The dream arises somewhere out of the psyche, and appears as a highly complex and often brilliant and very dramatic structure, which no one in his waking senses could imagine to himself, save after a very laborious and prolonged effort. It would be a somewhat exhausting undertaking to guarantee to supply dreams to a man who dreamt every night. But the tale of the dream is spun spontaneously and without effort. The spontaneity and effortlessness point to the existence of a workshop wherein the tissue of the dream is woven. This part of the psyche is called the unconscious mind. Without much discussion it is possible to understand that the dream is a very intimate product of the human psyche, and that the questions that surround it demand, for their answer, a very intimate kind of investigation. The nature of these problems is not a material one, and therefore not easy to understand. They cannot be looked at through a microscope. They are problems of marginal and unconscious psychology. They are concerned with the attempt to push out into those shadowy realms that surround consciousness, in which a kind of thought and feeling life exists but dimly apparent to the busy man. He may experience their influence in the personal and natural upheavals that they bring about, but he remains unconscious that they are really connected with him, and continues to look at life as it is represented by the dispositions of interest in consciousness.
The attempt to widen consciousness, to make accessible to it stimuli which hitherto it has ignored, is traceable in many fields other than medica psychology. These attempts are the first gropings after the interpretation of an inward, slowly growing impulse. So far some of its results in music, art, and literature, as well as in medicine, have been sufficiently odd. But the impulse remains unaffected by criticism.
Outside medicine there is discernible an increasing tendency to look for the explanation of familiar and recurrent experiences as much in the human psyche itself as in the material situation. A man may be unable to perform some task—such as the giving up of cigarette smoking—and attribute the failure to some objective, difficulty. But it is possible that the explanation may be found in some inner compulsion or hindrance which lies in the man's psyche itself. The problem then becomes an interior one. This shifting of the focus of blame from without to the inner scene brings with it a new consciousness of responsibility. As of old, it finds that the solution of suffering and difficulty does not simply lie in the amelioration of physical things, but in the understanding of those forces which exist in every being, and upon which the ultimately decisive factor in personality rests, as a boat upon the sea. A neurotic patient may attribute his condition to the house he lives in, or to the climate, or to the food he eats, and think that if only these factors could be ameliorated, he would be healthy. But until he realizes that he carries the roots of his malady in his own psyche, until a new understanding of his malady and a new consciousness of responsibility shine in him, he will continue a neurotic and may ring the changes upon house; climate, and food to the end of his life in vain.
It is this lack of realization in the patient that becomes the problem of the physician. The necessities of the human psyche, the internal strains that are set up by a wrong use of life, the damming back of energy owing to false attitudes, with its consequent deflection into abnormal channels, become questions that demand his closest attention. For every neurotic patient is an individual in whose development something has gone wrong in a particular way, and it is the duty of the sincere physician to find out how and when the mischief arose and why it still persists. There is no fixed rule. It would be a mistake to handle a man like William Blake in the same way as a man like John Stuart Mill. That seems evident. Their problems, as neurotics, would have differed. Thus every patient has his special and peculiar problem. But the real problem is never found wholly in consciousness.
Although it is a very common view that the human psyche consists of static memory and dynamic consciousness—a layer of consciousness, as it were, superimposed upon a mechanism of memory—there are some familiar experiences that might well deepen and widen such a conception, and put the background of mind under suspicion. Parents may protect a little child with the utmost care from the tales of foolish nursemaids and from fairy-stories with tactless pictures, and thereby expect that no terror will creep into the child's mind, nor nightmares. And they find that they do not succeed. The goblins of the night spring out of the sleeping senses themselves, as apparitions older than the waking mind, as haunters older than the haunted. They lie in the psyche itself. They are, as Lamb has called them, transcripts, types, whose archetypes are in us, and eternal. And he asks how else should the recital of that which we know in a waking sense to be false, come to affect us at all ? This question of the appeal that things make is of peculiar importance. How, when we have no theory of mental background, can we possibly approach the question of appeal? A great many things which are nonsense when viewed through-reason, make a powerful appeal. The appeal and its power is not found to bear any relation to its comprehension by reason, unless a negative one. The appeal is not rational. Fairy-stories grip the mind, but what they grip lies beyond consciousness. We cannot explain, by simply studying what lies in consciousness, why fairy-stories should exist at all. Why should we be interested in a frog that turns into a prince ? It is the same way with dreams. A man experiences a dream that affects him strongly. He reconstructs it and retains it. The reconstructive impulse may be so strong that he takes it to his friends, although he knows perfectly well they will be uninterested. And the dream probably seems the purest nonsense. He dreamed that his house was on fire, or that he forged a cheque, or painted the finest picture in the world. Or he dreamed he was changed into a frog.
There is an anticipatory side that must be glanced at in this question of appeal. What common observation has detected is summed up in the saying that coming events cast their shadows before them. That is putting the matter objectively. The saying can be put in another way 5 that which is about to become conscious influences the direction of interest in consciousness. It attracts and deflects it like an approaching magnet. What is at first only vaguely connected with it makes an appeal; then the more closely related ; until at last the appeal is replaced by the realization. You can see these early deflections preceding most of the typical developments of life, long before the individual is aware of their meaning. But this is a subjective way of looking at experiences as if they were movements or displacements occurring within, from the realm of the unconscious through the marginal into consciousness. It is only in this way that the anticipatory or prophetic element in dreams—historically the earliest to be recognized—is to be understood.
At the present moment there are several schools of psychology concerned in the study of unconscious activities, and the analysis of dreams, and the theories of their bearing on the individual are conflicting. But it is possible to detect a basis of general agreement. The dream is regarded -as material of the first importance in the investigation of the factors responsible for unusual states of mind, and all schools look at it as a typical product of the unconscious regions of the human psyche.