This view, though it may seem simple, and one that is borrowed from physical science, is of the greatest value in practical work, for it is at once apparent that interest flowing excessively in one direction necessarily means a deficiency in another direction. It gives a firm basis for all analysis, and it makes possible the formula that there is only one problem in life—the proper use of interest. It is with the utilization, expression, and application of interest that the unconscious continuously concerns itself. For we can conceive of the force that reveals itself as interest always welling up from the deep levels of the psyche beneath consciousness, and seeking some outlet, like spring water through the fissures and crannies of the ground.
With this brief outline of the theory of interest, the meaning of what has been called the unconscious motive becomes clearer. The unconscious motive must centre round the question of the outlet of interest. A man who watches water bubbling up through the ground does not know what secret pressures and strains, or what cisterns and occlusions exist deep beneath the surface. He has no means of estimating. But in the human psyche the case is different, for the dream comes through the multitude of conscious affairs as a kind of estimate of the relative tensions of interest below the surface. It has its own kind of emphasis and symbolism, and by a proper approach it throws light on interior problems that would otherwise remain obscure.
I will give two examples of dreams and endeavour to outline the unconscious motive that is central in them. An inclusion of meaning within meaning is found in every unconscious motive. The outer layers of meaning only will be attempted.
1. "I was walking with my wife. It was dark, and I went on ahead. Some people passed me, and one of them made some remark that I did not catch. Then I looked back and saw that they had accosted my wife. I flew into a rage and took a leap towards them. To my astonishment I soared high up into the air, so high that I became very nervous. Underneath me was a hedge, and on this I landed with a crash. When I got up the strangers had vanished and my wife was looking at me with a startled expression."
What possible bearing can this dream have on the dreamer ? As it stands it appears an absurdity. Without considering the outward form that it possesses, we will approach it directly by the method of association.
The dreamer gave his first associations in the following way : Walking out with my wife. " When I am at home I do this every evening, as a rule, in fine weather. I insist on her accompanying me. She is too fond of sitting about the house." I went on ahead. " I believe I often walk too fast for her. She is rather slow. Her slowness is sometimes very aggravating." They had accosted my wife. " I have a horror of anything like that happening. It never has happened, but the idea that it might makes me careful, especially when I pass noisy people." I flew into a rage. " Very unusual. I very rarely lose my temper. I am careful in keeping all my emotions under control." I soared high up into the air. "This was absurd. I do not understand what it means." A hedge. "It was similar to the hedge that surrounds my garden at home." A startled expression. " An expression I am very familiar with. Whenever I give her an order, or suggest some improvement, she looks at me in this way. She takes in new ideas very slowly."
These associations, if they do not immediately explain the dream, throw an interesting light on the dreamer. The patient, who was suffering from insomnia, was an extremely irritable, nervous man. His associations show that his idea of himself was otherwise. He prides himself on his self-control. Now the dream selects an incident that he fears extremely as its main theme, and weaves its story round this. On the question of the soaring into the air, the dreamer can give no information. He says it is absurd. It is, of course, absurd in any literal sense. But there is an interesting association in the record of the dream, in which the patient says he flew into a rage ; this is followed by an action that suggests flying. He soared into the air. The effect of this was to call his attention away from his wife on to the question of his own safety. He seemed in a perilous position, owing to his outbreak of temper, and when he lands with a crash in the hedge, the combination of circumstances which called forth his rage has now dispersed, and nothing remains but his startled wife.
It is now necessary to consider what factor called forth this dream. At the time of its occurrence the dreamer was some hundreds of miles from home. He had received the day before a letter from his wife, the first for a considerable period. On the same day he had been riding ; and getting into difficulties with his horse he had lost his temper, with the result that the horse bolted and threw him into a sort of hedge. Now it is natural to suppose that the letter from his wife revived the memories centring round her, and therefore touched in some degree the fear that he always experienced when he walked out with her. It is not necessary that this fear should have presented itself in consciousness during the day previous to the dream. It may have remained marginal or totally unconscious, but the whole system of ideas, feelings, and experiences—the complex—connected with his wife must have received a stimulus through the reading of the letter. They had, as it were, been thrown into vibration. The accident with the horse, according to those who saw it, was due to the rider's nervousness and temper. He gave way to a temper that was unnecessary, and this led him to disaster. The hedge appears in the dream. It was, however, not the hedge that actually received the rider, but a hedge that he associates with home. There is nothing in the dream that he directly associated with his riding accident.