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Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, Chapter 5A

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A -- RECENT AND INDIFFERENT IMPRESSIONS IN THE DREAM

If I now consult my own experience with regard to the origin of the elements appearing in the dream-content, I must in the first place express the opinion that in every dream we may find some reference to the experiences of the preceding day. Whatever dream I turn to, whether my own or someone else's, this experience is always confirmed. Knowing this, I may perhaps begin the work of interpretation by looking for the experience of the preceding day which has stimulated the dream; in many cases this is indeed the quickest way. With the two dreams which I subjected to a close analysis in the last chapter (the dreams of Irma's injection, and of the uncle with the yellow beard) the reference to the preceding day is so evident that it needs no further elucidation. But in order to show how constantly this reference may be demonstrated, I shall examine a portion of my own dream-chronicle. I shall relate only so much of the dreams as is necessary for the detection of the dream-source in question.

1. I pay a call at a house to which I gain admittance only with difficulty, etc., and meanwhile I am keeping a woman waiting for me.
   Source: A conversation during the evening with a female relative to the effect that she would have to wait for a remittance for which she had asked, until. . . etc.

2. I have written a monograph on a species (uncertain) of plant.
   Source: In the morning I had seen in a bookseller's window a monograph on the genus Cyclamen.

3. I see two women in the street, mother and daughter, the latter being a patient.
   Source: A female patient who is under treatment had told me in the evening what difficulties her mother puts in the way of her continuing the treatment.

4. At S. and R.'s bookshop I subscribe to a periodical which costs 20 florins annually.
   Source: During the day my wife has reminded me that I still owe her 20 florins of her weekly allowance.

5. I receive a communication from the Social Democratic Committee, in which I am addressed as a member.
   Source: I have received simultaneous communications from the Liberal Committee on Elections and from the president of the Humanitarian Society, of which latter I am actually a member.

6. A man on a steep rock rising from the sea, in the manner of Böcklin.
   Source: Dreyfus on Devil's Island; also news from my relatives in England, etc.

The question might be raised, whether a dream invariably refers to the events of the preceding day only, or whether the reference may be extended to include impressions from a longer period of time in the immediate past. This question is probably not of the first importance, but I am inclined to decide in favour of the exclusive priority of the day before the dream (the dream-day). Whenever I thought I had found a case where an impression two or three days old was the source of the dream, I was able to convince myself after careful investigation that this impression had been remembered the day before; that is, that a demonstrable reproduction on the day before had been interpolated between the day of the event and the time of the dream: and further, I was able to point to the recent occasion which might have given rise to the recollection of the older impression. On the other hand, I was unable to convince myself that a regular interval of biological significance (H. Swoboda gives the first interval of this kind as eighteen hours) elapses between the dream-exciting daytime impression and its recurrence in the dream.

I believe, therefore, that for every dream a dream-stimulus may be found among those experiences 'on which one has not yet slept.'

Havelock Ellis, who has likewise given attention to this problem, states that he has not been able to find any such periodicity of reproduction in his dreams, although he has looked for it. He relates a dream in which he found himself in Spain; he wanted to travel to a place called Daraus, Varaus, or Zaraus. On awaking he was unable to recall any such place-names, and thought no more of the matter. A few months later he actually found the name Zaraus; it was that of a railway-station between San Sebastian and Bilbao, through which he had passed in the train eight months (250 days) before the date of the dream.

Thus the impressions of the immediate past (with the exception of the day before the night of the dream) stands in the same relation to the dream-content as those of periods indefinitely remote. The dream may select its material from any period of life, provided only that a chain of thought leads back from the experiences of the day of the dream (the 'recent' impressions) of that earlier period.

But why this preference for recent impressions? We shall arrive at some conjectures on this point if we subject one of the dreams already mentioned to a more precise analysis. I select the

Dream of the Botanical Monograph

I have written a monograph on a certain plant. The book lies before me; I am just turning over a folded coloured plate. A dried specimen of the plant, as though from a herbarium, is bound up with every copy.

Analysis -- In the morning I saw in a bookseller's window a volume entitled The Genus Cyclamen, apparently a monograph on this plant.

