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Wisdom, J.O. (1949). A Hypothesis to Explain Trauma-Re-Enactment Dreams. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 30:13-20.

(1949). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 30:13-20

A Hypothesis to Explain Trauma-Re-Enactment Dreams

J. O. Wisdom

§ 1. Need-Fulfilment

Freud's fundamental and revolutionary hypothesis was that dreams are wish-fulfilments, but the general problem arises whether we can understand all dreams in this way.

It will be convenient to write "need" instead of "wish". The need involved is recognizably a need, in the way in which one may recognize a need in another person or in oneself. This does not necessarily preclude the use of "phantasies of which a person, awake or asleep, is unconscious" as equivalent to "need", though some would prefer to distinguish these and say that only when a need is directly felt as such can it manifest itself as a wish. The reason why the change of terminology is convenient here is that the general result becomes easier to express: for it is natural to use "wish" as an abbreviation for "pleasure-wish", so that a wish is either a pleasure-need or the acceptance of a pleasure-need; but here we shall have also to take account of needs that are unpleasurable or lead to unpleasure.

The obvious difficulty about the hypothesis is that anxiety-dreams do not fulfil pleasure-needs. To discuss this it is convenient to divide dreams into four classes: (i) those that are wholly pleasurable; (ii) those that are more or less pleasurable; (iii) anxiety-dreams consisting of punishment-dreams; and (iv) anxiety-dreams consisting of trauma-re-enactment dreams.

With regard to punishment-dreams, the criticism that they do not fulfil pleasure-needs has never impressed psycho-analysts, because they hold that it contains a very elementary mistake: the dream consists of a story in images and the image-story is called the "manifest content"; but what this expresses—the interpreted pattern—is called the "latent content"; and it is to the latent content alone that the pleasure-need is attributed.

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