The Project Gutenberg EBook of Psychoanalysis, by André Tridon

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Title: Psychoanalysis
       Sleep and Dreams

Author: André Tridon

Release Date: November 1, 2013 [EBook #44085]

Language: English

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By André Tridon

“Tridon applies the psychoanalytical doctrine to a number of everyday problems, a business that ought to be undertaken on a far more extensive scale. His chapters on the psychology of war hysteria and of comstockery are acute and constructive.”—H. L. Mencken.

“His presentation of psychoanalysis is admirable.”—New York Medical Journal.

$2.50 net at all booksellers






Author of
“Psychoanalysis, its History, Theory and Practice”
and “Psychoanalysis and Behavior”


“Nothing is more genuinely
ourselves than our dreams.”













I wish to thank Dr. J. W. Brandeis, Dr. N. Philip Norman, and Dr. Gregory Stragnell, for valuable data and editorial assistance, and Mr. Carl Dreher who lent himself to many experiments.



[Pg ix]


St. Augustine was glad that God did not hold him responsible for his dreams. From which we may infer that his dreams must have been “human, all too human” and that he experienced a certain feeling of guilt on account of their nature.

His attitude is one assumed by many people, laymen and scientists, some of them concealing it under a general scepticism as to dream interpretation.

Few people are willing to concede as Nietzsche did, that “nothing is more genuinely ourselves than our dreams.”

This is why the psychoanalytic pronouncement that dreams are the fulfilment of wishes meets with so much hostility.

The man who has a dream of gross sex or ego gratification dislikes to have others think that the desire for such gross pleasure is a part of his personality. He very much prefers to have others believe that some extraneous agent, some whimsical power, such as the devil, forced such thoughts[Pg x] upon him while the unconsciousness of sleep made him irresponsible and defenceless.

This is due in part to the absurd and barbarous idea that it is meet to inflict punishment for mere thoughts, an idea which is probably as deeply rooted in ignorant minds in our days as it was in the mind of the Roman emperor who had a man killed because the poor wretch dreamed of the ruler’s death.

We must not disclaim the responsibility for our unconscious thoughts as they reveal themselves through dreams. They are truly a part of our personality. But our responsibility is merely psychological; we should not punish people for harbouring in their unconscious the lewd or murderous cravings which the caveman probably gratified in his daily life; nor should we be burdened with a sense of sin because we cannot drive out of our consciousness certain cravings, biologically natural, but socially unjustifiable.

The first prerequisite for a normal mental life is the acceptance of all biological facts. Biology is ignorant of all delicacy.

The possible presence of broken glass, coupled with the fact that man lacks hoofs, makes it imperative for man to wear shoes.

The man who is unconsolable over the fact that[Pg xi] his feet are too tender in their bare state to tread roads, and the man who decides to ignore broken glass and to walk barefoot, are courting mental and physical suffering of the most useless type.

He who accepts the fact that his feet are tender and broken glass dangerous, and goes forth, shod in the proper footgear, will probably remain whole, mentally and physically.

When we realize that our unconscious is ours and ourselves, but not of our own making, we shall know our limitations and our potentialities and be free from many fears.

No better way has been devised for probing the unconscious than the honest and scientific study of dreams, a study which must be conducted with the care and the freedom from bias that characterize the chemist’s or the physicist’s laboratory experiments.

Furthermore, dream study and dream study alone, can help us solve a problem which scientists have generally disregarded or considered as solved, the tremendous problem of sleep.

Algebra and Latin, which are of no earthly use to 999/1000 of those studying them, are a part of the curriculum of almost every high school. Sleep, in which we spend one-third of our life, is not considered as of any importance.

[Pg xii]How could we understand sleep unless we understood the phenomena which take place in sleep: dreams?

Even Freud, whose research work lifted dream study from the level of witchcraft to that of an accurate science, seems to have been little concerned with the enigma of sleep and sleeplessness.

This book is an attempt at correlating sleep and dreams and at explaining sleep through dreams.

Briefly stated, my thesis is that we sleep in order to dream and to be for a number of hours our simpler and unrepressed selves. Sleeplessness is due to the fact that, in our fear of incompletely repressed cravings, we do not dare to become, through the unconsciousness of sleep, our primitive selves. In nightmares, repressed cravings which seek gratification under a symbolic cloak, and are therefore unrecognizable, cause us to be tortured by fear.

The cure for sleeplessness and nightmares is, accordingly, the acceptance of biological facts observable in our unconscious and our willingness to grant, through the unconsciousness of sleep, dream gratification to conscious and unconscious cravings of a socially objectionable kind which we must, however, accept as a part of our personality.

February, 1921.

121 Madison Avenue
New York City



[Pg xiii]


I. Sleep Defined 1
II. Fatigue and Rest 11
III. The Flight from Reality 20
IV. Hypnogogic and Hypnopompic Visions 32
V. Where Dreams Come From 36
VI. Convenience Dreams 44
VII. Dream Life 48
VIII. Wish Fulfilment 58
IX. Nightmares 67
X. Typical Dreams and Sleep Walking 75
XI. Prophetic Dreams 85
XII. Attitudes Reflected in Dreams 92
XIII. Recurrent Dreams 102
XIV. Day Dreams 113
XV. Neurosis and Dreams 118
XVI. Sleeplessness 127
XVII. Dream Interpretation 144
  Bibliography 158



[Pg 1]


Literary quotations and time-worn stereotypes exert a deplorable influence on our thinking. They lead us to consider certain open questions as settled, certain puzzling problems as solved.

From time immemorial, the unthinking and thinking alike, have accepted the idea of a kinship between sleep and death. Expressions like “eternal sleep” show by the frequency with which they recur, how constantly associated the two ideas are in the average mind.

Not only is that association absurd but its consequences are regrettable, at least from one point of view: if sleep is a form of death, the psychic phenomena connected with it are bound to be misinterpreted and either granted a dignity they do not deserve or scornfully ignored.

The superstitious may loose all critical sense and see in sleep and sleep thinking something mysterious and mystical. The scientist, on the other hand, may consider such phenomena as beneath his notice.

No sober appreciation of sleep and dreams can be expected from any one who associates in any way the idea of sleep and the idea of death.

[Pg 2]Respiration seems to be the essential feature of life, and its lack, the essential feature of death. As long as respiration takes place, the two ferments of the body, pepsin and trypsin, break up insoluble food molecules into soluble acid molecules which are then absorbed by the blood and carried to the cells of the body where they are utilized to build up new solid cell matter.

When respiration ceases, a degree of acidity is reached which enables the two ferments to digest the body of disintegrating each cell. This is according to Jacques Loeb the meaning of death.

No such chemical action is observable in any form of sleep.

From that point of view, sleep is a form of life.

Sleep is even a more normal form of life than the average waking states.

In the normal waking states, the vagotonic nerves of the autonomic system which upbuild the body and insure the continuance of the race should dominate the organism, being checked in emergencies only by the sympathetic nerves which constitute the human safety system.

The vagotonic nerves contract the pupil, make saliva and gastric juice flow, slow down the heart beats, decrease the blood pressure, promote sexual activities, etc.

[Pg 3]The sympathetic nerves on the contrary, dilate the pupil, dry the mouth, stop the gastric activities, increase the heart beats, raise the blood pressure, decrease or arrest the sexual activities, etc.

In peaceful sleep, we observe that the vagotonic functions hold full sway. In sleep, our pupils are contracted. Even when they have been dilated by atropine, they become contracted again in sleep.

In sleep, the digestive organs continue to perform their specific work, all the popular beliefs to the contrary notwithstanding. Infants and animals generally go to sleep as soon as they finish feeding. Animals digest infinitely better if allowed to sleep after being fed, than if compelled to stay awake, walk or run.

The activity of the sexual organs is as great in sleep as in waking life; in certain cases, it is even greater.

At certain times, during sleep, the pressure of the blood in the brain is greatly reduced, and certain authors have concluded that sleep was characterized by brain anaemia, which some of them consider as the cause of sleep.

Indeed, unconsciousness can be induced by producing a temporary brain anaemia, for instance by compressing the carotid arteries of the neck for a minute or so. Sleepiness almost always appears[Pg 4] then and lasts as long as the pressure is exerted.

Special manometers show that the fall in the blood pressure invariably precedes the appearance of sleep. In dogs whose skulls have been trephined for purposes of observation, the brain can be seen to turn pale as soon as the animals fall asleep.

But we have here simply one of the vagotonic activities mentioned previously. In the normal organism, the blood pressure should be low, rising only in emergencies, when the organism is facing some danger and must be prepared for fight or flight.

And in fact, the slightest light, noise, pain or smell stimulus, is sufficient to bring the blood back to the brain during sleep. Our sympathetic nerves are on the watch and even if the subject does not wake up, they rush the blood whenever it is needed for emergency action, in this case, to the general switchboard of the organism, the brain.

But this so-called brain anaemia is not constant during the entire period of sleep. The pressure falls gradually before sleep sets in and only reaches its minimum an hour after sleep has begun. Then it increases gradually and becomes normal again about the usual waking time. We shall see later that attention follows an identical curve.

It has been pointed out that in sleep the respiration[Pg 5] becomes slower and that the amount of air inspired and consequently of oxygen assimilated is lowered. But inaction in the waking states will show exactly the same results.

A smaller quantity of carbonic acid is eliminated in sleep, the decrease being about sixteen per cent. But that condition is not due to sleep. It is due to many other factors such as the absence of light, etc.

The nature of the food taken before retiring has also a notable influence on the quantity of carbonic acid eliminated by the sleeper; the quantity varies from seventy five per cent after a meat supper to ninety per cent after a diet of starches.

The sweat glands of the skin secrete more actively in sleep than in waking life, which is also a vagotonic symptom and is also due to the fact that the sweat centre is easily affected by carbonic acid.

This increase in the activity of the skin accounts for the decrease we notice in the activity of the kidneys. (More urine is produced on cold days when the perspiration is scanty than on hot summer days.)

The lowering of the temperature in sleep is simply a result of inactivity, not of sleep.

We know that many pains, especially neuralgias, disappear in sleep. Many of those ailments,[Pg 6] however, are of a neurotic origin and constitute a form of escape from reality. When reality has been practically abolished by unconsciousness, they are no longer “needed.”

Experiments made on instructors of the University of Iowa who were kept awake for ninety hours showed that the weight of the subjects increased during the experiments, decreasing later when the subjects were allowed to resume their natural life and to sleep. The increase was solely due to the fact that during the experiments, the subjects were relieved of their duties, remained idle in the psychological laboratory and hence consumed less organic matter than if they had led an active life, preparing their courses and teaching several hours a day.

It has been stated many times that a form of motor paralysis sets in during sleep. Yet we all know of the many motions performed by every sleeper, turning from side to side, drawing or pushing away the bed clothes, removing stimuli applied to the face, talking, not to mention, of course, sleep walking.

Sleep does not even mean complete muscular relaxation, for sentinels have been observed who could sleep standing; some people sleep sitting up in their chairs. Many animals, birds, bats, horses, sleep in positions which make muscular relaxation[Pg 7] impossible; when their balance is disturbed by an observer, they re-establish it without awaking. Sleeping ducks keep on paddling in circles to avoid drifting against dangerous shores, etc.

In other words, there is not a part of our body which ceases in sleep to perform its specific work. Our lungs continue to breathe, our heart to send blood to all parts of the body, our glands secrete various chemicals; we hear, smell and to a certain extent, see. The lowering of our eyelids is simply a half-conscious effort to remove sight stimuli. Our nails and hair continue to grow, although, for that matter, they do so for some time even after death.

Finally our mental activity does not cease during sleep. Wake up a sleeper at any time and he will awaken from a dream. He may not be able to tell that dream but he will know for sure that, not only was he dreaming, but had been dreaming for a long while before awaking.

Wherein, then, does sleep differ from waking life?

Solely in the form of our mental activities.

Sleep is not as Manacéine, the author of the most complete book on sleep, stated: the resting time of consciousness. We do not withdraw our attention completely from the environment in sleep.

[Pg 8]When we make up our minds, for instance, to wake up at a certain time, we seldom fail to carry out our purpose. Which does not mean that we are suddenly aroused out of our unconsciousness by something within ourselves, but more probably that our attention has been concentrated all night on certain stimuli indicating time, distant chimes, activities taking place at a definite hour, and which we had noticed unconsciously, although they may have escaped our conscious attention. It has even been suggested that as respiration and pulse are more or less constant in rest, they are used by the organism as unconscious time-registers. This is possibly one of the phenomena due to the activity of the pituitary body in which may reside the “sense of time” and which controls all the rhythms of the body.

Jouffroy, Manacéine and Kempf have remarked that nursing mothers may sleep soundly in spite of the disturbances which take place about them, but that the slightest motion of their infant will awaken them. Many nurses not only can wake up at regular intervals to administer a drug to their patients, but, besides, can be aroused out of a sound sleep by a change in the patient’s breathing foreboding some danger.

Our withdrawal of attention from reality follows[Pg 9] the same curve as that followed by the withdrawal of blood from the brain.

Many experiments have been made to determine that curve and to sound the depth of sleep. In one case a metallic ball was allowed to fall from varying heights until the noise awakened the sleeper; in another case electric currents of varying voltage were used to stimulate the subject, etc. All experiments have yielded the same results: Sleep reaches its lowest depth during the first two or three hours, the average time being shorter during the day than at night. In the majority of subjects, the greatest depth is reached about the end of the first hour. After the third hour, sleep is easily disturbed, the more so as the usual awakening time approaches.

To conclude, we will say that sleep partakes of all the characteristics of normal life, the only essential difference we can establish scientifically being a greater withdrawal of attention from reality in normal sleep than in normal waking life.

We insist on using the terms normal waking life, for there are forms of abnormal waking life in which attention is withdrawn as completely from reality as it is in normal sleep.

In the disease designated by psychiatrists as dementia praecox, the patient may become entirely[Pg 10] negative, some time regressing to the level of the unborn child, and withdraw even more entirely from reality than the sleeper who, without awaking, is conscious of certain stimuli and performs certain actions showing a comprehension of their nature.



[Pg 11]


What causes sleep? What causes us to withdraw partly our attention from our environment? The answer: brain anaemia, is unsatisfactory for we may ask in turn: what causes brain anaemia?

A study of brain anaemia leads one to conclude that it coincides with the usual sleeping period and that it is produced by sleep instead of producing sleep.

The large majority of laymen and scientists, however, give a much simpler answer: we go to sleep because we are tired and need rest.

Even as sleep and death have been coupled in the literature of all nations, fatigue and sleepiness, rest and sleep have come to be generally considered as synonymous.

Fatigue, however, is as difficult to define scientifically as sleep. Drawing a line between physical fatigue and mental fatigue does not simplify the problem; on the contrary, it complicates it by positing it wrongly.

We know that there is no purely physical fatigue. Fatigue is only caused in a very restricted measure[Pg 12] by the accumulation of “fatigue” products or the depletion of repair stocks.

Under certain “mental” influences, our muscles can perform much more than their usual “stint” without showing fatigue. Hypnotize a man and he will do things he could not attempt in the waking state. He can lie rigid, reposing on nothing but his neck and heels; he can even support in that position the weight of a full-sized man. Men on the march can show wonderful endurance provided their “spirits” are kept up by some form of cheer, band music, etc. Ergograph observations show that signs of muscular fatigue appear and disappear without any obvious “physical” reason. Standardized motions which have been made almost automatic, tire us less than conscious activity.

We shall not deny that in certain cases fatigue may appear purely “physical.” When a continued expenditure of energy, walking, carrying heavy burdens, has induced muscular soreness, the organism must cease exerting itself for a while and recuperate.

But relatively few people perform physical activities which actually wear out the organism.

Even then, if that form of exhaustion was conducive to sleep, the more complete the exhaustion was, the deeper the sleep should be.

[Pg 13]Yet we know that people can be “too tired to sleep.”

This is easily explained through a consideration of a phenomenon known as the “second wind” and which, before Cannon’s observations on the chemistry of the emotions, was rather mysterious.

Athletes competing on the running track are often seen to falter and fall back, apparently exhausted; after which, they suddenly seem to breathe more freely, they overcome their limpness and start out on a fresh spurt which may cause them to head off steadier runners.

What happens in such a case is this: great physical exertion causes a form of asphyxiation. Asphyxiation and the concomitant fear, liberate adrenin which restores the tone of tired muscles and also glycogen (sugar) which supplies the body with new fuel.

If the exertion continues long enough to use up all these emergency chemicals, the muscular relaxation necessary for sleep may be obtained. Otherwise, the organism prepared for a struggle with reality, will not lend itself to a flight from it. Although we are “worn out” we toss about in our bed, try all possible sleeping positions and only sleep when the energy which was supplied for a long struggle has been entirely burnt up.

[Pg 14]The majority of people, after all, busy themselves with tasks which do not really deplete their stores of energy, but which prove monotonous. That monotony is then interpreted as fatigue.

In such cases, rest seems to be more easily attained through a change of activity than through mere cessation of activity.

A business man has been closeted in his office attending to many tedious details, reading letters and answering them, etc., and by five o’clock he feels “tired.” He will then go home, change his day suit for evening wear, attend a dinner at which he will do perhaps much talking, then watch actors for three hours and feel “rested.”

Or at the end of a “heavy” week, he will gather up his golf outfit and walk miles in the wake of a rubber ball. He returns to his work “rested,” although he has only exchanged one form of activity for other forms of activity. Of actual “rest” he has had none.

Children “tired” of sitting in a class room will romp wildly, shout at the tops of their lungs, jostle and fight one another and return to meet their teacher “rested.”

Undirected activity in the young, pleasurable activity in the adult do not seem to make rest necessary, and in fact are a form of “rest.”

[Pg 15]Egotistical gratification easily takes the place of rest. Heads of large businesses have sometimes mentioned to me that they worked much harder than some of their employés. Some of them kept on revolving commercial schemes in their heads or attending business meetings long after their office workers had left. “And yet,” they added, “we are not complaining about being tired.” Nor were they as tired, after fifteen hours of “free labor” as their employés were after six or eight hours of routine work allowing them very little initiative and independence of action.

Edison works eighteen hours a day and only “rests” through sleep some four hours out of the twenty four. I wager that if he were put at work in his own plant, under the direction of a foreman, performing regular, monotonous tasks, he would break down under the strain of such long hours and would have to “rest” twice as much as he does now. His work satisfies him, and every new detail he perfects, every novelty he initiates, vouchsafes him a powerful ego gratification.

Napoleon, too, could perform incredible feats of muscular activity and endurance after which four hours’ sleep were sufficient to rest him. His life was for many years a continuous round of ego gratifications, won at the cost of great exertions, it[Pg 16] is true, but proclaiming to him and the world his almost unrestricted power and luck.

