Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, Chapter 5D
D -- TYPICAL DREAMS
Generally speaking, we are not in a position to interpret another person's dream if he is unwilling to furnish us with the unconscious thoughts which lie behind the dream-content, and for this reason the practical applicability of our method of dream-interpretation is often seriously restricted. But there are dreams which exhibit a complete contrast to the individual's customary liberty to endow his dream-world with a special individuality, thereby making it inaccessible to an alien understanding: there are a number of dreams which almost everyone has dreamed in the same manner, and of which we are accustomed to assume that they have the same significance in the case of every dreamer. A peculiar interest attaches to these typical dreams, because, no matter who dreams them, they presumably all derive from the same sources, so that they would seem to be particularly fitted to provide us with information as to the sources of dreams.
With quite special expectations, therefore, we shall proceed to test our technique of dream-interpretation on these typical dreams, and only with extreme reluctance shall we admit that precisely in respect of this material our method is not fully verified. In the interpretation of typical dreams we as a rule fail to obtain those associations from the dreamer which in other cases have led us to comprehension of the dream, or else these associations are confused and inadequate, so that they do not help us to solve our problem.
Why this is the case, and how we can remedy this defect in our technique, are points which will be discussed in a later chapter. The reader will then understand why I can deal with only a few of the group of typical dreams in this chapter, and why I have postponed the discussion of the others.
(a) The Embarrassment-Dream of Nakedness
In a dream in which one is naked or scantily clad in the presence of strangers, it sometimes happens that one is not in the least ashamed of one's condition. But the dream of nakedness demands our attention only when shame and embarrassment are felt in it, when one wishes to escape or to hide, and when one feels the strange inhibition of being unable to stir from the spot, and of being utterly powerless to alter the painful situation. It is only in this connection that the dream is typical; otherwise the nucleus of its content may be involved in all sorts of other connections, or may be replaced by individual amplifications. The essential point is that one has a painful feeling of shame, and is anxious to hide one's nakedness, usually by means of locomotion, but is absolutely unable to do so. I believe that the great majority of my readers will at some time have found themselves in this situation in a dream.
The nature and manner of the exposure is usually rather vague. The dreamer will say, perhaps, 'I was in my chemise', but this is rarely a clear image; in most cases the lack of clothing is so indeterminate that it is described in narrating the dream by an alternative: 'I was in my chemise or my petticoat.' As a rule the deficiency in clothing is not serious enough to justify the feeling of shame attached to it. For a man who has served in the army, nakedness is often replaced by a manner of dressing that is contrary to regulations. 'I was in the street without my sabre, and I saw some officers approaching', or 'I had no collar', or 'I was wearing checked civilian trousers', etc.
The persons before whom one is ashamed are almost always strangers, whose faces remain indeterminate. It never happens, in the typical dream, that one is reproved or even noticed on account of the lack of clothing which causes one such embarrassment. On the contrary, the people in the dream appear to be quite indifferent; or, as I was able to note in one particularly vivid dream, they have stiff and solemn expressions. This gives us food for thought.
The dreamer's embarrassment and the spectator's indifference constitute a contradiction such as often occurs in dreams. It would be more in keeping with the dreamer's feelings if the strangers were to look at him in astonishment, or were to laugh at him, or be outraged. I think, however, that this obnoxious feature has been displaced by wish-fulfilment, while the embarrassment is for some reason retained, so that the two components are not in agreement. We have an interesting proof that the dream which is partially distorted by wish-fulfilment has not been properly understood; for it has been made the basis of a fairy-tale familiar to us all in Andersen's version of 'The Emperor's New Clothes', and it has more recently received poetical treatment by Fulda in The Talisman. In Andersen's fairy-tale we are told of two impostors who weave a costly garment for the Emperor, which shall, however, be visible only to the good and true. The Emperor goes forth clad in this invisible garment, and since the imaginary fabric serves as a sort of touchstone, the people are frightened into behaving as though they did not notice the Emperor's nakedness.
But this is really the situation in our dream. It is not very venturesome to assume that the unintelligible dream-content has provided an incentive to invent a state of undress which gives meaning to the situation present in the memory. This situation is thereby robbed of its original meaning, and made to serve alien ends. But we shall see that such a misunderstanding of the dream-content often occurs through the conscious activity of a second psychic system, and is to be recognised as a factor of the final form of the dream; and further, that in the development of obsessions and phobias similar misunderstandings -- still, of course, within the same psychic personality -- play a decisive part. It is even possible to specify whence the material for the fresh interpretation of the dream is taken. The impostor is the dream, the Emperor is the dreamer himself, and the moralising tendency betrays a hazy knowledge of the fact that there is a question, in the latent dream-content, of forbidden wishes, victims of repression. The connection in which such dreams appear during my analyses of neurotics proves beyond a doubt that a memory of the dreamer's earliest childhood lies at the foundation of the dream. Only in our childhood was there a time when we were seen by our relatives, as well as by strange nurses, servants and visitors, in a state of insufficient clothing, and at that time we were not ashamed of our nakedness. In the case of many rather older children it may be observed that being undressed has an exciting effect upon them, instead of making them feel ashamed. They laugh, leap about, slap or thump their own bodies; the mother, or whoever is present, scolds them, saying: 'Fie, that is shameful -- you mustn't do that!' Children often show a desire to display themselves; it is hardly possible to pass through a village in country districts without meeting a two- or three-year-old child who lifts up his or her blouse or frock before the traveller, possibly in his honour. One of my patients has retained in his conscious memory a scene from his eighth year, in which, after undressing for bed, he wanted to dance into his little sister's room in his shirt, but was prevented by the servant. In the history of the childhood of neurotics exposure before children of the opposite sex plays a prominent part; in paranoia the delusion of being observed while dressing and undressing may be directly traced to these experiences; and among those who have remained perverse there is a class in whom the childish impulse is accentuated into a symptom: the class of exhibitionists.
This age of childhood, in which the sense of shame is unknown, seems a paradise when we look back upon it later, and paradise itself is nothing but the mass-fantasy of the childhood of the individual. This is why in paradise men are naked and unashamed, until the moment arrives when shame and fear awaken; expulsion follows, and sexual life and cultural development begin. Into this paradise dreams can take us back every night; we have already ventured the conjecture that the impressions of our earliest childhood (from the prehistoric period until about the end of the third year) crave reproduction for their own sake, perhaps without further reference to their content, so that their repetition is a wish-fulfilment. Dreams of nakedness, then, are exhibition-dreams.
The nucleus of an exhibition-dream is furnished by one's own person, which is seen not as that of a child, but as it exists in the present, and by the idea of scanty clothing which emerges indistinctly, owing to the superimposition of so many later situations of being partially clothed, or out of consideration for the censorship; to these elements are added the persons in whose presence one is ashamed. I know of no example in which the actual spectators of these infantile exhibitions reappear in a dream; for a dream is hardly ever a simple recollection. Strangely enough, those persons who are the objects of our sexual interest in childhood are omitted from all reproductions, in dreams, in hysteria or in obsessional neurosis; paranoia alone restores the spectators, and is fanatically convinced of their presence, although they remain unseen. The substitute for these persons offered by the dream, the 'number of strangers' who take no notice of the spectacle offered them, is precisely the counter-wish to that single intimately-known person for whom the exposure was intended. 'A number of strangers', moreover, often occur in dreams in all sorts of other connections; as a counter-wish they always signify 'a secret'. It will be seen that even that restitution of the old state of affairs that occurs in paranoia complies with this counter-tendency. One is no longer alone; one is quite positively being watched; but the spectators are 'a number of strange, curiously indeterminate people.'
