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Levine, H.B. (1998). Erik Erikson's Dream Specimen Paper: A Classic Revisited. Psychoanal. St. Child, 53:25-42.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 53:25-42

Erik Erikson's Dream Specimen Paper: A Classic Revisited

Howard B. Levine, M.D.

This paper offers an overview of Erik Erikson's contribution to psychoanalysis, contrasting the humanistic perspective from which he viewed psychoanalysis with the biological perspective adopted by Heinz Hartmann. The vehicle for this comparison and for the explication of Erikson's extension of the work of Freud and Hartmann is Erikson's analysis of Freud's Irma dream, as presented in his Dream Specimen paper. I hope to show that: (1) Erikson's analysis of Freud's Irma dream provides a masterful illustration of the richness and complexity of past and current life themes and conflicts that inform the dreamer's construction of the manifest surface of the dream. (2) Erikson's examination of the relationship between the manifest content of the dream and the current life context of the dreamer leads him to propose a connection between trauma and the origins of the dream. This view complements Freud's discovery of the instinctual motivation for dreaming and anticipates subsequent discoveries concerning the role of dreams and REM sleep in defensive ego functioning and adaptation. (3) The Dream Specimen paper presents readers with a humanistic ego psychology that rests

upon—but is subtly different from—the work of Hartmann and the other biologically oriented analysts of his day. In this sense, Erikson's paper is an elegant “specimen” of ego psychology carried to its most creative heights.

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