Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, Chapter 6E
E. REPRESENTATION IN DREAMS BY SYMBOLS: SOME FURTHER TYPICAL DREAMS
The analysis of the last biographical dream shows that I recognised the symbolism in dreams from the very outset. But it was only little by little that I arrived at a full appreciation of its extent and significance, as the result of increasing experience, and under the influence of the works of W. Stekel, concerning which I may here fittingly say something.
This author, who has perhaps injured psychoanalysis as much as he has benefited it, produced a large number of novel symbolic translations, to which no credence was given at first, but most of which were later confirmed and had to be accepted. Stekel's services are in no way belittled by the remark that the sceptical reserve with which these symbols were received was not unjustified. For the examples upon which he based his interpretations were often unconvincing, and, moreover, he employed a method which must be rejected as scientifically unreliable. Stekel found his symbolic meanings by way of intuition, by virtue of his individual faculty of immediately understanding the symbols. But such an art cannot be generally assumed; its efficiency is immune from criticism, and its results have therefore no claim to credibility. It is as though one were to base one's diagnosis of infectious diseases on the olfactory impressions received beside the sick-bed, although of course there have been clinicians to whom the sense of smell -- atrophied in most people -- has been of greater service than to others, and who really have been able to diagnose a case of abdominal typhus by their sense of smell.
The progressive experience of psychoanalysis has enabled us to discover patients who have displayed in a surprising degree this immediate understanding of dream-symbolism. Many of these patients suffered from dementia praecox, so that for a time there was an inclination to suspect that all dreamers with such an understanding of symbols were suffering from that disorder. But this did not prove to be the case; it is simply a question of a personal gift or idiosyncrasy without perceptible pathological significance.
When one has familiarised oneself with the extensive employment of symbolism for the representation of sexual material in dreams, one naturally asks oneself whether many of these symbols have not a permanently established meaning, like the signs in shorthand; and one even thinks of attempting to compile a new dream-book on the lines of the cipher method. In this connection it should be noted that symbolism does not appertain especially to dreams, but rather to the unconscious imagination, and particularly to that of the people, and it is to be found in a more developed condition in folklore, myths, legends, idiomatic phrases, proverbs, and the current witticisms of a people than in dreams. We should have, therefore, to go far beyond the province of dream-interpretation in order fully to investigate the meaning of symbolism, and to discuss the numerous problems -- for the most part still unsolved -- which are associated with the concept of the symbol. We shall here confine ourselves to say that representation by a symbol comes under the heading of the indirect representations, but that we are warned by all sorts of signs against indiscriminately classing symbolic representation with the other modes of indirect representation before we have clearly conceived its distinguishing characteristics. In a number of cases the common quality shared by the symbol and the thing which it represents is obvious, in others it is concealed; in these latter cases the choice of the symbol appears to be enigmatic. And these are the very cases that must be able to elucidate the ultimate meaning of the symbolic relation; they point to the fact that it is of a genetic nature. What is today symbolically connected was probably united, in primitive times, by conceptual and linguistic identity. The symbolic relationship seems to be a residue and reminder of a former identity. It may also be noted that in many cases the symbolic identity extends beyond the linguistic identity, as had already been asserted by Schubert (1814).
Dreams employ this symbolism to give a disguised representation to their latent thoughts. Among the symbols thus employed there are, of course, many which constantly, or all but constantly, mean the same thing. But we must bear in mind the curious plasticity of psychic material. Often enough a symbol in the dream-content may have to be interpreted not symbolically but in accordance with its proper meaning; at other times the dreamer, having to deal with special memory-material, may take the law into his own hands and employ anything whatever as a sexual symbol, though it is not generally so employed. Wherever he has the choice of several symbols for the representation of a dream-content, he will decide in favour of that symbol which is in addition objectively related to his other thought-material; that is to say, he will employ an individual motivation besides the typically valid one.
Although since Scherner's time the more recent investigations of dream-problems have definitely established the existence of dream-symbolism -- even Havelock Ellis acknowledges that our dreams are indubitably full of symbols -- it must yet be admitted that the existence of symbols in dreams has not only facilitated dream-interpretation, but has also made it more difficult. The technique of interpretation in accordance with the dreamer's free associations more often than otherwise leaves us in the lurch as far as the symbolic elements of the dream-content are concerned. A return to the arbitrariness of dream-interpretation as it was practised in antiquity, and is seemingly revived by Stekel's wild interpretations, is contrary to scientific method. Consequently, those elements in the dream-content which are to be symbolically regarded compel us to employ a combined technique, which on the one hand is based on the dreamer's associations, while on the other hand the missing portions have to be supplied by the interpreter's understanding of the symbols. Critical circumspection in the solution of the symbols must coincide with careful study of the symbols in especially transparent examples of dreams in order to silence the reproach of arbitrariness in dream-interpretation. The uncertainties which still adhere to our function as dream-interpreters are due partly to our imperfect knowledge (which, however, can be progressively increased) and partly to certain peculiarities of the dream-symbols themselves. These often possess many and varied meanings, so that, as in Chinese script, only the context can furnish the correct meaning. This multiple significance of the symbol is allied to the dream's faculty of admitting over-interpretations, of representing, in the same content, various wish-impulses and thought-formations, often of a widely divergent character.
After these limitations and reservations I will proceed. The Emperor and the Empress (King and Queen) in most cases really represent the dreamer's parents; the dreamer himself or herself is the prince or princess. But the high authority conceded to the Emperor is also conceded to great men, so that in some dreams, for example, Goethe appears as a father-symbol (Hitschmann). -- All elongated objects, sticks, tree-trunks, umbrellas (on account of the opening, which might be likened to an erection), all sharp and elongated weapons, knives, daggers, and pikes, represent the male member. A frequent, but not very intelligible symbol for the same is a nail-file (a reference to rubbing and scraping?). -- Small boxes, chests, cupboards, and ovens correspond to the female organ; also cavities, ships, and all kinds of vessels. -- A room in a dream generally represents a woman; the description of its various entrances and exits is scarcely calculated to make us doubt this interpretation. The interest as to whether the room is 'open' or 'locked' will be readily understood in this connection. (Cf. Dora's dream in Fragment of an Analysis of Hysteria.) There is no need to be explicit as to the sort of key that will unlock the room; the symbolism of 'lock and key' has been gracefully if broadly employed by Uhland in his song of the Graf Eberstein. -- The dream of walking through a suite of rooms signifies a brothel or a harem. But, as H. Sachs has shown by an admirable example, it is also employed to represent marriage (contrast). An interesting relation to the sexual investigations of childhood emerges when the dreamer dreams of two rooms which were previously one, or finds that a familiar room in a house of which he dreams has been divided into two, or the reverse. In childhood the female genitals and anus (the 'behind') are conceived of as a single opening according to the infantile cloaca theory, and only later is it discovered that this region of the body contains two separate cavities and openings. Steep inclines, ladders, and stairs, and going up or down them, are symbolic representations of the sexual act. Smooth walls over which one climbs, facades of houses, across which one lets oneself down -- often with a sense of great anxiety -- correspond to erect human bodies, and probably repeat in our dreams childish memories of climbing up parents or nurses. 'Smooth' walls are men; in anxiety dreams one often holds firmly to 'projections' on houses. Tables, whether bare or covered, and boards, are women, perhaps by virtue of contrast, since they have no protruding contours. 'Wood', generally speaking, seems, in accordance with its linguistic relations, to represent feminine matter (Materie). The name of the island Madeira means 'wood' in Portuguese. Since 'bed and board' (mensa et thorus) constitute marriage, in dreams the latter is often substituted for the former, and as far as practicable the sexual representation-complex is transposed to the eating-complex. -- Of articles of dress, a woman's hat may very often be interpreted with certainty as the male genitals. In the dreams of men one often finds the necktie as a symbol for the penis; this is not only because neckties hang down in front of the body, and are characteristic of men, but also because one can select them at pleasure, a freedom which nature prohibits as regards the original of the symbol. Persons who make use of this symbol in dreams are very extravagant in the matter of ties, and possess whole collections of them. All complicated machines and appliances are very probably the genitals -- as a rule the male genitals -- in the description of which the symbolism of dreams is as indefatigable as human wit. It is quite unmistakable that all weapons and tools are used as symbols for the male organ: e.g. ploughshare, hammer, gun, revolver, dagger, sword, etc. Again, many of the landscapes seen in dreams, especially those that contain bridges or wooded mountains, may be readily recognised as descriptions of the genitals. Marcinowski collected a series of examples in which the dreamer explained his dream by means of drawings, in order to represent the landscapes and places appearing in it. These drawings clearly showed the distinction between the manifest and the latent meaning of the dream. Whereas, naively regarded, they seemed to represent plans, maps, and so forth, closer investigation showed that they were representations of the human body, of the genitals, etc., and only after conceiving them thus could the dream be understood. Finally, where one finds incomprehensible neologisms one may suspect combinations of components having a sexual significance. -- Children, too, often signify the genitals, since men and women are in the habit of fondly referring to their genital organs as 'little man', 'little woman', 'little thing'. The 'little brother' was correctly recognised by Stekel as the penis. To play with or to beat a little child is often the dream's representation of masturbation. The dream-work represents castration by baldness, hair-cutting, the loss of teeth, and beheading. As an insurance against castration, the dream uses one of the common symbols of a penis in double or multiple form; and the appearance in a dream of a lizard -- an animal whose tail, if pulled off, is regenerated by a new growth -- has the same meaning. Most of those animals which are utilised as genital symbols in mythology and folklore play this part also in dreams: the fish, the snail, the cat, the mouse (on account of the hairiness of the genitals), but above all the snake, which is the most important symbol of the male member. Small animals and vermin are substitutes for little children, e.g. undesired sisters or brothers. To be infected with vermin is often the equivalent for pregnancy. -- As a very recent symbol of the male organ I may mention the airship, whose employment is justified by its relation to flying, and also, occasionally, by its form. -- Stekel has given a number of other symbols, not yet sufficiently verified, which he has illustrated by examples. The works of this author, and especially his book Die Sprache des Traumes, contain the richest collection of interpretations of symbols, some of which were ingeniously guessed and were proved to be correct upon investigation, as, for example, in the section on the symbolism of death. The author's lack of critical reflection, and his tendency to generalise at all costs, make his interpretations doubtful or inapplicable, so that in making use of his works caution is urgently advised. I shall therefore restrict myself to mentioning a few examples.