One is forced to the conclusion that a desire for rest is a desire, not for decreased activity but for increased activity.

I shall make this point clear through a simile. The manufacturer who “attends to business” must, in order to succeed, “concentrate” on a few subjects and exclude all others from his mind. He may for a few hours think of nothing but, let us say, a certain grade of woollens, certain machinery, a certain customer and perhaps a certain engineer and some financial problem connected with those four thoughts. He must therefore exclude from his mind at the time, thoughts of playing golf, buying new clothes, going to the theatre, renting an apartment, repairing his motor car, thoughts of meals, women, card playing, and many other thoughts which are clamouring for admission to consciousness because they all represent human cravings.

In his relaxed moments he will let all those other thoughts come to the surface. Which means that, what tired him, was the fact that he had to keep all those subjects down and allow only the other four to rise to consciousness.

Mental rest consists in admitting ideas pell mell[Pg 17] into consciousness without exercising any censorship on them. It consists in passing from a reduced but directed mental activity to an increased but undirected mental activity.

In other words, rest is the free, normal, unimpeded functioning of the vagotonic nerves which upbuild the body and assure the continuance of the race. Ego and sex activities, mental and physical, are constantly struggling for admission to consciousness and for their gratification. They are held down, however, by the sympathetic nerves which play the part of a safety device, moderating or inhibiting the vagotonic activities whenever the latter might endanger the personality.

Physical and mental rest, however, being easily attained through a change of activities, cannot be entirely synonymous with sleep. Sleep takes place mainly while we are resting, although we know of cases when sleep sets in regardless of continued muscular activity, but sleep is not exactly “rest.” We do not sleep because we need rest. In many cases we can or could rest very well, although in such cases sleep is an impossibility.

What then induces sleep? The certainty that we can for a time relax our watch on our environment; a feeling of perfect safety; the conscious[Pg 18] or unconscious knowledge that no danger threatens us.

Our receptive contact with reality is attained through the action of our vagotonic nerves which, as stated before, upbuild the body and assure the continuance of the race. Our defensive contact, on the other hand is attained through our sympathetic nerves which interrupt all the activities which are not necessary for fight or flight. As long as some stimulus is interpreted by those nerves as indicating a possible danger, we cannot sleep, although we may, under the influence of terrifying fear, fall into unconsciousness.

A light flashed on our closed lids at night causes us to wake up because sympathetic activities bid us to prepare for an emergency. A light burning evenly in our bedroom and not too bright to cause physical pain, will, on the other hand, allow us to sleep soundly because the constant character of the stimulus does not cause us to expect any danger therefrom.

A mouse rustling a bit of paper will wake us up, but trains passing in front of our window at regular intervals, or the constant rumble of a neighbouring power house will not prove a disturbance as soon as our nerves have learnt to interpret those stimuli as harmless.

[Pg 19]Conversation with a dull, witless person, unlikely to best us in debate, puts us to sleep. Argument with keen, sharp-minded people, who keep us on the defensive, may lead to sleeplessness for the rest of the night. A dull book in which nothing happens or is expected to happen, acts as a soporific; we cannot close our eyes before we know the dénouement of a thrilling piece of fiction.

In other words, monotony transforms itself into a symbol of safety. Safety does not require the muscular tension, the blood stream speed which the organism needs in order to cope with possible emergencies. We “let go” and no longer pay any close attention to our environment. We sleep.



[Pg 20]


Monotony symbolizing safety enables us to withdraw our attention from our environment, from a reality which we no longer fear, but it does not compel us to do so. There is in sleep a certain amount of compulsion which is not accounted for by the mere monotony of environmental stimuli. We go to sleep willingly but not entirely of our own free will. We yield to sleep.

A consideration of abnormal sleep states will help us considerably in determining the actual cause of sleep.

Abnormal states always throw a flood of light on normal states of which they are only an exaggerated variety. The neurosis is the best magnifying glass through which to watch normal life, provided of course that we afterward reduce our observations to the proper scale.

The average person sleeps from six to ten hours out of the twenty four, some time between eight at night and ten in the morning. In abnormal cases, on the other hand, we see the duration of[Pg 21] sleep considerably prolonged and the onset of sleepiness appearing at times when complete wakefulness is usually the rule.

The circumstances surrounding those abnormal cases are never pleasant. We never hear of any one falling asleep while witnessing a very amusing play, while in the company of a very interesting person or while busy with some extremely attractive occupation.

One incident from Napoleon’s biography will make my meaning clear. During his days of glory Napoleon never slept more than four or five hours out of the twenty four. His physical and intellectual activities were prodigious. He would, at times, ride on horseback for ten hours at a stretch, then hold conferences with his staff until late into the night, then dictate innumerable letters. Yet he did not feel tired or sleepy and a few hours of sleep were sufficient to “relieve his fatigue.”

On the other hand, let us remember what happened after the battle of Aspern, the first he lost after a series of seventeen victories: He fell asleep after a long, unsuccessful struggle with drowsiness and for thirty-six hours could not be aroused.

His biographers also mention that when his life dream was shattered at Waterloo and he was sent[Pg 22] into exile on a remote island, he began to sleep as many hours as the average, normal man.

After Aspern and after Waterloo, reality had become such, that an escape from it, via the unconsciousness of sleep, must have been welcome. That the reaction of defeat must have been more keenly felt by the young man who lost Aspern and who presented strong neurotic traits, than by the more settled man who lost Waterloo, can be easily understood.

Nansen in his Polar exile slept twenty hours a day. He certainly was not in need of rest or recuperation, for his idleness was complete, but the reality of ice and snow which kept him a prisoner, was one from which he was glad to withdraw his attention.

I personally observed two cases in which sudden fits of sleepiness could be interpreted as an escape from reality.

A gambler could go for several days and nights without sleep, provided he was winning. After a heavy loss or a period during which his earnings were offset by his losses, he would go to bed and sleep as much as four days and four nights at a time, arising once or twice a day to partake of some food and returning at once to his slumbers.

A neurotic with a strong inferiority complex[Pg 23] was overwhelmed by sleepiness every time he encountered a defeat of a sexual or egotistic nature. After a quarrel, or whenever a discussion in which he took part turned to his disadvantage, he had to lie down and “sleep it off.”

This is probably the key to the enigma of Casper Hauser’s case. He was born in Germany at the beginning of the last century and brought up in complete solitude, in a small dark room. At the age of seventeen, he had never seen men, animals or plants, the sun, moon or stars. He then was taken out of his cell, and abandoned on the streets of Nuremberg, dazed and helpless.

All the efforts made by kind Samaritans to develop his mentality proved futile. They had only one result: to make him fall asleep. Accustomed for years to the peace, quiet and safety of his cell, he reacted to a new, troublesome and complicated environment as newly born infants do, who in incredibly long periods of sleep, in no wise explainable through fatigue, escape reality and return to the perfect happiness of the fetal state.

In certain forms of the disturbance known as sleeping sickness, people merge into a sleep which continues for weeks, months or even years, and which sometimes culminates in death. (In many[Pg 24] cases, however, the sleepiness may be totally lacking.)

The sleeping sickness was first observed some hundred years ago on the West Coast of Africa and, since then, in an area of the African continent extending from Senegal to the Congo. Negroes are almost the only sufferers, although a few whites have been affected by this disease which, at times, extends to large numbers of the population.

According to various medical observers, the sleeping sickness usually appears among slaves doing arduous, exhausting work.

It is the individuals who stand lowest in intelligence who are most severely affected. In communities where the mental development has been retarded, imitation easily spreads the contagion and this is probably the reason why entire villages are decimated by that curious malady.

Whether the sleeping sickness is in certain cases induced by the bite of a fly or appears without obvious physical cause is immaterial.[1] Paranoia[Pg 25] induced by syphilis is in no way different from ordinary paranoia.

Hence we are justified in linking together certain aspects of the African sleeping sickness and the lethargic ailment which affects the white races in Europe and America.

Both have the appearance of normal sleep, the only striking difference, barring certain physical syndromes, being the unusual length of the sleeping period or its onset at unusual and unexpected times.

In white subjects, narcolepsy is seldom fatal but has been known to last for years.

The most famous case on record is probably that of Karoline Ollson reported in a Salpétrière publication for 1912.

Karoline Ollson was born in 1861 in a small town of Sweden. At the age of 14, at the onset of her menstruation, she once came home complaining of toothache, went to bed and remained bedridden[Pg 26] till 1908. For thirty-two years she slept all day and all night, waking up now and then for a few minutes, taking dim notice of happenings in her environment and speaking a few words. Two glasses of milk a day seemed to be sufficient to sustain her. She was kept for a fortnight in a hospital from which she was discharged when her ailment was diagnosed as “hysteria.”

When her mother died in 1905 she woke up and wept as long as the corpse remained in the house. Then she became quiet again and resumed her slumbers. In April, 1908, when her menstruation stopped, she woke up, left her bed and has led a normal life since.

Dr. Toedenström who describes the case states that she looked incredibly young. Two weeks after she left her bed she had become strong enough to take charge of the household.

Stekel, discussing this strange case in one of his lectures, said: “This woman spent the entire time of her womanhood in sleep, for she fell asleep at the time of her first menstruation period and her awakening coincided with her climacteric. She was a child and wished to remain a child. The first question she asked on arising, ‘Where is mama?’ shows that she was suffering from psychic infantilism. It is probable that dreams of[Pg 27] childhood filled her thirty-year sleep and she may even have dreamt that she was still an unborn child for whom life had not yet begun.”

Medical literature contains many reports of freakish cases in which the subject falls asleep suddenly, while attending to duties of an uninteresting character; a young waiter, for instance, falling asleep while waiting on a table, remaining absolutely motionless for a whole minute and then waking up and resuming his work. Manacéine mentions two similar cases she observed personally. Both patients were illiterate and of slow intellect. One of them, a housemaid of nineteen, was a sound sleeper at night and yet, in the day time, one could never be sure of her remaining awake. She fell asleep once in the act of announcing a visitor and while bringing in a tray loaded with cups of coffee. The other was a woman of fifty, who was employed as a nurse until one day, falling asleep suddenly, she dropped an infant on the floor and almost killed him. In both the pulse was remarkably slow (a vagotonic symptom): in the girl it varied from 50 to 70 when awake, in the older woman from 40 to 60.

An epidemic of sleeping fits, lasting only a few minutes at a time, raged for several years in a small German town near Würzburg. The attacks[Pg 28] took place at any moment and were liable to leave the patient immobilized in some curious position. It was the weaker part of the population, physically and mentally, which was affected by that curious trouble, apparently transmitted from parents to children, probably, as all neurotic complaints are, through imitation.

Stekel considers hysterical and epileptic fits as forms of morbid sleep during which hysterics gratify sexual cravings and epileptics sadistic cravings.

This is how Dr. Isador Abrahamson describes, from recent cases observed at Mount Sinai Hospital, the course of lethargic encephalitis which is one of the scientific names coined to designate the sleeping sickness:

“At the onset of the disease, there is a period of variable duration in which the patient experiences increasing difficulty in attending to his work. Next a time of yawning ensues, in which there may be also the irritability of the overtired. Then the eyes close, chiefly from lack of interest.... (The patient’s) pulse, temperature, and respiration may all be of a normal character.... From the depth of this seeming slumber, he may respond immediately when questioned and his short but coherent answers show no loss either of memory or[Pg 29] of orientation.... His answer given, he straightway resumes his seeming sleep.... His attitude expresses a desire to be let alone, a desire which is sometimes articulate in him.... The somnolence may deepen into a stupor from which the patient is not easily aroused to conscious repose.... In the night watches ... a restless delirium of inconstant severity often appears. Spontaneous movements and sounds are made. The movements are purposeful graspings and pointings at unseen things, tossings and turnings....”

The author adds in another part of his article that “The depth of the somnolence and also its duration are unrelated to the severity of the cerebral lesions.... The extent of the mental disturbance bears no correspondence to the extent of the lesions, the amount of fever or the blood picture....” [Italics mine.]

We have a perfect picture of a flight from reality into a somnolence into which the unconscious complexes force at times a terrifying presentation of the dreaded reality through nightmares.

The few cases of sleeping sickness reported in recent medical literature show a decided neurotic trend in the subjects affected and reveal circumstances in the patient’s life which would make a flight from reality highly desirable.

[Pg 30]One typical case reported to me by a Boston physician who personally considers the sleeping sickness as being “unquestionably an acute organic disease of the cerebro-spinal system” has all the earmarks of a neurotic affection:

“The patient, a middle aged woman lost a child she loved dearly one year and a half before the onset of the disease. The circumstances of the child’s death were particularly sad as the mother was not allowed to visit the little sufferer at the hospital on account of the contagious character of his disease. She also felt disturbing doubts as to the competence of the first physician who attended her child.

“She had been ‘nervous and run down’ since the child’s death. She is married to a cripple twenty years her senior. She had to go to work in order to help support the household and to live with relatives of her husband’s who did not contribute to the pleasantness of her home life.”

Have we not here all the environmental conditions which would drive a neurotic to withdraw his attention from reality through a protracted period of sleep?

From the fact that I have instituted a comparison between sleep and the sleeping sickness, the reader[Pg 31] should not draw the conclusion that I attribute to sleep any neurotic character.

Sleep is a compromise, as I shall show later, when discussing dream life, between what the human animal was meant to do and what it can do in reality.

The neurosis, also is a compromise, but it is a compromise that fails, while sleep is a compromise which is successful, beneficial and acceptable to all.



[Pg 32]


The curve of sleep depth shows that our withdrawal from reality is not sudden but gradual. The transition from wakefulness to sleep is characterized at first by blurred visions, colours, shapes, moving objects with a scarcely defined outline, and immediately after by curiously symbolical visions, known as hypnogogic visions.

Those phenomena are difficult to study for they are forgotten by the end of the night. The observer has to train himself to wake up after a few minutes of unconsciousness, a result which is achieved without difficulty after a few trials.

The first visions of the night are in every subject I have asked and in myself, symbolical of the passage from one state to another. One hypnogogic vision I have had many times is of wading slowly into a lake or the sea, until the water reaches to the middle of my body after which I start swimming.[2]

[Pg 33]One night when I had a little difficulty in falling asleep my hypnogogic vision represented a truckman looking like myself whipping a team of horses hitched to a big load who were crossing a very high bridge leading from the city into the open.

Another night, after seeing the “Follies,” I dreamt that the police was trying vainly to quell a disturbance and that the rioters succeeded in placing their own police in charge of the disturbance. The newcomers were attired like the front row girls of the Follies. No more symbolical picture of the whole nervous situation could be found. The day’s repressions being gradually replaced by the “follies” of dreamland.

Not only is the passage from reality into dreamland thus symbolized by appropriate representation but the mental work of reality gradually merges with the mental work of the sleeping state.

Thoughts of the day merge directly with the dream thoughts. There is no gap between waking[Pg 34] thoughts and sleeping thoughts. This has been demonstrated by Silberer’s experiments.

“The very first dream,” Silberer says, “visualizes, dramatises and interprets the very last waking thought.”

1st Example: “I applied some boric ointment to the mucous of my nose before retiring to relieve a painful dryness.”

Dream: “I see some one offering money to some one else. Only I notice that it is my right hand which is putting money into my left hand.”

Interpretation: “I have often thought that this medication did not help my nose trouble but simply concealed it. The action is therefore presented as illusory help.”

2nd Example: “I am thinking of a dramatic scene in which a character would intimate a certain fact to another character without putting the thought into words.”

Dream: “One man is offering to another man a hot metallic cup.”

Interpretation: “The cup transmits an impression of heat which has not to be expressed through spoken words.”

3rd Example: “I try to remember something which in my sleepy state eludes me.”

Dream: “I apply for information to a grouchy[Pg 35] clerk who refuses to impart it to me. The interpretation is obvious.”

4th Example: “I think that many simple arguments could be brought forth to prove some thesis of mine.”

Dream: “A drove of white horses moves downward through my field of vision. Interpretation obvious.”

Likewise sleeping thoughts gradually merge with waking thoughts in the moments preceding awakening.

The last dreams of the night or hypnopompic visions generally dramatize our awakening in picturesque, symbolical fashion.

Here are several examples collected by Silberer from observations on himself:

“I return to my home with a party of people, take leave of them at the door and enter.”

“After visiting some place, I drive home along the same road which lead me there.”

“One morning I woke up and decided to doze off for another half hour: I dreamt then that I was locked up in a house and I woke up saying: ‘I must have the lock broken open.’”

In hypnopompic visions we generally enter a house, a forest, a dark valley or take a train or a boat, or we fall (see typical dreams).



[Pg 36]


To sleep does not mean “perchance to dream,” but to dream from the very second when we close our eyes to the time when we open them again.

“But I never dream,” some one will surely say.

To which I will answer: Make experiments on yourself or some one else. Have some one wake you up fifty times or a hundred times in one night. Repeat the experiment as many nights as your constitution will allow and every time you wake up, you will wake up with the clear or confused memory of some dream.

Most people forget their dreams as they forget their waking thoughts. Unless some very striking idea came to my mind yesterday afternoon, I am likely to be embarrassed if some one asks me: “What were you thinking of yesterday afternoon?”

We shall see in another chapter that our dream thoughts are not in any way different from our waking thoughts, and that unless they have a special meaning there is no reason why they should obsess us more than our waking thoughts do.

[Pg 37]In fact, a remembered dream is as important as an obsessive idea and has the same meaning. Thousands of futile dreams dreamt in one night may not leave a deeper impression on our “mind” than thousands of futile thoughts which flit through our consciousness in one day.

Before considering the origin of dreams I must restate briefly a proposition which I have discussed at length in Psychoanalysis and Behaviour, the indivisibility of the human organism.

The words physical and mental are lacking in any real meaning and there is no physical manifestation which it not inseparably linked with some psychic phenomenon. Emotions, secretions and attitudes may be studied separately for the sake of convenience, but in reality there cannot be any emotion which is not unavoidably accompanied by a secretion and betrayed by some attitude, nor can there be any attitude which is not accompanied by a secretion and interpreted by some emotion.

This must be constantly borne in mind when we attempt to answer the question: Where do dreams come from?

If dreams “come from the stomach” why should distressed minds seek refuge in them? If they are purely psychic phenomena, what relief can they afford to our dissatisfied body?

[Pg 38]We shall not deny that a full bladder may at times induce urination dreams, that a full stomach may at times conjure up anxiety visions in which heavy masses oppress us, or that long continence and the consequent accumulation of sexual products may be at times responsible for sexual dreams.

