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Marcus, E.R. (2003). Medical student dreams about medical school: The unconscious developmental process of becoming a physician. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 84(2):367-386.

(2003). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 84(2):367-386

Educational and Professional Issues

Medical student dreams about medical school: The unconscious developmental process of becoming a physician

Eric R. Marcus

This paper is a report on a collection of almost four hundred dreams of medical students and postgraduate trainees with the manifest content about medical training. It is a unique dream collection from a defined population that experiences a developmental sequence of observable, reality events. The reality events appear in the manifest content of the dreams along with their symbolic alterations. The dreams are used as a psychodynamic database. The data may illustrate which reality experiences seem psychologically formative, their emotional developmental sequences and their specific emotional content. This is a pilot project exploring whether dream material collected from a discrete task group might give information about a group's emotional adaptation. The dreams seem to show an unconscious developmental process in response to medical training and becoming a physician that unfolds in overlapping stages as trainees learn to master skills and tolerate care-giving responsibility for human life. A progressive, unconscious hero-healer fantasy seems to form. It becomes elaborated in masochistic and then sadistic fantasies. These fantasies are evoked by, and used as a defense against, inevitable but painful anxieties of emotional adaptation to medical education experiences.

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