are only a displacement-substitute for suppressed and more profound ones. Indeed, psycho-analysis makes these two principles the foundation-stones of its technique. When I request a patient to dismiss all reflection, and to report to me whatever comes into his mind, I firmly cling to the assumption that he will not be able to drop the directing idea of the treatment, and I feel justified in concluding that what he reports, even though it may seem to be quite ingenuous and arbitrary, has some connection with his morbid state. Another directing idea of which the patient has no suspicion is my own personality. The full appreciation, as well as the detailed proof of both these explanations, belongs to the description of the psycho-analytic technique as a therapeutic method. We have here reached one of the junctions, so to speak, at which we purposely drop the subject of dream-interpretation. *
* The above statements, which when written sounded very improbable, have since been corroborated and applied experimentally by Jung and his pupils in the Diagnostiche Assoziationsstudien.
Of all the objections raised, only one is justified and still remains to be met; namely, that we ought not to ascribe all the associations of the interpretation-work to the nocturnal dream- work. By interpretation in the waking state we are actually opening a path running back from the dream-elements to the dream- thoughts. The dream-work has followed the contrary direction, and it is not at all probable that these paths are equally passable in opposite directions. On the contrary, it appears that during the day, by means of new thought-connections, we sink shafts that strike the intermediary thoughts and the dream-thoughts now in this place, now in that. We can see how the recent thought- material of the day forces its way into the interpretation- series, and how the additional resistance which has appeared since the night probably compels it to make new and further detours. But the number and form of the collaterals which we thus contrive during the day are, psychologically speaking, indifferent, so long as they point the way to the dream-thoughts which we are seeking.
At the beginning of this section we cited a certain dream in order that it might remind us of the problems that are still unsolved. The interpretation of this dream (of the burning child) presented no difficulties, although in the analytical sense it was not given in full. We asked ourselves why, after all, it was necessary that the father should dream instead of waking, and we recognized the wish to represent the child as living as a motive of the dream. That there was yet another wish operative in the dream we shall be able to show after further discussion. For the present, however, we may say that for the sake of the wish- fulfilment the thought-process of sleep was transformed into a dream.
If the wish-fulfilment is cancelled out, only one characteristic remains which distinguishes the two kinds of psychic events. The dream-thought would have been: "I see a glimmer coming from the room in which the body is lying. Perhaps a candle has fallen over, and the child is burning!" The dream reproduces the result of this reflection unchanged, but represents it in a situation which exists in the present and is perceptible by the senses like an experience of the waking state. This, however, is the most common and the most striking psychological characteristic of the dream; a thought, usually the one wished for, is objectified in the dream, and represented as a scene, or- as we think- experienced.
But how are we now to explain this characteristic peculiarity of the dream-work, or- to put it more modestly- how are we to bring it into relation with the psychic processes?
On closer examination, it is plainly evident that the manifest form of the dream is marked by two characteristics which are almost independent of each other. One is its representation as a present situation with the omission of perhaps; the other is the translation of the thought into visual images and speech.
The transformation to which the dream-thoughts are subjected because the expectation is put into the present tense is, perhaps, in this particular dream not so very striking. This is probably due to the special and really subsidiary role of the wish-fulfilment in this dream. Let us take another dream, in which the dream-wish does not break away from the continuation of the waking thoughts in sleep; for example, the dream of Irma's injection. Here the dream-thought achieving representation is in the conditional: "If only Otto could be blamed for Irma's illness!" The dream suppresses the conditional, and replaces it by a simple present tense: "Yes, Otto is to blame for Irma's illness." This, then, is the first of the transformations which even the undistorted dream imposes on the dream-thoughts. But we will not linger over this first peculiarity of the dream. We dispose of it by a reference to the conscious phantasy, the day- dream, which behaves in a similar fashion with its conceptual content. When Daudet's M. Joyeuse wanders unemployed through the streets of Paris while his daughter is led to believe that he has a post and is sitting in his office, he dreams, in the present tense, of circumstances that might help him to obtain a recommendation and employment. The dream, then, employs the present tense in the same manner and with the same right as the day-dream. The present is the tense in which the wish is represented as fulfilled.
