Study Guide

The Interpretation of Dreams Chapter 1, Section B

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Chapter 1, Section B

The Material of Dreams—Memory in Dream

  • Next, Freud discusses theories concerning dream materials and the role of memory in dreams.
  • Here, Freud takes a firm position: "All the material making up the content of a dream is in some way derived from experience, that is to say, has been reproduced or remembered in the dream—so much at least we may regard as an undisputed fact" (1.3.1).
  • Freud acknowledges that we sometimes see something in a dream that appears to be new: that is, something that "we do not recognize as forming a part of our knowledge or experience" (1.3.2).
  • Even so, Freud argues, these seemingly new elements of dreams do come from our experiences—it's just that our conscious selves can't remember where they come from. According to Freud, our dreams are capable of remembering things that are "beyond the reach of our waking memory" (1.3.2).
  • Freud offers a number of examples to illustrate this point, taking them from psychological and literary works, as well as from his clinical experience with patients and his own dream life.
  • Freud also expands his argument by introducing "childhood experience" as an important source of dream materials (1.3.15). He then quotes a number of other thinkers who share this view.
  • After establishing the significance of childhood memories in dreams, Freud notes that some other thinkers argue instead that dreams are mostly made up of memories from "the very last few days before they were dreamt" (1.3.23). Despite his earlier comments on the importance of childhood memories, Freud makes it clear that he agrees with this position, too.
  • Freud moves on to discuss how dreams "choose" the materials they use (1.3.25). He begins by quoting a number of writers who remark how "trivial" dream materials seem to be.
  • As Freud wraps up this section, he draws attention to one particularly important point: where human memory is concerned, "nothing which we have once possessed can be entirely lost" (1.3.31).

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