The Interpretation of DreamsSigmund Freud (1900) PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION
Wheras there was a space of nine years between the first and second editions of this book, the need of a third edition was apparent when little
more than a year had elapsed. I ought to be gratified by this change; but if I was unwilling previously to attribute the neglect of my work to its
small value, I cannot take the interest which is now making its appearance as proof of its quality.
The advance of scientific knowledge has not left The Interpretation of Dreams untouched. When I wrote this book in 1899 there was as yet no
"sexual theory," and the analysis of the more complicated forms of the psychoneuroses was still in its infancy. The interpretation of dreams was
intended as an expedient to facilitate the psychological analysis of the neuroses; but since then a profounder understanding of the neuroses has
contributed towards the comprehension of the dream. The doctrine of dream-interpretation itself has evolved in a direction which was
insufficiently emphasized in the first edition of this book. From my own experience, and the works of Stekel and other writers,  I have since
learned to appreciate more accurately the significance of symbolism in dreams (or rather, in unconscious thought). In the course of years, a mass
of data has accumulated which demands consideration. I have endeavored to deal with these innovations by interpolations in the text and
footnotes. If these additions do not always quite adjust themselves to the framework of the treatise, or if the earlier text does not everywhere come
up to the standard of our present knowledge, I must beg indulgence for this deficiency, since it is only the result and indication of the increasingly
rapid advance of our science. I will even venture to predict the directions in which further editions of this book - should there be a demand for
them - may diverge from previous editions. Dream-interpretation must seek a closer union with the rich material of poetry, myth, and popular
idiom, and it must deal more faithfully than has hitherto been possible with the relations of dreams to the neuroses and to mental derangement.
Herr Otto Rank has afforded me valuable assistance in the selection of supplementary examples, and has revised the proofs of this edition. I have
to thank him and many other colleagues for their contributions and corrections.
Vienna, 1911 -
 Omitted in subsequent editions. PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
That there should have been a demand for a second edition of this book - a book which cannot be described as easy to read - before the
completion of its first decade is not to be explained by the interest of the professional circles to which I was addressing myself. My psychiatric
colleagues have not, apparently, attempted to look beyond the astonishment which may at first have been aroused by my novel conception of the
dream; and the professional philosophers, who are anyhow accustomed to disposing of the dream in a few sentences - mostly the same - as a
supplement to the states of consciousness, have evidently failed to realize that precisely in this connection it was possible to make all manner of
deductions, such as must lead to a fundamental modification of our psychological doctrines. The attitude of the scientific reviewers was such to
lead me to expect that the fate of the book would be to fall into oblivion; and the little flock of faithful adherents, who follow my lead in the
therapeutic application of psycho-analysis, and interpret dreams by my method, could not have exhausted the first edition of this book. I feel,
therefore, that my thanks are due to the wider circle of cultured and inquiring readers whose sympathy has induced me, after the lapse of nine
years, once more to take up this difficult work, which has so many fundamental bearings.
I am glad to be able to say that I found little in the book that called for alteration. Here and there I have interpolated fresh material, or have added
opinions based on more extensive experience, or I have sought to elaborate individual points; but the essential passages treating of dreams and
their interpretation, and the psychological doctrines to be deduced therefrom, have been left unaltered; subjectively, at all events, they have stood
the test of time. Those who are acquainted with my other writings (on the aetiology and mechanism of the psychoneuroses) will know that I never
offer unfinished work as finished, and that I have always endeavoured to revise my conclusions in accordance with my maturing opinions; but as
regards the subject of the dream-life, I am able to stand by my original text. In my many years' work upon the problems of the neuroses I have
often hesitated, and I have often gone astray; and then it was always the interpretation of dreams that restored my self-confidence. My many
scientific opponents are actuated by a wise instinct when they decline to follow me into the region of oneirology.
Even the material of this book, even my own dreams, defaced by time or superseded, by means of which I have demonstrated the rules of dream-
interpretation, revealed, when I came to revise these pages, a continuity that resisted revision. For me, of course, this book has an additional
subjective significance, which I did not understand until after its completion. It reveals itself to me as a piece of my self-analysis, as my reaction
to the death of my father, that is, to the most important event, the most poignant loss in a man's life. Once I had realized this, I felt that I could not
obliterate the traces of this influence. But to my readers the material from which they learn to evaluate and interpret dreams will be a matter of
Where an inevitable comment could not be fitted into the old context, I have indicated by square brackets that it does not occur in the first
Berchtesgaden, 1908 -
 Omitted in subsequent editions. INTRODUCTORY NOTE
(to the first edition)
In this volume I have attempted to expound the methods and results of dream-interpretation; and in so doing I do not think I have overstepped the
boundary of neuro-pathological science. For the dream proves on psychological investigation to be the first of a series of abnormal psychic
formations, a series whose succeeding members - the hysterical phobias, the obsessions, the delusions - must, for practical reasons, claim the
attention of the physician. The dream, as we shall see, has no title to such practical importance, but for that very reason its theoretical value as a
typical formation is all the greater, and the physician who cannot explain the origin of dream-images will strive in vain to understand the phobias
and the obsessive and delusional ideas, or to influence them by therapeutic methods.
But the very context to which our subject owes its importance must be held responsible for the deficiencies of the following chapters. The
abundant lacunae in this exposition represent so many points of contact at which the problem of dream-formation is linked up with the more
comprehensive problems of psycho-pathology; problems which cannot be treated in these pages, but which, if time and powers suffice and if
further material presents itself, may be elaborated elsewhere.
The peculiar nature of the material employed to exemplify the interpretation of dreams has made the writing even of this treatise a difficult task.
