Premonitory Dreams

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A premonitory dream is a dream preceding a real event that seems to foretell its occurrence.

In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), Sigmund Freud alluded many times to the ancient belief that certain dreams predict the future. In an appendix he added to this work, he described and analyzed this kind of dream from the perspective of wish fulfillment. The following year he stated explicitly: "It is interesting in this connection to observe that the popular belief that dreams always foretell the future is confirmed. The future which the dream actually shows us is not the one which will occur but the one which we should like to occur" (1901a, p. 674). He later discussed so-called premonitory dreams in connection with the case of the "Rat Man" (1909d).

While obviously, in clinical practice, the belief in the premonitory character of certain dreams cannot be adhered to naïvely, it does make sense to pay very close attention to this belief, when it accompanies the recounting of a dream, often in connection with a sense of "the uncanny." In the analysis of such dreams the hypothesis of a disguised realization of an unconscious wish has shown itself to be particularly fruitful.

Roger Perron

See also: Dream; Telepathy.


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

. (1901a). On dreams. SE, 5: 629-685.

. (1909d). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis. SE, 10: 151-318.