Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). The Interpretation of Dreams. 1913.
V. The Material and Sources of Dreams
Now that we are able, by applying our process of interpretation, to discover a latent dream content which far surpasses the manifest dream content in point of significance, we are impelled to take up the individual dream problems afresh, in order to see whether the riddles and contradictions which seemed, when we had only the manifest content, beyond our reach may not be solved for us satisfactorily.
The statements of the authors concerning the relation of the dream to waking life, as well as concerning the source of the dream material, have been given at length in the introductory chapter. We may recall that there are three peculiarities of recollection in the dreams, which have been often remarked but never explained:
2. That it makes its selection according to principles other than those of our waking memory, in that it recalls not what is essential and important, but what is subordinate and disregarded (cf. p. 13).
3. That it has at its disposal the earliest impressions of our childhood, and brings to light details from this period of life which again seem trivial to us, and which in waking life were considered long ago forgotten.
These peculiarities in the selection of the dream material have of course been observed by the authors in connection with the manifest dream content.
If I now consult my own experience concerning the source of the elements which appear in the dream, I must at once express the opinion that some reference to the experiences of the day which has most recently passed is to be found in every dream. Whatever dream I take up, whether my own or another’s, this experience is always re-affirmed. Knowing this fact, I can usually begin the work of interpretation by trying to learn the experience of the previous day which has stimulated the dream; for many cases, indeed, this is the quickest way. In the case of the two dreams which I have subjected to close analysis in the preceding chapter (of Irma’s injection, and of my uncle with the yellow beard) the reference to the previous day is so obvious that it needs no further elucidation. But in order to show that this reference may be regularly demonstrated, I shall examine a portion of my own dream chronicle. I shall report the dreams only so far as is necessary for the discovery of the dream stimulus in question.
1. I make a visit at a house where I am admitted only with difficulty, &c., and meanwhile I keep a woman waiting for me.
Source.—A conversation in the evening with a female relative to the effect that she would have to wait for some aid which she demanded until, &c.
2. I have written a monograph about a certain (obscure) species of plant.
Source.—I have seen in the show-window of a book store a monograph upon the genus cyclamen.
3. I see two women on the street, mother and daughter, the latter of whom is my patient.
Source.—A female patient who is under treatment has told me what difficulties her mother puts in the way of her continuing the treatment.
4. At the book store of S. and R. I subscribe to a periodical which costs 20 florins annually.
Source.—During the day my wife has reminded me that I still owe her 20 florins of her weekly allowance.
5. I receive a communication, in which I am treated as a member, from the Social Democratic Committee.
Source.—I have received communications simultaneously from the Liberal Committee on Elections and from the president of the Humanitarian Society, of which I am really a member.
6. A man on a steep rock in the middle of the ocean, after the manner of Boecklin.
Source.—Dreyfus on Devil’s Island; at the same time news from my relatives in England, &c.
The question might be raised, whether the dream is invariably connected with the events of the previous day, or whether the reference may be extended to impressions from a longer space of time in the immediate past. Probably this matter cannot claim primary importance, but I should like to decide in favour of the exclusive priority of the day before the dream (the dream-day). As often as I thought I had found a case where an impression of two or three days before had been the source of the dream, I could convince myself, after careful investigation, that this impression had been remembered the day before, that a demonstrable reproduction had been interpolated between the day of the event and the time of the dream, and, furthermore, I was able to point out the recent occasion upon which the recollection of the old impression might have occurred. On the other hand, I was unable to convince myself that a regular interval (H. Swoboda calls the first one of this kind eighteen hours) of biological significance occurs between the stimulating impression of the day and its repetition in the dream.
I am, therefore, of the opinion that the stimulus for every dream is to be found among those experiences “upon which one has not yet slept” for a night.
Thus the impressions of the immediate past (with the exception of the day before the night of the dream) stand in no different relation to the dream content from those of times which are as far removed in the past as you please. The dream may select its material from all times of life, provided only, that a chain of thought starting from one of the experiences of the day of the dream (one of the “recent” impressions) reaches back to these earlier ones.
But why this preference for recent impressions? We shall reach some conjectures on this point if we subject one of the dreams already mentioned to a more exact analysis. I select the dream about the monograph.
Content of the dream.—I have written a monograph upon a certain plant. The book lies before me, I am just turning over a folded coloured plate. A dried specimen of the plant is bound with every copy, as though from a herbarium.
Analysis.—In the forenoon I saw in the show-window of a book store a book entitled, The Genus Cyclamen, apparently a monograph on this plant.
The cyclamen is the favourite flower of my wife. I reproach myself for so seldom thinking to bring her flowers, as she wishes. In connection with the theme “bringing flowers,” I am reminded of a story which I recently told in a circle of friends to prove my assertion that forgetting is very often the purpose of the unconscious, and that in any case it warrants a conclusion as to the secret disposition of the person who forgets. A young woman who is accustomed to receive a bunch of flowers from her husband on her birthday, misses this token of affection on a festive occasion of this sort, and thereupon bursts into tears. The husband comes up, and is unable to account for her tears until she tells him, “To-day is my birthday.” He strikes his forehead and cries, “Why, I had completely forgotten it,” and wants to go out to get her some flowers. But she is not to be consoled, for she sees in the forgetfulness of her husband a proof that she does not play the same part in his thoughts as formerly. This Mrs. L. met my wife two days before, and told her that she was feeling well, and asked about me. She was under my treatment years ago.
Supplementary facts: I once actually wrote something like a monograph on a plant, namely, an essay on the coca plant, which drew the attention of K. Roller to the anæsthetic properties of cocaine. I had hinted at this use of the alkaloid in my publication, but I was not sufficiently thorough to pursue the matter further. This suggests that on the forenoon of the day after the dream (for the interpretation of which I did not find time until the evening) I had thought of cocaine in a kind of day phantasy. In case I should ever be afflicted with glaucoma, I was going to go to Berlin, and there have myself operated upon, incognito, at the house of my Berlin friend, by a physician whom he would recommend to me. The surgeon, who would not know upon whom he was operating, would boast as usual how easy these operations had become since the introduction of cocaine; I would not betray by a single sign that I had had a share in making this discovery. With this phantasy were connected thoughts of how difficult it really is for a doctor to claim the medical services of a colleague for his own person. I should be able to pay the Berlin eye specialist, who did not know me, like anyone else. Only after recalling this day-dream do I realise that the recollection of a definite experience is concealed behind it. Shortly after Koller’s discovery my father had, in fact, become ill with glaucoma; he was operated upon by my friend, the eye specialist, Dr. Koenigstein. Dr. Koller attended to the cocaine anaesthetisation, and thereupon made the remark that all three of the persons who had shared in the introduction of cocaine had been brought together on one case.
I now proceed to think of the time when I was last reminded of this affair about the cocaine. This was a few days before, when I received a Festschrift, with whose publication grateful scholars had commemorated the anniversary of their teacher and laboratory director. Among the honours ascribed to persons connected with the laboratory, I found a notice to the effect that the discovery of the anæsthetic properties of cocaine had been made there by K. Koller. Now I suddenly become aware that the dream is connected with an experience of the previous evening. I had just accompanied Dr. Koenigstein to his home, and had spoken to him about a matter which strongly arouses my interest whenever it is mentioned. While I was talking with him in the vestibule, Professor Gärtner and his young wife came up. I could not refrain from congratulating them both upon their healthy appearance. Now Professor Gärtner is one of the authors of the Festschrift of which I have just spoken, and may well have recalled it to me. Likewise Mrs. L., whose birthday disappointment I have referred to, had been mentioned, in another connection, to be sure, in the conversation with Dr. Koenigstein.
I shall now try to explain the other determinations of the dream content. A dried specimen of the plant accompanies the monograph as though it were a herbarium. A recollection of the gymnasium (school) is connected with the herbarium. The director of our gymnasium once called the scholars of the higher classes together in order to have them inspect and clean the herbarium. Small worms had been found—bookworms. The director did not seem to have much confidence in my help, for he left only a few leaves for me. I know to this day that there were crucifers on them. My interest in botany was never very great. At my preliminary examination in botany, I was required to identify a crucifer, and did not recognise it. I would have fared badly if my theoretical knowledge had not helped me out. Crucifers suggest composites. The artichoke is really a composite, and the one which I might call my favourite flower. My wife, who is more thoughtful than I, often brings this favourite flower of mine home from the market.
I see the monograph which I have written lying before me. This, too, is not without its reference. The friend whom I pictured wrote to me yesterday from Berlin: “I think a great deal about your dream book. I see it lying before me finished, and am turning over its leaves.” How I envied him this prophetic power! If I could only see it lying already finished before me!
The folded Coloured Plate.—While I was a student of medicine, I suffered much from a fondness for studying in monographs exclusively. In spite of my limited means, I subscribed to a number of the medical archives, in which the coloured plates gave me much delight. I was proud of this inclination for thoroughness. So, when I began to publish on my own account, I had to draw the plates for my own treatises, and I remember one of them turned out so badly that a kindly-disposed colleague ridiculed me for it. This suggests, I don’t know exactly how, a very early memory from my youth. My father once thought it would be a joke to hand over a book with coloured plates (Description of a Journey in Persia) to me and my eldest sister for destruction. This was hardly to be justified from an educational point of view. I was at the time five years old, and my sister three, and the picture of our blissfully tearing this book to pieces (like an artichoke, I must add, leaf by leaf) is almost the only one from this time of life which has remained fresh in my memory. When I afterwards became a student, I developed a distinct fondness for collecting and possessing books (an analogy to the inclination for studying from monographs, a hobby which occurs in the dream thoughts with reference to cyclamen and artichoke). I became a book-worm (cf. herbarium). I have always referred this first passion of my life—since I am engaging in retrospect—to this childhood impression, or rather I have recognised in this childish scene a “concealing recollection” for my subsequent love of books. Of course I also learned at an early age that our passions are often our sorrows. When I was seventeen years old I had a very respectable bill at the book store, and no means with which to pay it, and my father would hardly accept the excuse that my inclination had not been fixed on something worse. But the mention of this later youthful experience immediately brings me back to my conversation that evening with my friend Dr. Koenigstein. For the talk on the evening of the dream-day brought up the same old reproach that I am too fond of my hobbies.
For reasons which do not belong here, I shall not continue the interpretation of this dream, but shall simply indicate the path which leads to it. In the course of the interpretation, I was reminded of my conversation with Dr. Koenigstein, and indeed of more than one portion of it. If I consider the subjects touched upon in this conversation, the meaning of the dream becomes clear to me. All the thought associations which have been started, about the hobbies of my wife and of myself, about the cocaine, about the difficulty of securing medical treatment from one’s colleagues, my preference for monographic studies, and my neglect of certain subjects such as botany—all this continues and connects with some branch of this widely ramified conversation. The dream again takes on the character of a justification, of a pleading for my rights, like the first analysed dream of Irma’s injection; it even continues the theme which that dream started, and discusses it with the new subject matter which has accrued in the interval between the two dreams. Even the apparently indifferent manner of expression of the dream receives new importance. The meaning is now: “I am indeed the man who has written that valuable and successful treatise (on cocaine),” just as at that time I asserted for my justification: “I am a thorough and industrious student;” in both cases, then: “I can afford to do that.” But I may dispense with the further interpretation of the dream, because my only purpose in reporting it was to examine the relation of the dream content to the experience of the previous day which arouses it. As long as I know only the manifest content of this dream, but one relation to a day impression becomes obvious; after I have made the interpretation, a second source of the dream becomes evident in another experience of the same day. The first of these impressions to which the dream refers is an indifferent one, a subordinate circumstance. I see a book in a shop window whose title holds me for a moment, and whose contents could hardly interest me. The second experience has great psychic value; I have talked earnestly with my friend, the eye specialist, for about an hour, I have made allusions in this conversation which must have touched both of us closely, and which awakened memories revealing the most diverse feelings of my inner self. Furthermore, this conversation was broken off unfinished because some friends joined us. What, now, is the relation of these two impressions of the day to each other and to the dream which followed during the next night?
I find in the manifest content merely an allusion to the indifferent impression, and may thus reaffirm that the dream preferably takes up into its content non-essential experiences. In the dream interpretation, on the contrary, everything converges upon an important event which is justified in demanding attention. If I judge the dream in the only correct way, according to the latent content which is brought to light in the analysis, I have unawares come upon a new and important fact. I see the notion that the dream deals only with the worthless fragments of daily experience shattered; I am compelled also to contradict the assertion that our waking psychic life is not continued in the dream, and that the dream instead wastes psychic activity upon a trifling subject matter. The opposite is true; what has occupied our minds during the day also dominates our dream thoughts, and we take pains to dream only of such matters as have given us food for thought during the day.
Perhaps the most obvious explanation for the fact that I dream about some indifferent impression of the day, while the impression which is justifiably stirring furnishes the occasion for dreaming, is that this again is a phenomenon of the dream-disfigurement, which we have above traced to a psychic power acting as a censor. The recollection of the monograph on the genus cyclamen is employed as though it were an allusion to the conversation with my friend, very much as mention of the friend in the dream of the deferred supper is represented by the allusion “smoked salmon.” The only question is, by what intermediate steps does the impression of the monograph come to assume the relation of an allusion to the conversation with the eye specialist, since such a relation is not immediately evident. In the example of the deferred supper, the relation is set forth at the outset; “smoked salmon,” as the favourite dish of the friend, belongs at once to the series of associations which the person of the friend would call up in the lady who is dreaming. In our new example we have two separated impressions, which seem at first glance to have nothing in common except that they occur on the same day. The monograph catches my attention in the forenoon; I take part in the conversation in the evening. The answer supplied by the analysis is as follows: Such relations between the two impressions do not at first exist, but are established subsequently between the presentation content of the one impression and the presentation content of the other. I have recently emphasised the components in this relation in the course of recording the analysis. With the notion of the monograph on cyclamen I should probably associate the idea that cyclamen is my wife’s favourite flower only under some outside influence, and this is perhaps the further recollection of the bunch of flowers missed by Mrs. L. I do not believe that these underlying thoughts would have been sufficient to call forth a dream.
I am prepared to find this explanation attacked as arbitrary or artificial. What would have happened if Professor Gärtner and his blooming wife had not come up, and if the patient who was talked about had been called, not Flora, but Anna? The answer is easy, however. If these thought-relations had not been present, others would probably have been selected. It is so easy to establish relations of this sort, as the joking questions and conundrums with which we amuse ourselves daily suffice to show. The range of wit is unlimited. To go a step further: if it had been impossible to establish interrelations of sufficient abundance between the two impressions of the day, the dream would simply have resulted differently; another of the indifferent impressions of the day, such as come to us in multitudes and are forgotten, would have taken the place of the monograph in the dream, would have secured a connection with the content of the talk, and would have represented it in the dream. Since it was the impression of the monograph and no other that had this fate, this impression was probably the most suitable for the establishment of the connection. One need not be astonished, like Lessing’s Hanschen Schlau, because “it is the rich people of the world who possess the most money.”
Still the psychological process by which, according to our conception, the indifferent experience is substituted for the psychologically important one, seems odd to us and open to question. In a later chapter we shall undertake the task of making this seemingly incorrect operation more intelligible. We are here concerned only with consequences of this procedure, whose assumption we have been forced to make by the regularly recurring experiences of dream analysis. But the process seems to be that, in the course of those intermediate steps, a displacement—let us say of the psychic accent—has taken place, until ideas that are at first weakly charged with intensity, by taking over the charge from ideas which have a stronger initial intensity, reach a degree of strength, which enables them to force their way into consciousness. Such displacements do not at all surprise us when it is a question of the bestowal of affects or of the motor actions in general. The fact that the woman who has remained single transfers her affection to animals, that the bachelor becomes a passionate collector, that the soldier defends a scrap of coloured cloth, his flag, with his life-blood, that in a love affair a momentary clasping of hands brings bliss, or that in Othello a lost handkerchief causes a burst of rage—all these are examples of psychic displacement which seem unquestionable to us. But if, in the same manner and according to the same fundamental principles, a decision is made as to what is to reach our consciousness and what is to be withheld from it, that is to say, what we are to think—this produces an impression of morbidity, and we call it an error of thought if it occurs in waking life. We may here anticipate the result of a discussion which will be undertaken later—namely, to the effect that the psychic process which we have recognised as dream displacement proves to be not a process morbidly disturbed, but a process differing from the normal merely in being of a more primitive nature.
We thus find in the fact that the dream content takes up remnants of trivial experiences a manifestation of dream disfigurement (by means of displacement), and we may recall that we have recognised this dream disfigurement as the work of a censor which controls the passage between two psychic instances. We accordingly expect that dream analysis will regularly reveal to us the genuine, significant source of the dream in the life of the day, the recollection of which has transferred its accent to some indifferent recollection. This conception brings us into complete opposition to Robert’s 55 theory, which thus becomes valueless for us. The fact which Robert was trying to explain simply doesn’t exist; its assumption is based upon a misunderstanding, upon the failure to substitute the real meaning of the dream for its apparent content. Further objection may be made to Robert’s doctrine: If it were really the duty of the dream, by means of a special psychic activity, to rid our memory of the “slag” of the recollections of the day, our sleep would have to be more troubled and employed in a more strained effort than we may suppose it to be from our waking life. For the number of indifferent impressions received during the day, against which we should have to protect our memory, is obviously infinitely large; the night would not be long enough to accomplish the task. It is very much more probable that the forgetting of indifferent impressions takes place without any active interference on the part of our psychic powers.
Still something cautions us against taking leave of Robert’s idea without further consideration. We have left unexplained the fact that one of the indifferent day-impressions—one from the previous day indeed—regularly furnished a contribution to the dream-content. Relations between this impression and the real source of the dream do not always exist from the beginning; as we have seen, they are established only subsequently, in the course of the dream-work, as though in order to serve the purpose of the intended displacement. There must, therefore, be some necessity to form connections in this particular direction, of the recent, although indifferent impression; the latter must have special fitness for this purpose because of some property. Otherwise it would be just as easy for the dream thoughts to transfer their accent to some inessential member of their own series of associations.
The following experiences will lead us to an explanation. If a day has brought two or more experiences which are fitted to stimulate a dream, then the dream fuses the mention of both into a single whole; it obeys an impulse to fashion a whole out of them; for instance: One summer afternoon I entered a railroad compartment, in which I met two friends who were unknown to each other. One of them was an influential colleague, the other a member of a distinguished family, whose physician I was; I made the two gentlemen acquainted with each other; but during the long ride I was the go-between in the conversation, so that I had to treat a subject of conversation now with the one, now with the other. I asked my colleague to recommend a common friend who had just begun his medical practice. He answered that he was convinced of the young man’s thoroughness, but that his plain appearance would make his entrance into households of rank difficult. I answered: “That is just why he needs recommendation.” Soon afterwards I asked the other fellow-traveller about the health of his aunt—the mother of one of my patients—who was at the time prostrated by a serious illness. During the night after this journey I dreamt that the young friend, for whom I had asked assistance, was in a splendid salon, and was making a funeral oration to a select company with the air of a man of the world—the oration being upon the old lady (now dead for the purposes of the dream) who was the aunt of the second fellow-traveller. (I confess frankly that I had not been on good terms with this lady.) My dream had thus found connections between the two impressions of the day, and by means of them composed a unified situation.
In view of many similar experiences, I am driven to conclude that a kind of compulsion exists for the dream function, forcing it to bring together in the dream all the available sources of dream stimulation into a unified whole. In a subsequent chapter (on the dream function) we shall become acquainted with this impulse for putting together as a part of condensation another primary psychic process.
I shall now discuss the question whether the source from which the dream originates, and to which our analysis leads, must always be a recent (and significant) event, or whether a subjective experience, that is to say, the recollection of a psychologically valuable experience—a chain of thought—can take the part of a dream stimulus. The answer, which results most unequivocally from numerous analyses, is to the following effect. The stimulus for the dream may be a subjective occurrence, which has been made recent, as it were, by the mental activity during the day. It will probably not be out of place here to give a synopsis of various conditions which may be recognised as sources of dreams.
The source of a dream may be:
(a) A recent and psychologically significant experience which is directly represented in the dream.
(b) Several recent, significant experiences, which are united by the dream into a whole.
(c) One or more recent and significant experiences, which are represented in the dream by the mention of a contemporary but indifferent experience.
(d) A subjective significant experience (a recollection, train of thought), which is regularly represented in the dream by the mention of a recent but indifferent impression.
As may be seen, in dream interpretation the condition is firmly adhered to throughout that each component of the dream repeats a recent impression of the day. The element which is destined to representation in the dream may either belong to the presentations surrounding the actual dream stimulus itself—and, furthermore, either as an essential or an inessential element of the same—or it may originate in the neighbourhood of an indifferent impression, which, through associations more or less rich, has been brought into relation with the thoughts surrounding the dream stimulus. The apparent multiplicity of the conditions here is produced by the alternative according to whether displacement has or has not taken place, and we may note that this alternative serves to explain the contrasts of the dream just as readily as the ascending series from partially awake to fully awake brain cells in the medical theory of the dream (cf. p. 64).
Concerning this series, it is further notable that the element which is psychologically valuable, but not recent (a train of thought, a recollection) may be replaced, for the purposes of dream formation, by a recent, but psychologically indifferent, element, if only these two conditions be observed: 1. That the dream shall contain a reference to something which has been recently experienced; 2. That the dream stimulus shall remain a psychologically valuable train of thought. In a single case (a) both conditions are fulfilled by the same impression. If it be added that the same indifferent impressions which are used for the dream, as long as they are recent, lose this availability as soon as they become a day (or at most several days) older, the assumption must be made that the very freshness of an impression gives it a certain psychological value for dream formation, which is somewhat equivalent to the value of emotionally accentuated memories or trains of thought. We shall be able to see the basis of this value of recent impressions for dream formation only with the help of certain psychological considerations which will appear later.
Incidentally our attention is called to the fact that important changes in the material comprised by our ideas and our memory may be brought about unconsciously and at night. The injunction that one should sleep for a night upon any affair before making a final decision about it is obviously fully justified. But we see that at this point we have proceeded from the psychology of dreaming to that of sleep, a step for which there will often be occasion.
Now there arises an objection threatening to invalidate the conclusions we have just reached. If indifferent impressions can get into the dream only in case they are recent, how does it happen that we find also in the dream content elements from earlier periods in our lives, which at the time when they were recent possessed, as Strümpell expresses it, no psychic value, which, therefore, ought to have been forgotten long ago, and which, therefore, are neither fresh nor psychologically significant?
This objection can be fully met if we rely upon the results furnished by psychoanalysis of neurotics. The solution is as follows: The process of displacement which substitutes indifferent material for that having psychic significance (for dreaming as well as for thinking) has already taken place in those earlier periods of life, and has since become fixed in the memory. Those elements which were originally indifferent are in fact no longer so, since they have acquired the value of psychologically significant material. That which has actually remained indifferent can never be reproduced in the dream.