Consideration of the methods of dream-interpretation will show why the dreams recorded in the literature on the subject, or those collected by
persons unknown to me, were useless for my purpose; I had only the choice between my own dreams and those of the patients whom I was
treating by psychoanalytic methods. But this later material was inadmissible, since the dream-processes were undesirably complicated by the
intervention of neurotic characters. And if I relate my own dreams I must inevitably reveal to the gaze of strangers more of the intimacies of my
psychic life than is agreeable to me, and more than seems fitting in a writer who is not a poet but a scientific investigator. To do so is painful, but
unavoidable; I have submitted to the necessity, for otherwise I could not have demonstrated my psychological conclusions. Sometimes, of course,
I could not resist the temptation to mitigate my indiscretions by omissions and substitutions; but wherever I have done so the value of the example
cited has been very definitely diminished. I can only express the hope that my readers will understand my difficult position, and will be indulgent;
and further, that all those persons who are in any way concerned in the dreams recorded will not seek to forbid our dream-life at all events to
exercise freedom of thought! The Interpretation of DreamsCHAPTER 1
THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE OF
DREAM-PROBLEMS (UP TO 1900)
In the following pages I shall demonstrate that there is a psychological technique which makes it possible to interpret dreams, and that on the
application of this technique every dream will reveal itself as a psychological structure, full of significance, and one which may be assigned to a
specific place in the psychic activities of the waking state. Further, I shall endeavour to elucidate the processes which underlie the strangeness and
obscurity of dreams, and to deduce from these processes the nature of the psychic forces whose conflict or cooperation is responsible for our
dreams. This done, my investigation will terminate, as it will have reached the point where the problem of the dream merges into more
comprehensive problems, and to solve these we must have recourse to material of a different kind.
I shall begin by giving a short account of the views of earlier writers on this subject, and of the status of the dream-problem in contemporary
science; since in the course of this treatise I shall not often have occasion to refer to either. In spite of thousands of years of endeavour, little
progress has been made in the scientific understanding of dreams. This fact has been so universally acknowledged by previous writers on the
subject that it seems hardly necessary to quote individual opinions. The reader will find, in the works listed at the end of this work, many
stimulating observations, and plenty of interesting material relating to our subject, but little or nothing that concerns the true nature of the dream,
or that solves definitely any of its enigmas. The educated layman, of course, knows even less of the matter.
The conception of the dream that was held in prehistoric ages by primitive peoples, and the influence which it may have exerted on the formation
of their conceptions of the universe, and of the soul, is a theme of such great interest that it is only with reluctance that I refrain from dealing with
it in these pages. I will refer the reader to the well-known works of Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), Herbert Spencer, E. B. Tylor, and other
writers; I will only add that we shall not realize the importance of these problems and speculations until we have completed the task of dream-
interpretation that lies before us.
A reminiscence of the concept of the dream that was held in primitive times seems to underlie the evaluation of the dream which was current
among the peoples of classical antiquity. They took it for granted that dreams were related to the world of the supernatural beings in whom
they believed, and that they brought inspirations from the gods and demons. Moreover, it appeared to them that dreams must serve a special
purpose in respect of the dreamer; that, as a rule, they predicted the future. The extraordinary variations in the content of dreams, and in the
impressions which they produced on the dreamer, made it, of course, very difficult to formulate a coherent conception of them, and necessitated
manifold differentiations and group-formations, according to their value and reliability. The valuation of dreams by the individual philosophers of
antiquity naturally depended on the importance which they were prepared to attribute to manticism in general.
In the two works of Aristotle in which there is mention of dreams, they are already regarded as constituting a problem of psychology. We are told
that the dream is not god-sent, that it is not of divine but of demonic origin. For nature is really demonic, not divine; that is to say, the dream is
not a supernatural revelation, but is subject to the laws of the human spirit, which has, of course, a kinship with the divine. The dream is defined
as the psychic activity of the sleeper, inasmuch as he is asleep. Aristotle was acquainted with some of the characteristics of the dream-life; for
example, he knew that a dream converts the slight sensations perceived in sleep into intense sensations ("one imagines that one is walking
through fire, and feels hot, if this or that part of the body becomes only quite slightly warm"), which led him to conclude that dreams might easily
betray to the physician the first indications of an incipient physical change which escaped observation during the day.
As has been said, those writers of antiquity who preceded Aristotle did not regard the dream as a product of the dreaming psyche, but as an
inspiration of divine origin, and in ancient times the two opposing tendencies which we shall find throughout the ages in respect of the evaluation
of the dream-life were already perceptible. The ancients distinguished between the true and valuable dreams which were sent to the dreamer as
warnings, or to foretell future events, and the vain, fraudulent, and empty dreams whose object was to misguide him or lead him to destruction.
Gruppe speaks of such a classification of dreams, citing Macrobius and Artemidorus: "Dreams were divided into two classes; the first class
was believed to be influenced only by the present (or the past), and was unimportant in respect of the future; it included the enuknia (insomnia),
which directly reproduce a given idea or its opposite; e.g., hunger or its satiation; and the phantasmata, which elaborate the given idea
phantastically, as e.g. the nightmare, ephialtes. The second class of dreams, on the other hand, was determinative of the future. To this belonged:
1. Direct prophecies received in the dream (chrematismos, oraculum);
2. the foretelling of a future event (orama, visio);
3. the symbolic dream, which requires interpretation (oneiros, somnium.)
This theory survived for many centuries."
