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Ehrenwald, J. (1951). Precognition in Dreams?. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(1):17-38.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Review, 38(1):17-38

Precognition in Dreams?

Jan Ehrenwald, M.D.


When Freud first took up the problem of telepathy in dreams some 15 years ago he did so with an open mind, presenting the evidence for what it was worth, discussing some of the most obvious objections to a telepathic interpretation, without, however, committing himself as to their true telepathic nature.

In the pages that follow I propose to discuss in much the same spirit an apparently precognitive dream of a patient undergoing psychoanalysis for an anxiety hysteria. The patient is a man of 38 who works as a floor manager in a big department store. He has been subject to severe attacks of anxiety in the subway and in the bus during the last nine months. More recently the attacks came over him also on crossing busy streets, in restaurants and even at the fountain counter of his store. Analysis showed that his symptoms were largely due to a defensive mechanism directed against unconscious homosexual impulses which were aggravated in the feared situations.

After initial difficulties the treatment made good progress. The patient had gradually become able to face repressed material without untoward emotional reactions and to overcome much of his anxiety although he had not been able as yet to go about his business without being accompanied by a friend.

His dreams showed unmistakable evidence of positive transference. At that time—in the 4th month of psychotherapy, consisting of three sessions a week—he produced the following dream which I quote verbatim from my record.

11/5/47. I was in the store. There was a guy who apparently worked for us. I had the feeling he was after something, ready to hold up the place. He had a large flip-open knife, opening it, closing it, suggesting he is a dangerous fellow. I got scared, called for Mr. X and Mr. Y to catch the man. I myself retreated into the telephone box to call the police to get him. All of a sudden the whole situation seemed to have dissolved. The guy was sitting there, I was talking to him. It was a much more friendly conversation. He took out the knife, flipped it open. It was not large any more—just half an inch or maybe one inch long.

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