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Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, Chapter 5

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The Material and Sources of Dreams

Having realised, as a result of analysing the dream of Irma's injection, that the dream was the fulfilment of a wish, we were immediately interested to ascertain whether we had thereby discovered a general characteristic of dreams, and for the time being we put aside every other scientific problem which may have suggested itself in the course of the interpretation. Now that we have reached the goal on this one path, we may turn back and select a new point of departure for exploring dream-problems, even though we may for a time lose sight of the theme of wish-fulfilment, which has still to be further considered.

Now that we are able, by applying our process of interpretation, to detect a latent dream-content whose significance far surpasses that of the manifest dream-content, we are naturally impelled to return to the individual dream-problems, in order to see whether the riddles and contradictions which seemed to elude us when we had only the manifest content to work upon may not now be satisfactorily solved.

The opinions of previous writers on the relation of dreams to waking life, and the origin of the material of dreams, have not been given here. We may recall however three peculiarities of the memory in dreams, which have often been noted, but never explained:

  1. That the dream clearly prefers the impressions of the last few days (Robert, Strümpell, Hildebrandt; also Weed-Hallam);
  2. That it makes a selection in accordance with principles other than those governing our waking memory, in that it recalls not essential and important, but subordinate and disregarded things;
  3. That it has at its disposal the earliest impressions of our childhood, and brings to light details from this period of life, which, again, seem trivial to us, and which in waking life were believed to have been long since forgotten.[1]

These peculiarities in the dream's choice of material have, of course, been observed by previous writers in the manifest dream-content.

[1]It is evident that Robert's idea -- that the dream is intended to rid our memory of the useless impressions which it has received during the day -- is no longer tenable if indifferent memories of our childhood appear in our dreams with some degree of frequency. We should be obliged to conclude that our dreams generally perform their prescribed task very inadequately.

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