The Freud Museum


Laboratory dreams

“As a young doctor I worked for a long time at the Chemical Institute without ever becoming proficient in the skills which that science demands; and for that reason in my waking life I have never liked thinking of this barren and indeed humiliating episode in my apprenticeship. Yet I often dream of that period... While I was interpreting one of these dreams my attention was eventually attracted by the word ‘analysis’, which gave me a key to their understanding. Since those days I have become an ‘analyst’, and I now carry out analyses which are very highly spoken of, though it is true that they are ‘psycho-analyses’.... We may conclude that the foundation of the dream was formed by an exaggeratedly ambitious phantasy, but that humiliating thoughts poured cold water on the phantasy and found their way into the dream instead....

“But a closer examination of some of these dreams brings something more to light. In one of my laboratory dreams I was at an age which placed me precisely in the gloomiest and most unsuccessful year of my medical career. I was still without a post and had no idea how I could earn my living; but at the same time I suddenly discovered that I had a choice open to me between several women whom I might marry! So I was once more young, and, more than everything, she was once more young - the woman who had shared all these difficult years with me.”
I should have no objection to this class of dreams being distinguished from ‘wish-fulfilment dreams’ under the name of ‘punishment dreams’; it would be no more than a linguistic expedient for meeting the difficulties of those who find it strange that opposites should converge.

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