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Blum, H.P. (1964). Colour in Dreams. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:519-529.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:519-529

Colour in Dreams

Harold P. Blum


This paper investigates the metapsychology of colour in dreams. Colour vision is an autonomous ego function, and latent inherent colour in the hallucinatory dream imagery is queried. Current research suggests that colour may be present in the 'original' dream imagery, but usually fades rapidly in the remembered dream. When colour is reported spontaneously in the manifest dream content, it has received additional cathexis and serves definite psychological functions. Clinical and experimental evidence indicates that colour is more likely to appear in dreams where there is ego or superego reinforcement of voyeurism or colour perception. Visual sensory sensitivity, strong external colour stimulation or regressive shifts in the perceptual apparatus might also contribute to a heightened perceptual awareness of colour. The colours are ultimately derived from memories of perception, but are selectively used by the dream work. The dream and its day residues cannot be artificially isolated from the colour psychology of waking perception and imagery. Defensive alterations in hue, vividness, amount, or location may occur.

Colour in dreams may have a complex multiple function, and is frequently used by the ego for both camouflage and communication. It can conceal or reveal in subtle shades or blinding glare. Because of the colour differences of the skin, mucous membranes of the orifices, and internal body contents such as blood, faeces, urine, colour may be used to contrast and differentiate inner and outer in relation to the body. Colour is incorporated in the total body image,

which should be viewed as a colour concept. Colour may be important in the self-representation and identity, including sexual identity. As a corollary, the comparison of skin, hair, eye colour, etc. may be employed in the differentiation of self from object, or in an identification with an object. Structurally, dream colour may also represent instinctual strivings and superego demands, analogous to the shaping of the manifest dream imagery by the structural conflict. The different hues and shades may be bound to a particular object or the self, especially the breast, faeces, genitals. Particular colours may be bound to certain drive organizations and to specific affects. Interest in colour receives special impetus during the anal phase of development. Colour is usually closely associated with affect in waking life and in the dream. Central affects may 'colour' the personality and create a mood which is reflected in the dream.

Repetitive colour dreams may be related to traumatic events with visual shock in which colour was involved or defensively incorporated as a screen. The utilization of colour in screen memories is homologous to dream colour. Through synaesthesia colour may stimulate other sensory modalities such as sound or movement sensation and vice versa. The metaphorical and colloquial meaning of colour may be important in dreams, images, and verbal communication. The nature of the 'technicolour' dream is questioned. The psycho-analytic study of colour in dream imagery is applied to the meaning and function of colour in the visual arts. The dream work may illuminate the genesis and utilization of colour in sublimation. The role of colour in projective testing should be collated with dreams, and comparison with colour in hallucinations and fantasies is invited.

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