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REMEMBERING AND

:
ROYM. WHI-rhrAN, n m .

FORGETTING DREAMS
IN PSYCHOANALYSIS

There was a time when meadow. grove and stream,


T h e earth, and every common sight,
T o me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
T h e glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;
T u r n wheresoer I may
By night or day,
T h e things which I have seen I now can see no more.
1%.Wordsworth

HE DmzAhr remains the royal road to the unconscious i n psychoanalysis. Few analyses proceed without the examination of
the patients dreams a t one time or another. Factors, then,
which block the bringing of dreams to the analytic session must be
delineated. T h e aim of this paper is to examine processes operative
in dream forgetting and the implication of these for theory and
practice.
Theoretical and practical conclusions in this paper will come
from three sources: (1) psychophysiological research using the
Kleitman-Aserinsky technique of recovering dreams (2, 3, 1 1, 12,
13, 34, 43, 45, 46,47); (2) the psychoanalytic literature bearing on
this problem (1, 8, 17, 19, 32, 33, 36); and (3) a specific psychoanalytically oriented research project (44) done on the problem of
dream recall using the Kleitman-Aserinsky technique.

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of


Medicine.
This study was supported in part hy Research Grant No. MH-03033-04 from the
xnm. USPHS.

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Psych ophysio logical Research Studies


I n 1953, Aserinsky and Kleitman (2, 3) reported rapid, conjugate
eye movements during sleep and confirmed the relationship of
these movements to the dreaming process by getting a high percentage of dream recall when the subjects were awakened during
these times. I n contrast, there was a low percentage of dream recall when subjects were awakened at other times during the night.
This initial observation has led to a renewed interest i n the study
of dreams by other than analytic groups and resulted i n meetings
at the University of Chicago (1961 and 1962) of all those using
this technique as a method of study. I n general, the initial findings
of Aserinsky and Kleitman and Kleitman and Dement (12, 13, 30)
were verified. But the amount of research in this area had become
so widespread that a new organization was formed, the Association
for the Psychophysiological Study of Sleep (APSS).
I n an early study, Dement and Kleitman (13) had reported
that of 191 awakenings in 9 subjects, there were 152 incidents of
dream recall when the subject was awakened during rapid eye
movements (REM awakenings) and only 39 incidents of no dream
recall. When subjects were awakened during periods of no rapid
eye movements (NREM awakenings) (160 times i n 9 subjects),
there were only 11 incidents of dream recall and 149 incidents of
nondream recall.
Dement and Kleitman observed that the incidence of dream
recall dropped precipitously almost immediately upon cessation of
REhls. In 17 NREM awakenings that were done within 8 minutes after the end of an REM period, 5 dreams were recalled.
When more than 8 minutes elapsed, only 6 dreams were recalled
in 132 awakenings. Studies by Whitman et al. (34, 44, 45, 46) confirmed these findings and re-emphasized the conclusion that dream
recall was related primarily to the time of awakening rather than
the content of the dreams.
Wolpert and Trosman (47) utilized the observation that gross
bodily movements occur following the cessation of REMs. They
awakened the dreamer during these gross movements, thereby falling within the 8-minute time decay period and yet capturing a
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ROY hl. \VIITAIAN

whole dream without artificial interruption. Their percentage via


this method fell from 85 to 69 per cent, decreasing as the awakenings fell further into the 8-minute period. They sacrificed percentage of dream recall for greater completeness 6f each dream. Thus,
in the forgetting of dreams we are faced with unspecified factors
going rapidly into operation and becoming almost totally effective
at the end of 8 minutes.
However, other reports at the initial meeting in Chicago (43)
by Foulkes, Rechtshaffen and Goodenough, observed 70, 35, and
22 per cent dream recall during NREM periods, considerably
higher than the original Kleitman-Dement reports, and raised
anew the questions: (1) Does dream activity go on all night? (2)
Just what is a dream? A partial solution to this problem was offered by Rechtshaffen (43). He was able to differentiate the characteristics of dreams reported during REM activity as compared
to those reported during NREM activity. He reported that NREM
dreams were, (1) less well recalled; (2) less vivid: (3) more conceptual (as compared with visual); (4)more plausible; (5) shorter
in duration; and (6) occurred in deeper sleep (deeper according
to EEG classification). He suggested that in many respects, NREM
reports resembled certain types of waking mentation. Foulkess
striking 70 per cent NREM reports can be largely explained by
his using not the usual question, TVere you dreaming? but
rather, Describe anything that has been going through your
mind. Freuds term of dream fantasies (19) seems to describe
NREM nighttime mentation, and it can therefore be differentiated from the dream as it is usually described in the analytic
literature. Thus it seems, at least at our present stage of investigation, that sleeping mentation may actually go on all through the
night. But dreams, as usually described in the psychoanalytic literature, accompany REM and occur three to five times a night in
discrete cycles. They occur during a phase of sleep which is characterized by characteristic alpha rhythm on the EEG and when
the person is coming out of deep sleep, not going into deep sleep.
1This is entirely consistent physiologically with Freuds formulation of the
dream as a sleep-protecting activity. Graphs of sleep levels show the dream as accompanying a cessation of gross movement toward awakening.