The second quality peculiar to the dream alone, as distinguished from the day-dream, is that the conceptual content is not thought, but is transformed into visual images, to which we give credence, and which we believe that we experience. Let us add. however, that not all dreams show this transformation of ideas into visual images. There are dreams which consist solely of thoughts, but we cannot on that account deny that they are substantially dreams. My dream Autodidasker- the day-phantasy about Professor N is of this character; it is almost as free of visual elements as though I had thought its content during the day. Moreover, every long dream contains elements which have not undergone this transformation into the visual, and which are simply thought or known as we are wont to think or know in our waking state. And we must here reflect that this transformation of ideas into visual images does not occur in dreams alone, but also in hallucinations and visions, which may appear spontaneously in health, or as symptoms in the psychoneuroses. In brief, the relation which we are here investigating is by no means an exclusive one; the fact remains, however, that this characteristic of the dream, whenever it occurs, seems to be its most noteworthy characteristic, so that we cannot think of the dream-life without it. To understand it, however, requires a very exhaustive discussion.
Among all the observations relating to the theory of dreams to be found in the literature of the subject, I should like to lay stress upon one as being particularly worthy of mention. The famous G. T. H. Fechner makes the conjecture, * in a discussion as to the nature of the dreams, that the dream is staged elsewhere than in the waking ideation. No other assumption enables us to comprehend the special peculiarities of the dream- life.
* Psychophysik, Part. II, p. 520.
The idea which is thus put before us is one of psychic locality. We shall wholly ignore the fact that the psychic apparatus concerned is known to us also as an anatomical preparation, and we shall carefully avoid the temptation to determine the psychic locality in any anatomical sense. We shall remain on psychological ground, and we shall do no more than accept the invitation to think of the instrument which serves the psychic activities much as we think of a compound microscope, a photographic camera, or other apparatus. The psychic locality, then, corresponds to a place within such an apparatus in which one of the preliminary phases of the image comes into existence. As is well known, there are in the microscope and the telescope such ideal localities or planes, in which no tangible portion of the apparatus is located. I think it superfluous to apologize for the imperfections of this and all similar figures. These comparisons are designed only to assist us in our attempt to make intelligible the complication of the psychic performance by dissecting it and referring the individual performances to the individual components of the apparatus. So far as I am aware, no attempt has yet been made to divine the construction of the psychic instrument by means of such dissection. I see no harm in such an attempt; I think that we should give free rein to our conjectures, provided we keep our heads and do not mistake the scaffolding for the building. Since for the first approach to any unknown subject we need the help only of auxiliary ideas, we shall prefer the crudest and most tangible hypothesis to all others.
Accordingly, we conceive the psychic apparatus as a compound instrument, the component parts of which we shall call instances, or, for the sake of clearness, systems. We shall then anticipate that these systems may perhaps maintain a constant spatial orientation to one another, very much as do the different and successive systems of lenses of a telescope. Strictly speaking, there is no need to assume an actual spatial arrangement of the psychic system. It will be enough for our purpose if a definite sequence is established, so that in certain psychic events the system will be traversed by the excitation in a definite temporal order. This order may be different in the case of other processes; such a possibility is left open. For the sake of brevity, we shall henceforth speak of the component parts of the apparatus as Psi-systems.
The first thing that strikes us is the fact that the apparatus composed of Psi-systems has a direction. All our psychic activities proceed from (inner or outer) stimuli and terminate in innervations. We thus ascribe to the apparatus a sensory and a motor end; at the sensory end we find a system which receives the perceptions, ind at the motor end another which opens the sluices of motility. The psychic process generally runs from the perceptive end to the motor end. The most general scheme of the psychic apparatus has therefore the following appearance as shown in Fig. 1. (See illustration.) But this is only in compliance with the requirement, long familiar to us, that the psychic apparatus must be constructed like a reflex apparatus. The reflex act remains the type of every psychic activity as well.
We now have reason to admit a first differentiation at the sensory end. The percepts that come to us leave in our psychic apparatus a trace, which we may call a memory-trace. The function related to this memory-trace we call the memory. If we hold seriously to our resolution to connect the psychic processes into systems, the memory-trace can consist only of lasting changes in the elements of the systems. But, as has already been shown elsewhere, obvious difficulties arise when one and the same system is faithfully to preserve changes in its elements and still to remain fresh and receptive in respect of new occasions of change. In accordance with the principle which is directing our attempt, we shall therefore ascribe these two functions to two different systems. We assume that an initial system of this apparatus receives the stimuli of perception but retains nothing of them- that is, it has no memory; and that behind this there lies a second system, which transforms the momentary excitation of the first into lasting traces. The following would then be the diagram of our psychic apparatus: (See illustration.)