Furthermore, repression finds a place in the exhibition-dream. For the disagreeable sensation of the dream is, of course, the reaction on the part of the second psychic instance to the fact that the exhibitionistic scene which has been condemned by the censorship has nevertheless succeeded in presenting itself. The only way to avoid this sensation would be to refrain from reviving the scene.
In a later chapter we shall deal once again with the feeling of inhibition. In our dreams it represents to perfection a conflict of the will, a denial. According to our unconscious purpose, the exhibition is to proceed; according to the demands of the censorship, it is to come to an end.
The relation of our typical dreams to fairy-tales and other fiction and poetry is neither sporadic nor accidental. Sometimes the penetrating insight of the poet has analytically recognised the process of transformation of which the poet is otherwise the instrument, and has followed it up in the reverse direction; that is to say, has traced a poem to a dream. A friend has called my attention to the following passage in G. Keller's Der Grüne Heinrich: 'I do not wish, dear Lee, that you should ever come to realise from experience the exquisite and piquant truth in the situation of Odysseus, when he appears, naked and covered with mud, before Nausicaa and her playmates! Would you like to know what it means? Let us for a moment consider the incident closely. If you are ever parted from your home, and from all that is dear to you, and wander about in a strange country; if you have seen much and experienced much; if you have cares and sorrows, and are, perhaps, utterly wretched and forlorn, you will some night inevitably dream that you are approaching your home; you will see it shining and glittering in the loveliest colours; lovely and gracious figures will come to meet you; and then you will suddenly discover that you are ragged, naked, and covered with dust. An indescribable feeling of shame and fear overcomes you; you try to cover yourself, to hide, and you wake up bathed in sweat. As long as humanity exists, this will be the dream of the care-laden, tempest-tossed man, and thus Homer has drawn this situation from the profoundest depths of the eternal nature of humanity.'
What are the profoundest depths of the eternal nature of humanity, which the poet commonly hopes to awaken in his listeners, but these stirrings of the psychic life which are rooted in that age of childhood, which subsequently become prehistoric? Childish wishes, now suppressed and forbidden, break into the dream behind the unobjectionable and permissibly conscious wishes of the homeless man, and it is for this reason that the dream which is objectified in the legend of Nausicaa regularly develops into an anxiety-dream.
My own dream of hurrying upstairs, which presently changed into being glued to the stairs, is likewise an exhibition-dream, for it reveals the essential ingredients of such a dream. It must therefore be possible to trace it back to experiences in my childhood, and the knowledge of these should enable us to conclude how far the servant's behaviour to me (i.e. her reproach that I had soiled the carpet) helped her to secure the position which she occupies in the dream. Now I am actually able to furnish the desired explanation. One learns in a psychoanalysis to interpret temporal proximity by material connection; two ideas which are apparently without connection, but which occur in immediate succession, belong to a unity which has to be deciphered; just as an a and a b, when written in succession, must be pronounced as one syllable, ab. It is just the same with the interrelations of dreams. The dream of the stairs has been taken from a series of dreams with whose other members I am familiar, having interpreted them. A dream included in this series must belong to the same context. Now, the other dreams of the series are based on the memory of a nurse to whom I was entrusted for a season, from the time when I was still at the breast to the age of two and a half, and of whom a hazy recollection has remained in my consciousness. According to information which I recently obtained from my mother, she was old and ugly, but very intelligent and thorough; according to the inferences which I am justified in drawing from my dreams, she did not always treat me quite kindly, but spoke harshly to me when I showed insufficient understanding of the necessity for cleanliness. Inasmuch as the maid endeavoured to continue my education in this respect, she is entitled to be treated, in my dream, as an incarnation of the prehistoric old woman. It is to be assumed, of course, that the child was fond of his teacher in spite of her harsh behaviour.
(b) Dreams of the Death of Beloved Persons
Another series of dreams which may be called typical are those whose content is that a beloved relative, a parent, brother, sister, child, or the like, has died. We must at once distinguish two classes of such dreams: those in which the dreamer remains unmoved, and those in which he feels profoundly grieved by the death of the beloved person, even expressing this grief by shedding tears in his sleep.
We may ignore the dreams of the first group; they have no claim to be reckoned as typical. If they are analysed, it is found that they signify something that is not contained in them, that they are intended to mask another wish of some kind. This is the case in the dream of the aunt who sees the only son of her sister lying on a bier (p. 60). The dream does not mean that she desires the death of her little nephew; as we have learned, it merely conceals the wish to see a certain beloved person again after a long separation -- the same person whom she had seen after as long an interval at the funeral of another nephew. This wish, which is the real content of the dream, gives no cause for sorrow, and for that reason no sorrow is felt in the dream. We see here that the feeling contained in the dream does not belong to the manifest, but to the latent dream-content, and that the affective content has remained free from the distortion which has befallen the conceptual content.
It is otherwise with those dreams in which the death of a beloved relative is imagined, and in which a painful affect is felt. These signify, as their content tells us, the wish that the person in question might die; and since I may here expect that the feelings of all my readers and of all who have had such dreams will lead them to reject my explanation, I must endeavour to rest my proof on the broadest possible basis.
We have already cited a dream from which we could see that the wishes represented as fulfilled in dreams are not always current wishes. They may also be bygone, discarded, buried and repressed wishes, which we must nevertheless credit with a sort of continued existence, merely on account of their reappearance in a dream. They are not dead, like persons who have died, in the sense that we know death, but are rather like the shades in the Odyssey which awaken to a certain degree of life so soon as they have drunk blood. The dream of the dead child in the box (p. 62) contained a wish that had been present fifteen years earlier, and which had at that time been frankly admitted as real. Further -- and this, perhaps, is not unimportant from the standpoint of the theory of dreams -- a recollection from the dreamer's earliest childhood was at the root of this wish also. When the dreamer was a little child -- but exactly when cannot be definitely determined -- she heard that her mother, during the pregnancy of which she was the outcome, had fallen into a profound emotional depression, and had passionately wished for the death of the child in her womb. Having herself grown up and become pregnant, she was only following the example of her mother.
If anyone dreams that his father or mother, his brother or sister, has died, and his dream expresses grief, I should never adduce this as proof that he wishes any of them dead now. The theory of dreams does not go as far as to require this; it is satisfied with concluding that the dreamer has wished them dead at some time or other during his childhood. I fear, however, that this limitation will not go far to appease my critics; probably they will just as energetically deny the possibility that they ever had such thoughts, as they protest that they do not harbour them now. I must, therefore, reconstruct a portion of the submerged infantile psychology on the basis of the evidence of the present.
