The Interpretation of Dreams | Study Guide

Sigmund Freud

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The Interpretation of Dreams | Appendix A : A Premonitory Dream Fulfilled | Summary



In a paper written 10 days after he completed the manuscript of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud considers the case of a "premonitory dream," a dream telling the future. One of his patients dreamed she would meet her old family doctor, Dr. K., at a particular spot on the main shopping street of Vienna. The next day she did indeed meet Dr. K. at the very same spot. Freud starts by noting she told no one about her dream that morning and did not write it down. He then proposes she only thinks she dreamed of Dr. K., and this illusion is connected to some neurotic conflict over a suppressed wish.

Freud describes the woman's history. Twenty-five years ago when she was a young widow, she was helped by two men, both named Dr. K. One was her family doctor, whom she has just dreamed about. The other Dr. K. was a lawyer who helped with her husband's estate and also had an affair with her. She could not fully enjoy the love affair that began while her husband was still alive. Guilt prevented her from being made truly happy by Dr. K the lawyer. Freud proposes the woman actually dreamed of meeting her old lover, Dr. K. the lawyer. When she ran into Dr. K. the family doctor, she remembered her dream about the other Dr. K., but she instantly suppressed the true focus of that dream. She substituted the innocent family doctor for the lover.

Freud concludes all prophetic dreams are invented after the event they supposedly foretell. The creation of such dreams is a form of censoring, says Freud.


The editor and translator James Strachey added this scientific paper by Freud as an appendix. As Strachey notes, Freud wrote the paper just after completing The Interpretation of Dreams, but it was published posthumously several years after Freud's death.

The reason Strachey includes the paper is a remark of Freud's in Chapter 1, in the part subtitled "E. The Distinguishing Psychological Characteristics of Dreams." In the final paragraph Freud mentions premonitory dreams. There are serious reservations about such an idea, says Freud, and at the same time many people insist the phenomenon is real. Freud says he will reserve comment; maybe later an explanation can be found "within the bounds of natural psychology." Strachey includes this paper to show Freud did find an explanation: premonitory dreams are illusions; they are concocted to satisfy other demands.

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