We become accustomed to our fantasies, but we do not become accustomed to our dreams. For in our dreams we do things more strange and unexpected than anything we do in fantasy. And while fantasy seems intimate and closely linked with our lives, the dream comes as if it were from a remote and unknown region. But just as there are fantasies that assume familiar forms, so are there dreams which are shared by many people. The dream of missing a train, the dream of flying, the dream of being naked, or the dream of losing a tooth are not peculiar individual products, but seem to be common to humanity. It is on this fact that the popular dream-book is founded in which a dream of a particular, type must always have the same meaning. For example, six people may dream that they are flying. This may mean, according to a dream-book, that happiness is in store for them, quite apart from their various conditions of life. Now the idea that the same dream must always mean the same thing is exactly comparable to the idea that the same action must always mean the same thing. But if six people get into aeroplanes and fly, the meaning of their actions may be entirely different. One may be learning to fly, one may be flying for a wager, one for pleasure, one for curiosity, one to overcome his fear, and one to carry a message.
In the old views about dreams, it was recognized that their values were symbolical and that they required some kind of interpretation. The interpretations that were given were teleological; that is, they were regarded as products with a purposive and prospective aim. They were prophetic. But in seeking to put a definite value on their symbolism the help of the dreamer was not invoked, so that interpretation became a matter of ingenuity. When Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he did not question the king about any of its symbols, but evolved the interpretation wholly out of his own mind. Now there is an evident danger in this kind of method. For two men may dream of a horse, and one may connect the symbol with money he has lost and the other may connect it with a present he is going to give his wife. The symbol then has a totally different value for each dreamer, owing to the associations connected with it.
Broadly speaking, associations may lead in two directions. There are reductive associations, which, like a chemical analysis, reduce the symbol into its elementary parts. This is the Freudian method of approach. On the other hand, there are constructive associations, which shape and develop the symbol to fit in with the immediate life of the dreamer, and so bring it on to the level of contemporary experience as a living thing. This method is used by the Zurich school, under Dr. Jung.
The following two dreams, coming from the same source, will illustrate the two methods. " I was in a cave. A long narrow passage through the rock led into the sea. I struggled through, and found myself in the surf, battling for life. I got to a boat and was helped into it by F. W."
The next dream is less definite, but its symbolism is round the same theme. " I was in a ship on a broad river. On deck was a baby, naked, curled up in a curious way, apparently asleep, with its knees bent up and arms pressed tightly to the side, with bent elbows. Some one threw it into the water. Then I saw a big ship with a great rent in her side. Someone said, ' Oh, that often happens. It can be repaired easily.' There was some wild manoeuvring about the water, ships flying round in circles, and then I awoke."
The symbolism of both these dreams is round the idea of birth. A purely reductive analysis, which was applied in the first example, led to an anatomical significance of the symbolism in which even the rudder lines of the boat found a place. The presence of F. W. was not quite accounted for. The associations round F. W. were to the effect that he had offered the patient a post, which the latter was not willing to take.
Now F. W. may be left out of the dream altogether as a superfluity, and the birth symbolism alone examined. This was at first done, and the associations pursued a fixed path along the patient's knowledge of the birth process, down to the earliest memories in this connection. This occupied a considerable time. The patient revived his childhood speculations on birth and the myths he had been told ; he revealed his present-day reflections on the subject. In the second example the figure of the little baby curled up, and apparently asleep, at once brought associations dealing with the business of birth. The dream is more hilarious than the first one ; but it deals with the same object. What, then, do these dreams signify ? It is possible to say that the unconscious of these patients finds itself preoccupied with primitive wishes connected with the mother, and to make the patients understand this thoroughly ; but what application have these products of unconscious activity to the dreamer's life ? He may say that he never permits himself to think of subjects so elementary as birth, and then one may point out that it is a repression of a normal preoccupation of the mind, and that it expresses itself in the unconscious, and so finds a secret satisfaction. By making the patient focus his whole attention on one or another symbol we may force out of him memories and thoughts, all dealing with the subject of birth, dragged out from the marginal shadows of his mind, until at length the reductive analysis comes to an end in the purely anatomical. The process is rather like picking all the scarlet threads out of a Turkish carpet so as to understand the reason of its existence. And what is gained ?
What is gained is a certain insight into self that to a certain type of objective—or extrovert—mind, which possesses little self-knowledge, is always useful. In the case of the subjective mind we have usually only confirmed what was known already.
If these two dreams be handled from the teleo-logical point of view, as products with a prospective bearing upon the patient's life, the motive of the unconscious becomes more comprehensible. In the first dream F. W. and birth are brought together by the unconscious. F. W. is a person who had offered the patient a post. The patient at the time was in difficulties, but refused P. W.'s offer. The unconscious brings together these two interests in the dream—the idea of a new post and a new birth. It approximates that which the dreamer did not approximate in waking life. It forms a new pattern of interests. How is the idea of new birth, of a person being born again, a metaphor common in speech, to be put in pictorial form ? A cartoonist, withheld by conventional considerations, would scarcely portray such an idea in obstetrical symbols. But the unconscious has no such limitations.