Hypocritical Dream

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A hypocritical dream is one that in which the dream's wish is distorted (most often by the reversal of affect) such that it cannot be discerned in the manifest dream thoughts. Thus the wish is expressed "hypocritically," in disguise.

Freud referred to hypocritical dreams in several passages of The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a). He first used the term in connection with a dream in which he felt a great affection towards his friend R. But the analysis of the dream showed that in fact the latent wish was to portray R. as a simpleton (1900a, pp. 137 ff.). Freud also referred to a dream about a reconciliation with a friend in which the latent wish was to free himself from this friend completely (p. 145n.). He returned to the topic later in the book, writing that "There is one class of dreams which have a particular claim to be described as 'hypocritical' and which offer a hard test to the theory of wish-fulfillment" (p. 473). Witness the repetitive dream of the poet Rosegger in which he found himself each night back in the unfortunate situation of a apprentice tailor ill-suited for his craft (pp. 473-75).

Freud referred to a similar dream of his own in which he found himself back in a laboratory where he had once worked in his younger days, ill-suited to the chemical analyses he was required to perform. This was, Freud says, a "punishment dream" (p. 476) that followed upon his daytime thoughts of being too proud of the success of his psychoanalyses. Such a punishment dream, he goes on, is nothing but the inverted expression of a wish. He modified this theory considerably in his theoretical revisions of the twenties (1920g, 1923b, 1924c). And the question of hypocritical dreams was, for Freud, closely linked to that of repetitive dreams.

The term "hypocritical dream" is not frequently used in present-day psychoanalysis. However, the question that Freud posed under this rubric remains essential: Is every dream the realization of a wish?

Roger Perron

See also: Dream.


Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. SE, 4-5.

. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.

. (1923b). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.

. (1924c). The economic problem of masochism. SE, 19: 155-170.