We must now consider dreams in a more intimate manner. We must look for motives that are more personal.
The unconscious motive behind the dream is comparable to the conscious motive behind an action. If a man walks down the street and bows to every letter-box, people at once try to interpret the meaning of the action. They act on the assumption that there is a motive behind it. If they can find none, they may look on him as a madman. That is taking up the view that there is no motive behind the actions of a madman. In the madman, the normal interaction between the conscious and unconscious psyche is disturbed, and an intrusion of latent or unrefracted material occurs. It is this same nascent material that forms the dream. It must contain a motive in the sense that it is a psychical force ; it tends to go in a certain direction. It makes the madman do or say or think certain things; it shapes dreams in a particular mould. These may "seem chaotic as long as they are taken literally. The actions of a man going through some elaborate symbolic ritual, like that of a Mohammedan at prayer, appear chaotic in a similar way to an unsympathetic observer.
To understand the unconscious motive it is necessary to understand the symbolism in which it clothes itself. In handling a dream the aim is to discover the motive of the unconscious. This motive is significant to the dreamer, for it represents a tendency or force, or bias that exists in himself. In the case of the neurotic it reveals what is going on behind the scene, and if we look on the neurotic as a person in whose psyche many abnormal strains and counter-strains exist, which he does not understand, it is evident that its discovery is very valuable; and it is not only valuable in the case of the neurotic.
In looking for the motive in the dream one has to look at the same time at something else. To recall, for a moment, the allegory of the master, the servant, and the act of violence, it is natural, if we wish to understand the motive behind the act of violence, to seek to understand the attitude of the master towards the servant. The attitude of the conscious mind, which was compared to that of the master, requires to be understood by examining the unconscious motive, and simultaneously the attitude of the conscious mind is made clearer as the unconscious motive reveals itself. The whole question centres round the expression of interest. It concerns the sources of outlet that interest finds through the conscious.
We may criticize a man on two counts. One is for some kind of excess : a too great vanity, or talkativeness, or avariciousness, or sensuality, or diligence, or piety. The other is for some deficiency : he is stupid, or mean, or narrow, or shy, or lazy. If these qualities be turned into terms of interest, we can say that in a general sense we criticize a man either for an over-expression of interest in some form, or for an under-expression. A theory of interest becomes possible. That force that reveals itself as interest can be called, for short, interest* It flows in many directions, and the directions in which it flows make a man what he is. The using of the term interest, instead of life-force, or elan vital (Bergson), or libido (Freud), is open to objections, in that it is unscientific. It may be said it is a vague term, and that the idea of the libido is more concrete. But there is a certain danger in using a term like libido, because it helps to strengthen a one-sided view of life. Its advantages may consist in the fact that it constantly reminds us that sexuality enters very much into life, which we are apt to forget at times. We have only to look at academic text-books of psychology to realize this. But it may remind us too much of this, and so exclude other sides of life. The ideal word has yet to be found. If it is said that to speak of interest and to treat it as an energic conception which can cover all the aspects of life is unscientific, because it is too vague, it is possible to reply that this is the kind of thing that may be needed in psychology. We need a central conception that constantly reminds us that, in psychology, though we may discover approximations that are useful and serve as outlines for theories, and are supported by practice, nevertheless no theory will ever imprison and fix life in a rigid formula. And the reason of that is psychological itself, and can be given now, although it anticipates part of our thesis. For no sooner do we make the fact wholly conscious, and apply a sharply cut definition, than it becomes possible for nascent material to form below consciousness ; it is owing to this that treatment is possible in psychological medicine. It is for this very reason that the purely scientific spirit in psychology continually undermines the rigid structures it erects. For the nascent formations below consciousness do not correspond to what is isolated and circumscribed in consciousness.
* The use of this word interest was suggested by Claparede to Dr. Jung (Analytical Psychology, p. 348). Dr. Jung has suggested.the use of the term hormi, the Greek word opp.i), meaning urge. He still retains the use of the word libido, however, but houses it in the sense of Bergson's elan vital as a life-energy that expresses itself in every form of human interest.
In order to develop the theory of interest some brief dream-examples can be cited. A spinster, who lived a solitary, emotionless life and rarely went out, although perfectly healthy, experienced a recurring dream. She dreamed that she saw pools of stagnant water. It was always stagnant water in some form, never running water. How can we look on this symbolism ? When it is said that a man's life is stagnating, it is meant that such a person takes little or no interest in things. Like the servant in the parable, he keeps his talent wrapped in a napkin ; it may be for fear of losing it, or for other reasons.
What is stagnating ? interest is stagnating, which should flow out through some channel of expression. Of a person who stays indoors absorbed in studying mathematics, one does not say that he is stagnating. His interest flows along an inner channel of expression. There is constant movement in his mind. But a person who stays indoors and does nothing is certainly stagnating. Interest, in such a case, is held up ; it is dammed back. It flows nowhere ; it lies, we might say, in stagnant pools like water. We might see in the dreams of the spinster a symbolism that represents an inner situation. It represents the state of that force that reveals itself as interest. It is stagnant interest.