Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, Chapter 7A
A. THE FORGETTING OF DREAMS
I propose, then, that we shall first of all turn our attention to a subject which brings us to a hitherto disregarded objection, which threatens to undermine the very foundation of our efforts at dream-interpretation. The objection has been made from more than one quarter that the dream which we wish to interpret is really unknown to us, or, to be more precise, that we have no guarantee that we know it as it really occurred.
What we recollect of the dream, and what we subject to our methods of interpretation, is, in the first place, mutilated by the unfaithfulness of our memory, which seems quite peculiarly incapable of retaining dreams, and which may have omitted precisely the most significant parts of their content. For when we try to consider our dreams attentively, we often have reason to complain that we have dreamed much more than we remember; that unfortunately we know nothing more than this one fragment, and that our recollection of even this fragment seems to us strangely uncertain. Moreover, everything goes to prove that our memory reproduces the dream not only incompletely but also untruthfully, in a falsifying manner. As, on the one hand, we may doubt whether what we dreamed was really as disconnected as it is in our recollections, so on the other hand we may doubt whether a dream was really as coherent as our account of it; whether in our attempted reproduction we have not filled in the gaps which really existed, or those which are due to forgetfulness, with new and arbitrarily chosen material; whether we have not embellished the dream, rounded it off and corrected it, so that any conclusion as to its real content becomes impossible. Indeed, one writer (Spitta) surmises that all that is orderly and coherent is really first put into the dream during the attempt to recall it. Thus we are in danger of being deprived of the very object whose value we have undertaken to determine.
In all our dream-interpretations we have hitherto ignored these warnings. On the contrary, indeed, we have found that the smallest, most insignificant, and most uncertain components of the dream-content invited interpretations no less emphatically than those which were distinctly and certainly contained in the dream. In the dream of Irma's injection we read: 'I quickly called in Dr M.,' and we assumed that even this small addendum would not have got into the dream if it had not been susceptible of a special derivation. In this way we arrived at the history of that unfortunate patient to whose bedside I 'quickly' called my older colleague. In the seemingly absurd dream which treated the difference between fifty-one and fifty-six as a quantité négligeable the number fifty-one was mentioned repeatedly. Instead of regarding this as a matter of course, or a detail of indifferent value, we proceeded from this to a second train of thought in the latent dream-content, which led to the number fifty-one, and by following up this clue we arrived at the fears which proposed fifty-one years as the term of life in the sharpest opposition to a dominant train of thought which was boastfully lavish of the years. In the dream 'Non vixit' I found, as an insignificant interpolation, that I had at first overlooked the sentence: 'As P. does not understand him, Fl. asks me,' etc. The interpretation then coming to a standstill, I went back to these words, and I found through them the way to the infantile fantasy which appeared in the dream-thoughts as an intermediate point of junction. This came about by means of the poet's verses:Selten habit ihr mich verstanden,
Selten auch verstand ich Euch,
Nur wenn wir im Kot uns fanden
So verstanden wir uns gleich!
(Seldom have you understood me,
Seldom have I understood you,
But when we found ourselves in the mire,
We at once understood each other!)
Every analysis will afford evidence of the fact that the most insignificant features of the dream are indispensable to interpretation, and will show how the completion of the task is delayed if we postpone our examination of them. We have given equal attention, in the interpretation of dreams, to every nuance of verbal expression found in them; indeed, whenever we were confronted by a senseless or insufficient wording, as though we had failed to translate the dream into the proper version, we have respected even these defects of expression. In brief, what other writers have regarded as arbitrary improvisations, concocted hastily to avoid confusion, we have treated like a sacred text. This contradiction calls for explanation.
It would appear, without doing any injustice to the writers in question, that the explanation is in our favour. From the standpoint of our newly-acquired insight into the origin of dreams, all contradictions are completely reconciled. It is true that we distort the dream in our attempt to reproduce it; we once more find therein what we have called the secondary and often misunderstanding elaboration of the dream by the agency of normal thinking. But this distortion is itself no more than a part of the elaboration to which the dream-thoughts are constantly subjected as a result of the dream-censorship. Other writers have here suspected or observed that part of the dream-distortion whose work is manifest; but for us this is of little consequence, as we know that a far more extensive work of distortion, not so easily apprehended, has already taken the dream for its object from among the hidden dream-thoughts. The only mistake of these writers consists in believing the modification effected in the dream by its recollection and verbal expression to be arbitrary, incapable of further solution, and consequently liable to lead us astray in our cognition of the dream. They underestimate the determination of the dream in the psyche. Here there is nothing arbitrary. It can be shown that in all cases a second train of thought immediately takes over the determination of the elements which have been left undetermined by the first. For example, I wish quite arbitrarily to think of a number; but this is not possible; the number that occurs to me is definitely and necessarily determined by thoughts within me which may be quite foreign to my momentary purpose. The modifications which the dream undergoes in its revision by the waking mind are just as little arbitrary. They preserve an associative connection with the content, whose place they take, and serve to show us the way to this content, which may itself be a substitute for yet another content.
