Argemone's Dream. Kingsley's Yeast, 1848, p. 35, Everyman's.
What the little imp who managed this puppet show on Argemone's brain stage, may have intended to symbolize thereby, and whence he stole his actors and stage properties, and whether he got up the interlude for his own private fun, or for that of a choir of brother Eulenspiegels, or finally for the edification of Argemone as to her own history, past, present or future, are questions which we must leave unanswered ‘til physicians have become a little more of metaphysicians and have given up their present plan of ignoring for nine hundred and ninety-nine pages that most awful and significant custom of dreaming, and then in the thousandth page talking the baldest materialistic twaddle about it.
This evening I was a bit tired of writing. My wife had just been playing the victrola. My pencil was worn down and I went downstairs to sharpen it in a rotary pencil sharpener affixed to my wife's desk. The next thing I knew, I was trying to insert the pencil point into the victrola's needle socket.
It occurred to me that the incident might have passing interest as an example of conditioned response and of the physical basis of displaced wishfulfilment in “the psychopathology of everyday life.” A possible symbolic undercurrent which would be projected into the experience by the conditioned responses of a Freudian was a skeptical afterthought to the writer.
Some Dream Experiences
Does a settled fear of some thing or condition causedreams, or may dreamscause an inexplicable fear? The answer has not been found as yet, but there seems to be a close connection. In illustration, may I be allowed to cite an experience of my own.
For many years, beginning I hardly know when, but lasting well into my late forties, I had the following recurrent dream experience at irregular intervals. I find myself in charge of an elevator and unable to stop it. The elevator is of the old fashioned type, controlled by a rope, and I seem quite unable to handle that rope so as to stop at any desired point, or indeed to stop at all. I near the top at a dangerous speed. My heart is in my mouth. I tug at the rope, but so strongly that the car speeds earthward. Again terror grips me,
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but my attempt to stop at the first floor is no more successful than my previous effort to stop before being thrown through the roof. And so I oscillate between the basement and the top floor with disaster barely averted at each end of the journey, and the speed increasing at every trip until I awake with my heart going like a triphammer. (Query: Is this cardiac disturbance the cause or the effect of the dream?)
Over and over I used to have that dream. Naturally, though not logically, I avoided elevators unless there was an operator in charge. In the building where I am at present employed there is an elevator of this description, but I have passed it many a time and walked up three flights of stairs rather than run it myself. It was all right if there were some other person to handle it. Then I had no hesitation in getting aboard. Came the day I chanced to meet in the basement right at the door of the elevator a lady who used the elevator daily. “Going up, Mr. H—?” she asked me. “Why, er—certainly” I stammered in reply. She stepped in and naturally moved to the back of the car. There was no possible retreat for me. My knees shaking, I gave a tug at the rope. My spirits rose with the elevator and when it came to a gentle stop at the top floor I felt a weight slip from my mind. The recognition of my ability to run the elevator without catastrophe brought with it the consciousness that I had conquered that particular fear once and for all. What I did not know then was that I had also conquered that dream, for it never returned after that. Whether the dream or the fear was the cause and the other the effect I have never been able to decide.
I recall another recurring dream of my earlier days. I am a youth again working, or at least living on a farm. But the owner, an old woman, hates me and wants to get rid of me. She glares at me as I eat my dinner; my belongings mysteriously disappear; my bed is removed from my room, or the door is locked against me when night comes. And yet it is impossible for me to leave at this time. I must stand it a little while longer. So goes the dream, and in the morning I go forth ready to dodge at my shadow.
As I was thinking over this dream one day, it occurred to me that it was intimately connected with a certain definite condition in my life. I amused myself by tracing out the connection, wondering that it had never come into my mind before. Why it is I can not pretend to say, but the old woman has never haunted me since, although the condition which apparently was connected with the dream still exists.
The subconscious mind seemingly is like a gopher. Expose its paths to the light of day and they are abandoned.
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Smoking as a Symbol in a Woman's Dream
Some clinical observations on the symbolism of tobacco and the act of smoking have been reported by Brill1 and Hiller.2 In an otherwise ordinary analysis I came across a dream in which smoking occupied an interesting position which confirms some of the observations of Brill and Hiller and for which their case material is meagre.
A married woman, age thirty-five, with two children, a graduate of an eastern women's college, was under analysis for “housewife's neurosis.” She commonly smoked cigarettes, as did her husband who never touched a cigar. Her father smoked cigars almost continuously. The patient's husband referred to his father-in-law's brand as “Stinkerenos.” Her husband was very slender, her father very stout.
At the age of nineteen she had had her first heterosexual experience while spending a week-end from—College in New York City.
For some time she had known a man twenty years her senior who was stout, an incessant smoker of cigars, and considerable of a roué. She, of her own initiative, asked him to take her to his apartment. He appeared to be reluctant to do this and referred to her as “young enough to be my daughter.” She insisted, however, and spent the night with him. Later she discovered that he had pinched her buttocks so that they were discolored for several days.