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Psychoanalytic Fornzulations
I n his chapter on The Forgetting of Dreams, Freud (19) emphasized the importance of repression or censorship in the forgetting of dreams. H e had published a previous paper on the psychical mechanism of forgetting i n general which later became,
with modifications, the first chapter of The Psychopathology of
Everyday Life. H e had outlined the process of repression and censorship and called it resistance when describing this process in the
course of analysis. H e was careful, however, not to claim an absolute role for repression and resistance: the forgetting of dreams
is to a great extent a product of resistance. . . . the forgetting of
dreams depends far more upon the resistance than upon the fact
stressed by the authorities, that the waking and sleeping states are
alien to each other. This more cautious statement using the
terms, great extent and far more is in contrast to Bertram
Lewin who wrote the most complete recent paper on the forgetting of dreams (33) and said, All forgetting of dreams o r dream
elements, all blurring of the picture, all of the dreamers doubts
about the contents, are signs of resistance to the dream elements.
Freud (21) goes on to say that the agent chiefly responsible
for this forgetting is the mental resistance to the dream which
has already done what i t could against it during the night. His
explanation as to why dreams should occur at all in the face of
this resistance is that during the night the resistance loses some of
its power though not the whole of it. Then, on awakening, i t regains its power and proceeds to get rid of what it was obliged to
permit when it was weak.
As is well known, the concept of repression underwent a
number of revisions through the years of Freuds writings. Brenners (9) excellent summary of these changes divides them into
four periods. I n the first (1894-1896) repression was seen as the
active suppression of a memory, at first considered to be a conscious, voluntary act. From 1896-1906, Freud described a psychic
apparatus (19, Chapt. VII) composed of the three traditional systems, the unconscious (Ucs.), the preconscious (Pcs.), and the perceptual conscious (Pcpt.-Cs.). T h e repression of infantile experiences, later (191 1) called primal repression, he ascribed to the
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system Pcs. This store of infantile memories and wishes gave rise
to preconscious derivatives which were barred from consciousness
by repression proper, a withdrawal of cathexis* from these derivatives by the Pcs.
During 1911-1915, Freud added the concept of countercathexis as repressing forces which, if unsuccessful, led to a return
of the repressed. I n the fourth period, 1923-1939, Freud reformulated his theory of the psychic apparatus in structural terms. T h e
concept of repression both contributed to these changes and was
affected by these changes. Anxiety became the motive for repression which the ego employs against an instinctual drive. T h e target
of repression is usually a libidinal drive but may be also an aggressive drive. T h e mechanism is the establishment of a countercathexis by the ego. T h e drive, however, persists i n the id and
may return via dreams which are compromise formations illustrating the return of the repressed which occurs during any weakening of the egos defenses such as by illness or sleep.
T h e other major trend in psychoanalytic writings which we
must consider since Lewin makes it the crucial issue in his formulation of the forgetting of dreams is the notion of the dream
screen. Fliess (17) in his coverage of the dream literature u p until
1953 says that Lewins (32) hypothesis of the dream screen has
perhaps contributed more than any other to the sustaining of the
current revival of interest i n the dream. Lewins concept of the
screen is that it represents the breast. Fliess quotes a flawless interpretation of a dream of a patient by Lewin which demonstrates
the heuristic value of this hypothesis.
Lewin (33) describes a striking example of watching a patient
forget a dream right before his eyes. T h e patient was ready to tell
the dream when she saw it suddenly curve over backwards away
from her and then like a canvas or a carpet roll u p and away into
the distance. . , , For the patient, it was a weaning experience.
To Lewin, then, dream forgetting stands for weaning. H e gives
a number of impressive examples from his own and others practices where the associations lead rather convincingly to the equivalence of dream forgetting and loss of the breast.
H e goes on to quote William Jamess analogy of looking for a
forgotten idea, and of rummaging i n the house for a lost object.
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In both cases we visit what seems to us the probable neighborhood of that which we miss. Using this allegory, Lewin offers the
intriguing thought that the house must be a symbol for the body
and that his experience indicates that the foigotten dream takes
one of two paths: either it goes inward, that is, stomachward, or it
goes away carried along by the illusively departing breast.
Lewin adds that to remember the dream is a quasi prolongation of sleep and stands for sleep, while forgetting the dream
repeats and stands for waking u p and is a step in the weaning
process.
Rycroft (38) has further elaborated Lewins concept. He suggests that, i n addition to the fulfillment of the wish to sleep at the
maternal breast (Lewin), the dream screen may represent an attempt in the course of an analysis to re-establish an object relationship with the mother via the transference. H e points out that
this type of dream is likely to occur when patients with narcissistic fixation are attempting to establish emotional contact with
the outside world. Boyer (8) continuing Rycrofts suggestions
added that the dream. screen-phenomenon appears when there is
not only a state of development when narcissistic identification is
giving way to true object relationships, but also when there is a
threat of loss of the new object, and an event occurs reminiscent
of an old desertion trauma.