In analysing the dreams of patients I impose the following test of this assertion, and never without success. If the first report of a dream seems not very comprehensible, I request the dreamer to repeat it. This he rarely does in the same words. But the passages in which the expression is modified are thereby made known to me as the weak points of the dream's disguise; they are what the embroidered emblem on Siegfried's raiment was to Hagen. These are the points from which the analysis may start. The narrator has been admonished by my announcement that I intend to take special pains to solve the dream, and immediately, obedient to the urge of resistance, he protects the weak points of the dream's disguise, replacing a treacherous expression by a less relevant one. He thus calls my attention to the expressions which he has discarded. From the efforts made to guard against the solution of the dream, I can also draw conclusions about the care with which the raiment of the dream has been woven.
The writers whom I have mentioned are, however, less justified when they attribute so much importance to the doubt with which our judgment approaches the relation of the dream. For this doubt is not intellectually warranted; our memory can give no guarantees, but nevertheless we are compelled to credit its statements far more frequently than is objectively justifiable. Doubt concerning the accurate reproduction of the dream, or of individual data of the dream, is only another offshoot of the dream-censorship, that is, of resistance to the emergence of the dream-thoughts into consciousness. This resistance has not yet exhausted itself by the displacements and substitutions which it has effected, so that it still clings, in the form of doubt, to what has been allowed to emerge. We can recognise this doubt all the more readily in that it is careful never to attack the intensive elements of the dream, but only the weak and indistinct ones. But we already know that a transvaluation of all the psychic values has taken place between the dream-thoughts and the dream. The distortion has been made possible only by devaluation; it constantly manifests itself in this way and sometimes contents itself therewith. If doubt is added to the indistinctness of an element of the dream-content, we may, following this indication, recognise in this element a direct offshoot of one of the outlawed dream-thoughts. The state of affairs is like that obtaining after a great revolution in one of the republics of antiquity or the Renaissance. The once powerful, ruling families of the nobility are now banished; all high posts are filled by upstarts; in the city itself only the poorer and most powerless citizens, or the remoter followers of the vanquished party, are tolerated. Even the latter do not enjoy the full rights of citizenship. They are watched with suspicion. In our case, instead of suspicion we have doubt. I must insist, therefore, that in the analysis of a dream one must emancipate oneself from the whole scale of standards of reliability; and if there is the slightest possibility that this or that may have occurred in the dream, it should be treated as an absolute certainty. Until one has decided to reject all respect for appearances in tracing the dream-elements, the analysis will remain at a standstill. Disregard of the element concerned has the psychic effect, in the person analysed, that nothing in connection with the unwished ideas behind this element will occur to him. This effect is really not self-evident; it would be quite reasonable to say, 'Whether this or that was contained in the dream I do not know for certain; but the following ideas happen to occur to me.' But no one ever does say so; it is precisely the disturbing effect of doubt in the analysis that permits it to be unmasked as an offshoot and instrument of the psychic resistance. Psychoanalysis is justifiably suspicious. One of its rules runs: Whatever disturbs the progress of the work is a resistance.
The forgetting of dreams, too, remains inexplicable until we seek to explain it by the power of the psychic censorship. The feeling that one has dreamed a great deal during the night and has retained only a little of it may have yet another meaning in a number of cases: it may perhaps mean that the dream-work has continued in a perceptible manner throughout the night, but has left behind it only one brief dream. There is, however, no possible doubt that a dream is progressively forgotten on waking. One often forgets it in spite of a painful effort to recover it. I believe, however, that just as one generally overestimates the extent of this forgetting, so also one overestimates the lacunae in our knowledge of the dream due to the gaps occurring in it. All the dream-content that has been lost by forgetting can often be recovered by analysis; in a number of cases, at all events, it is possible to discover from a single remaining fragment, not the dream, of course -- which, after all, is of no importance -- but the whole of the dream-thoughts. It requires a greater expenditure of attention and self-suppression in the analysis; that is all; but it shows that the forgetting of the dream is not innocent of hostile intention.