Right and left, according to Stekel, are to be understood in dreams in an ethical sense. 'The right-hand path always signifies the way to righteousness, the left-hand path the path to crime. Thus the left may signify homosexuality, incest, and perversion, while the right signifies marriage, relations with a prostitute, etc. The meaning is always determined by the individual moral standpoint of the dreamer' (loc. cit., p. 466). Relatives in dreams generally stand for the genitals (pp. 373 ff.). Here I can confirm this meaning only for the son, the daughter, and the younger sister -- that is, wherever 'little thing' could be employed. On the other hand, verified examples allow us to recognise sisters as symbols of the breasts, and brothers as symbols of the larger hemispheres. To be unable to overtake a carriage is interpreted by Stekel as regret at being unable to catch up with a difference in age (p. 479). The luggage of a traveller is the burden of sin by which one is oppressed (ibid.). But a traveller's luggage often proves to be an unmistakable symbol of one's own genitals. To numbers, which frequently occur in dreams, Stekel has assigned a fixed symbolic meaning, but these interpretations seem neither sufficiently verified nor of universal validity, although in individual cases they can usually be recognised as plausible. We have, at all events, abundant confirmation that the figure three is a symbol of the male genitals. One of Stekel's generalisations refers to the double meaning of the genital symbols. 'Where is there a symbol,' he asks, 'which (if in any way permitted by the imagination) may not be used simultaneously in the masculine and the feminine sense?' To be sure, the clause in parenthesis retracts much of the absolute character of this assertion, for this double meaning is not always permitted by the imagination. Still, I think it is not superfluous to state that in my experience this general statement of Stekel's requires elaboration. Besides those symbols which are just as frequently employed for the male as for the female genitals, there are others which preponderantly, or almost exclusively, designate one of the sexes, and there are yet others which, so far as we know, have only the male or only the female signification. To use long, stiff objects and weapons as symbols of the female genitals, or hollow objects (chests, boxes, etc.) as symbols of the male genitals, is certainly not permitted by the imagination.
It is true that the tendency of dreams, and of the unconscious fantasy, to employ the sexual symbols bisexually, reveals an archaic trait, for in childhood the difference in the genitals is unknown, and the same genitals are attributed to both sexes. One may also be misled as regards the significance of a bisexual symbol if one forgets the fact that in some dreams a general reversal of sexes takes place, so that the male organ is represented by the female, and vice versa. Such dreams express, for example, the wish of a woman to be a man.
The genitals may even be represented in dreams by other parts of the body: the male member by the hand or the foot, the female genital orifice by the mouth, the ear, or even the eye. The secretions of the human body -- mucus, tears, urine, semen, etc. -- may be used in dreams interchangeably. This statement of Stekel's, correct in the main, has suffered a justifiable critical restriction as the result of certain comments of R. Reitler's (Internat. Zeitschr. für Psych., i, 1913). The gist of the matter is the replacement of an important secretion, such as the semen, by an indifferent one.
These very incomplete indications may suffice to stimulate others to make a more painstaking collection. I have attempted a much more detailed account of dream-symbolism in my Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (trans. by Joan Riviere; Allen and Unwin, London).
I shall now append a few instances of the use of such symbols, which will show how impossible it is to arrive at the interpretation of a dream if one excludes dream-symbolism, but also how in many cases it is imperatively forced upon one. At the same time, I must expressly warn the investigator against overestimating the importance of symbols in the interpretation of dreams, restricting the work of dream-translation to the translation of symbols, and neglecting the technique of utilising the associations of the dreamer. The two techniques of dream-interpretation must supplement one another; practically, however, as well as theoretically, precedence is retained by the latter process, which assigns the final significance to the utterances of the dreamer, while the symbol-translations which we undertake play an auxiliary part.
1. The hat as the symbol of a man (of the male genitals): (A fragment from the dream of a young woman who suffered from agoraphobia as the result of her fear of temptation.)
'I am walking in the street in summer; I am wearing a straw hat of peculiar shape, the middle piece of which is bent upwards, while the side pieces hang downwards (here the description hesitates), and in such a fashion that one hangs lower than the other. I am cheerful and in a confident mood, and as I pass a number of young officers I think to myself: You can't do anything to me.'
As she could produce no associations to the hat, I said to her: 'The hat is really a male genital organ, with its raised middle piece and the two downward-hanging side pieces.' It is perhaps peculiar that her hat should be supposed to be a man, but after all one says: Unter die Haube kommen (to get under the cap) when we mean: to get married. I intentionally refrained from interpreting the details concerning the unequal dependence of the two side pieces, although the determination of just such details must point the way to the interpretation. I went on to say that if, therefore, she had a husband with such splendid genitals she would not have to fear the officers; that is, she would have nothing to wish from them, for it was essentially her temptation-fantasies which prevented her from going about unprotected and unaccompanied. This last explanation of her anxiety I had already been able to give her repeatedly on the basis of other material.
It is quite remarkable how the dreamer behaved after this interpretation. She withdrew her description of the hat, and would not admit that she had said that the two side pieces were hanging down. I was, however, too sure of what I had heard to allow myself to be misled, and so I insisted that she did say it. She was quiet for a while, and then found the courage to ask why it was that one of her husband's testicles was lower than the other, and whether it was the same with all men. With this the peculiar detail of the hat was explained, and the whole interpretation was accepted by her.
The hat symbol was familiar to me long before the patient related this dream. From other but less transparent cases I believed that I might assume the hat could also stand for the female genitals.
2. The 'little one' as the genital organ. Being run over as a symbol of sexual intercourse.
(Another dream of the same agoraphobic patient.)
'Her mother sends away her little daughter so that she has to go alone. She then drives with her mother to the railway station, and sees her little one walking right along the track, so that she is bound to be run over. She hears the bones crack. (At this she experiences a feeling of discomfort but no real horror.) She then looks out through the carriage window, to see whether the parts cannot be seen behind. Then she reproaches her mother for allowing the little one to go out alone.'