What the physical theory of dreams, most scientifically and conscientiously expounded by the Scandinavian Mourly Vold, will not explain, however, is that, in one subject, a urination dream may be a pleasurable visualization of relief, leading to continued sleep and, in another, an anxiety episode, picturing frustrated gratification and ending in an unpleasant awakening. A heavy dinner may people one sleeper’s visions with large animals treading his stomach, and cause another to dream of vomiting fits which relieve the pressure of food.

In one sleeper, sexual desire evokes libidinous visions, in another, terrifying scenes of violence.

On the other hand, the very close relation observed in thousands of cases between the sleeper’s dreams and his physical condition, invalidates any theory which would revert more or less literally to the belief held in ancient times that dreams were purely psychic phenomena, visions sent by the gods.

[Pg 39]Maury whose book, “Sleep and Dreams,” published in 1865, was probably the first serious attempt at deciphering the enigma of dream thoughts, had various experiments performed on himself to determine what dreams would be brought forth by physical stimuli.

He was tickled with a feather on the lips and nostrils. He dreamt that a mask of pitch was applied to his face and then pulled off, tearing the skin.

A pair of tweezers was held close to his ear and struck with a metallic object. He heard the tolling of bells and thought of the revolutionary days of 1848.

A bottle of perfume was held to his nose. He dreamt of the East and of a trip to Egypt.

A lighted match was held close to his nostrils. He dreamt that he was on a ship whose magazine had exploded.

A pinch on the back of the neck suggested the application of a blister and evoked the memory of a family physician.

A sensation of heat made him dream that robbers had entered the house and were compelling the inmates to reveal where their money was hidden by scorching the soles of their feet.

Words were pronounced aloud. He attributed[Pg 40] them to some people with whom he had been talking in his dreams.

A drop of water was allowed to fall on his forehead. He dreamt that he was in Italy, feeling very hot and drinking wine.

A red light suggested to him a storm at sea.

Struck on the neck, he dreamt that he was a revolutionist, arrested, tried, sentenced to death and guillotined.

I have had some of Maury’s experiments repeated on myself and the connection between the physical stimulus and the content of the dream leaves no doubt as to the direct relation between the two. On the other hand, the reader will notice that the same stimuli applied to Maury and to me produced absolutely different results. Compare my first and second experiments with his first and third.

1. I was tickled on the nose with a feather. I dreamt that I was entering a forest and that branches and leaves were brushing against my face. I made an effort to push them away with my hand. (I had taken a ride through Central Park that very day).

2. A bottle of perfume was held open under my nose.

I dreamt of a landscape with thick clouds and[Pg 41] mist to the left. Two dark figures carrying grips were hurrying toward the right where there seemed to be open fields, flowers, and sunlight. (The day preceding the dream had been cloudy.)

3. My nose was stroked with a piece of paper.

I dreamt I met a certain writer who asked me whether another writer had seen a certain lady and her daughter. I answered rather indifferently and went on my way. Then I saw either the other writer or myself seated before a window and showing a tall gaunt woman and another indistinct figure, either Japanese prints or some manuscript, and I woke up.

(The day preceding the dream I had revised a manuscript for a woman and also spoken of one of the two writers.)

4. Cold steel was applied to my throat.

I dreamt that a cold wind was blowing; I tried to turn up my overcoat collar and woke myself up.

Carl Dreher has devised an apparatus which can be set to throw flashes of light at a given time during the night and then wakes him up by means of a buzzer. The flashes have translated themselves in many cases into interesting visions: In one dream the last picture seen before the alarm went off was that of a building in front of which stood very white marble columns standing on a[Pg 42] background of intense black. On another occasion extremely bright green snakes hung from trees, the space between the snakes being very dark. On another occasion he was talking to a girl who declares herself to be “intermittently in love.” In another dream, he saw himself operating a moving picture machine which threw flashes on the screen regardless of whether he opened or closed the switch. After many such experiments, he saw his apparatus in a dream and woke up without having been directly affected by the light.

In this last dream we have a case of dream insight, the dreamer refusing to pay any attention to a stimulus which has become familiar. This explains the phenomenon of adaptation to stimuli. People whose bedroom is near some source of regular constant noise can sleep in spite of that stimulus for their nervous system no longer translates it into fear; nor has it to interpret it lest it might create fear.

Every one of the dreams thus produced artificially were closely related to experiences of the day before and to some of the dreamer’s memories and complexes.

The dreamer’s unconscious was merely stimulated by the light flashes to express itself through images including an allusion to those flashes.

[Pg 43]In other words, the physical stimulus, be it an impression made upon one of the sense organs or an inner secretion, is interpreted by the sleeper according to the ideas which dominate the sleeper’s mind at the time, memories of recent experiences or obsessive ideas.

Which means that the personality of the dreamer expresses itself through his dreams. We need not heed Pythagoras’ warning against eating beans. It is not the stimulus that counts; it is the end result. And the end result seems to depend from the memories which have accumulated in our autonomic nerves.

Freud compares the dream work to a promoter who could never carry out his brilliant ideas if he could not draw upon funds accumulated elsewhere (in the unconscious).

Silberer says that the appearance of a dream is like the outbreak of a war. There is a popular tendency among the ignorant to attribute a war to some superficial, visible cause, disagreement, insult, invasion. The real causes, however, are much deeper and lie not only in the present but in the past as well.



[Pg 44]


Some of the hypnogogic visions and experimental dreams I have mentioned contradict the wide-spread belief that sound sleep is untroubled by dreams.

The hypnagogic vision I have so often, that I wade into a body of water and finally start swimming, only adds one more pleasant feature to my escape from reality. Swimming is really my favourite sport.

When my nose was tickled and I interpreted the stimulus as foliage brushing my face on entering a forest, that vision was not meant to awaken me, but on the contrary to keep me asleep by explaining away the tickling sensation and removing any sense of fear which would have compelled me to take notice once more of reality and protect myself.

Such dreams have been designated as convenience dreams.

Dreams of urination can be considered as typical convenience dreams. In the morning, when the pressure of urine on the walls of the bladder[Pg 45] becomes stronger, dreams build up a convenient explanation around that unpleasant stimulus. Our wish to urinate is either represented as gratified or we are shown the impossibility of gratifying it (no toilet, doors locked, people looking, etc.). Unless the pressure is absolutely unbearable, we generally sleep on, satisfied or discouraged by such convenience dreams.

Freud tells in his “Interpretation of Dreams” of a striking convenience dream of his and of a variation it underwent on one occasion: “If in the evening I eat anchovies, olives or any other strongly salted food, I become thirsty at night, whereupon I awaken. The awakening, however, is preceded by a dream, which, each time has the same content, namely that I am drinking. The dream serves a function, the nature of which I soon guess. If I succeed in assuaging my thirst by means of a dream that I am drinking, I need not wake up in order to satisfy that need. The dream substitutes itself for action, as elsewhere in life. This same dream recently appeared in modified form. On this occasion I became thirsty before going to bed and emptied the glass of water which stood on a chest near my bed. Several hours later in the night, came a new attack of thirst, accompanied by discomfort. In order to obtain water I would[Pg 46] have had to get up and fetch the glass which stood on a chest near my wife’s bed. I appropriately dreamt that my wife was giving me to drink from a vase, an Etruscan cinerary urn. But the water in it tasted so salty, apparently from the ashes, that I had to wake up.”

On a chilly summer night a woman patient had the following dream:

“A man took me in a canoe to the middle of a lake and upset the canoe, saying: ‘Now you belong to me.’”

She woke up shivering.

The lake, the canoe upset and the man in the dream were associated with many conscious thoughts and memories of hers. But this was mainly a convenience dream, which endeavoured to explain away the chilliness of the night through an appropriate scene. When the unavoidable awakening took place it was dramatized, as it is in so many cases of awakening, through a fall accompanied by a certain fear of death.

The few examples I have given and which could be multiplied, tend to show that the dream, far from being a disturber of sleep, is sleep’s best protector.

It seeks to explain away physical stimuli which might cause the sleeper to awake and it visualizes[Pg 47] many reasons for not experiencing the fear usually connected with a certain stimulus.

In every convenience dream which I have analysed, I have found a close connection between the image conjured up by the dream work and the ideas generally occupying the dreamer’s mind in his waking states.

In almost every case it could also be noticed that the convenience dream made use of some experience or observation of the previous waking state, which increases the plausibility of the dream’s visualization.



[Pg 48]


The life we lead in our dreams, especially in healthy, pleasant dreams, is simpler and easier than our waking life.

We obliterate distance and transport ourselves wherever our fancy chooses; our strength is herculean; we defy the law of gravitation and rise or soar with or without wings; we brave law and custom; we abandon all modesty and make ourselves the centre of the world, which is OUR world, not any one else’s world.

The simplification of life is attained in dreams through three processes, visualization, condensation and symbolization.

The dream is always a vision. Other sensations than visual ones may be experienced in dreams but they are only secondary elements.

In other words, we may now and then hear sounds, perceive odours, etc., but the dream is based primarily on a scene which is perceived visually, not on sounds, odours, etc., now and then accompanied by a visual perception.

In fact we seldom hear sounds in our dreams,[Pg 49] unless they are actual sounds produced in our immediate environment; the people who address us in dreams do not actually emit sounds but seem to communicate their thought to us directly without any auditory medium. Seldom do we taste or smell things in dreams.

On the other hand, we translate every stimulus reaching our senses in sleep, be it sound, taste, smell, touch, into a visual presentation. This process is to be compared to the gesticulation of primitive individuals who attempt to visualize everything they describe, indicating the length, height, bulk of objects through more or less appropriate mimic and who convey the idea of a bad odour by holding their nose, of pleasing food, by rubbing their stomach, etc.

The dramatization of every thought and every problem follows the line of least effort. And this explains the popularity of the movies, the enjoyment of which does not presuppose on the part of the audience any capacity to conceive abstract ideas.

Movie audiences are undoubtedly the least intelligent aggregations of people. They are not told that a crime has been committed, they are shown the crime while it is being committed. Captions warn them of what they are going to see, that they[Pg 50] may not misunderstand the meaning of any scene. The movie, like our unconscious, translates every thought into a visual sensation, and when a psychological change cannot very well be visualized, for instance when the villain decides not to kill the ingenue, the fact is flashed on the screen in large type.

Pleasures of the eye are probably stronger and simpler than those vouchsafed by other sensory organs.[3] The most uninteresting parade will attract thousands of people, many more for instance, than free concerts in the open. Illustrated lectures appeal to more people than lectures without illustrations. Displays in shop windows, picturesque signs, possess a greater selling power than the best advertising copy.

In our waking life, we express our thoughts to ourselves and others through the algebra of abstract concepts. We speak of length, height, volume, weight, hardness, coldness, etc. It is doubtful, however, whether we can imagine length without thinking specifically of something long. In our dreams, the concept length disappears and is always replaced by something long.

[Pg 51]We notice that abstract thinking is more tiresome than descriptive thinking, that abstract facts demand more exertion in order to be grasped, than concrete facts. A philosopher expounding his theories to an audience tires himself and the audience quicker than an explorer would, describing his travels and possibly illustrating his talk by means of lantern slides.

Dream life is further simplified through condensation. This process is the one through which, in waking life, we reach generalizations. When we think of a house we select the essential characteristics of the various houses we have seen, the properties wherein a house essentially differs from, let us say, a bird or a river. In our dreams, condensation is less subtle and more directly based upon our experience.

We combine several persons into one, selecting as a rule the most striking features of every one of them. We may see a dream character with the eyes of one person, the nose of another and the beard of a third one.

Freud having made one proposal to two different men, Dr. M. and his brother, the former having a beard and the latter being clean shaven and suffering from hip trouble, combined them in a[Pg 52] dream in a figure which looked like Dr. M., but was beardless and limped.

One of Ferenczi’s patients dreamt of a monster with the head of a physician, the body of a horse and draped in a nightgown.

Silberer dreamt of an animal which had the head of a tiger and the body of a horse.

This is a process similar to the one which in the infancy of the race gave birth to strange composite gods and mythological creatures like the Assyrian bull a combination of man’s intelligence, the bull’s strength and the bird’s power of flight, the various Egyptian deities in whom the process was reversed, for so many had the heads of animals and the bodies of men, the satyrs and syrens, combining respectively man and goat, woman and fish, Pegasus, the winged horse, etc.

Finally, dream life is simplified through the symbolic representation of human beings or inanimate things.

In symbolization, one striking characteristic of some complicated object is isolated from the others and some other object with only one characteristic substituted for it. Slang is made up of such symbolizations. Think of the expression “bats in the belfry,” in which the complicated human head is replaced by an architectural detail much simpler in[Pg 53] character and occupying in an edifice the same position which the head occupies in human anatomy. Then, instead of describing absurd ideas, of a sinister colouring, without definite direction, we simply visualize queer creatures, half bird and half mouse, flitting about blindly.

Instead of explaining that the central figure of the christian religion is a godlike creature who died crucified, we select the most striking detail of the Passion, the cross, which to the initiated and uninitiated alike signifies christianity. In many cases we do not even represent the cross as that instrument of torture really looked but we simplify it, we symbolize it, by using a conventional design in which the proportion between the cross pieces has been entirely disregarded.

Symbolization is a reduction of an object to one essential detail which has struck us as more important than the others.

A child will designate a watch as a “tick-tick,” a dog as a “bow-wow,” because to his simple mind, ticking and barking are the essential characteristics of a watch and a dog.

In dreams, we simplify the concept of the body and often represent it by a house. The authority vested in the father and mother causes them often to be symbolized by important personages, etc.

[Pg 54]Without any more explanation, I shall sum up the various dream symbols whose selection is easily understood.

Birth is often symbolized by a plunge into water or some one climbing out of it or rescuing some one from the water.

Death is represented by taking a journey, being dead, by darksome suggestions.

A great many symbols in dreams are sexual symbols. The figure 3, all elongated or sharp objects, such as sticks, umbrellas, knifes, daggers, revolvers, plowshares, pencils, files, objects from which water flows, faucets, fountains, animals such as reptiles and fishes, in certain cases hats and cloaks are used to represent the male sex.

The female sex is symbolized on the contrary by hollow objects, pits, caves, boxes, trunks, pockets, ships.

The breasts are represented by apples, peaches and fruits in general, balconies, etc.

Fertility is symbolized by ploughed fields, gardens, etc.

I have shown in another book, “Psychoanalysis, Its History, Theory and Practice,” that symbols are absolutely universal and that the folklore of the various races and of the various centuries draws upon the same material for the purpose of simplified[Pg 55] representation. Differences in climate, fauna and flora are purely superficial. Dwellers of the Polar regions are not likely to compare anything to a palm tree which they have never seen, nor will tropical races symbolize coldness through snowfields.

Experiments made by Dr. Karl Schrötter have confirmed Freud’s and Jung’s theories of symbolization in dreams. To the uninitiated and sceptical, dream symbols generally appear rather ludicrous fancies and not a few opponents of psychoanalysis hold that symbols were resorted to by analysts unable to read an obvious wish fulfilment in every dream.

Schrötter hypnotized his patients, then suggested to them a dream outline, ordering them also to indicate through an appropriate gesture when the dream would begin and end. This enabled him, by the way, to record the duration of every dream.[4]

He then awakened the subject and made him tell his dream.

One of his patients, a woman drawing toward middle age, who had been greatly upset when she learnt that the man she loved was suffering from[Pg 56] syphilis, was asked to have a dream symbolizing her state of mind. Here is the vision she had:

“I am walking through a forest on an autumn day. The path is steep and I feel chilly. Some one whom I cannot distinguish is near me. I only feel the touch of a hand. I am very thirsty. I would like to slake my thirst at a spring but there is a sign on the spring that means poison: a skull and cross bones.”

The fancy is rather poetical and this example is quite typical of the symbolization of our life’s incidents by the dream work.

A patient with a strong resistance to the analytic method saw me in a dream “carrying a fake refrigerator full of make-believe meats, vegetables and fruits.”

The interpretation is obvious. I am carrying in a deceptive way an assortment of ideas which can be of no use to any one.

The refrigerator implies that the ideas are not even new but old and stale.

The patient’s repressions were such that, although the dream struck him as strange and he remembered it several months, he was unable to puzzle out its meaning. It expressed his mental state at the time and yet having made up his mind not to doubt me or the analytic treatment, he[Pg 57] become unable to accept any disparaging thought consciously.

Unconsciously, however, he expressed his doubts in most striking symbolism which he did not himself understand.

This should be borne in mind if we wish to understand the psychology of nightmares. For in nightmares we may express a wish through a symbol which expresses it fittingly, but which we do not understand and which, on that account, may frighten us.

Let those who sneer at the study of symbols watch some of the attitudes assumed by insane people[5] who have reached the lowest level of deterioration. Let them see a picture published in the issue of the Journal of Mental and Nervous Disease for January, 1920, and which represents a hospital patient who has reached the lowest degree of infantilism. The patient hung herself in a blanket attached to a nail in front of a window. There she spent her days in the characteristic attitude of the unborn child in the womb.

Everything in that attitude was symbolical of her regression to, not only infancy, but the prenatal condition.



[Pg 58]


An evening paper published recently a cartoon showing a kiddie in bed who asks his mother: “What makes me dream?”—“You eat too much meat,” the mother answers. The next scene is laid in the kitchen where the mother finds her child ransacking the ice box for meat.

Parents could testify to the illustrator’s knowledge of the childish soul. Children like to dream and Freud’s statement that every dream contains the fulfilment of some wish is confirmed by the dreams of healthy children.

Children attain in their sleep visions the simple pleasures which are denied them in their waking states.

Freud’s little daughter, three and a half years old, being kept one day on a rather strict diet, owing to some gastric disturbance, was heard to call excitedly in her sleep: “Anna Freud, strawberry, huckleberry, omelette, pap.”

On one occasion she was taken across a lake and enjoyed the trip so much that she cried bitterly at the landing when compelled to leave the boat. The[Pg 59] next morning she told the family a dream in which she had been sailing on the lake.

Freud’s little nephew, Hermann, aged twenty-one months, was once given the task of offering his uncle, as a birthday present, a little basket full of cherries. He performed that duty rather reluctantly. The following day he awakened joyously with the information which could only have been derived from a dream: “Hermann ate all the cherries.”

The London Times of Nov. 8, 1919, had a report of a lecture by Dr. C. W. Kimmins, chief inspector of the London Education Committee, on the significance of children’s dreams. He based his statements on the written records of the dreams of 500 children between the ages of eight and sixteen years.