The cyclamen is my wife's favourite flower. I reproach myself for remembering so seldom to bring her flowers, as she would like me to do. In connection with the theme of giving her flowers, I am reminded of a story which I recently told some friends of mine in proof of my assertion that we often forget in obedience to a purpose of the unconscious, and that forgetfulness always enables us to form a deduction about the secret disposition of the forgetful person. A young woman who has been accustomed to receive a bouquet of flowers from her husband on her birthday misses this token of affection on one of her birthdays, and bursts into tears. The husband comes in, and cannot understand why she is crying until she tells him: 'Today is my birthday.' He claps his hand to his forehead, and exclaims: 'Oh, forgive me, I had completely forgotten it!' and proposes to go out immediately in order to get her flowers. But she refuses to be consoled, for she sees in her husband's forgetfulness a proof that she no longer plays the same part in his thoughts as she formerly did. This Frau L. met my wife two days ago, told her that she was feeling well, and asked after me. Some years ago she was a patient of mine.

Supplementary facts: I did once actually write something like a monograph on a plant, namely, an essay on the coca plant, which attracted the attention of K. Koller to the anaesthetic properties of cocaine. I had hinted that the alkaloid might be employed as an anaesthetic, but I was not thorough enough to pursue the matter farther. It occurs to me, too, that on the morning of the day following the dream (for the interpretation of which I did not find time until the evening) I had thought of cocaine in a kind of day-dream. If I were ever afflicted with glaucoma, I would go to Berlin, and there undergo an operation, incognito, in the house of my Berlin friend, at the hands of a surgeon whom he would recommend. The surgeon, who would not know the name of his patient, would boast, as usual, how easy these operations had become since the introduction of cocaine; and I should not betray the fact that I myself had a share in this discovery. With this fantasy were connected thoughts of how awkward it really is for a physician to claim the professional services of a colleague. I should be able to pay the Berlin eye specialist, who did not know me, like anyone else. Only after recalling this day-dream do I realise that there is concealed behind it the memory of a definite event. Shortly after Koller's discovery, my father contracted glaucoma; he was operated on by my friend Dr Königstein, the eye specialist. Dr Koller was in charge of the cocaine anaesthetisation, and he made the remark that on this occasion all the three persons who had been responsible for the introduction of cocaine had been brought together.

My thoughts now pass on to the time when I was last reminded of the history of cocaine. This was a few days earlier, when I received a Festschrift, a publication in which grateful pupils had commemorated the jubilee of their teacher and laboratory director. Among the titles to fame of persons connected with the laboratory I found a note to the effect that the discovery of the anaesthetic properties of cocaine had been due to K. Koller. Now I suddenly become aware that the dream is connected with an experience of the previous evening. I had just accompanied Dr Königstein to his home, and had entered into a discussion of a subject which excites me greatly whenever it is mentioned. While I was talking with him in the entrance-hall Professor Gärtner and his young wife came up. I could not refrain from congratulating them both upon their blooming appearance. Now Professor Gärtner is one of the authors of the Festschrift of which I have just spoken, and he may well have reminded me of it. And Frau L., of whose birthday disappointment I spoke a little way back, had been mentioned, though of course in another connection, in my conversation with Dr Königstein.

I shall now try to elucidate the other determinants of the dream-content. A dried specimen of the plant accompanies the monograph, as though it were a herbarium. And herbarium reminds me of the 'gymnasium'. The director of our 'gymnasium' once called the pupils of the upper classes together, in order that they might examine and clean the 'gymnasium' herbarium. Small insects had been found -- book-worms. The director seemed to have little confidence in my ability to assist, for he entrusted me with only a few of the pages. I know to this day that there were crucifers on them. My interest in botany was never very great. At my preliminary examination in botany I was required to identify a crucifer, and failed to recognise it; had not my theoretical knowledge come to my aid, I should have fared badly indeed. Crucifers suggest composites. The artichoke is really a composite, and in actual fact one which I might call my favourite flower. My wife, more thoughtful than I, often brings this favourite flower of mine home from the market.

I see the monograph which I have written lying before me. Here again there is an association. My friend wrote to me yesterday from Berlin: 'I am thinking a great deal about your dream-book. I see it lying before me, completed, and I turn the pages.' How I envied him this power of vision! If only I could see it lying before me, already completed!