Analysis. -- It is not an easy matter to give here a complete interpretation of the dream. It forms part of a cycle of dreams, and can be fully understood only in connection with the rest. For it is not easy to obtain the material necessary to demonstrate the symbolism in a sufficiently isolated condition. The patient at first finds that the railway journey is to be interpreted historically as an allusion to a departure from a sanatorium for nervous diseases, with whose director she was of course in love. Her mother fetched her away, and before her departure the physician came to the railway station and gave her a bunch of flowers; she felt uncomfortable because her mother witnessed this attention. Here the mother, therefore, appears as the disturber of her tender feelings, a role actually played by this strict woman during her daughter's girlhood. -- The next association referred to the sentence: 'She then looks to see whether the parts cannot be seen behind.' In the dream-facade one would naturally be compelled to think of the pieces of the little daughter who had been run over and crushed. The association, however, turns in quite a different direction. She recalls that she once saw her father in the bathroom, naked, from behind; she then begins to talk about sex differences, and remarks that in the man the genitals can be seen from behind, but in the woman they cannot. In this connection she now herself offers the interpretation that 'the little one' is the genital organ, and her little one (she has a four-year-old daughter) her own organ. She reproaches her mother for wanting her to live as though she had no genitals, and recognises this reproach in the introductory sentence of the dream: the mother sends her little one away, so that she has to go alone. In her fantasy, going alone through the streets means having no man, no sexual relations (coire = to go together), and this she does not like. According to all her statements, she really suffered as a girl through her mother's jealousy, because her father showed a preference for her.
The deeper interpretation of this dream depends upon another dream of the same night, in which the dreamer identifies herself with her brother. She was a 'tomboy', and was always being told that she should have been born a boy. This identification with the brother shows with especial clearness that 'the little one' signifies the genital organ. The mother threatened him (her) with castration, which could only be understood as a punishment for playing with the genital parts, and the identification, therefore, shows that she herself had masturbated as a child, though she had retained only a memory of her brother's having done so. An early knowledge of the male genitals, which she lost later, must, according to the assertions of this second dream, have been acquired at this time. Moreover, the second dream points to the infantile sexual theory that girls originate from boys as a result of castration. After I had told her of this childish belief, she at once confirmed it by an anecdote in which the boy asks the girl: 'Was it cut off?' to which the girl replies: 'No, it's always been like that.' Consequently the sending away of 'the little one', of the genital organ, in the first dream refers also to the threatened castration. Finally, she blames her mother for not having borne her as a boy.
That 'being run over' symbolises sexual intercourse would not be evident from this dream if we had not learned it from many other sources.
3. Representation of the genitals by buildings, stairs, and shafts.
(Dream of a young man inhibited by a father complex.)
'He is taking a walk with his father in a place which is certainly the Prater, for one can see the Rotunda, in front of which there is a small vestibule to which there is attached a captive balloon; the balloon, however, seems rather limp. His father asks him what this is all for; he is surprised at it, but he explains it to his father. They come into a courtyard in which lies a large sheet of tin. His father wants to pull off a big piece of this, but first looks round to see if anyone is watching. He tells his father that all he needs to do is to speak to the overseer, and then he can take as much as he wants to without any more ado. From this courtyard a flight of stairs leads down into a shaft, the walls of which are softly upholstered, rather like a leather armchair. At the end of this shaft there is a long platform, and then a new shaft begins . . . '
Analysis. -- This dreamer belonged to a type of patient which is not at all promising from a therapeutic point of view; up to a certain point in the analysis such patients offer no resistance whatever, but from that point onwards they prove to be almost inaccessible. This dream he analysed almost independently. 'The Rotunda,' he said, 'is my genitals, the captive balloon in front is my penis, about whose flaccidity I have been worried.' We must, however, interpret it in greater detail: the Rotunda is the buttocks, constantly associated by the child with the genitals; the smaller structure in front is the scrotum. In the dream his father asks him what this is all for -- that is, he asks him about the purpose and arrangement of the genitals. It is quite evident that this state of affairs should be reversed, and that he ought to be the questioner. As such questioning on the part of the father never occurred in reality, we must conceive the dream-thought as a wish, or perhaps take it conditionally, as follows. 'If I had asked my father for sexual enlightenment . . . ' The continuation of this thought we shall presently find in another place.
The courtyard in which the sheet of tin is spread out is not to be conceived symbolically in the first instance, but originates from his father's place of business. For reasons of discretion I have inserted the tin for another material in which the father deals without, however, changing anything in the verbal expression of the dream. The dreamer had entered his father's business, and had taken a terrible dislike to the somewhat questionable practices upon which its profit mainly depended. Hence the continuation of the above dream-thought ('if I had asked him') would be: 'He would have deceived me just as he does his customers.' For the 'pulling off', which serves to represent commercial dishonesty, the dreamer himself gives a second explanation, namely, masturbation. This is not only quite familiar to us (see above, p. 229), but agrees very well with the fact that the secrecy of masturbation is expressed by its opposite (one can do it quite openly). Thus, it agrees entirely with our expectations that the auto-erotic activity should be attributed to the father, just as was the questioning in the first scene of the dream. The shaft he at once interprets as the vagina, by referring to the soft upholstering of the walls. That the action of coition in the vagina is described as a going down instead of in the usual way as a going up agrees with what I have found in other instances.
The details -- that at the end of the first shaft there is a long platform, and then a new shaft -- he himself explains biographically. He had for some time had sexual intercourse with women, but had given it up on account of inhibitions, and now hopes to be able to begin it again with the aid of the treatment. The dream, however, becomes indistinct towards the end, and to the experienced interpreter it becomes evident that in the second scene of the dream the influence of another subject has already begun to assert itself; which is indicated by his father's business, his dishonest practices, and the vagina represented by the first shaft, so that one may assume a reference to his mother.
4. The male organ symbolised by persons and the female by a landscape.
(Dream of a woman of the lower class, whose husband is a policeman, reported by B. Dattner.)
'. . . Then someone broke into the house and she anxiously called for a policeman. But he went peacefully with two tramps into a church, to which a great many steps led up; behind the church there was a mountain on top of which there was a dense forest. The policeman was provided with a helmet, a gorget, and a cloak. The two vagrants, who went along with the policeman quite peaceably, had sack-like aprons tied round their loins. A road led from the church to the mountains. This road was overgrown on each side with grass and brushwood, which became thicker and thicker as it reached the top of the mountain, where it spread out into quite a forest.'
5. Castration dreams of children.
(a) 'A boy aged three years and five months, for whom his father's return from military service is clearly inconvenient, wakes one morning in a disturbed and excited state, and constantly repeats the question: Why did Daddy carry his head on a plate? Last night Daddy carried his head on a plate.'
(b) 'A student who is now suffering from a severe obsessional neurosis remembers that in his sixth year he repeatedly had the following dream: He goes to the barber to have his hair cut. Then a large woman with severe features comes up to him and cuts off his head. He recognises the woman as his mother.'
6. A modified staircase dream.
To one of my patients, a sexual abstainer, who was very ill, whose fantasy was fixated upon his mother, and who repeatedly dreamed of climbing stairs while accompanied by his mother, I once remarked that moderate masturbation would probably have been less harmful to him than his enforced abstinence. The influence of this remark provoked the following dream:
His piano teacher reproaches him for neglecting his piano-playing, and for not practising the Etudes of Moscheles and Clementi's Gradus ad Parnassum. With reference to this he remarked that the Gradus, too, is a stairway, and that the piano itself is a stairway, as it has a scale.
It may be said that there is no class of ideas which cannot be enlisted in the representation of sexual facts and wishes.
7. The sensation of reality and the representation of repetition.
A man, now thirty-five, relates a clearly remembered dream which he claims to have had when he was four years of age: The notary with whom his father's will was deposited -- he had lost his father at the age of three -- brought two large Emperor-pears, of which he was given one to eat. The other lay on the windowsill of the living-room. He woke with the conviction of the reality of what he had dreamt, and obstinately asked his mother to give him the second pear; it was, he said, still lying on the windowsill. His mother laughed at this.
Analysis. -- The notary was a jovial old gentleman who, as he seems to remember, really sometimes brought pears with him. The window-sill was as he saw it in the dream. Nothing else occurs to him in this connection, except, perhaps, that his mother has recently told him a dream. She has two birds sitting on her head; she wonders when they will fly away, but they do not fly away, and one of them flies to her mouth and sucks at it.
The dreamer's inability to furnish associations justifies the attempt to interpret it by the substitution of symbols. The two pears -- pommes ou poires -- are the breasts of the mother who nursed him; the window-sill is the projection of the bosom, analogous to the balconies in the dream of houses. His sensation of reality after waking is justified, for his mother had actually suckled him for much longer than the customary term, and her breast was still available. The dream is to be translated: 'Mother, give (show) me the breast again at which I once used to drink.' The 'once' is represented by the eating of the one pear, the 'again' by the desire for the other. The temporal repetition of an act is habitually represented in dreams by the numerical multiplication of an object.
It is naturally a very striking phenomenon that symbolism should already play a part in the dream of a child of four, but this is the rule rather than the exception. One may say that the dreamer has command of symbolism from the very first.