It will be correct to suppose from the foregoing discussion that I maintain that there are no indifferent dream stimuli, and that, accordingly, there are no harmless dreams. This I believe to be the case, thoroughly and exclusively, allowance being made for the dreams of children and perhaps for short dream reactions to nocturnal sensations. Whatever one may dream, it is either manifestly recognisable as psychically significant or it is disfigured, and can be judged correctly only after a complete interpretation, when, as before, it may be recognised as possessing psychic significance. The dream never concerns itself with trifles; we do not allow ourselves to be disturbed in our sleep by matters of slight importance. Dreams which are apparently harmless turn out to be sinister if one takes pains to interpret them; if I may be permitted the expression, they all have “the mark of the beast.” As this is another point on which I may expect opposition, and as I am glad of an opportunity to show dream-disfigurement at work, I shall here subject a number of dreams from my collection to analysis.
1. An intelligent and refined young lady, who, however, in conduct, belongs to the class we call reserved, to the “still waters,” relates the following dream:—
Her husband asks: “Should not the piano be tuned?” She answers: “It won’t pay; the hammers would have to be newly buffed too.” This repeats an actual event of the previous day. Her husband had asked such a question, and she had answered something similar. But what is the significance of her dreaming it? She tells of the piano, indeed, that it is a disgusting old box which has a bad tone; it is one of the things which her husband had before they were married, &c., but the key to the true solution lies in the phrase: It won’t pay. This originated in a visit made the day before to a lady friend. Here she was asked to take off her coat, but she declined, saying, “It won’t pay. I must go in a moment.” At this point, I recall that during yesterday’s analysis she suddenly took hold of her coat, a button of which had opened. It is, therefore, as if she had said, “Please don’t look in this direction; it won’t pay.” Thus “box” develops into “chest,” or breast-box (“bust”), and the interpretation of the dream leads directly to a time in her bodily development when she was dissatisfied with her shape. It also leads to earlier periods, if we take into consideration “disgusting” and “bad tone,” and remember how often in allusions and in dreams the two small hemispheres of the feminine body take the place—as a substitute and as an antithesis—of the large ones.
II. I may interrupt this dream to insert a brief harmless dream of a young man. He dreamt that he was putting on his winter overcoat again, which was terrible. The occasion for this dream is apparently the cold weather, which has recently set in again. On more careful examination we note that the two short portions of the dream do not fit together well, for what is there “terrible” about wearing a heavy or thick coat in the cold? Unfortunately for the harmlessness of this dream, the first idea educed in analysis is the recollection that on the previous day a lady had secretly admitted to him that her last child owed its existence to the bursting of a condom. He now reconstructs his thoughts in accordance with this suggestion: A thin condom is dangerous, a thick one is bad. The condom is an “overcoat” (Ueberzieher), for it is put over something; Ueberzieher is also the name given in German to a thin overcoat. An experience like the one related by the lady would indeed be “terrible” for an unmarried man.—We may now return to our other harmless dreamer.
III. She puts a candle into a candlestick; but the candle is broken, so that it does not stand straight. The girls at school say she is clumsy; the young lady replies that it is not her fault.
Here, too, there is an actual occasion for the dream; the day before she had actually put a candle into a candlestick; but this one was not broken. A transparent symbolism has been employed here. The candle is an object which excites the feminine genitals; its being broken, so that it does not stand straight, signifies impotence on the man’s part (“it is not her fault”). But does this young woman, carefully brought up, and a stranger to all obscenity, know of this application of the candle? She happens to be able to tell how she came by this information. While riding in a boat on the Rhine, another boat passes containing students who are singing or rather yelling, with great delight: “When the Queen of Sweden with closed shutters and the candles of Apollo….”
She does not hear or understand the last word. Her husband is asked to give her the required explanation. These verses are then replaced in the dream content by the harmless recollection of a command which she once executed clumsily at a girls’ boarding school, this occurring by means of the common features closed shutters. The connection between the theme of onanism and that of impotence is clear enough. “Apollo” in the latent dream content connects this dream with an earlier one in which the virgin Pallas figured. All this is obviously not harmless.
IV. Lest it may seem too easy a matter to draw conclusions from dreams concerning the dreamer’s real circumstances, I add another dream coming from the same person which likewise appears harmless. “I dreamt of doing something,” she relates, “which I actually did during the day, that is to say, I filled a little trunk so full of books that I had difficulty in closing it. My dream was just like the actual occurrence.” Here the person relating the dream herself attaches chief importance to the correspondence between the dream and reality. All such criticisms upon the dream and remarks about it, although they have secured a place in waking thought, regularly belong to the latent dream content, as later examples will further demonstrate We are told, then, that what the dream relates has actually taken place during the day. It would take us too far afield to tell how we reach the idea of using the English language to help us in the interpretation of this dream. Suffice it to say that it is again a question of a little box (cf. p. 130, the dream of the dead child in the box) which has been filled so full that nothing more can go into it. Nothing in the least sinister this time.
In all these “harmless” dreams the sexual factor as a motive for the exercise of the censor receives striking prominence. But this is a matter of primary importance, which we must postpone.
As the third of the peculiarities of the dream content, we have cited from all the authors (except Robert) the fact that impressions from the earliest times of our lives, which seem not to be at the disposal of the waking memory, may appear in the dream. It is, of course, difficult to judge how often or how seldom this occurs, because the respective elements of the dream are not recognised according to their origin after waking. The proof that we are dealing with childhood impressions must thus be reached objectively, and the conditions necessary for this happen to coincide only in rare instances. The story is told by A. Maury, 48 as being particularly conclusive, of a man who decided to visit his birthplace after twenty years’ absence. During the night before his departure, he dreams that he is in an altogether strange district, and that he there meets a strange man with whom he has a conversation. Having afterward returned to his home, he was able to convince himself that this strange district really existed in the neighbourhood of his home town, and the strange man in the dream turned out to be a friend of his dead father who lived there. Doubtless, a conclusive proof that he had seen both the man and the district in his childhood. The dream, moreover, is to be interpreted as a dream of impatience, like that of the girl who carries her ticket for the concert of the evening in her pocket (p. 110), of the child whose father had promised him an excursion to the Hameau, and the like. The motives explaining why just this impression of childhood is reproduced for the dreamer cannot, of course, be discovered without an analysis.
One of the attendants at my lectures, who boasted that his dreams were very rarely subject to disfigurement, told me that he had sometime before in a dream seen his former tutor in bed with his nurse, who had been in the household until he was eleven years old. The location of this scene does not occur to him in the dream. As he was much interested, he told the dream to his elder brother, who laughingly confirmed its reality. The brother said he remembered the affair very well, for he was at the time six years old. The lovers were in the habit of making him, the elder boy, drunk with beer, whenever circumstances were favourable for nocturnal relations. The smaller child, at that time three years old—our dreamer—who slept in the same room as the nurse, was not considered an obstacle.
In still another case it may be definitely ascertained, without the aid of dream interpretation, that the dream contains elements from childhood; that is, if it be a so-called perennial dream, which being first dreamt in childhood, later appears again and again after adult age has been reached. I may add a few examples of this sort to those already familiar, although I have never made the acquaintance of such a perennial dream in my own case. A physician in the thirties tells me that a yellow lion, about which he can give the most detailed information, has often appeared in his dream-life from the earliest period of his childhood to the present day. This lion, known to him from his dreams, was one day discovered in natura as a long-forgotten object made of porcelain, and on that occasion the young man learned from his mother that this object had been his favourite toy in early childhood, a fact which he himself could no longer remember.
If we now turn from the manifest dream content to the dream thoughts which are revealed only upon analysis, the co-operation of childhood experiences may be found to exist even in dreams whose content would not have led us to suspect anything of the sort. I owe a particularly delightful and instructive example of such a dream to my honoured colleague of the “yellow lion.” After reading Nansen’s account of his polar expedition, he dreamt that he was giving the bold explorer electrical treatment in an ice field for an ischaemia of which the latter complained! In the analysis of this dream, he remembered a story of his childhood, without which the dream remains entirely unintelligible. When he was a child, three or four years old, he was listening attentively to a conversation of older people about trips of exploration, and presently asked papa whether exploration was a severe illness. He had apparently confused “trips” with “rips,” and the ridicule of his brothers and sisters prevented his ever forgetting the humiliating experience.
The case is quite similar when, in the analysis of the dream of the monograph on the genus cyclamen, I happen upon the recollection, retained from childhood, that my father allowed me to destroy a book embellished with coloured plates when I was a little boy five years old. It will perhaps be doubted whether this recollection actually took part in the composition of the dream content, and it will be intimated that the process of analysis has subsequently established the connection. But the abundance and intricacy of the ties of association vouch for the truth of my explanation: cyclamen—favourite flower—favourite dish—artichoke; to pick to pieces like an artichoke, leaf by leaf (a phrase which at that time rang in our ears a propos of the dividing up of the Chinese Empire)—herbarium—bookworm, whose favourite dish is books. I may state further that the final meaning of the dream, which I have not given here, has the most intimate connection with the content of the childhood scene.
In another series of dreams we learn from analysis that the wish itself, which has given rise to the dream, and whose fulfilment the dream turns out to be, has originated in childhood—until one is astonished to find that the child with all its impulses lives on in the dream.
I shall now continue the interpretation of a dream which has already proved instructive—I refer to the dream in which friend R. is my uncle (p. 116). We have carried its interpretation far enough for the wish-motive, of being appointed professor, to assert itself tangibly; and we have explained the affection displayed in the dream for friend R. as a fiction of opposition and spite against the aspersion of the two colleagues, who appear in the dream thoughts. The dream was my own; I may, therefore, continue the analysis by stating that my feelings were not quite satisfied by the solution reached. I know that my opinion of these colleagues who are so badly treated in the dream thoughts would have been expressed in quite different terms in waking life; the potency of the wish not to share their fate in the matter of appointment seemed to me too slight to account for the discrepancy between my estimate in the dream and that of waking. If my desire to be addressed by a new title proves so strong it gives proof of a morbid ambition, which I did not know to exist in me, and which I believe is far from my thoughts. I do not know how others, who think they know me, would judge me, for perhaps I have really been ambitious; but if this be true, my ambition has long since transferred itself to other objects than the title and rank of assistant-professor.
Whence, then, the ambition which the dream has ascribed to me? Here I remember a story which I heard often in my childhood, that at my birth an old peasant’s wife had prophesied to my happy mother (I was her first-born) that she had given to the world a great man. Such prophecies must occur very frequently; there are so many mothers happy in expectation, and so many old peasant wives whose influence on earth has waned, and who have therefore turned their eyes towards the future. The prophetess was not likely to suffer for it either. Might my hunger for greatness have originated from this source? But here I recollect an impression from the later years of my childhood, which would serve still better as an explanation. It was of an evening at an inn on the Prater, where my parents were accustomed to take me when I was eleven or twelve years old. We noticed a man who went from table to table and improvised verses upon any subject that was given to him. I was sent to bring the poet to our table and he showed himself thankful for the message. Before asking for his subject he threw off a few rhymes about me, and declared it probable, if he could trust his inspiration, that I would one day become a “minister.” I can still distinctly remember the impression made by this second prophecy. It was at the time of the election for the municipal ministry; my father had recently brought home pictures of those elected to the ministry—Herbst, Giskra, Unger, Berger, and others—and we had illuminated them in honour of these gentlemen. There were even some Jews among them; every industrious Jewish schoolboy therefore had the making of a minister in him. Even the fact that until shortly before my enrolment in the University I wanted to study jurisprudence, and changed my plans only at the last moment, must be connected with the impressions of that tune. A minister’s career is under no circumstances open to a medical man. And now for my dream! I begin to see that it transplants me from the sombre present to the hopeful time of the municipal election, and fulfils my wish of that time to the fullest extent. In treating my two estimable and learned colleagues so badly, because they are Jews, the one as a simpleton and the other as a criminal—in doing this I act as though I were the minister of education, I put myself in his place. What thorough revenge I take upon his Excellency! He refuses to appoint me professor extraordinarius, and in return I put myself in his place in the dream.
Another case establishes the fact that although the wish which actuates the dream is a present one, it nevertheless draws great intensification from childhood memories. I refer to a series of dreams which are based upon the longing to go to Rome. I suppose I shall still have to satisfy this longing by means of dreams for a long time to come, because, at the time of year which is at my disposal for travelling, a stay at Rome is to be avoided on account of considerations of health. Thus I once dreamt of seeing the Tiber and the bridge of St. Angelo from the window of a railroad compartment; then the train starts, and it occurs to me that I have never entered the city at all. The view which I saw in the dream was modelled after an engraving which I had noticed in passing the day before in the parlour of one of my patients. On another occasion some one is leading me upon a hill and showing me Rome half enveloped in mist, and so far in the distance that I am astonished at the distinctness of the view. The content of this dream is too rich to be fully reported here. The motive, “to see the promised land from afar,” is easily recognisable in it. The city is Lübeck, which I first saw in the mist; the original of the hill is the Gleichenberg. In a third dream, I am at last in Rome, as the dream tells me. To my disappointment, the scenery which I see is anything but urban. A little river with black water, on one side of which are black rocks, on the other large white flowers. I notice a certain Mr. Zucker (with whom I am superficially acquainted), and make up my mind to ask him to show me the way into the city. It is apparent that I am trying in vain to see a city in the dream which I have never seen in waking life. If I resolve the landscape into its elements, the white flowers indicate Ravenna, which is known to me, and which, for a time at least, deprived Rome of its leading place as capital of Italy. In the swamps around Ravenna we had seen the most beautiful water-lilies in the middle of black pools of water; the dream makes them grow on meadows, like the narcissi of our own Aussee, because at Ravenna it was such tedious work to fetch them out of the water. The black rock, so close to the water, vividly recalls the valley of the Tepl at Karlsbad. “Karlsbad” now enables me to account for the peculiar circumstance that I ask Mr. Zucker the way. In the material of which the dream is composed appear also two of those amusing Jewish anecdotes, which conceal so much profound and often bitter worldly wisdom, and which we are so fond of quoting in our conversation and letters. One is the story of the “constitution,” and tells how a poor Jew sneaks into the express train for Karlsbad without a ticket, how he is caught and is treated more and more unkindly at each call for tickets by the conductor, and how he tells a friend, whom he meets at one of the stations during his miserable journey, and who asks him where he is travelling: “To Karlsbad, if my constitution will stand it.” Associated with this in memory is another story about a Jew who is ignorant of French, and who has express instructions to ask in Paris for the way to the Rue Richelieu. Paris was for many years the object of my own longing, and I took the great satisfaction with which I first set foot on the pavement in Paris as a warrant that I should also attain the fulfilment of other wishes. Asking for the way is again a direct allusion to Rome, for of course all roads lead to Rome. Moreover, the name Zucker (English, sugar) again points to Karlsbad, whither we send all persons afflicted with the constitutional disease, diabetes (Zuckerkrankheit, sugar-disease). The occasion for this dream was the proposal of my Berlin friend that we should meet in Prague at Easter. A further allusion to sugar and diabetes was to be found in the matters which I had to talk over with him.
A fourth dream, occurring shortly after the last one mentioned, brings me back to Rome. I see a street-corner before me and am astonished to see so many German placards posted there. On the day before I had written my friend with prophetic vision that Prague would probably not be a comfortable resort for German travellers. The dream, therefore, simultaneously expressed the wish to meet him at Rome instead of at the Bohemian city, and a desire, which probably originated during my student days, that the German language might be accorded more tolerance in Prague. Besides I must have understood the Czech language in the first three years of my childhood, because I was born in a small village of Moravia, inhabited by Slavs. A Czech nursery rhyme, which I heard in my seventeenth year, became, without effort on my part, so imprinted upon my memory that I can repeat it to this day, although I have no idea of its meaning. There is then no lack in these dreams also of manifold relations to impressions from the first years of my life.
It was during my last journey to Italy, which, among other places, took me past Lake Trasimenus, that I at last found what re-enforcement my longing for the Eternal City had received from the impressions of my youth; this was after I had seen the Tiber, and had turned back with painful emotions when I was within eighty kilometers of Rome. I was just broaching the plan of travelling to Naples via Rome the next year, when this sentence, which I must have read in one of our classical authors, occurred to me: “It is a question which of the two paced up and down in his room the more impatiently after he had made the plan to go to Rome—Assistant-Headmaster Winckelman or the great general Hannibal.” I myself had walked in Hannibal’s footsteps; like him I was destined never to see Rome, and he too had gone to Campania after the whole world had expected him in Rome. Hannibal, with whom I had reached this point of similarity, had been my favourite hero during my years at the Gymnasium; like so many boys of my age, I bestowed my sympathies during the Punic war, not on the Romans, but on the Carthaginians. Then, when I came finally to understand the consequences of belonging to an alien race, and was forced by the anti-semitic sentiment among my class-mates to assume a definite attitude, the figure of the Semitic commander assumed still greater proportions in my eyes. Hannibal and Rome symbolised for me as a youth the antithesis between the tenaciousness of the Jews and the organisation of the Catholic Church. The significance for our emotional life which the anti-semitic movement has since assumed helped to fix the thoughts and impressions of that earlier time. Thus the wish to get to Rome has become the cover and symbol in my dream-life for several warmly cherished wishes, for the realisation of which one might work with the perseverance and single-mindedness of the Punic general, and whose fulfilment sometimes seems as little favoured by fortune as the wish of Hannibal’s life to enter Rome.
And now for the first time I happen upon the youthful experience which, even to-day, still manifests its power in all these emotions and dreams. I may have been ten or twelve years old when my father began to take me with him on his walks, and to reveal to me his views about the things of this world in his conversation. In this way he once told me, in order to show into how much better times I had been born than he, the following: “While I was a young man, I was walking one Saturday on a street in the village where you were born; I was handsomely dressed and wore a new fur cap. Along comes a Christian, who knocks my cap into the mud with one blow and shouts: “Jew, get off the sidewalk.” “And what did you do?” “I went into the street and picked up the cap,” was the calm answer. That did not seem heroic on the part of the big strong man, who was leading me, a little fellow, by the hand. I contrasted this situation, which did not please me, with another more in harmony with my feelings—the scene in which Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar Barka made his boy swear at the domestic altar to take vengeance on the Romans. Since that time Hannibal has had a place in my phantasies.
I think I can follow my enthusiasm for the Carthaginian general still further back into my childhood, so that possibly we have here the transference of an already formed emotional relation to a new vehicle. One of the first books which fell into my childish hands, after I learned to read, was Thiers’ Konsulat und Kaiserreich (Consulship and Empire); I remember I pasted on the flat backs of my wooden soldiers little labels with the names of the Imperial marshals, and that at that time Masséna (as a Jew Menasse) was already my avowed favourite. Napoleon himself follows Hannibal in crossing the Alps. And perhaps the development of this martial ideal can be traced still further back into my childhood, to the wish which the now friendly, now hostile, intercourse during my first three years with a boy a year older than myself must have actuated in the weaker of the two playmates.
The deeper one goes in the analysis of dreams, the more often one is put on the track of childish experiences which play the part of dream sources in the latent dream content.
We have learned (p. 16) that the dream very rarely reproduces experiences in such a manner that they constitute the sole manifest dream content, unabridged and unchanged. Still some authentic examples showing this process have been reported, and I can add some new ones which again refer to infantile scenes. In the case of one of my patients, a dream once gave a barely disfigured reproduction of a sexual occurrence, which was immediately recognised as an accurate recollection. The memory of it indeed had never been lost in waking life, but it had been greatly obscured, and its revivification was a result of the preceding work of analysis. The dreamer had at the age of twelve visited a bed-ridden school-mate, who had exposed himself by a movement in bed, probably only by chance. At the sight of the genitals, he was seized by a kind of compulsion, exposed himself and took hold of the member belonging to the other boy, who, however, looked at him with surprise and indignation, whereupon he became embarrassed and let go. A dream repeated this scene twenty-three years later, with all the details of the emotions occurring in it, changing it, however, in this respect, that the dreamer took the passive part instead of the active one, while the person of the school-mate was replaced by one belonging to the present.
As a rule, of course, a childhood scene is represented in the manifest dream content only by an allusion, and must be extricated from the dream by means of interpretation. The citation of examples of this kind cannot have a very convincing effect, because every guarantee that they are experiences of childhood is lacking; if they belong to an earlier time of life, they are no longer recognised by our memory. Justification for the conclusion that such childish experiences generally exist in dreams is based upon a great number of factors which become apparent in psychoanalytical work, and which seem reliable enough when regarded as a whole. But when, for the purposes of dream interpretation, such references of dreams to childish experiences are torn from their context, they will perhaps not make much impression, especially since I never give all the material upon which the interpretation depends. However, I shall not let this prevent me from giving some examples.
I. The following dream is from another female patient: She is in a large room, in which there are all kinds of machines, perhaps, as she imagines, an orthopædic institute. She hears that I have no time, and that she must take the treatment along with five others. But she resists, and is unwilling to lie down on the bed—or whatever it is—which is intended for her. She stands in a corner and waits for me to say “It is not true.” The others, meanwhile, laugh at her, saying it is all foolishness on her part. At the same time it is as if she were called upon to make many small squares.
The first part of the content of this dream is an allusion to the treatment and a transference on me. The second contains an allusion to a childhood scene; the two portions are connected by the mention of the bed. The orthopædic institute refers to one of my talks in which I compared the treatment as to its duration and nature with an orthopædic treatment. At the beginning of the treatment I had to tell her that for the present I had little time for her, but that later on I would devote a whole hour to her daily. This aroused in her the old sensitiveness, which is the chief characteristic of children who are to be hysterical. Their desire for love is insatiable. My patient was the youngest of six brothers and sisters (hence, “with five others”), and as such the favourite of her father, but in spite of that she seems to have found that her beloved father devoted too little time and attention to her. The detail of her waiting for me to say “It is not true,” has the following explanation: A tailor’s apprentice had brought her a dress, and she had given him the money for it. Then she asked her husband whether she would have to pay the money again if the boy were to lose it. To tease her, her husband answered “Yes” (the teasing in the dream), and she asked again and again, and waited for him to say “It is not true.” The thought of the latent dream-content may now be construed as follows: Will she have to pay me the double amount if I devote twice the time to her? a thought which is stingy or filthy. (The uncleanliness of childhood is often replaced in the dream by greediness for money; the word filthy here supplies the bridge.) If all that about waiting until I should say, &c., serves as a dream circumlocution for the word “filthy,” the standing-in-a-corner and not lying down-on-the-bed are in keeping; for these two features are component parts of a scene of childhood, in which she had soiled her bed, and for punishment was put into a corner, with the warning that papa would not love her any more, and her brothers and sisters laughed at her, &c. The little squares refer to her young niece, who has shown her the arithmetical trick of writing figures in nine squares, I believe it is, in such a way that upon being added together in any direction they make fifteen.
