Chapter II – The Dream Mechanism

2. A medical journal which displayed my name among others on the cover had published a ruinous review of a book by my friend F____ of Berlin, from the pen of a very juvenile reviewer. I communicated with the editor, who, indeed, expressed his regret, but would not promise any redress. Thereupon I broke off my connection with the paper; in my letter of resignation I expressed the hope that our personal relations would not suffer from this. Here is the real source of the dream. The derogatory reception of my friend’s work had made a deep impression upon me. In my judgment, it contained a fundamental biological discovery which only now, several years later, commences to find favor among the professors.

3. A little while before, a patient gave me the medical history of her brother, who, exclaiming “Nature, Nature!” had gone out of his mind. The doctors considered that the exclamation arose from a study of Goethe’s beautiful essay, and indicated that the patient had been overworking. I expressed the opinion that it seemed more plausible to me that the exclamation “Nature!” was to be taken in that sexual meaning known also to the less educated in our country. It seemed to me that this view had something in it, because the unfortunate youth afterwards mutilated his genital organs. The patient was eighteen years old when the attack occurred.

The first person in the dream-thoughts behind the ego was my friend who had been so scandalously treated. “I now attempted to clear up the chronological relation.” My friend’s book deals with the chronological relations of life, and, amongst other things, correlates Goethe’s duration of life with a number of days in many ways important to biology. The ego is, however, represented as a general paralytic (“I am not certain what year we are actually in”). The dream exhibits my friend as behaving like a general paralytic, and thus riots in absurdity. But the dream thoughts run ironically. “Of course he is a madman, a fool, and you are the genius who understands all about it. But shouldn’t it be the other way round?” This inversion obviously took place in the dream when Goethe attacked the young man, which is absurd, whilst any one, however young, can to-day easily attack the great Goethe.

I am prepared to maintain that no dream is inspired by other than egoistic emotions. The ego in the dream does not, indeed, represent only my friend, but stands for myself also. I identify myself with him because the fate of his discovery appears to me typical of the acceptance of my own. If I were to publish my own theory, which gives sexuality predominance in the ætiology of psychoneurotic disorders (see the allusion to the eighteen-year-old patient—“Nature, Nature!”), the same criticism would be leveled at me, and it would even now meet with the same contempt.

1 thought on “Chapter II – The Dream Mechanism

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