Chapter IV – Dream Analysis

The other motive for counter wish-dreams is so clear that there is danger of overlooking it, as for some time happened in my own case. In the sexual make-up of many people there is a masochistic component, which has arisen through the conversion of the aggressive, sadistic component into its opposite. Such people are called “ideal” masochists, if they seek pleasure not in the bodily pain which may be inflicted upon them, but in humiliation and in chastisement of the soul. It is obvious that such persons can have counter wish-dreams and disagreeable dreams, which, however, for them are nothing but wish-fulfillment, affording satisfaction for their masochistic inclinations. Here is such a dream. A young man, who has in earlier years tormented his elder brother, towards whom he was homosexually inclined, but who had undergone a complete change of character, has the following dream, which consists of three parts: (1) He is “insulted” by his brother. (2) Two adults are caressing each other with homosexual intentions. (3) His brother has sold the enterprise whose management the young man reserved for his own future. He awakens from the last-mentioned dream with the most unpleasant feelings, and yet it is a masochistic wish-dream, which might be translated: It would serve me quite right if my brother were to make that sale against my interest, as a punishment for all the torments which he has suffered at my hands.

I hope that the above discussion and examples will suffice—until further objection can be raised—to make it seem credible that even dreams with a painful content are to be analyzed as the fulfillments of wishes. Nor will it seem a matter of chance that in the course of interpretation one always happens upon subjects of which one does not like to speak or think. The disagreeable sensation which such dreams arouse is simply identical with the antipathy which endeavors—usually with success—to restrain us from the treatment or discussion of such subjects, and which must be overcome by all of us, if, in spite of its unpleasantness, we find it necessary to take the matter in hand. But this disagreeable sensation, which occurs also in dreams, does not preclude the existence of a wish; every one has wishes which he would not like to tell to others, which he does not want to admit even to himself. We are, on other grounds, justified in connecting the disagreeable character of all these dreams with the fact of dream disfigurement, and in concluding that these dreams are distorted, and that the wish-fulfillment in them is disguised until recognition is impossible for no other reason than that a repugnance, a will to suppress, exists in relation to the subject-matter of the dream or in relation to the wish which the dream creates. Dream disfigurement, then, turns out in reality to be an act of the censor. We shall take into consideration everything which the analysis of disagreeable dreams has brought to light if we reword our formula as follows: The dream is the (disguised) fulfillment of a (suppressed, repressed) wish.

Now there still remain as a particular species of dreams with painful content, dreams of anxiety, the inclusion of which under dreams of wishing will find least acceptance with the uninitiated. But I can settle the problem of anxiety dreams in very short order; for what they may reveal is not a new aspect of the dream problem; it is a question in their case of understanding neurotic anxiety in general. The fear which we experience in the dream is only seemingly explained by the dream content. If we subject the content of the dream to analysis, we become aware that the dream fear is no more justified by the dream content than the fear in a phobia is justified by the idea upon which the phobia depends. For example, it is true that it is possible to fall out of a window, and that some care must be exercised when one is near a window, but it is inexplicable why the anxiety in the corresponding phobia is so great, and why it follows its victims to an extent so much greater than is warranted by its origin. The same explanation, then, which applies to the phobia applies also to the dream of anxiety. In both cases the anxiety is only superficially attached to the idea which accompanies it and comes from another source.

On account of the intimate relation of dream fear to neurotic fear, discussion of the former obliges me to refer to the latter. In a little essay on “The Anxiety Neurosis,”6 I maintained that neurotic fear has its origin in the sexual life, and corresponds to a libido which has been turned away from its object and has not succeeded in being applied. From this formula, which has since proved its validity more and more clearly, we may deduce the conclusion that the content of anxiety dreams is of a sexual nature, the libido belonging to which content has been transformed into fear.

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