A convincing proof of the tendentious nature of dream-forgetting -- of the fact that it serves the resistance -- is obtained on analysis by investigating a preliminary stage of forgetting. It often happens that in the midst of an interpretation an omitted fragment of the dream suddenly emerges which is described as having been previously forgotten. This part of the dream that has been wrested from forgetfulness is always the most important part. It lies on the shortest path to the solution of the dream, and for that very reason it was most exposed to the resistance. Among the examples of the dreams that I have included in the text of this treatise, it once happened that I had subsequently to interpolate a fragment of dream-content. The dream is a dream of travel, which revenges itself on two unamiable travelling companions; I have left it almost entirely uninterpreted, as part of its content is crudely obscene. The part omitted reads: 'I said, referring to a book of Schiller's: ''It is from . . .'' but corrected myself, as I realised my mistake: ''It is by . . .'' Whereupon the man remarked to his sister, ''Yes, he said it correctly.'' '
Self-correction in dreams, which to some writers seems so wonderful, does not really call for consideration. But I will draw from my own memory an instance typical of verbal errors in dreams. I was nineteen years of age when I visited England for the first time, and I spent a day on the shore of the Irish Sea. Naturally enough, I amused myself by picking up the marine animals left on the beach by the tide, and I was just examining a starfish (the dream begins with Hollthurn--Holothurian) when a pretty little girl came up to me and asked me: 'Is it starfish? Is it alive?' I replied, 'Yes, he is alive,' but then felt ashamed of my mistake, and repeated the sentence correctly. For the grammatical mistake which I then made, the dream substitutes another which is quite common among German people. 'Das Buch ist von Schiller' is not to be translated by 'the book is from,' but by 'the book is by'. That the dream-work accomplishes this substitution, because the word from, owing to its consonance with the German adjective fromm (pious, devout) makes a remarkable condensation possible, should no longer surprise us after all that we have heard of the intentions of the dream-work and its unscrupulous selection of means. But what relation has this harmless recollection of the seashore to my dream? It explains, by means of a very innocent example, that I have used the word -- the word denoting gender, or sex or the sexual (he) -- in the wrong place. This is surely one of the keys to the solution of the dream. Those who have heard of the derivation of the book-title Matter and Motion (Molière in Le Malade Imaginaire: La Matière est-elle laudable? -- A Motion of the bowels) will readily be able to supply the missing parts.
Moreover, I can prove conclusively, by a demonstratio ad oculos, that the forgetting of the dream is in a large measure the work of the resistance. A patient tells me that he has dreamed, but that the dream has vanished without leaving a trace, as if nothing had happened. We set to work, however; I come upon a resistance which I explain to the patient; encouraging and urging him, I help him to become reconciled to some disagreeable thought; and I have hardly succeeded in doing so when he exclaims: 'Now I can recall what I dreamed!' The same resistance which that day disturbed him in the work of interpretation caused him also to forget the dream. By overcoming this resistance I have brought back the dream to his memory.
In the same way the patient, having reached a certain part of the work, may recall a dream which occurred three, four, or more days ago, and which has hitherto remained in oblivion.
Psychoanalytical experience has furnished us with yet another proof of the fact that the forgetting of dreams depends far more on the resistance than on the mutually alien character of the waking and sleeping states, as some writers have believed it to depend. It often happens to me, as well as to other analysts, and to patients under treatment, that we are waked from sleep by a dream, as we say, and that immediately thereafter, while in full possession of our mental faculties, we begin to interpret the dream. Often in such cases I have not rested until I have achieved a full understanding of the dream, and yet it has happened that after waking I have forgotten the interpretation work as completely as I have forgotten the dream-content itself, though I have been aware that I have dreamed and that I had interpreted the dream. The dream has far more frequently taken the result of the interpretation with it into forgetfulness than the intellectual faculty has succeeded in retaining the dream in the memory. But between this work of interpretation and the waking thoughts there is not that psychic abyss by which other writers have sought to explain the forgetting of dreams. -- When Morton Prince objects to my explanation of the forgetting of dreams on the ground that it is only a special case of the amnesia of dissociated psychic states, and that the impossibility of applying my explanation of this special amnesia to other types of amnesia makes it valueless even for its immediate purpose, he reminds the reader that in all his descriptions of such dissociated states he has never attempted to discover the dynamic explanation underlying these phenomena. For had he done so, he would surely have discovered that repression (and the resistance produced thereby) is the cause not of these dissociations merely, but also of the amnesia of their psychic content.