The folded coloured plate. When I was a medical student I suffered a sort of craze for studying monographs exclusively. In spite of my limited means, I subscribed to a number of the medical periodicals, whose coloured plates afforded me much delight. I was rather proud of this inclination to thoroughness. When I subsequently began to publish books myself, I had to draw the plates for my own treatises, and I remember one of them turned out so badly that a well-meaning colleague ridiculed me for it. With this is associated, I do not exactly know how, a very early memory of my childhood. My father, by way of a jest, once gave my elder sister and myself a book containing coloured plates (the book was a narrative of a journey through Persia) in order that we might destroy it. From an educational point of view this was hardly to be commended. I was at the time five years old, and my sister less than three, and the picture of us two children blissfully tearing the book to pieces (I should add, like an artichoke, leaf by leaf), is almost the only one from this period of my life which has remained vivid in my memory. When I afterwards became a student, I developed a conspicuous fondness for collecting and possessing books (an analogy to the inclination for studying from monographs, a hobby alluded to in my dream-thoughts, in connection with cyclamen and artichoke). I became a book-worm (cf. herbarium). Ever since I have been engaged in introspection I have always traced this earliest passion of my life to this impression of my childhood: or rather, I have recognised in this childish scene a 'screen or concealing memory' for my subsequent bibliophilia.[1] And of course I learned at an early age that our passions often become our misfortunes. When I was seventeen, I ran up a very considerable account at the bookseller's, with no means with which to settle it, and my father would hardly accept it as an excuse that my passion was at least a respectable one. But the mention of this experience of my youth brings me back to my conversation with my friend Dr Königstein on the evening preceding the dream; for one of the themes of this conversation was the same old reproach -- that I am much too absorbed in my hobbies.

For reasons which are not relevant here I shall not continue the interpretation of this dream, but will merely indicate the path which leads to it. In the course of the interpretation I was reminded of my conversation with Dr Königstein, and, indeed, of more than one portion of it. When I consider the subjects touched upon in this conversation, the meaning of the dream immediately becomes clear to me. All the trains of thought which have been started -- my own inclinations, and those of my wife, the cocaine, the awkwardness of securing medical treatment from one's own colleagues, my preference for monographical studies, and my neglect of certain subjects, such as botany -- all these are continued in and lead up to one branch or another of this widely-ramified conversation. The dream once more assumes the character of a justification, of a plea for my rights (like the dream of Irma's injection, the first to be analysed); it even continues the theme which that dream introduced, and discusses it in association with the new subject-matter which has been added in the interval between the two dreams. Even the dream's apparently indifferent form of expression at once acquires a meaning. Now it means: 'I am indeed the man who has written that valuable and successful treatise (on cocaine)', just as previously I declared in self-justification: 'I am after all a thorough and industrious student'; and in both instances I find the meaning: 'I can allow myself this.' But I may dispense with the further interpretation of the dream, because my only purpose in recording it was to examine the relation of the dream-content to the experience of the previous day which arouses it. As long as I know only the manifest content of this dream, only one relation to any impression of the day is obvious; but after I have completed the interpretation, a second source of the dream becomes apparent in another experience of the same day. The first of these impressions to which the dream refers is an indifferent one, a subordinate circumstance. I see a book in a shop window whose title holds me for a moment, but whose contents would hardly interest me. The second experience was of great psychic value; I talked earnestly with my friend, the eye specialist, for about an hour; I made allusions in this conversation which must have ruffled the feelings of both of us, and which in me awakened memories in connection with which I was aware of a great variety of inner stimuli. Further, this conversation was broken off unfinished, because some acquaintances joined us. What, now, is the relation of these two impressions of the day to one another, and to the dream which followed during the night?

In the manifest dream-content I find merely an allusion to the indifferent impression, and I am thus able to reaffirm that the dream prefers to take up into its content experiences of a nonessential character. In the dream-interpretation, on the contrary, everything converges upon the important and justifiably disturbing event. If I judge the sense of the dream in the only correct way, according to the latent content which is brought to light in the analysis, I find that I have unwittingly lighted upon a new and important discovery. I see that the puzzling theory that the dream deals only with the worthless odds and ends of the day's experiences has no justification; I am also compelled to contradict the assertion that the psychic life of the waking state is not continued in the dream, and that hence, the dream wastes our psychic energy on trivial material. The very opposite is true; what has claimed our attention during the day dominates our dream-thoughts also, and we take pains to dream only in connection with such matters as have given us food for thought during the day.

