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Coen, S.J. Bradlow, P.A. (1985). The Common Mirror Dream, Dreamer, and the Dream Mirror. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 33:797-820.

(1985). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 33:797-820

The Common Mirror Dream, Dreamer, and the Dream Mirror

Stanley J. Coen, M.D. and Paul A. Bradlow, M.D.


From the widely diverse category of so-called mirror dreams, we have differentiated the most frequent, which we have designated the common mirror dream (CMD). It is one in which the dreamer at some point looks into a mirror and reports seeing himself, a part of himself or a distorted though recognizable version of himself. Mirror dreams, including CMDs, are distinctly uncommon. Every dreamer of CMDs in our series had felt enjoined by the mother (in most cases with the father's collusion) not to see and regard her clearly and not to be an accurately reflecting mirror for her. The intensity with which the maternal injunction against accurate visual perception and evaluation was feared was an important distinguishing feature in our patients with CMDs.

The essence of the CMD has been hypothesized to be a

reciprocal, reverberating, visual-exhibitionistic dyad representative of the mother-child relationship. The dream mirror may represent the wish that the analyst-mother counter a feared parental injunction against accurate visual perception and evaluation so as to correct the distorted perceptions of self and objects and provide visual affirmation of the value and integrity of the self-representation. For some patients, defense against the dangers of castration and loss of maternal love was accomplished by the mirror mechanisms of magically transforming images in the mirror, the ease of creating illusion in the mirror, and a fetishistic mechanism of visually reintrojecting a phallic symbol from the mirror.

Our data failed to confirm many of the hypotheses of previous contributors as to specific symbolic meanings of the dream mirror. More relevant than the symbolism of the dream mirror are the many functions of the dream mirror for the dreamer. These are analyzed and discussed.

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