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The Method of Dream Iterpretation - 2

The second of the two popular methods of dream-interpretation entirely abandons such claims. It might be described as the 'cipher method', since it treats the dream as a kind of secret code in which every sign is translated into another sign of known meaning, according to an established key. For example, I have dreamt of a letter, and also of a funeral or the like; I consult a 'dream-book', and I find that 'letter' is to be translated by 'vexation' and 'funeral' by 'engagement'. It now remains to establish a connection, which I am going to assume as pertaining to the future, by means of the rigmarole which I have deciphered.

 An interesting variant of this cipher procedure, a variant in which its chapter of purely mechanical transference is to a certain extent corrected, is presented in the work on dream-interpretation  by Artemidoros of Daldis. Here not only the dream-content, but also the personality and social position  of the dreamer are taken in to consideration, so that the same dream-content  has a significance for the rich man, the married man, or the orator, which is different from that which applies to the poor man, the bachelor, or let us say, the merchant.
 
The essential point, then, in this procedure is that the work of interpretation is not applied to the entirety of the dream, but to each portion of the dream-content severally, as though the dream were a conglomerate in which each fragment calls for special treatment. Incoherent and confused dreams are certainly those  that have been responsible for the invention of the cipher method.
 
The worthlessness of both these popular methods of interpretation does not admit of discussion. As regards the scientific treatment of the subject, the symbolic method is limited in its application, and is not susceptible of a general exposition. In the cipher method everything depends upon whether the 'key', the dream-book, is reliable, and for that, all guarantees are lacking. So that one might be tempted to grant the contention of the philosophers and psychiatrists, and to dismiss the problem of dream-interpretation as althogether fanciful.  

NB: 4. Dr Alfred Robitsek calls my attention to the fact that Orential dream-books, of which ours are pitiful plagiarisms, commonly undertake the interpretation of dream-elements  in accordance with the assonance and similarity of words. Since these relationships must be lost by translation into our language, the incomprehensibility of the equivalents  in our popular 'dream books' is hereby explained. Information as to the extraordinary  significance of puns and the play upon words in the old Oriental cultures may be found in the writings of Hugo Winckler. The finest example of a dream-interpretation which has come down to us from antiquity is based on a play upon words.


Artemidoros relates the following (p.225): 'But it seems to me that Aristandros gave a most happy interpretation to Alexander of Macedon. When the latter held Tyros encompassed and in a stage of siege, and was angry and depressed over the great waste of time, he dreamed that he saw  a Satyr dancing on his shield. It happened that Aristandros was in the neighbourhood of Tyros, and in the escort of the King, who was waging war on the Syrians. By dividing the word Satyros into (ou and iopoc), he included the King to become more aggressive in the siege. And thus Alexander became master of the city.' (Ea Tupoc, = thine is Tyros.) The dream, indeed, is so intimately econnected with verbal expression that Ferenczi justly remarks that every tongue has its own dream-language. A dream is, as a rule, not to be translated into other languages.

I have, however, come to think differently. I have been forced to perceive that here, once more, we have one of those not infrequent cases where an ancient and stubbornly retained popular belief seems to have come nearer to the truth of the matter than the opinion of modern science. I must insist that the dream actually does possess a meaning, and that a scientific method of dream-interpretation is possible. I arrived at my knowledge of this method in the following manner.

For years I have been occupied with the resolution of certain psychopathological structures - hysterical phobias, obsessional ideas, and the like - with therapeutic intentions. I have been so occupied, in fact, ever since I heard the significant statement of Joseph Breuer, to the effect that in these structures , regarded as morbid symptoms, solutions and treatment go hand in hand. 

Where it has been possible to trace a pathological idea back to those elements in the psychic life of the patient to which it owed its origin, the idea has crumbled away, an d the patient has been relieved  of it. In view of the failure of our other therapeutic efforts, and in the face of the mysterious character of these pathological conditions, it seemed to me tempting , in spite of all the difficulties, to follow the method initiated by Breuer until a complete elucidation of the subject had been achieved. I shall have occasion elsewhere to give a detailed account of the form which the technique  of this precedure  has finally assumed, and of the results of my efforts.
 
In the course of these psychoan alytic studies, I happened upon the question of dream-interpretation. My patients, after I had pledged them to inform me of all the ideas and thoughts which occured to them in connection with a given theme, related their dreams, and thus taught me that a dream may be interpolated in the psychic concatenation, which may be followed backwards from a pathological idea into a patient's memory. 
 
Reference: The Interpretation of Dreams: Sigmund Freud 

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