Perhaps the most immediate explanation of the fact that I dream of the indifferent impression of the day, while the impression which has with good reason excited me causes me to dream, is that here again we are dealing with the phenomenon of dream-distortion, which we have referred to as a psychic force playing the part of a censorship. The recollection of the monograph on the genus cyclamen is utilised as though it were an allusion to the conversation with my friend, just as the mention of my patient's friend in the dream of the deferred supper is represented by the allusion 'smoked salmon'. The only question is, by what intermediate links can the impression of the monograph come to assume the relation of allusion to the conversation with the eye specialist, since such a relation is not at first perceptible? In the example of the deferred supper the relation is evident at the outset; 'smoked salmon', as the favourite dish of the patient's friend, belongs to the circle of ideas which the friend's personality would naturally evoke in the mind of the dreamer. In our new example we are dealing with two entirely separate impressions, which at first glance seem to have nothing in common, except indeed that they occur on the same day. The monograph attracts my attention in the morning: in the evening I take part in the conversation. The answer furnished by the analysis is as follows: Such relations between the two impressions as do not exist from the first are established subsequently between the idea-content of the one impression and the idea-content of the other. I have already picked out the intermediate links emphasised in the course of writing the analysis. Only under some outside influence, perhaps the recollection of the flowers missed by Frau L., would the idea of the monograph on the cyclamen have attached itself to the idea that the cyclamen is my wife's favourite flower. I do not believe that these inconspicuous thoughts would have sufficed to evoke a dream.

There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this,

as we read in Hamlet. But behold! in the analysis I am reminded that the name of the man who interrupted our conversation was Gärtner (gardener), and that I thought his wife looked blooming; indeed, now I even remember that one of my female patients, who bears the pretty name of Flora, was for a time the main subject of our conversation. It must have happened that by means of these intermediate links from the sphere of botanical ideas the association was effected between the two events of the day, the indifferent one and the stimulating one. Other relations were then established, that of cocaine for example, which can with perfect appropriateness form a link between the person of Dr Königstein and the botanical monograph which I have written, and thus secure the fusion of the two circles of ideas, so that now a portion of the first experience may be used as an allusion to the second.

I am prepared to find this explanation attacked as either arbitrary or artificial. What would have happened if Professor Gärtner and his blooming wife had not appeared, and if the patient who was under discussion had been called, not Flora, but Anna? And yet the answer is not hard to find. If these thought-relations had not been available, others would probably have been selected. It is easy to establish relations of this sort, as the jocular questions and conundrums with which we amuse ourselves suffice to show. The range of wit is unlimited. To go a step farther: if no sufficiently fertile associations between the two impressions of the day could have been established, the dream would simply have followed a different course; another of the indifferent impressions of the day, such as come to us in multitudes and are forgotten, would have taken the place of the monograph in the dream, would have formed an association with the content of the conversation, and would have represented this in the dream. Since it was the impression of the monograph and no other that was fated to perform this function, this impression was probably that most suitable for the purpose. One need not, like Lessing's Hänschen Schlau, be astonished that 'only the rich people of the world possess the most money.'

Still, the psychological process by which, according to our exposition, the indifferent experience substitutes itself for the psychologically important one seems to us odd and open to question. In a later chapter we shall undertake the task of making the peculiarities of this seemingly incorrect operation more intelligible. Here we are concerned only with the result of this process, which we were compelled to accept by constantly recurring experiences in the analysis of dreams. In this process it is as though, in the course of the intermediate steps, a displacement occurs -- let us say, of the psychic accent -- until ideas of feeble potential, by taking over the charge from ideas which have a stronger initial potential, reach a degree of intensity which enables them to force their way into consciousness. Such displacements do not in the least surprise us when it is a question of the transference of affective magnitudes or of motor activities. That the lonely spinster transfers her affection to animals, that the bachelor becomes a passionate collector, that the soldier defends a scrap of coloured cloth -- his flag -- with his life-blood, that in a love-affair a clasp of the hands a moment longer than usual evokes a sensation of bliss, or that in Othello a lost handkerchief causes an outburst of rage -- all these are examples of psychic displacements which to us seem incontestable. But if, by the same means, and in accordance with the same fundamental principles, a decision is made as to what is to reach our consciousness and what is to be withheld from it -- that is to say, what we are to think -- this gives us the impression of morbidity, and if it occurs in waking life we call it an error of thought. We may here anticipate the result of a discussion which will be undertaken later, namely, that the psychic process which we have recognised in dream-displacement proves to be not a morbidly deranged process, but one merely differing from the normal, one of a more primary nature.

