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Toffelmier, G. Luomala, K. (1936). Dreams and Dream Interpretation of the Diegueño Indians of Southern California. Psychoanal Q., 5:195-225.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:195-225

Dreams and Dream Interpretation of the Diegueño Indians of Southern California

Gertrude Toffelmier and Katharine Luomala


Our study of the function of dreams among the Diegueño Indians furnishes us with an example of a primitive people to

whom dreams and their interpretation constitute a vital part of the culture pattern. The investigation of this phase of their culture has been assigned to rigidly trained dream doctors whose specialty it is to interpret dreams and to use them as a probe into the problems of their neurotic patients. Their interpretation extends beyond the ordinary prophetic or fortune-telling symbols (interpretation by opposition) met with among most savage peoples who are at all concerned with their dreams. The Diegueño recognize the existence of functional mental disorders and that when members of the tribe by their asocial behavior become a menace to themselves, their families and society, they require professional treatment in which their dreams are of importance in gaining insight into the neurotic condition. Dreams reveal to the dream doctor the patient's conflicts and desires, which are usually of a sexual nature. A system of therapy has been developed according to which sexual hysterias are classified and treated with due recognition of individual variation in symptom formation. It is a claim of the dream doctor that although he knows his patient's dreams before he hears them, due to his magic powers, therapeutic value lies in the narration of the dreams by the patient and in the free communication between doctor and patient. These dreams are, for the most part, direct sexual dreams with little symbolism, so that the dream doctor interprets them literally according to his "love dream" classification. However, in the case of his own dreams our informant was not completely satisfied by his direct interpretation proceeding from the manifest content; he appeared to suspect the existence of a latent content which caused him uneasiness, but to which he had not, nevertheless, directed his conscious attention. Certain wishfulfillment dreams, such as the dream of a wife's death, have been standardized and classified as common dreams whose meanings are patient to everyone. The toloache medicine

name indicative of sexual prowess also appears to be a conventionalized wish-fulfillment dream limited to witch doctors. The hunting culture of the Diegueño and the modifications in the mode of life introduced by white culture are clearly reflected in the manifest content of the dream. We have seen from our examination of Doctor X.'s individual dreams that the affect of an anxiety dream varies with the tribal status of the dreamer and becomes exaggerated when the status, social or sexual, is menaced.

We feel that the type of material we have collected should be of value to psychologists and anthropologists interested in the rôle of dreaming in primitive cultures and the influence of culture patterns upon individual behavior and dreaming. It is only from a comparative study of several Indian tribes that we could feel justified in drawing far-reaching conclusions. At the present time the ethnographic data are inadequate but from recent tendencies in anthropological field work it is likely that it will yet be possible to make such a comparative study.

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