Up to the age of ten, dreams of eating predominated, but their number fell off after ten, when dreams of visits to the country began to increase. Dreams of presents and eating at all ages from eight to fourteen, were much more frequent with children of the poorer classes that with those from well-to-do districts and there was an appreciable increase of their number about Christmas time. Retrospective dreams were very uncommon among all children.

[Pg 60]Obvious wish fulfilment dreams were less common among boys than among girls, the proportion being respectively twenty-eight and forty-two per cent.

Boys below ten had more fear dreams than girls of the same age. In both sexes it was some “old man” who terrified the dreamers. Both sexes suffered equally from the fear of animals, lions, tigers and bulls in the case of the boys, dogs, rats, snakes and mice in the case of the girls.

From ten to fifteen a falling off in the number of fear dreams was very noticeable among boys, whereas among girls it rather increased.

That increase was especially striking among girls of 16 and over, who were generally frightened by animals and strange men and women.

When school life played a part in children’s dreams it was more frequently the playgrounds than the classrooms which were visualized.

The war affected boys’ more than girls’ dreams. The dreaming boy was a valorous fighter, mentioned in dispatches, rewarded with the Victoria Cross, thanked personally by the King; or he returned home wildly cheered by crowds.

Girls, thirteen or over, saw themselves as Red Cross nurses, but no such dreams were observed in girls below ten.

[Pg 61]Normal, healthy children delighted in dreaming and telling their dreams with a wealth of detail.

Dr. Kimmins mentioned that, while the dreams of school children were generally easy to interpret, the dreams of students from 18 to 22 “were so heavily camouflaged that it would be impossible for any one who was not a trained expert in psychoanalysis to deal with them satisfactorily.”

We can see how the repression made necessary by life conditions in modern communities slowly but surely transforms the obvious wish-fulfilment dreams of children into the symbolical and often distressing visions of the adult. The development of sexuality in boys and girls and the repression to which it is submitted explains easily the proportion of fear dreams in girls and boys.

Sexual talk and sexual curiosity are more common among boys than girls and therefore occupy the boys’ minds more constantly than the girls’ minds. On the other hand, many of the boys above sixteen find forms of sexual satisfaction of which the girls of the same age are deprived. Fear dreams are therefore more frequent among growing girls, being simply a symbolical form of sexual gratification.

The dreams of adults are far from being as[Pg 62] uniformly pleasurable as those of young and healthy children.

A few of them are frankly pleasant; most of them are apparently indifferent and a few of them frankly unpleasant.

The pleasant dreams of the adults require as little interpretation as those of children and are obviously the fulfilment of conscious or unconscious wishes.

A patient of mine, camping in the woods alone, dreamt during a rainy night that some of his friends were camping with him, that one of them had gone to a neighbouring inn to secure better accommodations and finally that he was in his own bed at home.

Nordenskjold in his book “The Antarctic,” published in 1904, mentions that during the winter which he spent in the polar wilderness, his dreams and those of his men “were more frequent and more vivid than they had ever been before. They all referred to the outer world which was so far from us.... Eating and drinking formed the central point around which most of our dreams were grouped. One of us, who was fond of going to big dinner parties, was exceedingly glad when he could report in the morning that he had had[Pg 63] a three course dinner. Another dreamed of tobacco, mountains of it; still another dreamed of a ship approaching on the open sea under full sail. Still another dream deserves mention: the postman brought the mail and gave a long explanation of why he had to wait so long.... One can readily understand why we longed for sleep. It alone could give us all the things which we most ardently desired.” [Capitals mine.]

Other dreams of wish-fulfilment appear at first glance either indifferent or absurd. Interpreted according to the technique outlined in Chapter XVII, however, they soon yield a meaning which is rather convincing.

The following dream, recorded by a patient, would not lead the inexperienced interpreter to suspect the sinister death wish which it is meant to express in an indirect way.

“I was visiting a factory and saw Charles working as a glassblower.”

Charles was the first name of a wealthy man who seduced a girl with whom the dreamer was in love. The wealthy man is reduced to the condition of a working man. The patient’s unconscious association to glass blower proved to be consumption. The patient had once read statistics[Pg 64] showing that a large number of glassblowers died from that disease. A very neatly concealed death wish.

In other cases the death wish, while obvious in the manifest dream content, appears absurd and may cause the patient some anxiety. One of Ferenczi’s patients, who was extremely fond of dogs, dreamt that she was choking a little white dog to death.

Word associations brought out the memory of a relative with an unusually pallid face whom she had recently ordered out of her house, saying later that she would not have such a snarling dog about her. It was that white-faced woman, not a white dog, whose neck she wished to wring.

Here is another example in which the wish fulfilment is cleverly concealed.

“I am standing on a hill with Albert and somebody else. Bombs are falling about us. One of them strikes his car which is destroyed.”[6]

The patient, a woman, is in love with Albert and enjoys greatly riding with him in his car. Why should she wish to see it wrecked?

The key to the enigma was given by the associations to the “somebody else.” The somebody else[Pg 65] was another woman whom Albert had taken to ride on several occasions and of whom my patient was very jealous. By destroying the car, the jealous woman was putting an end to the rides which had especially aroused her jealousy.

The following dream seems rather unpleasant without being however an actual nightmare.

Dream: I heard a noise downstairs and went to investigate. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, I found a man lying on the floor with his coat off and drunk. Later he was hiding from me and running about the house. The man was captured and brought back by another man who cross-examined him. The other man made excuses for the thief and said he probably intended to steal but as he had a toothache he had sought the cellar and drunk to deaden the pain. To prove his explanations he opened the thief’s mouth and pointed to a large cavity in one tooth.

Interpretation: The patient who brought me the dream was a young woman who, at the time, was worrying lest her husband should discover an indiscretion she had committed in her own house. The thief in the dream turned out to be her lover and the man who captures him, her husband. Everything is made simple and pleasant by the fact that the husband takes it upon himself to make[Pg 66] excuses for the man he has captured. The excuse of the cavity was an allusion to alleged visits to a dentist’s office which supplied her with alibis on various occasions.

We spend a part of the night, if not the entire night, seeking solutions for the problems of the day. Patients who have been trained to remember and record their dreams accurately, sometimes bring a series of visions, apparently unrelated, but which after interpretation, prove to be successive presentations of one and the same problem from different angles.



[Pg 67]


The Freudian theory of wish-fulfilment easily accepted by the layman as solving the problem of pleasant or indifferent dreams, meets with a most sceptical reception when it is applied to unpleasant dreams, to nightmares, which are characterized by a varying degree of anxiety.

What I said in a previous chapter on the subject of symbols explains why certain wish-fulfilment dreams are perceived and remembered as nightmares. A woman may dream that she is surrounded by snakes, bitten by a dog, pursued by a bull, trampled down by a horse. A man may dream that he is stabbed in the back or that he is sinking slowly into water. In the first case we have a symbolic expression of the woman’s desire for sexual intercourse, in the second a symbolic expression of the man’s desire for homosexual gratification or for regression to the fetal stage (assuming of course that those various symbols have not a personal significance for the subject).

The anxiety connected with those visions is due[Pg 68] to the subject’s inability or unwillingness to recognize as his the unconscious desires expressed by symbols.

In not a few cases, the sleeper creates a dream situation which is distressing, full of danger, but which leads to a triumphal climax in which his ego reaps a rich reward of glory.

Stekel in “The Language of the Dream,” records a fine dream of his in which his egotism is vouchsafed all forms of gratification.

Dream: “I am in a great hall. On the stage there is a composite, centaurlike creature, half horse and half wolf or tiger. I am standing near the door, fearing that the beast might get out of bounds. In fact the tiger tears himself loose from the horse and leaps toward the door. I slam it shut and lock it up. After a while, I re-enter the hall. I behold a wild panic. Krafft-Ebing, the lion tamer, is rushing here and there. A man with two children is shaking with fear. Trumpet calls are heard coming from the tower.”

Interpretation: “The dream was connected with a heated discussion in which I had taken part, about Zola’s ‘The Human Beast.’ I contended that in every man there is a pathological strain and that no one is in absolute control of the beast. I see myself under two different aspects. I am the wolf[Pg 69] or tiger and I lock the door in order that the wild cravings may not get loose. How great I am in this dream! Krafft-Ebing, the famous expert in sexual pathology, runs about helpless, while I hold the beasts in my power. The fear-stricken fellow with the two children is myself, an obviously tragic figure, symbolizing another side of my nature. The trumpet calls are from Beethoven’s Fidelio. My marital faithfulness triumphs over my wildest urges. I am a model for all to imitate and I sound loud warnings.”

In a dream reported by a patient who was unconsciously trying to break his appointment with me, the anxiety is purely hypocritical, for each new obstacle placed in the dreamer’s path is a new excuse for not reaching my office on time.

“I was on Riverside Drive, strolling north. Mr. Tridon came along in the same direction, bare-headed and riding on a bicycle. He came near running into a boy, also on a bicycle, but swerved sharply and avoided a collision.

“I was hurrying to keep the appointment with Mr. Tridon which I had for 5.30 P. M. (I really had an appointment for 11.30 in the morning) but felt that I could not be there on time. My watch had stopped and the clocks I saw in stores had stopped likewise. The location was the slope of Morningside[Pg 70] Heights and my direction still seemed to be northerly.

“Another transition and I was climbing a hill near what looked like the 99th Street station of the 3rd Avenue L. Near the summit the going became very steep and I was unable to go on, although I tried to scramble up on my hands and knees. I turned to the left, however, and climbed stairs leading through a white house, which I understood to be a school. There was a woman there with a few children. I then issued into a wide avenue running east and west which looked like Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn. A trolley came along but as I ran for it, it seemed as though I had lost my coat. I turned back anxiously to find it but discovered that I was carrying it on my arm. I woke up before the next car came along.”

After attempting to ridicule me, the dreamer rehearsed all the excuses he might offer me for missing an appointment: Mistake about the hour, clocks stopped, going to the wrong direction (north instead of south), finally landing in Brooklyn, far from my office and missing several cars, etc....

A young woman who had been invited several times by a friend to come and visit her and who had exhausted all the possible excuses for refusing such an invitation had the following dream after[Pg 71] receiving one more letter renewing the invitation:

“My friend’s abode was a new apartment and I spent a night there. Upon awaking in the morning I discovered something crawling on my bed which looked like a caterpillar. I was disgusted and frightened. I went into the bathroom and there too found insects of the same species but very small in size. They reminded me of spiders and the ceiling and the walls were entirely ‘decorated’ with them.

“I then decided to tell my friend to call this to the attention of the landlady and as I entered my friend’s room I found her and the landlady cleaning my friend’s bed.

“I told the landlady how unpleasant it is to have such creatures in one’s apartment and she said: ‘The rooms were left unpainted for some time and this is the cause of it.’”

An unpleasant dream, containing a little anxiety and some disgust and yet, a solution offered for the young woman’s problem, a reason for not accepting the invitation. The place is not clean.

The next dream is also an effort at finding a solution for a distressing problem:

Dream: “I was at home; some one looking like a nurse said: ‘Come up stairs. You are going to have a baby.’ I was neither surprised nor[Pg 72] worried. The nurse added: ‘When you have had the baby, you can select a husband for yourself.’ I followed her and lay on a bed waiting for pains. Feeling nothing I grew impatient and went downstairs. Suddenly I became frightened and decided I must not have the child. I started to think how I could find a doctor to perform an abortion. I awoke suddenly with a tremendous sense of relief.”

Interpretation: The patient is a southern girl living in New York. Home for her means the small town where her family resides. She has had a liaison and has often worried about possible consequences. The first part of the dream is a solution offered by the dream. She is at home, pregnant, but it seems natural to every one and the nurse (a nurse girl of her childhood days) is not only taking the matter as natural but shows her the advantages of her condition. On the other hand, the girl is frigid in love and used to associate pregnancy with orgasm. The pregnancy means here the fulfilment of her wish for an orgasm. Also it reveals her secret desire that her lover might be compelled to marry her. The lack of labor pains is another form of wish-fulfilment. The end of the dream indicates the mental processes of the patient, and her struggle against a regression. She first attempts to solve the problem[Pg 73] by running back to “home and nurse” but insight enables her to analyse her dream and return to real life.

There is no doubt but some painful dreams are, without any symbolism or distortion of any kind, dreams of obvious wish-fulfilment.

There is a human type which enjoys pain, be it inflicted by others or self-torture, and to which fear and anxiety vouchsafe a good deal of gratification.

When we remember the workings of our autonomic nerves we may not wonder at that fact. Pain, anxiety or fear pour into our blood stream fuel which gives us for a few minutes or a few hours a feeling of energy and power we may lack, and secretions which cause an arterial tension translated easily into “excitement,” “exhilaration,” etc.

Children of the masochistic type like to have some one tell them stories of the most nightmarish variety which fill them with terror. We have all met the child who at some time or other makes the strange request: “Scare me.”

Anxiety dreams may play the part of a bracer and tonic in subjects of that type. The strange ritual of some primitive races, ancient and modern, in which mourners slash themselves or pull their hair or beards, corresponds closely from the endocrine point of view to the craving for terrible[Pg 74] fairy tales or the frequency of certain anxiety dreams. The secretions brought forth by that self-inflicted pain may combat successfully the depression due to the loss of a dearly beloved person.



[Pg 75]


Thousands of explanations have been offered for typical dreams which almost every one has had at least once, such as dreams of falling or flying, but none of them should be accepted as covering all cases.

The human mind is compelled to do its thinking along certain lines and to use certain categories like time, space, etc.

Naturally, dreams, which are in no way different from waking thoughts, must move along certain definite grooves too; but we must remember that no symbol has an absolute meaning. Every symbol is likely to have a slightly different meaning for every individual.

We shall see in the chapter on “Attitudes in Dreams” that it is the type of dreams rather than their content which is important psychologically. And it is the type of man who dreams which is important to bear in mind when we try to ferret out the meaning of a typical dream.

Generally speaking, flying dreams seem to[Pg 76] correspond to one of the most universal cravings of mankind: to liberate itself from the tyranny of the law of gravity and enjoy the freedom which winged creatures enjoy. All races have wished to fly and that desire, never gratified in waking life until recently, was bound to express itself in the dreams of all races at all periods of history.

Freud has suggested that such dreams repeat memories of childhood games, rocking, see-sawing; Federn has seen in them a symbol of sexual excitement, both of which explanations sound unconvincing.

There may be a symbolism of a different sort about flying dreams.

If for some reason or other, our sleep becomes suddenly much deeper, we may represent our “flight” from reality through a flight through the air. We soar to the dream level which we feel to be higher than the waking level, to which on awakening, we fall painfully. Variations in the sleep depth would thus account for the frequent relation of sequence which is observable between flying and falling dreams. Flying dreams are never connected with any fear of anxiety, while falling dreams are almost always nightmares of usually short duration.

The Freudians see in many falling dreams[Pg 77] memories of falls in childhood. “Nearly all children,” Freud writes, “have fallen occasionally and then been picked up and fondled; if they fell out of bed at night, they were picked up by their nurse and taken into her bed.”

This explanation fits only an insignificant number of cases.

The symbolism of the falling dream is found upon analysis to be much richer.

In women, dreams of falling are very often symbolical of sexual surrender. Anxiety or pleasure connected with falling dreams reveals the fear or pleasure connected with such a thought in the dreamer’s mind. Not a few falling dreams transform themselves after a slight period of anxiety into flying dreams, thus indicating that the feeling of inferiority connected with the idea of surrender was very slight and easily replaced by a feeling of power, freedom and superiority to environment and conventions.

Dreams of falling are sometimes “followed” by a terrified awakening. In reality it is the awakening due to some physical stimulus, noise, light, pain, etc., which is followed by a falling dream. The dream in that case is symbolical of the act of awaking.

The anxiety is the natural displeasure felt by[Pg 78] the dreamer when suddenly compelled to pass from dreamland into reality. This symbolism is rather apt, for the awakening lowers us from the free and irresponsible estate of the dream creature to the slavery entailed by leading a real life. We fall from the heights of our dreams to the depths of reality.

At times, the dreamer has the impression of being mangled or killed as a result of that fall.

Death is again a powerful symbol indicative of the dreamer’s attitude. He feels he is dying when compelled to return to reality. Such a type is more dangerously attached to his fiction than the one who only resents awaking as a diminution of his ego and power.

Dreams of falling teeth may be symbolical of unconscious onanistic tendencies. The slang of many languages has established a connection which cannot be casual between the pulling of teeth and sexual self-gratification.

In dreams in which teeth grow again in the dreamer’s mouth we may see a return to childish attitudes and memories of the years when the first teeth fell out and were replaced by stronger ones. An optimistic attitude, if somewhat regressive.

When a certain tooth or group of teeth keeps on recurring in dream pictures, an X-ray examination[Pg 79] of the entire denture should be made. I have observed several cases in which such dreams revealed the presence of root abscesses causing absolutely no conscious irritation and only felt unconsciously. Those dreams were both a warning and a wish-fulfilment (painless extraction).

Dreams of nakedness, like dreams of flying, seem to express one of mankind’s cravings, freedom from clothes. In the Earthly Paradise, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed; all the gods and goddesses of the ancient religions were unclothed; even in our days academic sculptors represent modern heroes naked. Painters and sculptors of all epochs have been inclined to glorify the nude in their works.

It is quite unnecessary to construct such dreams as a return to infantilism, as a regression, as the Freudians generally do.

The attitude of the onlookers in those dreams contains a very obvious form of wish-fulfilment: whether we sit at a banquet or walk across a drawing room or appear on a street naked or half unclothed, no one seems to notice us. We generally try to hide or to drape ourselves in as dignified a manner as possible in whatever scanty garments we retain, but the anxiety is all on our side.

Such dreams cannot be dreams of exhibitionism[Pg 80] for they are never accompanied by the wish that people should see us, nor do we ever derive any pleasure from our exposure. I would be inclined to consider them in almost every case as symbolic dreams of attitudes. We are labouring under the burden of some secret which we are afraid of revealing. In spite of our anxiety, we are comforted by the fact that our secret (our total or partial nakedness) escapes the beholders. Our danger and our escape are simply visualized and symbolized.

The symbolism of our exposure is quite obvious. The upper part of our body is usually covered up and it is the “lower” part of it which is exposed, and which we awkwardly try to wrap up in our shirt tails or to conceal under a table cloth or behind furniture or bushes. We are concealing something shameful, “low.” Everybody knows the symbolism of high and low, right and left, which is expressed by the language of all races.

One form of anxiety dream in which we grope our way through endless narrow passages, room after room, up and down flights of stairs, has been considered by some analysts as a memory of the first event of our life, when we were forced violently, painfully, through a narrow passage and finally reached the light of day. When the detail[Pg 81] of those dreams is closely analysed it will prove much more valuable and important than a mere regression to the infantile.

