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Rycroft, C. (1951). A Contribution to the Study of the Dream Screen. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:178-184.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:178-184

A Contribution to the Study of the Dream Screen

Charles Rycroft


In this paper I wish to report an example of a dream without visual content of the type described by Lewin in his paper, 'Sleep, the Mouth and the Dream Screen' (1946), and to make some suggestions as to the clinical and theoretical significance of such dreams.

In his second paper on the dream screen Lewin (1948) writes: The dream screen is 'defined as the blank background upon which the dream picture appears to be projected. The term was suggested by the motion picture, because, like its analogue in the cinema, the dream screen is either not noted by the dreaming spectator, or it is ignored due to the interest in the pictures and action that appear on it. However in certain circumstances the screen plays a rôle of its own and becomes perceptible.' … Like other formal elements in dreams the screen has a meaning in itself. It 'represents the idea of "sleep"; it is the element of the dream that betokens the fulfilment of the cardinal wish to sleep, which Freud considered responsible for all dreaming. Also it represents the maternal breast, usually flattened out, as the infant might perceive it while falling asleep. It appears to be the equivalent or the continuation in sleep, of the breast hallucinated in certain predormescent states, occasionally observed in adults (Isakower, 1938).' Dreams occur which have as their visual element the dream screen alone, without any superimposed dream picture. Such dreams represent 'complete fulfilments of the wish to sleep at the maternal breast after nursing'.

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