Reso Zu t ion of Experimental and PsychoanaZy t ic Findings


We are clearly faced with a dilemma. Research findings that time
of awakening is crucial for the remembering of dreams clash directly with analytic hypotheses that repression is a major or, indeed, the exclusive determinant of this process. But the fact
remains that dreams are remembered with 70 to 90 per cent
faithfulness if the person is awakened during, or immediately
after, dreaming, and records the dream. Yet the examples of the
analytic authors quoted, plus the experience of any practicing
analyst, indicate that dreams are forgotten in a defensive, meaningful pattern. h k n y a patient states ruefully during the hour
that he knew the dream just before the session, before breakfast,
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yesterday, or whatever, but now that he is in his analytic hour,


the memory is quite gone.
We must return to Freuds original distin?tion between primal repression and repression proper or afterexpulsion. Apparently approximately 10 to 30 per cent of dreams cannot be recovered under the best of circumstances. Primal repression describes
the dream. that is never recovered during the nights dreaming.
Even though we now think of structural theory in which the ego
is the repressing agency, topographically the ego seems to bar any
derivatives to consciousness so that even subjects who are highly
cooperative and introspectively attuned have no memory of the
dream even if they are awakened during the dream at night.
Usually only one or two dreams are remembered when morning comes by even the best motivated subjects, patients in analysis.
Since they would have remembered three or four dreams if awakened during the night to report them, we may consider that these
dreams have been subject to repression proper. Though repression occurs during the dream work, repression has a tendency to
spread, especially where rnainfest content might be endopsychically recognized as containing the forbidden wish, and therefore
the manifest content is subject to repression as well. T h e following research findings, though done on only two patients, are pertinent in regard to endopsychic perception. As Freud stated (21),
It is not only quite possible, but highly probable, that the
dreamer really does know the meaning of his dream; only he
does not know that he knows, and therefore thinks that he does
not.

A Study of Dream Recall Combining Therapy attd


the Kleitman-Aserinsky Techniques

A pilot study comparing the dreams of two patient-subjects told to


an experimenter and a therapist-interviewer was done by a research group at the University of Cincinnati (44). It immediately
became clear in the course of this experiment that telling the
dream during the night to the experimenter, even in a hazy stage
of consciousness, increased the percentage of dream recall remarkably either one or two days later when it was told to the psychiDownloaded from apa.sagepub.com by Allan de Guzman on November 20, 2016

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atrist. This fact increased the original scope of this research from,
TVhich dream does the patient tell? to include, TVhich dream
does the patient not tell?
These two patients, a male and a femaie, the latter being a
volunteer patient, recalled 31 dreams and 54 dreams respectively of 16 and 13 nights awakenings and reported 22 and 78 per
cent of these to the therapist. TVith the male patient, dreams were
not specifically asked for until half way through the experiment,
and this may partly explain the striking difference in percentages.
However, individual factors, educational and psychodynamic,
were also crucial. T h e male was a sociopathic veteran with a grammar school education, and the woman, a graduate student, highly
verbal, was a compliant, schizoid patient highly motivated to produce and perform well. Examination of the dreams which were
left out led to the hypothesis that dreams which were ego alien in
terms of the relationship with the psychiatrist at that moment
were repressed even though they had already been remembered
and recorded during the night by the experimenter. TVe were able
to expand this hypothesis to include the relationship with the
listener when some strikingly hostile and sexual dreams about
the experimenter were told only to the psychiatrist, and hostile
and sexual dreams about the psychiatrist were told only to the
experimenter.
Thus, the male patient reported dreams to the experimenter
which consisted of one man tattooing another, one man asking another to come and see his drawings, and being shown a picture oE
where a bullet entered a man (all, even at a thematic manifest
level, clearly referring to homosexual situations and penetration
fantasies). All of these dreams were omitted when the patient was
asked to recount his dreams one day later to the therapist. I n contrast, dreams which zuere reported consisted of telling the therapist
of helping a girl look for a dog, getting out of jail and going to
search for his family so as to provide for them, and dating women
in addition to his wife. All of these defended against his passivedependent, homosexual relationship to the therapist by presenting
himselE as a highly adequate male, who takes care of family responsibilities and seduces women.
Several examples of the woman subjects dreams could be
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interpreted as masturbatory and pregenital sexual guilt. These


