Punishment, Dream of

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In punishment dreams, the dreamer is explicitly or implicitly punished for a fault, often indicated as excusable or unknown to the dreamer.

In the 1911 revision of The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), Freud included an analysis of a dream of the famous Austrian poet Peter Rosegger. Freud associated the dream with his own memories of a time when, working in the physiological laboratory under the German physician Ernst Brücke, he admonished himself in a dream for boasting about his scientific and social success.

In another emendation, in 1919, Freud introduced the theme of punishment dreams into chapter 7, on the fundamental psychology of the dream processes. The painful quality of dreams of punishment seems to contradict the theory that a dream represents a gratification of a wish. Freud asserted that dreams of punishment indeed represent precisely the wish to be punished, to expiate a fault. In this process, there is no return of a repressed wish but rather a need for punishment that originates with the ego or rather (as he soon would call it, in a note added in 1930) the superego.

In Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1916-1917a [1915-1917]), Freud explored the relationship between punishment and dreams in the chapter devoted to wish fulfillment. In "Some Additional Notes on Dream-Interpretation as a Whole" (1925i), Freud, in discussing the content of dreams in terms of moral responsibility, laid stress on the ego's censorship of the wishes of the id. In New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1933a), in the chapter on the revision of the theory of dreams, Freud emphasized the superego's role of repression. The questions Freud posed apropos of punishment dreams are also related to repetition compulsion, discussed in Beyond thePleasure Principle (1920g) and The Economic Problem of Masochism (1924c).

Roger Perron

See also: Dream; Guilt, feeling of; Need for punishment; Self-punishment; Superego.


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

(1916-1917a [1915-1917]). Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 15-16.

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

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

(1925i). Some additional notes on dream-interpretation as a whole. SE, 19: 123-138.

(1933a). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 22: 1-182.