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Lewin, B.D. (1948). The Nature of Reality, the Meaning of Nothing, with an Addendum on Concentration. Psychoanal Q., 17:524-526.

(1948). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 17:524-526

The Nature of Reality, the Meaning of Nothing, with an Addendum on Concentration

Bertram D. Lewin, M.D.


Freud states that if a sense of reality accompanies a dream, analysis will show that one or more latent thoughts in it do in fact refer to something real. As an example, he cites a dream accompanied by a sense of reality, in which two pears that the dreamer is given represent the maternal breasts, which the dreamer had once indeed received. The quality of realness in the dream indicates the reality present in the original situation.

One of my patients had a strong castration complex which prevented him from looking at a nude woman. Discussing reality, not in a dream but more abstractly, he lamented that he had never been able to see it starkly. 'I have never faced reality', he said sadly, 'I haven't faced reality since the day I was born'. This equation of reality with the mother's gential differs from the one cited by Freud. However, there are many attitudes to reality, according to whether it is faced optimistically or pessimistically. Proverbially, the optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole.

So far as I have noted, the idea 'reality', as it appears in free associations, stands for the female genitalia. I have been correct in anticipating remarks about the female genital following a patient's expression of thoughts about reality. It occurred to me to check up on some of the literature and see what others have recorded. The Wolf-man's famous dream left him with a strong sense of reality. Among the real things referred to was the real aspect of the vagina. In Ruth Mack Brunswick's paper on paranoid jealousy two pages are devoted to two dreams that had an intense sense of reality. The first dream depicts the patient, a woman, in bed with a woman; the patient is instructed to hold the woman's labia open with one hand and rub the clitoris with the other. The patient has an intense orgasm in the dream and awakes with a feeling of absolute reality; in fact, she examines her own geital with her hand, finds that she is menstruating and wearing a napkin, and only this convinces her that she was dreaming.

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