were told to the experimenter but omitted when recalling dreams
to the psychiatrist in the early part of this relationship. For example, (1) a dream of having dirty hands whilh needed washing,
followed by (2) a dream of a matter of morality, good or bad, and
finally, (3) a dream of having an instrument placed in her mouth,
were all forgotten the next day. Apparently these were dreams she
felt the psychiatrist could read whereas the experimenter could
not, which alluded to her conflicts and potential help in dealing
with them.
And as the experiment progressed, despite the fact that her
dream recall of the nights dreams was so high, she omitted 17
dreams or dream scenes which dealt with psychiatrists treating patients. She was in severe conflict about going into therapy in a
formal way, and vigorously resisted the psychiatrists suggestion to
do so. She specifically omitted dreams which asked for help from
the psychiatrist with her sexual problems. Thus, on the fifth experimental night she omitted telling the psychiatrist a dream of
seeing a doctor in her bathing suit about a problem with a big
jeweled knife.
It is worth re-emphasizing that she also told dreams to the
psychiatrist which she did not tell the experimenter despite her
recall of 4 to 5 dreams per night, and this was apparently on the
basis of suppression as well as repression. T h e experimenter was a
fellow graduate student, and she repressed, for example, a dream
of one dog knowing a lot more than another dog to the experimenter. She recalled this dream in the psychiatric interview and
when associating to it recognized that this referred to her competitiveness with the experimenter. She also suppressed telling a
dream of being seductive with the experimenter. She admitted to
the psychiatrist that she was too embarrassed to tell it to the experimenter.
Almost directly parallel to her increasing dependent hopes
for help with her problems from the psychiatrist was the appearance of previously repressed sexual dreams. This clearly shows
that the dreams which are repressed certainly change with the relationship; early, sexual dreams were totally forgotten in recall to
the psychiatrist; and later, dependency or therapy-seeking dreams
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were not recalled the next day. O n a more microscopic level, one
can observe that even the change in the relationship which occurred during the course of a session caused previously repressed
dreams to appear, Oh, yes, now I remember a dream I had. . . .
This is another way of looking at the process of working through
an intrapsychic resistance as it manifests itself in the interpersonal
analytic relationship. T h e teller no longer fears the disapproval
of the listener.
T h e dream material could be divided into three categories:
(1) material which is told to both the experimenter and the psychiatrist and seems to contain the characteristic personality theme,
nuclear conflicts, and genetic trauma of the person; (2) dreams not
told to the experimenter which were related to the patients specific attitude toward him at that time; and (3) dreams not told to
the psychiatrist which were related to the patients specific attitude
toward him at that time. T h e last two dream groups are suppressed
o r repressed on he basis of anticipated negative responses by the
listener. T h e communicative function of the dream seems to become crucial.
I n a paper on the communicative function of the dream,
Mark Kanzer (28) suggests that the dream, in addition to serving
the function of guarding sleep, also serves to preserve object relations and the function of communication. Both the urge to tell
dreams and the primitive belief that they are divine messages
point to this function. H e quotes Freud as saying that the dream
thought, I must tell this to the analyst, as with the impulse to
write down the dream, is often associated with a resistance to
communication. Changes in the dreamers relationship to objects
may be expressed by falling and climbing and separation from the
object: for example, such typical dreams as losing teeth.
I t is important to emphasize the communicative function of
the dream i n order to explain the differential communications to
the experimenter and the psychiatrist. One must postulate that the
dreamer, at some level, has an understanding of how the latent
content of his communication and its potential affect the object.
I n this connection, it should be stressed, as did Rapaport (36), that
psychologists have vastly oversimplified Freuds concept of forgetting in terming it a forgetting of unpleasant material. Actually,
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nr.

WHITMAN

Freuds statement was that material was forgotten which could


potentially cause pain. And it is the carrying of this statement
into the area of object relationships which offers the most reasonable explanation of the data of the small study that we did in
collecting dreams from two subjects by two different people.

