"Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams, A"

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Freud seems to have composed this text, as well as "Mourning and Melancholia," between April and May of 1915, according to James Strachey (SE 14), but neither was published until he was done "putting my final touches" on them (letter to Karl Abraham of 11 November, 1917). In the article he had fewer new things to say on the subject of the dream, than on its role as the guardian of sleep, and on how to integrate it into his most recent theoretical positions. He planned to set out a synthetic view of these positions subsequently, in twelve metapsychological essays.

Freud suggests that the wish to sleep conducts the libido through a "temporal regression" to a selfish state close to primal narcissism, and the ego to the stage of the hallucinatory realization of wish. In this way he returned to the question he had raised from 1895 in Project for a Scientific Psychology (1950a): how to differentiate fantasy, delirium, and external reality? The feeling of conviction afforded by the dream prompts a hallucinatory psychoses: "The process, begun in the Pcs. and reinforced by the Ucs. pursues a backward course, through the Ucs. to perception, which is pressing upon consciousness," (1916-1917f [1915], p. 227) realizing consequently a "formal regression." However the dream is differentiated from states like the amentia of Meyner or the hallucinatory phase of schizophrenia, whose mechanisms are close to it, since "reality-testing," one of "the major institutions of the ego," (1916-1917f [1915], p. 233), persists in the dreamer.

This text, which is still linked to the formulations of the first topic, pursues the discussion begun in "Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning" (1911b) on the rapport between the psyche and external realitywhich Freud continued to elaborate on in "Neurosis and Psychosis" (1924b) and "Fetishism" (1927e). His growing interest in the functions of the ego can be perceived in the differential explication he gave: Psychotic hallucinations do not occur until the "disintegrated" ego has become incapable of exercising its function of reality-testing, so they can, on no account, be interpreted as early symptoms.

Freud concluded his article by emphasizing the importance of the topic of repression for understanding psychic disorders: "In dreams the withdrawal of cathexis (libido or interest) affects all systems equally; in the transference neuroses, the Pcs. cathexis is withdrawn; in schizophrenia, the cathexis of the Ucs.; in amentia, that of the Cs. (1916-1917f [1915], p. 235).

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Absence; Amentia; Day's residues; Dream; Narcissistic withdrawal; Negative hallucination; Projection; Psychoanalytical nosography; Reality testing; Regression; Representability; Sleep/waking; Somnambulism; Wish, hallucinatory satisfaction of a.

Source Citation

Freud, Sigmund. (1916-1917f [1915]). Metapsychologische Ergänzung zur Traumlehre. Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse, 4, p. 277-287; GW, X, p. 412-426; A metapsychological supplement to the theory of dreams. SE, 14: 222-235.


Freud, Sigmund. (1911b). Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning. SE, 12: 213-226.

. (1924b). Neurosis and psychosis. SE, 19: 147-153.

. (1927e). Fetishism. SE, 21: 147-157.

. (1950a). Extracts from the Fliess papers. SE, 1: 173-280.

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"Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams, A"

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"Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams, A"