Thus we interpret the fact that the dream-content takes up remnants of trivial experiences as a manifestation of dream-distortion (by displacement), and we thereupon remember that we have recognised this dream-distortion as the work of a censorship operating between the two psychic instances. We may therefore expect that dream-analysis will constantly show us the real and psychically significant source of the dream in the events of the day, the memory of which has transferred its accentuation to some indifferent memory. This conception is in complete opposition to Robert's theory, which consequently has no further value for us. The fact which Robert was trying to explain simply does not exist; its assumption is based on a misunderstanding, on a failure to substitute the real meaning of the dream for its apparent meaning. A further objection to Robert's doctrine is as follows: If the task of the dream were really to rid our memory, by means of a special psychic activity, of the 'slag' of the day's recollections, our sleep would perforce be more troubled, engaged in more strenuous work, than we can suppose it to be, judging by our waking thoughts. For the number of the indifferent impressions of the day against which we should have to protect our memory is obviously immeasurably large; the whole night would not be long enough to dispose of them all. It is far more probable that the forgetting of the indifferent impressions takes place without any active interference on the part of our psychic powers.

Still, something cautions us against taking leave of Robert's theory without further consideration. We have left unexplained the fact that one of the indifferent impressions of the day -- indeed, even of the previous day -- constantly makes a contribution to the dream-content. The relations between this impression and the real source of the dream in the unconscious do not always exist from the outset; as we have seen, they are established subsequently, while the dream is actually at work, as though to serve the purpose of the intended displacement. Something, therefore, must necessitate the opening up of connections in the direction of the recent but indifferent impression; this impression must possess some quality that gives it a special fitness. Otherwise it would be just as easy for the dream-thoughts to shift their accentuation to some inessential component of their own sphere of ideas.

Experiences such as the following show us the way to an explanation: If the day has brought us two or more experiences which are worthy to evoke a dream, the dream will blend the allusion of both into a single whole: it obeys a compulsion to make them into a single whole. For example: One summer afternoon I entered a railway carriage in which I found two acquaintances of mine who were unknown to one another. One of them was an influential colleague, the other a member of a distinguished family which I had been attending in my professional capacity. I introduced the two gentlemen to each other; but during the long journey they conversed with each other through me, so that I had to discuss this or that topic now with one, now with the other. I asked my colleague to recommend a mutual acquaintance who had just begun to practise as a physician. He replied that he was convinced of the young man's ability, but that his undistinguished appearance would make it difficult for him to obtain patients in the upper ranks of society. To this I rejoined: 'That is precisely why he needs recommendation.' A little later, turning to my other fellow-traveller, I inquired after the health of his aunt -- the mother of one of my patients -- who was at this time prostrated by a serious illness. On the night following this journey I dreamt that the young friend whom I had asked one of my companions to recommend was in a fashionable drawing-room, and with all the bearing of a man of the world was making -- before a distinguished company, in which I recognised all the rich and aristocratic persons of my acquaintance -- a funeral oration over the old lady (who in my dream had already died) who was the aunt of my second fellow traveller. (I confess frankly that I had not been on good terms with this lady.) Thus my dream had once more found the connection between the two impressions of the day, and by means of the two had constructed a unified situation.

In view of many similar experiences I am persuaded to advance the proposition that a dream works under a kind of compulsion which forces it to combine into a unified whole all the sources of dream-stimulation which are offered to it.[2] In a subsequent chapter (on the function of dreams) we shall consider this impulse of combination as part of the process of condensation, another primary psychic process.

I shall now consider the question whether the dream-exciting source to which our analysis leads us must always be a recent (and significant) event, or whether a subjective experience -- that is to say, the recollection of a psychologically significant event, a train of thought -- may assuem the role of a dream-stimulus. The very definite answer, derived from numerous analyses, is as follows: The stimulus of the dream may be a subjective transaction, which has been made recent, as it were, by the mental activity of the day.

And this is perhaps the best time to summarise in schematic form the different conditions under which the dream-sources are operative.

