A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis

By Sigmund Freud | Go to book overview

FIFTH LECTURE

THE DREAM

Difficulties and Preliminary Approach

ONE day the discovery was made that the disease symptoms of certain nervous patients have a meaning. 1 Thereupon the psychoanalytic method of therapy was founded. In this treatment it happened that the patients also presented dreams in place of their symptoms. Herewith originated the conjecture that these dreams also have a meaning.

We will not, however, pursue this historical path, but enter upon the opposite one. We wish to discover the meaning of dreams as preparation for the study of the neuroses. This inversion is justified, for the study of dreams is not only the best preparation for that of the neuroses, but the dream itself is also a neurotic symptom, and in fact one which possesses for us the incalculable advantage of occurring in all normals. Indeed, if all human beings were well and would dream, we could gain from their dreams almost all the insight to which the study of the neuroses has led.

Thus it is that the dream becomes the object of psychoanalytic research—again an ordinary, little-considered phenomenon, apparently of no practical value, like the errors with which, indeed, it shares the character of occurring in normals. But otherwise the conditions are rather less favorable for our work. Errors had been neglected only by science, which had paid little attention to them; but at least it was no disgrace to occupy one's self with them. People said there are indeed more important things, but perhaps something may come of it. Preoccupation with the dream, however, is not merely impractical and superfluous, but actually ignominious; it carries the odium of the unscientific, awakens the suspicion of a personal leaning towards mysticism. The idea of a physician busying himself with dreams when even in neuropathology and psychiatry there are matters so much

____________________
1
Josef Breuer, in the years 1880-1882. Cf. also my lectures on psychoanalysis, delivered in the United States in 1909.

-63-

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