It will at once be said that if an interpretation is put on these dreams that they contain valuable advice as to the path interest should be allowed to flow along—which for the moment I will call muddy experience as contrasted with clear intellectualism —it means that dreams have a kind of intelligence behind them concealed under a curious and fantastic symbolism. It has been remarked that a good test of any theory is to ask whether it lessens a man's sense of personal responsibility in the conduct of life, and that if it does—if in any way it casts doubt on the supremacy of his powers of reasoning and judgment—then it is a bad theory. If the theory is advanced that dreams have a kind of intelligence behind them capable of giving advice that the conscious powers of the mind fail to give, then many people may condemn it instantly as a bad theory. An old antagonism is here opened up, and the main discussion of it can be deferred to a later part of the book. There are certain deductions to be made, however, from premises already given which may throw some light on the question, and they can be touched upon at this stage.
The dream appears complete, and totally unforeseen, in the mind as a product of unconscious activity. No one would venture to suggest that consciousness contains all possible attitudes. A candid friend, for example, will reveal many defects of character and opinion to us, of which we were unaware. That is his particular genius and ambition. He does not concern himself with what we are conscious of in ourselves (and here let it be said that many typical actions and attitudes that we constantly make use of may be unrealized) so much as with what we are unconscious or semi-conscious of; and this produces a curious but characteristic effect. We defend ourselves feverishly, although we may dimly perceive the truth of his statement. But if we perceive the truth of the statement the realization must come from something latent in ourselves. We are not really defending ourselves from the candid friend so much as from what is trying to enter consciousness from the marginal or unconscious psyche. The candid friend may make an accusation that is wholly untrue. Nothing responds in ourselves ; that is, it appeals to nothing latent in the psyche ; it finds no system of inward strain to set in vibration. We do not react to it. We do not become indignant.
Now if we examine the statement that dreams, because they arise from the unconscious, must necessarily contain unrealized or inadequately realized material, we see that this implies that a dream, when looked at through consciousness—that is, when unravelled and reknit into the patterns of conscious thinking—must have a significance of an extremely unusual and personal kind. It must offer a kind of criticism ; or we can be more cautious, and say that what it offers, when considered consciously, might be constructed into a kind of criticism by the rational powers. The criticism, then, would be un- intelligent and only rendered intelligent by secondary elaboration in consciousness.
However that may be, we may assume at this point that a kind of criticism, or a peculiar point of view, will be of necessity contained in the dream if a suitable method of handling its material is attained, so that it can be worked up into a significant form. Our task is now to find into what form, significant to the patient, the two dreams can be worked up. Do they seem to have any kind of bearing upon his problem—a problem which he failed to solve by conscious judgment ?
The criticism that can be extracted is contained in the idea of some inner failure of adjustment. The prominence that is given to the ugly humorous cook, and the fact that it is she who is selected to give the advice of mingling the clear with the muddy, suggest that she represents in a condensed, and therefore symbolic, way something that the dreamer lacks. I have already put a tentative meaning on this symbolism, indicating that it is strongly contrasted with the semi-ridiculous philosophical atmosphere of the upper chamber, and that the spontaneous association with Socrates might point towards another way of approaching life. The individual who gleans the nature of humanity from books does not build into himself the character that experience affords. It is impossible to replace action by thought and get the same result.
In the case of the patient R. his task was a difficult one—a hint perhaps contained in the symbol of the high target—and it required an adjustment towards life that he did not possess. The sights in the rifle are clumsy. He can only bring down with it a young, but bright-eyed, bird. What do the two sights symbolize ? What two points of view must be brought into alignment before accurate shooting is possible with the instrument destiny has furnished? The sights seem to be symbolized under another form in the first dream, as philosopher and cook. Life as a theory is one point of view. Life as a fact is another. It cannot be denied that the proper mingling and alignment of these two points of view constitute for most persons a very big and a difficult task. The second dream suggests that, both sights —both points of view—are immature. And the first dream, by its slight shade of ridicule thrown over the scene in the upper room, suggests that life as a theory, to the patient, was not free from the charge of absurdity.