II. Here is the dream of a man: He sees two boys tussling with each other, and they are cooper’s boys, as he concludes from the implements which are lying about; one of the boys has thrown the other down, the prostrate one wears ear-rings with blue stones. He hurries after the wrongdoer with lifted cane, in order to chastise him. The latter takes refuge with a woman who is standing against a wooden fence, as though it were his mother. She is the wife of a day labourer, and she turns her back to the man who is dreaming. At last she faces about and stares at him with a horrible look, so that he runs away in fright; in her eyes the red flesh of the lower lid seems to stand out.
The dream has made abundant use of trivial occurrences of the previous day. The day before he actually saw two boys on the street, one of whom threw the other one down. When he hurried up to them in order to settle the quarrel, both of them took flight. Coopers’ boys: this is explained only by a subsequent dream, in the analysis of which he used the expression, “To knock the bottom out of the barrel.” Ear-rings with blue stones, according to his observation, are chiefly worn by prostitutes. Furthermore, a familiar doggerel rhyme about two boys comes up: “The other boy, his name was Mary” (that is, he was a girl). The woman standing up: after the scene with the two boys, he took a walk on the bank of the Danube, and took advantage of being alone to urinate against a wooden fence. A little later during his walk, a decently dressed elderly lady smiled at him very pleasantly, and wanted to hand him her card with her address.
Since in the dream the woman stood as he had while urinating, it is a question of a woman urinating, and this explains the “horrible look,” and the prominence of the red flesh, which can only refer to the genitals which gap in squatting. He had seen genitals in his childhood, and they had appeared in later recollection as “proud flesh” and as “wound.” The dream unites two occasions upon which, as a young boy, the dreamer had had opportunity to see the genitals of little girls, in throwing one down, and while another was urinating; and, as is shown by another association, he had kept in memory a punishment or threat of his father’s, called forth by the sexual curiosity which the boy manifested on these occasions.
III. A great mass of childish memories, which have been hastily united in a phantasy, is to be found behind the following dream of a young lady.
She goes out in trepidation, in order to do some shopping. On the Graben she sinks to her knees as though broken down. Many people collect around her, especially the hackney-coach drivers; but no one helps her to get up. She makes many unavailing attempts; finally she must have succeeded, for she is put into a hackney-coach which is to take her home. A large, heavily laden basket (something like a market-basket) is thrown after her through the window.
This is the same woman who is always harassed in her dreams as she was harassed when a child. The first situation of the dream is apparently taken from seeing a horse that had fallen, just as “broken down” points to horse-racing. She was a rider in her early years, still earlier she was probably also a horse. Her first childish memory of the seventeen-year-old son of the porter, who, being seized on the street by an epileptic fit, was brought home in a coach, is connected with the idea of falling down. Of this, of course, she has only heard, but the idea of epileptic fits and of falling down has obtained great power over her phantasies, and has later influenced the form of her own hysterical attacks. When a person of the female sex dreams of falling, this almost regularly has a sexual significance; she becomes a “fallen woman,” and for the purpose of the dream under consideration this interpretation is probably the least doubtful, for she falls on the Graben, the place in Vienna which is known as the concourse of prostitutes. The market-basket admits of more than one interpretation; in the sense of refusal (German, Korb = basket—snub, refusal), she remembers the many snubs which she first gave her suitors, and which she later, as she thinks, received herself. Here belongs also the detail that no one will help her up, which she herself interprets as being disdained. Furthermore, the market-basket recalls phantasies that have already appeared in the course of analysis, in which she imagines she has married far beneath her station, and now goes marketing herself. But lastly the market-basket might be interpreted as the mark of a servant. This suggests further childhood memories—of a cook who was sent away because she stole; she, too, sank to her knees and begged for mercy. The dreamer was at that time twelve years old. Then there is a recollection of a chamber-maid, who was dismissed because she had an affair with the coachman of the household, who, incidently, married her afterwards. This recollection, therefore, gives us a clue to the coachman in the dream (who do not, in contrast with what is actually the case, take the part of the fallen woman). But there still remains to be explained the throwing of the basket, and the throwing of it through the window. This takes her to the transference of baggage on the railroad, to the Fensterln, in the country, and to minor impressions received at a country resort, of a gentleman throwing some blue plums to a lady through her window, and of the dreamer’s little sister being frightened because a cretin who was passing looked in at the window. And now from behind this there emerges an obscure recollection, from her tenth year, of a nurse who made love at the country resort with a servant of the household, of which the child had opportunity to see something, and who was “fired” (thrown out) (in the dream the opposite: “thrown into”), a story which we had also approached by several other paths. The baggage, moreover, or the trunk of a servant, is disparagingly referred to in Vienna as “seven plums.” “Pack up your seven plums and get out.”
My collection, of course, contains an abundant supply of such patients’ dreams, whose analysis leads to childish impressions that are remembered obscurely or not at all, and that often date back to the first three years of life. But it is a mistake to draw conclusions from them which are to apply to the dream in general; we are in every case dealing with neurotic, particularly with hysterical persons; and the part played by childhood scenes in these dreams might be conditioned by the nature of the neurosis, and not by that of the dream. However, I am struck quite as often in the course of interpreting my own dreams, which I do not do on account of obvious symptoms of disease, by the fact that I unsuspectingly come upon a scene of childhood in the latent dream content, and that a whole series of dreams suddenly falls into line with conclusions drawn from childish experiences. I have already given examples of this, and shall give still more upon various occasions. Perhaps I cannot close the whole chapter more fittingly than by citing several of my own dreams, in which recent happenings and long-forgotten experiences of childhood appear together as sources of dreams.
I. After I have been travelling and have gone to bed hungry and tired, the great necessities of life begin to assert their claims in sleep, and I dream as follows: I go into a kitchen to order some pastry. Here three women are standing, one of whom is the hostess, and is turning something in her hand as though she were making dumplings. She answers that I must wait until she has finished (not distinctly as a speech). I become impatient and go away insulted. I put on an overcoat; but the first one which I try is too long. I take it off, and am somewhat astonished to find that it has fur trimming. A second one has sewn into it a long strip of cloth with Turkish drawings. A stranger with a long face and a short pointed beard comes up and prevents me from putting it on, declaring that it belongs to him. I now show him that it is embroidered all over in Turkish fashion. He asks, “What business are the Turkish (drawings, strips of cloth…) of yours? But we then become quite friendly with each other.
In the analysis of this dream there occurs to me quite unexpectedly the novel which I read, that is to say, which I began with the end of the first volume, when I was perhaps thirteen years old. I have never known the name of the novel or of its author, but the conclusion remains vividly in my memory. The hero succumbs to insanity, and continually calls the names of the three women that have signified the greatest good and ill fortune for him during life. Pélagie is one of these names. I still do not know what to make of this name in the analysis. À propos of the three women there now come to the surface the three Parcæ who spin the fate of man, and I know that one of the three women, the hostess in the dream, is the mother who gives life, and who, moreover, as in my case, gives the first nourishment to the living creature. Love and hunger meet at the mother’s breast. A young man—so runs an anecdote—who became a great admirer of womanly beauty, once when the conversation turned upon a beautiful wet nurse who had nourished him as a child, expressed himself to the effect that he was sorry that he had not taken better advantage of his opportunity at the time. I am in the habit of using the anecdote to illustrate the factor of subsequence in the mechanism of psychoneuroses…. One of the Parcæ, then, is rubbing the palms of her hands together as though she were making dumplings. A strange occupation for one of the Fates, which is urgently in need of an explanation! This is now found in another and earlier childhood memory. When I was six years old, and was receiving my first instructions from my mother, I was asked to believe that we are made of earth, and that therefore we must return to earth. But this did not suit me, and I doubted her teaching. Thereupon my mother rubbed the palms of her hands together—just as in making dumplings, except that there was no dough between them—and showed me the blackish scales of epidermis which were thus rubbed off as a proof that it is earth of which we are made. My astonishment at this demonstration ad oculos was without limit, and I acquiesced in the idea which I was later to hear expressed in words: “Thou owest nature a death.” Thus the women are really Parcæ whom I visit in the kitchen, as I have done so often in my childhood years when I was hungry, and when my mother used to order me to wait until lunch was ready. And now for the dumplings! At least one of my teachers at the University, the very one to whom I am indebted for my histological knowledge (epidermis), might be reminded by the name Knoedl (German, Knoedel = dumplings) of a person whom he had to prosecute for committing a plagiarism of his writings. To commit plagiarism, to appropriate anything one can get, even though it belongs to another, obviously leads to the second part of the dream, in which I am treated like a certain overcoat thief, who for a tune plied his trade in the auditoria. I wrote down the expression plagiarism—without any reason—because it presented itself to me, and now I perceive that it must belong to the latent dream-content, because it will serve as a bridge between different parts of the manifest dream-content. The chain of associations—Pélagie—plagiarism—plagiostomi (sharks)—fish bladder—connects the old novel with the affair of Knoedl and with the overcoats (German, Überzieher = thing drawn over—overcoat or condom), which obviously refer to an object belonging to the technique of sexual life. This, it is true, is a very forced and irrational connection, but it is nevertheless one which I could not establish in waking life if it had not been already established by the activity of the dream. Indeed, as though nothing were sacred for this impulse to force connections, the beloved name, Bruecke (bridge of words, see above), now serves to remind me of the institution in which I spent my happiest hours as a student, quite without any cares (“So you will ever find more pleasure at the breasts of knowledge without measure”), in the most complete contrast to the urgent desires which vex me while I dream. And finally there comes to the surface the recollection of another dear teacher, whose name again sounds like something to eat (Fleischl—German, Fleisch = meat—like Knoedl), and of a pathetic scene, in which the scales of epidermis play a part (mother—hostess), and insanity (the novel), and a remedy from the Latin kitchen which numbs the sensation of hunger, to wit, cocaine.
In this manner I could follow the intricate trains of thought still further, and could fully explain the part of the dream which is missing in the analysis; but I must refrain, because the personal sacrifices which it would require are too great. I shall merely take up one of the threads, which will serve to lead us directly to the dream thoughts that lie at the bottom of the confusion. The stranger, with the long face and pointed beard, who wants to prevent me from putting on the overcoat, has the features of a tradesman at Spalato, of whom my wife made ample purchases of Turkish cloths. His name was Popovic, a suspicious name, which, by the way, has given the humorist Stettenheim a chance to make a significant remark: “He told me his name, and blushingly shook my hand.” Moreover, there is the same abuse of names as above with Pélagie, Knoedl, Bruecke, Fleischl. That such playing with names is childish nonsense can be asserted without fear of contradiction; if I indulge in it, this indulgence amounts to an act of retribution, for my own name has numberless times fallen a victim to such weak-minded attempts at humour. Goethe once remarked how sensitive a man is about his name with which, as with his skin, he feels that he has grown up, whereupon Herder composed the following on his name:
I perceive that this digression about the abuse of names was only intended to prepare for this complaint. But let us stop here…. The purchase at Spalato reminds me of another one at Cattaro, where I was too cautious, and missed an opportunity for making some desirable acquisitions. (Missing an opportunity at the breast of the nurse, see above.) Another dream thought, occasioned in the dreamer by the sensation of hunger, is as follows: One should let nothing which one can have escape, even if a little wrong is done; no opportunity should he missed, life is so short, death inevitable. Owing to the fact that this also has a sexual significance, and that desire is unwilling to stop at a wrong, this philosophy of carpe diem must fear the censor and must hide behind a dream. This now makes articulate counter-thoughts of all kinds, recollections of a time when spiritual food alone was sufficient for the dreamer; it suggests repressions of every kind, and even threats of disgusting sexual punishments.
II. A second dream requires a longer preliminary statement:
I have taken a car to the West Station in order to begin a vacation journey to the Aussee, and I reach the station in time for the train to Ischl, which leaves earlier. Here I see Count Thun, who is again going to see the Emperor at Ischl. In spite of the rain, he has come in an open carriage, has passed out at once through the door for local trains, and has motioned back the gate-keeper, who does not know him and who wants to take his ticket, with a little wave of his hand. After the train to Ischl has left, I am told to leave the platform and go back into the hot waiting-room; but with difficulty I secure permission to remain. I pass the time in watching the people who make use of bribes to secure a compartment; I make up my mind to insist on my rights—that is, to demand the same privilege. Meanwhile I sing something to myself, which I afterwards recognise to be the aria from Figaro’s Wedding:
(Possibly another person would not have recognised the song.)
During the whole afternoon I have been in an insolent, combative mood; I have spoken roughly to the waiter and the cabman, I hope without hurting their feelings; now all kinds of bold and revolutionary thoughts come into my head, of a kind suited to the words of Figaro and the comedy of Beaumarchais, which I had seen at the Comédie Française. The speech about great men who had taken the trouble to be born; the aristocratic prerogative, which Count Almaviva wants to apply in the case of Susan; the jokes which our malicious journalists of the Opposition make upon the name of Count Thun (German, thun = doing) by calling him Count Do-Nothing. I really do not envy him; he has now a difficult mission with the Emperor, and I am the real Count Do-Nothing, for I am taking a vacation. With this, all kinds of cheerful plans for the vacation. A gentleman now arrives who is known to me as a representative of the Government at the medical examinations, and who has won the flattering nickname of “Governmental bed-fellow” by his activities in this capacity. By insisting on his official station he secures half of a first-class compartment, and I hear one guard say to the other: “Where are we going to put the gentleman with the first-class half-compartment?” A pretty favouritism; I am paying for a whole first-class compartment. Now I get a whole compartment for myself, but not in a through coach, so that there is no toilet at my disposal during the night. My complaints to the guard are without result; I get even by proposing that at least there be a hole made in the floor of this compartment for the possible needs of the travellers. I really awake at a quarter of three in the morning with a desire to urinate, having had the following dream:
Crowd of people, meeting of students…. A certain Count (Thun or Taafe) is making a speech. Upon being asked to say something about the Germans, he declares with contemptuous mien that their favourite flower is Colt’s-foot, and then puts something like a torn leaf, really the crumpled skeleton of a leaf, into his buttonhole. I make a start, I make a start then, but I am surprised at this idea of mine. Then more indistinctly: It seems as though it were the vestibide (Aula), the exits are jammed, as though it were necessary to flee. I make my way through a suite of handsomely furnished rooms, apparently governmental chambers, with furniture of a colour which is between brown and violet, and at last I come to a passage where a housekeeper, an elderly, fat woman (Frauenzimmer), is seated. I try to avoid talking to her, but apparently she thinks I have a right to pass because she asks whether she shall accompany me with the lamp. I signify to her to tell her that she is to remain standing on the stairs, and in this I appear to myself very clever, for avoiding being watched at last. I am downstairs now, and I find a narrow, steep way along which I go.
Again indistinctly … It is as if my second task were to get away out of the city, as my earlier was to get out of the house. I am riding in a one-horse carriage, and tell the driver to take me to a railway station. “I cannot ride with you on the tracks,” I say, after he has made the objection that I have tired him out. Here it seems as though I had already driven with him along a course which is ordinarily traversed on the railroad. The stations are crowded; I consider whether I shall go to Krems or to Znaim, but I think that the court will be there, and I decide in favour of Graz or something of the sort. Now I am seated in the coach, which is something like a street-car, and I have in my buttonhole a long braided thing, on which are violet-brown violets of stiff material, which attracts the attention of many people. Here the scene breaks off.
I am again in front of the railroad station, but I am with an elderly gentleman. I invent a scheme for remaining unrecognised, but I also see this plan already carried out. Thinking and experiencing are here, as it were, the same thing. He pretends to be blind, at least in one eye, and I hold a male urinal in front of him (which we have had to buy in the city or did buy), I am thus a sick attendant, and have to give him the urinal because he is blind. If the conductor sees us in this position, he must pass us by without drawing attention. At the same time the attitude of the person mentioned is visually observed. Then I awake with a desire to urinate.
The whole dream seems a sort of phantasy, which takes the dreamer back to the revolutionary year 1848, the memory of which had been renewed by the anniversary year 1898, as well as by a little excursion to Wachau, where I had become acquainted with Emmersdorf, a town which I wrongly supposed to be the resting-place of the student leader Fischof, to whom several features of the dream content might refer. The thought associations then lead me to England, to the house of my brother, who was accustomed jokingly to tell his wife of “Fifty years ago,” according to the title of a poem by Lord Tennyson, whereupon the children were in the habit of correcting: “Fifteen years ago.” This phantasy, however, which subtilely attaches itself to the thoughts which the sight of the Count Thun has given rise to, is only like the façade of Italian churches which is superimposed without being organically connected with the building behind it; unlike these façades, however, the phantasy is filled with gaps and confused, and the parts from within break through at many places. The first situation of the dream is concocted from several scenes, into which I am able to separate it. The arrogant attitude of the Count in the dream is copied from a scene at the Gymnasium which took place in my fifteenth year. We had contrived a conspiracy against an unpopular and ignorant teacher, the leading spirit in which was a schoolmate who seems to have taken Henry VIII. of England as his model. It fell to me to carry out the coup-d’état, and a discussion of the importance of the Danube (German Donau) for Austria (Wachau!) was the occasion upon which matters came to open indignation. A fellow-conspirator was the only aristocratic schoolmate whom we had—he was called the “giraffe” on account of his conspicuous longitudinal development—and he stood just like the Count in the dream, while he was being reprimanded by the tyrant of the school, the Professor of the German language. The explanation of the favourite flower and the putting into the buttonhole of something which again must have been a flower (which recalls the orchids, which I had brought to a lady friend on the same day, and besides that the rose of Jericho) prominently recalls the scene in Shakespeare’s historical plays which opens the civil wars of the Pled and the White Roses; the mention of Henry VIII. has opened the way to this reminiscence. It is not very far now from roses to red and white carnations. Meanwhile two little rhymes, the one German, the other Spanish, insinuate themselves into the analysis: “Roses, tulips, carnations, all flowers fade,” and “Isabelita, no llores que se marchitan las flores.” The Spanish is taken from Figaro. Here in Vienna white carnations have become the insignia of the Anti-Semites, the red ones of the Social Democrats. Behind this is the recollection of an anti-Semitic challenge during a railway trip in beautiful Saxony (Anglo-Saxon). The third scene contributing to the formation of the first situation in the dream takes place in my early student life. There was a discussion in the German students’ club about the relation of philosophy to the general sciences. A green youth, full of the materialistic doctrine, I thrust myself forward and defended a very one-sided view. Thereupon a sagacious older school-fellow, who has since shown his capacity for leading men and organising the masses, and who, moreover, bears a name belonging to the animal kingdom, arose and called us down thoroughly; he too, he said, had herded swine in his youth, and had come back repentant to the house of his father. I started up (as in the dream), became very uncivil, and answered that since I knew he had herded swine, I was not surprised at the tone of his discourse. (In the dream I am surprised at my national German sentiment.) There was great commotion; and the demand came from all sides that I take back what I had said, but I remained steadfast. The man who had been insulted was too sensible to take the advice, which was given him, to send a challenge, and let the matter drop.
The remaining elements of this scene of the dream are of more remote origin. What is the meaning of the Count’s proclaiming the colt’s foot? Here I must consult my train of associations. Colt’s-foot (German: Huflattich)—lattice—lettuce—salad-dog (the dog that grudges others what he cannot eat himself). Here plenty of opprobrious epithets may be discerned: Gir-affe (German Afje = monkey, ape), pig, sow, dog; I might even find means to arrive at donkey, on a detour by way of a name, and thus again at contempt for an academic teacher. Furthermore I translate colt’s-foot (Huflattich)—I do not know how correctly—by “pisse-en-lit.” I got this idea from Zola’s Germinal, in which children are ordered to bring salad of this kind. The dog—chien—has a name sounding like the major function (chier, as pisser stands for the minor one). Now we shall soon have before us the indecent in all three of its categories; for in the same Germinal, which has a lot to do with the future revolution there is described a very peculiar contest, depending upon the production of gaseous excretions, called flatus. And now I must remark how the way to this flatus has been for a long while preparing, beginning with the flowers, and proceeding to the Spanish rhyme of Isabclita to Ferdinand and Isabella, and, by way of Henry VIII., to English history at the time of the expedition of the Armada against England, after the victorious termination of which the English struck a medal with the inscription: “Afflavit et dissipati sunt,” for the storm had scattered the Spanish fleet. I had thought of taking this phrase for the title of a chapter on “Therapeutics”—to be meant half jokingly—if I should ever have occasion to give a detailed account of my conception and treatment of hysteria.
I cannot give such a detailed solution of the second scene of the dream, out of regard for the censor. For at this point I put myself in the place of a certain eminent gentleman of that revolutionary period, who also had an adventure with an eagle, who is said to have suffered from incontinence of the bowels, and the like; and I believe I should not be justified at this point in passing the censor, although it was an aulic councillor (aula, consilarius aulicus) who told me the greater part of these stories. The allusion to the suite of rooms in the dream relates to the private car of his Excellency, into which I had opportunity to look for a moment; but it signifies, as so often in dreams, a woman (Frauenzimmer; German Zimmer—room is appended to Frauen—woman, in order to imply a slight amount of contempt). In the person of the housekeeper I give scant recognition to an intelligent elderly lady for the entertainment and the many good stories which I have enjoyed at her house…. The feature of the lamp goes back to Grillparzer, who notes a charming experience of a similar nature, which he afterwards made use of in “Hero and Leander” (the billows of the ocean and of love—the Armada and the storm).
I must also forgo detailed analysis of the two remaining portions of the dream; I shall select only those elements which lead to two childhood scenes, for the sake of which alone I have taken up the dream. The reader will guess that it is sexual matter which forces me to this suppression; but he need not be content with this explanation. Many things which must be treated as secrets in the presence of others are not treated as such with one’s self, and here it is not a question of considerations inducing me to hide the solution, but of motives of the inner censor concealing the real content of the dream from myself. I may say, then, that the analysis shows these three portions of the dream to be impertinent boasting, the exuberance of an absurd grandiose idea which has long since been suppressed in my waking life, which, however, dares show itself in the manifest dream content by one or two projections (I seem clever to myself), and which makes the arrogant mood of the evening before the dream perfectly intelligible. It is boasting, indeed, in all departments; thus the mention of Graz refers to the phrase: What is the price of Graz? which we are fond of using when we feel over-supplied with money. Whoever will recall Master Rabelais’s unexcelled description of the “Life and Deeds of Gargantua and his Son Pantagruel,” will be able to supply the boastful content intimated in the first portion of the dream. The following belongs to the two childhood scenes which have been promised. I had bought a new trunk for this journey, whose colour, a brownish violet, appears in the dream several times. (Violet-brown violets made of stiff material, next to a thing which is called “girl-catcher”—the furniture in the governmental chambers). That something new attracts people’s attention is a well-known belief of children. Now I have been told the folio wing story of my childhood; I remember hearing the story rather than the occurrence itself. I am told that at the age of two I still occasionally wetted my bed, that I was often reproached on this subject, and that I consoled my father by promising to buy him a beautiful new red bed in N. (the nearest large city). (Hence the detail inserted in the dream that we bought the urinal in the city or had to buy it; one must keep one’s promises. Attention is further called to the identity of the male urinal and the feminine trunk, box). All the megalomania of the child is contained in this promise. The significance of the dream of difficulty in urinating in the case of the child has been already considered in the interpretation of an earlier dream (cf. the dream on p. 145).