The source of a dream may be:

  • A recent and psychologically significant event which is directly represented in the dream.[3]
  • Several recent and significant events, which are combined by the dream into a single whole.[4]
  • One or more recent and significant events, which are represented in the dream-content by allusion to a contemporary but indifferent event.[5]
  • A subjectively significant experience (recollection, train of thought), which is constantly represented in the dream by allusion to a recent but indifferent impression.[6]

As may be seen, in dream-interpretation the condition is always fulfilled that one component of the dream-content repeats a recent impression of the day of the dream. The component which is destined to be represented in the dream may either belong to the same circle of ideas as the dream-stimulus itself (as an essential or even an inessential element of the same), or it may originate in the neighbourhood of an indifferent impression, which has been brought by more or less abundant associations into relation with the sphere of the dream-stimulus. The apparent multiplicity of these conditions results merely from the alternative, that a displacement has or has not occurred, and it may here be noted that this alternative enables us to explain the contrasts of the dream quite as readily as the medical theory of the dream explains the series of states from the partial to the complete waking of the brain cells.

In considering this series of sources we note further that the psychologically significant but not recent element (a train of thought, a recollection) may be replaced for the purposes of dream-formation by a recent but psychologically indifferent element, provided the two following conditions are fulfilled: (1) the dream-content preserves a connection with things recently experienced; (2) the dream-stimulus is still a psychologically significant event. In one single case (a) both these conditions are fulfilled by the same impression. If we now consider that these same indifferent impressions, which are utilised for the dream as long as they are recent, lose this qualification as soon as they are a day (or at most several days) older, we are obliged to assume that the very freshness of an impression gives it a certain psychological value for dream-formation, somewhat equivalent to the value of emotionally accentuated memories or trains of thought. Later on, in the light of certain psychological considerations, we shall be able to divine the explanation of this importance of recent impressions in dream-formation.[7]

Incidentally our attention is here called to the fact that at night, and unnoticed by our consciousness, important changes may occur in the material comprised by our ideas and memories. The injunction that before making a final decision in any matter one should sleep on it for a night is obviously fully justified. But at this point we find that we have passed from the psychology of dreaming to the psychology of sleep, a step which there will often be occasion to take.

At this point there arises an objection which threatens to invalidate the conclusions at which we have just arrived. If indifferent impressions can find their way into the dream only so long as they are of recent origin, how does it happen that in the dream-content we find elements also from earlier periods of our lives, which at the time when they were still recent possessed, as Strümpell puts it, no psychic value, and which, therefore, ought to have been forgotten long ago; elements, that is, which are neither fresh nor psychologically significant?

This objection can be disposed of completely if we have recourse to the results of the psychoanalysis of neurotics. The solution is as follows: The process of shifting and rearrangement which replaces material of psychic significance by material which is indifferent (whether one is dreaming or thinking) has already taken place in these earlier periods of life, and has since become fixed in the memory. Those elements which were originally indifferent are in fact no longer so, since they have acquired the value of psychologically significant material. That which has actually remained indifferent can never be reproduced in the dream.

From the foregoing exposition the reader may rightly conclude that I assert that there are no indifferent dream-stimuli, and therefore no guileless dreams. This I absolutely and unconditionally believe to be the case, apart from the dreams of children, and perhaps the brief dream-reactions to nocturnal sensations. Apart from these exceptions, whatever one dreams is either plainly recognisable as being psychically significant, or it is distorted and can be judged correctly only after complete interpretation, when it proves after all to be of psychic significance. The dream never concerns itself with trifles; we do not allow sleep to be disturbed by trivialities.[8] Dreams which are apparently guileless turn out to be the reverse of innocent if one takes the trouble to interpret them; if I may be permitted the expression, they all show 'the mark of the beast'. Since this is another point on which I may expect contradiction, and since I am glad of an opportunity to show dream-distortion at work, I shall here subject to analysis a number of 'guileless dreams' from my collection.

