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Canestri, J. (2015). Dreams, Semiosis, and Interpretation: Dreams in Contemporary Clinical Practice. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:215-231.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:215-231

Dreams, Semiosis, and Interpretation: Dreams in Contemporary Clinical Practice

Jorge Canestri, M.D.

The analysis of dreams is common in contemporary clinical practice as it was in the past, but there are changes in attitude in both the use that we make today of dreams in the analytical process and the position we assign to the analysis of dreams in theory.

In order to evaluate these changes in attitude, however, we need to determine what has not changed. Freud found himself faced with a similar problem when he wrote New Introductory Lectures (1933). Lecture XXIX begins:

Ladies and Gentlemen,—If, after an interval of more than fifteen years, I have brought you together again to discuss with you what novelties, and what improvements it may be, the intervening time has introduced into psycho-analysis, it is right and fitting from more than one point of view that we should turn our attention first to the position of the theory of dreams…. Since then, too, the theory of dreams has remained what is most characteristic and peculiar about the young science…. the strangeness of the assertions it was obliged to put forward has made it play the part of a shibboleth, the use of which decided who could become a follower of psycho-analysis and to whom it remained forever incomprehensible [p. 7].

Perhaps the point I should begin with is the same as that with which Freud began: recognizing that today the role that the dream plays in analysis, even though it does not discriminate the Ephraimites from the Gileadites and consequently does not involve any risk of death, is still an authentic shibboleth.

If I ask myself which significant changes there have been in the role that dreams have in contemporary clinical practice, I am confronted with a list of variable dimensions.

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