IN this volume I have attempted to expound the methods and results of dream-interpretation; and in so doing I do not think I have overstepped the boundary of neuro-pathological science. For the dream proves on psychological investigation to be the first of a series of abnormal psychic formations, a series whose succeeding members — the hysterical phobias, the obsessions, the delusions — must, for practical reasons, claim the attention of the physician. The dream, as we shall see, has no title to such practical importance, but for that very reason its theoretical value as a typical formation is all the greater, and the physician who cannot explain the origin of dream-images will strive in vain to understand the phobias and the obsessive and delusional ideas, or to influence them by therapeutic methods.
But the very context to which our subject owes its importance must be held responsible for the deficiencies of the following chapters. The abundant lacunae in this exposition represent so many points of contact at which the problem of dream-formation is linked up with the more comprehensive problems of psycho-pathology; problems which cannot be treated in these pages, but which, if time and powers suffice and if further material presents itself, may be elaborated elsewhere.
The peculiar nature of the material employed to exemplify the interpretation of dreams has made the writing even of this treatise a difficult task. Consideration of the methods of dream-interpretation will show why the dreams recorded in the literature on the subject, or those collected by persons unknown to me, were useless for my purpose; I had only the choice between my own dreams and those of the patients whom I was treating by psychoanalytic methods. But this later material was inadmissible, since the dream-processes were undesirably complicated by the intervention of neurotic characters. And if I relate my own dreams I must inevitably reveal to the gaze of strangers more of the intimacies of my psychic life than is agreeable to me, and more than seems fitting in a writer who is not a poet but a scientific investigator. To do so is painful, but unavoidable; I have submitted to the necessity, for otherwise I could not have demonstrated my psychological conclusions. Sometimes, of course, I could not resist the temptation to mitigate my indiscretions by omissions and substitutions; but wherever I have done so the value of the example cited has been very definitely diminished. I can only express the hope that my readers will understand my difficult position, and will be indulgent; and further, that all those persons who are in any way concerned in the dreams recorded will not seek to forbid our dream-life at all events to exercise freedom of thought!
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