Let us first of all consider the relation of children to their brothers and sisters. I do not know why we presuppose that it must be a loving one, since examples of enmity among adult brothers and sisters are frequent in everyone's experience, and since we are so often able to verify the fact that this estrangement originated during childhood, or has always existed. Moreover, many adults who today are devoted to their brothers and sisters, and support them in adversity, lived with them in almost continuous enmity during their childhood. The elder child ill-treated the younger, slandered him, and robbed him of his toys; the younger was consumed with helpless fury against the elder, envied and feared him, or his earliest impulse toward liberty and his first revolt against injustice were directed against his oppressor. The parents say that the children do not agree, and cannot find the reason for it. It is not difficult to see that the character even of a well-behaved child is not the character we should wish to find in an adult. A child is absolutely egoistical; he feels his wants acutely, and strives remorselessly to satisfy them, especially against his competitors, other children, and first of all against his brothers and sisters. And yet we do not on that account call a child 'wicked' -- we call him 'naughty'; he is not responsible for his misdeeds, either in our own judgment or in the eyes of the law. And this is as it should be; for we may expect that within the very period of life which we reckon as childhood, altruistic impulses and morality will awake in the little egoist, and that, in the words of Meynert, a secondary ego will overlay and inhibit the primary ego. Morality, of course, does not develop simultaneously in all its departments, and furthermore, the duration of the amoral period of childhood differs in different individuals. Where this morality fails to develop we are prone to speak of 'degeneration'; but here the case is obviously one of arrested development. Where the primary character is already overlaid by the later development it may be at least partially uncovered again by an attack of hysteria. The correspondence between the so-called hysterical character and that of a naughty child is positively striking. The obsessional neurosis, on the other hand, corresponds to a super-morality, which develops as a strong reinforcement against the primary character that is threatening to revive.
Many persons, then, who now love their brothers and sisters, and who would feel bereaved by their death, harbour in their unconscious hostile wishes, survivals from an earlier period, wishes which are able to realise themselves in dreams. It is, however, quite especially interesting to observe the behaviour of little children up to their third and fourth year towards their younger brothers or sisters. So far the child has been the only one; now he is informed that the stork has brought a new baby. The child inspects the new arrival, and expresses his opinion with decision: 'The stork had better take it back again!'
I seriously declare it as my opinion that a child is able to estimate the disadvantages which he has to expect on account of a newcomer. A connection of mine, who now gets on very well with a sister, who is four years her junior, responded to the news of this sister's arrival with the reservation: 'But I shan't give her my red cap, anyhow.' If the child should come to realise only at a later stage that its happiness may be prejudiced by a younger brother or sister, its enmity will be aroused at this period. I know of a case where a girl, not three years of age, tried to strangle an infant in its cradle, because she suspected that its continued presence boded her no good. Children at this time of life are capable of a jealousy that is perfectly evident and extremely intense. Again, perhaps the little brother or sister really soon disappears, and the child once more draws to himself the whole affection of the household; then a new child is sent by the stork; is it not natural that the favourite should conceive the wish that the new rival may meet the same fate as the earlier one, in order that he may be as happy as he was before the birth of the first child, and during the interval after his death? Of course, this attitude of the child towards the younger brother or sister is, under normal circumstances, a mere function of the difference of age. After a certain interval the maternal instincts of the older girl will be awakened towards the helpless new-born infant.
Feelings of hostility towards brothers and sisters must occur far more frequently in children than is observed by their obtuse elders.
In the case of my own children, who followed one another rapidly, I missed the opportunity of making such observations. I am now retrieving it, thanks to my little nephew, whose undisputed domination was disturbed after fifteen months by the arrival of a feminine rival. I hear, it is true, that the young man behaves very chivalrously toward his little sister, that he kisses her hand and strokes her; but in spite of this I have convinced myself that even before the completion of his second year he is using his new command of language to criticise this person, who, to him, after all, seems superfluous. Whenever the conversation turns upon her he chimes in, and cries angrily: 'Too (l)ittle, too (l)ittle!' During the last few months, since the child has outgrown this disparagement, owing to her splendid development, he has found another reason for his insistence that she does not deserve so much attention. He reminds us, on every suitable pretext: 'She hasn't any teeth.' We all of us recollect the case of the eldest daughter of another sister of mine. The child, who was then six years of age, spent a full half-hour in going from one aunt to another with the question: 'Lucie can't understand that yet, can she?' Lucie was her rival -- two and a half years younger.
I have never failed to come across this dream of the death of brothers or sisters, denoting an intense hostility, e.g. I have met it in all my female patients. I have met with only one exception, which could easily be interpreted into a confirmation of the rule. Once, in the course of a sitting, when I was explaining this state of affairs to a female patient, since it seemed to have some bearing on the symptoms under consideration that day, she answered, to my astonishment, that she had never had such dreams. But another dream occurred to her, which presumably had nothing to do with the case -- a dream which she had first dreamed at the age of four, when she was the youngest child, and had since then dreamed repeatedly. 'A number of children, all her brothers and sisters with her boy and girl cousins, were romping about in a meadow. Suddenly they all grew wings, flew up, and were gone.' She had no idea of the significance of this dream; but we can hardly fail to recognise it as a dream of the death of all the brothers and sisters, in its original form, and but little influenced by the censorship. I will venture to add the following analysis of it: on the death of one out of this large number of children -- in this case the children of two brothers were brought up together as brothers and sisters -- would not our dreamer, at that time not yet four years of age, have asked some wise, grown-up person: 'What becomes of children when they are dead?' The answer would probably have been: 'They grow wings and become angels.' After this explanation, all the brothers and sisters and cousins in the dream now have wings, like angels and -- this is the important point -- they fly away. Our little angel-maker is left alone: just think, the only one out of such a crowd! That the children romp about a meadow, from which they fly away, points almost certainly to butterflies -- it is as though the child had been influenced by the same association of ideas which led the ancients to imagine Psyche, the soul, with the wings of a butterfly.
Perhaps some readers will now object that the inimical impulses of children toward their brothers and sisters may perhaps be admitted, but how does the childish character arrive at such heights of wickedness as to desire the death of a rival or a stronger playmate, as though all misdeeds could be atoned for only by death? Those who speak in this fashion forget that the child's idea of 'being dead' has little but the word in common with our own. The child knows nothing of the horrors of decay, of shivering in the cold grave, of the terror of the infinite Nothing, the thought of which the adult, as all the myths of the hereafter testify, finds so intolerable. The fear of death is alien to the child; and so he plays with the horrid word, and threatens another child: 'If you do that again, you will die, just like Francis died'; at which the poor mother shudders, unable perhaps to forget that the greater proportion of mortals do not survive beyond the years of childhood. Even at the age of eight, a child returning from a visit to a natural history museum may say to her mother: 'Mamma, I do love you so; if you ever die, I am going to have you stuffed and set you up here in the room, so that I can always, always see you!' So different from our own is the childish conception of being dead.
Being dead means, for the child, who has been spared the sight of the suffering that precedes death, much the same as 'being gone', and ceasing to annoy the survivors. The child does not distinguish the means by which this absence is brought about, whether by distance, or estrangement, or death. If, during the child's prehistoric years, a nurse has been dismissed, and if his mother dies a little while later, the two experiences, as we discover by analysis, form links of a chain in his memory. The fact that the child does not very intensely miss those who are absent has been realised, to her sorrow, by many a mother, when she has returned home from an absence of several weeks, and has been told, upon inquiry: 'The children have not asked for their mother once.' But if she really departs to 'that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns', the children seem at first to have forgotten her, and only subsequently do they begin to remember their dead mother.
While, therefore, the child has its motives for desiring the absence of another child, it is lacking in all those restraints which would prevent it from clothing this wish in the form of a death-wish; and the psychic reaction to dreams of a death-wish proves that, in spite of all the differences of content, the wish in the case of the child is after all identical with the corresponding wish in an adult.
If, then, the death-wish of a child in respect of his brothers and sisters is explained by his childish egoism, which makes him regard his brothers and sisters as rivals, how are we to account for the same wish in respect of his parents, who bestow their love on him, and satisfy his needs, and whose preservation he ought to desire for these very egoistical reasons?