Connected with these varying estimations of the dream was the problem of "dream-interpretation." Dreams in general were expected to yield
important solutions, but not every dream was immediately understood, and it was impossible to be sure that a certain incomprehensible dream did
not really foretell something of importance, so that an effort was made to replace the incomprehensible content of the dream by something that
should be at once comprehensible and significant. In later antiquity Artemidorus of Daldis was regarded as the greatest authority on dream-
interpretation. His comprehensive works must serve to compensate us for the lost works of a similar nature The pre-scientific conception of the
dream which obtained among the ancients was, of course, in perfect keeping with their general conception of the universe, which was accustomed
to project as an external reality that which possessed reality only in the life of the psyche. Further, it accounted for the main impression made
upon the waking life by the morning memory of the dream; for in this memory the dream, as compared with the rest of the psychic content, seems
to be something alien, coming, as it were, from another world. It would be an error to suppose that theory of the supernatural origin of dreams
lacks followers even in our own times; for quite apart from pietistic and mystical writers - who cling, as they are perfectly justified in doing, to
the remnants of the once predominant realm of the supernatural until these remnants have been swept away by scientific explanation - we not
infrequently find that quite intelligent persons, who in other respects are averse from anything of a romantic nature, go so far as to base their
religious belief in the existence and co-operation of superhuman spiritual powers on the inexplicable nature of the phenomena of dreams
(Haffner). The validity ascribed to the dream-life by certain schools of philosophy - for example, by the school of Schelling - is a distinct
reminiscence of the undisputed belief in the divinity of dreams which prevailed in antiquity; and for some thinkers the mantic or prophetic power
of dreams is still a subject of debate. This is due to the fact that the explanations attempted by psychology are too inadequate to cope with the
accumulated material, however strongly the scientific thinker may feel that such superstitious doctrines should be repudiated.
To write strongly the history of our scientific knowledge of the dream-problem is extremely difficult, because, valuable though this knowledge
may be in certain respects, no real progress in a definite direction is as yet discernible. No real foundation of verified results has hitherto been
established on which future investigators might continue to build. Every new author approaches the same problems afresh, and from the very
beginning. If I were to enumerate such authors in chronological order, giving a survey of the opinions which each has held concerning the
problems of the dream, I should be quite unable to draw a clear and complete picture of the present state of our knowledge on the subject. I have
therefore preferred to base my method of treatment on themes rather than on authors, and in attempting the solution of each problem of the dream
I shall cite the material found in the literature of the subject.
But as I have not succeeded in mastering the whole of this literature - for it is widely dispersed, and interwoven with the literature of other
subjects - I must ask my readers to rest content with my survey as it stands, provided that no fundamental fact or important point of view has been
Until recently most authors have been inclined to deal with the subjects of sleep and dreams in conjunction, and together with these they have
commonly dealt with analogous conditions of a psycho-pathological nature, and other dream-like phenomena, such as hallucinations, visions, etc.
In recent works, on the other hand, there has been a tendency to keep more closely to the theme, and to consider, as a special subject, the separate
problems of the dream-life. In this change I should like to perceive an expression of the growing conviction that enlightenment and agreement in
such obscure matters may be attained only by a series of detailed investigations. Such a detailed investigation, and one of a special psychological
nature, is expounded in these pages. I have had little occasion to concern myself with the problem of sleep, as this is essentially a physiological
problem, although the changes in the functional determination of the psychic apparatus should be included in a description of the sleeping state.
The literature of sleep will therefore not be considered here.
A scientific interest in the phenomena of dreams as such leads us to propound the following problems, which to a certain extent, interdependent,
merge into one another. A. The Relation of the Dream to the Waking State
The naive judgment of the dreamer on waking assumes that the dream - even if it does not come from another world - has at all events transported
the dreamer into another world. The old physiologist, Burdach, to whom we are indebted for a careful and discriminating description of the
phenomena of dreams, expressed this conviction in a frequently quoted passage (p. 474): "The waking life, with its trials and joys, its pleasures
and pains, is never repeated; on the contrary, the dream aims at relieving us of these. Even when our whole mind is filled with one subject, when
our hearts are rent by bitter grief, or when some task has been taxing our mental capacity to the utmost, the dream either gives us something
entirely alien, or it selects for its combinations only a few elements of reality; or it merely enters into the key of our mood, and symbolizes
reality." J. H. Fichte (I. 541) speaks in precisely the same sense of supplementary dreams, calling them one of the secret, self-healing benefits of
the psyche. L. Strumpell expresses himself to the same effect in his Natur und Entstehung der Traume, a study which is deservedly held in high
esteem. "He who dreams turns his back upon the world of waking consciousness" (p. 16); "In the dream the memory of the orderly content of
waking consciousness and its normal behaviour is almost entirely lost" (p. 17); "The almost complete and unencumbered isolation of the psyche
in the dream from the regular normal content and course of the waking state..." (p. 19).
Yet the overwhelming majority of writers on the subject have adopted the contrary view of the relation of the dream to waking life. Thus Haffner
(p. 19): "To begin with, the dream continues the waking life. Our dreams always connect themselves with such ideas as have shortly before been
present in our consciousness. Careful examination will nearly always detect a thread by which the dream has linked itself to the experiences of the
previous day." Weygandt (p. 6) flatly contradicts the statement of Burdach. "For it may often be observed, apparently indeed in the great majority
of dreams, that they lead us directly back into everyday life, instead of releasing us from it." Maury (p. 56) expresses the same idea in a concise
formula: "Nous revons de ce que nous avons vu, dit, desire, ou fait." Jessen, in his Psychologie, published in 1855 (p. 530), is rather more
explicit: "The content of dreams is always more or less determined by the personality, the age, sex, station in life, education and habits, and by the
events and experiences of the whole past life of the individual."