They will generally turn out to be the sort of dreams that coincide with the solution of a crisis and indicate that an adaptation to life has been reached, that the subject has been “reborn.”

Sleep walking is one variety of typical dream characterized by a greater motor activity than the usual dream in which we either lie still or only perform incomplete motions. Sleep walkers, like ordinary dreamers, performed in their somnambulistic states actions which they have refrained from performing in their waking states. While the sense of direction and of orientation seems unimpaired in sleep walkers, their perception of reality is very rudimentary.

Two cases reported by the Encyclopédie Française and by Krafft-Ebing, respectively, illustrate that point.

A young man used to get up at night, go to his study and write.

Observers would now and then substitute a sheet of blank paper for the sheet which he had covered with writing. When he had finished, he would read over his manuscript aloud and repeat correctly, while holding the blank sheet before his[Pg 82] eyes, the words written on the sheet which had been taken from him.

One night the prior of a monastery was seated at his desk. A monk entered, a knife in his hand. He took no notice of the prior but went to the bed and plunged his knife into it several times; after which he returned to his cell. The next morning the monk told the prior of a terrible dream he had had. The prior had killed the monk’s mother and the monk had avenged her by stabbing the prior to death. Thereupon he had awakened, horrified, and thanking God that the whole affair had only been a dream.

In sleep walking dreams there is an accuracy, a singleness of purpose, a concentration of attention which has always struck all observers.

The sleeper often wakes up when called by name, but he generally obeys without waking, all commands of a sensible character, such as to go back to bed.

The sleeper often finds his way and locates the objects he may need for the purposes of his dream with his eyes closed, but noises and collisions with objects often fail to bring him back to waking consciousness.

Sadger has attempted to point a connection[Pg 83] between moonlight and sleep walking, which he calls at times “moon walking.”

The conclusions which he reaches at the end of his book on the subject are as follows:

“Sleep walking, under or without the influence of the moon, represents a motor outbreak of the unconscious and serves, like the dream, the fulfilment of secret, forbidden wishes, first of the present, behind which, however, infantile wishes regularly hide. Both prove themselves in all the cases analysed more or less completely as of a sexual erotic nature.

“Also those wishes which present themselves without disguise, are mostly of the same nature. The leading wish may be claimed to be that the sleepwalker, male or female, would climb into bed with the loved object as in childhood. The love object need not belong necessarily to the present; it can much more likely be one of earliest childhood.

“Not infrequently the sleep walker identifies himself with the beloved person, sometimes even puts on his clothes, linen or outer garments, or imitates his manner.

“Sleep walking can also have an infantile prototype, when the child pretends to be asleep, that it may be able without fear or punishment to[Pg 84] experience all sorts of forbidden things, because it cannot be held accountable for what it does ‘unconsciously in its sleep.’ The same cause works also psychically, when sleep walking occurs mostly in the deepest sleep, even if organic causes are likewise responsible for it.

“The motor outbreak during sleep, which drives one from rest in bed and results in sleep walking and wandering under the light of the moon, may be referred to this, that all sleep walkers exhibit a heightened muscular irritability and muscle erotic, the endogenous excitement of which can compensate for the giving up of the rest in bed. In accordance with this, these phenomena are especially frequent in the offspring of alcoholics, epileptics, sadists and hysterics, with preponderating involvement of the motor apparatus.

“Sleep walking and moon walking are in themselves as little symptoms of hysteria as of epilepsy; yet they are found frequently in conjunction with the former.

“The moon’s light is reminiscent of the light in the hand of a beloved parent. Fixed gazing upon the planet also has probably an erotic colouring.

“It seems possible that sleep walking and moon walking may be permanently cured through the psychoanalytic method.”



[Pg 85]


Every one has heard relations of prophetic dreams which seem to imply a sense of unconscious sight going far beyond the limits of our conscious visual perceptions. It may be that, even as certain vibrations can be sent and received without any transmitting medium except the atmosphere, by wireless, certain visual information can be received, at times, under certain conditions, without any perception of such phenomena reaching the consciousness.

At the same time, this is a field on which one must tread most carefully, for telepathy has never been studied very scientifically and the telepathic dreams which have been related to me or which I have read about had been recorded rather carelessly and the circumstances surrounding them had not been noted with the regard for accuracy which must characterize scientific research.

A few times in my life, I have had the infinite surprise when lifting the telephone receiver, of hearing the voice of the very person I was going to call up and who had called me up at the same[Pg 86] minute. On the other hand, I have endeavoured with the help of very intimate friends to effect synchronic transmission of thought and have failed dismally on every occasion.

While I have never had prophetic dreams I have recorded one dream of mine which might be characterized as a “second sight” dream.

One day I mislaid some documents which once belonged to my father.

That night my father appeared to me and pointed to a desk drawer where the papers would be found. The next morning I looked in that drawer and found the documents.

I certainly placed the documents myself in that drawer the day before and forgot the fact. But the unconscious memory of that action was retained and came up at night while my mind was at work solving the problem of the lost documents.

If that explanation should meet with scepticism I would remind the reader that the wealth of information with which our unconscious is filled permits of unconscious mental operations of which in our conscious states we would be incapable. Janet’s subject, Lucie, who was lacking in mathematical ability, could, in her unconscious states, perform calculations of an extreme complication. He would give her under hypnosis the following[Pg 87] order: “When the figures which I am going to read off to you, leave six when subtracted one from the other, make a gesture of the hand.” Then he would wake her up, and ask several people to talk to her and to make her talk. Standing at a certain distance from her, he would then read rapidly in a low voice a list of figures, but when the appropriate figures were read, Lucie never failed to make the gesture agreed upon.

We notice thousands of things unconsciously, which means simply that every sensorial impression causes a modification of our autonomic system and probably of our sensory-motor system which is never completely effaced.

During our waking hours only those memory impressions which are needed rise to consciousness. The many observations we have made, consciously or otherwise, enable us to calculate the distance between us and an automobile, the speed of that automobile, the width of the street, the dryness or the slippery conditions of the pavement, and to select the time for crossing as well as the speed at which we shall cross.

In our sleep, when we are revolving the day’s problems and searching for solutions, many other facts, stored up in our nervous systems, rise to consciousness and are used in solving the problem.

[Pg 88]In the personal case I cited, my unconscious applied its searchlight to recent events; in other cases reported in the literature of the subject the unconscious is shown bringing back events which seemed to have been entirely forgotten.

Our organism never forgets.

Forgotten incidents which suddenly rise to consciousness in dreams are sometimes responsible for visions which on superficial observation appear truly prophetic. Maury cites the following in his book on “Sleep and Dreams”:

“Mr. F. decided once to visit the house where he had been brought up in Montbrison and which he had not seen in twenty-five years. The night before he started on his trip, he dreamt that he was in Montbrison and that he met a man who told him he was a friend of his father. Several days later, while in Montbrison he actually met the man he had seen in his dream and who turned out to be some one he really knew in his childhood, but had forgotten in the intervening years. The real person was much older than the one in the dream, which is quite natural.”

One finds in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research many remarkable examples of dreams which, to the uninitiated, appear truly miraculous. Remembering, however, the wonders[Pg 89] accomplished by Lucie under the influence of a hypnotic command, we may realize that the book-keepers who suddenly find in a dream the mistakes which have prevented them from balancing their books, or the various people who locate missing objects, are simply continuing in their sleep the day’s work, drawing no longer upon their limited store of conscious memories and impressions, but upon all the wealth of information which is contained in their unconscious.

Even the famous dream of Professor Hilprecht loses much of its glamour when viewed from this angle. Hilprecht had spent quite some time trying to decipher two small fragments of agate which were supposed to belong to the finger rings of some Babylonian god. He had given up the task and classified the fragments as undecipherable in a book on the subject. One night he had put his “o. k.” on the final proofs of that book, feeling, however, rather dissatisfied at his inability to account for the inscriptions found on those ancient stones. He went to bed, weary and exhausted and had a remarkable dream: A tall, thin priest of Nippur appeared to him, led him to the treasure chamber of the temple of Bel and told him that the two fragments in question should be put together, as they were, not finger rings, but earrings made[Pg 90] for a god by cutting a votive cylinder into three parts. The next morning he did as the dream priest had told him to do, and was able to read the inscription without any difficulty.

I have received many letters from persons relating that they had dreamt of the San Francisco earthquake, of the sinking of the Lusitania, of the death of some friend or relative the very night preceding the event.

I show in another chapter how treacherous and unreliable our memory of dreams can be at times.

Happenings following quickly the awakening are likely to become “parasites” on the night’s dreams and to appear as a component part of them.

Time and over again, the newspaper one reads at breakfast adds details to the night’s remembered dreams. Reading about some accident in the early morning may cause us to believe that we dreamt of the accident in the course of the night.

When the German submarines began to sink passenger ships, thousands of dreamers who either wished unconsciously for such sinkings or feared them (which is generally the same thing) and many also who craved the excitement such catastrophes would bring them, must have had dreams in which large ships were sunk. And those thousands must have impressed themselves and their family circle[Pg 91] by announcing, when the morning newspaper came out, that they had seen the tragedy enacted in a dream.

Here again we are groping our way over uncharted fields and not until thousands of scientific observations made with the care characteristic of the chemical laboratory have been made, all explanations will only be tentative and all positive statements misleading.

Those mentioning such dreams to me have at times been rather annoyed when I made them confess the wish lurking in them.

One man told me that he had three brothers at the front during the war and that in a dream he saw one of them killed by the Germans. Soon afterward, news of his death reached the family.

I asked him point blank why he wanted to get rid of that brother. He avoided giving me a direct answer but admitted that if one of the three was to die, the one whose death he saw in his dream would be least missed by his family as he had always made trouble and was the “black sheep.”...

Even in such cases the wish fulfilment theory holds good.



[Pg 92]


Dreams reveal to us what our unconscious cravings are and this is of course valuable information. But cravings are only symptoms of something more important and less easily dealt with: the subject’s attitude to life.

The neurosis is merely a wrong attitude to life and its problems. A fear of darkness, an incestuous desire, an abnormal craving for a certain food are no more important in themselves than a small sore appearing on one’s lip. But as the sore may mean that the organism is infected with the spirochaeta of syphilis, the “psychic” phenomena I mentioned may mean that the organism has adopted toward reality a negative attitude leading to death instead of life.

Owing to its visualizing powers, the dream makes attitudes extremely obvious at the very first glance.

We are as we see ourselves in our dreams.

Positive, energetic dreams, full of action, indicate strength either in resolve or in resistance.

[Pg 93]Vague dreams, full of moods rather than of action, indicate stagnation, aimlessness.

Dreams of adulthood, dealing with the present or the future, indicate progression. Dreams of childhood or dealing mainly with the past, indicate attempts at a regression.

In his latest book, “Introduction to Psychoanalysis,” Freud states that “the unconscious in our psychic life is the infantile.”

This is one of the great Freudian exaggerations. Such a statement is true of the neurotic and explains why he is a neurotic. In fact the more infantile the unconscious appears to be, the more severe the neurosis generally is, until in certain forms of malignant regression, the patient acts like a helpless newly born infant. The predominance of infantile material in dreams indicates a fixation on infantile gratifications which makes the subject especially ill adapted to adult life. But in the normal individual the amount of infantile material is very small indeed.

We start gathering unconscious material at the very minutes of our birth, if not before birth, but we keep on accumulating experiences, most of them unconscious and only rising to consciousness when needed, and conscious experiences which become unconscious when not needed.

[Pg 94]It is the proportion of material from the various periods of our life which enables us to gauge the level a human being has reached through his intelligent, positive acceptance of present day reality. I say acceptance of reality rather than adaptation to reality, for adaptation implies a certain suppression, and suppression may mean neurosis.

It is the human being who satisfies all his infantile cravings within a sphere of activity beneficial to himself and the world, who remains healthy. He who tries to satisfy them through infantile or childish ways merges into a neurosis.

We have seen that the dreams of children and of simple, normal people are obvious and devoid of any symbolic disfigurement. Children dream of the food or the pleasures they had to forego in the previous waking state. Nordenskjold and his sailors, icebound in the Antarctic, dreamt of fine meals, of tobacco, of ships sailing the open sea, of mail from home, in other words of the things of which they had been deprived for months.

The use of symbols in dreams, on the other hand, indicates a lack of freedom of expression due to some fear or repression. A repressed vision appears on the screen of our mind in symbolized form.

[Pg 95]A highly symbolical dream is almost always a pathological dream. It means that we do not dare, even in our dreams, to visualize directly the thing we are thinking of.

The phenomenon which Freud has designated as “displacement” also indicates an attempt at repressing certain important facts by harping on other facts of lesser importance.

A child surprised in a part of the house where his presence is suspicious is not likely to reveal abruptly his plans. He will in all likelihood tell some story from which the real reason for his presence is carefully excluded. A young pie fiend found in the pantry would never mention the word pie but make great ado over the “fact” that his ball has rolled under the cupboard.

And likewise it is very often the part of a dream which a patient has not told which holds the key to the enigma of the patient’s mental disturbance.

One of my hypnagogic visions which I have already mentioned, simple as it is, reveals my entire attitude, not only to sleep, but to life in general.

I do not feel overwhelmed by sleep. I give myself up to sleep as voluntarily as I wade into the sea or plunge into a swimming pool. Sleep will refresh me as a swim would. When the proper[Pg 96] depth is reached I swim out, conscious of my ability and experiencing no fear.

I use sleep as a means to exercise my mental activities as I enjoy the muscular exertion necessary for swimming.

Finally there is no one in the picture but myself. I am the central figure of the dream.

To go into more details, I may confide to the reader that I have never enjoyed any form of sport, indoor or outdoors in which I do not play an important, if not the leading part, or which prevents me from indulging my own whims. Witnessing some one else’s athletic performances bores me to extinction and games such as cards, checkers or golf which are surrounded with iron clad regulations appear to me not as a relaxation but as a useless form of hard work.

Readers may think that these self-revelations are prompted by egotism, but an analyst should analyse himself as ruthlessly as he analyses others and egotism happens to be the dominant feature of my attitude to life.

The following dream draws a remarkable picture of uncertainty, indecision and gloom:

Dream. “I am standing at the foot of marble stairs. I expect some danger from the left where a person clothed in authority, with tyrannical[Pg 97] appearance, is approaching. I ask a female figure standing at the top of the steps, and who seems to be some acquaintance, relative, mother or sister, for help. I try to run up the steps but cannot. The figure extends me a helping hand but that hand is so weak, lifeless, that I feel helpless. I wake up in deep anxiety.”

Attitude. We have in this case a “flight to the mother” coupled with fear of the powerful father. The patient had always suffered from some fear, fear of examinations as a school child, fear of competition in all life matters, fear of marriage, fear of decisions. He lived with his mother and sister and had an affair with a woman considerably older than himself whom he called “mother” and who called him her “boy.”

We shall now see a dreamer wrestling with a sentimental problem, seeking a solution for it and refusing to accept the solution suggested by an outsider.

Dream. “I was in a car with Albert, sitting in my usual seat but the steering gear had been moved so that I could steer from my seat. I was very inexperienced and felt anxiety. I was going down a steep city street and at the bottom, saw a house before which I wished to park; there were red lanterns and signs, however, which prevented[Pg 98] me from stopping there. I went on and Albert disappeared, then I was in the open country climbing a hill and a man (A.T.) stood there and I asked him which way to go. The machinery bothered me, I didn’t know what button to push but trusted my intuition and went all right. Finally I reached a desert stretch where there was nothing and in great anxiety awoke.”

Attitude. The subject in love with a married man, had long hoped that he would secure a divorce and marry her. She often went motoring with him. Their affair was not satisfactory, however, and she had often considered the possibility of a separation.

The situation is handled in the dream as follows. She has had her way and is running the car from her usual seat (he has come to her point of view) but she has misgivings about the experiment (unconsciously, she is not very keen any more to marry him); she tries to park in front of a house (their future home); red lanterns (danger signs, obstacles, law, custom) prevent her from doing so. She then starts out without him and asks her analyst for advice. He encourages her to go on her way but she reaches a deserted place and feels so forlorn, so hungry for human company that she escapes from the nightmare through awaking.

[Pg 99]Even when no change is observable in a patient’s condition in the course of an analysis, constant attention to his dreams will enable the analyst to notice unconscious changes which very soon afterward translate themselves into a conscious modification of attitude.

The following dreams illustrate that point:

At the beginning of the analysis a patient, following in his dreams as well as in his neurosis, the line of least effort, dreamt he had solved a mechanical problem by means of a very simple apparatus consisting in a rocking chair, two thumb tacks and an old rubber coat. Later when he resumed closer contact with life, the machinery of his dreams became real machinery and he continued in his sleeping thoughts the calculations which had occupied him during the day and which to him were a constant source of pleasure.

A patient whose ambition was to become a singer but whose husband was decidedly hostile to her plans, first brought me the following dream in which she frankly relied on me for advice:

“I am on the stage, singing. I forget my part. A foreign looking conductor prompts me. In the wings, a man is looking at me, weeping. He falls in a faint. I rush to him. He looks like my husband. A foreign looking doctor picks him up[Pg 100] and says to me: ‘He will sleep now, after which he will feel better.’ I go back to the stage and sing beautifully.”

Later, having acquired more self-confidence she visualized the situation as follows:

“I see a man leading a Jersey cow on a rope. The cow is trying to get under the fence but cannot. Then the cow is changed into a yellow bird which flies away, perches on top of a barn and sings joyfully.”

In the first dream, I am, of course the conductor and the doctor. In the second dream, the cow is an allusion to the patient’s tendency to gain weight. The song-bird is a very obvious symbol.

A series of dreams reported by a stammering patient not only presented the Freudian feature of wish-fulfilment but indicated clearly the patient’s changing attitude and his growing self-confidence, which finally culminated in his complete cure.

One of the first dreams he brought me at the beginning of the treatment read as follows:

“A congressman called Max Sternberg, who looks like me, is on the platform, making a speech. A gang of little Irish boys in the rear starts a disturbance. The audience, unable to hear the speaker, leaves the hall.”

On numberless occasions, small boys prevented[Pg 101] him in his dreams from accomplishing his object, and in particular, disturbed him when he was speaking. Later the small boys became less and less aggressive. On one occasion he lead a group of them through a museum and they listened to his explanations without interrupting him.

One night he had the following dream.

“I am near Grand Central and thousands of children are lined on both sides of the avenue to welcome a school principal who is landing from the train. He arrives and they all cheer wildly and I have a feeling that I am that school principal.”

Little boys never disturbed the dreamer after that. He had conquered his regressive tendencies and his speech was improving.