That dreams are as little forgotten as other psychic acts, that even in their power of impressing themselves on the memory they may fairly be compared with the other psychic performances, was proved to me by an experiment which I was able to make while preparing the manuscript of this book. I had preserved in my notes a great many dreams of my own which, for one reason or another, I could not interpret, or, at the time of dreaming them, could interpret only very imperfectly. In order to obtain material to illustrate my assertion, I attempted to interpret some of them a year or two later. In this attempt I was invariably successful; indeed, I may say that the interpretation was effected more easily after all this time than when the dreams were of recent occurrence. As a possible explanation of this fact, I would suggest that I had overcome many of the internal resistances which had disturbed me at the time of dreaming. In such subsequent interpretations I have compared the old yield of dream-thoughts with the present result, which has usually been more abundant, and I have invariably found the old dream-thoughts unaltered among the present ones. However, I soon recovered from my surprise when I reflected that I had long been accustomed to interpret dreams of former years that had occasionally been related to me by my patients as though they had been dreams of the night before; by the same method, and with the same success. In the section on anxiety-dreams I shall include two examples of such delayed dream-interpretations. When I made this experiment for the first time I expected, not unreasonably, that dreams would behave in this connection merely like neurotic symptoms. For when I treat a psychoneurotic, for instance, an hysterical patient, by psychoanalysis, I am compelled to find explanations for the first symptoms of the malady, which have long since disappeared, as well as for those still existing symptoms which have brought the patient to me; and I find the former problem easier to solve than the more exigent one of today. In the Studies in Hysteria, published as early as 1895, I was able to give the explanation of a first hysterical attack which the patient, a woman over forty years of age, had experienced in her fifteenth year.
I will now make a few rather unsystematic remarks relating to the interpretation of dreams, which will perhaps serve as a guide to the reader who wishes to test my assertions by the analysis of his own dreams.
He must not expect that it will be a simple and easy matter to interpret his own dreams. Even the observation of endoptic phenomena, and other sensations which are commonly immune from attention, calls for practice, although this group of observations is not opposed by any psychic motive. It is very much more difficult to get hold of the 'unwished ideas'. He who seeks to do so must fulfil the requirements laid down in this treatise, and while following the rules here given, he must endeavour to restrain all criticism, all preconceptions, and all affective or intellectual bias in himself during the work of analysis. He must be ever mindful of the precept which Claude Bernard held up to the experimenter in the physiological laboratory: 'Travailler comme une bete' -- that is, he must be as enduring as an animal, and also as disinterested in the results of his work. He who will follow this advice will no longer find the task a difficult one. The interpretation of a dream cannot always be accomplished in one session; after following up a chain of associations you will often feel that your working capacity is exhausted; the dream will not tell you anything more that day; it is then best to break off, and to resume the work the following day. Another portion of the dream-content then solicits your attention, and you thus obtain access to a fresh stratum of the dream-thoughts. One might call this the 'fractional' interpretation of dreams.
It is most difficult to induce the beginner in dream-interpretation to recognise the fact that his task is not finished when he is in possession of a complete interpretation of the dream which is both ingenious and coherent, and which gives particulars of all the elements of the dream-content. Besides this, another interpretation, an over-interpretation of the same dream, one which has escaped him, may be possible. It is really not easy to form an idea of the wealth of trains of unconscious thought striving for expression in our minds, or to credit the adroitness displayed by the dream-work in killing -- so to speak -- seven flies at one stroke, like the journeyman tailor in the fairy-tale, by means of its ambiguous modes of expression. The reader will constantly be inclined to reproach the author for a superfluous display of ingenuity, but anyone who has had personal experience of dream-interpretation will know better than to do so.
On the other hand, I cannot accept the opinion first expressed by H. Silberer, that every dream -- or even that many dreams, and certain groups of dreams -- calls for two different interpretations, between which there is even supposed to be a fixed relation. One of these, which Silberer calls the psychoanalytic interpretation, attributes to the dream any meaning you please, but in the main an infantile sexual one. The other, the more important interpretation, which he calls the anagogic interpretation, reveals the more serious and often profound thoughts which the dream-work has used as its material. Silberer does not prove this assertion by citing a number of dreams which he has analysed in these two directions. I am obliged to object to this opinion on the ground that it is contrary to facts. The majority of dreams require no over-interpretation, and are especially insusceptible of an anagogic interpretation. The influence of a tendency which seeks to veil the fundamental conditions of dream-formation and divert our interest from its instinctual roots is as evident in Silberer's theory as in other theoretical efforts of the last few years. In a number of cases I can confirm Silberer's assertions; but in these the analysis shows me that the dream-work was confronted with the task of transforming a series of highly abstract thoughts, incapable of direct representation, from waking life into a dream. The dream-work attempted to accomplish this task by seizing upon another thought-material which stood in loose and often allegorical relation to the abstract thoughts, and thereby diminished the difficulty of representing them. The abstract interpretation of a dream originating in this manner will be given by the dreamer immediately, but the correct interpretation of the substituted material can be obtained only by means of the familiar technique.
