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Ginzburg, A. (2009). Time and the Unconscious. Ital. Psychoanal. Annu., 3:217-223.

(2009). The Italian Psychoanalytic Annual, 3:217-223

Time and the Unconscious Language Translation

Alessandra Ginzburg

Translated by:
Carol Cannody

An example from Freud on how time is dealt with in dreams. A patient dreams: «A11 the people were especially big». «That means», she went on, «that the dream must be to do with events in my early childhood, for at that time, of course, all grown-up people seemed to me enormously big» […]. The fact of a dream referring to childhood may also be expressed in another way, namely by a translation of time into space. The characters and scenes are seen as though they were at a great distance, at the end of a long road, or as though they were being looked at through the wrong end of a pair of opera-glasses» (Freud, 1900, 408).

The Cave Dream

The dream I am presenting was dreamt by Marco, a patient in his early forties that I have been seeing three times a week only over the last few months. He is an extremely sensitive and creative person who suffers great pain in his affective relationships, as he finds that the men he falls in love with do not return the sentiment. I was struck from the start by the disparity between the generosity with which he experiences his feelings for others and the harshness he reserves for himself and his needs, which borders on anorexia.

His great attachment to his father emerges immediately, as Marco invested heavily in his love for this paternal figure from an early age (probably instead of a very young mother who was overwhelmed by maternity, having had her children too close together, one after the other), regardless of the fact that his father consistently rejected his son, as he was too different in all respects from what the father wished. Despite the fact that he fought his father for the right to follow the career that he had chosen when still a boy, Marco seems to treat himself with the exact same severe and punitive criteria that caused him so much pain and suffering in his family life.

After provoking an initial rush of emotion, what then immediately struck me about the dream was the enormous quantity of references to time contained in it, which in turn led me to reflect on how the unconscious deals with the issue of time in oneiric representations.


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