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Peyser, E.R. (1998). Classics Revisited: Erik Erikson's “The Dream Specimen in Psychoanalysis”. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(1):257-263.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(1):257-263

Classics Revisited: Erik Erikson's “The Dream Specimen in Psychoanalysis”

Ellen R. Peyser

Ellen Peyser, introducing the panel, described the relationship between the concepts presented in the preceding panel, on Erikson's Childhood and Society—modes, modalities, identity, and adult adaptation—and Erikson's ideas about the formal properties of the manifest dream. She emphasized the formal element in Erikson's thinking. Erikson, she argued, wanted to extend Freud's insight that unconscious mental processes influence and structure mental life. His focus was on the individual embedded in multiple contexts. Erikson understood, with Freud, that forms and configurations from one domain of experience can structure another. As Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer had pointed out earlier, Erikson thought that during psychosexual development each of the three zones, the oral-sensory, the anal, and the genital, is associated with organ modes of functioning (incorporative, retentive, eliminative, and intrusive) that are elaborated into social modalities and interactional patterns. His categories of zones, modes, and modalities allowed him to describe the translation of organ experiences into cognitive and affective experiences and finally into character and social interaction. Erikson's description of the dimensions of the manifest dream carried his analysis of configuration and representation in different realms of experience into “that special form of thinking made possible by the sleep state”— the dream.

Erikson's ego shapes and is shaped by its multiple contexts, Peyser said. Striving for mastery and synthesis, the ego works within and creates a spectrum of representational modes that represent experience in different forms.

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