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Spence, D.P. (1981). Toward a Theory of Dream Interpretation. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 4(3):383-405.
    

(1981). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 4(3):383-405

Toward a Theory of Dream Interpretation

Donald P. Spence, Ph.D.

In the present state of the art, psychoanalytic dream interpretation explains both too much and too little. Any given dream fragment, once it is put into words, will almost always be surrounded by more associations than we can ever exploit, and in what Glover (1952) has called the “hothouse” atmosphere of the analytic session, any number of links can be grown from the dream to other parts of the patient's history. The embarrassment of too many explanations prevents us, paradoxically, from seeing the absence of lawful correspondence; many of our clinical accounts are impressive tours de force, and dazzled by their sweep and grandeur, we fail to see the absence of general laws. While we may suppose that each explanation is mainly the local application of general principles to the specific case, a more careful look at selected examples will usually show the essentially ad hoc nature of each piece of reasoning.

Ad hoc features reveal themselves in several ways. First, there is the general absence of reversibility.

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