Disczcssio12
T h e Dream and Dreaming
Most workers using the Kleitman-Aserinsky techniques of recovering dreams are more interested in the process of dreaming,
whereas the above study placed its emphasis on the dream. TYhichever direction the current research i n dreaming may take, there
has already been established a physiological process of dreaming
occurring in all human beings and, if REhl is the judge, in other
mammals as well. But the dream itself is a uniquely individual
product as well as the expression of a psychophysiological property of the higher neural centers of dreaming.
Only Ranzer (29) has emphasized this dichotomy as a determinant of forgetting and recollecting dreams. Thus lie points out
that not only may the forgotten dream represent a part of the
body (such as the breast, feces, a baby, the genitals, etc.) but i t
may also represent a bodily function (such as urinating, menstruating, defecating, etc.). H e emphasizes the common clinical
observation that recall of the dream often occurs when the analysand is engaged in some automatic action and these actions, as, for
example, in his morning ablutions, often are clues to the meaning
of the dream.
A n Attempt at a Theoretical Formulation
We have seen that experimental studies in dream forgetting support Freuds earlier emphasis on two types of repression, primary
and secondary. Apparently both groups of dreams are accessible to
recovery in the course of the day or in a therapeutic session by
some perception touching off a chain of associations leading to the
manifest content of the dream.
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getting and have attempted to describe the phenomenon in their


frame of reference. Kleitman (30) says dreaming is a lower form
of cortical activity and therefore has a very rapid decay. Hebb
(27) has a more elegant formulation about memory which suggests that neural knobs might not yet be permanently established by the dream activity. From his theory of memory, we
would speculate that the telling of the dream to the experimenter
fixes the process and makes it accessible to recall. Some years ago
another explanation was more popular, namely, that of reverberating circuits operative on a subcortical nonconscious level
which would explain the widespread difficulty in remembering
dreams at all. A recent study (14) suggests a biochemical basis of
memory in the form of changes in ribonucleic acid. A recent book
on a model of the mind (7) attempts to deal with this problem by
suggesting that forgetting dreams occurs primarily on the basis ol
generally weaker connections throughout the cognitive subsystem, plus the specific inaccessibility of contextual circuits . . . repression presumably plays a more limited role in forgetting
dreams.
I n our psychoanalytic model, from a topographic point of
view, there are two barriers, each with their countercathexes: the
preconscious vs. the unconscious, and the conscious vs. the preconscious. Primal repression of dreams would involve the Pa.Ucs. barrier, whereas repression proper would involve the Cs.-Pcs.
and perhaps also the Pa.-Ucs. barriers. FVe might metaphorically
say that unless the dream is immediately ushered from the anteroom into the outside world, it may retreat into the house and
may be inaccessible or reluctant to emerge ever again. This again
implies the rapid diffusion of repression from the instinctual
drive to the derivative, i.e., from its role in the dream work to its
role as a represser of the manifest dream as well.
From the structural point of view, memory appears to be an
energy-demanding ego function, particularly when overcoming
some of the countercathexes of the barriers at different levels of
consciousness. This seems to be an explanation of why such demanding ego functions as motor response and external perception
seem to extinguish the dream almost immediately. In this connection, Kanzers hypothesis that automatic acts touch off the dream
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recollection may be seen as a lessening of ego demand because of


the automatic nature of the habit. This permits the ego to turn
inward, much as doodling or walking is used by many people to
encourage creative use of the unconscious. Intrapsychic regression
to perception (system Pcpt.) as Freud diagramed it (19), is interfered with by the reality of external perception or motor movement. Thus the dreamer often lies perfectly still with his eyes
closed in his attempt to recover the dreams and often reports that
the insistent demand of a child or the demand of the alarm clock
across the room almost immediately leads to the disappearance of
the dream or failure to capture it at all. Schachtel (40) describes
these phenomena very well and freely draws on Marcel Proust (35)
to demonstrate the loving care with which the reminiscing person
mulls over and re-experiences past memories and experiences.
Schachtel further suggests another reason for difficulty in remembering dreams. This difficulty is the basic antagonism between the primary-process thinking which is indigenous to
childhood and the secondary-process thinking which predominates
i n adult thought. His hypothesis for the explanation of childhood
amnesia is also used to explain dream forgetting: The categories
(or schemata) of adult memory are not suitable receptacles for
early childhood experiences and therefore not fit to preserve these
experiences and enable their recall.
Bartletts (4)study on remembering describes the transformation of material which robs it of all puzzling elements and makes
it comfortable and straightforward. H e demonstrates this by the
use of pictures of army and navy personnel. TVhen these are exposed to subjects, descriptions almost immediately, and increasingly as time passes, become more and more conventional and
stereotyped. T h e same process of conventionalizing occurred in
response to a reading of an Indian folk tale, The FVar of the
Ghosts. The processes of memory thus substitute the conventional clichC for the actual experience.
Schachtel states that the dream is the opposite of work as it is
emphasized i n TVestern civilization, the opposite of efficiency. H e
suggests that one can continue to use the term resistance if one
says that there is not only a resistance to the content of the dream
but also to the whole quality and language of the dream. And,
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of course, we should not forget that we are translating a primarily