Two years later she became engaged to a man a few years her senior who was tall, stout and athletic. Her father objected strongly to the match, which was broken at his command. Several later suitors were objected to by her parent until her present husband, who is very different from her father, appeared. She accepted him as the only way of retaining the parent's favor and of satisfying rather strong heterosexual trends.
Her married life was generally unsatisfactory, although her husband provided a comfortable home and was earning a good salary. During copulation she would elaborate phantasies of animals and would scratch and pinch herself; unless this was done her autonomic tensions would not be relieved by her mate who suffered ejaculatio precox and she would lie awake the major portion of the night, continuing her phantasies.
During analysis an episode which took place in her fourth year was uncovered. Her father had discovered her innocently playing with the genitals of a male dog and spanked her severely. This was the only corporal punishment she received. During the punishment her buttocks were scratched by a ring on her father's hand. This was
noticed soon afterward, much to the father's chagrin, and precipitated a comforting stroking of the region of the scratch.
This information is preliminary to the dream, which took place early in the analysis. A country place had been purchased by the two families in which it was planned that they live together. This against my advice. The dream took place before they had moved to the new home and following a day of planning on the part of the patient regarding the furnishing and decorating of the rooms of the new house.
In the dream the patient was reclining on a peculiar divan, partially robed. She was smoking a large, fat cigar. The smoke was drawn slowly, retained in the mouth for some time, and then great volumes of it were expelled from the mouth, after which the cigar was taken from the mouth, shortly to be replaced and the operation repeated. Great satisfaction was experienced in retaining the smoke in the mouth. The cigar seemed to provide smoke without limit and without the cigar diminishing in the least.
The dream closed with the patient's mother appearing, looking horrified, and the patient blowing great clouds of cigar smoke in the mother's face. The patient awoke breathing heavily, as though the smoke had started to sicken her.
The symbolism of this is quite transparent and furnished the leading clue to her neurosis. The divan, upon association, was found to have elements in common with one she had used during the episode at nineteen, and brought that experience to light.
Donald A.Laird, PH.D.,
The Washington Psychoanalytic Association, Washington, D. C., was organized April 11, 1924, for the purpose of furthering and disseminating knowledge relative to psychoanalysis. The membership is restricted to physicians who, in order to be admitted, must present a thesis containing the history of one case, successfully analyzed by the applicant. Another requirement is that, before an applicant may be considered for admittance, he must present evidence of having been successfully analyzed by a competent psychoanalyst. The present officers of the association are: Wm. A. White, M.D., President; Joseph C. Thompson, M.D., Vice-President; Lucille Dooley, M.D., Secretary and Treasurer. The other charter members are Philip S. Graven, M.D., Louis D. Hubbard, M.D., and Benjamin Karpman, M.D.
The following papers have so far been presented: An Analysis of a Case of Vampirism, by Philip S. Graven, M.D.; Freudian Mechanisms, by Joseph C. Thompson, M.D.; The Psychopathology of Exhibitionism, with report of a case, by Ben Karpman, M.D.; A Case of Obsession with Phobias, by Lucille Dooley, M.D.; Rank's Modification of the Psychoanalytic Technic, by William A. White, M.D.
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A Correction: In the January number, 1924, of the Psychoanalytic Review an abstract of E. Jones' communication, “Persons in Dreams Disguised as Themselves,” is so rendered as to give little significance of the real meaning of the communication. The author says in extenso:
“I have repeatedly met with a remarkable form of disguise in dreams which does not seem to have received much attention, although it is one that can be particularly misleading to the analyst. Its characteristics are as follows: A well-known figure appears in the dream, most often a parent, clear and unmistakable. The associations, however, lead just as unmistakably to another person, and are of such a kind as evidently to apply to the latter. One is thus bound to say that the familiar person in the dream is for some reason replacing the other, and in interpreting the dream one has to substitute the second person in the place of the first. Many analyses go no further than this quite correct procedure, no suspicion being aroused. Yet when one reflects on the matter one finds it peculiar—and contrary to our experience otherwise—that a familiar image, and one dating from the earliest infancy, should represent one of later date and of less psychical significance to the dreamer. To accept such a state of affairs as a definite explanation would be to approximate to the views held by Adler, Jung, and Maeder, according to which a recently acquired and often highly abstract notion can be ‘symbolized’ by a more concrete and personal image dating from infancy, i.e., the very opposite to the general findings of psychoanalysis. The dreams in question afford a very good test as to which view is nearer to the truth.”
“On paying attention to all the details of such dreams it will be found that what may be called the ‘current’ interpretation does not cover them as completely as it at first seemed to, some really relating to the actual dream person. On pursuing the analysis it will also be discovered that the ‘dream thoughts’ concerning the second person who is concealed behind the dream figure are really of the nature of transferences from repressed infantile material which once referred to the original person, the dream figure, and still does so in the unconscious.”
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E., T.D. (1925). Varia. Psychoanal. Rev., 12(2):244-248