Towards a solution of this difficulty we may be guided by our knowledge that the very great majority of dreams of the death of a parent refer to the parent of the same sex as the dreamer, so that a man generally dreams of the death of his father, and a woman of the death of her mother. I do not claim that this happens constantly; but that it happens in a great majority of cases is so evident that it requires explanation by some factor of general significance. Broadly speaking, it is as though a sexual preference made itself felt at an early age, as though the boy regarded his father, and the girl her mother, as a rival in love -- by whose removal he or she could but profit.
Before rejecting this idea as monstrous, let the reader again consider the actual relations between parents and children. We must distinguish between the traditional standard of conduct, the filial piety expected in this relation, and what daily observation shows us to be the fact. More than one occasion for enmity lies hidden amidst the relations of parents and children; conditions are present in the greatest abundance under which wishes which cannot pass the censorship are bound to arise. Let us first consider the relation between father and son. In my opinion the sanctity with which we have endorsed the injunctions of the Decalogue dulls our perception of the reality. Perhaps we hardly dare permit ourselves to perceive that the greater part of humanity neglects to obey the fifth commandment. In the lowest as well as in the highest strata of human society, filial piety towards parents is wont to recede before other interests. The obscure legends which have been handed down to us from the primeval ages of human society in mythology and folklore give a deplorable idea of the despotic power of the father, and the ruthlessness with which it was exercised. Kronos devours his children, as the wild boar devours the litter of the sow; Zeus emasculates his father and takes his place as ruler. The more tyrannically the father ruled in the ancient family, the more surely must the son, as his appointed successor, have assumed the position of an enemy, and the greater must have been his impatience to attain to supremacy through the death of his father. Even in our own middle-class families the father commonly fosters the growth of the germ of hatred which is naturally inherent in the paternal relation, by refusing to allow the son to be a free agent or by denying him the means of becoming so. A physician often has occasion to remark that a son's grief at the loss of his father cannot quench his gratification that he has at last obtained his freedom. Fathers, as a rule, cling desperately to as much of the sadly antiquated potestas patris familias as still survives in our modern society, and the poet who, like Ibsen, puts the immemorial strife between father and son in the foreground of his drama is sure of his effect. The causes of conflict between mother and daughter arise when the daughter grows up and finds herself watched by her mother when she longs for real sexual freedom, while the mother is reminded by the budding beauty of her daughter that for her the time has come to renounce sexual claims.
All these circumstances are obvious to everyone, but they do not help us to explain dreams of the death of their parents in persons for whom filial piety has long since come to be unquestionable. We are, however, preparing by the foregoing discussion to look for the origin of a death-wish in the earliest years of childhood.
In the case of psychoneurotics, analysis confirms this conjecture beyond all doubt. For analysis tells us that the sexual wishes of the child -- in so far as they deserve this designation in their nascent state -- awaken at a very early age, and that the earliest affection of the girl-child is lavished on the father, while the earliest infantile desires of the boy are directed upon the mother. For the boy the father, and for the girl the mother, becomes an obnoxious rival, and we have already shown, in the case of brothers and sisters, how readily in children this feeling leads to the death-wish. As a general rule, sexual selection soon makes its appearance in the parent; it is a natural tendency for the father to spoil his little daughters, and for the mother to take the part of the sons, while both, so long as the glamour of sex does not prejudice their judgment, are strict in training the children. The child is perfectly conscious of this partiality, and offers resistance to the parent who opposes it. To find love in an adult is for the child not merely the satisfaction of a special need; it means also that the child's will is indulged in all other respects. Thus the child is obeying its own sexual instinct, and at the same time reinforcing the stimulus proceeding from the parents, when its choice between the parents corresponds with their own.
The signs of these infantile tendencies are for the most part overlooked; and yet some of them may be observed even after the early years of childhood. An eight-year-old girl of my acquaintance, whenever her mother is called away from the table, takes advantage of her absence to proclaim herself her successor. 'Now I shall be Mamma; Karl, do you want some more vegetables? Have some more, do,' etc. A particularly clever and lively little girl, not yet four years of age, in whom this trait of child psychology is unusually transparent, says frankly: 'Now mummy can go away; then daddy must marry me, and I will be his wife.' Nor does this wish by any means exclude the possibility that the child may most tenderly love its mother. If the little boy is allowed to sleep at his mother's side whenever his father goes on a journey, and if after his father's return he has to go back to the nursery, to a person whom he likes far less, the wish may readily arise that his father might always be absent, so that he might keep his place beside his dear, beautiful mamma; and the father's death is obviously a means for the attainment of this wish; for the child's experience has taught him that 'dead' folks, like grandpapa, for example, are always absent; they never come back.
While such observations of young children readily accommodate themselves to the interpretation suggested, they do not, it is true, carry the complete conviction which is forced upon a physician by the psychoanalysis of adult neurotics. The dreams of neurotic patients are communicated with preliminaries of such a nature that their interpretation as wish-dreams becomes inevitable. One day I find a lady depressed and weeping. She says: 'I do not want to see my relatives any more; they must shudder at me.' Thereupon, almost without any transition, she tells me that she has remembered a dream, whose significance, of course, she does not understand. She dreamed it when she was four years old, and it was this: A fox or a lynx is walking about the roof; then something falls down, or she falls down, and after that, her mother is carried out of the house -- dead; whereat the dreamer weeps bitterly. I have no sooner informed her that this dream must signify a childish wish to see her mother dead, and that it is because of this dream that she thinks that her relatives must shudder at her, than she furnishes material in explanation of the dream. 'Lynx-eye' is an opprobrious epithet which a street boy once bestowed on her when she was a very small child; and when she was three years old a brick or tile fell on her mother's head, so that she bled profusely.
I once had occasion to make a thorough study of a young girl who was passing through various psychic states. In the state of frenzied confusion with which her illness began, the patient manifested a quite peculiar aversion for her mother; she struck her and abused her whenever she approached the bed, while at the same period she was affectionate and submissive to a much older sister. Then there followed a lucid but rather apathetic condition, with badly disturbed sleep. It was in this phase that I began to treat her and to analyse her dreams. An enormous number of these dealt, in a more or less veiled fashion, with the death of the girl's mother; now she was present at the funeral of an old woman, now she saw herself and her sister sitting at a table, dressed in mourning; the meaning of the dreams could not be doubted. During her progressive improvement hysterical phobias made their appearance, the most distressing of which was the fear that something had happened to her mother. Wherever she might be at the time, she had then to hurry home in order to convince herself that her mother was still alive. Now this case, considered in conjunction with the rest of my experience, was very instructive; it showed, in polyglot translations, as it were, the different ways in which the psychic apparatus reacts to the same exciting idea. In the state of confusion, which I regard as an overthrow of the second psychic instance by the first instance, at other times suppressed, the unconscious enmity towards the mother gained the upper hand, and found physical expression; then, when the patient became calmer, the insurrection was suppressed, and the domination of the censorship restored, and this enmity had access only to the realms of dreams, in which it realised the wish that the mother might die; and after the normal condition had been still further strengthened it created the excessive concern for the mother as a hysterical counter-reaction and defensive phenomenon. In the light of these considerations, it is no longer inexplicable why hysterical girls are so often extravagantly attached to their mothers.
On another occasion I had an opportunity of obtaining a profound insight into the unconscious psychic life of a young man for whom an obsessional neurosis made life almost unendurable, so that he could not go into the streets, because he was tormented by the fear that he would kill everyone he met. He spent his days in contriving evidence of an alibi in case he should be accused of any murder that might have been committed in the city. It goes without saying that this man was as moral as he was highly cultured. The analysis -- which, by the way, led to a cure -- revealed, as the basis of this distressing obsession, murderous impulses in respect of his rather over-strict father -- impulses which, to his astonishment, had consciously expressed themselves when he was seven years old, but which, of course, had originated in a much earlier period of his childhood. After the painful illness and death of his father, when the young man was in his thirty-first year, the obsessive reproach made its appearance, which transferred itself to strangers in the form of this phobia. Anyone capable of wishing to push his own father from a mountain-top into an abyss cannot be trusted to spare the lives of persons less closely related to him; he therefore does well to lock himself into his room.