We know that of the percepts which act upon the P-system, we retain permanently something else as well as the content itself. Our percepts prove also to be connected with one another in the memory, and this is especially so if they originally occurred simultaneously. We call this the fact of association. It is now clear that, if the P-system is entirely lacking in memory, it certainly cannot preserve traces for the associations; the individual P-elements would be intolerably hindered in their functioning if a residue of a former connection should make its influence felt against a new perception. Hence we must rather assume that the memory-system is the basis of association. The fact of association, then, consists in this- that in consequence of a lessening of resistance and a smoothing of the ways from one of the mem-elements, the excitation transmits itself to a second rather than to a third mem-element.
On further investigation we find it necessary to assume not one but many such mem-systems, in which the same excitation transmitted by the P-elements undergoes a diversified fixation. The first of these mem-systems will in any case contain the fixation of the association through simultaneity, while in those lying farther away the same material of excitation will be arranged according to other forms of combination; so that relationships of similarity, etc., might perhaps be represented by these later systems. It would, of course, be idle to attempt to express in words the psychic significance of such a system. Its characteristic would lie in the intimacy of its relations to elements of raw material of memory- that is (if we wish to hint at a more comprehensive theory) in the gradations of the conductive resistance on the way to these elements.
An observation of a general nature, which may possibly point to something of importance, may here be interpolated. The P-system, which possesses no capacity for preserving changes, and hence no memory, furnishes to consciousness the complexity and variety of the sensory qualities. Our memories, on the other hand, are unconscious in themselves; those that are most deeply impressed form no exception. They can be made conscious, but there is no doubt that they unfold all their activities in the unconscious state. What we term our character is based, indeed, on the memory- traces of our impressions, and it is precisely those impressions that have affected us most strongly, those of our early youth, which hardly ever become conscious. But when memories become conscious again they show no sensory quality, or a very negligible one in comparison with the perceptions. If, now, it can be confirmed that for consciousness memory and quality are mutually exclusive in the Psi-systems, we have gained a most promising insight into the determinations of the neuron excitations. *
* Since writing this, I have thought that consciousness occurs actually in the locality of the memory-trace.
What we have so far assumed concerning the composition of the psychic apparatus at the sensible end has been assumed regardless of dreams and of the psychological explanations which we have hitherto derived from them. Dreams, however, will serve as a source of evidence for our knowledge of another part of the apparatus. We have seen that it was impossible to explain dream- formation unless we ventured to assume two psychic instances, one of which subjected the activities of the other to criticism, the result of which was exclusion from consciousness.
We have concluded that the criticizing instance maintains closer relations with the consciousness than the instance criticized. It stands between the latter and the consciousness like a screen. Further, we have found that there is reason to identify the criticizing instance with that which directs our waking life and determines our voluntary conscious activities. If, in accordance with our assumptions, we now replace these instances by systems, the criticizing system will therefore be moved to the motor end. We now enter both systems in our diagram, expressing, by the names given them, their relation to consciousness. (See illustration.)
The last of the systems at the motor end we call the preconscious (Pcs.) to denote that the exciting processes in this system can reach consciousness without any further detention, provided certain other conditions are fulfilled, e.g., the attainment of a definite degree of intensity, a certain apportionment of that function which we must call attention, etc. This is at the same time the system which holds the keys of voluntary motility. The system behind it we call the unconscious (Ucs), because it has no access to consciousness except through the preconscious, in the passage through which the excitation-process must submit to certain changes. *
* The further elaboration of this linear diagram will have to reckon with the assumption that the system following the Pcs represents the one to which we must attribute consciousness (Cs), so that P = Cs.
In which of these systems, then, do we localize the impetus to dream-formation? For the sake of simplicity, let us say in the system Ucs. We shall find, it is true, in subsequent discussions, that this is not altogether correct; that dream-formation is obliged to make connection with dream-thoughts which belong to the system of the preconscious. But we shall learn elsewhere, when we come to deal with the dream-wish, that the motive-power of the dream is furnished by the Ucs, and on account of this factor we shall assume the unconscious system as the starting- point for dream-formation. This dream-excitation, like all the other thought-structures, will now strive to continue itself in the Pcs, and thence to gain admission to the consciousness.