The question whether every dream can be interpreted is to be answered in the negative. One should not forget that in the work of interpretation one is opposed by the psychic forces that are responsible for the distortion of the dream. Whether one can master the inner resistances by one's intellectual interest, one's capacity for self-control, one's psychological knowledge, and one's experience in dream-interpretation depends on the relative strength of the opposing forces. It is always possible to make some progress; one can at all events go far enough to become convinced that a dream has meaning, and generally far enough to gain some idea of its meaning. It very often happens that a second dream enables us to confirm and continue the interpretation assumed for the first. A whole series of dreams, continuing for weeks or months, may have a common basis, and should therefore be interpreted as a continuity. In dreams that follow one another we often observe that one dream takes as its central point something that is only alluded to in the periphery of the next dream, and conversely, so that even in their interpretations the two supplement each other. That different dreams of the same night are always to be treated, in the work of interpretation, as a whole, I have already shown by examples.
In the best interpreted dreams we often have to leave one passage in obscurity because we observe during the interpretation that we have here a tangle of dream-thoughts which cannot be unravelled, and which furnishes no fresh contribution to the dream-content. This, then, is the keystone of the dream, the point at which it ascends into the unknown. For the dream-thoughts which we encounter during the interpretation commonly have no termination, but run in all directions into the net-like entanglement of our intellectual world. It is from some denser part of this fabric that the dream-wish then arises, like the mushroom from its mycelium.
Let us now return to the facts of dream-forgetting. So far, of course, we have failed to draw any important conclusion from them. When our waking life shows an unmistakable intention to forget the dream which has been formed during the night, either as a whole, immediately after waking, or little by little in the course of the day, and when we recognise as the chief factor in this process of forgetting the psychic resistance against the dream which has already done its best to oppose the dream at night, the question then arises: What actually has made the dream-formation possible against this resistance? Let us consider the most striking case, in which the waking life has thrust the dream aside as though it had never happened. If we take into consideration the play of the psychic forces, we are compelled to assert that the dream would never have come into existence had the resistance prevailed at night as it did by day. We conclude, then, that the resistance loses some part of its force during the night; we know that it has not been discontinued, as we have demonstrated its share in the formation of dreams -- namely, the work of distortion. We have therefore to consider the possibility that at night the resistance is merely diminished, and that dream-formation becomes possible because of this slackening of the resistance; and we shall readily understand that as it regains its full power on waking it immediately thrusts aside what it was forced to admit while it was feeble. Descriptive psychology teaches us that the chief determinant of dream-formation is the dormant state of the psyche; and we may now add the following explanation: The state of sleep makes dream-formation possible by reducing the endopsychic censorship.
We are certainly tempted to look upon this as the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the facts of dream-forgetting, and to develop from this conclusion further deductions as to the comparative energy operative in the sleeping and waking states. But we shall stop here for the present. When we have penetrated a little farther into the psychology of dreams we shall find that the origin of dream-formation may be differently conceived. The resistance which tends to prevent the dream-thoughts from becoming conscious may perhaps be evaded without suffering reduction. It is also plausible that both the factors which favour dream-formation, the reduction as well as the evasion of the resistance, may be simultaneously made possible by the sleeping state. But we shall pause here, and resume the subject a little later.
