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Capozzi, P. De Masi, F. (2001). The Meaning of Dreams in the Psychotic STATE: Theoretical Considerations and Clinical Applications. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 82(5):933-952.

(2001). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 82(5):933-952

The Meaning of Dreams in the Psychotic STATE: Theoretical Considerations and Clinical Applications

Paola Capozzi and Franco De Masi

Translated by:
Philip Slotkin

The authors consider that the Freudian theory of dreams is not directly applicable to psychotic and borderline patients with their constantly varying states of mental integration. Because these patients' dreams lack associations, the usual psychoanalytic approach cannot be used to ascertain their meaning. After reviewing the literature on the specific quality of dreams in the psychotic state, the authors point out that such dreams have nothing to do with the metaphorical language of the dream work but instead express the concreteness of the hallucinatory construction. For this reason, a dream's meaning may fail to be understood by the patient even if it seems clear to an observer. Yet the analyst's reception of a ‘psychotic dream’ is a unique and essential source of valuable information on the manner of construction of the delusional system, allowing analytic work on the psychotic nucleus. In the authors' view, such dreams may help the analyst and the patient—while still lucid—to acquire insight, thus affording a stable foundation for emergence from psychosis. The paper includes some case histories, in one of which a psychotic female patient is enabled by work on dreams to reconstruct a psychotic episode and thereby to ward off an imminent fresh lapse into psychosis.

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