Chapter IV – Dream Analysis

A different explanation was found in the case of a similar dream of another female patient, who was distinguished in her earlier years by her quick wit and her cheerful demeanors and who still showed these qualities at least in the notion, which occurred to her in the course of treatment. In connection with a longer dream, it seemed to this lady that she saw her fifteen-year-old daughter lying dead before her in a box. She was strongly inclined to convert this dream-image into an objection to the theory of wish-fulfillment, but herself suspected that the detail of the box must lead to a different conception of the dream.3 In the course of the analysis it occurred to her that on the evening before, the conversation of the company had turned upon the English word “box,” and upon the numerous translations of it into German, such as box, theater box, chest, box on the ear, &c. From other components of the same dream it is now possible to add that the lady had guessed the relationship between the English word “box” and the German Büchse, and had then been haunted by the memory that Büchse (as well as “box”) is used in vulgar speech to designate the female genital organ. It was therefore possible, making a certain allowance for her notions on the subject of topographical anatomy, to assume that the child in the box signified a child in the womb of the mother. At this stage of the explanation she no longer denied that the picture of the dream really corresponded to one of her wishes. Like so many other young women, she was by no means happy when she became pregnant, and admitted to me more than once the wish that her child might die before its birth; in a fit of anger following a violent scene with her husband she had even struck her abdomen with her fists in order to hit the child within. The dead child was, therefore, really the fulfillment of a wish, but a wish which had been put aside for fifteen years, and it is not surprising that the fulfillment of the wish was no longer recognized after so long an interval. For there had been many changes meanwhile.

The group of dreams to which the two last mentioned belong, having as content the death of beloved relatives, will be considered again under the head of “Typical Dreams.” I shall there be able to show by new examples that in spite of their undesirable content, all these dreams must be interpreted as wish-fulfillments. For the following dream, which again was told me in order to deter me from a hasty generalization of the theory of wishing in dreams, I am indebted, not to a patient, but to an intelligent jurist of my acquaintance. “I dream,” my informant tells me, “that I am walking in front of my house with a lady on my arm. Here a closed wagon is waiting, a gentleman steps up to me, gives his authority as an agent of the police, and demands that I should follow him. I only ask for time in which to arrange my affairs. Can you possibly suppose this is a wish of mine to be arrested?” “Of course not,” I must admit. “Do you happen to know upon what charge you were arrested?” “Yes; I believe for infanticide.” “Infanticide? But you know that only a mother can commit this crime upon her newly born child?” “That is true.”4 “And under what circumstances did you dream; what happened on the evening before?” “I would rather not tell you that; it is a delicate matter.” “But I must have it, otherwise we must forgo the interpretation of the dream.” “Well, then, I will tell you. I spent the night, not at home, but at the house of a lady who means very much to me. When we awoke in the morning, something again passed between us. Then I went to sleep again, and dreamt what I have told you.” “The woman is married?” “Yes.” “And you do not wish her to conceive a child?” “No; that might betray us.” “Then you do not practice normal coitus?” “I take the precaution to withdraw before ejaculation.” “Am I permitted to assume that you did this trick several times during the night, and that in the morning you were not quite sure whether you had succeeded?” “That might be the case.” “Then your dream is the fulfillment of a wish. By means of it you secure the assurance that you have not begotten a child, or, what amounts to the same thing, that you have killed a child. I can easily demonstrate the connecting links. Do you remember, a few days ago we were talking about the distress of matrimony (Ehenot), and about the inconsistency of permitting the practice of coitus as long as no impregnation takes place, while every delinquency after the ovum and the semen meet and a fœtus is formed is punished as a crime? In connection with this, we also recalled the mediæval controversy about the moment of time at which the soul is really lodged in the fœtus, since the concept of murder becomes admissible only from that point on. Doubtless you also know the gruesome poem by Lenau, which puts infanticide and the prevention of children on the same plane.” “Strangely enough, I had happened to think of Lenau during the afternoon.” “Another echo of your dream. And now I shall demonstrate to you another subordinate wish-fulfillment in your dream. You walk in front of your house with the lady on your arm. So you take her home, instead of spending the night at her house, as you do in actuality. The fact that the wish-fulfillment, which is the essence of the dream, disguises itself in such an unpleasant form, has perhaps more than one reason. From my essay on the etiology of anxiety neuroses, you will see that I note interrupted coitus as one of the factors which cause the development of neurotic fear. It would be consistent with this that if after repeated cohabitation of the kind mentioned you should be left in an uncomfortable mood, which now becomes an element in the composition of your dream. You also make use of this unpleasant state of mind to conceal the wish-fulfillment. Furthermore, the mention of infanticide has not yet been explained. Why does this crime, which is peculiar to females, occur to you?” “I shall confess to you that I was involved in such an affair years ago. Through my fault a girl tried to protect herself from the consequences of a liaison with me by securing an abortion. I had nothing to do with carrying out the plan, but I was naturally for a long time worried lest the affair might be discovered.” “I understand; this recollection furnished a second reason why the supposition that you had done your trick badly must have been painful to you.”

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