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Anderson, J.W. (2015). Introduction. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:1-4.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:1-4


James William Anderson, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis and dreams could not be more intimately related. In creating psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud relied more on his dreams and the dreams of his patients than on any other source. the beginning of psychoanalysis can be dated to the day on which Freud first found what he saw as a convincing interpretation of one of his dreams, the dream later referred to as the dream of Irma's injection (see Bertram J. Cohler's essay, which looks at this dream in detail). Freud came to his understanding of the dream while staying during his summer vacation in a house in the Vienna Woods. He later wrote his close friend Wilhelm Fliess, “Do you suppose that someday one will read on a marble tablet on this house: ‘Here, on July 24, 1895, the secret of the dream revealed itself to Dr. Sigm. Freud.’” Freud added, “So far there is little prospect of it” (Masson, 1985, p. 417). the house no longer exists, but since 1977 there has been a marble tablet, with Freud's words, at the site.

What was the secret that Freud believed he had grasped? It was essentially that forces are constantly struggling within the mind, within the unconscious. Desires are in conflict with a person's sense of what is right and what is realistic. From that conflict, he argued, emerge not only dreams but psychiatric symptoms, Freudian slips, artistic creativity, and jokes. In interpreting dreams, he argued, one can trace back from the dream into the roiling struggles within the unconscious and get a sense of what goes on there.

Over the century since Freud created psychoanalysis through his examination of dreams, psychoanalysis and dreams have had a close relationship but one that has experienced its share of turmoil. Psychoanalysts never have stopped studying Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams or analyzing their patients' dreams. At times, however, dreams have seemed to recede into the background for at least two reasons. First, because Freud's theoretical framework is no longer dominant. Second, because studies of the brain have called into question the whole enterprise of ascribing meaning to dreams.

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