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Greenberg, R. Pearlman, C. (1978). If Freud Only Knew: A Reconsideration of Psychoanalytic Dream Theory. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 5:71-75.

(1978). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 5:71-75

If Freud Only Knew: A Reconsideration of Psychoanalytic Dream Theory

R. Greenberg and C. Pearlman

In 'On Narcissism' Freud (1914) discussed the problem of formulating psychoanalytic ideas. He noted: 'These ideas are not the foundation of science, upon which everything rests: that foundation is observation alone. They are not the bottom but the top of the whole structure, and can be replaced and discarded without damaging it' (p.77). This comment is important in considering some of the questions we are going to raise about Freud's theories of dreaming. These theories are well established, have been codified and repeatedly presented without serious reconsideration of their observational base. Since their original formulation many new observations about dreaming have accrued and with the benefit of some of these observations we are going to reconsider certain aspects of Freud's theory.

We shall discuss some observations about the Irma dream of which Freud was apparently unaware. This dream has been a kind of touchstone originally presented by Freud as a prime example of his wish-fulfilment theory and then reconsidered by Erikson in an effort to enlarge our understanding of the process of dreaming and dream formation. We shall discuss some additional material about this dream reported by Schur (1966), and on the basis of an expanded field of observation raise questions about some of our basic concepts of dreaming.

To begin, we should note that in 'The Interpretation of Dreams' Freud (1900) clearly demonstrated the meaningfulness of dreams. He frequently interpreted his own dreams to show this meaning and from them derived theories about the mechanisms of dream formation and dream function.

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