His self-confidence grew to such a point that he had the following dream:

“I was in a room with John and Lionel Barrymore and I rehearsed them for a Shakespearian play. Lionel forgot his part and stopped. I prompted him and declaimed a few lines myself very eloquently. This was accompanied by the thought: Very egotistical-good.”



[Pg 102]


Whenever one and the same motive, with perhaps slight variations, recurs frequently in dreams we may assume that it is the leading motive of the dreamer’s waking life. Whenever a person plays a dominant part in our dreaming, we can rest assured that that person dominates and directs our behaviour directly or indirectly.

A man of forty-five, suffering from dizziness, was sent to me by his family physician after numberless tests had failed to attribute his illness to a “physical” cause. The patient had been troubled for two years with vertigo, which he insisted on attributing to arteriosclerosis (against the advice of several physicians). His legs had become very weak and unsteady. He had developed a deep sense of worthlessness and was haunted by suicidal ideas.

My query as to his most frequent dream elicited the answer:

“I dream very frequently of my father.”

His father had died two years before, from arteriosclerosis, and his main complaint had been[Pg 103] dizziness, weakness of the legs and depression. To any one but the patient, the psychological connection between his illness and his father’s illness would have been obvious. He, too, saw some connection between the two, only he placed upon that fact a more sinister construction. The heredity bogey was terrifying him. His father had bequeathed his illness to him, and he was to die as his father had died.

It came out in the course of the analysis that he had been from infancy his father’s constant companion, working for him till he was over forty years of age. Although he had always been fond of women, he had never thought of marrying until his father died. After reciting the usual arguments of the average bachelor directed against matrimony, he confessed that he had never had the courage to bring to his home any young woman he liked and who might have become his wife. Fear of his father’s sarcastic remarks set to nought any plans he might have made for a home of his own.

After his father’s death, he went half-heartedly into various business ventures of which his father would have disapproved and he naturally lost his investment. Every time he met with a reverse, he would be tortured by remorse. “This is my[Pg 104] father’s money which I have been squandering.” “My father would be furious if he knew what I have done.”

He would then dream that his father stalked past him, cold, indifferent, stern, and he “knew” his father had “come back” to show him his resentment.

The superficial symptoms of the patient’s trouble were easily removed when he acquired enough insight to realize that he had been imitating all of his father’s attitudes and repressing his own ego.

Physical exercise soon restored to his legs the steadiness which they had lost while the patient, imitating his father’s helplessness, would sit in his father’s chair day after day, never taking a walk. A more critical attitude of mind toward the father whom he worshipped, removed gradually the sense of worthlessness which had almost lead him to suicide.

Suicide to him was the road that led back to his father, upon whom he wished to shift his responsibilities, and for whom he wished to work (as a younger man), etc.

The case was much more complicated but the few details of it which I have presented are sufficient to show the close connection which existed[Pg 105] between the patient’s most frequent dream and his imaginary neurotic goal.

A homosexual patient always dreamt of her stepmother whom her father married when she, the patient, was only twelve years of age. That marriage was the culmination of a complicated family tragedy, double divorce, unsavoury publicity, bitterness and hostility, puritanical gossip about sex, passion, etc., which made on the child an indelible impression.

She felt obscurely then that relations between sexes were something unutterably filthy and while she liked a few boys in her flapper days, she could not master a feeling of disgust whenever their attitude reminded her of the “nasty” things which had wrecked her family.

On the other hand, the pretty young woman whom her father introduced into his home, personified in her thoughts sexual attraction in its most irresistible form, a symbol of sin and bliss. To this day she has love affair after love affair with women, every affair followed by a “nervous breakdown” in which she repents her immorality and experiences terrible remorse. At every stay in a sanitarium, however, dreams of her stepmother, representing veiled and symbolized homosexual[Pg 106] situations, obsess her night after night. In one of those dreams she took the place of her father and married the young woman, after which the hostility of the family, manifesting itself in various forms, transformed the pleasant fancy into a painful anxiety dream.

Another patient, tyrannized over by an aunt who had brought her up, would, whenever an emergency arose and she had to take a decision, dream of the severe, forbidding aunt and feel so depressed the next day that she could not accomplish anything and thus postponed the solution of her difficulties.

In certain cases, a recurring dream may bear a strange likeness to a splitting of the personality such as we observed in cases of dual personalities.

The famous Rosegger dream, analysed by Freud and Maeder, should be reanalysed in the light of the statements made in the previous chapters. Rosegger went through a hard mental struggle from which he emerged victorious, but the recurring dream he relates in his book “Waldheimat” tells us much about the trials of a little tailor who managed to make a place for himself in the artistic world but for a long while felt out of place in his new environment.

“I usually enjoy a sound sleep,” Rosegger writes, “but many a night I have no rest. I lead side by[Pg 107] side with my life as student and littérateur, the shadow life of a tailor’s apprentice. This I have dragged with me through long years, like a ghost, without being able to get rid of it.... Whenever I dreamed, I was the tailor’s apprentice, ... working without compensation in my master’s workshop.... I felt I did not belong there any more ... and regretted the loss of time in which I could have employed myself more usefully.... How happy I was to wake up after such tedious hours! I resolved that if this insistent dream should come again, I would throw it off and shout: ‘This is only a make believe. I am in bed and wish to sleep.’ Yet the next time I was again in the tailor’s workshop. One night, at last, the master said to me: ‘You have no talent for tailoring. You can go, you are dismissed.’ I was so frightened by this that I awoke.”

Freud compares this dream with a similar dream which pestered him for years and in which he saw himself as a young physician, working in a laboratory, making analyses and unable as yet to earn a regular living. This is his interpretation of it:

“I had as yet no standing and did not know how to make ends meet; but just then it was clear to me that I might have the choice of several women whom I could have married. I was young again[Pg 108] in the dream and she was young too, the wife who had shared with me all those years of hardship.

“This betrayed the unconscious dream agent as being one of the insistent gnawing wishes of the aging man. The fight between vanity and self-criticism, waged in other psychic layers, had decided the dream content, but only the deeper rooted wish for youth had made it possible as a dream. Often, awake, we say to ourselves: Everything is all right as it is today and those were hard times, but it was fine at that time. You are still young.”

Maeder, of Zurich, refuses to accept such a simple explanation and offers a more complicated one, burdened, like many psychological interpretations of the Swiss school, with ethical considerations.

“By his own efforts,” Maeder writes, “Rosegger had worked himself up to a high position in life. This has made him proud and vain, two faults which easily disturb mankind, for they cause a man to suffer in the presence of superiors and place him in a parvenu position among the lowly.... Deep down, there takes place, in the sensitive poet, a gradual elaboration, a development of the moral personality.... The long series of tormenting dreams shows us the development of the psychic process which ends in a deep but effective humiliation[Pg 109] of the dreamer.... His being sent away, dismissed, symbolizes in my opinion, the overcoming of the pride and vanity of the upstart.”

I agree with Freud on the wish for youth expressed by Rosegger’s dream and fulfilled by way of a regression. But neither Freud, bent on introducing a sexual element into his interpretation, nor Maeder, overfond of moralizing, seem to have realized the tremendous meaning of such a series of dreams, culminating as they did in a changed attitude to life.

I have shown in another book, “Psychoanalysis and Behavior,” that in cases of dual personalities, the second personality is always one that leads a simpler, less arduous life, fraught with lesser responsibilities, than the normal life led by the first personality. The Rev. Ansel Bourne, being tired and needing rest, was transformed for several weeks into A. Brown, a fruit dealer in a small town far away from his home. Miss Beauchamp, prim, overconsciencious, repressed, became the irresponsible Sallie, devoid of manners or taste. The Rev. Thomas Carson Hanna, overworked and a spiritual disciplinarian, woke up from a fit of unconsciousness a newborn baby, helpless and in-organized.

Rosegger, rising from manual to intellectual[Pg 110] labour, compelled to adapt himself to the mannerisms of a different world, and to adopt a new set of social habits and customs for which his bringing up in a proletarian home had not prepared him, compelled also to ransack his brain constantly for new ideas to express or for new forms in which to clothe old ideas, may have at times regretted unconsciously the simpler life of a tailor, less rich in egotistical satisfactions but more comfortable intellectually and requiring infinitely less ingenuity.

And some of the remarks which he appends to his dream, confirm my suspicions.

What does he say of his awakening? “I felt as if I had just newly recovered this idylically sweet life of mine, peaceful, poetical, spiritualized, in which so often I had realized human happiness to the uttermost.”

Undoubtedly he had for a long while failed to enjoy it and unconsciously planned to escape from it through a regression to his former estate.

Several lines further down the page we find this statement which is, I think, absolutely conclusive proof of what his mental attitude had been and of the crisis he had lived through.

“I no longer dream of my tailoring days which[Pg 111] in their way were so jolly in their simplicity and without demands.”

Rosegger’s dream is one of those morbid manifestations which enable us to follow a neurotic struggle going on within the organism, a struggle for adaptation to life, a struggle of which the subject is consciously ignorant, because he has burnt his bridges and has repressed the most fleeting thought of a possible change.

Rosegger must have smarted under the demands of his new life, but it was out of the question for him to do anything else. The conflict, however, played itself off in his dreams, offering a solution of a regressive type. When, years later, the tailor’s adaptation to the life of a writer was completed, his master dismissed him. The dream solution was no longer needed.

Recurring dreams often give us valuable indications of physical trouble which should be investigated and remedied at once. Even in ancient times, the relation between recurring dreams of physical disability and some physical disability setting in at a later date had been noticed. In those days, however, the interpretation of such dreams was that the vision was a warning sent by the gods, or that the vision was responsible for[Pg 112] the subsequent trouble. We read for instance of a man who dreamt that he had a stone leg. A few days later paralysis set in.

In discussing dental dreams I have pointed out the importance of having the denture examined for possible pus pockets.

Dreams of animals gnawing at some organ may indicate a cancer developing in that region. Dreams of exhaustion from climbing hills often denote heart disease.

H. Addington Bruce had for several months had the same dream: a cat was clawing at his throat. Examination of the throat revealed a small growth which required immediate surgical intervention. The cat never came back.



[Pg 113]


We do not always need to sleep in order to escape normally from reality. Some of us manage to do it with their eyes open.

Day dreams are not essentially different from night dreams and would not be mentioned separately but for the fact that they at times verge on a neurosis and that in certain cases they are not easily distinguished from delusions and hallucinations.

Whatever was said of night dreams in the preceding chapters holds true of day dreams. There are pleasant day dreams, unpleasant day dreams and even day “nightmares” or anxiety day dreams.

Like the sleep walker, the day dreamer manages at times to take just enough notice of reality to direct himself through his house or along the streets, while his mind is elaborating stories of varying complication.

A day dreamer who consulted me during the war would imagine himself, while walking along the streets, enlisting, taking a tearful farewell from his relatives and friends and accomplishing deeds[Pg 114] of valour which made him famous; after which he would be so affected by his greatness that tears would roll down his cheeks. Or the dream would end tragically and he would die and then again a cascade of tears would be let loose at the thought of all the grief his demise would cause. The result was that day after day he would suddenly “wake up” in some public place, his face wet with tears, annoyed and embarrassed by the attention which his appearance would attract.

Those day dreams constituted in spite of their sad cast a fulfilment of his egotistical cravings. Even death was not too high a price to pay for the importance he acquired in his dream, a psychological fancy which is often found at the bottom of some sensational forms of suicide.

The anxiety day dream is the form of compensation sought by many neurotics, weak in body and frequently taken advantage of by more vigorous and ruthless persons.

It also plays at times the same part as masochistic nightmares, filling as it does, the body with glycogen and a sense of power.

I have heard patients suffering from a sense of real or imaginary inferiority tell me of their obsessive anger finding relief in scenes which they made, while walking along the streets or when[Pg 115] sleepless of nights, to some absent person whom they held responsible for their troubles.

They would then rehearse some annoying or humiliating incident provoked by the offensive person and let loose a torrent of abuse leading unavoidably to a fight in which they would beat, scratch or murder their enemy.

The sound of their own voice or the remarks of passers by would generally wake them up at the climax; their hearts then would beat wildly, they would be out of breath, if not bathed in perspiration, but they would experience withal a certain amount of satisfaction from the victory they had won and they would feel full of what a patient of mine termed “almost murderous energy.”

This form of “abreaction,” when it does not assume the form of a constant indulgence taking the place of positive action, is rather desirable. The psychoanalytic treatment consists, in part at least, in the production of day dreams based on memories which free in the patient a certain amount of repressed energy. Thus a great deal of unrelated and unconscious material is made conscious and related. Day dreams, without any definite direction and unchecked, are likely, however, to be very dangerous and to exert a paralysing influence on the dreamer.

[Pg 116]The concentration and meditation recommended by some Hindoo philosophers can accomplish valuable results if the subject has a clear, analytical mind and knows how to correlate the scraps of thoughts which are thus allowed to rise to consciousness.

For childish people, which are easily caught in the meshes of their fancies and let their imagination run away with them, that indulgence is deadly and it has led millions of Orientals into a nirvana-like idleness and weakness, destructive of energy and life, a negative escape from reality.

This is one of the reasons why, in many forms of neurosis, a rest cure is the most dangerous form of treatment. The neurotic’s attention is generally directed away from reality. His energy is too often deflected toward fictitious goals located outside of the real world. The neurotic has to be brought back into contact with life and human beings; he has to be trained to accept them as they are and to enjoy them for what they are, instead of imagining what they might be. The idleness and seclusion of the rest cure may negative all efforts in that direction.

The rest cure from which day dreams cannot be excluded, is simply an abnormal flight from[Pg 117] reality sanctioned and abetted by a physician ignorant of psychology.

The day dreams which produce happiness, which promote creation, scientific or artistic, and which lead the individual into the stream of life, are sound and healthy dreams. Those which only lead to more dreaming and away from life, are neurotic phenomena, devoid of any redeeming grace.



[Pg 118]


Not infrequently neuroses and psychoses are ushered in by a dream and their termination is announced by a dream.

This should not be understood to mean that the dream either “causes” the neurosis or “cures” it. That mistake has often been made by psychologists of the old school. Taine, among others, cites the case of a policeman who once attended a capital execution.

This spectacle made such an impression on him that he often dreamt of his own execution and finally committed suicide.

It would be absurd to believe that the sight of the execution “put the idea of suicide into his head.” He undoubtedly had been consciously or unconsciously revolving death thoughts in his mind.

The sight of the execution made those ideas more concrete and more obsessive. The recurrence of a death dream simply showed that the obsession was gradually overpowering his personality and seeking realization. The dream work, endeavouring[Pg 119] to solve the problem of how to end his life, offered an easy solution: he did not have to commit suicide; he was being put to death. Finally the death wishes overthrew his personality and he killed himself.

An epileptic was tortured every night by a dream in which a group of boys playing Wild West (he personifying the Indian) were pursuing him, throwing sticks and stones at him and finally cornering him. At the very minute where they were laying hands on him, he would experience a “dying” feeling and wake up in great discomfort. One night he turned round to face the gang which dwindled down to one small urchin whom he spanked. That night he slept soundly and the next day his fears of having a new fit disappeared. Neither that dream nor his fits have returned. It was not the dream that gave him fits, nor was it the last dream which cured him. The obsessive dreams were wish-fulfilment dreams, showing him how to dodge life’s duties through his sickness which was a convenient, though painful, unconscious excuse and how to solve his life problems by getting out of reality.

The last dream revealed a change in his mental attitude. He was not to seek any longer a neurotic escape from reality but face reality and fight his own battles.

[Pg 120]A patient suffering from delusions had the following dream:

“A woman appeared to me and told me that it was all a dream and that all my troubles would soon end.”

Associations to that dream showed that the woman who appeared to my patient was a midwife who had helped her in a confinement some thirty years before (rebirth symbolism). At that time she almost died from puerperal fever and was also “saved” by a dream in which her grandparents appeared to her and told her that she would recover.

Her dreams, in which she placed in the mouth of other people the expression of her own wish for health, corresponded well in their mechanism with her delusions in which she heard people berating her for her imaginary sins.

At the time of the dreams, her delusions had lost their terrifying character and were only a mild annoyance to her. She had acquired enough insight to doubt their reality and to refer them to her unconscious thoughts.

The woman who imagines that in every voice she hears she can distinguish the voice of the man she unconsciously loves builds up a “story” like the dreamer who, perceiving coldness in her feet at night, saw herself falling into a lake.

[Pg 121]The technique is exactly the same in both cases.

Actual sensations are transformed into delusions closely associated with the dreamer’s or the neurotic’s complexes.

People subject to hallucinations project outside of their body symbolic figures representing wishes they have endeavoured to repress and which they refuse to recognize as a part of their personality.

They hear voices which say certain things they are trying not to think of, for they consider such thoughts as obscene, criminal or otherwise unjustifiable.

Dreamers likewise represent their disabilities as something entirely separate from their bodies and their personality.

The stammering patient dreaming that he was delivering a very eloquent speech but was interrupted by howling hoodlums, repressed out of consciousness the idea of his speech disturbance and gratified his ego by saying: “But for those hoodlums I could speak very well.”

Trumbull Ladd suffering from inflammation of the eyelids dreamt that he was trying to decipher a book in microscopic type: An attempt at shifting upon the book the responsibility for his difficulties in reading. The dream said: “There is nothing wrong with your eyes, but the type is too small.”

[Pg 122]A young woman struggling with an unjustifiable attachment for a married man told me the following dream:

“I was surrounded by little devils carrying pitchforks. I was afraid of them at first, but I finally grabbed them all in a bunch and dropped them into the fireplace. A pit opened under them and closed again and I felt free.”

Her psychology was the same psychology which in the Middle Ages caused religious people to invent the devil. Her desires which she refused to recognize as hers were little devils endeavouring to tempt her. We deal more easily with a stranger than with ourselves and “the devil tempted me” sounds more forgivable than “I did what I had always wanted to do.”

What makes it difficult for neurotics at times to tell the difference between their dreams and reality is that the emotions felt in dreams are accompanied by the same inner secretions as when felt in the waking life. A fear dream releases adrenin and a vivid sexual dream is followed by a pollution. The bodily sensations following certain dreams are evidential facts which some neurotics do not know how to controvert.

The hallucinations of delirium tremens patients which are generally accompanied by anxiety,[Pg 123] illustrate the fact that we can be terrified and tortured by a dream which is a symbolized fulfilment of our conscious or unconscious wishes.

It is admitted by all but the very ignorant that immoderate drinking is not induced by a taste for drink but by a desire to escape reality, in the majority of cases, to drown the consciousness of financial or sexual difficulties.

