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A CONTRIBUTION TO THE ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS BASED ON THE MOTIVE OF SELF-PRESERVATION
MEYER SOLOMON
Am J Psychiatry 1914;71:75-99.
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Abstract

I have more dreams analyzed along this line. But I believe that for present purposes the above are sufficient to bring home the general principle I set out to prove.I think I am justified in drawing the following conclusionsfrom the analyses here given:(1) Dreams which are remembered best and most vividly most probably occurred in a hypnagogic or hypnoidal state or in a state of light sleep. Dreams which occur shortly before awakening are apt to be best remembered.(2) Dreams are but the continuation of our waking mental life, but owing to the lessened activity of clear, critical consciousness, not in the same orderly, logical and reasoned way.(3) The law of determinism holds true in dream life. Every mental state, every psychic fact has a logical and efficient antecedent causative factor.(4) The experiences and mental processes of dreams are not necessarily unconscious or subconscious in the Freudian sense. They may be forgotten never to be recalled by psychanalysis, the association tests or any other methods. The individual within 24 hours may be unable to recall many things which are necessary for the analysis and proper interpretation of the dreams. This is the normal and physiological process of forgetting, leaving what may be called the upper layers of consciousness free for the reception of new experiences and for new adaptations. It is wisely compensatory, for how far could we advance or how fitted would we be to meet new problems if we remembered all our past experiences, all we had read and heard and seen? We must forget the past, meet the present, and look to the future. In most cases this forgetting occurs biologically and physiologically.To analyze a dream we may have to know every experience, every hope, every fear, every mental process of the individual. To repeat, not only others but the dreamer himself may never be able to analyze The dream. Not only painful but pleasurable and indifferent experiences also play their rôle.(5) Dreams may consist only of the more recent experiences, mental trends, hopes, wishes, fears, etc., of the individual.(6) Infantile and childhood experiences and activities are not a necessary foundation for dreams. Though it may be that they may and frequently do contribute toward the formation and content of the dream, it must, however, be recognized that dreams are not of necessity dependent on our infantile and childhood desires, experiences, etc. On the other hand, these infantile and childhood tendencies and activities are fundamentally the same as those which occur in the adult or vice versa; so are those of the barbarian essentially the same as those of civilized man; those of primitive man resemble those of modern man; and this applies likewise to the sane and the insane, the juvenile offender and the criminal—and to all others. In other words, the mind of primitive man has run down the ages and still pervades all of us in our varying stages of evolution, development and civilization.(7) Symbolism is not necessarily present in all dreams and it may not be a great factor in dream-formation.(8) Our wishes and our fears, and, associated with them, indifferent scenes and experiences, are at the basic foundation of dreams.(9) These wishes and fears, and hence the dreams, may frequently depend primarily and solely on the motive of selfpreservation. So, also, many dreams are dependent solely on the race-preservative or sex-gratificative motive. Still other dreams may depend on varying combinations of these two primary motives, or on one or more of the minor, less fundamental motives or instincts.(10) Based on one or more of these motives, chance external conditions and recent experiences may play a very great rôle in dream-content and dream-formation; for example, the dream may be initiated by and the content of the dream may take its root from some sudden disturbance or stimulation of the senses, especially, as in case B. detailed above, when these sensations are interpreted as having a relation to self-preservation (or of sex-gratification, as in another dream, analyzed but not given here). Flight of ideas, determined by internal and sometimes by external associations, is responsible for the shifting scenes, the apparently disconnected and illogical content of the dream.Freud's method of psychanalysis or the free association test depends, as the names imply, on association of ideas with relation to a central stimulus or event presented to the individual. Unless this central event is held clearly before the mind, chance external and internal associations may occur which have no relation to the event which was originally held before the mind or concentrated upon, and this flight may be very marked and wholly unrelated to the original stimulus or word or scene or event presented to the patient; moreover, at any point, wish-fulfilment or fears or other mental states dependent on a most remote and unrelated and insignificant association, may be interjected into the content of the dream. We may have here, just as we have in manic-depressive insanity, for example, varying degrees of flight of ideas, even to such a degree that any real association seems entirely lost and there result incoherence and even neologisms as in dementia precox.The writer has analyzed the content of an hypnoidal