According to my already extensive experience, parents play a leading part in the infantile psychology of all persons who subsequently become psychoneurotics. Falling in love with one parent and hating the other forms part of the permanent stock of the psychic impulses which arise in early childhood, and are of such importance as the material of the subsequent neurosis. But I do not believe that psychoneurotics are to be sharply distinguished in this respect from other persons who remain normal -- that is, I do not believe that they are capable of creating something absolutely new and peculiar to themselves. It is far more probable -- and this is confirmed by incidental observations of normal children -- that in their amorous or hostile attitude toward their parents, psychoneurotics do no more than reveal to us, by magnification, something that occurs less markedly and intensively in the minds of the majority of children. Antiquity has furnished us with legendary matter which corroborates this belief, and the profound and universal validity of the old legends is explicable only by an equally universal validity of the above-mentioned hypothesis of infantile psychology. I am referring to the legend of King Oedipus and the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles. Oedipus, the son of Laius, king of Thebes, and Jocasta, is exposed as a suckling, because an oracle had informed the father that his son, who was still unborn, would be his murderer. He is rescued, and grows up as a king's son at a foreign court, until, being uncertain of his origin, he, too, consults the oracle, and is warned to avoid his native place, for he is destined to become the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother. On the road leading away from his supposed home he meets King Laius, and in a sudden quarrel strikes him dead. He comes to Thebes, where he solves the riddle of the Sphinx, who is barring the way to the city, whereupon he is elected king by the grateful Thebans, and is rewarded with the hand of Jocasta. He reigns for many years in peace and honour, and begets two sons and two daughters upon his unknown mother, until at last a plague breaks out -- which causes the Thebans to consult the oracle anew. Here Sophocles' tragedy begins. The messengers bring the reply that the plague will stop as soon as the murderer of Laius is driven from the country. But where is he?Where shall be found, Faint, and hard to be known, the trace of the ancient guilt?
The action of the play consists simply in the disclosure, approached step by step and artistically delayed (and comparable to the work of a psychoanalysis) that Oedipus himself is the murderer of Laius, and that he is the son of the murdered man and Jocasta. Shocked by the abominable crime which he has unwittingly committed, Oedipus blinds himself, and departs from his native city. The prophecy of the oracle has been fulfilled.
The Oedipus Rex is a tragedy of fate; its tragic effect depends on the conflict between the all-powerful will of the gods and the vain efforts of human beings threatened with disaster; resignation to the divine will, and the perception of one's own impotence is the lesson which the deeply moved spectator is supposed to learn from the tragedy. Modern authors have therefore sought to achieve a similar tragic effect by expressing the same conflict in stories of their own invention. But the playgoers have looked on unmoved at the unavailing efforts of guiltless men to avert the fulfilment of curse or oracle; the modern tragedies of destiny have failed of their effect.
If the Oedipus Rex is capable of moving a modern reader or playgoer no less powerfully than it moved the contemporary Greeks, the only possible explanation is that the effect of the Greek tragedy does not depend upon the conflict between fate and human will, but upon the peculiar nature of the material by which this conflict is revealed. There must be a voice within us which is prepared to acknowledge the compelling power of fate in the Oedipus, while we are able to condemn the situations occurring in Die Ahnfrau or other tragedies of fate as arbitrary inventions. And there actually is a motive in the story of King Oedipus which explains the verdict of this inner voice. His fate moves us only because it might have been our own, because the oracle laid upon us before our birth the very curse which rested upon him. It may be that we were all destined to direct our first sexual impulses toward our mothers, and our first impulses of hatred and violence toward our fathers; our dreams convince us that we were. King Oedipus, who slew his father Laius and wedded his mother Jocasta, is nothing more or less than a wish-fulfilment -- the fulfilment of the wish of our childhood. But we, more fortunate than he, in so far as we have not become psychoneurotics, have since our childhood succeeded in withdrawing our sexual impulses from our mothers, and in forgetting our jealousy of our fathers. We recoil from the person for whom this primitive wish of our childhood has been fulfilled with all the force of the repression which these wishes have undergone in our minds since childhood. As the poet brings the guilt of Oedipus to light by his investigation, he forces us to become aware of our own inner selves, in which the same impulses are still extant, even though they are suppressed. The antithesis with which the chorus departs:Behold, this is Oedipus, Who unravelled the great riddle, and was first in power, Whose fortune all the townsmen praised and envied; See in what dread adversity he sank!
-- this admonition touches us and our own pride, us who since the years of our childhood have grown so wise and so powerful in our own estimation. Like Oedipus, we live in ignorance of the desires that offend morality, the desires that nature has forced upon us, and after their unveiling we may well prefer to avert our gaze from the scenes of our childhood.
In the very text of Sophocles' tragedy there is an unmistakable reference to the fact that the Oedipus legend had its source in dream-material of immemorial antiquity, the content of which was the painful disturbance of the child's relations to its parents caused by the first impulses of sexuality. Jocasta comforts Oedipus -- who is not yet enlightened, but is troubled by the recollection of the oracle -- by an allusion to a dream which is often dreamed, though it cannot, in her opinion, mean anything:For many a man hath seen himself in dreams
His mother's mate, but he who gives no heed
To suchlike matters bears the easier life.
The dream of having sexual intercourse with one's mother was as common then as it is today with many people, who tell it with indignation and astonishment. As may well be imagined, it is the key to the tragedy and the complement to the dream of the death of the father. The Oedipus fable is the reaction of fantasy to these two typical dreams, and just as such a dream, when occurring to an adult, is experienced with feelings of aversion, so the content of the fable must include terror and self-chastisement. The form which it subsequently assumed was the result of an uncomprehending secondary elaboration of the material, which sought to make it serve a theological intention. The attempt to reconcile divine omnipotence with human responsibility must, of course, fail with this material as with any other.