Dream 1

An intelligent and refined young woman, who in real life is distinctly reserved, one of those people of whom one says that 'still waters run deep', relates the following dream: 'I dreamt that I arrived at the market too late, and could get nothing from either the butcher or the greengrocer woman.' Surely a guileless dream, but as it has not the appearance of a real dream I induce her to relate it in detail. Her report then runs as follows: She goes to the market with her cook, who carries the basket. The butcher tells her, after she has asked him for something: 'That is no longer to be obtained,' and wants to give her something else, with the remark: 'That is good, too.' She refuses, and goes to the greengrocer woman. The latter tries to sell her a peculiar vegetable, which is bound up in bundles, and is black in colour. She says: 'I don't know that, I won't take it.'

The connection of the dream with the preceding day is simple enough. She had really gone to the market too late, and had been unable to buy anything. The meat-shop was already closed, comes into one's mind as a description of the experience. But wait, is not that a very vulgar phrase which -- or rather, the opposite of which -- denotes a certain neglect with regard to a man's clothing?[9] The dreamer has not used these words; she has perhaps avoided them; but let us look for the interpretation of the details contained in the dream.

When in a dream something has the character of a spoken utterance -- that is, when it is said or heard, not merely thought -- and the distinction can usually be made with certainty -- then it originates in the utterances of waking life, which have, of course, been treated as raw material, dismembered, and slightly altered, and above all removed from their context.[10] In the work of interpretation we may take such utterances as our starting point. Where, then, does the butcher's statement, That is no longer to be obtained, come from? From myself; I had explained to her some days previously 'that the oldest experiences of childhood are no longer to be obtained as such, but will be replaced in the analysis by ''transferences'' and dreams.' Thus, I am the butcher; and she refuses to accept these transferences to the present of old ways of thinking and feeling. Where does her dream utterance, I don't know that, I won't take it, come from? For the purposes of the analysis this has to be dissected. 'I don't know that, she herself had said to her cook, with whom she had a dispute on the previous day, but she had then added: Behave yourself decently. Here a displacement is palpable; of the two sentences which she spoke to her cook, she included the insignificant one in her dream; but the suppressed sentence, 'Behave yourself decently!' alone fits in with the rest of the dream-content. One might use the words to a man who was making indecent overtures, and had neglected 'to close his meat-shop'. That we have really hit upon the trail of the interpretation is proved by its agreement with the allusions made by the incident with the greengrocer woman. A vegetable which is sold tied up in bundles (a longish vegetable, as she subsequently adds), and is also black; what can this be but a dream-combination of asparagus and black radish? I need not interpret asparagus to the initiated; and the other vegetable, too (think of the exclamation: 'Blacky, save yourself!'), seems to me to point to the sexual theme at which we guessed in the beginning, when we wanted to replace the story of the dream by 'the meat-shop is closed'. We are not here concerned with the full meaning of the dream; so much is certain, that it is full of meaning and by no means guileless.[11]

Dream 2

Another guileless dream of the same patient, which in some respects is a pendant to the above. Her husband asks her: 'Oughtn't we to have the piano tuned?' She replies: 'It's not worth while, the hammers would have to be rebuffed as well.' Again we have the reproduction of an actual event of the preceding day. Her husband had asked her such a question, and she had answered it in such words. But what is the meaning of her dreaming it? She says of the piano that it is a disgusting old box which has a bad tone; it belonged to her husband before they were married,[12] etc., but the key to the true solution lies in the phrase: It isn't worth while. This has its origin in a call paid yesterday to a woman friend. She was asked to take off her coat, but declined, saying: 'Thanks, it isn't worth while, I must go in a moment.' At this point I recall that yesterday, during the analysis, she suddenly took hold of her coat, of which a button had come undone. It was as though she meant to say: 'Please don't look in, it isn't worth while.' Thus box becomes chest, and the interpretation of the dream leads to the years when she was growing out of her childhood, when she began to be dissatisfied with her figure. It leads us back, indeed, to earlier periods, if we take into consideration the disgusting and the bad tone, and remember how often in allusions and in dreams the two small hemispheres of the female body take the place -- as a substitute and an antithesis -- of the large ones.

Dream 3

I will interrupt the analysis of this dreamer in order to insert a short, innocent dream which was dreamed by a young man. He dreamt that he was putting on his winter overcoat again; this was terrible. The occasion for this dream is apparently the sudden advent of cold weather. On more careful examination we note that the two brief fragments of the dream do not fit together very well, for what could be terrible about wearing a thick or heavy coat in cold weather? Unfortunately for the innocency of this dream, the first association, under analysis, yields the recollection that yesterday a lady had confidentially confessed to him that her last child owed its existence to the splitting of a condom. He now reconstructs his thoughts in accordance with this suggestion: A thin condom is dangerous, a thick one is bad. The condom is a 'pullover' (überzieher = literally pullover), for it is pulled over something: and überzieher is the German term for a light overcoat. An experience like that related by the lady would indeed be 'terrible' for an unmarried man.