We must now consider another series of objections against our procedure in dream-interpretation. For we proceed by dropping all the directing ideas which at other times control reflection, directing our attention to a single element of the dream, noting the involuntary thoughts that associate themselves with this element. We then take up the next component of the dream-content, and repeat the operation with this; and, regardless of the direction taken by the thoughts, we allow ourselves to be led onwards by them, rambling from one subject to another. At the same time, we harbour the confident hope that we may in the end, and without intervention on our part, come upon the dream-thoughts from which the dream originated. To this the critic may make the following objection: That we arrive somewhere if we start from a single element of the dream is not remarkable. Something can be associatively connected with every idea. The only thing that is remarkable is that one should succeed in hitting upon the dream-thoughts in this arbitrary and aimless excursion. It is probably a self-deception; the investigator follows the chain of associations from the one element which is taken up until he finds the chain breaking off, whereupon he takes up a second element; it is thus only natural that the originally unconfined associations should now become narrowed down. He has the former chain of associations still in mind, and will therefore in the analysis of the second dream-idea hit all the more readily upon single associations which have something in common with the associations of the first chain. He then imagines that he has found a thought which represents a point of junction between two of the dream-elements. As he allows himself all possible freedom of thought-connection, excepting only the transitions from one idea to another which occur in normal thinking, it is not difficult for him finally to concoct out of a series of 'intermediary thoughts', something which he calls the dream-thoughts; and without any guarantee, since they are otherwise unknown, he palms these off as the psychic equivalent of the dream. But all this is a purely arbitrary procedure, an ingenious-looking exploitation of chance, and anyone who will go to this useless trouble can in this way work out any desired interpretation for any dream whatever.
If such objections are really advanced against us, we may in defence refer to the impression produced by our dream-interpretations, the surprising connections with other dream-elements which appear while we are following up the individual ideas, and the improbability that anything which so perfectly covers and explains the dream as do our dream-interpretations could be achieved otherwise than by following previously established psychic connections. We might also point to the fact that the procedure in dream-interpretation is identical with the procedure followed in the resolution of hysterical symptoms, where the correctness of the method is attested by the emergence and disappearance of the symptoms -- that is, where the interpretation of the text is confirmed by the interpolated illustrations. But we have no reason to avoid this problem -- namely, how one can arrive at a pre-existent aim by following an arbitrarily and aimlessly meandering chain of thoughts -- since we shall be able not to solve the problem, it is true, but to get rid of it entirely.
For it is demonstrably incorrect to state that we abandon ourselves to an aimless excursion of thought when, as in the interpretation of dreams, we renounce reflection and allow the involuntary ideas to come to the surface. It can be shown that we are able to reject only those directing ideas which are known to us, and that with the cessation of these the unknown -- or, as we inexactly say, unconscious -- directing ideas immediately exert their influence, and henceforth determine the flow of the involuntary ideas. Thinking without directing ideas cannot be ensured by any influence we ourselves exert on our own psychic life; neither do I know of any state of psychic derangement in which such a mode of thought establishes itself. The psychiatrists have here far too prematurely relinquished the idea of the solidity of the psychic structure. I know that an unregulated stream of thoughts, devoid of directing ideas, can occur as little in the realm of hysteria and paranoia as in the formation or solution of dreams. Perhaps it does not occur at all in the endogenous psychic affections, and, according to the ingenious hypothesis of Lauret, even the deliria observed in confused psychic states have meaning and are incomprehensible to us only because of ommissions. I have had the same conviction whenever I have had an opportunity of observing such states. The deliria are the work of a censorship which no longer makes any effort to conceal its sway, which, instead of lending its support to a revision that is no longer obnoxious to it, cancels regardlessly anything to which it objects, thus causing the remnant to appear disconnected, This censorship proceeds like the Russian censorship of the frontier, which allows only those foreign journals which have had certain passages blacked out to fall into the hands of the readers to be protected.
The free play of ideas following any chain of associations may perhaps occur in cases of destructive organic affections of the brain. What, however, is taken to be such in the psychoneuroses may always be explained as the influence of the censorship on a series of thoughts which have been pushed into the foreground by the concealed directing ideas. It has been considered an unmistakable sign of free association unencumbered by directing ideas if the emerging ideas (or images) appear to be connected by means of the so-called superficial associations -- that is, by assonance, verbal ambiguity, and temporal coincidence, without inner relationship of meaning; in other words, if they are connected by all those associations which we allow ourselves to exploit in wit and in playing upon words. This distinguishing mark holds good with associations which lead us from the elements of the dream-content to the intermediary thoughts, and from these to the dream-thoughts proper; in many analyses of dreams we have found surprising examples of this. In these no connection was too loose and no witticism too objectionable to serve as a bridge from one thought to another. But the correct understanding of such surprising tolerance is not far to seek. Whenever one psychic element is connected with another by an obnoxious and superficial association, there exists also a correct and more profound connection between the two, which succumbs to the resistance of the censorship.