Another of the great poetic tragedies, Shakespeare's Hamlet, is rooted in the same soil as Oedipus Rex. But the whole difference in the psychic life of the two widely separated periods of civilisation, and the progress, during the course of time, of repression in the emotional life of humanity, is manifested in the differing treatment of the same material. In Oedipus Rex the basic wish-fantasy of the child is brought to light and realised as it is in dreams; in Hamlet it remains repressed, and we learn of its existence -- as we discover the relevant facts in a neurosis -- only through the inhibitory effects which proceed from it. In the more modern drama, the curious fact that it is possible to remain in complete uncertainty as to the character of the hero has proved to be quite consistent with the overpowering effect of the tragedy. The play is based upon Hamlet's hesitation in accomplishing the task of revenge assigned to him; the text does not give the cause or the motive of this hesitation, nor have the manifold attempts at interpretation succeeded in doing so. According to the still prevailing conception, a conception for which Goethe was first responsible, Hamlet represents the type of man whose active energy is paralysed by excessive intellectual activity: 'Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.' According to another conception, the poet has endeavoured to portray a morbid, irresolute character, on the verge of neurasthenia. The plot of the drama, however, shows us that Hamlet is by no means intended to appear as a character wholly incapable of action. On two separate occasions we see him assert himself: once in a sudden outburst of rage, when he stabs the eavesdropper behind the arras, and on the other occasion when he deliberately, and even craftily, with the complete unscrupulousness of a prince of the Renaissance, sends the two courtiers to the death which was intended for himself. What is it, then, that inhibits him in accomplishing the task which his father's ghost has laid upon him? Here the explanation offers itself that it is the peculiar nature of this task. Hamlet is able to do anything but take vengeance upon the man who did away with his father and has taken his father's place with his mother -- the man who shows him in realisation the repressed desires of his own childhood. The loathing which should have driven him to revenge is thus replaced by self-reproach, by conscientious scruples, which tell him that he himself is no better than the murderer whom he is required to punish. I have here translated into consciousness what had to remain unconscious in the mind of the hero; if anyone wishes to call Hamlet an hysterical subject I cannot but admit that this is the deduction to be drawn from my interpretation. The sexual aversion which Hamlet expresses in conversation with Ophelia is perfectly consistent with this deduction -- the same sexual aversion which during the next few years was increasingly to take possession of the poet's soul, until it found its supreme utterance in Timon of Athens. It can, of course, be only the poet's own psychology with which we are confronted in Hamlet; and in a work on Shakespeare by Georg Brandes (1896) I find the statement that the drama was composed immediately after the death of Shakespeare's father (1601) -- that is to say, when he was still mourning his loss, and during a revival, as we may fairly assume, of his own childish feelings in respect of his father. It is known, too, that Shakespeare's son, who died in childhood, bore the name of Hamnet (identical with Hamlet). Just as Hamlet treats of the relation of the son to his parents, so Macbeth, which was written about the same period, is based upon the theme of childlessness. Just as all neurotic symptoms, like dreams themselves, are capable of hyper-interpretation, and even require such hyper-interpretation before they become perfectly intelligible, so every genuine poetical creation must have proceeded from more than one motive, more than one impulse in the mind of the poet, and must admit of more than one interpretation. I have here attempted to interpret only the deepest stratum of impulses in the mind of the creative poet.
With regard to typical dreams of the death of relatives, I must add a few words upon their significance from the point of view of the theory of dreams in general. These dreams show us the occurrence of a very unusual state of things; they show us that the dream-thought created by the repressed wish completely escapes the censorship, and is transferred to the dream without alteration. Special conditions must obtain in order to make this possible. The following two factors favour the production of these dreams: first, this is the last wish that we could credit ourselves with harbouring; we believe such a wish 'would never occur to us even in a dream'; the dream-censorship is therefore unprepared for this monstrosity, just as the laws of Solon did not foresee the necessity of establishing a penalty for patricide. Secondly, the repressed and unsuspected wish is, in this special case, frequently met half-way by a residue from the day's experience, in the form of some concern for the life of the beloved person. This anxiety cannot enter into the dream otherwise than by taking advantage of the corresponding wish; but the wish is able to mask itself behind the concern which has been aroused during the day. If one is inclined to think that all this is really a very much simpler process, and to imagine that one merely continues during the night, and in one's dream, what was begun during the day, one removes the dreams of the death of those dear to us out of all connection with the general explanation of dreams, and a problem that may very well be solved remains a problem needlessly.
It is instructive to trace the relation of these dreams to anxiety-dreams. In dreams of the death of those dear to us the repressed wish has found a way of avoiding the censorship -- and the distortion for which the censorship is responsible. An invariable concomitant phenomenon, then, is that painful emotions are felt in the dream. Similarly, an anxiety-dream occurs only when the censorship is entirely or partially overpowered, and on the other hand, the overpowering of the censorship is facilitated when the actual sensation of anxiety is already present from somatic sources. It thus becomes obvious for what purpose the censorship performs its office and practices dream-distortion; it does so in order to prevent the development of anxiety or other forms of painful affect.
I have spoken in the foregoing sections of the egoism of the child's psyche, and I now emphasise this peculiarity in order to suggest a connection, for dreams too have retained this characteristic. All dreams are absolutely egoistical; in every dream the beloved ego appears, even though in a disguised form. The wishes that are realised in dreams are invariably the wishes of this ego; it is only a deceptive appearance if interest in another person is believed to have evoked a dream. I will now analyse a few examples which appear to contradict this assertion.
A boy not yet four years of age relates the following dream: He saw a large garnished dish, on which was a large joint of roast meat; and the joint was suddenly -- not carved -- but eaten up. He did not see the person who ate it.
Who can he be, this strange person, of whose luxurious repast the little fellow dreams? The experience of the day must supply the answer. For some days past the boy, in accordance with the doctor's orders, had been living on a milk diet; but on the evening of the 'dream-day' he had been naughty, and, as a punishment, had been deprived of his supper. He had already undergone one such hunger-cure, and had borne his deprivation bravely. He knew that he would get nothing, but he did not even allude to the fact that he was hungry. Training was beginning to produce its effect; this is demonstrated even by the dream, which reveals the beginnings of dream-distortion. There is no doubt that he himself is the person whose desires are directed toward this abundant meal, and a meal of roast meat at that. But since he knows that this is forbidden him, he does not dare, as hungry children do in dreams (cf. my little Anna's dream about strawberries, p. 41), to sit down to the meal himself. The person remains anonymous.
One night I dream that I see on a bookseller's counter a new volume of one of those collectors' series, which I am in the habit of buying (monographs on artistic subjects, history, famous artistic centres, etc.). The new collection is entitled 'Famous Orators' (or Orations), and the first number bears the name of Dr Lecher.
On analysis it seems to me improbable that the fame of Dr Lecher, the long-winded speaker of the German Opposition, should occupy my thoughts while I am dreaming. The fact is that a few days ago I undertook the psychological treatment of some new patients, and am now forced to talk for ten to twelve hours a day. Thus I myself am a long-winded speaker.
On another occasion I dream that a university lecturer of my acquaintance says to me: 'My son, the myopic.' Then follows a dialogue of brief observations and replies. A third portion of the dream follows, in which I and my sons appear, and so far as the latent dream-content is concerned, the father, the son, and Professor M., are merely lay figures, representing myself and my eldest son. Later on I shall examine this dream again, on account of another peculiarity.
The following dream gives an example of really base, egoistical feelings, which conceal themselves behind an affectionate concern: My friend Otto looks ill; his face is brown and his eyes protrude.
Otto is my family physician, to whom I owe a debt greater than I can ever hope to repay, since he has watched for years over the health of my children, has treated them successfully when they have been ill, and, moreover, has given them presents whenever he could find any excuse for doing so. He paid us a visit on the day of the dream, and my wife noticed that he looked tired and exhausted. At night I dream of him, and my dream attributes to him certain of the symptoms of Basedow's disease. If you were to disregard my rules for dream-interpretation you would understand this dream to mean that I am concerned about the health of my friend, and that this concern is realised in the dream. It would thus constitute a contradiction not only of the assertion that a dream is a wish-fulfilment, but also of the assertion that it is accessible only to egoistical impulses. But will those who thus interpret my dream explain why I should fear that Otto has Basedow's disease, for which diagnosis his appearance does not afford the slightest justification? My analysis, on the other hand, furnishes the following material, deriving from an incident which had occurred six years earlier. We were driving -- a small party of us, including Professor R. -- in the dark through the forest of N., which lies at a distance of some hours from where we were staying in the country. The driver, who was not quite sober, overthrew us and the carriage down a bank, and it was only by good fortune that we all escaped unhurt. But we were forced to spend the night at the nearest inn, where the news of our mishap aroused great sympathy. A certain gentleman, who showed unmistakable symptoms of morbus Basedowii -- the brownish colour of the skin of the face and the protruding eyes, but no goitre -- placed himself entirely at our disposal, and asked what he could do for us.