The early age at which people make use of symbolic representation, even apart from the dream-life, may be shown by the following uninfluenced memory of a lady who is now twentyseven: She is in her fourth year. The nursemaid is driving her, with her brother, eleven months younger, and a cousin, who is between the two in age, to the lavatory, so that they can do their little business there before going for their walk. As the oldest, she sits on the seat and the other two on chambers. She asks her (female) cousin: Have you a purse, too? Walter has a little sausage, I have a purse. The cousin answers: Yes, I have a purse, too. The nursemaid listens, laughing, and relates the conversation to the mother, whose reaction is a sharp reprimand.
Here a dream may be inserted whose excellent symbolism permitted of interpretation with little assistance from the dreamer:
8. The question of symbolism in the dreams of normal persons.
An objection frequently raised by the opponents of psychoanalysis -- and recently also by Havelock Ellis -- is that, although dream-symbolism may perhaps be a product of the neurotic psyche, it has no validity whatever in the case of normal persons. But while psychoanalysis recognises no essential distinctions, but only quantitative differences, between the psychic life of the normal person and that of the neurotic, the analysis of those dreams in which, in sound and sick persons alike, the repressed complexes display the same activity, reveals the absolute identity of the mechanisms as well as of the symbolism. Indeed, the natural dreams of healthy persons often contain a much simpler, more transparent, and more characteristic symbolism than those of neurotics, which, owing to the greater strictness of the censorship and the more extensive dream-distortion resulting therefrom, are frequently troubled and obscured, and are therefore more difficult to translate. The following dream serves to illustrate this fact. This dream comes from a non-neurotic girl of a rather prudish and reserved type. In the course of conversation I found that she was engaged to be married, but that there were hindrances in the way of the marriage which threatened to postpone it. She related spontaneously the following dream:
I arrange the centre of a table with flowers for a birthday. On being questioned she states that in the dream she seemed to be at home (she has no home at the time) and experienced a feeling of happiness.
The 'popular' symbolism enables me to translate the dream for myself. It is the expression of her wish to be married: the table, with the flowers in the centre, is symbolic of herself and her genitals. She represents her future wishes as fulfilled, inasmuch as she is already occupied with thoughts of the birth of a child; so the wedding has taken place long ago.
I call her attention to the fact that 'the centre of a table' is an unusual expression, which she admits; but here, of course, I cannot question her more directly. I carefully refrain from suggesting to her the meaning of the symbols, and ask her only for the thoughts which occur to her mind in connection with the individual parts of the dream. In the course of the analysis her reserve gave way to a distinct interest in the interpretation, and a frankness which was made possible by the serious tone of the conversation. -- To my question as to what kind of flowers they had been, her first answer is 'expensive flowers; one has to pay for them'; then she adds that they were lilies-of-the-valley, violets, and pinks or carnations. I took the word lily in this dream in its popular sense, as a symbol of chastity; she confirmed this, as purity occurred to her in association with lily. Valley is a common feminine dream-symbol. The chance juxtaposition of the two symbols in the name of the flower is made into a piece of dream-symbolism, and serves to emphasise the preciousness of her virginity -- expensive flowers; one has to pay for them -- and expresses the expectation that her husband will know how to appreciate its value. The comment, expensive flowers, etc., has, as will be shown, a different meaning in every one of the three different flower-symbols.
I thought of what seemed to me a venturesome explanation of the hidden meaning of the apparently quite asexual word violets by an unconscious relation to the French viol. But to my surprise the dreamer's association was the English word violate. The accidental phonetic similarity of the two words violet and violate is utilised by the dream to express in 'the language of flowers' the idea of the violence of defloration (another word which makes use of flowersymbolism), and perhaps also to give expression to a masochistic tendency on the part of the girl. -- An excellent example of the word bridges across which run the paths to the unconscious. 'One has to pay for them' here means life, with which she has to pay for becoming a wife and a mother.
In association with pinks, which she then calls carnations, I think of carnal. But her association is colour, to which she adds that carnations are the flowers which her fiancé gives her frequently and in large quantities. At the end of the conversation she suddenly admits, spontaneously, that she has not told me the truth; the word that occurred to her was not colour, but incarnation, the very word I expected. Moreover, even the word 'colour' is not a remote association; it was determined by the meaning of carnation (i.e. flesh-colour) -- that is, by the complex. This lack of honesty shows that the resistance here is at its greatest because the symbolism is here most transparent, and the struggle between libido and repression is most intense in connection with this phallic theme. The remark that these flowers were often given her by her fiancé is, together with the double meaning of carnation, a still further indication of their phallic significance in the dream. The occasion of the present of flowers during the day is employed to express the thought of a sexual present and a return present. She gives her virginity and expects in return for it a rich love-life. But the words: 'expensive flowers; one has to pay for them' may have a real, financial meaning. -- The flower-symbolism in the dream thus comprises the virginal female, the male symbol, and the reference to violent defloration. It is to be noted that sexual flower-symbolism, which, of course, is very widespread, symbolises the human sexual organs by flowers, the sexual organs of plants; indeed, presents of flowers between lovers may perhaps have this unconscious significance.
The birthday for which she is making preparations in the dream probably signifies the birth of a child. She identifies herself with the bridegroom, and represents him preparing her for a birth (having coitus with her). It is as though the latent thoughts were to say: 'If I were he, I would not wait, but I would deflower the bride without asking her; I would use violence.' Indeed, the word violate points to this. Thus even the sadistic libidinal components find expression.
In a deeper stratum of the dream the sentence I arrange, etc., probably has an auto-erotic, that is, an infantile significance.
She also has a knowledge -- possible only in the dream -- of her physical need; she sees herself flat like a table, so that she emphasises all the more her virginity, the costliness of the centre (another time she calls it a centre-piece of flowers). Even the horizontal element of the table may contribute something to the symbol. -- The concentration of the dream is worthy of remark; nothing is superfluous, every word is a symbol.
Later on she brings me a supplement to this dream: 'I decorate the flowers with green crinkled paper.' She adds that it was fancy paper of the sort which is used to disguise ordinary flowerpots. She says also: 'To hide untidy things, whatever was to be seen which was not pretty to the eye; there is a gap, a little space in the flowers. The paper looks like velvet or moss.' With decorate she associates decorum, as I expected. The green colour is very prominent, and with this she associates hope, yet another reference to pregnancy. -- In this part of the dream the identification with the man is not the dominant feature, but thoughts of shame and frankness express themselves. She makes herself beautiful for him; she admits physical defects, of which she is ashamed and which she wishes to correct. The associations velvet and moss distinctly point to crines pubis.
The dream is an expression of thoughts hardly known to the waking state of the girl; thoughts which deal with the love of the senses and its organs; she is 'prepared for a birthday', i.e. she has coitus; the fear of defloration and perhaps the pleasurably toned pain find expression; she admits her physical defects and overcompensates them by means of an over-estimation of the value of her virginity. Her shame excuses the emerging sensuality by the fact that the aim of it all is the child. Even material considerations, which are foreign to the lover, find expression here. The affect of the simple dream -- the feeling of bliss -- shows that here strong emotional complexes have found satisfaction.
I close with the --
9. Dream of a chemist.
(A young man who has been trying to give up his habit of masturbation by substituting intercourse with a woman.)
Preliminary statement: On the day before the dream he had been instructing a student as to Grignard's reaction, in which magnesium is dissolved in absolutely pure ether under the catalytic influence of iodine. Two days earlier there had been an explosion in the course of the same reaction, in which someone had burned his hand.
Dream I. He is going to make phenylmagnesiumbromide; he sees the apparatus with particular distinctness, but he has substituted himself for the magnesium. He is now in a curious, wavering attitude. He keeps on repeating to himself: 'This is the right thing, it is working, my feet are beginning to dissolve, and my knees are getting soft.' Then he reaches down and feels for his feet, and meanwhile (he does not know how) he takes his legs out of the carboy, and then again he says to himself: 'That can't be . . . Yes, it has been done correctly.' Then he partially wakes, and repeats the dream to himself, because he wants to tell it to me. He is positively afraid of the analysis of the dream. He is much excited during this state of semi-sleep, and repeats continually: 'Phenyl, phenyl.'
Dream II. He is in . . . with his whole family. He is supposed to be at the Schottentor at half-past eleven in order to keep an appointment with the lady in question, but he does not wake until half-past eleven. He says to himself: 'It is too late now; when you get there it will be half-past twelve.' The next moment he sees the whole family gathered about the table -- his mother and the parlour-maid with the soup-tureen with peculiar distinctness. Then he says to himself: 'Well, if we are sitting down to eat already, I certainly can't get away.'
