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Hagood, L. (2007). Dreamplay. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(3):475-491.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(3):475-491


Louis Hagood

There is dreamplay as well as dreamwork. Like childrens' play, dreams can be curative and instructive, but they are play-dream-play. Play can be serious; life and death can be the stakes, but it is only play. Only a dream. Children confront the trauma of otherness and duality in play. Birth and separation can be painful, a loss of completeness, like Plato's people split apart to seek their lost partner eternally. Play attempts to heal the separation, to reconcile the splits and the loss. It utilizes both the concrete and the imaginal as well as the overlap between the two in an effort to digest the alien and make it familiar.

Freud in his writings on psychoanalytic technique encouraged the therapist to allow fantasy to flourish in almost complete freedom, as in a “playground.” He discouraged client “acting out” wishes and fantasies outside of therapy but encouraged “acting in” the transference or therapy relationship. In the safety of the therapist's office the fantasies can be expressed symbolically and verbally, by client and therapist, giving them consciousness and meaning. Freud (1990) described dream as another playground for word play, jokes, relationships, and images in The Interpretation of Dreams.

While Freud observed childhood play similarly in the “fortda” game with the spool, it was later that his daughter Anna and Melanie Klein made child's play an analytic setting. Klein's follower Winnicott, a pediatrician, extended his analytic work with children to adults, calling psychotherapy “two people playing together” in his book Playing and Reality (1971). Like the play of mother and child, a transitional space is created with an overlap between the me and the not-me, where objects are neither found or created.

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