visual phenomenon into a verbal one in retelling the dreaming.
E. E. Cummings, the poet who just died, descrjbed the inevitable
loss of richness occurring with this translation (10):
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you
TVe next turn to experimental psychology for further help
with this problem. Despite the similarities of the Ebbinghaus
curve of forgetting (15) to the curve of dream forgetting, that is,
a precipitate drop and then a gradual leveling, psychology has not
been of great help to psychoanalysis in this area. By attempting
to divest the material to be remembered of all affect, for example,
by using nonsense syllables or numbers, they have played down
the very thing in which psychoanalysis is vitally interested. Nevertheless, there is one classical study, repeated by many others,
which may explain the higher incidence of dreams recalled when
the person is awakened during the dream rather than after it is
completed. That is the Zeigarnik effect (48). Significantly more
interrupted than completed tasks were recalled in this study.
We therefore end u p with forgetting of dreams as an ego
problem, in addition to a superego or censoring problem, involving the turning of cathexis outward to the sensory or motor demands on the dreamer, thereby depriving the ego of sufficient
searching energy to focalize on the dream. Interrupted dreams,
furthermore, seem to be better remembered than uninterrupted
ones. Thus the early morning dream is most often remembered,
perhaps because the person wakes up during or shortly after the
dream, before repression has gone into operation. However, if the
person is awakened during the night as we did in the research
quoted above (44), then the early morning dream is only slightly
more likely to be remembered than any other, and content and the
interpersonal relationship with the listener seem to become more
crucial to the process of recall. Ego-alien impulses, which the
dreamer anticipates the listener may reject, seem to be suppressed
or repressed. T h e dreamer combines an endopsychic recognition of
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the meaning of the dream at some level of awareness with the


feeling that the listener will also divine this meaning and get the
communication.

Some Practical Implications


IVe are confronted with the fact that everybody dreams not only
once a night but three to five times a night.g We are further confronted with the fact that the initial memory of the dream seems
to be an energy-involving ego function largely independent of
content. How are we then to aid the ego to recover its nightly
intrapsychic productions? Certainly one simple way is to communicate the idea of lying still, keeping ones eyes closed, and
focusing ones attention inwards, almost continuing the process
of sleep. It is surprising that many analysands do not know these
basic facts. But there also arises the question of writing dreams
down, or recording them.
TVith occasional exceptions as parts of studies (7, p. 115) and
Gutheils book (25), almost all analysts since Freuds original
statements and Abrahams article (l), Shall We Have the Patients
IVrite Down Their Dreams? have agreed that there is little point
in this. I n The Handling of Dream Interpretation in Psychoanalysis (20), Freud stated, Even if the substance of a dream
is in this way laboriously rescued from oblivion, it is easy enough
to convince oneself that nothing has thereby been achieved for the
patient. T h e associations will not come to the test, and the result
is the same as if the dream had not been preserved. Abraham
gives a number of convincing examples of how the resistance enters
into the writing down of the dream. But he gives away the reason
for this resistance when he says that it occurred in precisely those
patients whom he had already told that it was useless to write
down their dreams. Thus the patient may be actually verifying
the analysts prediction, and avoiding the pain of producing a
dream which the analyst would reject.
In a number of analytic patients who spontaneously wrote
down their dreams, I have found these observations to be not always generalizable. There is no doubt that writing down dreams
4 Cf. the Goodenough et al. study (24) of scll-described nondreamers who
tlreained several times 3 night when this technique was applied.

