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Miller, L. (1985). Donald Meltzer: Dream-Life. Published by Clunie Press, 1984. Hardback £8.00.. J. Child Psychother., 11(2):112-114.

(1985). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 11(2):112-114

Donald Meltzer: Dream-Life. Published by Clunie Press, 1984. Hardback £8.00.

Review by:
Lisa Miller

Dr. Meltzer's aim is to remind us of the cardinal position that dream analysis occupies in the history, theory and practice of psychoanalysis, and to revive in us where necessary a fresh appetite for dreams. He has new ideas to offer. First, he runs through the theoretical background to these ideas by tracing once more his line of descent back through Bion and Klein to Freud. With Freud, who after all must be allowed a very special position in relation to the investigation of dreams since he thought of it first, Meltzer adopts an energetic and pugnacious approach. He is surprised to find such a difference and gap between the Freud whose work with the emotionality of patients could display such brilliance of intuition, such steadiness and clarity of response; and the Freud who found it more or less impossible to give emotionality a central place in his theories. Meltzer thinks that Freud's general theory of dreams is inadequate: although in practice Freud accorded dreams preeminence, in theory he underestimated their power and their function.

In this first section of his book Meltzer announces that he sees dreaming as linked with language development and artistic endeavour; he thus sees it as a process whose function is, as he says, to “generate meaning”. Dreaming is the mind perceived in its struggle to understand the truth of an emotional experience, the struggle to see and not to see things internal and external as they really are. To jump ahead with Meltzer's argument for a moment, he follows Bion in declaring that the mind needs truth as the body needs food: he sees dreaming as analagous to digestion, a process whereby a system works on what is fed into it to extract what is valuable and necessary for growth and maintenance.

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