Now there was another domestic occurrence, when I was seven or eight years old, which I remember very well. One evening, before going to bed I had disregarded the dictates of discretion not to satisfy my wants in the bedroom of my parents and in their presence, and in his reprimand for this delinquency my father made the remark: “That boy will never amount to anything.” It must have terribly mortified my ambition, for allusions to this scene return again and again in my dreams, and are regularly coupled with enumerations of my accomplishments and successes, as though I wanted to say: “You see, I have amounted to something after all.” Now this childhood scene furnishes the elements for the last image of the dream, in which of course, the rôles are interchanged for the sake of revenge. The elderly man, obviously my father, for the blindness in one eye signifies his glaucoma on one side is now urinating before me as I once urinated before him. In glaucoma I refer to cocaine, which stood my father in good stead in his operation, as though I had thereby fulfilled my promises. Besides that I make sport of him; since he is blind I must hold the urinal in front of him, and I gloat over allusions to my discoveries in the theory of hysteria, of which I am so proud.
If the two childhood scenes of urinating are otherwise closely connected with the desire for greatness, their rehabilitation on the trip to the Aussee was further favoured by the accidental circumstance that my compartment had no water-closet, and that I had to expect embarrassment on the ride as actually happened in the morning. I awoke with the sensation of a bodily need. I suppose one might be inclined to credit these sensations with being the actual stimulus of the dream; I should, however, prefer a different conception—namely, that it was the dream thoughts which gave rise to the desire to urinate. It is quite unusual for me to be disturbed in sleep by any need, at least at the time of this awakening, a quarter of four in the morning. I may forestall further objection by remarking that I have hardly ever felt a desire to urinate after awakening early on other journeys made under more comfortable circumstances. Moreover, I can leave this point undecided without hurting my argument.
Since I have learned, further, from experience in dream analysis that there always remain important trains of thought proceeding from dreams whose interpretation at first seems complete (because the sources of the dream and the actuation of the wish are easily demonstrable), trains of thought reaching back into earliest childhood, I have been forced to ask myself whether this feature does not constitute an essential condition of dreaming. If I were to generalise this thesis, a connection with what has been recently experienced would form a part of the manifest content of every dream and a connection with what has been most remotely experienced, of its latent content; and I can actually show in the analysis of hysteria that in a true sense these remote experiences have remained recent up to the present time. But this conjecture seems still very difficult to prove; I shall probably have to return to the part played by the earliest childhood experiences, in another connection (Chapter VII.).
Of the three peculiarities of dream memory considered at the beginning, one—the preference for the unimportant in the dream content—has been satisfactorily explained by tracing it back to dream disfigurement. We have been able to establish the existence of the other two—the selection of recent and of infantile material—but we have found it impossible to explain them by the motive of dream. Let us keep in mind these two characteristics, which still remain to be explained or evaluated; a place for them will have to be found elsewhere, either in the psychology of the sleeping state, or in the discussion of the structure of the psychic apparatus which we shall undertake later, after we have learned that the inner nature of the apparatus may be observed through dream interpretation as though through a window.
Just here I may emphasize another result of the last few dream analyses. The dream often appears ambiguous; not only may several wish-fulfilments, as the examples show, be united in it, but one meaning or one wish-fulfilment may also conceal another, until at the bottom one comes upon the fulfilment of a wish from the earliest period of childhood; and here too, it may be questioned whether “often” in this sentence may not more correctly be replaced by “regularly.”
If the attempt be made to interest the cultured layman in the problems of dreaming, and if, with this end in view, he be asked the question from what source dreams originate according to his opinion, it is generally found that the person thus interrogated thinks himself in assured possession of a part of the solution. He immediately thinks of the influence which a disturbed or impeded digestion (“Dreams come from the stomach”), accidental bodily position, and little occurrences during sleep, exercise upon the formation of dreams, and he seems not to suspect that even after the consideration of all these factors there still remains something unexplained.
We have explained at length in the introductory chapter (p. 16), what a rôle in the formation of dreams the scientific literature credits to the account of somatic exciting sources, so that we need here only recall the results of this investigation. We have seen that three kinds of somatic exciting sources are distinguished, objective sensory stimuli which proceed from external objects, the inner states of excitation of the sensory organs having only a subjective basis, and the bodily stimuli which originate internally; and we have noticed the inclination on the part of the authors to force the psychic sources of the dream into the background or to disregard them altogether in favour of these somatic sources of stimulation (p. 32).
In testing the claims which are made on behalf of these classes of somatic sources of stimulation, we have discovered that the significance of the objective stimuli of the sensory organs—whether accidental stimuli during sleep or those stimuli which cannot be excluded from our dormant psychic life—has been definitely established by numerous observations and is confirmed by experiments (p. 18); we have seen that the part played by subjective sensory stimuli appears to be demonstrated by the return of hypnogogic sensory images in dreams, and that although the referring of these dream images and ideas, in the broadest sense, to internal bodily stimulation is not demonstrable in every detail, it can be supported by the well-known influence which an exciting state of the digestive, urinary, and sexual organs exercise upon the contents of our dreams.
“Nerve stimulus” and “bodily stimulus,” then, would be the somatic sources of the dream—that is, the only sources whatever of the dream, according to several authors.
But we have already found a number of doubts, which seem to attack not so much the correctness of the somatic theory of stimulation as its adequacy.
However certain all the representatives of this theory may have felt about the actual facts on which it is based—especially in case of the accidental and external nerve stimuli, which may be recognised in the content of the dream without any trouble—nevertheless none of them has been able to avoid the admission that the abundant ideal content of dreams does not admit of explanation by external nerve-stimuli alone. Miss Mary Whiton Calkins 12 has tested her own dreams and those of another person for a period of six weeks with this idea in mind, and has found only from 13.2 per cent. to 6.7 per cent. in which the element of external sensory perception was demonstrable; only two cases in the collection could be referred to organic sensations. Statistics here confirm what a hasty glance at our own experience might have led us to suspect.
The decision has been made repeatedly to distinguish the “dream of nerve stimulus” from the other forms of the dream as a well-established sub-species. Spitta 64 divided dreams into dreams of nerve stimulus and association dreams. But the solution clearly remained unsatisfactory as long as the link between the somatic sources of dreams and their ideal content could not be demonstrated.
Besides the first objection, of the inadequate frequency of external exciting sources, there arises as a second objection the inadequate explanation of dreams offered by the introduction of this sort of dream sources. The representatives of the theory accordingly must explain two things, in the first place, why the external stimulus in the dream is never recognised according to its real nature, but is regularly mistaken for something else (cf. the alarm-clock dreams, p. 22), and secondly, why the reaction of the receiving mind to this misrecognised stimulus should result so indeterminately and changefully. As an answer to these questions, we have heard from Strümpell 66 that the mind, as a result of its being turned away from the outer world during sleep, is not capable of giving correct interpretation to the objective sensory stimulus, but is forced to form illusions on the basis of the indefinite incitements from many directions. As expressed in his own words (p. 108):
“As soon as a sensation, a sensational complex, a feeling, or a psychic process in general, arises in the mind during sleep from an outer or inner nerve-stimulus, and is perceived by the mind, this process calls up sensory images, that is to say, earlier perceptions, either unembellished or with the psychic values belonging to them, from the range of waking experiences, of which the mind has remained in possession. It seems to collect about itself, as it were, a greater or less number of such images, from which the impression which originates from the nerve-stimulus receives its psychic value. It is usually said here, as the idiom does of waking thought, that the mind interprets impressions of nerve-stimuli in sleep. The result of this interpretation is the so-called nerve-stimulus dream—that is to say, a dream whose composition is conditioned by the fact that a nerve-stimulus brings about its effect in psychic life according to the laws of reproduction.”
The opinion of Wundt 76 agrees in all essentials with this theory. He says that the ideas in the dream are probably the result, for the most part, of sensory stimuli, especially of those of general sensation, and are therefore mostly phantastic illusions—probably memory presentations which are only partly pure, and which have been raised to hallucinations. Strümpell has found an excellent simile (p. 84). It is as “if the ten fingers of a person ignorant of music should stray over the keyboard of an instrument”—to illustrate the relation between dream content and dream stimuli, which follows from this theory. The implication is that the dream does not appear as a psychic phenomenon, originating from psychic motives, but as the result of a physiological stimulus, which is expressed in psychic symptomology, because the apparatus which is affected by the stimulus is not capable of any other expression. Upon a similar assumption is based, for example, the explanation of compulsive ideas which Meynert tried to give by means of the famous simile of the dial on which individual figures are prominent because they are in more marked relief.
However popular this theory of somatic dream stimuli may have become, and however seductive it may seem, it is nevertheless easy to show the weak point in it. Every somatic dream stimulus which provokes the psychic apparatus to interpretation through the formation of illusions, is capable of giving rise to an incalculable number of such attempts at interpretation; it can thus attain representation in the dream content by means of an extraordinary number of different ideas. But the theory of Strümpell and Wundt is incapable of instancing any motive which has control over the relation between the external stimulus and the dream idea which has been selected to interpret it, and therefore of explaining the “peculiar choice” which the stimuli “often enough make in the course of their reproductive activity” (Lipps, Grundtatsachen des Seelerdebens, p. 170). Other objections may be directed against the fundamental assumption of the whole theory of illusions—the assumption that during sleep the mind is not in a condition to recognise the real nature of the objective sensory stimuli. The old physiologist Burdach 8 proves to us that the mind is quite capable even during sleep of interpreting correctly the sensory impressions which reach it, and of reacting in accordance with the correct interpretation. He establishes this by showing that it is possible to exempt certain impressions which seem important to the individuals, from the neglect of sleeping (nurse and child), and that one is more surely awakened by one’s own name than by an indifferent auditory impression, all of which presupposes, of course, that the mind distinguishes among sensations, even in sleep (Chapter I., p. 41). Burdach infers from these observations that it is not an incapability of interpreting sensory stimuli in the sleeping state which must be assumed, but a lack of interest in them. The same arguments which Burdach used in 1830, later reappear unchanged in the works of Lipps in the year 1883, where they are employed for the purpose of attacking the theory of somatic stimuli. According to this the mind seems to be like the sleeper in the anecdote, who, upon being asked, “Are you asleep?” answers “No,” and upon being again addressed with the words, “Then lend me ten florins,” takes refuge in the excuse: “I am asleep.”
The inadequacy of the theory of somatic dream stimuli may also be demonstrated in another manner. Observations show that I am not urged to dream by external stimulations, even if these stimulations appear in the dream as soon as, and in case that, I dream. In response to the tactile or pressure stimulus which I get while sleeping, various reactions are at my disposal. I can overlook it and discover only upon awakening that my leg has been uncovered or my arm under pressure; pathology shows the most numerous examples where powerfully acting sensory and motor stimuli of different sorts remain without effect during sleep. I can perceive a sensation during sleep through and through sleep, as it were, which happens as a rule with painful stimuli, but without weaving the pain into the texture of the dream; thirdly, I can awaken on account of the stimulus in order to obviate it. Only as a fourth possible reaction, I may be impelled to dream by a nerve stimulus; but the other possibilities are realised at least as often as that of dream formation. This could not be the case if the motive for dreaming did not lie outside of the somatic sources of dreams.
Taking proper account of the defect in the explanation of dreams by somatic stimuli which has just been shown, other authors—Scherner, 58 who was joined by the philosopher Volkelt 72 —have tried to determine more exactly the psychic activities which cause the variegated dream images to arise from the somatic stimuli, and have thus transferred the essential nature of dreams back to the province of the mind, and to that of psychic activity. Scherner not only gave a poetically appreciative, glowing and vivid description of the psychic peculiarities which develop in the course of dream formation; he also thought he had guessed the principle according to which the mind proceeds with the stimuli that are at its disposal. The dream activity, according to Scherner—after phantasy has been freed from the shackles imposed upon it during the day, and has been given free rein—strives to represent symbolically the nature of the organ from which the stimulus proceeds. Thus we have a kind of dream-book as a guide for the interpretation of dreams, by means of which bodily sensations, the conditions of the organs and of the stimuli may be inferred from dream images. “Thus the image of a cat expresses an angry discontented mood, the image of a light-coloured bit of smooth pastry the nudity of the body. The human body as a whole is pictured as a house by the phantasy of the dream, and each individual organ of the body as a part of the house. In ‘toothache-dreams’ a high vaulted vestibule corresponds to the mouth and a stair to the descent of the gullet to the alimentary canal; in the ‘headache-dream’ the ceiling of a room which is covered with disgusting reptile-like spiders is chosen to denote the upper part of the head” (Volkelt, p. 39). “Several different symbols are used by the dream for the same organ, thus the breathing lungs find their symbol in an oven filled with flames and with a roaring draught, the heart in hollow chests and baskets, and the bladder in round, bag-shaped objects or anything else hollow. It is especially important that at the end of a dream the stimulating organ or its function be represented undisguised and usually on the dreamer’s own body. Thus the ‘toothache-dream’ usually ends by the dreamer drawing a tooth from his own mouth” (p. 35). It cannot be said that this theory has found much favour with the authors. Above all, it seems extravagant; there has been no inclination even to discover the small amount of justification to which it may, in my opinion, lay claim. As may be seen, it leads to a revival of the dream interpretation by means of symbolism, which the ancients used, except that the source from which the interpretation is to be taken is limited to the human body. The lack of a technique of interpretation which is scientifically comprehensible must seriously limit the applicability of Scherner’s theory. Arbitrariness in dream interpretation seems in no wise excluded, especially since a stimulus may be expressed by several representations in the content of the dream; thus Scherner’s associate, Volkelt, has already found it impossible to confirm the representation of the body as a house. Another objection is that here again dream activity is attributed to the mind as a useless and aimless activity, since according to the theory in question the mind is content with forming phantasies about the stimulus with which it is concerned, without even remotely contemplating anything like a discharge of the stimulus.
But Scherner’s theory of the symbolisation of bodily stimuli by the dream receives a heavy blow from another objection. These bodily stimuli are present at all times, and according to general assumption the mind is more accessible to them during sleep than in waking. It is thus incomprehensible why the mind does not dream continually throughout the night, and why it does not dream every night and about all the organs. If one attempts to avoid this objection by making the condition that especial stimuli must proceed from the eye, the ear, the teeth, the intestines in order to arouse dream activity, one is confronted by the difficulty of proving that this increase of stimulation is objective, which is possible only in a small number of cases. If the dream of flying is a symbolisation of the upward and downward motion of the pulmonary lobes, either this dream, as has already been remarked by Strümpell, would be dreamt much oftener, or an accentuation of the function of breathing during the dream would have to be demonstrable. Still another case is possible—the most probable of all—that now and then special motives directing attention to the visceral sensations which are universally present are active, but this case takes us beyond the range of Scherner’s theory.
The value of Scherner’s and Volkelt’s discussions lies in the fact that they call attention to a number of characteristics of the dream content which are in need of explanation, and which seem to promise new knowledge. It is quite true that symbolisations of organs of the body and of their functions are contained in dreams, that water in a dream often signifies a desire to urinate, that the male genital may often be represented by a staff standing erect or by a pillar, &c. In dreams which show a very animated field of vision and brilliant colours, in contrast to the dimness of other dreams, the interpretation may hardly be dismissed that they are “dreams of visual stimulation,” any more than it may be disputed that there is a contribution of illusory formations in dreams which contain noise and confusion of voices. A dream like that of Scherner, of two rows of fair handsome boys standing opposite to each other on a bridge, attacking each other and then taking their places again, until finally the dreamer himself sits down on the bridge and pulls a long tooth out of his jaw; or a similar one of Volkelt’s, in which two rows of drawers play a part, and which again ends in the extraction of a tooth; dream formations of this sort, which are related in great numbers by the authors, prevent our discarding Scherner’s theory as an idle fabrication without seeking to find its kernel of truth. We are now confronted by the task of giving the supposed symbolisation of the dental stimulus an explanation of a different kind.
Throughout our consideration of the theory of the somatic sources of dreams, I have refrained from urging the argument which is inferred from our dream analyses. If we have succeeded in proving, by a procedure which other authors have not applied in their investigation of dreams, that the dream as a psychic action possesses value peculiar to itself, that a wish supplies the motive for its formation, and that the experiences of the previous day furnish the immediate material for its content, any other theory of dreams neglecting such an important method of investigation, and accordingly causing the dream to appear a useless and problematic psychic reaction to somatic stimuli, is dismissible without any particular comment. Otherwise there must be—which is highly improbable—two entirely different kinds of dreams, of which only one has come under our observation, while only the other has been observed by the earlier connoisseurs of the dream. It still remains to provide a place for the facts which are used to support the prevailing theory of somatic dream-stimuli, within our own theory of dreams.
We have already taken the first step in this direction in setting up the thesis that the dream activity is under a compulsion to elaborate all the dream stimuli which are simultaneously present into a unified whole (p. 151). We have seen that when two or more experiences capable of making an impression have been left over from the previous day, the wishes which result from them are united into one dream; similarly, that an impression possessing psychic value and the indifferent experiences of the previous day are united in the dream material, provided there are available connecting ideas between the two. Thus the dream appears to be a reaction to everything which is simultaneously present as actual in the sleeping mind. As far as we have hitherto analysed the dream material, we have discovered it to be a collection of psychic remnants and memory traces, which we were obliged to credit (on account of the preference shown for recent and infantile material) with a character of actuality, though the nature of this was not at the time determinable. Now it will not be difficult to foretell what will happen when new material in the form of sensations is added to these actualities of memory. These stimuli likewise derive importance for the dream because they are actual; they are united with the other psychic actualities in order to make up the material for dream formation. To express it differently, the stimuli which appear during sleep are worked over into the fulfilment of a wish, the other component parts of which are the remnants of daily experience with which we are familiar. This union, however, is not inevitable; we have heard that more than one sort of attitude towards bodily stimuli is possible during sleep. Wherever this union has been brought about, it has simply been possible to find for the dream content that kind of presentation material which will give representation to both classes of dream sources, the somatic as well as the psychic.
The essential nature of the dream is not changed by this addition of somatic material to the psychic sources of the dream; it remains the fulfilment of a wish without reference to the way in which its expression is determined by the actual material.
I shall gladly find room here for a number of peculiarities, which serve to put a different face on the significance of external stimuli for the dream. I imagine that a co-operation of individual, physiological, and accidental factors, conditioned by momentary circumstances, determines how one will act in each particular case of intensive objective stimulation during sleep; the degree of the profoundness of sleep whether habitual or accidental in connection with the intensity of the stimulus, will in one case make it possible to suppress the stimulus, so that it will not disturb sleep; in another case they will force an awakening or will support the attempt to overcome the stimulus by weaving it into the texture of the dream. In correspondence with the multiplicity of these combinations, external objective stimuli will receive expression more frequently in the case of one person than in that of another. In the case of myself, who am an excellent sleeper, and who stubbornly resists any kind of disturbance in sleep, this intermixture of external causes of irritation into my dreams is very rare, while psychic motives apparently cause me to dream very easily. I have indeed noted only a single dream in which an objective, painful source of stimulation is demonstrable, and it will be highly instructive to see what effect the external stimulus had in this very dream.
I am riding on a grey horse, at first timidly and awkwardly, as though I were only leaning against something. I meet a colleague P., who is mounted on a horse and is wearing a heavy woollen suit; he. calls my attention to something (probably to the fact that my riding position is bad). Now I become more and more expert on the horse, which is most intelligent; I sit comfortably, and I notice that I am already quite at home in the saddle. For a saddle I have a kind of padding, which completely fills the space between the neck and the rump of the horse. In this manner I ride with difficulty between two lumber-wagons. After having ridden up the street for some distance, I turn around and want to dismount, at first in front of a little open chapel, which is situated close to the street. Then I actually dismount in front of a chapel which stands near the first; the hotel is in the same street, I could let the horse go there by itself, but I prefer to lead it there. It seems as if I should be ashamed to arrive there on horseback. In front of the hotel is standing a hall-boy who shows me a card of mine which has been found, and who ridicules me on account of it. On the card is written, doubly underlined, “Eat nothing,” and then a second sentence (indistinct) something like “Do not work”; at the same time a hazy idea that I am in a strange city, in which I do no work.
It will not be apparent at once that this dream originated under the influence, or rather under the compulsion, of a stimulus of pain. The day before I had suffered from furuncles, which made every movement a torture, and at last a furuncle had grown to the size of an apple at the root of the scrotum, and had caused me the most intolerable pains that accompanied every step; a feverish lassitude, lack of appetite, and the hard work to which I had nevertheless kept myself during the day, had conspired with the pain to make me lose my temper. I was not altogether in a condition to discharge my duties as a physician, but in view of the nature and the location of the malady, one might have expected some performance other than riding, for which I was very especially unfitted. It is this very activity, of riding into which I am plunged by the dream; it is the most energetic denial of the suffering which is capable of being conceived. In the first place, I do not know how to ride, I do not usually dream of it, and I never sat on a horse but once—without a saddle—and then I did not feel comfortable. But in this dream I ride as though I had no furuncle on the perineum, and why? just because I don’t want any. According to the description my saddle is the poultice which has made it possible for me to go to sleep. Probably I did not feel anything of my pain—as I was thus taken care of—during the first few hours of sleeping. Then the painful sensations announced themselves and tried to wake me up, whereupon the dream came and said soothingly: “Keep on sleeping, you won’t wake up anyway! You have no furuncle at all, for you are riding on a horse, and with a furuncle where you have it riding is impossible!” And the dream was successful; the pain was stifled, and I went on sleeping.