I have said sufficient to outline in the reader's mind the kind of criticism, and the nature of the advice, which can be found in these dreams. The patient had reached a position, by his use of life, in which matters had gone beyond his control; in which some deep reaction had occurred. interest had drifted increasingly away from his conscious plan, and lay in him as a potential force under the symbol of the cook in the dirty kitchen.
The third dream, and the last that I shall give concerning this case, made a more vivid impression on the dreamer than either of the foregoing ones.
He described, while relating it, an atmosphere of expectation and mystery. The previous examples contained the emotions of sorrow and embarrassment. This dream was accompanied by a sense of adventure.
III. "I was on some exploration into an unknown country. There were either three others with me, or in all we made a party of three. I am uncertain of this. My companions were shadowy and vague. Our journey was strange. We had to get across marshy land, then over ice and weed-covered water, then we swam across a wide sheet of clear water, and down a kind of aqueduct, where the water became shallow. We stepped on to the shore, where two strangers were standing. We seemed to be introduced, or introduced ourselves, and bowed very formally. The two strangers began to converse, and one said to the other that it was a great pity that travellers who reached that shore lost so much of their sense of humour and behaved so stiffly, and how it always had happened in that way. For some reason I became annoyed and said they must remember we were in an unknown country. They looked at me intently while I spoke. I woke up feeling that the strangers were not hostile, and I should have been friendly."
In this dream the main plot turns about the dreamer's mode of behaviour in the unknown country that he sets out to explore. He is not at ease. It is suggested that he loses his sense of humour, and that he is not the only one who has acted in a stiff and formal manner on reaching that shore. If we look for any correspondences with the previous dreams they are found in the behaviour of the philosophers, whose declamations were stiff and pompous, and in the cook, who was humorous and friendly. The pompous manner is coupled up with the atmosphere of intellectual preoccupation. The humorous and friendly manner is coupled up with the cook. The dreamer, when he overhears the conversation of the strangers, reacts sensitively and speaks up with wrath. Humour does not come to his aid even after he has been given the hint, and he wakes regretting his behaviour.
In the case of this dream, the patient R. associated the allegory of the venture into an unknown country with his own attempt to achieve the task he had set himself to do. One hesitates to go so far as to say that the intellectual mood in general tends to exclude humour and friendliness, but in this particular case it is suggested.
In these three dreams there is a great variety of symbolism and scenery, and I have only attempted to pick out those similarities which bring them into line with one another, and give them an initial interpretation. The material lying behind them, as I conceive it, has been traced in the broadest outline, without any detail. My aim is to show that these three dreams have a theme in common, and a kind of meaning or criticism that does bear directly on the problem of the patient R.
If this meaning or criticism has a purpose, it would seem to be a particular purpose, whose object is to open up another and new channel, foreign to the dreamer, along which interest should flow. It would appear that the unconscious had gathered itself into a definite attitude, and was throwing it upon the dream-stage in many forms and varieties of symbolism, and laying the emphasis on different aspects, but always in a comparatively veiled way.
A point must be remarked on here. The patient began to dream more vividly and coherently than usual after the onset of his trouble; that is, after his adequate control of interest had left him. When the force which reveals itself as interest deserted conscious levels, the activity of the unconscious, as shown in the dream-life, became distinctly increased. The damming back of the force, or the checking of it, acted as a stimulus to unconscious activity. This might be expected on the principle that force must be somewhere, in some form ; if it leaves the theatre of conscious application, it would be not improbable to find it active in the unconscious psyche, behind the scenes. The dream-psyche began to weave a number of unusually clear pictures, which, as we have seen, might be given a special and purposeful interpretation, the purpose being to get rid of, or eject, that dammed-back force in a particular direction shunned by the patient.