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Mahony, P.J. (1977). Towards a Formalist Approach to Dreams. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 4:83-98.

(1977). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 4:83-98

Towards a Formalist Approach to Dreams

Patrick J. Mahony

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

T. S. ELIOT, The Four Quartets

In 1923 Freud strove to make a distinction between two kinds of dreams, those 'from above' and those 'from below':

Dreams from below are those which are provoked by the strength of an unconscious (repressed) wish which has found a means of being represented in some of the day's residues. They may be regarded as inroads of the repressed into waking life. Dreams from above correspond to thoughts or intentions of the day before which have contrived during the night to obtain reinforcement from repressed material that is debarred from the ego (Freud, 1923ap. 111).

Six years later Freud (1929) specified the nature of 'dreams from above' more elaborately: 'they are formulations of ideas which could have been created just as well in a waking state as during the state of sleep, and which have derived their content only in certain parts from mental states at a comparatively deep level.' And finally, in 1940 Freud concluded, 'In short, dreams may arise either from the id or from the ego' (p. 166).

I should like to caution against a hasty classification of any dream as an ego dream, as one 'from above'—and perhaps even this genetic category itself might be reconsidered at least for some instances.

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