Analysis. He feels sure that even the first dream contains a reference to the lady whom he is to meet at the place of rendezvous (the dream was dreamed during the night before the expected meeting). The student whom he was instructing is a particularly unpleasant fellow; the chemist had said to him: 'That isn't right, because the magnesium was still unaffected,' and the student had answered, as though he were quite unconcerned: 'Nor it is.' He himself must be this student; he is as indifferent to his analysis as the student is to his synthesis; the he in the dream, however, who performs the operation, is myself. How unpleasant he must seem to me with his indifference to the result!
Again, he is the material with which the analysis (synthesis) is made. For the question is the success of the treatment. The legs in the dream recall an impression of the previous evening. He met a lady at a dancing class of whom he wished to make a conquest; he pressed her to him so closely that she once cried out. As he ceased to press her legs he felt her firm, responding pressure against his lower thighs as far as just above the knees, the spot mentioned in the dream. In this situation, then, the woman is the magnesium in the retort, which is at last working. He is feminine towards me, as he is virile towards the woman. If he succeeds with the woman, the treatment will also succeed. Feeling himself and becoming aware of his knees refers to masturbation, and corresponds to his fatigue of the previous day . . . The rendezvous had actually been made for half-past eleven. His wish to oversleep himself and to keep to his sexual object at home (that is, masturbation) corresponds to his resistance.
He says, in respect to the repetition of the name phenyl, that all these radicals ending in yl have always been pleasing to him; they are very convenient to use: benzyl, acetyl, etc. That, however, explained nothing. But when I proposed the root Schlemihl he laughed heartily, and told me that during the summer he had read a book by Prévost which contained a chapter: Les exclus de l'amour, and in this there was some mention of Schlemilies; and in reading of these outcasts he said to himself: 'That is my case.' He would have played the Schlemihl if he had missed the appointment.
It seems that the sexual symbolism of dreams has already been directly confirmed by experiment. In 1912 Dr K. Schrötter, at the instance of H. Swoboda, produced dreams in deeply hypnotised persons by suggestions which determined a large part of the dream-content. If the suggestion proposed that the subject should dream of normal or abnormal sexual relations, the dream carried out these orders by replacing sexual material by the symbols with which psychoanalytic dream-interpretation has made us familiar. Thus, following the suggestion that the dreamer should dream of homosexual relations with a lady friend, this friend appeared in the dream carrying a shabby travelling-bag, upon which there was a label with the printed words: 'For ladies only'. The dreamer was believed never to have heard of dream-symbolisation or of dream-interpretation. Unfortunately, the value of this important investigation was diminished by the fact that Dr Schrötter shortly afterwards committed suicide. Of his dream-experiments he gave us only a preliminary report in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse.
Similar results were reported in 1923 by G. Roffenstein. Especially interesting were the experiments performed by Betlheim and Hartmann, because they eliminated hypnosis. These authors told stories of a crude sexual content to confused patients suffering from Korsakoff's psychosis, and observed the distortions which appeared when the material related was reproduced. It was shown that the reproduced material contained symbols made familiar by the interpretation of dreams (climbing stairs, stabbing and shooting as symbols of coitus, knives and cigarettes as symbols of the penis). Special value was attached to the appearance of the symbol of climbing stairs, for, as the authors justly observed, 'a symbolisation of this sort could not be effected by a conscious wish to distort.'
Only when we have formed a due estimate of the importance of symbolism in dreams can we continue the study of the typical dreams which was interrupted in an earlier chapter (p. 161). I feel justified in dividing these dreams roughly into two classes: first, those which always really have the same meaning, and second, those which despite the same or a similar content must nevertheless be given the most varied interpretations. Of the typical dreams belonging to the first class I have already dealt fairly fully with the examination-dream.
On account of their similar affective character, the dreams of missing a train deserve to be ranked with the examination-dreams; moreover, their interpretation justifies this approximation. They are consolation-dreams, directed against another anxiety perceived in dreams -- the fear of death. 'To depart' is one of the most frequent and one of the most readily established of the death-symbols. The dream therefore says consolingly: 'Reassure yourself, you are not going to die (to depart)', just as the examination-dream calms us by saying: 'Don't be afraid; this time, too, nothing will happen to you.' The difficulty in understanding both kinds of dreams is due to the fact that the anxiety is attached precisely to the expression of consolation.
The meaning of the 'dreams due to dental stimulus' which I have often enough had to analyse in my patients escaped me for a long time because, much to my astonishment, they habitually offered too great a resistance to interpretation. But finally an overwhelming mass of evidence convinced me that in the case of men nothing other than the masturbatory desires of puberty furnish the motive power of these dreams. I shall analyse two such dreams, one of which is also a 'flying dream'. The two dreams were dreamed by the same person -- a young man of pronounced homosexuality which, however, has been inhibited in life.
He is witnessing a performance of Fidelio from the stalls of the opera-house; he is sitting next to L., whose personality is congenial to him, and whose friendship he would like to have. Suddenly he flies diagonally right across the stalls; he then puts his hand in his mouth and draws out two of his teeth.
He himself describes the flight by saying that it was as though he were thrown into the air. As the opera performed was Fidelio, he recalls the words:
He who a charming wife acquires . . .
But the acquisition of even the most charming wife is not among the wishes of the dreamer. Two other lines would be more appropriate:
He who succeeds in the lucky (big) throw
The friend of a friend to be . . .
The dream thus contains the 'lucky (big) throw', which is not, however, a wish-fulfilment only. For it conceals also the painful reflection that in his striving after friendship he has often had the misfortune to be 'thrown out', and the fear lest this fate may be repeated in the case of the young man by whose side he has enjoyed the performance of Fidelio. This is now followed by a confession, shameful to a man of his refinement, to the effect that once, after such a rejection on the part of a friend, his profound sexual longing caused him to masturbate twice in succession.
The other dream is as follows: Two university professors of his acquaintance are treating him in my place. One of them does something to his penis; he is afraid of an operation. The other thrusts an iron bar against his mouth, so that he loses one or two teeth. He is bound with four silk handkerchiefs.
The sexual significance of this dream can hardly be doubted. The silk handkerchiefs allude to an identification with a homosexual of his acquaintance. The dreamer, who has never achieved coition (nor has he ever actually sought sexual intercourse) with men, conceives the sexual act on the lines of masturbation with which he was familiar during puberty.
I believe that the frequent modifications of the typical dream due to dental stimulus -- that, for example, in which another person draws the tooth from the dreamer's mouth -- will be made intelligible by the same explanation. It may, however, be difficult to understand how 'dental stimulus' can have come to have this significance. But here I may draw attention to the frequent 'displacement from below to above' which is at the service of sexual repression, and by means of which all kinds of sensations and intentions occurring in hysteria, which ought to be localised in the genitals, may at all events be realised in other, unobjectionable parts of the body. We have a case of such displacement when the genitals are replaced by the face in the symbolism of unconscious thought. This is corroborated by the fact that verbal usage relates the buttocks to the cheeks, and the labia minora to the lips which enclose the orifice of the mouth. The nose is compared to the penis in numerous allusions, and in each case the presence of hair completes the resemblance. Only one feature -- the teeth -- is beyond all possibility of being compared in this way; but it is just this coincidence of agreement and disagreement which makes the teeth suitable for purposes of representation under the pressure of sexual repression.
I will not assert that the interpretation of dreams due to dental stimulus as dreams of masturbation (the correctness of which I cannot doubt) has been freed of all obscurity. I carry the explanation as far as I am able, and must leave the rest unsolved. But I must refer to yet another relation indicated by a colloquial expression. In Austria there is in use an indelicate designation for the act of masturbation, namely: 'To pull one out', or 'to pull one off'. I am unable to say whence these colloquialisms originate, or on what symbolisms they are based; but the teeth would very well fit in with the first of the two.
Dreams of pulling teeth, and of teeth falling out, are interpreted in popular belief to mean the death of a connection. Psychoanalysis can admit of such a meaning only at the most as a joking allusion to the sense already indicated.
To the second group of typical dreams belong those in which one is flying or hovering, falling, swimming, etc. What do these dreams signify? Here we cannot generalise. They mean, as we shall learn, something different in each case; only, the sensory material which they contain always comes from the same source.
We must conclude from the information obtained in psychoanalysis that these dreams also repeat impressions of our childhood -- that is, that they refer to the games involving movement 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 it. 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 when they see gymnastic performances at the circus their recollection of such games is refreshed. In some boys the hysterical attack consists simply in the reproduction of such performances, which they accomplish with great dexterity. Not infrequently sexual sensations are excited by these games of movement, innocent though they are in themselves. To express the matter in a few words: it is these romping games of childhood which are being repeated in dreams of flying, falling, vertigo, and the like, but the pleasurable sensations are now transformed into anxiety. But, as every mother knows, the romping of children often enough ends in quarrelling and tears.
