What is common in all these dreams is obvious. They completely satisfy wishes excited during the day which remain unrealized. They are simply and undisguisedly realizations of wishes.
The following child-dream, not quite understandable at first sight, is nothing else than a wish realized. On account of poliomyelitis a girl, not quite four years of age, was brought from the country into town, and remained over night with a childless aunt in a big—for her, naturally, huge—bed. The next morning she stated that she had dreamt that the bed was much too small for her, so that she could find no place in it. To explain this dream as a wish is easy when we remember that to be “big” is a frequently expressed wish of all children. The bigness of the bed reminded Miss Little-Would-be-Big only too forcibly of her smallness. This nasty situation became righted in her dream, and she grew so big that the bed now became too small for her.
Even when children’s dreams are complicated and polished, their comprehension as a realization of desire is fairly evident. A boy of eight dreamt that he was being driven with Achilles in a war-chariot, guided by Diomedes. The day before he was assiduously reading about great heroes. It is easy to show that he took these heroes as his models, and regretted that he was not living in those days.
From this short collection a further characteristic of the dreams of children is manifest—their connection with the life of the day. The desires which are realized in these dreams are left over from the day or, as a rule, the day previous, and the feeling has become intently emphasized and fixed during the day thoughts. Accidental and indifferent matters, or what must appear so to the child, find no acceptance in the contents of the dream.
Innumerable instances of such dreams of the infantile type can be found among adults also, but, as mentioned, these are mostly exactly like the manifest content. Thus, a random selection of persons will generally respond to thirst at night-time with a dream about drinking, thus striving to get rid of the sensation and to let sleep continue. Many persons frequently have these comforting dreams before waking, just when they are called. They then dream that they are already up, that they are washing, or already in school, at the office, etc., where they ought to be at a given time. The night before an intended journey one not infrequently dreams that one has already arrived at the destination; before going to a play or to a party the dream not infrequently anticipates, in impatience, as it were, the expected pleasure. At other times the dream expresses the realization of the desire somewhat indirectly; some connection, some sequel must be known—the first step towards recognizing the desire. Thus, when a husband related to me the dream of his young wife, that her monthly period had begun, I had to bethink myself that the young wife would have expected a pregnancy if the period had been absent. The dream is then a sign of pregnancy. Its meaning is that it shows the wish realized that pregnancy should not occur just yet. Under unusual and extreme circumstances, these dreams of the infantile type become very frequent. The leader of a polar expedition tells us, for instance, that during the wintering amid the ice the crew, with their monotonous diet and slight rations, dreamt regularly, like children, of fine meals, of mountains of tobacco, and of home.