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Lewin, B.D. (1954). Sleep, Narcissistic Neurosis, and the Analytic Situation. Psychoanal Q., 23:487-510.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:487-510

Sleep, Narcissistic Neurosis, and the Analytic Situation

Bertram D. Lewin, M.D.

In the first part of this paper I continue a previous train of thought, comparing dreams and the narcissistic neuroses; in the second part I follow a different path and comment upon sleep and its relation to analysis as a technique and therapy.


I begin with a reference to two papers of Freud, published in the same volume of the Zeitschrift (IV). One is The Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams, the other, Mourning and Melancholia, both of which powerfully affected psychoanalytic thought. To unify theory and combine the work on dreams with that on the neuroses, in the Supplement, Freud formally introduced into dream theory the concept of narcissism. The dream was treated in theory as if it were a variety of psychosis: sleep was an expression of primary narcissism to which the libido had regressed, while in dreaming the ego expressed itself regressively in hallucinations. The purpose of dreaming was to rechannel leftover disturbers and impulses, so that they should not waken the sleeper but, instead, come to hallucinatory wish fulfilment. The dream, accordingly, was a psychosis due to the wish to sleep. In the fact of the dream, Freud takes pains to point out, there is evidence that the narcissistic regression is not complete, or, as he puts it, 'the narcissism of sleep has to admit an exception'. The dream is evoked by and attests to the fact that there is a certain amount of leftover waking libidinal or ego interest.


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