Professor R. answered in his decisive way, 'Nothing, except lend me a nightshirt.' Whereupon our generous friend replied: 'I am sorry, but I cannot do that,' and left us.
In continuing the analysis, it occurs to me that Basedow is the name not only of a physician, but also of a famous pedagogue. (Now that I am wide awake, I do not feel quite sure of this fact.) My friend Otto is the person whom I have asked to take charge of the physical education of my children -- especially during the age of puberty (hence the nightshirt) in case anything should happen to me. By seeing Otto in my dream with the morbid symptoms of our above-mentioned generous helper, I clearly mean to say: 'If anything happens to me, he will do just as little for my children as Baron L. did for us, in spite of his amiable offers.' The egoistical flavour of this dream should now be obvious enough.
But where is the wish-fulfilment to be found in this? Not in the vengeance wreaked on my friend Otto (who seems to be fated to be badly treated in my dreams), but in the following circumstance: Inasmuch as in my dream I represented Otto as Baron L., I likewise identified myself with another person, namely, with Professor R.; for I have asked something of Otto, just as R. asked something of Baron L. at the time of the incident I have described. And this is the point. For Professor R. has gone his way independently, outside academic circles, just as I myself have done, and has only in his later years received the title which he had earned long before. Once more, then, I want to be a professor! The very phrase 'in his later years' is a wish-fulfilment, for it means that I shall live long enough to steer my boys through the age of puberty myself.
Of other typical dreams, in which one flies with a feeling of ease or falls in terror, I know nothing from my own experience, and whatever I have to say about them I owe to my psychoanalyses. From the information thus obtained one must conclude that these dreams also reproduce impressions made in childhood -- that is, that they refer to the games involving rapid motion which have such an extraordinary attraction for children. Where is the uncle who has never made a child fly by running with it across the room with outstretched arms, or has never played at falling with it by rocking it on his knee and then suddenly straightening his leg, or by lifting it above his head and suddenly pretending to withdraw his supporting hand? At such moments children shout with joy, and insatiably demand a repetition of the performance, especially if a little fright and dizziness are involved in the game; in after years they repeat their sensations in dreams, but in dreams they omit the hands that held them, so that now they are free to float or fall. We know that all small children have a fondness for such games as rocking and seesawing; and if they see gymnastic performances at the circus their recollection of such games is refreshed. In some boys a hysterical attack will consist simply in the reproduction of such performances, which they accomplish with great dexterity. Not infrequently sexual sensations are excited by these games of movement, which are quite neutral in themselves. To express the matter in a few words: the 'exciting' games of childhood are repeated in dreams of flying, falling, reeling and the like, but the voluptuous feelings are now transformed into anxiety. But, as every mother knows, the excited play of children often enough culminates in quarrelling and tears.
I have therefore good reason for rejecting the explanation that it is the state of our dermal sensations during sleep, the sensation of the movements of the lungs, etc., that evokes dreams of flying and falling. I see that these very sensations have been reproduced from the memory to which the dream refers -- and that they are, therefore, dream-content and not dream-sources.
I do not for a moment deny, however, that I am unable to furnish a full explanation of this series of typical dreams. Precisely here my material leaves me in the lurch. I must adhere to the general opinion that all the dermal and kinetic sensations of these typical dreams are awakened as soon as any psychic motive of whatever kind has need of them, and that they are neglected when there is no such need of them. The relation to infantile experiences seems to be confirmed by the indications which I have obtained from the analyses of psychoneurotics. But I am unable to say what other meanings might, in the course of the dreamer's life, have become attached to the memory of these sensations -- different, perhaps, in each individual, despite the typical appearance of these dreams -- and I should very much like to be in a position to fill this gap with careful analyses of good examples. To those who wonder why I complain of a lack of material, despite the frequency of these dreams of flying, falling, tooth-drawing, etc., I must explain that I myself have never experienced any such dreams since I have turned my attention to the subject of dream-interpretation. The dreams of neurotics which are at my disposal, however, are not all capable of interpretation, and very often it is impossible to penetrate to the farthest point of their hidden intention; a certain psychic force which participated in the building up of the neurosis, and which again becomes active during its dissolution, opposes interpretation of the final problem.
(c) The Examination-Dream
Everyone who has received his certificate of matriculation after passing his final examination at school complains of the persistence with which he is plagued by anxiety-dreams in which he has failed, or must go through his course again, etc. For the holder of a university degree this typical dream is replaced by another, which represents that he has not taken his doctor's degree, to which he vainly objects, while still asleep, that he has already been practising for years, or is already a university lecturer or the senior partner of a firm of lawyers, and so on. These are the ineradicable memories of the punishments we suffered as children for misdeeds which we had committed -- memories which were revived in us on the dies irae, dies illa of the gruelling examination at the two critical junctures in our careers as students. The 'examination-anxiety' of neurotics is likewise intensified by this childish fear. When our student days are over it is no longer our parents or teachers who see to our punishment; the inexorable chain of cause and effect of later life has taken over our further education. Now we dream of our matriculation, or the examination for the doctor's degree -- and who has not been faint-hearted on such occasions? -- whenever we fear that we may be punished by some unpleasant result because we have done something carelessly or wrongly, because we have not been as thorough as we might have been -- in short, whenever we feel the burden of responsibility.
For a further explanation of examination-dreams I have to thank a remark made by a colleague who had studied this subject, who once stated, in the course of a scientific discussion, that in his experience the examination-dream occurred only to persons who had passed the examination, never to those who had 'flunked'. We have had increasing confirmation of the fact that the anxiety-dream of examination occurs when the dreamer is anticipating a responsible task on the following day, with the possibility of disgrace; recourse will then be had to an occasion in the past on which a great anxiety proved to have been without real justification, having, indeed, been refuted by the outcome. Such a dream would be a very striking example of the way in which the dream-content is misunderstood by the waking instance. The exclamation which is regarded as a protest against the dream: 'But I am already a doctor,' etc., would in reality be the consolation offered by the dream, and should, therefore, be worded as follows: 'Do not be afraid of the morrow; think of the anxiety which you felt before your matriculation; yet nothing happened to justify it, for now you are a doctor,' etc. But the anxiety which we attribute to the dream really has its origin in the residues of the dream-day.
The tests of this interpretation which I have been able to make in my own case, and in that of others, although by no means exhaustive, were entirely in its favour. For example, I failed in my examination for the doctor's degree in medical jurisprudence; never once has the matter worried me in my dreams, while I have often enough been examined in botany, zoology, and chemistry, and I sat for the examinations in these subjects with well-justified anxiety, but escaped disaster, through the clemency of fate, or of the examiner. In my dreams of school examinations I am always examined in history, a subject in which I passed brilliantly at the time, but only, I must admit, because my good-natured professor -- my one-eyed benefactor in another dream -- did not overlook the fact that on the examination paper which I returned to him I had crossed out with my fingernail the second of three questions, as a hint that he should not insist on it. One of my patients, who withdrew before the matriculation examination, only to pass it later, but failed in the officer's examination, so that he did not become an officer, tells me that he often dreams of the former examination, but never of the latter.
W. Stekel, who was the first to interpret the 'matriculation dream', maintains that this dream invariably refers to sexual experiences and sexual maturity. This has frequently been confirmed in my experience.