The philosopher, I. G. E. Maas, adopts the most unequivocal attitude in respect of this question (Uber die Leidenschaften, 1805): "Experience
corroborates our assertion that we dream most frequently of those things toward which our warmest passions are directed. This shows us that our
passions must influence the generation of our dreams. The ambitious man dreams of the laurels which he has won (perhaps only in imagination),
or has still to win, while the lover occupies himself, in his dreams, with the object of his dearest hopes.... All the sensual desires and loathings
which slumber in the heart, if they are stimulated by any cause, may combine with other ideas and give rise to a dream; or these ideas may mingle
in an already existing dream."
The ancients entertained the same idea concerning the dependence of the dream-content on life. I will quote Radestock (p. 139): "When Xerxes,
before his expedition against Greece, was dissuaded from his resolution by good counsel, but was again and again incited by dreams to undertake
it, one of the old, rational dream-interpreters of the Persians, Artabanus, told him, and very appropriately, that dream-images for the most part
contain that of which one has been thinking in the waking state."
In the didactic poem of Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (IV. 962), there occurs this passage:
"Et quo quisque fere studio devinctus adhaeret, aut quibus in rebus multum sumus ante morati atque in ea ratione fuit contenta magis mens, in
somnis eadem plerumque videmur obire; causidici causas agere et componere leges, induperatores pugnare ac proelia obire,"... etc., etc. Cicero
(De Divinatione, II. LXVII) says, in a similar strain, as does also Maury many centuries later: "Maximeque 'reliquiae' rerum earum moventur in
animis et agitantur, de quibus vigilantes aut cogitavimus aut egimus."
The contradiction between these two views concerning the relation between dream life and waking life seems indeed irresolvable. Here we may
usefully cite the opinion of F. W. Hildebrandt (1875), who held that on the whole the peculiarities of the dream can only be described as "a series
of contrasts which apparently amount to contradictions" (p. 8). "The first of these contrasts is formed by the strict isolation or seclusion of the
dream from true and actual life on the one hand, and on the other hand by the continuous encroachment of the one upon the other, and the
constant dependence of the one upon the other. The dream is something absolutely divorced from the reality experienced during the waking state;
one may call it an existence hermetically sealed up and insulated from real life by an unbridgeable chasm. It frees us from reality, blots out the
normal recollection of reality, and sets us in another world and a totally different life, which fundamentally has nothing in common with real
life...." Hildebrandt then asserts that in falling asleep our whole being, with its forms of existence, disappears "as through an invisible trapdoor."
In one's dream one is perhaps making a voyage to St. Helena in order to offer the imprisoned Napoleon an exquisite vintage of Moselle. One is
most affably received by the ex-emperor, and one feels almost sorry when, on waking, the interesting illusion is destroyed. But let us now
compare the situation existing in the dream with the actual reality. The dreamer has never been a wine-merchant, and has no desire to become
one. He has never made a sea-voyage, and St. Helena is the last place in the world that he would choose as the destination of such a voyage. The
dreamer feels no sympathy for Napoleon, but on the contrary a strong patriotic aversion. And lastly, the dreamer was not yet among the living
when Napoleon died on the island of St. Helena; so that it was beyond the realms of possibility that he should have had any personal relations
with Napoleon. The dream-experience thus appears as something entirely foreign, interpolated between two mutually related and successive
periods of time.
"Nevertheless," continues Hildebrandt, "the apparent contrary is just as true and correct. I believe that side by side with this seclusion and
insulation there may still exist the most intimate interrelation. We may therefore justly say: Whatever the dream may offer us, it derives its
material from reality, and from the psychic life centered upon this reality. However extraordinary the dream may seem, it can never detach itself
from the real world, and its most sublime as well as its most ridiculous constructions must always borrow their elementary material either from
that which our eyes have beheld in the outer world, or from that which has already found a place somewhere in our waking thoughts; in other
words, it must be taken from that which we have already experienced, either objectively or subjectively." B. The Material of Dreams - Memory in Dreams
That all the material composing the content of a dream is somehow derived from experience, that it is reproduced or remembered in the dream -
this at least may be accepted as an incontestable fact. Yet it would be wrong to assume that such a connection between the dream-content and
reality will be easily obvious from a comparison between the two. On the contrary, the connection must be carefully sought, and in quite a
number of cases it may for a long while elude discovery. The reason for this is to be found in a number of peculiarities evinced by the faculty of
memory in dreams; which peculiarities, though generally observed, have hitherto defied explanation. It will be worth our while to examine these
To begin with, it happens that certain material appears in the dream-content which cannot be subsequently recognized, in the waking state, as
being part of one's knowledge and experience. One remembers clearly enough having dreamed of the thing in question, but one cannot recall the
actual experience or the time of its occurrence. The dreamer is therefore in the dark as to the source which the dream has tapped, and is even
tempted to believe in an independent productive activity on the part of the dream, until, often long afterwards, a fresh episode restores the
memory of that former experience, which had been given up for lost, and so reveals the source of the dream. One is therefore forced to admit that
in the dream something was known and remembered that cannot be remembered in the waking state.
Delboeuf relates from his own experience an especially impressive example of this kind. He saw in his dream the courtyard of his house covered
with snow, and found there two little lizards, half-frozen and buried in the snow. Being a lover of animals he picked them up, warmed them, and
put them back into the hole in the wall which was reserved especially for them. He also gave them a few fronds of a little fern which was growing
on the wall, and of which he knew they were very fond. In the dream he knew the name of the plant; Asplenium ruta muralis. The dream
continued returning after a digression to the lizards, and to his astonishment Delboeuf saw two other little lizards falling upon what was left of the
ferns. On turning his eyes to the open fields he saw a fifth and a sixth lizard making for the hole in the wall, and finally the whole road was
covered by a procession of lizards, all wandering in the same direction.