Experience teaches us that the path leading through the preconscious to consciousness is closed to the dream-thoughts during the day by the resisting censorship. At night they gain admission to consciousness; the question arises: In what way and because of what changes? If this admission were rendered possible to the dream-thoughts by the weakening, during the night, of the resistance watching on the boundary between the unconscious and the preconscious, we should then have dreams in the material of our ideas, which would not display the hallucinatory character that interests us at present.
The weakening of the censorship between the two systems, Ucs and Pcs, can explain to us only such dreams as the Autodidasker dream but not dreams like that of the burning child, which- as will be remembered- we stated as a problem at the outset in our present investigations.
What takes place in the hallucinatory dream we can describe in no other way than by saying that the excitation follows a retrogressive course. It communicates itself not to the motor end of the apparatus, but to the sensory end, and finally reaches the system of perception. If we call the direction which the psychic process follows from the unconscious into the waking state progressive, we may then speak of the dream as having a regressive character. *
* The first indication of the element of regression is already encountered in the writings of Albertus Magnus. According to him the imaginatio constructs the dream out of the tangible objects which it has retained. The process is the converse of that operating in the waking state. Hobbes states (Leviathan, ch. 2): "In sum our dreams are the reverse of our imagination, the motion, when we are awake, beginning at one end, and when we dream at another" (quoted by Havelock Ellis, loc. cit., p. 112). -
This regression is therefore assuredly one of the most important psychological peculiarities of the dream-process; but we must not forget that it is not characteristic of the dream alone. Intentional recollection and other component processes of our normal thinking likewise necessitate a retrogression in the psychic apparatus from some complex act of ideation to the raw material of the memory-traces which underlie it. But during the waking state this turning backwards does not reach beyond the memory-images; it is incapable of producing the hallucinatory revival of the perceptual images. Why is it otherwise in dreams? When we spoke of the condensation-work of the dream we could not avoid the assumption that by the dream-work the intensities adhering to the ideas are completely transferred from one to another. It is probably this modification of the usual psychic process which makes possible the cathexis * of the system of P to its full sensory vividness in the reverse direction to thinking. -
* From the Greek Kathexo, to occupy, used here in place of the author's term Besetzung, to signify a charge or investment of energy.- TR.
I hope that we are not deluding ourselves as regards the importance of this present discussion. We have done nothing more than give a name to an inexplicable phenomenon. We call it regression if the idea in the dream is changed back into the visual image from which it once originated. But even this step requires justification. Why this definition if it does not teach us anything new? Well, I believe that the word regression is of service to us, inasmuch as it connects a fact familiar to us with the scheme of the psychic apparatus endowed with direction. At this point, and for the first time, we shall profit by the fact that we have constructed such a scheme. For with the help of this scheme we shall perceive, without further reflection, another peculiarity of dream-formation. If we look upon the dream as a process of regression within the hypothetical psychic apparatus, we have at once an explanation of the empirically proven fact that all thought-relations of the dream-thoughts are either lost in the dream-work or have difficulty in achieving expression. According to our scheme, these thought-relations are contained not in the first mem-systems, but in those lying farther to the front, and in the regression to the perceptual images they must forfeit expression. In regression, the structure of the dream- thoughts breaks up into its raw material.
But what change renders possible this regression which is impossible during the day? Let us here be content with an assumption. There must evidently be changes in the cathexis of the individual systems, causing the latter to become more accessible or inaccessible to the discharge of the excitation; but in any such apparatus the same effect upon the course of the excitation might be produced by more than one kind of change. We naturally think of the. sleeping state, and of the many cathectic changes which this evokes at the sensory end of the apparatus. During the day there is a continuous stream flowing from the Psi- system of the P toward the motility end; this current ceases at night, and can no longer block the flow of the current of excitation in the opposite direction. This would appear to be that seclusion from the outer world which, according to the theory of some writers, is supposed to explain the psychological character of the dream. In the explanation of the regression of the dream we shall, however, have to take into account those other regressions which occur during morbid waking states. In these other forms of regression the explanation just given plainly leaves us in the lurch. Regression occurs in spite of the uninterrupted sensory current in a progressive direction.
