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Summers, F. (2015). To Live in a Dream. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:232-243.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:232-243

To Live in a Dream

Frank Summers, Ph.D.

As is well known, Freud (1900) regarded his understanding of dreams as the greatest discovery he had made. the first six chapters of The Interpretation of Dreams are, in essence, a hermeneutic on how to understand the meaning of dreams. His contention was that dreams are disguised fulfillments of forbidden wishes, and by following the thread of the patient's associations, the analyst could discover the latent dream thoughts hidden beneath the manifest content of the dream.

In Chapter VII Freud shifts to a metapsychological explanation for how dreams are constructed by the psychic apparatus. He argues that psychic activity begins with stimuli and ends in innervations. At the sensory end perceptions are received, and at the motor end is the outlet for motor activity. In normal waking life, psychical processes advance from the sensory to the motoric systems, but in dreams, due to the repression barrier, the excitation moves backward from the motoric to the perceptual system, and that is why Freud regarded dreams as regressive. Regression may occur in waking life, also, but it stops at mnemic images, whereas in dreams, Freud believed, the reverse excitation reaches all the way back to a “hallucinatory revival of the perceptual images” (p. 543) that we call a dream. the dream images are, for Freud, epiphenomena that disguise the dream thoughts, or latent content, hidden beneath the manifest content of the dream. Because each dream image represents a repressed wish, the dream can be broken down into constituent dream thoughts, and the dream interpreted by uncovering the meaning of the individual dream elements.

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