In his waking state Delboeuf knew only a few Latin names of plants, and nothing of any Asplenium. To his great surprise he discovered that a
fern of this name did actually exist, and that the correct name was Asplenium ruta muraria, which the dream had slightly distorted. An accidental
coincidence was of course inconceivable; yet where he got his knowledge of the name Asplenium in the dream remained a mystery to him.
The dream occurred in 1862. Sixteen years later, while at the house of one of his friends, the philosopher noticed a small album containing dried
plants, such as are sold as souvenirs to visitors in many parts of Switzerland. A sudden recollection came to him: he opened the herbarium,
discovered therein the Asplenium of his dream, and recognized his own handwriting in the accompanying Latin name. The connection could now
be traced. In 1860, two years before the date of the lizard dream, one of his friend's sisters, while on her wedding-journey, had paid a visit to
Delboeuf. She had with her at the time this very album, which was intended for her brother, and Delboeuf had taken the trouble to write, at the
dictation of a botanist, the Latin name under each of the dried plants.
The same good fortune which gave this example its unusual value enabled Delboeuf to trace yet another portion of this dream to its forgotten
source. One day in 1877 he came upon an old volume of an illustrated periodical, in which he found the whole procession of lizards pictured, just
as he had dreamt of it in 1862. The volume bore the date 1861, and Delboeuf remembered that he had subscribed to the journal since its first
That dreams have at their disposal recollections which are inaccessible to the waking state is such a remarkable and theoretically important fact
that I should like to draw attention to the point by recording yet other hypermnesic dreams. Maury relates that for some time the word Mussidan
used to occur to him during the day. He knew it to be the name of a French city, but that was all. One night he dreamed of a conversation with a
certain person, who told him that she came from Mussidan, and, in answer to his question as to where the city was, she replied: "Mussidan is the
principal town of a district in the department of Dordogne." On waking, Maury gave no credence to the information received in his dream; but the
gazetteer showed it to be perfectly correct. In this case the superior knowledge of the dreamer was confirmed, but it was not possible to trace the
forgotten source of this knowledge.
Jessen (p. 55) refers to a very similar incident, the period of which is more remote. "Among others we may here mention the dream of the elder
Scaliger (Hennings, l.c., p. 300), who wrote a poem in praise of the famous men of Verona, and to whom a man named Brugnolus appeared in a
dream, complaining that he had been neglected. Though Scaliger could not remember that he had heard of the man, he wrote some verses in his
honour, and his son learned subsequently that a certain Brugnolus had at one time been famed in Verona as a critic."
A hypermnesic dream, especially remarkable for the fact that a memory not at first recalled was afterwards recognized in a dream which followed
the first, is narrated by the Marquis d'Hervey de St. Denis: "I once dreamed of a young woman with fair golden hair, whom I saw chatting
with my sister as she showed her a piece of embroidery. In my dream she seemed familiar to me; I thought, indeed, that I had seen her repeatedly.
After waking, her face was still quite vividly before me, but I was absolutely unable to recognize it. I fell asleep again; the dream-picture repeated
itself. In this new dream I addressed the golden-haired lady and asked her whether I had not had the pleasure of meeting her somewhere. 'Of
course,' she replied; 'don't you remember the bathing-place at Pornic?' Thereupon I awoke, and I was then able to recall with certainty and in
detail the incidents with which this charming dream-face was connected."
The same author recorded that a musician of his acquaintance once heard in a dream a melody which was absolutely new to him. Not until
many years later did he find it in an old collection of musical compositions, though still he could not remember ever having seen it before.
I believe that Myers has published a whole collection of such hypermnesic dreams in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, but
these, unfortunately, are inaccessible to me. I think everyone who occupies himself with dreams will recognize, as a very common phenomenon,
the fact that a dream will give proof of the knowledge and recollection of matters of which the dreamer, in his waking state, did not imagine
himself to be cognizant. In my analytic investigations of nervous patients, of which I shall speak later, I find that it happens many times every
week that I am able to convince them, from their dreams, that they are perfectly well acquainted with quotations, obscene expressions, etc., and
make use of them in their dreams, although they have forgotten them in their waking state. I shall here cite an innocent example of dream-
hypermnesia, because it was easy to trace the source of the knowledge which was accessible only in the dream.
A patient dreamed amongst other things (in a rather long dream) that he ordered a kontuszowka in a cafe, and after telling me this he asked me
what it could be, as he had never heard the name before. I was able to tell him that kontuszowka was a Polish liqueur, which he could not have
invented in his dream, as the name had long been familiar to me from the advertisements. At first the patient would not believe me, but some days
later, after he had allowed his dream of the cafe to become a reality, he noticed the name on a signboard at a street corner which for some months
he had been passing at least twice a day.
