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Erikson, E.H. (1954). The Dream Specimen of Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 2:5-56.

(1954). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2:5-56

The Dream Specimen of Psychoanalysis

Erik Homburger Erikson


Before embarking on advanced exercises in the clinical use of dream interpretation, it seems an attractive task to return, once more, to the "first dream ever subjected to an exhaustive interpretation." This, of course, is Freud's dream of his patient Irma (6). While Freud has by no means published a full account of his exhaustive analysis, he, nevertheless, has offered this dream to his students as the original dream "specimen." For this reason [and for others, only dimly felt up to the time when Freud's letters to Fliess (9) were published] the "Irma Dream" has imprinted itself on the minds of many as a truly historical document; and it seems instructive to discuss this dream once more with the specific purpose of enlarging upon some aspects of dream interpretation which we today, half a century later, would consider essential to an exhaustive analysis.

As we review in our minds the incidents of dream analysis in our daily practice and in our seminars and courses, it must be strikingly clear that the art and ritual of "exhaustive" dream analysis has all but vanished.

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