But the dream was not satisfied with “suggesting away” the furuncle by means of tenaciously adhering to an idea incompatible with that of the malady, in doing which it behaved like the hallucinatory insanity of the mother who has lost her child, or like the merchant who has been deprived of his fortune by losses. In addition the details of the denied sensation and of the image which is used to displace it are employed by the dream as a means to connect the material ordinarily actually present in the mind with the dream situation, and to give this material representation. I am riding on a grey horse—the colour of the horse corresponds exactly to the pepper-and-salt costume in which I last met my colleague P. in the country. I have been warned that highly seasoned food is the cause of furunculosis, but in any case it is preferable as an etiological explanation to sugar which ordinarily suggests furunculosis. My friend P. has been pleased to “ride the high horse” with regard to me, ever since he superseded me in the treatment of a female patient, with whom I had performed great feats (in the dream I first sit on the horse side-saddle fashion, like a circus rider), but who really led me wherever she wished, like the horse in the anecdote about the Sunday equestrian. Thus the horse came to be a symbolic representation of a lady patient (in the dream it is most intelligent). “I feel quite at home up here,” refers to the position which I occupied in the patient’s household until I was replaced by my colleague P. “I thought you were securely seated in the saddle,” one of my few well-wishers among the great physicians of this city recently said to me with reference to the same household. And it was a feat to practise psychotherapy for ten hours a day with such pains, but I know that I cannot continue my particularly difficult work for any length of time without complete physical health, and the dream is full of gloomy allusions to the situation which must in that case result (the card such as neurasthenics have and present to doctors): No work and no food. With further interpretation I see that the dream activity has succeeded in rinding the way from the wish-situation of riding to very early infantile scenes of quarrelling, which must have taken place between me and my nephew, who is now living in England, and who, moreover, is a year older than I. Besides it has taken up elements from my journeys to Italy; the street in the dream is composed of impressions of Verona and Siena. Still more exhaustive interpretation leads to sexual dream-thoughts, and I recall what significance dream allusions to that beautiful country had in the case of a female patient who had never been in Italy (Itlay—German gen Italien—Genitalien—genitals). At the same time there are references to the house in which I was physician before my friend P., and to the place where the furuncle is located.
Among the dreams mentioned in the previous chapter there are several which might serve as examples for the elaboration of so-called nerve stimuli. The dream about drinking in full draughts is one of this sort; the somatic excitement in it seems to be the only source of the dream, and the wish resulting from the sensation—thirst—the only motive for dreaming. Something similar is true of the other simple dreams, if the somatic excitement alone is capable of forming a wish. The dream of the sick woman who throws the cooling apparatus from her cheek at night is an instance of a peculiar way of reacting to painful excitements with a wish-fulfilment; it seems as though the patient had temporarily succeeded in making herself analgesic by ascribing her pains to a stranger.
My dream about the three Parcæ is obviously a dream of hunger, but it has found means to refer the need for food back to the longing of the child for its mother’s breast, and to make the harmless desire a cloak for a more serious one, which is not permitted to express itself so openly. In the dream about Count Thun we have seen how an accidental bodily desire is brought into connection with the strongest, and likewise the most strongly suppressed emotions of the psychic life. And when the First Consul incorporates the sound of an exploding bomb into a dream of battle before it causes him to wake, as in the case reported by Garnier, the purpose for which psychic activity generally concerns itself with sensations occurring during sleep is revealed with extraordinary clearness. A young lawyer, who has been deeply preoccupied with his first great bankruptcy proceeding, and who goes to sleep during the afternoon following, acts just like the great Napoleon. He dreams about a certain G. Reich in Hussiatyn (German husten—to cough), whom he knows in connection with the bankruptcy proceeding, but Hussiatyn forces itself upon his attention still further, with the result that he is obliged to awaken, and hears his wife—who is suffering from bronchial catarrh—coughing violently.
Let us compare the dream of Napoleon I., who, incidentally, was an excellent sleeper, with that of the sleepy student, who was awakened by his landlady with the admonition that he must go to the hospital, who thereupon dreams himself into a bed in the hospital, and then sleeps on, with the following account of his motives: If I am already in the hospital, I shan’t have to get up in order to go there. The latter is obviously a dream of convenience; the sleeper frankly admits to himself the motive for his dreaming; but he thereby reveals one of the secrets of dreaming in general. In a certain sense all dreams are dreams of convenience; they serve the purpose of continuing sleep instead of awakening. The dream is the guardian of sleep, not the disturber of it. We shall justify this conception with respect to the psychic factors of awakening elsewhere; it is possible, however, at this point to prove its applicability to the influence exerted by objective external excitements. Either the mind does not concern itself at all with the causes of sensations, if it is able to do this in spite of their intensity and of their significance, which is well understood by it; or it employs the dream to deny these stimuli; or thirdly, if it is forced to recognise the stimulus, it seeks to find that interpretation of the stimulus which shall represent the actual sensation as a component part of a situation which is desired and which is compatible with sleep. The actual sensation is woven into the dream in order to deprive it of its reality. Napoleon is permitted to go on sleeping; it is only a dream recollection of the thunder of the cannon at Arcole which is trying to disturb him.
The wish to sleep, by which the conscious ego has been suspended and which along with the dream-censor contributes its share to the dream, must thus always be taken into account as a motive for the formation of dreams, and every successful dream is a fulfilment of this wish. The relation of this general, regularly present, and invariable sleep-wish to the other wishes, of which now the one, now the other is fulfilled, will be the subject of a further explanation. In the wish to sleep we have discovered a factor capable of supplying the deficiency in the theory of Strümpell and Wundt, and of explaining the perversity and capriciousness in the interpretation of the outer stimulus. The correct interpretation, of which the sleeping mind is quite capable, would imply an active interest and would require that sleep be terminated; hence, of those interpretations which are possible at all, only those are admitted which are agreeable to the absolute censorship of the somatic wish. It is something like this: It’s the nightingale and not the lark. For if it’s the lark, love’s night is at an end. From among the interpretations of the excitement which are at the moment possible, that one is selected which can secure the best connection with the wish-possibilities that are lying in wait in the mind. Thus everything is definitely determined, and nothing is left to caprice. The misinterpretation is not an illusion, but—if you will—an excuse. Here again, however, there is admitted an action which is a modification of the normal psychic procedure, as in the case where substitution by means of displacement is effected for the purposes of the dream-censor.
If the outer nerve stimuli and inner bodily stimuli are sufficiently intense to compel psychic attention, they represent—that is, in case they result in dreaming and not in awakening—a definite point in the formation of dreams, a nucleus in the dream material, for which an appropriate wish-fulfilment is sought, in a way similar (see above) to the search for connecting ideas between two dream stimuli. To this extent it is true for a number of dreams that the somatic determines what their content is to be. In this extreme case a wish which is not exactly actual is aroused for the purpose of dream formation. But the dream can do nothing but represent a wish in a situation as fulfilled; it is, as it were, confronted by the task of seeking what wish may be represented and fulfilled by means of the situation which is now actual. Even if this actual material is of a painful or disagreeable character, still it is not useless for the purposes of dream formation. The psychic life has control even over wishes the fulfilment of which brings forth pleasure—a statement which seems contradictory, but which becomes intelligible if one takes into account the presence of two psychic instances and the censor existing between them.
There are in the psychic life, as we have heard, repressed wishes which belong to the first system, and to whose fulfilment the second system is opposed. There are wishes of this kind—and we do not mean this in an historic sense, that there have been such wishes and that these have then been destroyed—but the theory of repression, which is essential to the study of psychoneurosis, asserts that such repressed wishes still exist, contemporaneously with an inhibition weighing them down. Language has hit upon the truth when it speaks of the “suppression” of such impulses. The psychic contrivance for bringing such wishes to realisation remains preserved and in a condition to be used. But if it happens that such a suppressed wish is fulfilled, the vanquished inhibition of the second system (which is capable of becoming conscious) is then expressed as a painful feeling. To close this discussion; if sensations of a disagreeable character which originate from somatic sources are presented during sleep, this constellation is taken advantage of by the dream activity to represent the fulfilment—with more or less retention of the censor—of an otherwise suppressed wish.
This condition of affairs makes possible a number of anxiety dreams, while another series of the dream formations which are unfavourable to the wish theory exhibits a different mechanism. For anxiety in dreams may be of a psycho-neurotic nature, or it may originate in psychosexual excitements, in which case the anxiety corresponds to a repressed libido. Then this anxiety as well as the whole anxiety dream has the significance of a neurotic symptom, and we are at the dividing-line where the wish-fulfilling tendency of dreams disappears. But in other anxiety-dreams the feeling of anxiety comes from somatic sources (for instance in the case of persons suffering from pulmonary or heart trouble, where there is occasional difficulty in getting breath), and then it is used to aid those energetically suppressed wishes in attaining fulfilment in the form of a dream, the dreaming of which from psychic motives would have resulted in the same release of fear. It is not difficult to unite these two apparently discrepant cases. Of two psychic formations, an emotional inclination and an ideal content, which are ultimately connected, the one, which is presented as actual, supports the other in the dream; now anxiety of somatic origin supports the suppressed presentation content, now the ideal content, which is freed from suppression, and which proceeds with the impetus given by sexual emotion, assists the discharge of anxiety. Of the one case it may be said that an emotion of somatic origin is psychically interpreted; in the other case everything is of psychic origin but the content which has been suppressed is easily replaced by a somatic interpretation which is suited to anxiety. The difficulties which lie in the way of understanding all this have little to do with the dream; they are due to the fact that in discussing these points we are touching upon the problems of the development of anxiety and of repression.
Undoubtedly the aggregate of bodily feelings is to be included among the commanding dream stimuli which originate internally. Not that it is able to furnish the dream content, but it forces the dream thoughts to make a choice from the material destined to serve the purpose of representation in the dream content; it does this by putting within easy reach that part of the material which is suited to its own character, while withholding the other. Moreover this general feeling, which is left over from the day, is probably connected with the psychic remnants which are significant for the dream.
If somatic sources of excitement occurring during sleep—that is, the sensations of sleep—are not of unusual intensity, they play a part in the formation of dreams similar, in my judgment, to that of the impressions of the day which have remained recent but indifferent. I mean that they are drawn into the dream formation, if they are qualified for being united with the presentation content of the psychic dream-source, but in no other case. They are treated as a cheap ever-ready material, which is utilised as often as it is needed, instead of prescribing, as a precious material does, the manner in which it is to be utilised. The case is similar to that where a patron of art brings to an artist a rare stone, a fragment of onyx, in order that a work of art may be made of it. The size of the stone, its colour, and its marking help to decide what bust or what scene shall be represented in it, while in the case where there is a uniform and abundant supply of marble or sandstone the artist follows only the idea which takes shape in his mind. Only in this manner, it seems to me, is the fact explicable that the dream content resulting from bodily excitements that have not been accentuated to a usual degree, does not appear in all dreams and during every night.
Perhaps an example, which takes us back to the interpretation of dreams, will best illustrate my meaning. One day I was trying to understand the meaning of the sensations of being impeded, of not being able to move from the spot, of not being able to get finished, &c., which are dreamt about so often, and which are so closely allied to anxiety. That night I had the following dream: I am very incompletely dressed, and I go from a dwelling on the ground floor up a flight of stairs to an upper story. In doing this I jump over three steps at a time, and I am glad to find I can mount the steps so quickly. Suddenly I see that a servant girl is coming down the stairs, that is, towards me. I am ashamed and try to hurry away, and now there appears that sensation of being impeded; I am glued to the steps and cannot move from the spot.
Analysis: The situation of the dream is taken from everyday reality. In a house in Vienna I have two apartments, which are connected only by a flight of stairs outside. My consultation-rooms and my study are on an elevated portion of the ground floor, and one story higher are my living-rooms. When I have finished my work downstairs late at night, I go up the steps into my bedroom. On the evening before the dream I had actually gone this short distance in a somewhat disorderly attire—that is to say, I had taken off my collar, cravat, and cuffs; but in the dream this has changed into a somewhat more advanced degree of undress, which as usual is indefinite. Jumping over the steps is my usual method of mounting stairs; moreover it is the fulfilment of a wish that has been recognised in the dream, for I have reassured myself about the condition of my heart action by the ease of this accomplishment. Moreover the manner in which I climb the stairs is an effective contrast to the sensation of being impeded which occurs in the second half of the dream. It shows me—something which needed no proof—that the dream has no difficulty in representing motor actions as carried out fully and completely; think of flying in dreams!
But the stairs which I go up are not those of my house; at first I do not recognise them; only the person coming toward me reveals to me the location which they are intended to signify. This woman is the maid of the old lady whom I visit twice daily to give hypodermic injections; the stairs, too, are quite similar to those which I must mount there twice daily.
How do this flight of stairs and this woman get into my dream? Being ashamed because one is not fully dressed, is undoubtedly of a sexual character; the servant of whom I dream is older than I, sulky, and not in the least attractive. These questions call up exactly the following occurrences: When I make my morning visit at this house I am usually seized with a desire to clear my throat; the product of the expectoration falls upon the steps. For there is no spittoon on either of these floors, and I take the view that the stairs should not be kept clean at my expense, but by the provision of a spittoon. The housekeeper, likewise an elderly and sulky person, with instincts for cleanliness, takes another view of the matter. She lies in wait for me to see whether I take the liberty referred to, and when she has made sure of it, I hear her growl distinctly. For days thereafter she refuses to show me her customary regard when we meet. On the day before the dream the position of the housekeeper had been strengthened by the servant girl. I had just finished my usual hurried visit to the patient when the servant confronted me in the ante-room and observed: “You might as well have wiped your shoes to-day, doctor, before you came into the room. The red carpet is all dirty again from your feet.” This is the whole claim which the flight of stairs and the servant-girl can make for appearing in my dream.
An intimate connection exists between my flying over the Btairs and my spitting on the stairs. Pharyngitis and diseases of the heart are both said to be punishments for the vice of smoking, on account of which vice, of course, I do not enjoy a reputation for great neatness with my housekeeper in the one house any more than in the other, both of which the dream fuses into a single image.
I must postpone the further interpretation of this dream until I can give an account of the origin of the typical dream of incomplete dress. I only note as a preliminary result from the dream which has just been cited that the dream sensation of inhibited action is always aroused at a point where a certain connection requires it. A peculiar condition of my motility during sleep cannot be the cause of this dream content, for a moment before I saw myself hurrying over the steps with ease, as though in confirmation of this fact.
In general we are not in a position to interpret the dream of another person if he is unwilling to furnish us with the unconscious thoughts which lie behind the dream content, and for this reason the practical applicability of our method of dream interpretation is seriously curtailed. But there are a certain number of dreams—in contrast with the usual freedom displayed by the individual in fashioning his dream world with characteristic peculiarity, and thereby making it unintelligible—which almost every one has dreamed in the same manner, and of which we are accustomed to assume that they have the same significance in the case of every dreamer. A peculiar interest belongs to these typical dreams for the reason that they probably all come from the same sources with every person, that they are thus particularly suited to give us information upon the sources of dreams.
Typical dreams are worthy of the most exhaustive investigation. I shall, however, only give a somewhat detailed consideration to examples of this species, and for this purpose I shall first select the so-called embarrassment dream of nakedness, and the dream of the death of dear relatives.
The dream of being naked or scantily clad in the presence of strangers occurs with the further addition that one is not at all ashamed of it, &c. But the dream of nakedness is worthy of our interest only when shame and embarrassment are felt in it, when one wishes to flee or to hide, and when one feels the strange inhibition that it is impossible to move from the spot and that one is incapable of altering the disagreeable situation. It is only in this connection that the dream is typical; the nucleus of its content may otherwise be brought into all kinds of relations or may be replaced by individual amplifications. It is essentially a question of a disagreeable sensation of the nature of shame, the wish to be able to hide one’s nakedness, chiefly by means of locomotion, without being able to accomplish this. I believe that the great majority of my readers will at some time have found themselves in this situation in a dream.
Usually the nature and manner of the experience is indistinct. It is usually reported, “I was in my shirt,” but this is rarely a clear image; in most cases the lack of clothing is so indeterminate that it is designated in the report of the dream by a set of alternatives: “I was in my chemise or in my petticoat.” As a rule the deficiency in the toilet is not serious enough to justify the feeling of shame attached to it. For a person who has served in the army, nakedness is often replaced by a mode of adjustment that is contrary to regulations. “I am on the street without my sabre and I see officers coming,” or “I am without my necktie,” or “I am wearing checkered civilian’s trousers,” &c.
The persons before whom one is ashamed are almost always strangers with faces that have been left undetermined. It never occurs in the typical dream that one is reproved or even noticed on account of the dress which causes the embarrassment to one’s self. Quite on the contrary, the people have an air of indifference, or, as I had opportunity to observe in a particularly clear dream, they look stiffly solemn. This is worth thinking about.
The shamed embarrassment of the dreamer and the indifference of the spectators form a contradiction which often occurs in the dream. It would better accord with the feelings of the dreamer if the strangers looked at him in astonishment and laughed at him, or if they grew indignant. I think, however, that the latter unpleasant feature has been obviated by the tendency to wish-fulfilment, while the embarrassment, being retained on some account or other, has been left standing, and thus the two parts fail to agree. We have interesting evidence to show that the dream, whose appearance has been partially disfigured by the tendency to wish-fulfilment, has not been properly understood. For it has become the basis of a fairy tale familiar to us all in Andersen’s version, and it has recently received poetic treatment by L. Fulda in the Talisman. In Andersen’s fairy tale we are told of two impostors who weave a costly garment for the Emperor, which, however, shall be visible only to the good and true. The Emperor goes forth clad in this invisible garment, and, the fabric serving as a sort of touchstone, all the people are frightened into acting as though they did not notice the nakedness of the Emperor.
But such is the situation in our dream. It does not require great boldness to assume that the unintelligible dream content has suggested the invention of a state of undress in which the situation that is being remembered becomes significant. This situation has then been deprived of its original meaning, and placed at the service of other purposes. But we shall see that such misunderstanding of the dream content often occurs on account of the conscious activity of the second psychic system, and is to be recognised as a factor in the [???]ultimate formation of the dream; furthermore, that in the development of the obsessions and phobias similar misunderstandings, likewise within the same psychic personality, play a leading part. The source from which in our dream the material for this transformation is taken can also be explained. The impostor is the dream, the Emperor is the dreamer himself, and the moralising tendency betrays a hazy knowledge of the fact that the latent dream content is occupied with forbidden wishes which have become the victims of repression. The connection in which such dreams appear during my analysis of neurotics leaves no room for doubting that the dream is based upon a recollection from earliest childhood. Only in our childhood was there a time when we were seen by our relatives as well as by strange nurses, servant girls, and visitors, in scanty clothing, and at that time we were not ashamed of our nakedness.
It may be observed in the case of children who are a little older that being undressed has a kind of intoxicating effect upon them, instead of making them ashamed. They laugh, jump about, and strike their bodies; the mother, or whoever is present, forbids them to do this, and says: “Fie, that is shameful—you mustn’t do that.” Children often show exhibitional cravings; it is hardly possible to go through a village in our part of the country without meeting a two or three-year-old tot who lifts up his or her shirt before the traveller, perhaps in his honour. One of my patients has reserved in his conscious memory a scene from the eighth year of his life in which he had just undressed previous to going to bed, and was about to dance into the room of his little sister in his undershirt when the servant prevented his doing it. In the childhood history of neurotics, denudation in the presence of children of the opposite sex plays a great part; in paranoia the desire to be observed while dressing and undressing may be directly traced to these experiences; among those remaining perverted there is a class which has accentuated the childish impulse to a compulsion—they are the exhibitionists.
This age of childhood in which the sense of shame is lacking seems to our later recollections a Paradise, and Paradise itself is nothing but a composite phantasy from the childhood of the individual. It is for this reason, too, that in Paradise human beings are naked and are not ashamed until the moment arrives when the sense of shame and of fear are aroused; expulsion follows, and sexual life and cultural development begin. Into this Paradise the dream can take us back every night; we have already ventured the conjecture that the impressions from earliest childhood (from the prehistoric period until about the end of the fourth year) in themselves, and independently of everything else, crave reproduction, perhaps without further reference to their content, and that the repetition of them is the fulfilment of a wish. Dreams of nakedness, then, are exhibition dreams.
One’s own person, which is seen not as that of a child, but as belonging to the present, and the idea of scanty clothing, which became buried beneath so many later négligée. recollections or because of the censor, turns out to be obscure—these two things constitute the nucleus of the exhibition dream. Next come the persons before whom one is ashamed. I know of no example where the actual spectators at those infantile exhibitions reappear in the dream. For the dream is hardly ever a simple recollection. Strangely enough, those persons who are the objects of our sexual interest during childhood are omitted from all the reproductions of the dream, of hysteria, and of the compulsion neurosis; paranoia alone puts the spectators back into their places, and is fanatically convinced of their presence, although they remain invisible. What the dream substitutes for these, the “many strange people,” who take no notice of the spectacle which is presented, is exactly the wish-opposite of that single, intimate person for whom the exposure was intended. “Many strange people,” moreover, are often found in the dream in any other favourable connection; as a wish-opposite they always signify “a secret.” It may be seen how the restoration of the old condition of affairs, as it occurs in paranoia, is subject to this antithesis. One is no longer alone. One is certainly being watched, but the spectators are “many strange, curiously indeterminate people.”
Furthermore, repression has a place in the exhibition dream. For the disagreeable sensation of the dream is the reaction of the second psychic instance to the fact that the exhibition scene which has been rejected by it has in spite of this succeeded in securing representation. The only way to avoid this sensation would be not to revive the scene.
Later on we shall again deal with the sensation of being inhibited. It serves the dream excellently in representing the conflict of the will, the negation. According to our unconscious purpose exhibition is to be continued; according to the demands of the censor, it is to be stopped.
The relation of our typical dreams to fairy tales and to other poetic material is neither a sporadic nor an accidental one. Occasionally the keen insight of a poet has analytically recognised the transforming process—of which the poet is usually the tool—and has followed it backwards, that is to say, traced it to the dream. A friend has called my attention to the following passage in G. Keller’s Der Grüne Heinrich: “I do not wish, dear Lee, that you should ever come to realise from experience the peculiar piquant truth contained in the situation of Odysseus, when he appears before Nausikaa and her playmates, naked and covered with mud! Would you like to know what it means? Let us consider the incident closely. If you are ever separated from your home, and from everything that is dear to you, and wander about in a strange country, when you have seen and experienced much, when you have cares and sorrows, and are, perhaps, even miserable and forlorn, you will some night inevitably dream that you are approaching your home; you will see it shining and beaming in the most beautiful colours; charming, delicate and lovely figures will come to meet you; and you will suddenly discover that you are going about in rags, naked and covered with dust. A nameless feeling of shame and fear seizes you, you try to cover yourself and to hide, and you awaken bathed in sweat. As long as men exist, this will be the dream of the care-laden, fortune-battered man, and thus Homer has taken his situation from the profoundest depths of the eternal character of humanity.”
This profound and eternal character of humanity, upon the touching of which in his listeners the poet usually calculates, is made up of the stirrings of the spirit which are rooted in childhood, in the period which later becomes prehistoric. Suppressed and forbidden wishes of childhood break forth under cover of those wishes of the homeless man which are unobjectionable and capable of becoming conscious, and for that reason the dream which is made objective in the legend of Nausikaa regularly assumes the form of a dream of anxiety.