The hallucinations of hysteria and paranoia, as well as the visions of mentally normal persons, I would explain as corresponding, in fact, to regressions, i.e., to thoughts transformed into images; and would assert that only such thoughts undergo this transformation as are in intimate connection with suppressed memories, or with memories which have remained unconscious. As an example, I will cite the case of one of my youngest hysterical patients- a boy of twelve, who was prevented from falling asleep by "green faces with red eyes," which terrified him. The source of this manifestation was the suppressed, but once conscious memory of a boy whom he had often seen four years earlier, and who offered a warning example of many bad habits, including masturbation, for which he was now reproaching himself. At that time his mother had noticed that the complexion of this ill-mannered boy was greenish and that he had red (i.e., red-rimmed) eyes. Hence his terrifying vision, which merely determined his recollection of another saying of his mother's, to the effect that such boys become demented, are unable to learn anything at school, and are doomed to an early death. A part of this prediction came true in the case of my little patient; he could not get on at school, and, as appeared from his involuntary associations, he was in terrible dread of the remainder of the prophecy. However, after a brief period of successful treatment his sleep was restored, his anxiety removed, and he finished his scholastic year with an excellent record.
Here I may add the interpretation of a vision described to me by an hysterical woman of forty, as having occurred when she was in normal health. One morning she opened her eyes and saw her brother in the room, although she knew him to be confined in an insane asylum. Her little son was asleep by her side. Lest the child should be frightened on seeing his uncle, and fall into convulsions, she pulled the sheet over his face. This done, the phantom disappeared. This apparition was the revision of one of her childish memories, which, although conscious, was most intimately connected with all the unconscious material in her mind. Her nurserymaid had told her that her mother, who had died young (my patient was then only eighteen months old), had suffered from epileptic or hysterical convulsions, which dated back to a fright caused by her brother (the patient's uncle) who appeared to her disguised as a spectre with a sheet over his head. The vision contains the same elements as the reminiscence, viz., the appearance of the brother, the sheet, the fright, and its effect. These elements, however, are arranged in a fresh context, and are transferred to other persons. The obvious motive of the vision, and the thought which it replaced, was her solicitude lest her little son, who bore a striking resemblance to his uncle, should share the latter's fate.
Both examples here cited are not entirely unrelated to the state of sleep, and may for that reason be unfitted to afford the evidence for the sake of which I have cited them. I will, therefore, refer to my analysis of an hallucinatory paranoic woman patient * and to the results of my hitherto unpublished studies on the psychology of the psychoneuroses, in order to emphasize the fact that in these cases of regressive thought- transformation one must not overlook the influence of a suppressed memory, or one that has remained unconscious, this being usually of an infantile character. This memory draws into the regression, as it were, the thoughts with which it is connected, and which are kept from expression by the censorship- that is, into that form of representation in which the memory itself is psychically existent. And here I may add, as a result of my studies of hysteria, that if one succeeds in bringing to consciousness infantile scenes (whether they are recollections or phantasies) they appear as hallucinations, and are divested of this character only when they are communicated. It is known also that even in persons whose memories are not otherwise visual, the earliest infantile memories remain vividly visual until late in life.
* Selected Papers on Hysteria, "Further Observations on the Defence-Neuro-Psychoses," p. 97 above.
If, now, we bear in mind the part played in the dream-thoughts by the infantile experiences, or by the phantasies based upon them, and recollect how often fragments of these re-emerge in the dream- content, and how even the dream-wishes often proceed from them, we cannot deny the probability that in dreams, too, the transformation of thoughts into visual images may be the result of the attraction exercised by the visually represented memory, striving for resuscitation, upon the thoughts severed from the consciousness and struggling for expression. Pursuing this conception. we may further describe the dream as the substitute for the infantile scene modified by transference to recent material. The infantile scene cannot enforce its own revival, and must therefore be satisfied to return as a dream.