The correct explanation for the predominance of the superficial associations is the pressure of the censorship, and not the suppression of the directing ideas. Whenever the censorship renders the normal connective paths impassable, the superficial associations will replace the deeper ones in the representation. It is as though in a mountainous region a general interruption of traffic, for example an inundation, should render the broad highways impassable: traffic would then have to be maintained by steep and inconvenient tracks used at other times only by the hunter.
We can here distinguish two cases which, however, are essentially one. In the first case, the censorship is directed only against the connection of two thoughts which, being detached from one another, escape its opposition. The two thoughts then enter successively into consciousness; their connection remains concealed; but in its place there occurs to us a superficial connection between the two which would not otherwise have occurred to us, and which as a rule connects with another angle of the conceptual complex instead of that from which the suppressed but essential connection proceeds. Or, in the second case, both thoughts, owing to their content, succumb to the censorship; both then appear not in their correct form but in a modified, substituted form; and both substituted thoughts are so selected as to represent, by a superficial association, the essential relation which existed between those that they have replaced. Under the pressure of the censorship, the displacement of a normal and vital association by one superficial and apparently absurd has thus occurred in both cases.
Because we know of these displacements, we unhesitatingly rely upon even the superficial associations which occur in the course of dream-interpretation.
The psychoanalysis of neurotics makes abundant use of the two principles: that with the abandonment of the conscious directing ideas the control over the flow of ideas is transferred to the concealed directing ideas; and that superficial associations are only a displacement-substitute for suppressed and more profound ones. Indeed, psychoanalysis makes these two principles the foundation stones of its technique. When I request a patient to dismiss all reflection, and to report to me whatever comes into his mind, I firmly cling to the assumption that he will not be able to drop the directing idea of the treatment, and I feel justified in concluding that what he reports, even though it may seem to be quite ingenuous and arbitrary, has some connection with his morbid state. Another directing idea of which the patient has no suspicion is my own personality. The full appreciation, as well as the detailed proof of both these explanations, belongs to the description of the psychoanalytic technique as a therapeutic method. We have here reached one of the junctions, so to speak, at which we purposely drop the subject of dream-interpretation.
Of all the objections raised, only one is justified and still remains to be met: namely, that we ought not to ascribe all the associations of the interpretation-work to the nocturnal dream-work. By interpretation in the waking state we are actually opening a path running back from the dream-elements to the dream-thoughts. The dream-work has followed the contrary direction, and it is not at all probable that these paths are equally passable in opposite directions. On the contrary, it appears that during the day, by means of new thought-connections, we sink shafts that strike the intermediary thoughts and the dream-thoughts now in this place, now in that. We can see how the recent thought-material of the day forces its way into the interpretation-series, and how the additional resistance which has appeared since the night probably compels it to make new and further detours. But the number and form of the collaterals which we thus contrive during the day are, psychologically speaking, indifferent, so long as they point the way to the dream-thoughts which we are seeking.
Similar views are expressed by Foucault and Tannery.
cf. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.
This peremptory statement: 'Whatever disturbs the progress of the work is a resistance' might easily be misunderstood. It has, of course, the significance merely of a technical rule, a warning for the analyst. It is not denied that during an analysis events may occur which cannot be ascribed to the intention of the person analysed. The patient's father may die in other ways than by being murdered by the patient, or a war may break out and interrupt the analysis. But despite the obvious exaggeration of the above statement there is still something new and useful in it. Even if the disturbing event is real and independent of the patient, the extent of the disturbing influence does often depend only on him, and the resistance reveals itself unmistakably in the ready and immoderate exploitation of such an opportunity.
As an example of the significance of doubt and uncertainty in a dream with a simultaneous shrinking of the dream-content to a single element I will cite from my Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis the following dream, the analysis of which was successful, despite a short postponement:
A sceptical lady patient has a rather long dream, in which it happens that certain persons tell her of my book on Wit, and praise it highly. Then something is said about a 'channel', perhaps another book in which 'channel' occurs, or something else to do with 'channel', . . . she doesn't know; it is quite vague.
