The Freud Museum


A Dream of Self-Dissection

Old Brücke must have set me some task; STRANGELY ENOUGH, it related to a dissection of the lower part of my own body, my pelvis and legs, which I saw before me as though in the dissecting-room, but without noticing their absence in myself and also without a trace of any gruesome feeling.

Finally I was making a journey through a changing landscape with an Alpine guide who was carrying my belongings... The ground was boggy; we went round the edge; people were sitting on the ground like Red Indians or gipsies...

At last we reached a small wooden house....

I saw two grown-up men lying on wooden benches that were along the walls of the hut, and what seemed to be two children sleeping beside them.

I awoke in mental fright.

'strangely enough'

Louise N. ... had been calling on me. 'Lend me something to read', she had said. I offered her Rider Haggard's She. 'A strange book, but full of hidden meaning', I began to explain to her....

Here she interrupted me: 'I know it already. Have you nothing of your own?' - 'No, my own immortal works have not yet been written.'

I reflected on the amount of self-discipline it was costing me to offer the public even my book upon dreams - I should have to give away so much of my own private character in it.

The task which was imposed on me in the dream of carrying out a dissection of my own body was thus my self-analysis which was linked up with my giving an account of my dreams.

Old Brücke came in here appropriately; even in the first years of my scientific work it happened that I allowed a discovery of mine to lie fallow until an energetic remonstrance on his part drove me into publishing it.

The Red Indians, the girl and the wooden house were taken from [Rider Haggard's] Heart of the World.

The 'wooden house' was also, no doubt, a coffin, that is to say, the grave. But the dream-work achieved a masterpiece in its representation of this most unwished-for of all thoughts by a wish-fulfilment. For I had already been in a grave once, but it was an excavated Etruscan grave near Orvieto...

The dream seems to have been saying: 'If you must rest in a grave, let it be the Etruscan one.' And by making this replacement, it transformed the gloomiest of expectations into one that was highly desirable.

Unluckily ... a dream can turn into its opposite the idea accompanying an affect but not always the affect itself. Accordingly, I woke up in a 'mental fright'...

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