I have learned from my own dreams how largely the discovery of the origin of individual dream-elements may be dependent on chance. Thus, for
some years before I had thought of writing this book, I was haunted by the picture of a church tower of fairly simple construction, which I could
not remember ever having seen. I then suddenly recognized it, with absolute certainty, at a small station between Salzburg and Reichenhall. This
was in the late nineties, and the first time I had travelled over this route was in 1886. In later years, when I was already busily engaged in the
study of dreams, I was quite annoyed by the frequent recurrence of the dream-image of a certain peculiar locality. I saw, in definite orientation to
my own person - on my left - a dark space in which a number of grotesque sandstone figures stood out. A glimmering recollection, which I did
not quite believe, told me that it was the entrance to a beer-cellar; but I could explain neither the meaning nor the origin of this dream-picture. In
1907 I happened to go to Padua, which, to my regret, I had been unable to visit since 1895. My first visit to this beautiful university city had been
unsatisfactory. I had been unable to see Giotto's frescoes in the church of the Madonna dell' Arena: I set out for the church, but turned back on
being informed that it was closed for the day. On my second visit, twelve years later, I thought I would compensate myself for this
disappointment, and before doing anything else I set out for Madonna dell' Arena. In the street leading to it, on my left, probably at the spot where
I had turned back in 1895, I discovered the place, with its sandstone figures, which I had so often seen in my dream. It was, in fact, the entrance to
a restaurant garden.
One of the sources from which dreams draw material for reproduction - material of which some part is not recalled or utilized in our waking
thoughts - is to be found in childhood. Here I will cite only a few of the authors who have observed and emphasized this fact:
Hildebrandt (p. 23): "It has already been expressly admitted that a dream sometimes brings back to the mind, with a wonderful power of
reproduction, remote and even forgotten experiences from the earliest periods of one's life."
Strumpell (p. 40): "The subject becomes more interesting still when we remember how the dream sometimes drags out, as it were, from the
deepest and densest psychic deposits which later years have piled upon the earliest experiences of childhood, the pictures of certain persons,
places and things, quite intact, and in all their original freshness. This is confined not merely to such impressions as were vividly perceived at the
time of their occurrence, or were associated with intense psychological values, to recur later in the dream as actual reminiscences which give
pleasure to the waking mind. On the contrary, the depths of the dream-memory rather contain such images of persons, places, things and early
experiences as either possessed but little consciousness and no psychic value whatsoever, or have long since lost both, and therefore appear
totally strange and unknown, both in the dream and in the waking state, until their early origin is revealed."
Volkelt (p. 119): "It is especially to be remarked how readily infantile and youthful reminiscences enter into our dreams. What we have long
ceased to think about, what has long since lost all importance for us, is constantly recalled by the dream."
The control which the dream exercises over material from our childhood, most of which, as is well known, falls into the lacunae of our conscious
memory, is responsible for the production of interesting hypermnesic dreams, of which I shall cite a few more examples.
Maury relates (p. 92) that as a child he often went from his native city, Meaux, to the neighbouring Trilport, where his father was superintending
the construction of a bridge. One night a dream transported him to Trilport and he was once more playing in the streets there. A man approached
him, wearing a sort of uniform. Maury asked him his name, and he introduced himself, saying that his name was C, and that he was a bridge-
guard. On waking, Maury, who still doubted the actuality of the reminiscence, asked his old servant, who had been with him in his childhood,
whether she remembered a man of this name. "Of course," was the reply; "he used to be watchman on the bridge which your father was building
Maury records another example, which demonstrates no less clearly the reliability of the reminiscences of childhood that emerge in our dreams.
M. F., who as a child had lived in Montbrison, decided, after an absence of twenty-five years, to visit his home and the old friends of his family.
The night before his departure he dreamt that he had reached his destination, and that near Montbrison he met a man whom he did not know by
sight, and who told him that he was M. F., a friend of his father's. The dreamer remembered that as a child he had known a gentleman of this
name, but on waking he could no longer recall his features. Several days later, having actually arrived at Montbrison, he found once more the
locality of his dream, which he had thought was unknown to him, and there he met a man whom he at once recognized as the M. F. of his dream,
with only this difference, that the real person was very much older than his dream-image.
Here I might relate one of my own dreams, in which the recalled impression takes the form of an association. In my dream I saw a man whom I
recognized, while dreaming, as the doctor of my native town. His face was not distinct, but his features were blended with those of one of my
schoolmasters, whom I still meet from time to time. What association there was between the two persons I could not discover on waking, but
upon questioning my mother concerning the doctor I learned that he was a one-eyed man. The schoolmaster, whose image in my dream obscured
that of the physician, had also only one eye. I had not seen the doctor for thirty-eight years, and as far as I know I had never thought of him in my
waking state, although a scar on my chin might have reminded me of his professional attentions.
As though to counterbalance the excessive part which is played in our dreams by the impressions of childhood, many authors assert that the
majority of dreams reveal elements drawn from our most recent experiences. Robert (p. 46) even declares that the normal dream generally
occupies itself only with the impressions of the last few days. We shall find, indeed, that the theory of the dream advanced by Robert absolutely
requires that our oldest impressions should be thrust into the background, and our most recent ones brought to the fore. However, the fact here
stated by Robert is correct; this I can confirm from my own investigations. Nelson, an American author, holds that the impressions received in a
dream most frequently date from the second day before the dream, or from the third day before it, as though the impressions of the day
immediately preceding the dream were not sufficiently weakened and remote.
Many authors who are unwilling to question the intimate connection between the dream-content and the waking state have been struck by the fact
that the impressions which have intensely occupied the waking mind appear in dreams only after they have been to some extent removed from the
mental activities of the day. Thus, as a rule, we do not dream of a beloved person who is dead while we are still overwhelmed with sorrow
(Delage). Yet Miss Hallam, one of the most recent observers, has collected examples which reveal the very opposite behaviour in this respect, and
upholds the claims of psychological individuality in this matter.
