Chapter VIII – The Primary and Secondary Process – Regression

In venturing to attempt to penetrate more deeply into the psychology of the dream processes, I have undertaken a difficult task, to which, indeed, my power of description is hardly equal. To reproduce in description by a succession of words the simultaneousness of so complex a chain of events, and in doing so to appear unbiassed throughout the exposition, goes fairly beyond my powers. I have now to atone for the fact that I have been unable in my description of the dream psychology to follow the historic development of my views. The view-points for my conception of the dream were reached through earlier investigations in the psychology of the neuroses, to which I am not supposed to refer here, but to which I am repeatedly forced to refer, whereas I should prefer to proceed in the opposite direction, and, starting from the dream, to establish a connection with the psychology of the neuroses. I am well aware of all the inconveniences arising for the reader from this difficulty, but I know of no way to avoid them.

As I am dissatisfied with this state of affairs, I am glad to dwell upon another view-point which seems to raise the value of my efforts. As has been shown in the introduction to the first chapter, I found myself confronted with a theme which had been marked by the sharpest contradictions on the part of the authorities. After our elaboration of the dream problems we found room for most of these contradictions. We have been forced, however, to take decided exception to two of the views pronounced, viz. that the dream is a senseless and that it is a somatic process; apart from these cases we have had to accept all the contradictory views in one place or another of the complicated argument, and we have been able to demonstrate that they had discovered something that was correct. That the dream continues the impulses and interests of the waking state has been quite generally confirmed through the discovery of the latent thoughts of the dream. These thoughts concern themselves only with things that seem important and of momentous interest to us. The dream never occupies itself with trifles. But we have also concurred with the contrary view, viz., that the dream gathers up the indifferent remnants from the day, and that not until it has in some measure withdrawn itself from the waking activity can an important event of the day be taken up by the dream. We found this holding true for the dream content, which gives the dream thought its changed expression by means of disfigurement. We have said that from the nature of the association mechanism the dream process more easily takes possession of recent or indifferent material which has not yet been seized by the waking mental activity; and by reason of the censor it transfers the psychic intensity from the important but also disagreeable to the indifferent material. The hypermnesia of the dream and the resort to infantile material have become main supports in our theory. In our theory of the dream we have attributed to the wish originating from the infantile the part of an indispensable motor for the formation of the dream. We naturally could not think of doubting the experimentally demonstrated significance of the objective sensory stimuli during sleep; but we have brought this material into the same relation to the dream-wish as the thought remnants from the waking activity. There was no need of disputing the fact that the dream interprets the objective sensory stimuli after the manner of an illusion; but we have supplied the motive for this interpretation which has been left undecided by the authorities. The interpretation follows in such a manner that the perceived object is rendered harmless as a sleep disturber and becomes available for the wish-fulfillment. Though we do not admit as special sources of the dream the subjective state of excitement of the sensory organs during sleep, which seems to have been demonstrated by Trumbull Ladd, we are nevertheless able to explain this excitement through the regressive revival of active memories behind the dream. A modest part in our conception has also been assigned to the inner organic sensations which are wont to be taken as the cardinal point in the explanation of the dream. These—the sensation of falling, flying, or inhibition—stand as an ever ready material to be used by the dream-work to express the dream thought as often as need arises.

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