Repetitive Dreams

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The repetitive dream is a dream that is dreamt repeatedly and more or less identically during one's life.

Freud first thought that "a dream contains elements from childhood . . . where the dream is of what has been called the 'recurrent' type" (1900a, p. 190); subsequently he was of the opinion that symbolic interpretation was indispensable for an analysis of this kind of dream (1901a). He undertook a comprehensive analysis of such a repetitive dream in the case of Dora (1905e), then later, in that of the "Wolf Man" (1918b).

Taking into consideration the traumatic underpinnings of such dreams, he later changed his position, especially as it related to anxiety dreams. In "Dreams and Telepathy" (1922a) he discussed a dream, cause of much anxiety, that pursued the dreaming woman "like a ghost" (p. 209) for many years. This revision of his view of the repetitive dream occurred in the general context of metapsychological modifications resulting from his reflection on repetition itself, "beyond the pleasure principle" (1920g). Ferenczi (1931/1955) was influenced by it in writing: "Every dream, even the most disturbing ones, attempt at mastery and resolution of a traumatic experience" (p. 238).

Subsequently, the repetitive dream has been generally discussed from the perspective of the symptomatic repetition of a trauma (Rabain, 1988), as well as within the framework of metapsychological reflections on time (Seulin, 1997).

Roger Perron

See also: Beyond the Pleasure Principle ; Dream; Introjection.


Ferenczi, Sándor. (1955). On the Revision of the Interpretation of Dreams. In his Selected Papers of Sándor Ferenczi, III (Eric Mosbacher, et al, Trans.; pp. 238-243.). New York: Basic Books. (Original work published 1931)

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

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

Rabain, Jean-François. (1988). La mise en scène du trauma. Revue française de psychanalyse, 53 (6), 1373-1389.

Seulin, Christian. (1997, April). Le temps figé des rêves récurrents. Bulletin de la Société de psychanalyse de Paris, 4, 91-99.