We will now return to our other innocent dreamer.

Dream 4

She puts a candle into a candlestick; but the candle is broken, so that it does not stand up. The girls at school say she is clumsy; but she replies that it is not her fault.

Here, too, there is an actual occasion for the dream; the day before she had actually put a candle into a candlestick; but this one was not broken. An obvious symbolism has here been employed. The candle is an object which excites the female genitals; its being broken, so that it does not stand upright, signifies impotence on the man's part (it is not her fault). But does this young woman, carefully brought up, and a stranger to all obscenity, know of such an application of the candle? By chance she is able to tell how she came by this information. While paddling a canoe on the Rhine, a boat passed her which contained some students, who were singing rapturously, or rather yelling: 'When the Queen of Sweden, behind closed shutters, with the candles of Apollo . . .'

She does not hear or else understand the last word. Her husband was asked to give her the required explanation. These verses are then replaced in the dream-content by the innocent recollection of a task which she once performed clumsily at her boarding-school, because of the closed shutters. The connection between the theme of masturbation and that of impotence is clear enough. 'Apollo' in the latent dream-content connects this dream with an earlier one in which the virgin Pallas figured. All this is obviously not innocent.

Dream 5

Lest it may seem too easy a matter to draw conclusions from dreams concerning the dreamer's real circumstances, I add another dream originating with the same person, which once more appears innocent. 'I dreamt of doing something,' she relates, 'which I actually did during the day, that is to say, I filled a little trunk so full of books that I had difficulty in closing it. My dream was just like the actual occurrence.' Here the dreamer herself emphasises the correspondence between the dream and the reality. All such criticisms of the dream, and comments on the dream, although they have found a place in the waking thoughts, properly belong to the latent dream-content, as further examples will confirm. We are told, then, that what the dream relates has actually occurred during the day. It would take us too far afield to show how we arrive at the idea of making use of the English language to help us in the interpretation of this dream. Suffice it to say that it is again a question of a little box (cf. p. 62, the dream of the dead child in the box) which has been filled so full that nothing can go into it.

In all these 'innocent' dreams the sexual factor as the motive of the censorship is very prominent. But this is a subject of primary significance, which we must consider later.

[1]cf. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.

[2]The tendency of the dream at work to blend everything present of interest into a single transaction has already been noticed by several authors, for instance, by Delage and Delboeuf.

[3]The dream of Irma's injection; the dream of the friend who is my uncle.

[4]The dream of the funeral oration delivered by the young physician.

[5]The dream of the botanical monograph.

[6]The dreams of my patients during analysis are mostly of this kind.

[7]cf. Chapter Seven on Transference.

[8]Havelock Ellis, a kindly critic of The Interpretation of Dreams, writes in The World of Dreams (p. 169): 'From this point on, not many of us will be able to follow F.' But Mr Ellis has not undertaken any analyses of dreams, and will not believe how unjustifiable it is to judge them by the manifest dream-content.

[9]Its meaning is: 'Your fly is undone.' (TRANS.)

[10]cf. what is said of speech in dreams in the chapter on The Dream-Work. Only one of the writers on the subject -- Delboeuf -- seems to have recognised the origin of the speeches heard in dreams, he compares them with cliches.

[11]For the curious, I may remark that behind the dream there is hidden a fantasy of indecent, sexually provoking conduct on my part, and of repulsion on the part of the lady. If this interpretation should seem preposterous, I would remind the reader of the numerous cases in which physicians have been made the object of such charges by hysterical women, with whom the same fantasy has not appeared in a distorted form as a dream, but has become undisguisedly conscious and delusional. -- With this dream the patient began her psychoanalytical treatment. It was only later that I learned that with this dream she repeated the initial trauma in which her neurosis originated, and since then I have noticed the same behaviour in other persons who in their childhood were victims of sexual attacks, and now, as it were, wish in their dreams for them to be repeated.

[12]A substitute by the opposite, as will be clear after analysis.


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