The most common hallucinations of drunkards are those of snakes and lice. Snakes are almost without exception symbolical of the male sex. To the majority of neurotics, lice are symbolical of money and American slang recognizes that association in the expression lousy with money.

The “DT” patient has his wishes fulfilled. He is covered with vermin and snakes crawl about his bed. He has all the symbolical wealth and the symbolical potency or homosexual love he could wish for. But curiously enough he does not understand those symbols and is terrified by the manifest content of his morbid dream.

The story of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel is a fine illustration of the relation between dreams and insanity.

The king began to lose his sleep which was disturbed by nightmares. In the morning, however, the memory of those nightmares seemed to be[Pg 124] entirely gone. Daniel contrived to reconstruct a forgotten anxiety dream in which the king saw a gigantic figure with head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay and which toppled down when struck by a stone.

Here we have a morbid attitude to reality, the king visualizing his position (which unconsciously appeared to him precarious), through that unstable figure, and also expressing a neurotic wish to be delivered from his anxiety through the final catastrophe.

Later the king had another dream visualizing his fears and death wishes through a different image: A mighty tree grew till its head reached the heavens. Then an angel cried: “Hew down the tree, leave the stump and roots in the earth, in the tender grass of the field; let it be wet with the dew and let his portion be with the beasts.”

Fear of defeat and a neurotic desire to escape reality via a regression to the animal level are clearly indicated in this dream and in Daniel’s interpretation of it.

Very soon after, auditory hallucinations began to appear. “A voice fell from heaven,” speaking out the unconscious wishes which the king craved to gratify.

[Pg 125]In a siege of dementia praecox, Nebuchadnezzar ate grass like oxen and his body was wet with the dew from heaven; his hair grew like eagle’s feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

After a period during which he, like all cases of changed personality, led an easier, simpler, more primitive life, without any responsibilities, Nebuchadnezzar recovered and related thus his return to reality:

“My reason returned unto me; for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and lords sought unto me; I was established in my kingdom and excellent majesty was added unto me.”

In the meantime he had become reconciled with reality and had given up his paranoid attempts at being the mightiest factor in the world.

By accepting as a possibility the existence of a mightier power, he protected himself against the ignominy of a possible defeat. Against an omnipotent God, even he could not prevail.

Freud writes: “The overestimation of one’s mental capacity, which appears absurd to sober judgment, is found alike in insanity and in dreams, and the rapid course of ideas in the dream corresponds to the flight of ideas in the psychosis. Both are devoid of any measure of time.

[Pg 126]“The dissociation of personality in the dream, which, for instance, distributes one’s own knowledge between two persons, one of whom, the strange one, corrects in the dream one’s own ego, fully corresponds to the well-known splitting of the personality in hallucinatory paranoia; the dreamer, too, hears his own thoughts expressed by strange voices.

“Even the constant delusions find their analogy in the stereotyped recurring pathological dreams.

“After recovering from a delirium, patients not infrequently declare that the disease appeared to them like an uncomfortable dream; indeed, they inform us that occasionally, even during the course of their sickness, they have felt that they were only dreaming, just as it frequently happens in the sleeping dreams.”



[Pg 127]


I have given in the previous chapters many reasons why human beings are compelled to seek at regular intervals an escape from reality which is made possible by the unconsciousness of sleep.

Why is it then, that many people suffer from insomnia?

Many physical factors are generally mentioned as the direct causes of sleep disturbances. None of them should be dismissed as unimportant; nor should any one of them, however, be accepted as an exclusive and all-sufficient explanation of sleeplessness.

Coffee, tea and cocoa (the latter even in the shape of chocolate candy) taken in large quantities, particularly before retiring, affect our sympathetic or safety nerves. They make us, therefore, more sensitive to slight sound, light, pressure, smell, etc., stimuli, which under ordinary circumstances we would not notice consciously.

In other words, they create imaginary “emergencies” which require the usual preparation for fight or flight, that is, keen observation of our[Pg 128] environment, arterial tension, etc., all conditions which make sleep impossible.

Yet we cannot say that coffee, tea or cocoa, without some other contributing cause would always bring about sleep disturbances.

Bleuler writes: “I had been in the habit of drinking every night several cups of very strong tea which never prevented me from sleeping. Since I have had the influenza, things have been very different. I must be careful not to partake of such stimulants before going to bed. But even then, their effect depends on my mental condition. They affect me more at certain times than they do at others. If I am the least bit excited their effect is increased. When I am perfectly relaxed, I may not feel any bad effects.”

A bedroom into whose windows flashes of light or waves of sound may pour, is the not ideal place in which to seek escape from reality. Yet thousands of people sleep soundly in Pullman berths or even in day coaches, unmindful of the noise, light and bustle.

We must keep in mind an observation made by Bleuler at the Zürich clinic:

“When many people sleep in the same room, as in an insane asylum, some complain that they cannot sleep because their neighbour is snoring.[Pg 129] Whoever tries to prevent the snoring or to move the snorer to another bed will have an endless task. The trouble is with the patient who is disturbed by snoring. It is not the noise itself but the attention he pays to it which disturbs him. One can see in wards for agitated patients most of the patients sleeping peacefully while some one disturbs the ward with the most savage howling.

“The trouble lies, not in a special sensitiveness of the nervous system, but in the attitude we take toward a certain noise.”

Lack of exercise during the day will often cause us to toss and turn many times in our bed after retiring. There seems to be in every living being a craving for activity without any positive aim, activity which accomplishes nothing besides using up unused energy or relieving certain inhibitions.

Children and all young animals seem to be unable to remain motionless for any length of time. In children and puppies, for example, the gleeful shouts and barking which accompany that display of muscular activity show unmistakably that it vouchsafes them a great amount of gratification.

The satisfaction of the free activity urge which is one of the aspects of the ego-power urge is probably submitted to a strong repression in men and animals at a rather early age by the safety urge;[Pg 130] frightened children and animals stop playing and become at times paralysed by fear.

On the other hand there are many sluggish individuals who lead an most inactive life and yet sleep long hours without any interruption.

Indigestion causes insomnia and so does hunger but it is also a fact that many indiscreet eaters are made drowsy by their very indiscretion and sleep soundly after a meal which would distress many other people. Also we find in the sayings of many races statements to the effect that sleep assuages hunger; the average prisoner sleeps in spite of the insufficient meal served at night in the majority of jails.

Constipation seems at times to bear the guilt for restless nights and so do cathartics which, with some subjects, produce intestinal tension several times during the night but whose effect is not noticeable in other subjects until they wake up in the morning at the regular time.

Toothache will keep some people awake while others will go to sleep in order to forget their toothache.

Examples of that sort could be cited ad infinitum.

In case of sleeplessness, the first thing to do is to remove all the possible physical causes which can be reached directly or with the help of a physician.

[Pg 131]Thyroid irritation for instance may at times make one more sensitive to even faint noises and a thorough medical examination should be undergone.

The dentature should be examined with the help of X-ray photography in order that pus pockets, impaction, and other defects, not observable with the naked eye, may be revealed and remedied.

The diet should be regulated so as to exclude indigestible foods while assuring, especially at night, sufficient nourishment.

All stimulants should be avoided.

A walk before retiring is very beneficial in all cases, not because it “tires” the subject, but because it absorbs the chemical products thrown into the blood for emergencies which did not arise in the course of the day. A long walk or any arduous exercise, on the other hand, might do more harm than good if they brought about the phenomenon of the second wind.

Any form of physical or mental exercise involving rivalry or competition is to be avoided at night. The excitement caused by the “fear of losing” would again fill the blood with “fight or flight” products. Heated discussions, the witnessing of exciting films or plays, drives with a daredevil chauffeur, etc., are not conducive to peaceful sleep.

When all those means fail, many devices have[Pg 132] been offered to insomnia sufferers, such as prayer or counting sheep, reading, listening to some monotonous stimulus like the buzzing of a faradic inductor, or of an electric fan.

A distinction must be made between stereotyped prayer (such as the Lord’s Prayer) and personal prayer rehearsing one’s worries and asking for help. The latter kind is not unlikely to revive all the day’s problems and to set the would-be-sleeper solving them over again at the very time when he should forget them.

The repetition of some passage which was memorized in childhood and which, from long familiarity has become perfectly impersonal, may go a long way toward creating the monotony, and hence the feeling of safety, without which there cannot be any sleep.

After following all the rules I have laid down a number of people will still be unable to sleep. When the physico-psychic causes have been removed without improving the condition of the subject, the psychico-physical factors should then receive attention.

As I said before, normal people can sleep under almost any conditions because their vagotonic activities function regularly, while neurotics cannot sleep well even under ideal conditions because their[Pg 133] sympathicotonic activities are constantly raising a signal danger and imagining emergencies amidst the safest surroundings, mental and physical.

The insomnia sufferer is suffering from some fear. That fear has to be determined and uprooted by psychoanalysis.

Some people cannot sleep because they have gone through a period of sleeplessness and expect it to endure for ever. The men of the Emmanuel movement often had the following experience: a subject would explain that he could not sleep under any circumstances. The Emmanuel healer would ask him to sit in a chair in which, he said, many people had fallen asleep, and after a few minutes of soothing conversation or concentration, the insomniac would doze off peacefully. In certain cases, such a cure may be permanent; in other cases, when the results are obtained through transference and suggestion, the help of the psychological adviser or hypnotist may be too frequently required.

Other subjects are prevented from sleeping by “worry.” Telling a careworn insomniac not to worry is as silly and useless as telling a lovelorn person to stop being in love.

Discussing a patient’s worries with him, however, often accomplishes much good, for it[Pg 134] compels him to sift all his evidence, which may be convincing to him but to no one else. The worried person who is beginning to experience doubts as to the magnitude of his trouble, is like the patient suffering from delusions who has lost faith in his delusions.

The parasitic fears and cravings which attach themselves to some small worry and, at times, magnify it out of proportion, may in such a way be disintegrated and dissociated from the actual, justified fear.

Giving the patient “good reasons” why he should not worry, is again a sort of suggestion of the most futile and least durable type.

Obsessive fear which is at the bottom of every worry is due to certain complexes, at times apparently unrelated to the actual disturbance, and which cannot be unearthed and uprooted except by a thoroughgoing psychological analysis.

This is especially true of certain cases of insomnia which the patient reports as follows. “I fall asleep with difficulty and with a certain apprehension. I sleep an hour or two during which I have awful dreams which I cannot remember. After which I hardly dare to close my eyes again.”

This is what I would call the fear of the unknown nightmare, and the anxiety dreams[Pg 135] responsible for it must be patiently reconstituted from the scraps which invariably linger in the subject’s memory, even when he imagines that he cannot remember any dreams. The procedure will be explained in the next chapter.

While the psychoanalytic treatment is being applied, however, the patient must be made aware of a fact which will comfort him to a certain extent.

Patients often fear that if their sleeplessness is not relieved “at once” they will “loose their minds.” Thereupon they beg to be given some narcotic.

We must remember that the results of sleeplessness depend mostly upon the attitude which we assume toward that condition. It may seem paradoxical to state that its bad results are mainly due to our fear of them but it is true nevertheless.

We assume that we shall be exhausted by a sleepless night. We go to bed in fear and trembling, wondering whether we will or will not sleep. That anxiety is sufficient to liberate secretions which produce an unpleasant muscular tension and a desire for activity. This keeps us awake until the chemical contained in those secretions have been eliminated. In the meantime, we develop a fit of anger which releases some more of the identical chemicals. After which we are doomed to many hours of unrest and agitation.

[Pg 136]During those restless hours we toss about angrily and exhaust ourselves physically. About dawn, when sleepiness generally overtakes even the most restless, we finally doze off and are awakened by our alarm clock or some other familiar disturbance and once more relapse into anger at the waste of our sleeping hours and the disability which we feel is sure to result from it.

We naturally feel worn out. If, on the other hand, we would resign ourselves to our sleeplessness, realize that rest, even in the waking state, will relieve our organism of all its “fatigue” and that, by complete relaxation in the waking state, we can liberate almost as many of our unconscious cravings as in the unconsciousness of sleep; if we were as careful not to waste uselessly our inner secretions as we are not to touch live wires, we would lie down as motionlessly as possible, and would consign to the scrap heap all the absurd notions as to the dire results of a sleepless night; we would then awaken in the morning as refreshed by the two or three hours of sleep that would finally be vouchsafed us as by the usual eight or ten.

The amount of sleep one needs varies with every individual and increases or decreases according to unconscious requirements. Hence, statements to[Pg 137] the effect that one needs eight or ten hours’ sleep are absurd and dangerous.

Many people are worried over the fact that their sleep is irregular, that is, that they sleep six hours one night and ten the next night and possibly only four hours the third night.

This is probably as it should be. Our requirements vary with varying conditions. After eating salt fish one may need several glasses of water to slake one’s thirst, while one may not need to drink a drop of any liquid after partaking of juicy fruit.

One should also dismiss as an idle superstition the dictum according to which sleep before midnight is more beneficial than sleep after midnight. Hundreds of newspapermen, watchmen, policemen, printers, railroadmen, etc., work nights and sleep in the day time and do not contribute more heavily than other professions to the ranks of the mentally deranged.

Older people, whose urges are at low ebb and do not require the satisfaction vouchsafed by dream life should become reconciled to the fact that they need few hours sleep; they should refrain from taking narcotics and go to bed later than they do, so as not to “lay awake all night,” which generally means that after dozing an hour or two in an[Pg 138] armchair and retiring at ten they wake up normally about one or two in the morning.

Sleep is important in health but even more so in mental disturbances. The solution for the complicated problems of the neurotic’s life depends upon the wealth of facts contained in the unconscious rising freely to the surface in dreams and relieving the uncertainty. The tragedy is that except in cases of sleeping sickness, the neurotic who needs more sleep than the healthy subject, generally gets much less.

The neurotic should sleep preferably at night and avoid day sleep. This for two reasons. He should keep in touch with reality when reality is active and obvious, as during the day. With the falling of the shadows, reality acquires a tinge of indefiniteness which lends itself to many misinterpretations and to fancies of the morbid type.

Sleeplessness in the ghostly hours of the night is a poison for the neurotic, for everything at such times is exaggerated, distorted and the slightest worry is transformed into a terrible danger. Many children could be spared fits of “night terrors” if they were not forced to go to bed very early, after which they are likely to wake up in the middle of the night, disoriented and fearful.

It has been said that insomnia was the cause[Pg 139] of insanity and experiments such as those made at the University of Iowa show that men kept awake for a prolonged period of time begin to have delusions and hallucinations similar to those of dementia praecox. But it must be remembered that the men who submitted to those experiments were not allowed to “rest.”

The contrary proposition, that is, that insomnia is induced by insanity is more plausible psychologically.

And indeed every psychiatrist has made the observation that some insane people sleep very little, so little in fact that such protracted periods of sleeplessness would kill the average normal person. That observation has been confirmed by Bleuler, who as the head of the Zurich psychiatric clinic and one of the most tireless psychological experimenters in the world, is in a position to speak with authority.

Neurotics sleep very little, and the more severe their case is, the less they sleep. Return of normal sleep generally coincides with a cure and has been by many credited with bringing about the cure. Hence the many “rest cures” suggested for the mentally disturbed patient.

The truth of the matter is that the absolutely insane person who lives all his absurd dreams in[Pg 140] his waking life no longer needs the unconsciousness which the normal individual requires in order to escape from reality. The insane man who knows he is a combination of a Don Juan, a millionaire and a powerful ruler, need not dream of becoming all those characters. He has attained his goal and it is only the continued conflicts with reality which may reach his consciousness in his lucid moments which necessitate the unconsciousness of a few minutes or hours of sleep in which reality no longer intrudes into his absurd world.

Since insomniacs can rest without sleep and insomnia does not lead to insanity, there is no reason why narcotics should be administered. There is a very good reason on the other hand why they should never be administered except in case some harrowing pain has to be relieved and shock avoided.

For one thing, their effect is problematic and depends also to a great extent from the subject’s mental condition.

Kraepelin noticed that large doses of alcohol failed to produce the usual muscular lameness in subjects who were agitated. Bleuler makes the interesting suggestion that our central nervous system only “accepts” narcotics when they are “wanted” and keeps drugs, carried about in the[Pg 141] blood stream, from being assimilated by the organism when the organism is not “willing” to submit to their influence.

But the most cogent reason why narcotics should never be resorted to in “nervous” sleeplessness is that they do not relax the organism but paralyse it by killing it partly. If they only dulled consciousness and freed the unconscious, they would accomplish some good but we do not know of any agent besides sleep, which accomplishes that successfully.

Narcotics partly kill both consciousness and unconscious. While their effect lasts, the very phenomenon which makes the neurotic a neurotic is exaggerated. In the neurotic’s waking state, unconscious complexes manage to free themselves, somewhat indirectly. In the stupor of drugged sleep, the repression is complete. Hence the horrible feeling which is often experienced when awakening from drug-induced sleep. Normal sleep is brother to life, but drug induced sleep is indeed akin to death.

Neither can hypnotic suggestion be recommended as a cure for sleeplessness, except of course, in emergencies.

About the end of the nineteenth century, a Swedish physician, Wetterstrand, inaugurated a method of treatment which was founded on a just estimate[Pg 142] of the value of sleep, although Wetterstrand himself could not at the time have understood the psychology of it.

He had in Upsala a “house of sleep” furnished with innumerable divans and couches on which his patients were allowed to rest for hours in hypnotic sleep.

Of course this procedure had two glaring defects: hypnotism is a neurotic phenomenon which should not be applied to the treatment of a neurosis and, secondly, sleep in the daytime is generally enjoyed at the expense of the night’s sleep.

At the same time, the sleep which patients enjoyed in Wetterstrand’s “Grotto of Sleep,” as it was called at the time, must have been of a somewhat curative kind; for the house was as silent as a grave. Thick carpets deadened all sounds and all the lights were dimmed. No stimuli were allowed to produce in the sleepers any fear reactions.

What Wetterstrand really supplied to his patients was an ideal bedroom and an opportunity for an absolutely uninterrupted sleep of several hours. We do not know, however, how many of them were robbed of the effect of such an ideal environment by the anxiety dreams which the quietest bedroom cannot exclude.

The conclusion to be drawn from what has been[Pg 143] said in the preceding chapters is that the real mission of sleep is to free the unconscious, to relieve the tension due to repressions and to give absolutely free play to the organic activities which build up the individual.

Hence the goal is sleep of sufficient duration, sleep undisturbed by physical stimuli, sleep FULL OF DREAMS but FREE FROM NIGHTMARES.

No more potent curative agent could be found than that kind of sleep, whether the ills to be remedied are of a “mental” or of a “physical” nature. Not until all the fear-creating complexes have been disintegrated by psychoanalysis, however, can the insomniac hope to enjoy that perfect form of “rest.”