state which shows typically this association and flight of ideas accountable for the strangeness, the bizarreness, the incomprehensibility, the shifting scenes and changing persons, the rapidity of action, the entire kaleidoscopic picture which we find in so many of our dreams. This permits us to see why not only others by the employment of the association tests and psychanalysis but even the dreamer himself by introspection or during hypnoidization may never be able to explain the significance of the entire dream or of ertain portions of the dream. The reason for this is obvious. How can we be expected to be able to make exactly the same associations as we made at the time of the dream? The experiences of the preceding day and our presleeping thoughts had a certain influence at the time of the dream on the association and flight of ideas and hence on the content of the dream. We may never again be able to reproduce these either by special methods, in another dream or in other mental states, because we have had new and different experiences and thoughts during that day, which may lead to entirely new and different associations. Of course, it is easy to see how an individual may have the same or almost the same dream more than once, even many times, as is frequently the case, and how one may be able to give satisfactory associations by the free and word association methods and thus lead to a proper explanation and interpretation of a dream or any other mental state. This, as we know, depends on the stimulus given and on the so-called complexes of the individual, heir intensity and significance to him. When the associations are not remote but are intimate and can be easily followed, most or all of the mental processes of the dream may be related more or less closely to the initial stimulus, whether external (auditory, visual, tactile, etc.) or internal (introspection, day dreaming, states of revery, etc.). Thus the content or most of the content of a dream may depend on the sex-gratificative or the self-preservative motive alone ; or it may depend on both motives in varying degrees, or on any of our other instincts. Furthermore, different portions of the dream may depend on different motives—the primary motives of self-preservation and sex-gratification, or the secondary and other less fundamental motives. In other words, they may depend on one or more of our inherent, instinctive mental processes or trends. Thus the understanding of dreams means the understanding of the mind of universal man.We have seen here some of the difficulties encountered in obtaining a perfect method of psychanalysis.(11) Since the sexual element does not necessarily play an important part in the formation of the dream, and in fact may be entirely absent, it consequently follows that most dreams are not connected with infantile incestuous wishes. The writer will even say that even when the dream is of a sexual nature, in the majority of cases infantile incestuous wishes have absolutely nothing to do with the formation or content of the dream. Man's original homosexual and polymorphous perverse sexual tendencies do not play as great a rôle in the determination of the content of dreams as the Freudians would have us believe.(12) These conclusions lead us to one final statement. The Freudians must break a new path and revise or add to their psychology at least somewhat along the lines here indicated.Let me here call your attention to this important fact: The motive of self-preservation and the desire for sex-gratification or race-preservation are the two fundamental, primary ends or purposes of all human activities. I cannot further explain or enlarge upon this in this paper. But I wish to remind you that this certainly is true in all our normal activities, conscious or unconscious. We will find proof of this statement in the conduct of primitive man; in the infant and the child; in our dreams, myths, legends and fairy-tales; in our wit, our theatres, our music and our books. In our indirectly vital modes of conduct, as seen in recreation, investigation, æsthetics and religion, it is plain to us. In abnormal mental life we will find it in many of the neuroses, psychoneuroses and psychoses, and in the origin and evolution of criminality. It is proven to us in all breaches of conduct—moral obliquity in general, but seen most typically in the sexual aberrations. Delusional formation in its genesis and evolution, especially when of a persecutory nature, will be found to be built upon this foundation.Of course, associated with all these we must consider two things—the instinctive actions and feelings and the training, education and life-experiences of the individual on the one hand, and the degree of intellect, reasoning, judgment and consciousness on the other hand, these two determining the degree of development of the individual, his stage of evolution and his place in civilization.The limits of this paper will not permit of my following out to its ends any one of these lines of human activity. But the lesson is plain. Individual and social psychology are the same; the psychology of the savage and the civilized man; of one high or low in the scale of evolution is essentially the same. There is, what may be called, the psychologic make-up of the primitive, niversal human. In short, the human mind past or present, however little or well developed, normal, defective or disordered, conscious or unconscious, is fundamentally and essentially of a single, uniform, primitive make-up.

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