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Crenshaw, H. (1916). Retaliation Dreams. Psychoanal. Rev., 3(4):391-393.

(1916). Psychoanalytic Review, 3(4):391-393

Retaliation Dreams

Hansell Crenshaw, M.D.

Freud has shown conclusively, as I think, that nearly all dreams are wish-fulfilling processes, and that the function of the dream is to satisfy in a measure those desires and psychic trends which custom, cultural restraint, and circumstances habitually repress during the waking state. Logically enough the exponents of this conception of the dream ascribe to most, though not to all dreams a sexual significance; because no other desire appears to be so universal and so much repressed as is the one responsible for race perpetuation.

There are, however, other deep-seated and persistent psychic impulses seeking liberation besides the wish for sexual gratification; and perhaps chief among these is the desire for revenge. Either good breeding, fear of consequences, or religious considerations may render retaliation to this or that infringement upon one's rights impracticable, if not actually impossible. A priori, then, it appears that a considerable proportion of dreams should be spite dreams, or dreams of revenge.

In the writings of Freud and others of the psychoanalytic school, however, I have failed to find specific recognition of retaliation as an independent function of the dream.

Bearing in mind that the manifest part of any dream admits of more than one interpretation because over-determined by the latent thoughts for which it stands, I shall present here, in briefest outline, a few dreams obviously of the retaliation type:

1. H., a man of thirty, dreamed that he saw a certain elderly gentleman stumble while walking the street, and that the old man swore profusely. Whereupon H. remarked tauntingly: “I think you are the person who reproved me the other day for swearing.”

A day or so before the dream the old gentleman in question did reprove H. for extravagance of speech and good-humored indulgence in profane words. The older man contended that such language is inelegant, useless, and weak; and while H. accepted the reproof with apparent good grace, nevertheless he harbored subconsciously a feeling of skepticism and desire for retaliation towards his elderly adviser.

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