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may be, and often is, used as a resistance, but then so can free
association itself. T h e patient may compulsively free associate and
when the analyst tries to interpret his remarks or get him to
cooperate in an examination of his productions, the patient will
answer that he has been told his job is only to free associate.
Many of my patients occasionally write down single words
of dreams which enables them to hold onto the dream. Much like
a string attached to it, one patient said. This is reminiscent of the
fantastically fruitful observation of Freuds concerning the boy who
could symbolically recapture his mother via a string attached to a
toy. This leads back to the initial remarks of Lewin directly equating the breast and the dream screen.
T h e usefulness of some patients writing down dreams has
been shown repeatedly in practice. But theoretically there is also
substantiation for this. This resides in the reasoning wherein
not every instance of dream forgetting is due to resistance. Much
dream forgetting seems to be due to a functional demand on the
ego and the incompatibility of the primary and secondary processes. Therefore it is reasonable that the patient might use the
ego technique of recording a fraction or all of the dream, overcoming the tendency of most dreams to be forgotten and superimposing the secondary process of writing and recording on
primary-process activity. Once written, just as once recorded in our
study, the dreamer often need look no longer at his notes. Because
some patients find this helpful, however, is no reason to make
this a necessity for all, as Gutheil does (25). He labels failure to
write down the dream as resistance. If the analyst recommends
this, it often may become a pivotal point of ongoing stubbornness.
Patients refuse to do their homework or do it uselessly as a
passive-aggressive resistance. But accepting spontaneous writing
down does not make it a focus of defiance or resistance. Indeed,
one patient would often say that he was resistant when he failed
to make a note or two on his dreams. And, of course, there is no
doubt that written dreams easily make themselves available to
resistance, since writing may have the function of acting out rather
than remembering.
There are patients who think of no association, or of only
highly intellectual ones. I have had patients read the dream from
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ROY Af. WHITMAN

the paper so quickly that I could not follow it, and then crumple
the paper and throw it into the wastebasket. Also, some patients
carefully record the dream and then equally carefully leave it at
home. There is no doubt that the resistances i f the moment may
overpower the wish to tell the dream.
But often the manifest text is very helpful to the analyst in
telling him just what are the resistances and against what the
patient is defending himself. T h e dream frequently offers an orientation of just where the analysis is at that time. This is really
a statement which raises a question as to who finds the dream most
valuable at a certain time. I think we would have to agree that it
may be more useful to the analyst, i n alerting him to certain
material or trends he should be interpreting or understanding in
other associations of the session. Thus an obsessive patient who
had few or no dreams during 300 hours of analysis complained
that he could not remember a dream long enough. Finally, it was
suggested to him that he might make a note about a dream. He
brought in a drcam to which he had no associations. A young
doctor was helping an older man sit up in the hospital. T h e
doctor was getting a great deal of praise for his ministrations and
help. This dream clarified for the analyst the chief resistance of
the analysis at that time, i.e., if the patient got well, the analyst
would get the credit since the patient was a well-known figure in
the community. His envy was actually causing a negative therapeutic reaction. I n later hours, this idea was demonstrated to the
patient who then spontaneously related i t back to the dream
himself.
T h e increasing use of the manifest content by the practiced
dream interpreter is a re-emerging phenomenon in psychoanalysis.
Freuds brilliant hypothesis about the latent as opposed to the
manifest content was so i n opposition to the way dreams were
dealt with in centuries before, that he had to stress, it seems, the
unimportance of the manifest content. As skill increases, intuitive
initial hypotheses about the manifest dream text become more
and more accurate (cf. Fromm and Frenchs use of intuitive
hunches in dream interpretation [22]).
I n recent years there has been an increasing number of attempts to use the manifest content as something more than the
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769

envelope within which resides the letter. Saul and Sheppards


work (39) on scoring the manifest dream showed a high reliability
even with untrained raters, and the usefulness of this approach has
been supported by Beck et al. (5, 6) and IVhitman et al. (45, 46).
French (18) has written of a series of intensive investigations which
draw heavily upon a minute examination of the manifest content
of a series of dreams of an asthmatic patient in analysis. And
finally, Erikson (16), in a superb study, used mainly the manifest
dream content though supported by the dreamers associations,
as well as a keen knowledge of Freuds life at that moment, to
write a remarkable study in dream interpretation, aptly called,
The Dream Specimen of Psychoanalysis. Obviously, associations
are welcome in leading to the latent content of dreams, but the
richness of the manifest content in a formal sense still remains
a largely untapped source of data for both theoreticians and
clinicians.

A Final Theoretical Speculation


T h e observations of Lewin and others on the dream screen and its
derivation from the breast have been so heuristically effective,
that they should be dealt with i n any dream theory. This is so
despite Spitzs cogent objection that the nursing baby stares from
the beginning of the feeding to the end of it into the mothers
face rather than at the breast (41). A reasonable hypothesis,
derived from a number of lines of inquiry, would be that the
dream supplies a small amount of visual (oml) gratification derived from the early phenomena of nursing. T h e major function
of the dream-the preserving of sleep-would be accomplished
by providing a small quantity of oral satisfaction which enables
the person once more to return to deeper sleep, a cycle which
goes on four or five times a night. Gifford (23) has drawn on the
original work of Kleitman to show that at three months, the
number of night feedings goes down exactly at the moment that
the mean hours of sleep per night goes up. It therefore seems
logical to assume that it is at this moment that the dream takes
Over the function of an unconscious wish-fulfilling hallucinatory
experience which enables the infant to continue sleeping. A noteDownloaded from apa.sagepub.com by Allan de Guzman on November 20, 2016

