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Sterba, R. (1928). An Examination Dream. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 9:353-354.

(1928). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 9:353-354

An Examination Dream

Richard Sterba

One of my patients had fairly regularly, at intervals of two or three months, a dream about his matriculation examination. In the dream he was always doing a paper in Latin or mathematics. Invariably the dreamer lived through the last few minutes before the time was up. He had not yet begun to translate or to work out the problems, and the examiner announced that there would be five minutes more. His comrades held out their papers for him to copy and tried to prompt him, but he was incapable of even guiding his pen; the figures or letters became a blur, and he experienced the whole torment of the situation of not being able to perform or complete a task—only to awake with a sense of great relief and satisfaction at the thought that his school-days were long since over. So far, these dreams are typical and do not require any special mention; but the subject's previous history is worth noting from a theoretical point of view. In the Traumdeutung we read that a colleague had remarked to Freud that, so far as he knew, the matriculation dream only occurred in people who had passed the examination, and never in those who had failed in it.

Now the dreams in question are peculiar owing to the fact that the dreamer had never taken the matriculation examination.

Let me first give some analytical data in connection with the dream. The fact that the examination was always in mathematics or Latin is easily explained. The patient's father was a professor of mathematics; the Latin Professor at the time when the patient was a schoolboy was clearly a father-substitute.

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