My own dream, mentioned on p. 201, of hurrying up the stairs, which is soon afterward changed into that of being glued to the steps, is likewise an exhibition dream, because it shows the essential components of such’ a dream. It must thus permit of being referred to childish experiences, and the possession of these ought to tell us how far the behaviour of the servant girl towards me—her reproach that I had soiled the carpet—helped her to secure the position which she occupies in the dream. I am now able to furnish the desired explanation. One learns in psychoanalysis to interpret temporal proximity by objective connection; two thoughts, apparently without connection, which immediately follow one another, belong to a unity which can be inferred; just as an a and a t, which I write down together, should be pronounced as one syllable, at. The same is true of the relation of dreams to one another. The dream just cited, of the stairs, has been taken from a series of dreams, whose other members I am familiar with on account of having interpreted them. The dream which is included in this series must belong to the same connection. Now the other dreams of the series are based upon the recollection of a nurse to whom I was entrusted from some time in the period when I was suckling to the age of two and a half years, and of whom a hazy recollection has remained in my consciousness. According to information which I have recently obtained from my mother, she was old and ugly, but very intelligent and thorough; according to inferences which I may draw from my dreams, she did not always give me the kindest treatment, and said hard words to me when I showed insufficient aptitude for education in cleanliness. Thus by attempting to continue this educational work the servant girl develops a claim to be treated by me, in the dream, as an incarnation of the prehistoric old woman. It is to be assumed that the child bestowed his love upon this governess in spite of her bad treatment of him.
Another series of dreams which might be called typical are those which have the content that a dear relative, parent, brother, or sister, child or the like, has died. Two classes of these dreams must immediately be distinguished—those in which the dreamer remains unaffected by sorrow while dreaming, and those in which he feels profound grief on account of the death, in which he even expresses this grief during sleep by fervid tears.
We may ignore the dreams of the first group; they have no claim to be reckoned as typical. If they are analysed, it is found that they signify something else than what they contain, that they are intended to cover up some other wish. Thus it is with the dream of the aunt who sees the only son of her sister lying on a bier before her (p 129). This does not signify that she wishes the death of her little nephew; it only conceals, as we have learned, a wish to see a beloved person once more after long separation—the same person whom she had seen again after a similar long intermission at the funeral of another nephew. This wish, which is the real content of the dream, gives no cause for sorrow, and for that reason no sorrow is felt in the dream. It may be seen in this case that the emotion which is contained in the dream does not belong to the manifest content of the dream, but to the latent one, and that the emotional content has remained free from the disfigurement which has befallen the presentation content.
It is a different story with the dreams in which the death of a beloved relative is imagined and where sorrowful emotion is felt. These signify, as their content says, the wish that the person in question may die, and as I may here expect that the feelings of all readers and of all persons who have dreamt anything similar will object to my interpretation, I must strive to present my proof on the broadest possible basis.
We have already had one example to show that the wishes represented in the dream as fulfilled are not always actual wishes. They may also be dead, discarded, covered, and repressed wishes, which we must nevertheless credit with a sort of continuous existence on account of their reappearance in the dream. They are not dead like persons who have died in our sense, but they resemble the shades in the Odyssey which awaken a certain kind of life as soon as they have drunk blood. In the dream of the dead child in the box (p. 130) we were concerned with a wish that had been actual fifteen years before, and which had been frankly admitted from that time. It is, perhaps, not unimportant from the point of view of dream theory if I add that a recollection from earliest childhood is at the basis even of this dream. While the dreamer was a little child—it cannot be definitely determined at what time—she had heard that during pregnancy of which she was the fruit her mother had fallen into a profound depression of spirits and had passionately wished for the death of her child before birth. Having grown up herself and become pregnant, she now follows the example of her mother.
If some one dreams with expressions of grief that his father or mother, his brother or sister, has died, I shall not use the dream as a proof that he wishes them dead now. The theory of the dreams does not require so much; it is satisfied with concluding that the dreamer has wished them , dead—at some one time in childhood. I fear, however, that this limitation will not contribute much to quiet the objectors; they might just as energetically contest the possibility that they have ever had such thoughts as they are sure that they do not cherish such wishes at present. I must, therefore, reconstruct a part of the submerged infantile psychology on the basis of the testimony which the present still furnishes.
Let us at first consider the relation of children to their brothers and sisters. I do not know why we presuppose that it must be a loving one, since examples of brotherly and sisterly enmity among adults force themselves upon every one’s experience, and since we so often know that this estrangement originated even during childhood or has always existed. But many grown-up people, who to-day are tenderly attached to their brothers and sisters and stand by them, have lived with them during childhood in almost uninterrupted hostility. The older child has ill-treated the younger, slandered it, and deprived it of its toys; the younger has been consumed by helpless fury against the elder, has envied it and feared it, or its first impulse toward liberty and first feelings of injustice have been directed against the oppressor. The parents say that the children do not agree, and cannot find the reason for it. It is not difficult to see that the character even of a well-behaved child is not what we wish to find in a grown-up person. The child is absolutely egotistical; it feels its wants acutely and strives remorselessly to satisfy them, especially with its competitors, other children, and in the first instance with its brothers and sisters. For doing this we do not call the child wicked—we call it naughty; it is not responsible for its evil deeds either in our judgment or in the eyes of the penal law. And this is justifiably so; for we may expect that within this very period of life which we call childhood, altruistic impulses and morality will come to life in the little egotist, and that, in the words of Meynert, a secondary ego will overlay and restrain the primary one. It is true that morality does not develop simultaneously in all departments, and furthermore, the duration of the unmoral period of childhood is of different length in different individuals. In cases where the development of this morality fails to appear, we are pleased to talk about “degeneration”; they are obviously cases of arrested development. Where the primary character has already been covered up by later development, it may be at least partially uncovered again by an attack of hysteria. The correspondence between the so-called hysterical character and that of a naughty child is strikingly evident. A compulsion neurosis, on the other hand, corresponds to a super-morality, imposed upon the primary character that is again asserting itself, as an increased check.
Many persons, then, who love their brothers and sisters, and who would feel bereaved by their decease, have evil wishes towards them from earlier times in their unconscious wishes, which are capable of being realised in the dream. It is particularly interesting to observe little children up to three years old in their attitude towards their brothers and sisters. So far the child has been the only one; he is now informed that the stork has brought a new child. The younger surveys the arrival, and then expresses his opinion decidedly: “The stork had better take it back again.”
I subscribe in all seriousness to the opinion that the child knows enough to calculate the disadvantage it has to expect on account of the new-comer. I know in the case of a lady of my acquaintance who agrees very well with a sister four years younger than herself, that she responded to the news of her younger sister’s arrival with the following words: “But I shan’t give her my red cap, anyway.” If the child comes to this realisation only at a later time, its enmity will be aroused at that point. I know of a case where a girl, not yet three years old, tried to strangle a suckling in the cradle, because its continued presence, she suspected, boded her no good. Children are capable of envy at this time of life in all its intensity and distinctness. Again, perhaps, the little brother or sister has really soon disappeared; the child has again drawn the entire affection of the household to itself, and then a new child is sent by the stork; is it then unnatural for the favourite to wish that the new competitor may have the same fate as the earlier one, in order that he may be treated as well as he was before during the interval? Of course this attitude of the child towards the younger infant is under normal circumstances a simple function of the difference of age. After a certain time the maternal instincts of the girl will be excited towards the helpless new-born child.
Feelings of enmity towards brothers and sisters must occur far more frequently during the age of childhood than is noted by the dull observation of adults.
In case of my own children, who followed one another rapidly, I missed the opportunity to make such observations; I am now retrieving it through my little nephew, whose complete domination was disturbed after fifteen months by the arrival of a female competitor. I hear, it is true, that the young man acts very chivalrously towards his little sister, that he kisses her hand and pets her; but in spite of this I have convinced myself that even before the completion of his second year he is using his new facility in language to criticise this person who seems superfluous to him. Whenever the conversation turns upon her, he chimes in and cries angrily: “Too (l)ittle, too (l)ittle.” During the last few months, since the child has outgrown this unfavourable criticism, owing to its splendid development, he has found another way of justifying his insistence that she does not deserve so much attention. On all suitable occasions he reminds us, “She hasn’t any teeth.” We have all preserved the recollection of the eldest daughter of another sister of mine—how the child which was at that time six years old sought assurance from one aunt after another for an hour and a half with the question: “Lucy can’t understand that yet, can she?” Lucy was the competitor, two and a half years younger.
I have never failed in any of my female patients to find this dream of the death of brothers and sisters denoting exaggerated hostility. I have met with only one exception, which could easily be reinterpreted into a confirmation of the rule. Once in the course of a sitting while I was explaining this condition of affairs to a lady, as it seemed to have a bearing upon the symptoms under consideration, she answered, to my astonishment, that she had never had such dreams. However, she thought of another dream which supposedly had nothing to do with the matter—a dream which she had first dreamed at the age of four, when she was the youngest child, and had since dreamed repeatedly. “A great number of children, all of them the dreamer’s brothers and sisters, and male and female cousins, were romping about in a meadow. Suddenly they all got wings, flew up, and were gone.” She had no idea of the significance of the dream; but it will not be difficult for us to recognise it as a dream of the death of all the brothers and sisters, in its original form, and little influenced by the censor. I venture to insert the following interpretation: At the death of one out of a large number of children—in this case the children of two brothers were brought up in common as brothers and sisters—is it not probable that our dreamer, at that time not yet four years old, asked a wise, grown-up person: “What becomes of children when they are dead?” The answer probably was: “They get wings and become angels.” According to this explanation all the brothers and sisters and cousins in the dream now have wings like angels and—this is the important thing—they fly away. Our little angel-maker remains alone, think of it, the only one after such a multitude! The feature that the children are romping about on a meadow points with little ambiguity to butterflies, as though the child had been led by the same association which induced the ancients to conceive Psyche as having the wings of a butterfly.
Perhaps some one will now object that, although the inimical impulses of children towards their brothers and sisters may well enough be admitted, how does the childish disposition arrive at such a height of wickedness as to wish death to a competitor or stronger playmate, as though all transgressions could be atoned for only by the death-punishment? Whoever talks in this manner forgets that the childish idea of “being dead” has little else but the words in common with our own. The child knows nothing of the horrors of decay, of shivering in the cold grave, of the terror of the infinite Nothing, which the grown-up person, as all the myths concerning the Great Beyond testify, finds it so hard to bear in his conception. Fear of death is strange to the child; therefore it plays with the horrible word and threatens another child: “If you do that again you will die, as Francis died,” whereat the poor mother shudders, for perhaps she cannot forget that the great majority of mortals do not succeed in living beyond the years of childhood. It is still possible, even for a child eight years old, on returning from a museum of natural history, to say to its mother: “Mamma, I love you so; if you ever die, I am going to have you stuffed and set you up here in the room so I can always, always see you!” So little does the childish conception of being dead resemble our own.
Being dead means for the child, which has been spared the scenes of suffering previous to dying, the same as “being gone,” not disturbing the survivors any more. The child does not distinguish the manner and means by which this absence is brought about, whether by travelling, estrangement, or death. If, during the prehistoric years of a child, a nurse has been sent away and its mother has died a short while after, the two experiences, as is revealed by analysis, overlap in his memory. The fact that the child does not miss very intensely those who are absent has been realised by many a mother to her sorrow, after she has returned home after a summer journey of several weeks, and has been told upon inquiry: “The children have not asked for their mother a single time.” But if she really goes to that “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns,” the children seem at first to have forgotten her, and begin only subsequently to remember the dead mother.
If, then, the child has motives for wishing the absence of another child, every restraint is lacking which would prevent it from clothing this wish in the form that the child may die, and the psychic reaction to the dream of wishing death proves that, in spite of all the differences in content, the wish in the case of the child is somehow or other the same as it is with adults.
If now the death-wish of the child towards its brothers and sisters has been explained by the childish egotism, which causes the child to regard its brothers and sisters as competitors, how may we account for the same wish towards parents, who bestow love on the child and satisfy its wants, and whose preservation it ought to desire from these very egotistical motives?
In the solution of this difficulty we are aided by the experience that dreams of the death of parents predominantly refer to that member of the parental couple which shares the sex of the dreamer, so that the man mostly dreams of the death of his father, the woman of the death of her mother. I cannot claim that this happens regularly, but the predominating occurrence of this dream in the manner indicated is so evident that it must be explained through some factor that is universally operative. To express the matter boldly, it is as though a sexual preference becomes active at an early period, as though the boy regards his father as a rival in love, and as though the girl takes the same attitude toward her mother—a rival by getting rid of whom he or she cannot but profit.
Before rejecting this idea as monstrous, let the reader consider the actual relations between parents and children. What the requirements of culture and piety demand of this relation must be distinguished from what daily observation shows us to be the fact. More than one cause for hostile feeling is concealed within the relations between parents and children; the conditions necessary for the actuation of wishes which cannot exist in the presence of the censor are most abundantly provided. Let us dwell at first upon the relation between father and son. I believe that the sanctity which we have ascribed to the injunction of the decalogue dulls our perception of reality. Perhaps we hardly dare to notice that the greater part of humanity neglects to obey the fifth commandment. In the lowest as well as in the highest strata of human society, piety towards parents is in the habit of receding before other interests. The obscure reports which have come to us in mythology and legend from the primeval ages of human society give us an unpleasant idea of the power of the father and the ruthlessness with which it was used. Kronos devours his children, as the wild boar devours the brood of the sow; Zeus emasculates his father and takes his place as a ruler. The more despotically the father ruled in the ancient family, the more must the son have taken the position of an enemy, and the greater must have been his impatience, as designated successor, to obtain the mastery himself after his father’s death. Even in our own middle-class family the father is accustomed to aid the development of the germ of hatred which naturally belongs to the paternal relation by refusing the son the disposal of his own destiny, or the means necessary for this. A physician often has occasion to notice that the son’s grief at the loss of his father cannot suppress his satisfaction at the liberty which he has at last obtained. Every father frantically holds on to whatever of the sadly antiquated potestas patris still remains in the society of to-day, and every poet who, like Ibsen, puts the ancient strife between father and son in the foreground of his fiction is sure of his effect. The causes of conflict between mother and daughter arise when the daughter grows up and finds a guardian in her mother, while she desires sexual freedom, and when, on the other hand, the mother has been warned by the budding beauty of her daughter that the time has come for her to renounce sexual claims.
All these conditions are notorious and open to everyone’s inspection. But they do not serve to explain dreams of the death of parents found in the case of persons to whom piety towards their parents has long since come to be inviolable. We are furthermore prepared by the preceding discussion to find that the death-wish towards parents is to be explained by reference to earliest childhood.
This conjecture is reaffirmed with a certainty that makes doubt impossible in its application to psychoneurotics through the analyses that have been undertaken with them. It is here found that the sexual wishes of the child—in so far as they deserve this designation in their embryonic state—awaken at a very early period, and that the first inclinations of the girl are directed towards the father, and the first childish cravings of the boy towards the mother. The father thus becomes an annoying competitor for the boy, as the mother does for the girl, and we have already shown in the case of brothers and sisters how little it takes for this feeling to lead the child to the death-wish. Sexual selection, as a rule, early becomes evident in the parents; it is a natural tendency for the father to indulge the little daughter, and for the mother to take the part of the sons, while both work earnestly for the education of the little ones when the magic of sex does not prejudice their judgment. The child is very well aware of any partiality, and resists that member of the parental couple who discourages it. To find love in a grown-up person is for the child not only the satisfaction of a particular craving, but also means that the child’s will is to be yielded to in other respects. Thus the child obeys its own sexual impulse, and at the same time re-enforces the feeling which proceeds from the parents, if it makes a selection among the parents that corresponds to theirs.
Most of the signs of these infantile inclinations are usually overlooked; some of them may be observed even after the first years of childhood. An eight-year-old girl of my acquaintance, when her mother is called from the table, takes advantage of the opportunity to proclaim herself her successor. “Now I shall be Mamma; Charles, do you want some more vegetables? Have some, I beg you,” &c. A particularly gifted and vivacious girl, not yet four years old, with whom this bit of child psychology is unusually transparent, says outright: “Now mother can go away; then father must marry me and I shall be his wife.” Nor does this wish by any means exclude from child life the possibility that the child may love his mother affectionately. If the little boy is allowed to sleep at his mother’s side whenever his father goes on a journey, and if after his father’s return he must go back to the nursery to a person whom he likes far less, the wish may be easily actuated that his father may always be absent, in order that he may keep his place next to his dear, beautiful mamma; and the father’s death is obviously a means for the attainment of this wish; for the child’s experience has taught him that “dead” folks, like grandpa, for example, are always absent; they never return.
Although observations upon little children lend themselves, without being forced, to the proposed interpretation, they do not carry the full conviction which psychoanalyses of adult neurotics obtrude upon the physician. The dreams in question are here cited with introductions of such a nature that their interpretation as wish-dreams becomes unavoidable. One day I find a lady sad and weeping. She says: “I do not want to see my relatives any more; they must shudder at me.” Thereupon, almost without any transition, she tells that she remembers a dream, whose significance, of course, she does not know. She dreamed it four years before, and it is as follows: A fox or a lynx is taking a walk on the roof; then something falls down, or she falls down, and after that her mother is carried out of the house dead—whereat the dreamer cries bitterly. No sooner had I informed her that this dream must signify a wish from her childhood to see her mother dead, and that it is because of this dream that she thinks that her relatives must shudder at her, than she furnished some material for explaining the dream. “Lynx-eye” is an opprobrious epithet which a street boy once bestowed on her when she was a very small child; when she was three years old a brick had fallen on her mother’s head so that she bled severely.
I once had opportunity to make a thorough study of a young girl who underwent several psychic states. In the state of frenzied excitement with which the illness started, the patient showed a very strong aversion to her mother; she struck and scolded her as soon as she approached the bed, while at the same time she remained loving and obedient to a much older sister. Then there followed a clear but somewhat apathetic state with very much disturbed sleep. It was in this phase that I began to treat her and to analyse her dreams. An enormous number of these dealt in a more or less abstruse manner with the death of the mother; now she was present at the funeral of an old woman, now she saw her sisters sitting at the table dressed in mourning; the meaning of the dreams could not be doubted. During the further progress of the convalescence hysterical phobias appeared; the most torturing of these was the idea that something happened to her mother. She was always having to hurry home from wherever she happened to be in order to convince herself that her mother was still alive. Now this case, in view of my other experiences, was very instructive; it showed in polyglot translations, as it were, the different ways in which the psychic apparatus reacts to the same exciting idea. In the state of excitement which I conceive as the overpowering of the second psychic instance, the unconscious enmity towards the mother became potent as a motor impulse; then, after calmness set in, following the suppression of the tumult, and after the domination of the censor had been restored, this feeling of enmity had access only to the province of dreams in order to realise the wish that the mother might die; and after the normal condition had been still further strengthened, it created the excessive concern for the mother as a hysterical counter-reaction and manifestation of defence. In the light of these considerations it is no longer inexplicable why hysterical girls are so often extravagantly attached to their mothers.
On another occasion I had opportunity to get a profound insight into the unconscious psychic life of a young man for whom a compulsion-neurosis made life almost unendurable, so that he could not go on the street, because he was harassed by the obsession that he would kill every one he met. He spent his days in arranging evidence for an alibi in case he should be charged with any murder that might have occurred in the city. It is superfluous to remark that this man was as moral as he was highly cultured. The analysis—which, moreover, led to a cure—discovered murderous impulses toward the young man’s somewhat over-strict father as the basis of these disagreeable ideas of compulsion—impulses which, to his great surprise, had received conscious expression when he was seven years old, but which, of course, had originated in much earlier years of childhood. After the painful illness and death of the father, the obsessive reproach transferred to strangers in the form of the afore-mentioned phobia, appeared when the young man was thirty-one years old. Anyone capable of wishing to push his own father from a mountain-top into an abyss is certainly not to be trusted to spare the lives of those who are not so closely bound to him; he does well to lock himself into his room.
According to my experience, which is now large, parents play a leading part in the infantile psychology of all later neurotics, and falling in love with one member of the parental couple and hatred of the other help to make up that fateful sum of material furnished by the psychic impulses, which has been formed during the infantile period, and which is of such great importance for the symptoms appearing in the later neurosis. But I do not think that psychoneurotics are here sharply distinguished from normal human beings, in that they are capable of creating something absolutely new and peculiar to themselves. It is far more probable, as is shown also by occasional observation upon normal children, that in their loving or hostile wishes towards their parents psychoneurotics only show in exaggerated form feelings which are present less distinctly and less intensely in the minds of most children. Antiquity has furnished us with legendary material to confirm this fact, and the deep and universal effectiveness of these legends can only be explained by granting a similar universal applicability to the above-mentioned assumption in infantile psychology.
I refer to the legend of King Oedipus and the drama of the same name by Sophocles. Oedipus, the son of Laius, king of Thebes, and of Jocasta, is exposed while a suckling, because an oracle has informed the father that his son, who is still unborn, will be his murderer. He is rescued, and grows up as the king’s son at a foreign court, until, being uncertain about his origin, he also consults the oracle, and is advised to avoid his native place, for he is destined to become the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother. On the road leading away from his supposed home he meets King Laius and strikes him dead in a sudden quarrel. Then he comes to the gates of Thebes, where he solves the riddle of the Sphynx who is barring the way, and he is elected king by the Thebans in gratitude, and is presented with the hand of Jocasta. He reigns in peace and honour for a long time, and begets two sons and two daughters upon his unknown mother, until at last a plague breaks out which causes the Thebans to consult the oracle anew. Here Sophocles’ tragedy begins. The messengers bring the advice that the plague will stop as soon as the murderer of Laius is driven from the country. But where is he hidden?
“Where are they to be found? How shall we trace the perpetrators of so old a crime where no conjecture leads to discovery?”
The action of the play now consists merely in a revelation, which is gradually completed and artfully delayed—resembling the work of a psychoanalysis—of the fact that Oedipus himself is the murderer of Laius, and the son of the dead man and of Jocasta. Oedipus, profoundly shocked at the monstrosities which he has unknowingly committed, blinds himself and leaves his native place. The oracle has been fulfilled.
The Oedipus Tyrannus is a so-called tragedy of fate; its tragic effect is said to be found in the opposition between the powerful will of the gods and the vain resistance of the human beings who are threatened with destruction; resignation to the will of God and confession of one’s own helplessness is the lesson which the deeply-moved spectator is to learn from the tragedy. Consequently modern authors have tried to obtain a similar tragic effect by embodying the same opposition in a story of their own invention. But spectators have sat unmoved while a curse or an oracular sentence has been fulfilled on blameless human beings in spite of all their struggles; later tragedies of fate have all remained without effect.