The third, most remarkable, and at the same time most incomprehensible, peculiarity of memory in dreams is shown in the selection of the
material reproduced; for here it is not, as in the waking state, only the most significant things that are held to be worth remembering, but also the
most indifferent and insignificant details. In this connection I will quote those authors who have expressed their surprise in the most emphatic
Hildebrandt (p. 11): "For it is a remarkable fact that dreams do not, as a rule, take their elements from important and far-reaching events, or from
the intense and urgent interests of the preceding day, but from unimportant incidents, from the worthless odds and ends of recent experience or of
the remoter past. The most shocking death in our family, the impressions of which keep us awake long into the night, is obliterated from our
memories until the first moment of waking brings it back to us with distressing force. On the other hand, the wart on the forehead of a passing
stranger, to whom we did not give a moment's thought once he was out of sight, finds a place in our dreams."
Strumpell (p. 39) speaks of "cases in which the analysis of a dream brings to light elements which, although derived from the experiences of
yesterday or the day before yesterday, were yet so unimportant and worthless for the waking state that they were forgotten soon after they were
experienced. Some experiences may be the chance-heard remarks of other persons, or their superficially observed actions, or, fleeting perceptions
of things or persons, or isolated phrases that we have read, etc."
Havelock Ellis (p. 727): "The profound emotions of waking life, the questions and problems on which we spend our chief voluntary mental
energy, are not those which usually present themselves at once to dream-consciousness. It is, so far as the immediate past is concerned, mostly the
trifling, the incidental, the 'forgotten' impressions of daily life which reappear in our dreams. The psychic activities that are awake most intensely
are those that sleep most profoundly."
It is precisely in connection with these characteristics of memory in dreams that Binz (p. 45) finds occasion to express dissatisfaction with the
explanations of dreams which he himself had favoured: "And the normal dream raises similar questions. Why do we not always dream of mental
impressions of the day before, instead of going back, without any perceptible reason, to the almost forgotten past, now lying far behind us? Why,
in a dream, does consciousness so often revive the impression of indifferent memory-pictures, while the cerebral cells that bear the most sensitive
records of experience remain for the most part inert and numb, unless an acute revival during the waking state has quite recently excited them?"
We can readily understand how the strange preference shown by the dream-memory for the indifferent and therefore disregarded details of daily
experience must commonly lead us altogether to overlook the dependence of dreams on the waking state, or must at least make it difficult for us
to prove this dependence in any individual case. Thus it happened that in the statistical treatment of her own and her friend's dream, Miss Whiton
Calkins found that 11 per cent of the entire number showed no relation to the waking state. Hildebrandt was certainly correct in his assertion that
all our dream-images could be genetically explained if we devoted enough time and material to the tracing of their origin. To be sure, he calls this
"a most tedious and thankless job. For most often it would lead us to ferret out all sorts of psychically worthless things from the remotest corners
of our storehouse of memories, and to bring to light all sorts of quite indifferent events of long ago from the oblivion which may have overtaken
them an hour after their occurrence." I must, however, express my regret that this discerning author refrained from following the path which at
first sight seemed so unpromising, for it would have led him directly to the central point of the explanation of dreams.
The behaviour of memory in dreams is surely most significant for any theory of memory whatsoever. It teaches us that "nothing which we have
once psychically possessed is ever entirely lost" (Scholz, p. 34); or as Delboeuf puts it, "que toute impression, meme la plus insignificante, laisse
une trace inalterable, indifiniment susceptible de reparaitre au jour"; a conclusion to which we are urged by so many other pathological
manifestations of mental life. Let us bear in mind this extraordinary capacity of the memory in dreams, in order the more keenly to realize the
contradiction which has to be put forward in certain dream-theories to be mentioned later, which seek to explain the absurdities and incoherences
of dreams by a partial forgetting of what we have known during the day.
It might even occur to one to reduce the phenomenon of dreaming to that of remembering, and to regard the dream as the manifestation of a
reproductive activity, unresting even at night, which is an end in itself. This would seem to be in agreement with statements such as those made
by Pilcz, according to which definite relations between the time of dreaming and the contents of a dream may be demonstrated, inasmuch as the
impressions reproduced by the dream in deep sleep belong to the remote past, while those reproduced towards morning are of recent origin. But
such a conception is rendered improbable from the outset by the manner in which the dream deals with the material to be remembered. Strumpell
rightly calls our attention to the fact that repetitions of experiences do not occur in dreams. It is true that a dream will make a beginning in that
direction, but the next link is wanting; it appears in a different form, or is replaced by something entirely novel. The dream gives us only
fragmentary reproductions; this is so far the rule that it permits of a theoretical generalization. Still, there are exceptions in which an episode is
repeated in a dream as completely as it can be reproduced by our waking memory. Delboeuf relates of one of his university colleagues that a
dream of his repeated, in all its details, a perilous drive in which he escaped accident as if by miracle. Miss Calkins mentions two dreams the
contents of which exactly reproduced an experience of the previous day, and in a later chapter I shall have occasion to give an example that came
to my knowledge of a childish experience which recurred unchanged in a dream. C. Dream-Stimuli and Sources
What is meant by dream-stimuli and dream-sources may be explained by a reference to the popular saying: "Dreams come from the stomach."
This notion covers a theory which conceives the dream as resulting from a disturbance of sleep. We should not have dreamed if some disturbing
element had not come into play during our sleep, and the dream is the reaction against this disturbance.
The discussion of the exciting causes of dreams occupies a great deal of space in the literature of dreams. It is obvious that this problem could
have made its appearance only after dreams had become an object of biological investigation. The ancients, who conceived of dreams as divine
inspirations, had no need to look for stimuli; for them a dream was due to the will of divine or demonic powers, and its content was the product of
their special knowledge and intention. Science, however, immediately raised the question whether the stimuli of dreams were single or multiple,
and this in turn led to the consideration whether the causal explanation of dreams belonged to the region of psychology or to that of physiology.
