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Stein, M.H. (1989). How Dreams are Told: Secondary Revision—The Critic, the Editor, and the Plagiarist. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:65-88.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:65-88

How Dreams are Told: Secondary Revision—The Critic, the Editor, and the Plagiarist

Martin H. Stein, M.D.


Secondary revision is a highly provocative concept arising out of Freud's attempts to explain the construction of dreams, but it remains relatively ill-defined. It includes three related, yet by no means identical aspects of the process by which the dream acquires its more or less final form during the experiencing, the remembering, and the telling. It represents one of the most interesting hypotheses dealing with the fluid world between sleeping and waking, a field which still presents us with a host of unanswered questions.

Secondary revision not only reflects the higher levels of the dreamer's mental functioning superimposed on his biological substructure, but it also operates as a sensitive indicator of the cultural factors which have helped mold his personality. These factors include both the subculture of the analytic situation and the impact of society in the larger sense. I make reference to individual dreamers in analysis and to the world of dreams recorded in the past from our own and other cultures.

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