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Hull, J.W. Lane, R.C. (1996). Repetitive Dreams and the Central Masturbation Fantasy. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(5):673-684.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(5):673-684

Repetitive Dreams and the Central Masturbation Fantasy

James W. Hull, Ph.D. and Robert C. Lane, Ph.D.

In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud identified two situations that can lead to repetitive dreams: early traumas of childhood and traumatic war experiences (Freud, 1920). He felt that in both cases the repetitive dream was an attempt to achieve retrospective mastery over a past traumatic event. In dreams that portray childhood traumas, what was originally a passive experience is converted into an active one. In traumatic war dreams, the person is taken back to the original anxiety situation, only to awaken in fright. In both types of dream there is an attempt to develop the anticipatory anxiety response that was missing during the original experience. This was in accord with Freud's view that the main purpose of all repetitions, including repetitive dreams, was to bind excess stimulation that had flowed into the mental apparatus.

A number of theorists since Freud have emphasized the adaptive, mastery function of dreams. This work is reviewed in detail by Jones (1970, 1979). Examples are Jung's (1956) emphasis on the unconscious compensatory function of dreams, Lowy's (1942) description of dreaming as a self-contained process of “psychoaffective regulation” that does not effect consciousness directly, and French and Fromm's (1964) view of dreams as attempts to solve interpersonal problems by embedding recent emotional dilemmas in a network of analogous problems and solutions from the past.

Other recent work on dreams has emphasized how their manifest content reflects salient aspects of the person's object relationships.

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