I have therefore good reason for rejecting the explanation that it is the condition of our cutaneous sensations during sleep, the sensation of the movements of the lungs, etc., that evoke dreams of flying and falling. As I see it, these sensations have themselves been reproduced from the memory to which the dream refers -- that they are therefore dream-content, and not dream-sources.
This material, consisting of sensations of motion, similar in character, and originating from the same sources, is now used for the representation of the most manifold dream-thoughts. Dreams of flying or hovering, for the most part pleasurably toned, will call for the most widely differing interpretations -- interpretations of a quite special nature in the case of some dreamers, and interpretations of a typical nature in that of others. One of my patients was in the habit of dreaming very frequently that she was hovering a little way above the street without touching the ground. She was very short of stature, and she shunned every sort of contamination involved by intercourse with human beings. Her dream of suspension -- which raised her feet above the ground and allowed her head to tower into the air -- fulfilled both of her wishes. In the case of other dreamers of the same sex, the dream of flying had the significance of the longing: 'If only I were a little bird!' Similarly, others become angels at night, because no one has ever called them angels by day. The intimate connection between flying and the idea of a bird makes it comprehensible that the dream of flying, in the case of male dreamers, should usually have a coarsely sensual significance; and we should not be surprised to hear that this or that dreamer is always very proud of his ability to fly.
Dr Paul Federn (Vienna) has propounded the fascinating theory that a great many flying dreams are erection dreams, since the remarkable phenomenon of erection, which constantly occupies the human fantasy, cannot fail to be impressive as an apparent suspension of the laws of gravity (cf. the winged phalli of the ancients).
It is a noteworthy fact that a prudent experimenter like Mourly Vold, who is really averse to any kind of interpretation, nevertheless defends the erotic interpretation of the dreams of flying and hovering. He describes the erotic element as 'the most important motive factor of the hovering dream', and refers to the strong sense of bodily vibration which accompanies this type of dream, and the frequent connection of such dreams with erections and emissions.
Dreams of falling are more frequently characterised by anxiety. Their interpretation, when they occur in women, offers no difficulty, because they nearly always accept the symbolic meaning of falling, which is a circumlocution for giving way to an erotic temptation. We have not yet exhausted the infantile sources of the dream of falling; nearly all children have fallen occasionally, and then been picked up and fondled; if they fell out of bed at night, they were picked up by the nurse and taken into her bed.
People who dream often, and with great enjoyment, of swimming, cleaving the waves, etc., have usually been bedwetters, and they now repeat in the dream a pleasure which they have long since learned to forgo. We shall soon learn, from one example or another, to what representations dreams of swimming easily lend themselves.
The interpretation of dreams of fire justifies a prohibition of the nursery, which forbids children to 'play with fire' so that they may not wet the bed at night. These dreams also are based on reminiscences of the enuresis nocturna of childhood. In my Fragment of an Analysis of Hysteria I have given the complete analysis and synthesis of such a dream of fire in connection with the infantile history of the dreamer, and have shown for the representation of what maturer impulses this infantile material has been utilised.
It would be possible to cite quite a number of other 'typical' dreams, if by such one understands dreams in which there is a frequent recurrence, in the dreams of different persons, of the same manifest dream-content. For example: dreams of passing through narrow alleys, or a whole suite of rooms; dreams of burglars, in respect of whom nervous people take measures of precaution before going to bed; dreams of being chased by wild animals (bulls, horses); or of being threatened with knives, daggers, and lances. The last two themes are characteristic of the manifest dream-content of persons suffering from anxiety, etc. A special investigation of this class of material would be well worth while. In lieu of this I shall offer two observations, which do not, however, apply exclusively to typical dreams.
The more one is occupied with the solution of dreams, the readier one becomes to acknowledge that the majority of the dreams of adults deal with sexual material and give expression to erotic wishes. Only those who really analyse dreams, that is, those who penetrate from their manifest content to the latent dream-thoughts, can form an opinion on this subject; but never those who are satisfied with registering merely the manifest content (as, for example, Näcke in his writings on sexual dreams). Let us recognise at once that there is nothing astonishing in this fact, which is entirely consistent with the principles of dream-interpretation. No other instinct has had to undergo so much suppression, from the time of childhood onwards, as the sexual instinct in all its numerous components: from no other instinct are so many and such intense unconscious wishes left over, which now, in the sleeping state, generate dreams. In dream-interpretation this importance of the sexual complexes must never be forgotten, though one must not, of course, exaggerate it to the exclusion of all other factors.
Of many dreams it may be ascertained, by careful interpretation, that they may even be understood bisexually, inasmuch as they yield an indisputable over-interpretation, in which they realise homosexual impulses -- that is, impulses which are contrary to the normal sexual activity of the dreamer. But that all dreams are to be interpreted bisexually, as Stekel maintains, and Adler, seems to me to be a generalisation as insusceptible of proof as it is improbable, and one which, therefore, I should be loth to defend; for I should, above all, be at a loss to know how to dispose of the obvious fact that there are many dreams which satisfy other than erotic needs (taking the word in the widest sense), as, for example, dreams of hunger, thirst, comfort, etc. And other similar assertions, to the effect that 'behind every dream one finds a reference to death' (Stekel), or that every dream shows 'an advance from the feminine to the masculine line' (Adler), seem to me to go far beyond the admissible in the interpretation of dreams. The assertion that all dreams call for a sexual interpretation, against which there is such an untiring polemic in the literature of the subject, is quite foreign to my Interpretation of Dreams. It will not be found in any of the eight editions of this book, and is in palpable contradiction to the rest of its contents.
We have stated elsewhere that dreams which are conspicuously innocent commonly embody crude erotic wishes, and this we might confirm by numerous further examples. But many dreams which appear indifferent, in which we should never suspect a tendency in any particular direction, may be traced, according to the analysis, to unmistakably sexual wish-impulses, often of an unsuspected nature. For example, who, before it had been interpreted, would have suspected a sexual wish in the following dream? The dreamer relates: Between two stately palaces there stands, a little way back, a small house, whose doors are closed. My wife leads me along the little bit of road leading to the house and pushes the door open, and then I slip quickly and easily into the interior of a courtyard that slopes steeply upwards.
Anyone who has had experience in the translating of dreams will, of course, at once be reminded that penetration into narrow spaces and the opening of locked doors are among the commonest of sexual symbols, and will readily see in this dream a representation of attempted coition from behind (between the two stately buttocks of the female body). The narrow, steep passage is, of course, the vagina; the assistance attributed to the wife of the dreamer requires the interpretation that in reality it is only consideration for the wife which is responsible for abstention from such an attempt. Moreover, inquiry shows that on the previous day a young girl had entered the household of the dreamer; she had pleased him, and had given him the impression that she would not be altogether averse to an approach of this sort. The little house between the two palaces is taken from the reminiscence of the Hradschin in Prague, and once more points to the girl, who is a native of that city.
If, in conversation with my patients, I emphasise the frequency of the Oedipus dream -- the dream of having sexual intercourse with one's mother -- I elicit the answer: 'I cannot remember such a dream.' Immediately afterwards, however, there arises the recollection of another, an unrecognisable, indifferent dream, which the patient has dreamed repeatedly, and which on analysis proves to be a dream with this very content -- that is, yet another Oedipus dream. I can assure the reader that disguised dreams of sexual intercourse with the dreamer's mother are far more frequent than undisguised dreams to the same effect.
There are dreams of landscapes and localities in which emphasis is always laid upon the assurance: 'I have been here before.' But this 'déja vu' has a special significance in dreams. In this case the locality is always the genitals of the mother; of no other place can it be asserted with such certainty that one 'has been here before.' I was once puzzled by the account of a dream given by a patient afflicted with obsessional neurosis. He dreamed that he called at a house where he had been twice before. But this very patient had long ago told me of an episode of his sixth year. At that time he shared his mother's bed, and had abused the occasion by inserting his finger into his mother's genitals while she was asleep.
A large number of dreams, which are frequently full of anxiety, and often have for content the traversing of narrow spaces, or staying long in the water, are based upon fantasies concerning the intra-uterine life, the sojourn in the mother's womb, and the act of birth. I here insert the dream of a young man who, in his fantasy, has even profited by the intra-uterine opportunity of spying upon an act of coition between his parents.