The statement that our method of dream-interpretation is inapplicable when we have not at our disposal the dreamer's association-material must be qualified. In one case our work of interpretation is independent of these associations: namely, when the dreamer makes use of symbolic elements in his dream. We then employ what is, strictly speaking, a second or auxiliary method of dream-interpretation (see below).
The child appears in the fairy-tale also, for there a little child suddenly cries out: 'But he hasn't anything on at all!'
Ferenczi has recorded a number of interesting dreams of nakedness in women which were without difficulty traced to the infantile delight in exhibitionism, but which differ in many features from the 'typical' dream of nakedness discussed above.
For obvious reasons the presence of 'the whole family' in the dream has the same significance.
A supplementary interpretation of this dream: To spit (spucken) on the stairs, since spuken (to haunt) is the occupation of spirits (cf. English, spook), led me by a free translation to esprit d'escalier. 'Stair-wit' means unreadiness at repartee (Schlagfertigkeit = literally: readiness to hit out), with which I really have to reproach myself. But was the nurse deficient in Schlagfertigkeit?
cf. also: Analyse der Phobie eines fünfjährigen Knaben in the Jahrbuch für psychoanal. und psychopath. Forschungen, Bd. i, 1909 (Ges. Schriften, Bd. viii), and über infantile Sexualtheorien, in the Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre (Ges. Schriften, Bd. v).
Hans, whose phobia was the subject of the analysis in the above-mentioned publication, cried out at the age of three and a half, while feverish shortly after the birth of a sister: 'But I don't want to have a little sister.' In his neurosis, eighteen months later, he frankly confessed the wish that his mother should drop the child into the bath while bathing it, in order that it might die. With all this, Hans was a good-natured, affectionate child, who soon became fond of his sister, and took her under his special protection.
Such cases of death in the experience of children may soon be forgotten in the family, but psychoanalytical investigation shows that they are very significant for a later neurosis.
Since the above was written a great many observations relating to the originally hostile attitude of children toward their brothers and sisters, and toward one of their parents, have been recorded in the literature of psychoanalysis. One writer, Spitteler, gives the following peculiarly sincere and ingenuous description of this typical childish attitude as he experienced it in his earliest childhood: 'Moreover, there was now a second Adolf. A little creature whom they declared was my brother, but I could not understand what he could be for, or why they should pretend he was a being like myself. I was sufficient unto myself: what did I want with a brother? And he was not only useless, he was also even troublesome. When I plagued my grandmother, he too wanted to plague her; when I was wheeled about in the baby-carriage he sat opposite me, and took up half the room, so that we could not help kicking one another.'
The three-and-a-half-year-old Hans embodied his devastating criticism of his little sister in these identical words (loc. cit.) He assumed that she was unable to speak on account of her lack of teeth.
To my astonishment, I was told that a highly intelligent boy of ten, after the sudden death of his father, said: 'I understand that father is dead, but I can't see why he does not come home to supper.' Further material relating to this subject will be found in the section Kinderseele, edited by Frau Dr von Hug-Hellmuth, in Imago, Bd. i-v, 1912-18.
The observation of a father trained in psychoanalysis was able to detect the very moment when his very intelligent little daughter, aged four, realised the difference between 'being away' and 'being dead'. The child was being troublesome at table, and noted that one of the waitresses in the pension was looking at her with an expression of annoyance. 'Josephine ought to be dead,' she thereupon remarked to her father. 'But why dead?' asked the father, soothingly. 'Wouldn't it be enough if she went away?' 'No,' replied the child, 'then she would come back again.' To the uncurbed self-love (narcissism) of the child every inconvenience constitutes the crime of lèsé majesté, and, as in the Draconian code, the child's feelings prescribe for all such crimes the one invariable punishment.
The situation is frequently disguised by the intervention of a tendency to punishment, which in the form of a moral reaction, threatens the loss of the beloved parent.
At least in some of the mythological accounts. According to others, emasculation was inflicted only by Kronos on his father Uranos. With regard to the mythological significance of this motive, cf. Otto Rank's Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden, in Heft v of Schriften zur angew. Seelenkunde, 1909, and Das Inzestmotiv in Dichtung und Sage, 1912, chap. ix, 2.
None of the discoveries of psychoanalytical research has evoked such embittered contradiction, such furious opposition, and also such entertaining acrobatics of criticism, as this indication of the incestuous impulses of childhood which survive in the unconscious. An attempt has even been made recently, in defiance of all experience, to assign only a 'symbolic' significance to incest. Ferenczi has given an ingenious reinterpretation of the Oedipus myth, based on a passage in one of Schopenhauer's letters, in Imago, i, 1912. The 'Oedipus complex', which was first alluded to here in The Interpretation of Dreams, has through further study of the subject, acquired an unexpected significance for the understanding of human history and the evolution of religion and morality. See Totem und Taboo.
c.f. the dream-material of exhibitionism, p. 137.
These indications in the direction of an analytical understanding of Hamlet were subsequently developed by Dr Ernest Jones, who defended the above conception against others which have been put forward in the literature of the subject. (The Problem of Hamlet and the Oedipus Complex, 1911). The relation of the material of Hamlet to the 'myth of the birth of the hero' has been demonstrated by O. Rank. Further attempts at an analysis of Macbeth will be found in my essay on Einige Charaktertypen, aus der psychoanalytischen Arbeit, in Imago, iv, 1916, (Ges. Schriften, Bd. x), in L. Jekels's Shakespeare's Macbeth, in Imago, v, 1918; and in The Oedipus Complex as an Explanation of Hamlet's Mystery: a Study in Motive (American Journal of Psychology, 1910, vol. xxi).
Even the large, over-abundant, immoderate and exaggerated things occurring in dreams may be a childish characteristic. A child wants nothing more intensely than to grow big, and to eat as much of everything as grown-ups do; a child is hard to satisfy; he knows no such word as 'enough', and insatiably demands the practise moderation, to be modest and resiged, only through training. As we know, the neurotic also is inclined to immoderation and excess.
While Dr Ernest Jones was delivering a lecture before an American scientific society, and was speaking of egoism in dreams, a learned lady took exception to this unscientific generalisation. She thought the lecturer was entitled to pronounce such a verdict only on the dreams of Austrians but had no right to include the dreams of Americans. As for herself, she was sure that all her dreams were strictly altruistic.
In justice to this lady with her national pride it may, however, be remarked that the dogma 'the dream is wholly egoistic' must not be misunderstood. For inasmuch as everything that occurs in preconscious thinking may appear in dreams (in the content as well as the latent dream-thoughts) the altruistic feelings may possibly occur. Similarly, affectionate or amorous feelings for another person, if they exist in the unconscious, may occur in dreams. The truth of the assertion is therefore restricted to the fact that among the unconscious stimuli of dreams one very often finds egoistical tendencies which seem to have been overcome in the waking state.
Psychoanalytic investigation has enabled us to conclude that in the predilection shown by children for gymnastic performances, and in the repetition of these in hysterical attacks, there is, besides the pleasure felt in the organ, yet another factor at work (often unconscious): namely, a memory-picture of sexual intercourse observed in human beings or animals.
A young colleague, who is entirely free from nervousness, tells me, in this connection: 'I know from my own experience that while swinging, and at the moment at which the downward movement was at its maximum, I used to have a curious feeling in my genitals, which, although it was not really pleasing to me, I must describe as a voluptuous feeling.' I have often heard from patients that the first erections with voluptuous sensations which they can remember to have had in boyhood occurred while they were climbing. It is established with complete certainty by psychoanalysis that the first sexual sensations often have their origin in the scufflings and wrestlings of childhood.