If the Oedipus Tyrannus is capable of moving modern men no less than it moved the contemporary Greeks, the explanation of this fact cannot lie merely in the assumption that the effect of the Greek tragedy is based upon the opposition between fate and human will, but is to be sought in the peculiar nature of the material by which the opposition is shown. There must be a voice within us which is prepared to recognise the compelling power of fate in Oedipus, while we justly condemn the situations occurring in Die Ahnfrau or in other tragedies of later date as arbitrary inventions. And there must be a factor corresponding to this inner voice in the story of King Oedipus. His fate moves us only for the reason that it might have been ours, for the oracle has put the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. Perhaps we are all destined to direct our first sexual impulses towards our mothers, and our first hatred and violent wishes towards our fathers; our dreams convince us of it. King Oedipus, who has struck his father Laius dead and has married his mother Jocasta, is nothing but the realised wish of our childhood. But more fortunate than he, we have since succeeded, unless we have become psychoneurotics, in withdrawing our sexual impulses from our mothers and in forgetting our jealousy of our fathers. We recoil from the person for whom this primitive wish has been fulfilled with all the force of the repression which these wishes have suffered within us. By his analysis, showing us the guilt of Oedipus, the poet urges us to recognise our own inner self, in which these impulses, even if suppressed, are still present. The comparison with which the chorus leaves us—
In the very text of Sophocles’ tragedy there is an unmistakable reference to the fact that the Oedipus legend originates in an extremely old dream material, which consists of the painful disturbance of the relation towards one’s parents by means of the first impulses of sexuality. Jocasta comforts Oedipus—who is not yet enlightened, but who has become worried on account of the oracle—by mentioning to him the dream which is dreamt by so many people, though she attaches no significance to it—
The dream of having sexual intercourse with one’s mother occurred at that time, as it does to-day, to many people, who tell it with indignation and astonishment. As may be understood, it is the key to the tragedy and the complement to the dream of the death of the father. The story of Oedipus is the reaction of the imagination to these two typical dreams, and just as the dream when occurring to an adult is experienced with feelings of resistance, so the legend must contain terror and self-chastisement. The appearance which it further assumes is the result of an uncomprehending secondary elaboration which tries to make it serve theological purposes (cf. the dream material of exhibitionism, p. 206). The attempt to reconcile divine omnipotence with human responsibility must, of course, fail with this material as with every other.
I must not leave the typical dream of the death of dear relatives without somewhat further elucidating the subject of their significance for the theory of the dream in general. These dreams show us a realisation of the very unusual case where the dream thought, which has been created by the repressed wish, completely escapes the censor, and is transferred to the dream without alteration. There must be present peculiar conditions making possible such an outcome. I find circumstances favourable to these dreams in the two following factors: First, there is no wish which we believe further from us; we believe such a wish “would never occur to us in a dream”; the dream censor is therefore not prepared for this monstrosity, just as the legislation of Solon was incapable of establishing a punishment for patricide. Secondly, the repressed and unsuspected wish is in just this case particularly often met by a fragment of the day’s experience in the shape of a concern about the life of the beloved person. This concern cannot be registered in the dream by any other means than by taking advantage of the wish that has the same content; but it is possible for the wish to mask itself behind the concern which has been awakened during the day. If one is inclined to think all this a more simple process, and that one merely continues during the night and in dreams what one has been concerned with during the day, the dream of the death of beloved persons is removed from all connection with dream explanation, and an easily reducible problem is uselessly retained.
It is also instructive to trace the relation of these dreams to anxiety dreams. In the dream of the death of dear persons the repressed wish has found a way of avoiding the censor, and the distortion which it causes. In this case the inevitable concomitant manifestation is that disagreeable sensations are felt in the dream. Thus the dream of fear is brought about only when the censor is entirely or partially overpowered, and, on the other hand, the overpowering of the censor is made easier when fear has already been furnished by somatic sources. Thus it becomes obvious for what purpose the censor performs its office and practises dream distortion; it does this in order to prevent the development of fear or other forms of disagreeable emotion.
I have spoken above of the egotism of the infantile mind, and I may now resume this subject in order to suggest that dreams preserve this characteristic—thus showing their connection with infantile life. Every dream is absolutely egotistical; in every dream the beloved ego appears, even though it may be in a disguised form. The wishes that are realised in dreams are regularly the wishes of this ego; it is only a deceptive appearance if interest in another person is thought to have caused the dream. I shall subject to analysis several examples which appear to contradict this assertion.
I. A boy not yet four years old relates the following: He saw a large dish garnished, and upon it a large piece of roast meat, and the meat was all of a sudden—not cut to pieces—but eaten up. He did not see the person who ate it.
Who may this strange person be of whose luxurious repast this little fellow dreams? The experiences of the day must give us the explanation of this. For a few days the boy had been living on a diet of milk according to the doctor’s prescription; but on the evening of the day before the dream he had been naughty, and as a punishment he had been deprived of his evening meal. He had already undergone one such hunger-cure, and had acted very bravely. He knew that he would get nothing to eat, but he did not dare to indicate by a word that he was hungry. Education was beginning to have its influence upon him; this is expressed even in the dream which shows the beginnings of dream disfigurement. There is no doubt that he himself is the person whose wishes are directed toward this abundant meal, and a meal of roast meat at that. But since he knows that this is forbidden him, he does not dare, as children do in the dream (cf. the dream about strawberries of my little Anna, p. 110), to sit down to the meal himself. The person remains anonymous.
II. Once I dream that I see on the show-table of a book store a new number in the Book-lovers’ Collection—the collection which I am in the habit of buying (art monographs, monographs on the history of the world, famous art centres, &c.). The new collection is called Famous Orators (or Orations), and the first number bears the name of Doctor Lecher.
In the course of analysis it appears improbable that the fame of Dr. Lecher, the long-winded orator of the German Opposition, should occupy my thoughts while I am dreaming. The fact is that, a few days before, I undertook the psychic cure of some new patients, and was now forced to talk for from ten to twelve hours a day. Thus I myself am the long-winded orator.
III. Upon another occasion I dream that a teacher of my acquaintance at the university says: My son, the Myopic. Then there follows a dialogue consisting of short speeches and replies. A third portion of the dream follows in which I and my sons appear, and as far as the latent dream content is concerned, father, son, and Professor M. are alike only lay figures to represent me and my eldest son. I shall consider this dream again further on because of another peculiarity.
IV. The following dream gives an example of really base egotistical feelings, which are concealed behind affectionate concern:
My friend Otto looks ill, his face is brown and his eyes bulge.
Otto is my family physician, to whom I owe a debt greater than I can ever hope to repay, since he has guarded the health of my children for years. He has treated them successfully when they were taken sick, and besides that he has given them presents on all occasions which gave him any excuse for doing so. He came for a visit on the day of the dream, and my wife noticed that he looked tired and exhausted. Then comes my dream at night, and attributes to him a few of the symptoms of Basedow’s disease. Any one disregarding my rules for dream interpretation would understand this dream to mean that I am concerned about the health of my friend, and that this concern is realised in the dream. It would thus be a contradiction not only of the assertion that the dream is a wish-fulfilment, but also of the assertion that it is accessible only to egotistic impulses. But let the person who interprets the dream in this manner explain to me why I fear that Otto has Basedow’s disease, for which diagnosis his appearance does not give the slightest justification? As opposed to this, my analysis furnishes the following material, taken from an occurrence which happened six years ago. A small party of us, including Professor R., were driving in profound darkness through the forest of N., which is several hours distant from our country home. The coachman, who was not quite sober, threw us and the wagon down a bank, and it was only by a lucky accident that we all escaped unhurt. But we were forced to spend the night at the nearest inn, where the news of our accident awakened great sympathy. A gentleman, who showed unmistakable signs of the morbus Basedowii—nothing but a brownish colour of the skin of the face and bulging eyes, no goitre—placed himself entirely at our disposal and asked what he could do for us. Professor R. answered in his decided way: “Nothing but lend me a night-shirt.” Whereupon our generous friend replied: “I am sorry but I cannot do that,” and went away.
In continuing the analysis, it occurs to me that Basedow is the name not only of a physician, but also of a famous educator. (Now that I am awake I do not feel quite sure of this fact.) My friend Otto is the person whom I have asked to take charge of the physical education of my children—especially during the age of puberty (hence the night-shirt)—in case anything should happen to me. By seeing Otto in the dream with the morbid symptoms of our above-mentioned generous benefactor, I apparently mean to say, “If anything happens to me, just as little is to be expected for my children from him as was to be expected then from Baron L., in spite of his well-meaning offers.” The egotistical turn of this dream ought now to be clear.
But where is the wish-fulfilment to be found? It is not in the vengeance secured upon my friend Otto, whose fate it seems to be to receive ill-treatment in my dreams, but in the following circumstances: In representing Otto in the dream as Baron L., I have at the same time identified myself with some one else, that is to say, with Professor R., for I have asked something of Otto, just as R. asked something of Baron L. at the time of the occurrence which has been mentioned. And that is the point. For Professor R. has pursued his way independently outside the schools, somewhat as I have done, and has only in later years received the title which he earned long ago. I am therefore again wishing to be a professor! The very phrase “in later years” is the fulfilment of wish, for it signifies that I shall live long enough to pilot my boy through the age of puberty myself.
Every one who has received his degree after having passed the final college examination, complains of the ruthlessness with which he is pursued by the anxiety dream that he will fail, that he must repeat his work, &c. For the holder of the university degree this typical dream is replaced by another, which represents to him that he has to pass the examination for the doctor’s degree, and against which he vainly raises the objection in his sleep that he has already been practising for years—that he is already a university instructor or the head of a law firm. These are the ineradicable memories of the punishments which we suffered when we were children for misdeeds which we had committed—memories which were revived in us on that dies irae, dies illa of the severe examination at the two critical junctures in our studies. The “examination-phobia” of neurotics is also strengthened by this childish fear. After we have ceased to be schoolboys it is no longer our parents and guardians as at first, or our teachers as later on, who see to our punishment; the inexorable chain of causes and effects in life has taken over our further education. Now we dream of examinations for graduation or for the doctor’s degree—and who has not been faint-hearted in these tests, even though he belonged to the righteous?—whenever we fear that an outcome will punish us because we have not done something, or because we have not accomplished something as we should—in short whenever we feel the weight of responsibility.
I owe the actual explanation of examination dreams to a remark made by a well-informed colleague, who once asserted in a scientific discussion that in his experience the examination dream occurs only to persons who have passed the examination, never to those who have gone to pieces on it. The anxiety dream of the examination, which occurs, as is being more and more corroborated, when the dreamer is looking forward to a responsible action on his part the next day and the possibility of disgrace, has therefore probably selected an occasion in the past where the great anxiety has shown itself to have been without justification and has been contradicted by the result. This would be a very striking example of a misconception of the dream content on the part of the waking instance. The objection to the dream, which is conceived as the indignant protest, “But I am already a doctor,” &c., would be in reality a consolation which the dreams offer, and which would therefore be to the following effect: “Do not be afraid of the morrow; think of the fear which you had before the final examination, and yet nothing came of it. You are a doctor this minute,” &c. The fear, however, which we attribute to the dream, originates in the remnants of daily experience.
The tests of this explanation which I was able to make in my own case and in that of others, although they were not sufficiently numerous, have been altogether successful. I failed, for example, in the examination for the doctor’s degree in legal medicine; never once have I been concerned about this matter in my dreams, while I have often enough been examined in botany, zoology, or chemistry, in which subjects I took the examinations with well-founded anxiety, but escaped punishment through the clemency of fortune or of the examiner. In my dreams of college examination, I am regularly examined in history, a subject which I passed brilliantly at the time, but only, I must admit, because my good-natured professor—my one-eyed benefactor in another dream (cf. p. 12)—did not overlook the fact that on the list of questions I had crossed out the second of three questions as an indication that he should not insist on it. One of my patients, who withdrew before the final college examinations and made them up later, but who failed in the officer’s examination and did not become an officer, tells me that he dreams about the former examination often enough, but never about the latter.
The above-mentioned colleague (Dr. Stekel of Vienna) calls attention to the double meaning of the word “Matura” (Matura—examination for college degree: mature, ripe), and claims that he has observed that examination dreams occur very frequently when a sexual test is set for the following day, in which, therefore, the disgrace which is feared might consist in the manifestation of slight potency. A German colleague takes exception to this, as it appears, justly, on the ground that this examination is denominated in Germany the Abiturium and hence lacks this double meaning.
On account of their similar affective impression dreams of missing a train deserve to be placed next to examination dreams. Their explanation also justifies this relationship. They are consolation dreams directed against another feeling of fear perceived in the dream, the fear of dying. “To depart” is one of the most frequent and one of the most easily reached symbols of death. The dream thus says consolingly: “Compose yourself, you are not going to die (to depart),” just as the examination dream calms us by saying “Fear not, nothing will happen to you even this time.” The difficulty in understanding both kinds of dreams is due to the fact that the feeling of anxiety is directly connected with the expression of consolation. Stekel treats fully the symbolisms of death in his recently published book Die Sprache des Traumes.
The meaning of the “dreams of dental irritation,” which I have had to analyse often enough with my patients, escaped me for a long time, because, much to my astonishment, resistances that wore altogether too great obstructed their interpretation.
At last overwhelming evidence convinced me that, in the case of men, nothing else than cravings for masturbation from the time of puberty furnishes the motive power for these dreams. I shall analyse two such dreams, one of which is likewise “a dream of flight.” The two dreams are of the same person—a young man with a strong homosexuality, which, however, has been repressed in life.
He is witnessing a performance of Fidelio from the parquette of the opera house; he is sitting next to L., whose personality is congenial to him, and whose friendship he would like to have. He suddenly flies diagonally clear across the parquette; he then puts his hand in his mouth and draws out two of his teeth.
He himself describes the flight by saying it was as if he were “thrown” into the air. As it was a performance of Fidelio he recalls the poet’s words:
The dream thus contains the “lucky (big) throw,” which is not, however, a wish-fulfilment only. It also conceals the painful reflection that in his striving after friendship he has often had the misfortune to be “thrown down,” and the fear lest this fate may be repeated in the case of the young man next whom he has enjoyed the performance of Fidelio. This is now followed by a confession which quite puts this refined dreamer to shame, to the effect that once, after such a rejection on the part of a friend, out of burning desire he merged into sexual excitement and masturbated twice in succession.
The other dream is as follows: Two professors of the university who are known to him are treating him in my stead. One of them does something with his penis; he fears an operation. The other one thrusts an iron bar at his mouth so that he loses two teeth. He is bound with four silken cloths.
The sexual significance of this dream can hardly be doubted. The silken cloths are equivalent to an identification with a homosexual of his acquaintance. The dreamer, who has never achieved coition, but who has never actually sought sexual intercourse with men, conceives sexual intercourse after the model of the masturbation which he was once taught during the time of puberty.
I believe that the frequent modifications of the typical dream of dental irritation—that, for example, of another person drawing the tooth from the dreamer’s mouth, are made intelligible by means of the same explanation. It may, however, be difficult to see how “dental irritation” can come to have this significance. I may then call attention to a transference from below to above which occurs very frequently. This transference is at the service of sexual repression, and by means of it all kinds of sensations and intentions occurring in hysteria which ought to be enacted in the genitals can be realised upon less objectionable parts of the body. It is also a case of such transference when the genitals are replaced by the face in the symbolism of unconscious thought. This is assisted by the fact that the buttocks resemble the cheeks, and also by the usage of language which calls the nymphæ “lips,” as resembling those that enclose the opening of the mouth. The nose is compared to the penis in numerous allusions, and in one place as in the other the presence of hair completes the resemblance. Only one part of the anatomy—the teeth—are beyond all possibility of being compared with anything, and it is just this coincidence of agreement and disagreement which makes the teeth suitable for representation under pressure of sexual repression.
I do not wish to claim that the interpretation of the dream of dental irritation as a dream of masturbation, the justification 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 also refer to another connection revealed by an idiomatic expression. In our country there is in use an indelicate designation for the act of masturbation, namely: To pull one out, or to pull one down. I am unable to say whence these colloquialisms originate, and on what symbolisms they are based, but the teeth would well fit in with the first of the two.
Dreams in which one is flying or hovering, falling, swimming, or the like, belong to the second group of typical dreams. What do these dreams signify? A general statement on this point cannot be made. They signify something different in each case, as we shall hear: only the sensational material which they contain always comes from the same source.
It is necessary to conclude, from the material obtained in psychoanalysis, that these dreams repeat impressions from childhood—that is, that they refer to the movement games which have such extraordinary attractions for the child. What uncle has never made a child fly by running across the room with it with arms outstretched, or has never played falling with it by rocking it on his knee and then suddenly stretching out his leg, or by lifting it up high and then pretending to withdraw support. At this the children shout with joy, and demand more untiringly, especially if there is a little fright and dizziness attached to it; in after years they create a repetition of this in the dream, but in the dream they omit the hands which have held them, so that they now freely float and fail. The fondness of all small children for games like rocking and see-sawing is well known; and if they see gymnastic tricks at the circus their recollection of this rocking is refreshed. With some boys the hysterical attack consists simply in the reproduction of such tricks, which they accomplish with great skill. Not infrequently sexual sensations are excited by these movement games, harmless as they are in themselves. To express the idea by a word which is current among us, and which covers all of these matters: It is the wild playing (“Hetzen”) of childhood which dreams about flying, falling, vertigo, and the like repeat, and the voluptuous feelings of which have now been turned into fear. But as every mother knows, the wild playing of children has often enough culminated in quarrelling and tears.
I therefore have good reason for rejecting the explanation that the condition of our dermal sensations during sleep, the sensations caused by the movements of the lungs, and the like, give rise to dreams of flying and falling. I see that these very sensations have been reproduced from the memory with which the dream is concerned—that they are, therefore, a part of the dream content and not of the dream sources.
This material, similar in its character and origin consisting of sensations of motion, is now used for the representation of the most manifold dream thoughts. Dreams of flying, for the most part characterised by delight, require the most widely different interpretations—altogether special interpretations in the case of some persons, and even interpretations of a typical nature in that of others. One of my patients was in the habit of dreaming very often that she was suspended above the street at a certain height, without touching the ground. She had grown only to a very small stature, and shunned every kind of contamination which accompanies intercourse with human beings. Her dream of suspension fulfilled both of her wishes, by raising her feet from the ground and by allowing her head to tower in the upper regions. In the case of other female dreamers the dream of flying had the significance of a longing: If I were a little bird; others thus become angels at night because they have missed being called that 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 men usually has a significance of coarse sensuality. We shall also 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 phenomena of erection which so constantly occupy the human phantasy must strongly impress upon it a notion of the suspension of gravity (cf. the winged phalli of the ancients).
Dreams of falling are most frequently characterised by fear. Their interpretation, when they occur in women, is subject to no difficulty because women always accept the symbolic sense of falling, which is a circumlocution for the indulgence of 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 their nurse and taken into her bed.
People who dream often of swimming, of cleaving the waves, with great enjoyment, &c., have usually been persons who wetted their beds, 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 representation the dreams of swimming easily lend themselves.
The interpretation of dreams about fire justifies a prohibition of the nursery which forbids children to burn matches in order that they may not wet the bed at night. They too are based on the reminiscence of enuresis nocturnus of childhood. In the Bruchstück einer Hysterieanalyse, 1905, I have given the complete analysis and synthesis of such a fire-dream in connection with the infantile history of the dreamer, and have shown to the representation of what emotions this infantile material has been utilised in maturer years.
It would be possible to cite a considerable number of other “typical” dreams, if these are understood to refer to the frequent recurrence of the same manifest dream content in the case of different dreamers, as, for example: dreams of passing through narrow alleys, of walking through a whole suite of rooms; dreams of the nocturnal burglar against whom nervous people direct precautionary measures before going to sleep; dreams of being chased by wild animals (bulls, horses), or of being threatened with knives, daggers, and lances. The last two are characteristic as the manifest dream content of persons suffering from anxiety, &c. An investigation dealing especially with this material would be well worth while. In lieu of this I have two remarks to offer, which, however, do not apply exclusively to typical dreams.
I. The more one is occupied with the solution of dreams, the more willing one must become to acknowledge that the majority of the dreams of adults treat of sexual material and give expression to erotic wishes. Only one who really analyses dreams, that is to say, who pushes forward from their manifest content to the latent dream thoughts, can form an opinion on this subject—never the person who is satisfied with registering the manifest content (as, for example, Näcke in his works on sexual dreams). Let us recognise at once that this fact is not to be wondered at, but that it is in complete harmony with the fundamental assumptions of dream explanation. No other impulse has had to undergo so much suppression from the time of childhood as the sex impulse in its numerous components, from no other impulse have survived so many and such intense unconscious wishes, which now act in the sleeping state in such a manner as to produce dreams. In dream interpretation, this significance of sexual complexes must never be forgotten, nor must they, of course, be exaggerated to the point of being considered exclusive.
Of many dreams it can be ascertained by a careful interpretation that they are even to be taken bisexually, inasmuch as they result in an irrefutable secondary interpretation in which they realise homosexual feelings—that is, feelings that are common to the normal sexual activity of the dreaming person. But that all dreams are to be interpreted bisexually, as maintained by W. Stekel, and Alf. Adler, seems to me to be a generalisation as indemonstrable as it is improbable, which I should not like to support. Above all I should not know how to dispose of the apparent fact that there are many dreams satisfying other than—in the widest sense—erotic needs, as dreams of hunger, thirst, convenience, &c. Likewise the similar assertions “that behind every dream one finds the death sentence” (Stekel), and that every dream shows “a continuation from the feminine to the masculine line” (Adler), seem to me to proceed far beyond what is admissible in the interpretation of dreams.
We have already asserted elsewhere that dreams which are conspicuously innocent invariably embody coarse erotic wishes, and we might confirm this by means of numerous fresh examples. But many dreams which appear indifferent, and which would never be suspected of any particular significance, can be traced back, after analysis, to unmistakably sexual wish-feelings, which are often of an unexpected nature. For example, who would suspect a sexual wish in the following dream until the interpretation had been worked out? The dreamer relates: Between two stately palaces stands a little house, receding somewhat, whose doors are closed. My wife leads me a little way along the street up to the little home, and pushes in the door, and then I slip quickly and easily into the interior of a courtyard that slants obliquely upwards.
Anyone who has had experience in the translating of dreams will, of course, immediately perceive that penetrating into narrow spaces, and opening locked doors, belong to the commonest sexual symbolism, and will easily find in this dream a representation of attempted coition from behind (between the two stately buttocks of the female body). The narrow slanting 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 the detention from such an attempt. Moreover, inquiry shows that on the previous day a young girl had entered the household of the dreamer who had pleased him, and who had given him the impression that she would not be altogether opposed to an approach of this sort. The little house between the two palaces is taken from a reminiscence of the Hradschin in Prague, and thus points again to the girl who is a native of that city.