'He is in a deep shaft, in which there is a window, as in the Semmering tunnel. Through this he sees at first an empty landscape, and then he composes a picture in it, which is there all at once and fills up the empty space. The picture represents a field which is being deeply tilled by an implement, and the wholesome air, the associated idea of hard work, and the bluish-black clods of earth make a pleasant impression on him. He then goes on and sees a work on education lying open . . . and is surprised that so much attention is devoted in it to the sexual feelings (of children), which makes him think of me.'
Here is a pretty water-dream of a female patient, which was turned to special account in the course of treatment.
At her usual holiday resort on the -- Lake, she flings herself into the dark water at a place where the pale moon is reflected in the water.
Dreams of this sort are parturition dreams; their interpretation is effected by reversing the fact recorded in the manifest dream-content; thus, instead of 'flinging oneself into the water', read 'coming out of the water' -- that is, 'being born'. The place from which one is born may be recognised if one thinks of the humorous sense of the French 'la lune'. The pale moon thus becomes the white 'bottom', which the child soon guesses to be the place from which it came. Now what can be the meaning of the patient's wishing to be born at a holiday resort? I asked the dreamer this, and she replied without hesitation: 'Hasn't the treatment made me as though I were born again?' Thus the dream becomes an invitation to continue the treatment at this summer resort -- that is, to visit her there; perhaps it also contains a very bashful allusion to the wish to become a mother herself.
Another dream of parturition, with its interpretation, I take from a paper by E. Jones. 'She stood at the seashore watching a small boy, who seemed to be hers, wading into the water. This he did till the water covered him and she could only see his head bobbing up and down near the surface. The scene then changed to the crowded hall of an hotel. Her husband left her, and she ''entered into conversation with'' a stranger.
'The second half of the dream was discovered in the analysis to represent flight from her husband, and the entering into intimate relations with a third person, behind whom was plainly indicated Mr X.'s brother, mentioned in a former dream. The first part of the dream was a fairly evident birth-fantasy. In dreams as in mythology, the delivery of a child from the uterine waters is commonly represented, by way of distortion, as the entry of the child into water; among many other instances, the births of Adonis, Osiris, Moses, and Bacchus are well-known illustrations of this. The bobbing up and down of the head in the water at once recalled to the patient the sensation of quickening which she had experienced in her only pregnancy. Thinking of the boy going into the water induced a reverie in which she saw herself taking him out of the water, carrying him into the nursery, washing and dressing him, and installing him in her household.
'The second half of the dream, therefore, represents thoughts concerning the elopement, which belonged to the first half of the underlying latent content; the first half of the dream corresponded with the second half of the latent content, the birth fantasy. Besides this inversion in the order, further inversions took place in each half of the dream. In the first half the child entered the water, and then his head bobbed; in the underlying dream-thoughts the quickening occurred first, and then the child left the water (a double inversion). In the second half her husband left her; in the dream-thoughts she left her husband.'
Another parturition dream is related by Abraham -- the dream of a young woman expecting her first confinement: From one point of the floor of the room a subterranean channel leads directly into the water (path of parturition--amniotic fluid). She lifts up a trap in the door, and there immediately appears a creature dressed in brownish für, which almost resembles a seal. This creature changes into the dreamer's younger brother, to whom her relation has always been maternal in character.
Rank has shown from a number of dreams that parturition-dreams employ the same symbols as micturition-dreams. The erotic stimulus expresses itself in these dreams as an urethral stimulus. The stratification of meaning in these dreams corresponds with a change in the significance of the symbol since childhood.
We may here turn back to the interrupted theme (see p. 37) of the part played by organic, sleep-disturbing stimuli in dream-formation. Dreams which have come into existence under these influences not only reveal quite frankly the wish-fulfilling tendency, and the character of convenience-dreams, but they very often display a quite transparent symbolism as well, since waking not infrequently follows a stimulus whose satisfaction in symbolic disguise has already been vainly attempted in the dream. This is true of emission dreams as well as those evoked by the need to urinate or defecate. The peculiar character of emission dreams permits us directly to unmask certain sexual symbols already recognised as typical, but nevertheless violently disputed, and it also convinces us that many an apparently innocent dream-situation is merely the symbolic prelude to a crudely sexual scene. This, however, finds direct representation, as a rule, only in the comparatively infrequent emission dreams, while it often enough turns into an anxiety-dream, which likewise leads to waking.
The symbolism of dreams due to urethral stimulus is especially obvious, and has always been divined. Hippocrates had already advanced the theory that a disturbance of the bladder was indicated if one dreamt of fountains and springs (Havelock Ellis). Scherner, who has studied the manifold symbolism of the urethral stimulus, agrees that 'the powerful urethral stimulus always turns into the stimulation of the sexual sphere and its symbolic imagery . . . The dream due to urethral stimulus is often at the same time the representative of the sexual dream.'
O. Rank, whose conclusions (in his paper on Die Symbolschichtung im Wecktraum) I have here followed, argues very plausibly that a large number of 'dreams due to urethral stimulus' are really caused by sexual stimuli, which at first seek to gratify themselves by way of regression to the infantile form of urethral erotism. Those cases are especially instructive in which the urethral stimulus thus produced leads to waking and the emptying of the bladder, whereupon, in spite of this relief, the dream is continued, and expresses its need in undisguisedly erotic images.
In a quite analogous manner dreams due to intestinal stimulus disclose the pertinent symbolism, and thus confirm the relation, which is also amply verified by ethno-psychology, of gold and feces. 'Thus, for example, a woman, at a time when she is under the care of a physician on account of an intestinal disorder, dreams of a digger for hidden treasure who is burying a treasure in the vicinity of a little wooden shed which looks like a rural privy. A second part of the dream has as its content how she wipes the posterior of her child, a little girl, who has soiled herself.'
Dreams of 'rescue' are connected with parturition dreams. To rescue, especially to rescue from the water, is, when dreamed by a woman, equivalent to giving birth; this sense is, however, modified when the dreamer is a man.
Robbers, burglars, and ghosts, of which we are afraid before going to bed, and which sometimes even disturb our sleep, originate in one and the same childish reminiscence. They are the nightly visitors who have waked the child in order to set it on the chamber, so that it may not wet the bed, or have lifted the coverlet in order to see clearly how the child is holding its hands while sleeping. I have been able to induce an exact recollection of the nocturnal visitor in the analysis of some of these anxiety-dreams. The robbers were always the father; the ghosts more probably corresponded to female persons in white nightgowns.
Cf. the works of Bleuler and his Zurich disciples, Maeder, Abraham, and others, and of the non-medical authors (Kleinpaul and others) to whom they refer. But the most pertinent things that have been said on the subject will be found in the work of O. Rank and H. Sachs, Die Bedeutung der Psychoanalyse für die Geisteswissenschaft, 1913, chap. i; also E. Jones, Die Theorie der Symbolik Intern. Zeitschr. für Psychoanalyse, v. 1919.
This conception would seem to find an extraordinary confirmation in a theory advanced by Hans Sperber (Über den Einfluss sexueller momente auf Entstehung und Entwicklung der Sprache, in Imago, i, 1912). Sperber believes that primitive words denoted sexual things exclusively, and subsequently lost their sexual significance and were applied to other things and activities, which were compared with the sexual.
For example, a ship sailing on the sea may appear in the urinary dreams of Hungarian dreamers, despite the fact that the term of 'to ship', for 'to urinate', is foreign to this language (Ferenczi). In the dreams of the French and the other romance peoples 'room' serves as a symbolic representation for woman', although these peoples have nothing analogous to the German Frauenzimmer. Many symbols are as old as language itself, while others are continually being coined (e.g. the aeroplane, the Zeppelin).
[In the USA the father is represented in dreams as 'the President', and even more often as 'the Governor' -- a title which is frequently applied to the parent in everyday life. -- trans.]
'A patient living in a boarding-house dreams that he meets one of the servants, and asks her what her number is; to his surprise she answers: 14. He has in fact entered into relations with the girl in question, and has often had her in his bedroom. She feared, as may be imagined, that the landlady suspected her, and had proposed, on the day before the dream, that they should meet in one of the unoccupied rooms. In reality this room had the number 14, while in the dream the woman bore this number. A clearer proof of the identification of woman and room could hardly be imagined.' (Ernest Jones, Intern. Zeitschr. f. Psychoanalyse, ii, 1914) (cf. Artemidorus, The Symbolism of Dreams [German version by F. S. Krauss, Vienna, 1881, p. 110]: 'Thus, for example, the bedroom signifies the wife, supposing one to be in the house.')
cf. 'the cloaca theory' in Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex.