[Pg 144]


Dream interpretation is not an idle pastime or a mysterious performance. Carried out in accordance with certain scientific rules based on common sense and not on mere theory, it has a positive value in health as well as in sickness.

A nightmare whose meaning has been interpreted rightly ceases to be a nightmare. It disappears, or rather, is replaced by an obvious wish-fulfilment dream of the same import, which does not disturb sleep.

The same modification is observable in recurrent dreams which, while not burdened with anxiety, may have puzzled us and created a certain apprehension.

Insight into our own dreams enables us to release more completely the unconscious cravings which it is the mission of sleep to free from the repressions of waking life.

The technique of dream interpretation is unfortunately, like every detail of the psychoanalytic technique, very slow and at times discouraging. The layman trained by quack literature to expect[Pg 145] quick results, is apt to appear scornful when a conscientious analyst, asked to interpret offhand an apparently simple dream, refuses to perform that task and confesses that he does not know the meaning of it.

When little Anna Freud dreamt that she was feasting on all sorts of dainties, no elaborate technique was needed to ferret out the enigma of such a vision. When Ferenczi’s patient, however, saw herself strangling a white dog, the wish-fulfilment formula, applied indiscriminately, would have given poor results.

To the patient, the white dog symbolized a snarling woman with a very pale face.

Dream interpretation must never be attempted without the dreamer’s assistance.

Snakes are almost always sexual symbols, but if on the day preceding the dream the subject was frightened by a snake or killed one or played with one, we should require a good deal of other evidence before we could safely assert that a snake dream on that night indicated fear, desire or repression of sexual cravings.

A tooth pulling dream related by a subject who expects to go through the ordeal of dental extraction should not be hastily admitted to be a symbolical dream.

[Pg 146]Even apparently obvious dreams may assume an entirely different complexion when we inquire into the associations which every detail of them conjures up from the subject’s unconscious.

A year ago or so a Chicago woman sued her husband for divorce because he had been, while talking in his sleep, saying endearing things to his stenographer. That woman was both right and wrong.

The fact that her husband dreamt of his stenographer was evidence that the girl was “on his mind,” consciously or unconsciously. But we could not, without examining the husband’s unconscious reactions decide to what extent the stenographer herself, as a distinct personality, obsessed him.

Every man is more or less of a fetichist, irresistibly attracted by certain details of the feminine body, for ever seeking those characteristics and appreciating them above all others wherever found. When only one such characteristic and no other attracts a man, the man is known as a perverse fetichist.

When the various fetiches which attract a man are found in one woman, let us say red hair, dark eyes and a slender build, we have the foundation for a passionate and durable love.

When only one of those characteristics is found[Pg 147] in a woman, that characteristic is bound to attract the man’s attention regardless of the interest or lack of interest the woman may present for him. A red haired woman, while otherwise totally unattractive, might, to a red hair fetichist, symbolize the beauty he seeks and intrude into his dream pictures, although she personally could not attract him sexually in his waking state.

Every one has had the experience of embracing in dreams some person who in the waking state would not inspire the dreamer with any desire. If we analyse carefully the appearance of the “ghostly love” we will in every case notice that he or she is endowed with a certain characteristic which is one of the constituting elements of our “love image.”

The Chicago woman should have taken her troubles to an analyst, not to a judge.

I have dwelt at length on that example to show a few of the pitfalls which threaten the careless interpreter of dreams.

The second rule I would formulate is this: Do not try to interpret one dream. Wait until you have collected a large number of dreams, let us say, twenty or thirty of them.

Then classify them according to their character as follows:

Pleasant and unpleasant dreams. Healthy and[Pg 148] morbid. Masochistic and sadistic. Childish or adult. Regressive, static or progressive. Positive or negative. Varied or recurrent. Personal or typical. Hypnogogic and hypnapagogic visions, etc.

Care must be taken then to note all the words and thoughts which appear most frequently in many dreams and which are likely to refer to important complexes.

Whenever possible two versions of each dream should be studied.

The subject should write down his dreams as soon as he wakes up, either in the morning or right after an anxiety dream which may have disturbed him in the course of the night.

The version of almost any important dream which the subject tells the analyst will be found quite at variance with the version written immediately after awakening.

Here is a dream reported orally to me by a patient.

“I saw you through a restaurant window, having lunch with your wife.”

Here is the same dream as I found it in the patient notes:

“You were to deliver a lecture in a park. There was a number of good looking girls there. One[Pg 149] especially attracted my attention. As there was quite a little mud in the park she wore rubber boots. You were late in appearing and I went to look for you. I saw you sitting at a table in a restaurant with your wife, waving to some acquaintance on the side walk.”

The discrepancy between the two versions is quite amusing.

After that preparatory work of classification and comparison, the actual work of interpretation can begin.


The technique of dream interpretation could not have been described more accurately nor more aptly.

The person whose dreams are to be analysed should relax completely, stretched out on a couch in a quiet room, listening for a while to some[Pg 150] monotonous noise such as the buzzing of a fan or of an inductor, his mind concentrated on the story of the dream.

Then he should tell in a rambling way, without trying to edit the things that rise to his consciousness, all the associations of ideas connected with every word of the dream. While we can interpret our own dreams and jot down our own ideas, the assistance of some sympathetic, discreet person makes the process much simpler. Jotting down notes detracts one’s attention from the images rising to consciousness.

The assistant, however, should confine himself to mentioning the next word or the next part of the dream as soon as the subject seems to have exhausted the associations brought forth by one part of it.

The most surprising results are often obtained in that simple way. Facts which the subject had entirely forgotten, connections he had never been aware of, will suddenly jump into consciousness; the dream will gradually assume a meaning and its interpretation may at times reach an unexpected length. A dream of one line may suggest associations covering five or six pages.

It may happen that in spite of the subject’s efforts to remember his dreams and of devices such as[Pg 151] being awakened in the course of the night, etc., the only memories preserved of the night’s visions will be scraps such as “going somewhere,” “talking to somebody,” “something unpleasant,” etc.

In such cases, the subject should be allowed to sink into what Boris Sidis calls “hypnoidal sleep” by being made to listen to some continuous noise in a partly darkened room, all the while thinking of the “dream scrap.”

“While in this hypnoidal state,” Sidis writes, “the patient hovers between the conscious and the subconscious, somewhat in the same way as in the drowsy condition, one hovers between wakefulness and sleep. The patient keeps on fluctuating from moment to moment, now falling more deeply into a subconscious condition in which outlived experiences are easily aroused, and again rising to the level of the waking state. Experiences long submerged and forgotten rise to the full height of consciousness. They come in bits, in chips, in fragments, which may gradually coalesce and form a connected series of interrelated systems of experiences apparently long dead and buried. The resurrected experiences then stand out clear and distinct in the patient’s mind. The recognition is fresh, vivid, and instinct with life, as if the experiences had occurred the day before.”

[Pg 152]Through this procedure, patients are often enabled to recollect forgotten dreams and nightmares.

Certain patients do not forget their dreams but refuse to report them. In such cases the simplest procedure consists in asking the patient to make up a dream while in the analyst’s office, that is to put himself in the hypnoidal state described above and to tell the images and thoughts that come to his mind. Or if the analyst suspects the existence of a certain complex, he may ask the patient to build up a dream on a topic so selected that it will touch that complex.

A question which audiences have asked me hundreds of times is: “Cannot the patient make up something that will deceive you entirely and throw you on the wrong trail?”

My answer to such a question is emphatically negative.

A study of the literary and artistic productions of all races has shown that in every “story” and in every work of art, the writer or artist was solely bringing to consciousness his own preoccupations, in a form which may have deceived him but which does not deceive the psychologist slightly familiar with the author’s biography.

Brill tells somewhere how his attention was first[Pg 153] drawn to the value of artificial dreams and of so called “fake dreams.”

In 1908, he was treating an out of town physician, suffering from severe anxiety hysteria. The patient was very sceptical, did not co-operate with Brill, never talked freely and pretended he never had dreams. One morning, however, he came for his appointment bringing at last one dream. “He had given birth to a child and felt severe labour pains. X., a gynecologist who assisted him, was unusually rough and stuck the forceps into him more like a butcher than a physician.”

It was a homosexual fancy. Asked who X. was, the patient said he was a friend with whom he had had some unpleasantness.

Then he interrupted the conversation, saying: “There is no use fooling you any longer. What I told you was not a dream. I just made it up to show you how ridiculous your dream theories are.”

Further examination, however, proved that the patient was homosexual and that his anxiety states were due to the cessation of his perverse relations with X. The lie he had made up was simply a distorted wish closely connected with the cause of his neurosis.

As Brill states very justly, “everything which[Pg 154] necessitates lying must be of importance to the individual concerned.”

Personally, I have found that, with certain patients, the artificial dream method is productive of better results than the free association method. With the docile patient who has much insight and a positive desire to rid himself of his troubles, the association method reveals quickly the darkest corners of the unconscious. The patient who, on the other hand, constantly answers: “I cannot think of anything,” and is always on his guard, the association method wastes much valuable time and is very discouraging to patient and analyst.

It is not always advisable for the analyst to reveal to his subjects the import of their dreams. It is especially when the meaning of their dreams is frankly sexual that discretion and tact are necessary. In cases of a severe repression of sexual cravings extending over many years, when, for instance, one has to deal with a woman, no longer young and whose attitude to life has been rather puritanical, a good deal of educational work has to be undertaken before the subject can be enlightened.

She must be gradually led to consider sex as a “natural” phenomenon before she can be made to[Pg 155] accept the sexual components revealed by her dreams as a part of her personality.

Repressed homosexualism is perhaps even harder to reveal to the subject.

I have found my task infinitely simpler when the subject had done a good deal of reading along psychoanalytic lines or had attended many lectures on the subject. In fact it is my conviction that when psychoanalytic books are read by a larger proportion of the population, thousands of “sex” cases will disappear, together with the absurd fears based on ignorance which are responsible for many a mental upset.

Interpreting a subject’s dreams is the best known means of probing and sounding his unconscious, but in the majority of cases it only helps indirectly in treating the case. When we deal with nightmares, however, the results are more direct and more rapidly attained. A nightmare interpreted rightly will never recur, or if it does, WILL NOT FRIGHTEN OR AWAKEN THE SUBJECT.

Insight will develop which, even in the sleeping state, will enable the subject to recognize that his dream is only a dream and to sleep on undisturbed. A patient who was often terrorized by a dream in which some man stabbed him in the back, gradually[Pg 156] came to recognize his unconscious homosexual leanings and analysed the nightmare in his sleep when it occurred again with excellent results. It did not frighten him and gradually disappeared, being replaced by grosser dreams devoid of anxiety.

A patient was bothered by dreams in which he was repelling onslaughts of large beasts with a walking stick or an umbrella which invariably broke and which he was always trying to tip with iron rods or tacks.

He finally gained insight into his unconscious fear of impotence which was dispelled by a visit at a specialist’s office.

Not only did that nightmare disappear but very soon after, his dreams changed to visions of successful sex-gratification.

Dream insight based upon the personality of the analyst should not be considered as real insight. When a patient reports, “I dreamt that I was a baby but remembered that Mr. Tridon would call that a regression dream and I awoke,” or, “I felt that Mr. Tridon would characterize the whole thing as a masochistic performance and awoke,” much work remains to be done.

The dreamer must know that his nightmare is a symbol and not merely know that his analyst would call it a symbol.

[Pg 157]When the dreamer has acquired the technical skill which enables him, after a little concentration and meditation, to interpret his own sleep visions, he is no longer at the mercy of the annoyance called nightmare. When he can see at a glance where the repression seems unbearable, he may devise ways and means to satisfy his cravings more completely if they are justifiable and lawful; if they are unjustifiable or socially taboo, he may seek substitutes for them and, especially as I have explained in another book, free them from the parasitic cravings which make them unduly obsessive.

He who can read the indications of his own dreams, has at his disposal an instrument of great precision which indicates to him the slightest fluctuations of his personality and, besides, points out various solutions for the problems of adaptation which the normal, progressive human being must solve every day of his life.

Oneiromancy is the algebra which enables us to perform rapidly complicated calculations in the mathematics of psychology.



[Pg 158]


Abrahamson, I.—Mental disturbances in lethargic encephalitis. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. September 1920.

A study of the sleeping sickness based mainly upon cases observed at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Abraham, K.—Dreams and Myths. Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph Series. No. 28.

A monograph proving that legends and myths are in reality the day dreams of the human race.

Adler, A.—Traum and Traumdeutung. Zentralblatt f. Ps. A. III, p. 574.

A short essay on dream interpretation from the point of view of the ego urge.

Aschaffenburg, G.—Der Schlaf in Kindesalter und seine Störungen. Bergmann, Wiesbaden.

Observations on the disturbances of the sleep of children.

Bruce, H. A.—Sleep and Sleeplessness. Little Brown.

A popular exposé of the problem of sleeplessness from a modern point of view.

Coriat, I.—The Meaning of Dreams. Little Brown.

A small book containing the analyses of many dreams according to the Freudian technique.

Coriat, I.—The Nature of Sleep. Journal of Abnormal Psycho. VI. No. 5.

Coriat, I.—The Evolution of Sleep and Hypnosis.

[Pg 159]

Ibidem, VII. No. 2.

Delage, Y.—La nature des images hypnagogiques. Bulletin de l’ Inst. Gen. Psycho. 1903, p. 235.

Du Prel, Carl.—Künstliche Träume. Sphinx, July 1889.

A study of artificial dreams.

Freud, S.—The Interpretation of Dreams. Macmillan.

Freud, S.—Dream Psychology, with an introduction by André Tridon. McCann.

The most important books on Dream Interpretation.

Frömner, E.—Das Problem des Schlafs.

Bergmann, Wiesbaden.

Henning, H.—Der Traum ein assoziativer Kurzschluss.

Bergmann, Wiesbaden.

Maury, A.—Le Sommeil et les Rêves. Paris 1878.

The first attempt at a methodical study of dreams and at correlating them to physical stimuli.

Maeder, A. E.—The Dream Problem. Nervous and Mental Disease monograph series. No. 22.

A presentation of the subject from the point of view of the Swiss School.

Hall, B.—The Psychology of sleep. Moffat Yard.

A review of the various sleep theories from the academic point of view.

Kaplan, L.—Ueber wiederkehrende Traumsymbole. Zentrablatt f. Ps. A. IV, p. 284.

An essay on dream symbolism.

Manacéine, M. de.—Sleep, its physiology, pathology, hygiene and psychology. Scribner.

The most complete study of sleep from every possible point of view, placing the emphasis, however, on the physical aspects of sleep.

[Pg 160]

Sachs, H.—Traumdeutung und Menschenkenntniss. Jahrb. d. Ps. A. III, p. 121.

Schrotter, K.—Experimentelle Träume. Zentralblatt f. Psy. A. II, p. 638.

A record of very interesting experiments in the production of artificial dreams through hypnotism.

Silberer, H.—Der Traum Enke. Stuttgart.

A very clear primer in dream study, epitomizing the latest hypotheses in interpretation.

Silberer, H.—Ueber die Symbolbildung. Jahrbuch d. Psy-A. III, p. 661.

Silberer, H.—Zur Symbolbildung. Jahrbuch d. Psy-A. IV, p. 607.

Silberer, H.—Bericht über eine methode Hallucinationserscheinungen herbeizurefen. Jahrbuch d. Psy.-A. I, p. 513.

Stekel, W.—Die Sprache des Traumes. Wiesbaden, 1911.

Stekel, W.—Die Traüme der Dichter. Wiesbaden, 1912.

Stekel, W.—Fortschritte in der Traumdeutung. Zentralblatt f. Psy-A. III, pp. 154, 426.

Stekel, W.—Individuelle Traumsymbole. Zentralblatt f. Psy-A. IV, p. 289.

Stekel is essentially a Freudian but his books contain hundreds of illustrations and case histories, making his books more understandable to laymen than Freud’s writings.

“Die Sprache des Traumes” is the most useful text book of Symbol Study.

Tridon, A.—Psychoanalysis, Its History, Theory and Practice. Huebsch.

[Pg 161]

See Chapter V: Symbols, the language of the dreams, and Chapter VI: The dreams of the human race.

Tridon, A.—Psychoanalysis and Behaviour. Knopf.

See part IV, chapter II: Self-knowledge through dream study.

Tridon, A.—Introduction to Freud’s “Dream Psychology.” McCann.

Vold, J. M.—Ueber den Traum. Leipzig 1910-1912.

Void holds that every dream is caused by a physical stimulus.

Vaschide, N.—Le Sommeil et les Rêves. Paris, 1911.

A physical explanation of sleep and dreams.




[1] Readers unfamiliar with my previous works might accuse me of placing undue emphasis upon “mental” causes and ignoring the influence of bacilli, toxins, etc., in disease. I refer them to the chapter: Mind and Body, an indivisible unit, in my book, “Psychoanalysis and Behaviour.” It is a truism that in tuberculosis for instance the prognosis depends greatly from the “mental” condition of the patient and on his will to live. We are protected against disease germs by the various secretions of the mouth, stomach, intestine, etc. Whenever a “mental” cause, such as fear, intense sorrow, etc., translates itself into an action of the sympathetic system which stops the flow of saliva and gastric juice and the intestinal peristalsis, we can see how the organism is then predisposed to an invasion of pathogenic bacteria. The depressed, the stupid and the ignorant are the first victims in any epidemic, the depressed because their protective vagotonism is too low, the stupid and the ignorant because they are more frequently than the intelligent and well informed a prey to fear.

[2] The orthodox Freudian would of course interpret such a vision as a symbol of an attempted regression to the fetal condition, return to the mother’s womb, etc. As a matter of fact, sleep is to a certain extent a return to the period of the fetus’ almost complete omnipotence of thought. I have noticed, however, that I never dream of swimming except on days when I have been prevented from indulging in my favourite sport at the shore or in the swimming pool.

This is to my mind a perfectly obvious dream needing no far fetched interpretation, symbolical only in so far as it expresses my attitude to sleep (See chapter on Attitudes reflected in dreams).

[3] Dr. Percy Fridenberg has shown the exaggerated shock reactions felt by the organism after the eye suffers an injury or is operated on, and recalls Crile’s saying that our activation patterns come from sight.

[4] The duration of a dream is not as short as some of Maury’s experiments would lead us to believe. Some of the experimental dreams timed by Schroetter lasted almost as long as it takes to relate them.

[5] Insanity is simply a day dream from which we cannot awake at will.

[6] All the dreams cited in this book are reported in the patient’s own words.

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