Chapter VI – The Wish in Dreams

We may now ask whence the wish fulfilled in the dream originates. But to what opposition or to what diversity do we refer this “whence”? I think it is to the opposition between conscious daily life and a psychic activity remaining unconscious which can only make itself noticeable during the night. I thus find a threefold possibility for the origin of a wish. Firstly, it may have been incited during the day, and owing to external circumstances failed to find gratification, there is thus left for the night an acknowledged but unfulfilled wish. Secondly, it may come to the surface during the day but be rejected, leaving an unfulfilled but suppressed wish. Or, thirdly, it may have no relation to daily life, and belong to those wishes that originate during the night from the suppression. If we now follow our scheme of the psychic apparatus, we can localize a wish of the first order in the system Forec. We may assume that a wish of the second order has been forced back from the Forec. system into the Unc. system, where alone, if anywhere, it can maintain itself; while a wish-feeling of the third order we consider altogether incapable of leaving the Unc. system. This brings up the question whether wishes arising from these different sources possess the same value for the dream, and whether they have the same power to incite a dream.

On reviewing the dreams which we have at our disposal for answering this question, we are at once moved to add as a fourth source of the dream-wish the actual wish incitements arising during the night, such as thirst and sexual desire. It then becomes evident that the source of the dream-wish does not affect its capacity to incite a dream. That a wish suppressed during the day asserts itself in the dream can be shown by a great many examples. I shall mention a very simple example of this class. A somewhat sarcastic young lady, whose younger friend has become engaged to be married, is asked throughout the day by her acquaintances whether she knows and what she thinks of the fianc√©. She answers with unqualified praise, thereby silencing her own judgment, as she would prefer to tell the truth, namely, that he is an ordinary person. The following night she dreams that the same question is put to her, and that she replies with the formula: “In case of subsequent orders it will suffice to mention the number.” Finally, we have learned from numerous analyses that the wish in all dreams that have been subject to distortion has been derived from the unconscious, and has been unable to come to perception in the waking state. Thus it would appear that all wishes are of the same value and force for the dream formation.

I am at present unable to prove that the state of affairs is really different, but I am strongly inclined to assume a more stringent determination of the dream-wish. Children’s dreams leave no doubt that an unfulfilled wish of the day may be the instigator of the dream. But we must not forget that it is, after all, the wish of a child, that it is a wish-feeling of infantile strength only. I have a strong doubt whether an unfulfilled wish from the day would suffice to create a dream in an adult. It would rather seem that as we learn to control our impulses by intellectual activity, we more and more reject as vain the formation or retention of such intense wishes as are natural to childhood. In this, indeed, there may be individual variations; some retain the infantile type of psychic processes longer than others. The differences are here the same as those found in the gradual decline of the originally distinct visual imagination.

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