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Kanzer, M. (1955). The Communicative Function of the Dream. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 36:260-266.

(1955). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 36:260-266

The Communicative Function of the Dream

Mark Kanzer, M.D.


i. The dream serves a communicative function—directly in terms of introjected objects, and indirectly in relation to the external world. Both clinical data and theoretical considerations are adduced in support of this proposition. Sleep is not a phenomenon of primary but rather of secondary narcissism, at least after early infancy, and the sleeper shares his slumbers with an introjected object.

ii. The language of the dream, as an expression of this fact, may be traced regressively from the spoken word to identifications and the sensorimotor interchanges at the ego boundaries. Archaically, dream imagery serves to regulate the latter through control of the sphincters, which are represented in the censorship.

iii. Impulses to communicate (or break-off communication) may be traced through the approach or recession of objects in dreams, through exhibitionistic and examination situations, etc., through accompanying bed-wetting and orgasms, and through impulses to act out and report one's dreams. Analytic therapy finds the analyst drawn into the intrapsychic as well as external communicative system of the dreamer.

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