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Strachey, A.S. (1922). Analysis of a Dream of Doubt and Conflict. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 3:154-162.

(1922). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 3:154-162

Analysis of a Dream of Doubt and Conflict

A. S. Strachey

The patient, a married woman, but childless, brought the following series of three dreams dreamed in one night.

First Dream:

'I had eaten a slice of cake that had been put by in a tin. My husband commented on the fact. I replied that he would still find the slice there; that it was not eaten. He again pointed out that I had eaten it. I wanted to tell him that I thought I had only eaten it in my dream; but all I could say was that I had somehow not really eaten it, and that he would still find it in the tin.'


I had come home after dinner in the evening, and had felt tempted to eat a piece of cake that had been put out for me. My husband intimated that it might spoil my digestion if I did, and I put the cake in a tin to keep it till the next day.

The emphasis on the word 'really':

In a manuscript that I had been correcting on the previous evening, I had had to read a difficult passage aloud several times over. The sentence contained an italicized word, the word "appearance", in the sense of being opposed to reality.

It is evident from the complication of the dream, and from the importance attached in it to the question of having or not having eaten the slice of cake, that the slice of cake cannot in this instance have a straightforward meaning. As is known to psychoanalysts, eating something, in its symbolic meaning, very commonly represents becoming pregnant. It has probably received this meaning from infantile theories of conception, the most general of which is that pregnancy takes place through the mouth, from swallowing some kind of food. The question whether the patient had really eaten the cake or not would therefore resolve itself into the question whether she was with child or not.

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