This reference to the significance of the infantile scenes (or of their phantastic repetitions) as in a certain degree furnishing the pattern for the dream-content renders superfluous the assumption made by Scherner and his pupils concerning inner sources of stimuli. Scherner assumes a state of visual excitation, of internal excitation in the organ of sight, when the dreams manifest a special vividness or an extraordinary abundance of visual elements. We need raise no objection to this assumption; we may perhaps content ourselves with assuming such a state of excitation only for the psychic perceptive system of the organ of vision; we shall, however, insist that this state of excitation is a reanimation by the memory of a former actual visual excitation. I cannot, from my own experience, give a good example showing such an influence of an infantile memory; my own dreams are altogether less rich in perceptual elements than I imagine those of others to be; but in my most beautiful and most vivid dream of late years I can easily trace the hallucinatory distinctness of the dream-contents to the visual qualities of recently received impressions. In chapter VI., H, I mentioned a dream in which the dark blue of the water, the brown of the smoke issuing from the ship's funnels, and the sombre brown and red of the buildings which I saw made a profound and lasting impression upon my mind. This dream, if any, must be attributed to visual excitation, but what was it that had brought my organ of vision into this excitable state? It was a recent impression which had joined itself to a series of former impressions. The colours I beheld were in the first place those of the toy blocks with which my children had erected a magnificent building for my admiration, on the day preceding the dream. There was the sombre red on the large blocks, the blue and brown on the small ones. Joined to these were the colour impressions of my last journey in Italy: the beautiful blue of the Isonzo and the lagoons, the brown hue of the Alps. The beautiful colours seen in the dream were but a repetition of those seen in memory.
Let us summarize what we have learned about this peculiarity of dreams: their power of recasting their idea-content in visual images. We may not have explained this character of the dream- work by referring it to the known laws of psychology, but we have singled it out as pointing to unknown relations, and have given it the name of the regressive character. Wherever such regression has occurred, we have regarded it as an effect of the resistance which opposes the progress of thought on its normal way to consciousness, and of the simultaneous attraction exerted upon it by vivid memories. * The regression in dreams is perhaps facilitated by the cessation of the progressive stream flowing from the sense-organs during the day; for which auxiliary factor there must be some compensation, in the other forms of regression, by the strengthening of the other regressive motives. We must also bear in mind that in pathological cases of regression, just as in dreams, the process of energy-transference must be different from that occurring in the regressions of normal psychic life, since it renders possible a full hallucinatory cathexis of the perceptive system. What we have described in the analysis of the dream-work as regard for representability may be referred to the selective attraction of visually remembered scenes touched by the dream-thoughts.
* In a statement of the theory of repression it should be explained that a thought passes into repression owing to the co- operation of two of the factors which influence it. On the one side (the censorship of Cs) it is pushed, and from the other side (the Ucs) it is pulled, much as one is helped to the top of the Great Pyramid. (Compare the paper Repression, p. 422 below.)
As to the regression, we may further observe that it plays a no less important part in the theory of neurotic symptom-formation than in the theory of dreams. We may therefore distinguish a threefold species of regression: (a) a topical one, in the sense of the scheme of the Psi-systems here exponded; (b) a temporal one, in so far as it is a regression to older psychic formations; and (c) a formal one, when primitive modes of expression and representation take the place of the customary modes. These three forms of regression are, however, basically one, and in the majority of cases they coincide, for that which is older in point of time is at the same time formally primitive and, in the psychic topography, nearer to the perception-end.
We cannot leave the theme of regression in dreams without giving utterance to an impression which has already and repeatedly forced itself upon us, and which will return to us reinforced after a deeper study of the psychoneuroses: namely, that dreaming is on the whole an act of regression to the earliest relationships of the dreamer, a resuscitation of his childhood, of the impulses which were then dominant and the modes of expression which were then available. Behind this childhood of the individual we are then promised an insight into the phylogenetic childhood, into the evolution of the human race, of which the development of the individual is only an abridged repetition influenced by the fortuitous circumstances of life. We begin to suspect that Friedrich Nietzsche was right when he said that in a dream "there persists a primordial part of humanity which we can no longer reach by a direct path," and we are encouraged to expect, from the analysis of dreams, a knowledge of the archaic inheritance of man, a knowledge of psychical things in him that are innate. It would seem that dreams and neuroses have preserved for us more of the psychical antiquities than we suspected; so that psycho-analysis may claim a high rank among those sciences which endeavour to reconstruct the oldest and darkest phases of the beginnings of mankind.
It is quite possible that we shall not find this first part of our psychological evaluation of dreams particularly satisfying. We must, however, console ourselves with the thought that we are, after all, compelled to build out into the dark. If we have not gone altogether astray, we shall surely reach approximately the same place from another starting-point, and then, perhaps, we shall be better able to find our bearings.
On to Chapter 7, Section C
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