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Loewenstein, R.M. (1949). A Posttraumatic Dream. Psychoanal Q., 18:449-454.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:449-454

A Posttraumatic Dream

Rudolph M. Loewenstein, M.D.


This posttraumatic dream repeats the traumatic event and thus serves gradually to overcome its impact (2), (4). The reported dream, however, also has the structure of an ordinary dream. The traumatic event is not exactly reproduced, and the distortions are clearly the fulfilment of wishes (3). The wish fulfilment coincides with the overcoming of the traumatic event. The latter is repeated in the form which satisfies the wish-fulfilling function of the dream as well as the trend toward mastering the threatening reality.

In his childhood the patient renounced sexual activity, and, thanks to that, gained the security resulting from the elimination of the threat of castration. He benefited from this renunciation in the latency period by building up valuable sublimations. In the dream he once more eliminates by wish fulfilment the threat of danger, mainly in three ways:

He identifies himself with the man who escaped death through his courage and physical abilities. He thus transforms his own passivity in the rescue into an active feat.

He pictures himself as being reborn, adding to it, moreover, an active initiative.

He represents himself in the dream as fleeing from the tempting but prohibited sexual objects of his childhood (his mother and the laundress).

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