If with my patients I emphasise the frequency of the Oedipus dream—of having sexual intercourse with one’s mother—I get the answer: “I cannot remember such a dream.” Immediately afterwards, however, there arises the recollection of another disguised and indifferent dream, which has been dreamed repeatedly by the patient, and the analysis shows it to be a dream of this same content—that is, another Oedipus dream. I can assure the reader that veiled dreams of sexual intercourse with the mother are a great deal more frequent than open ones to the same effect.
There are dreams about landscapes and localities in which emphasis is always laid upon the assurance: “I have been there before.” In this case the locality is always the genital organ of the mother; it can indeed be asserted with such certainty of no other locality that one “has been there before.”
A large number of dreams, often full of fear, which are concerned with passing through narrow spaces or with staying in the water, are based upon fancies about the embryonic life, about the sojourn in the mother’s womb, and about the act of birth. The following is the dream of a young man who in his fancy has already while in embryo taken advantage of his opportunity to spy 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. At first he sees an empty landscape through this window, and then he composes a picture into it, which is immediately at hand and which fills out the empty space. The picture represents a field which is being thoroughly harrowed by an implement, and the delightful air, the accompanying idea of hard work, and the bluish-black clods of earth make a pleasant impression. He then goes on and sees a primary school opened … and he is surprised that so much attention is devoted in it to the sexual feelings of the child, which makes him think of me.”
Here is a pretty water-dream of a female patient, which was turned to extraordinary account in the course of treatment.
At her summer resort at the … Lake, she hurls 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 accomplished by reversing the fact reported in the manifest dream content; thus, instead of “throwing one’s self into the water,” read “coming out of the water,” that is, “being born.” The place from which one is born is recognised if one thinks of the bad sense of the French “la lune.” The pale moon thus becomes the white “bottom” (Popo), which the child soon recognises as the place from which it came. Now what can be the meaning of the patient’s wishing to be born at her summer resort? I asked the dreamer this, and she answered without hesitation: “Hasn’t the treatment made me as though I were born again?” Thus the dream becomes an invitation to continue the cure 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 the work of E. Jones. 95 “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 a 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 a 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 phantasy. In dreams as in mythology, the delivery of a child from the uterine waters is commonly presented by distortion as the entry of the child into water; among many others, 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 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 him 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 phantasy. Besides this inversion in 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 first the quickening occurred, 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 79 of a young woman looking forward to her first confinement (p. 22): From a place in the floor of the house a subterranean canal leads directly into the water (parturition path, amniotic liquor). She Hits up a trap in the floor, and there immediately appears a creature dressed in a brownish fur, which almost resembles a seal. This creature changes into the younger brother of the dreamer, to whom she has always stood in maternal relationship.
Dreams of “saving” are connected with parturition dreams. To save, especially to save from the water, is equivalent to giving birth when dreamed by a woman; this sense is, however, modified when the dreamer is a man.
Robbers, burglars at night, and ghosts, of which we are afraid before going to bed, and which occasionally even disturb our sleep, originate in one and the same childish reminiscence. They are the nightly visitors who have awakened the child to set it on the chamber so that it may not wet the bed, or have lifted the cover 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 feminine persons with white night-gowns.
II. When one has become familiar with the abundant use of symbolism for the representation of sexual material in dreams, one naturally raises the question whether there are not many of these symbols which appear once and for all with a firmly established significance like the signs in stenography; and one is tempted to compile a new dream-book according to the cipher method. In this connection it may be remarked that this symbolism does not belong peculiarly to the dream, but rather to unconscious thinking, particularly that of the masses, and it is to be found in greater perfection in the folklore, in the myths, legends, and manners of speech, in the proverbial sayings, and in the current witticisms of a nation than in its dreams.
The dream takes advantage of this symbolism in order to give a disguised representation to its latent thoughts. Among the symbols which are used in this manner there are of course many which regularly, or almost regularly, mean the same thing. Only it is necessary to keep in mind the curious plasticity of psychic material. Now and then a symbol in the dream content may have to be interpreted not symbolically, but according to its real meaning; at another time the dreamer, owing to a peculiar set of recollections, may create for himself the right to use anything whatever as a sexual symbol, though it is not ordinarily used in that way. Nor are the most frequently used sexual symbols unambiguous every time.
After these limitations and reservations I may call attention to the following: Emperor and Empress (King and Queen) in most cases really represent the parents of the dreamer; the dreamer himself or herself is the prince or princess. All elongated objects, sticks, tree-trunks, and umbrellas (on account of the stretching-up which might be compared to an erection! all elongated and sharp weapons, knives, daggers, and pikes, are intended to represent the male member. A frequent, not very intelligible, symbol for the same is a nail-file (on account of the rubbing and scraping?). Little cases, boxes, caskets, closets, and stoves correspond to the female part. The symbolism of lock and key has been very gracefully employed by Uhland in his song about the “Graf en Eberstein,” to make a common smutty joke. The dream of walking through a row of rooms is a brothel or harem dream. Staircases, ladders, and flights of stairs, or climbing on these, either upwards or downwards, are symbolic representations of the sexual act. Smooth walls over which one is climbing, façades of houses upon which one is letting oneself down, frequently under great anxiety, ‘correspond to the erect human body, and probably repeat in the dream reminiscences of the upward climbing of little children on their parents or foster parents. “Smooth” walls are men. Often in a dream of anxiety one is holding on firmly to some projection from a house. Tables, set tables, and boards are women, perhaps on account of the opposition which does away with the bodily contours. Since “bed and board” (mensa et thorus) constitute marriage, the former are often put for the latter in the dream, and as far as practicable the sexual presentation complex is transposed to the eating complex. Of articles of dress the woman’s hat may frequently be definitely interpreted as the male genital. In dreams of men one often finds the cravat as a symbol for the penis; this indeed is not only because cravats hang down long, and are characteristic of the man, but also because one can select them at pleasure, a freedom which is prohibited by nature in the original of the symbol. Persons who make use of this symbol in the dream are very extravagant with cravats, and possess regular collections of them. All complicated machines and apparatus in dream are very probably genitals, in the description of which dream symbolism shows itself to be as tireless as the activity of wit. Likewise many landscapes in dreams, especially with bridges or with wooded mountains, can be readily recognised as descriptions of the genitals. Finally where one finds incomprehensible neologisms one may think of combinations made up of components having a sexual significance. Children also in the dream often signify the genitals, as men and women are in the habit of fondly referring to their genital organ as their “little one.” As a very recent symbol of the male genital may be mentioned the flying machine, utilisation of which is justified by its relation to flying as well as occasionally by its form. To play with a little child or to beat a little one is often the dream’s representation of onanism. A number of other symbols, in part not sufficiently verified, are given by Stekel, 114 who illustrates them with examples. Right and left, according to him, are to be conceived in the dream in an ethical sense. “The right way always signifies the road to righteousness, the left the one to crime. Thus the left may signify homosexuality, incest, and perversion, while the right signifies marriage, relations with a prostitute, &c. The meaning is always determined by the individual moral view-point of the dreamer” (l.c., p. 466). Relatives in the dream generally play the rôle of genitals (p. 473). Not to be able to catch up with a wagon is interpreted by Stekel as regret not to be able to come up to a difference in age (p. 479). Baggage with which one travels is the burden of sin by which one is oppressed (ibid.). Also numbers, which frequently occur in the dream, are assigned by Stekel a fixed symbolical meaning, but these interpretations seem neither sufficiently verified nor of general validity, although the interpretation in individual cases can generally be recognised as probable. In a recently published book by W. Stekel, Die Sprache des Traumes, which I was unable to utilise, there is a list (p. 72) of the most common sexual symbols, the object of which is to prove that all sexual symbols can be bisexually used. He states: “Is there a symbol which (if in any way permitted by the phantasy) may not be used simultaneously in the masculine and the feminine sense!” To be sure the clause in parentheses takes away much of the absoluteness of this assertion, for this is not at all permitted by the phantasy. I do not, however, think it superfluous to state that in my experience Stekel’s general statement has to give way to the recognition of a greater manifoldness. Besides those symbols, which are just as frequent for the male as for the female genitals, there are others which preponderately, or almost exclusively, designate one of the sexes, and there are still others of which only the male or only the female signification is known. To use long, firm objects and weapons as symbols of the female genitals, or hollow objects (chests, boxes, pouches, &c.), as symbols of the male genitals, is indeed not allowed by the fancy.
It is true that the tendency of the dream and the unconscious fancy to utilise the sexual symbol bisexually betrays an archaic trend, for in childhood a difference in the genitals is unknown, and the same genitals are attributed to both sexes.
These very incomplete suggestions may suffice to stimulate others to make a more careful collection.
I shall now add a few examples of the application of such symbolisms in dreams, which will serve to show how impossible it becomes to interpret a dream without taking into account the symbolism of dreams, and how imperatively it obtrudes itself in many cases.
1. The hat as a symbol of the man (of the male genital): (a fragment from the dream of a young woman who suffered from agoraphobia on account of a fear of temptation).
“I am walking in the street in summer, I wear a straw hat of peculiar shape, the middle piece of which is bent upwards and the side pieces of which hang downwards (the description became here obstructed), and in such a fashion that one is lower than the other. I am cheerful and in a confidential mood, and as I pass a troop of young officers I think to myself: None of you can have any designs upon me.”
As she could produce no associations to the hat, I said to her: “The hat is really a male genital, with its raised middle piece and the two downward hanging side pieces.” I intentionally refrained from interpreting those details concerning the unequal downward hanging of the two side pieces, although just such individualities in the determinations lead the way to the interpretation. I continued by saying that if she only had a man with such a virile genital she would not have to fear the officers—that is, she would have nothing to wish from them, for she is mainly kept from going without protection and company by her fancies of temptation. This last explanation of her fear 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 claimed not to have said that the two side pieces were hanging downwards. I was, however, too sure of what I had heard to allow myself to be misled, and I persisted in 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 in 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 believe that the hat may also be taken as a female genital.
2. The little one as the genital—to be 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 must go alone. She rides with her mother to the railroad and sees her little one walking directly upon the tracks, so that she cannot avoid being run over. She hears the bones crackle. (From this she experiences a feeling of discomfort but no real horror.) She then looks out through the car window to see whether the parts cannot be seen behind. She then 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 others. For it is not easy to get the necessary material sufficiently isolated to prove the symbolism. The patient at first finds that the railroad journey is to be interpreted historically as an allusion to a departure from a sanitorium for nervous diseases, with the superintendent of which she naturally was in love. Her mother took her away from this place, and the physician came to the railroad station and handed her a bouquet of flowers on leaving; she felt uncomfortable because her mother witnessed this homage. Here the mother, therefore, appears as a disturber of her love affairs, which is the rôle actually played by this strict woman during her daughter’s girlhood. The next thought referred to the sentence: “She then looks to see whether the parts can be seen behind.” In the dream façade one would naturally be compelled to think of the parts of the little daughter run over and ground up. The thought, however, turns in quite a different direction. She recalls that she once saw her father in the bath-room naked from behind; she then begins to talk about the sex differentiation, and asserts 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, her little one (she has a four-year-old daughter) her own genital. She reproaches her mother for wanting her to live as though she had no genital, and recognises this reproach in the introductory sentence of the dream; the mother sends away her little one so that she must go alone. In her phantasy going alone on the street signifies to have no man and no sexual relations (coire = to go together), and this she does not like. According to all her statements she really suffered as a girl on account of the jealousy of her mother, because she showed a preference for her father.
The “little one” has been noted as a symbol for the male or the female genitals by Stekel, who can refer in this connection to a very widespread usage of language.
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 special clearness that “the little one” signifies the genital. The mother threatened him (her) with castration, which could only be understood as a punishment for playing with the parts, and the identification, therefore, shows that she herself had masturbated as a child, though this fact she now retained only in a memory concerning her brother. An early knowledge of the male genital which she later lost she must have acquired at that time according to the assertions of this second dream. Moreover the second dream points to the infantile sexual theory that girls originate from boys through castration. After I had told her of this childish belief, she at once confirmed it with an anecdote in which the boy asks the girl: “Was it cut off?” to which the girl replied, “No, it’s always been so.”
The sending away of the little one, of the genital, in the first dream therefore also refers to the threatened castration. Finally she blames her mother for not having been born a boy.
That “being run over” symbolises sexual intercourse would not be evident from this dream if we were not sure of it from many other sources.
3. Representation of the genital by structures, stairways, 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 surely the Prater, for the Rotunda may be seen in front of which there is a small front structure to which is attached a captive balloon; the balloon, however, seems quite collapsed. 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 court in which lies a large sheet of tin. His father wants to pull off a big piece of this, but first looks around to see if anyone is watching. He tells his father that all he needs to do is to speak to the watchman, and then he can take without any further difficulty as much as he wants to. From this court a stairway leads down into a shaft, the walls of which are softly upholstered something like a leather pocketbook. At the end of this shaft there is a longer platform, and then a new shaft begins….”
Analysis. This dream belongs to a type of patient which is not favourable from a therapeutic point of view. They follow in the analysis without offering any resistances whatever up to a certain point, but from that point on they remain almost inaccessible. This dream he almost analysed himself. “The Rotunda,” he said, “is my genital, the captive balloon in front is my penis, about the weakness of which I have worried. We must, however, interpret in greater detail; the Rotunda is the buttock which is regularly associated by the child with the genital, the smaller front structure 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 turned around, and that he should be the questioner. As such a questioning on the side of the father has never taken place in reality, we must conceive the dream thought as a wish, or take it conditionally, as follows: “If I had only asked my father for sexual enlightenment.” The continuation of this thought we shall soon find in another place.
The court in which the tin sheet is spread out is not to be conceived symbolically in the first instance, but originates from his father’s place of business. For discretionary reasons 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 questionable practices upon which profit mainly depends. Hence the continuation of the above dream thought (“if I had only 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, onanism. This is not only entirely familiar to us (see above, p. 234), but agrees very well with the fact that the secrecy of onanism is expressed by its opposite (“Why one can do it quite openly”). It, moreover, agrees entirely with our expectations that the onanistic activity is again put off on 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 act of coition in the vagina is described as a going down instead of in the usual way as a going up, I have also found true in other instances.
The details that at the end of the first shaft there is a longer platform and then a new shaft, he himself explains biographically. He had for some time consorted with women sexually, but had then given it up because of inhibitions and now hopes to be able to take it up again with the aid of the treatment. The dream, however, becomes indistinct toward the end, and to the experienced interpreter it becomes evident that in the second scene of the dream the influence of another subject has begun to assert itself; in this his father’s business and his dishonest practices signify the first vagina represented as a shaft so that one might think of a reference to the mother.
4. The male genital 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 anxiously called for a policeman. But he went with two tramps by mutual consent into a church, to which led a great many stairs; behind the church there was a mountain, on top of which a dense forest. The policeman was furnished with a helmet, a gorget, and a cloak. The two vagrants, who went along with the policeman quite peaceably, had tied to their loins sack-like aprons. A road led from the church to the mountain. This road was overgrown on each side with grass and brushwood, which became thicker and thicker as it reached the height of the mountain, where it spread out into quite a forest.
5. A stairway dream.
(Reported and interpreted by Otto Rank.)
For the following transparent pollution dream, I am indebted to the same colleague who furnished us with the dental-irritation dream reported on p. 235.
“I am running down the stairway in the stair-house after a little girl, whom I wish to punish because she has done something to me. At the bottom of the stairs some one held the child for me. (A grown-up woman?) I grasp it, but do not know whether I have hit it, for I suddenly find myself in the middle of the stairway where I practise coitus with the child (in the air as it were). It is really no coitus, I only rub my genital on her external genital, and in doing this I see it very distinctly, as distinctly as I see her head which is lying sideways. During the sexual act I see hanging to the left and above me (also as if in the air) two small pictures, landscapes, representing a house on a green. On the smaller one my surname stood in the place where the painter’s signature should be; it seemed to be intended for my birthday present. A small sign hung in front of the pictures to the effect that cheaper pictures could also be obtained. I then see myself very indistinctly lying in bed, just as I had seen myself at the foot of the stairs, and I am awakened by a feeling of dampness which came from the pollution.”
Interpretation. The dreamer had been in a book-store on the evening of the day of the dream, where, while he was waiting, he examined some pictures which were exhibited, which represented motives similar to the dream pictures. He stepped nearer to a small picture which particularly took his fancy in order to see the name of the artist, which, however, was quite unknown to him.
Later in the same evening, in company, he heard about a Bohemian servant-girl who boasted that her illegitimate child “was made on the stairs.” The dreamer inquired about the details of this unusual occurrence, and learned that the servant-girl went with her lover to the home of her parents, where there was no opportunity for sexual relations, and that the excited man performed the act on the stairs. In witty allusion to the mischievous expression used about wine-adulterers, the dreamer remarked, “The child really grew on the cellar steps.”
These experiences of the day, which are quite prominent in the dream content, were readily reproduced by the dreamer. But he just as readily reproduced an old fragment of infantile recollection which was also utilised by the dream. The stair-house was the house in which he had spent the greatest part of his childhood, and in which he had first become acquainted with sexual problems. In this house he used, among other things, to slide down the banister astride which caused him to become sexually excited. In the dream he also comes down the stairs very rapidly—so rapidly that, according to his own distinct assertions, he hardly touched the individual stairs, but rather “flew” or “slid down,” as we used to say. Upon reference to this infantile experience, the beginning of the dream seems to represent the factor of sexual excitement. In the same house and in the adjacent residence the dreamer used to play pugnacious games with the neighbouring children, in which he satisfied himself just as he did in the dream.
If one recalls from Freud’s investigation of sexual symbolism that in the dream stairs or climbing stairs almost regularly symbolises coitus, the dream becomes clear. Its motive power as well as its effect, as is shown by the pollution, is of a purely libidinous nature. Sexual excitement became aroused during the sleeping state (in the dream this is represented by the rapid running or sliding down the stairs) and the sadistic thread in this is, on the basis of the pugnacious playing, indicated in the pursuing and overcoming of the child. The libidinous excitement becomes enhanced and urges to sexual action (represented in the dream by the grasping of the child and the conveyance of it to the middle of the stairway). Up to this point the dream would be one of pure sexual symbolism, and obscure for the unpractised dream interpreter. But this symbolic gratification, which would have insured undisturbed sleep, was not sufficient for the powerful libidinous excitement. The excitement leads to an orgasm, and thus the whole stairway symbolism is unmasked as a substitute for coitus. Freud lays stress on the rhythmical character of both actions as one of the reasons for the sexual utilisation of the stairway symbolism, and this dream especially seems to corroborate this, for, according to the express assertion of the dreamer, the rhythm of a sexual act was the most pronounced feature in the whole dream.
Still another remark concerning the two pictures, which, aside from their real significance, also have the value of “Weibsbilder” (literally woman-pictures, but idiomatically women). This is at once shown by the fact that the dream deals with a big and a little picture, just as the dream content presents a big (grown up) and a little girl. That cheap pictures could also be obtained points to the prostitution complex, just as the dreamer’s surname on the little picture and the thought that it was intended for his birthday, point to the parent complex (to be born on the stairway—to be conceived in coitus).
The indistinct final scene, in which the dreamer sees himself on the staircase landing lying in bed and feeling wet, seems to go back into childhood even beyond the infantile onanism, and manifestly has its prototype in similarly pleasurable scenes of bed-wetting.
6. A modified stair-dream.
To one of my very nervous patients, who was an abstainer, whose fancy was fixed on his mother, and who repeatedly dreamed of climbing stairs accompanied by his mother, I once remarked that moderate masturbation would be less harmful to him than enforced abstinence. This influence provoked the following dream:
“His piano teacher reproaches him for neglecting his piano-playing, and for not practising the Études of Moscheles and Clementi’s Gradus ad Parnassum.” In relation to this he remarked that the Gradus is only a stairway, and that the piano itself is only a stairway as it has a scale.
It is correct to say that there is no series of associations which cannot be adapted to the representation of sexual facts. I conclude with the dream of a chemist, a young man, who has been trying to give up his habit of masturbation by replacing it with intercourse with women.
Preliminary statement.—On the day before the dream he had given a student instruction concerning Grignard’s reaction, in which magnesium is to be dissolved in absolutely pure ether under the catalytic influence of iodine. Two days before, there had been an explosion in the course of the same reaction, in which the investigator had burned his hand.
Dream I. He is to make phenylmagnesiumbromid; he sees the apparatus with particular clearness, but he has substituted himself far the magnesium. He is now in a curious swaying attitude. He keeps 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 crucible, and then again he says to himself, “That cannot be…. Yes, it must be so, it has been done correctly.” Then he partially awakens, and repeats the dream to himself, because he wants to tell it to me. He is distinctly afraid of the analysis of the dream. He is much excited during this semi-sleeping state, and repeats continually, “Phenyl, phenyl.”
II. He is in …ing with his whole family; at half-past eleven. He is to be at the Schottenthor for a rendezvous with a certain lady, but he does not wake up 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 instant he sees the whole family gathered about the table—his mother and the servant girl with the soup-tureen with particular clearness. Then he says to himself, “Well, if we are eating 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 rendezvous (the dream was dreamed during the night before the expected meeting). The student to whom he gave the instruction is a particularly unpleasant fellow; he had said to the chemist: “That isn’t right,” because the magnesium was still unaffected, and the latter answered as though he did not care anything about it: “It certainly isn’t right.” He himself must be this student; he is as indifferent towards his analysis as the student is towards his synthesis; the He in the dream, however, who accomplishes the operation, is myself. How unpleasant he must seem to me with his indifference towards the success achieved!
Moreover, he is the material with which the analysis (synthesis) is made. For it is a question of the success of the treatment. The legs in the dream recall an impression of the previous evening. He met a lady at a dancing lesson whom he wished to conquer; he pressed her to him so closely that she once cried out. After he had stopped pressing against her legs, he felt her firm responding pressure against his lower thighs as far as just above his knees, at the place 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 masculine towards the woman. If it will work with the woman, the treatment will also work. Feeling and becoming aware of himself in the region of his knees refers to masturbation, and corresponds to his fatigue of the previous day…. The rendezvous had actually been set for half-past eleven. His wish to over-sleep and to remain with his usual sexual objects (that is, with masturbation) corresponds with his resistance.
In relation to the repetition of the name phenyl, he gives the following thoughts: All these radicals ending in yl have always been pleasing to him; they are very convenient to use: benzyl, azetyl, &c. That, however, explained nothing. But when I proposed the radical Schlemihl he laughed heartily, and related that during the summer he had read a book by Prévost which contained a chapter: “Les exclus de l’amour,” the description in which made him think of the Schlemihls, and he added, “That is my case.” He would have again acted the Schlemihl if he had missed the rendezvous.