Nakedness, Dream of

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Considered a "typical dream" by Freud, the dream of nakedness fulfills an exhibitionistic wish.

In a letter to Wilhelm Fliess dated May 31, 1897, Freud related one of his dreams: Wearing very few clothes, he was going up a staircase; upon encountering a woman, he felt "glued to the spot . . . paralyzed" (Letter 64, p. 254). He returned to this dream and analyzed it in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), in the paragraph he devoted to "typical dreams," that is, dreams that are more or less identical in everyone.

Freud emphasized three characteristics of the dream of nakedness: shame at being naked, indifference on the part of the spectators (usually numerous), and the sense of being paralyzed. He interpreted it as an oneiric fulfillment of an exhibitionistic wish dating back to the happy period of early childhood, when such a wish could legitimately be satisfied. SandórFerenczi, with the same interpretation, related several dreams of nakedness that enabled the dreamer to express their "undying longing for the return of the paradise of childhood" (1909/1952, p.106); elsewhere, however, he mentioned the dream of a woman who, after some hesitation, bathes nude in the presence of her son and uses it as a "means of inspiring terror" (1919, p. 329).

Dreams of nakedness, always linked to an erotic or exhibitionistic theme, are universal, and accordingly should be considered "typical dreams," as Freud proposed. Despite their commonality, however, they have not yet led to a specific theorization.

Roger Perron

See also: Dream; Exhibitionism; Look, gaze; Modesty; Voyeurism.


Ferenczi, Sandór. (1950). Nakedness as a means for inspiring terror. In Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-Analysis (pp. 329-31; Jane Isabel Suttie, et al, Trans.). London: The Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1919)

. (1952). The psychological analysis of dreams. In First Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (pp. 94-131; Ernest Jones, Trans.). London: The Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1909)

Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. Part 1, SE, 4: 1-338; Part 2, SE, 5: 339-625.

. (1950a [1887-1902]). Extracts from the Fliess papers. SE, 1: 173-280.

Saul, Leon J. (1966). Embarrassment dreams of nakedness. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47 (4), 552-58.

Further Reading

Myers, Wayne A. (1989). The traumatic element in the typical dream of feeling embarrassed at being naked. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37, 117-130.