I may here repeat what I have said in another place (Die Zukünftigen Chancen der psychoanalytischen Therapie, Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, i, No. 1 and 2, 1910, and Ges. Schriften, Bd. vi): 'Some time ago I learned that a psychologist who is unfamiliar with our work remarked to one of my friends that we were surely overestimating the secret sexual significance of dreams. He stated that his most frequent dream was that of climbing a flight of stairs, and that there was surely nothing sexual behind this. Our attention having been called to this objection, we directed our investigations to the occurrence in dreams of flights of stairs, ladders, and steps, and we soon ascertained that stairs (or anything analogous to them) represent a definite symbol of coitus. The basis for this comparison is not difficult to find; with rhythmical intervals and increasing breathlessness one reaches a height, and may then come down again in a few rapid jumps. Thus the rhythm of coitus is reproduced in climbing stairs. Let us not forget to consider the colloquial usage. This tells us that 'mounting' is, without further addition, used as a substitutive designation for the sexual act. In French, the step of a staircase is called la marche; un vieux marcheur corresponds exactly to the German, ein alter Steiger.'
cf. in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, ii, 675, the drawing of a nineteen-year-old manic patient: a man with a snake as a neck-tie, which is turning towards a girl. Also the story Der Schamhaftige (Anthropophyteia, vi, 334): A woman entered a bathroom, and there came face to face with a man who hardly had time to put on his shirt. He was greatly embarrassed, but at once covered his throat with the front of his shirt, and said: 'Please excuse me, I have no necktie.'
cf. Pfister's works on cryptography and picture-puzzles.
In spite of all the differences between Scherner's conception of dream-symbolism and the one developed here, I must still insist that Scherner should be recognised as the true discoverer of symbolism in dreams, and that the experience of psychoanalysis has brought his book (published in 1861) into posthumous repute.
From Nachträge zur Traumdeutung in Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, i, Nos. 5 and 6, 1911.
cf. Kirchgraber for a similar example (Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, iii, 1912, p. 95). Stekel reported a dream in which the hat with an obliquely-standing feather in the middle symbolised the (impotent) man.
cf. comment in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, 1; and see above, p. 229, note 34.
or chapel = vagina.
symbol of coitus.
Demons in cloaks and hoods are, according to the explanation of a specialist, of a phallic character.
The two halves of the scrotum.
Alfred Robitsek in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, ii, 1911, p. 340.
The World of Dreams, London, 1911, p. 168.
[This Hebrew word is well known in German-speaking countries, even among Gentiles, and signifies an unlucky, awkward person. -- trans.]
Über Fehlreaktionen bei der Korsakoffschen Psychose, Arch. f. Psychiatrie, Bd. lxxii. 1924.
The extraction of a tooth by another is usually to be interpreted as castration (cf. hair-cutting; Stekel). One must distinguish between dreams due to dental stimulus and dreams referring to the dentist, such as have been recorded, for example, by Coriat (Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, iii, 440).
[In German Backen = cheeks and Hinterbacken (lit. 'hindcheeks') = buttocks. -- trans.]
According to C. G. Jung, dreams due to dental stimulus in the case of women have the significance of parturition dreams. E. Jones has given valuable confirmation of this. The common element of this interpretation with that represented above may be found in the fact that in both cases (castration--birth) there is a question of removing a part from the whole body.
cf. the 'biographical' dream on pp. 228-9.
This passage, dealing with dreams of motion, is repeated on account of the context. cf. p. 165.
[A reference to the German slang word vogeln (to copulate) from Vogel (a bird). -- trans.]
Über den Traum, Ges. Schriften, Bd. iii.
Collected Papers, vol. iii, trans. by Alix and James Strachey, Hogarth Press, London.
cf. Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex.
W. Stekel, Die Sprache des Traumes, 1911.
Alf. Adler, Der Psychische Hermaphroditismus im Leben und in der Neurose, in Fortschritte der Medizin, 1910, No. 16, and later papers in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, i, 1910-11.
I have published a typical example of such a disguised Oedipus dream in No. 1 of the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse (see below); another, with a detailed analysis, was published in No. 4 of the same journal by Otto Rank. For other disguised Oedipus dreams in which the eye appears as a symbol, see Rank (Int. Zeitschr. für Ps.A., i, 1913). Papers upon eye dreams and eye symbolism by Eder, Ferenczi, and Reitler will be found in the same issue. The blinding in the Oedipus legend and elsewhere is a substitute for castration. The ancients, by the way, were not unfamiliar with the symbolic interpretation of the undisguised Oedipus dream (see O. Rank, Jahrb. ii, p. 534: 'Thus, a dream of Julius Caesar's of sexual relations with his mother has been handed down to us, which the oneiroscopists interpreted as a favourable omen signifying his taking possession of the earth (Mother Earth). Equally well known is the oracle delivered to the Tarquinii, to the effect that that one of them would become the ruler of Rome who should be the first to kiss his mother (osculum matri tulerit), which Brutus conceived as referring to Mother Earth (terram osculo contigit, scilicet quod ea communis mater omnium mortalium esset, Livy, I, lxi).' Cf. here the dream of Hippias in Herodotus, VI, 107: 'But Hippias led the barbarians to Marathon after he had had the following dream-vision the previous night. It had seemed to Hippias that he was sleeping with his own mother. He concluded from this dream that he would return home to Athens, and would regain power, and that he would die in his fatherland in his old age.' These myths and interpretations point to a correct psychological insight. I have found that those persons who consider themselves preferred or favoured by their mothers manifest in life that confidence in themselves, and that unshakable optimism, which often seem heroic, and not infrequently compel actual success.
Typical example of a disguised Oedipus dream:
A man dreams: He has a secret affair with a woman whom another man wishes to marry. He is concerned lest the other should discover this relation and abandon the marriage; he therefore behaves very affectionately to the man; he nestles up to him and kisses him. -- The facts of the dreamer's life touch the dream-content only at one point. He has a secret affair with a married woman, and an equivocal expression of her husband, with whom he is on friendly terms, aroused in him the suspicion that he might have noticed something of this relationship. There is, however, in reality, yet another factor, the mention of which was avoided in the dream, and which alone gives the key to it. The life of the husband is threatened by an organic malady. His wife is prepared for the possibility of his sudden death, and our dreamer consciously harbours the intention of marrying the young widow after her husband's decease. It is through this objective situation that the dreamer finds himself transferred into the constellation of the Oedipus dream; his wish is to be enabled to kill the man, so that he may win the woman for his wife; his dream gives expression to the wish in a hypocritical distortion. Instead of representing her as already married to the other man, it represents the other man only as wishing to marry her, which indeed corresponds with his own secret intention, and the hostile wishes directed against the man are concealed under demonstrations of affection, which are reminiscences of his childish relations to his father.
For the mythological meaning of water-birth, see Rank: Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden, 1909.
It was not for a long time that I learned to appreciate the significance of the fantasies and unconscious thoughts relating to life in the womb. They contain the explanation of the curious dread, felt by so many people, of being buried alive, as well as the profoundest unconscious reason for the belief in a life after death, which represents only the projection into the future of this mysterious life before birth. The act of birth, moreover, is the first experience attended by anxiety, and is thus, the source and model of the affect of anxiety.
'The same symbolic representations which in the infantile sense constitute the basis of the vesical dream appear in the ''recent'' sense in purely sexual significance: water = urine = semen = amniotic fluid; ship = ''to pump ship'' (urinate = seed-capsule; getting wet = enuresis = coitus = pregnancy; swimming = full bladder = dwelling-place of the unborn; rain = urination = symbol of fertilization; travelling (journeying-alighting) = getting out of bed = having sexual intercourse (honeymoon journey); urinating = sexual ejaculation' (Rankin, I, c.).
Freud, Charakter und Analerotik; Rank, Die Symbolschictung, etc.; Dattner, Intern. Zeitschr. f. Psych. i, 1913; Reik, Intern. Zeitschr., iii, 1915.
For such a dream see Pfister, Ein Fall von psychoanalytischer Seelensorge und Seelenheilung, in Evangelische Freiheit, 1909. Concerning the symbol of 'rescuing', see my paper, Die Zukünftigen Chancender psychoanalytischen Therapie, in Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, i, 1910. Also Beitrage zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens, i. Über einen besonderen Typus der objektwahl beim Manne, in Jahrbuch für Ps.A., Bd. ii, 1910 (Ges. Schriften, Bd. v). Also Rank, Beilege zur Rettungsphantasie in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, i, 1910, p. 331; Reik, Zur Rettungssymbolic; ibid., p. 299.