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ROY M. WIIITMAN

worthy parallel observation is that the number of dreams of a


night roughly is equivalent to the usual number of breast feedings
of an infant.
A totally different line of investigation suggests a similar conclusion. In his experiments on dream deprivation (i.e., awakening
the person immediately upon the initiation of dreaming so that
the dream does not take place), Dement (11) has remarked on the
increased appetite and consequent gain in weight that follows
systematic dream deprivation. Researchers using the technique of
recovering dreams via eye movement observations have employed
the metaphor that the dreamer is like a theater goer moving restlessly in his seat prior to the curtain going up and then staying
quite still with the exception of eye movements as the dream or
play begins. This is strikingly reminiscent of the restless infant
who falls quiet as he nurses, with the exception of his eyes watching the mothers face.
Boyd Lester (31), in a recent report on a mother and a child
who were simultaneously monitored by an EEG machine, observed that as early as three months the childs and the mothers
dream cycles ran along together, as suggested by simultaneous eye
movement tracings.
Spitz (42) offers the attractive notion that the infant after
birth is quiescent, and that true sleep as we know it occurs only
after the third month, This again points to the three-month period
as a nodal point of development for the emergence of the ego,
and suggests the need for an orally satisfying dream experience to
maintain the true sleep state. (This does not rule out dreaming
in even earlier months.)
T h e psychoanalytic model of thought (37) has led to this
paradigm: mounting drive tension+absence of drive object+hallucinatory image of it. T h e deIay of gratification discharge by
motor action becomes the cradle of conscious experience. T h e
quality, CONSCIOUSNESS OF AN EXPERIENCE, is conceptualized as a matter of the cathecting of its memory trace. Ideas when
they appear in hallucinatory form utilize and discharge a fraction
of the drive cathexis. What is added i n the hypothesis of this paper
is that, the dream not only discharges some drive cathexis but is
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REAlEhIBERING AND FORGETTING DREAMS IN PSYCHOANALYSIS

771

also, in and of itself, a self-gratifying oral experience which substitutes for a primary nursing experience.
It would then seem that a satisfying oral experience is usually,
though not always, forgotten.3 Interruption of completion of the
dream, with the failure of oral satisfaction we are hypothesizing,
leads to a much higher percentage of dream recall. But again this
is only a single factor, for some patients dream recall is easier
when the dream finishes and is rounded off.
Thus the ever-recurring wish for a primary breast experience
becomes the prototype of hallucinatory wish fulfillment i n all subsequent dream life. Though the wishes of life become progressively more complex and subtle, this remains as the deepest
substrate occasionally to be revealed in regressive experiences
during the course of analysis or other intense psychological vicissitudes. T h e dream may be conceptualized as a minute oral
experience which maintains sleep by not only discharging drive
cathexis but offering a certain amount of oral gratification. This is
completely compatible with Freuds basic postulate that the dream
has a sleep-protecting function.

Summary

A technique for the recovery of dreams as they are dreamed


throughout the night has enabled us to re-examine the metapsychology of dream forgetting and remembering.
Failure of dream recall, on the basis of primal repression,
seems to be due to several factors: (1) the difficulty of conceptualizing primary-process thinking in secondary-process terms; (2)
the energy demands on the ego to deal on the one hand with the
dream and on the other with incoming sensory stimuli and also
to initiate motor activity; and (3) the difficulty in recalling a completed (oral) experience as compared with an interrupted one.
Dream forgetting, on the other hand, seems to be due to repression proper, or afterexpulsion, which occurs in response to an
endopsychic perception of the latent content of the dream which
3 Oral is B single-word representation of a complex mother-child constellation;
Harlow (26) has, in lower primates at least. shown the greater importance of tactile
gratification as compared to direct feeding experience.

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is seen as ego-alien to the waking individual or potentially unacceptable to the listener.


This formulation is examined in the light of conceptions of
the dream screen, and the hypothesis is dffered that the dream
itself is a hallucinatory oral experience which is introduced i n
the third month of life and enables the infant to achieve a daynight feeding-sleeping schedule. This becomes the psychophysiological basis of the sleep-protecting function of the dream and the
prototype of later and more complex forms of wish fulfillment.
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Submitted December 17, I962


Dept. of Psychiatry
Cincinnati General Hospital
Cincinnati 29, Ohio

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