Most authors appear to assume that disturbance of sleep, and hence dreams, may arise from various causes, and that physical as well as mental
stimuli may play the part of dream-excitants. Opinions differ widely in preferring this or the other factor as the cause of dreams, and in classifying
them in the order of importance.
Whenever the sources of dreams are completely enumerated they fall into the following four categories, which have also been employed in the
classification of dreams: (1) external (objective) sensory stimuli; (2) internal (subjective) sensory stimuli; (3) internal (organic) physical stimuli;
(4) Purely psychical sources of excitation. 1. External sensory stimuli
The younger Strumpell, the son of the philosopher, whose work on dreams has already more than once served us as a guide in considering the
problems of dreams, has, as is well known, recorded his observations of a patient afflicted with general anaesthesia of the skin and with paralysis
of several of the higher sensory organs. This man would laps into sleep whenever the few remaining sensory paths between himself and the outer
world were closed. When we wish to fall asleep we are accustomed to strive for a condition similar to that obtaining in Strumpell's experiment.
We close the most important sensory portals, the eyes, and we endeavour to protect the other senses from all stimuli or from any change of the
stimuli already acting upon them. We then fall asleep, although our preparations are never wholly successful. For we can never completely
insulate the sensory organs, nor can we entirely abolish the excitability of the sensory organs themselves. That we may at any time be awakened
by intenser stimuli should prove to us "that the mind has remained in constant communication with the external world even during sleep." The
sensory stimuli that reach us during sleep may easily become the source of dreams.
There are a great many stimuli of this nature, ranging from those unavoidable stimuli which are proper to the state of sleep or occasionally
admitted by it, to those fortuitous stimuli which are calculated to wake the sleeper. Thus a strong light may fall upon the eyes, a noise may be
heard, or an odour may irritate the mucous membranes of the nose. In our unintentional movements during sleep we may lay bare parts of the
body, and thus expose them to a sensation of cold, or by a change of position we may excite sensations of pressure and touch. A mosquito may
bite us, or a slight nocturnal mischance may simultaneously attack more than one sense-organ. Observers have called attention to a whole series
of dreams in which the stimulus ascertained on waking and some part of the dream-content corresponded to such a degree that the stimulus could
be recognized as the source of the dream.
I shall here cite a number of such dreams, collected by Jessen (p. 527), which are traceable to more or less accidental objective sensory stimuli.
Every noise indistinctly perceived gives rise to corresponding dream-representations; the rolling of thunder takes us into the thick of battle, the
crowing of a cock may be transformed into human shrieks of terror, and the creaking of a door may conjure up dreams of burglars breaking into
the house. When one of our blankets slips off us at night we may dream that we are walking about naked, or falling into water. If we lie
diagonally across the bed with our feet extending beyond the edge, we may dream of standing on the brink of a terrifying precipice, or of falling
from a great height. Should our head accidentally get under the pillow we may imagine a huge rock overhanging us and about to crush us under
its weight. An accumulation of semen produces voluptuous dreams, and local pains give rise to ideas of suffering ill-treatment, of hostile attacks,
or of accidental bodily injuries....
"Meier (Versuch einer Erklarung des Nachtwandelns, Halle, 1758, p. 33) once dreamed of being attacked by several men who threw him flat on
the ground and drove a stake into the earth between his first and second toes. While imagining this in his dream he suddenly awoke and felt a
piece of straw sticking between his toes. The same author, according to Hemmings (Von den Traumen und Nachtwandlern, Weimar, 1784, p.
258), "dreamed on another occasion, when his nightshirt was rather too tight round his neck, that he was being hanged. In his youth Hoffbauer
dreamed of having fallen from a high wall, and found, on waking, that the bedstead had come apart, and that he had actually fallen on to the
floor.... Gregory relates that he once applied a hot-water bottle to his feet, and dreamed of taking a trip to the summit of Mount Etna, where he
found the heat of the soil almost unbearable. After having a blister applied to his head, another man dreamed of being scalped by Indians; still
another, whose shirt was damp, dreamed that he was dragged through a stream. An attack of gout caused a patient to believe that he was in the
hands of the Inquisition, and suffering the pains of torture (Macnish)."
The argument that there is a resemblance between the dream-stimulus and the dream-content would be confirmed if, by a systematic induction of
stimuli, we should succeed in producing dreams corresponding to these stimuli. According to Macnish such experiments had already been made
by Giron de Buzareingues. "He left his knee exposed and dreamed of travelling on a mail-coach by night. He remarked, in this connection, that
travellers were well aware how cold the knees become in a coach at night. On another occasion he left the back of his head uncovered, and
dreamed that he was taking part in a religious ceremony in the open air. In the country where he lived it was customary to keep the head always
covered except on occasions of this kind."
Maury reports fresh observation on self-induced dreams of his own. (A number of other experiments were unsuccessful.)
1. He was tickled with a feather on his lips and on the tip of his nose. He dreamed of an awful torture, viz., that a mask of pitch was stuck to his
face and then forcibly torn off, bringing the skin with it.
2. Scissors were whetted against a pair of tweezers. He heard bells ringing, then sounds of tumult which took him back to the days of the
Revolution of 1848.
3. Eau de Cologne was held to his nostrils. He found himself in Cairo, in the shop of Johann Maria Farina. This was followed by fantastic
adventures which he was not able to recall.
- Local Disk