You will, of course, be inclined to think that the element 'channel' will resist analysis, because it is so indeterminate. You are right in assuming this difficulty, but it is not difficult because it is vague; it is vague for the reason that makes the interpretation difficult. The dreamer could associate nothing with 'channel'; and of course I could not suggest anything. A little while later -- the following day, to be precise -- she stated that something did occur to her which perhaps referred to 'channel'. It was, as a matter of fact, a witticism which she had heard someone repeat. On a steamer running between Dover and Calais a well-known writer was talking to an Englishman, who in a certain connection quoted the aphorism: Du sublime au ridicule il n'y a qu'un pas. The writer retorted: Oui, le pas de Calais, whereby he wished to imply that he thought France sublime and England ridiculous. But the Pas de Calais is a channel, the Canal la Manche (the sleeve channel). Do I think that this association has anything to do with the dream? I certainly do; it really furnishes the solution of this enigmatical dream-element. Can you doubt that this witticism already existed, before the dream, as the unconscious of the element 'channel'; can you assume that it was subsequently invented as an association? The association testifies to the scepticism concealed behind her obtrusive admiration, and the resistance is, of course, the common reason for both her hesitation in finding an association and the indefinite character of the corresponding dream-element. Note the relation of the dream-element to the unconscious in this case. It is like a fragment of this unconscious, like an allusion to it; by its isolation it has become quite unintelligible.
Concerning the intention of forgetting in general, see my The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.
Such corrections in the use of foreign languages are not rare in dreams, but they are usually attributed to foreigners. Maury, while he was studying English, once dreamed that he informed someone that he had called on him the day before in the following words: 'I called for you yesterday.' The other answered, correctly: 'You mean: I called on you yesterday.'
Ernest Jones describes an analogous case of frequent occurrence; during the analysis of one dream another dream of the same night is often recalled which until then was not merely forgotten, but was not even suspected.
Translated by A. A. Brill, Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases Publishing Co., New York.
Dreams which have occurred during the first years of childhood, and which have sometimes been retained in the memory for decades with perfect sensorial freshness, are almost always of great importance for the understanding of the development and the neurosis of the dreamer. The analysis of them protects the physician from errors and uncertainties which might confuse him even theoretically.
Only recently has my attention been called to the fact that Ed. von Hartmann took the same view with regard to this psychologically important point: Incidental to the discussion of the role of the unconscious in artistic creation (Philos. d. Unbew., Bd. 1, Abschn. B., Kap. V) Eduard von Hartmann clearly enunciated the law of association of ideas which is directed by unconscious directing ideas, without however realising the scope of this law. With him it was a question of demonstrating that 'every combination of a sensuous idea when it is not left entirely to chance, but is directed to a definite end, is in need of help from the unconscious', and that the conscious interest in any particular thought-association is a stimulus for the unconscious to discover from among the numberless possible ideas the one which corresponds to the directing idea. 'It is the unconscious that selects, and appropriately, in accordance with the aims of the interest: and this holds true for the associations in abstract thinking (as sensible representations and artistic combinations as well as for flashes of wit).' Hence, a limiting of the association of ideas to ideas that evoke and are evoked in the sense of pure association-psychology is untenable. Such a restriction 'would be justified only if there were states in human life in which man was free not only from any conscious purpose, but also from the domination or co-operation of any unconscious interest, any passing mood. But such a state hardly ever comes to pass, for even if one leaves one's train of thought seemingly altogether to chance, or if one surrenders oneself entirely to the involuntary dreams of fantasy, yet always other leading interests, dominant feelings and moods prevail at one time rather than another, and these will always exert an influence on the association of ideas.' (Philos. d. Unbew., 11[e] Aufl. i, 246). In semi-conscious dreams there always appear only such ideas as correspond to the (unconscious) momentary main interest. By rendering prominent the feelings and moods over the free thought-series, the methodical procedure of psychoanalysis is thoroughly justified even from the standpoint of Hartmann's Psychology (N. E. Pohorilles, Internat. Zeitschrift. f. Ps.A., 1, 1913, p. 605). -- Du Prel concludes from the fact that a name which we vainly try to recall suddenly occurs to the mind that there is an unconscious but none the less purposeful thinking, whose result then appears in consciousness (Philos. d. Mystik, p. 107).
Jung has brilliantly corroborated this statement by analyses of dementia praecox. (cf. The Psychology of Dementia Praecox, translated by A. A. Brill. Monograph Series, Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases Publishing Co., New York.)
The same considerations naturally hold good of the case in which superficial associations are exposed in the dream-content, as, for example, in both the dreams reported by Maury (p. 50, pélerinage-pelletier-pelle, kilometre-kilograms-gilolo, Lobelia-Lopez-Lotto). I know from my work with neurotics what kind of reminiscence is prone to represent itself in this manner. It is the consultation of encyclopedias by which most people have satisfied their need of an explanation of the sexual mystery when obsessed by the curiosity of puberty.
The above statements, which when written sounded very improbable, have since been corroborated and applied experimentally by Jung and his pupils in the Diagnostiche Assoziationsstudien.