The Interpretation Of Dreams Latent Manifesto

In presenting his three dream specimens, Kohut omitted most associations. If emphasizing what he elsewhere referred to as "self-state dreams" (1977, p. 109) reduces attention to associative material, this might be another way in which a new construct could curtail access to established modes of conceptualization and data collection that could otherwise illuminate clinical material. Nonetheless, as Freud (1916/1972) skillfully demonstrated (e.g., with the famous dream of wartime "love services"), one can learn a great deal from manifest content: "If we are acquainted with the ordinary dream symbols, and in addition with the dreamer's personality, the circumstances in which he lives and the impressions which preceded the occurrence of the dream," then, he opined, "We are often in a position to interpret the dream straightaway" (Freud, 1916/1972, p. 115).

Although some analysts might chastise Freud for being insufficiently Freudian with respect to the absolute necessity of collecting and utilizing abundant associations, a considerable clinical and research literature has supported the founder's conviction that both the content and structure of manifest dreams can be richly mined (e.g., Brenneis, 1975; Erikson, 1954; Fine, Moore, & Waldhorn, 1969; Freud, 1900/1953a; Hatcher & Krohn, 1980; Krohn & Mayman, 1974; Langs, 1966; Palombo, 1984; Pulver, 1987; Rosenbaum, 1965; Saul, Snyder, & Sheppard, 1956; Spanjaard, 1969; Stewart, 1967).

Our ofttimes bivalent regard for the merely manifest was pithily portrayed by Erikson (1954) in his insightful distinction between actual versus advertised, idealized modes of practice. In his classic contribution, "The Dream Specimen of Psychoanalysis," he noted: "Officially, we hurry at every confrontation with a dream to crack its manifest appearance as if it were a useless shell and hasten to discard this shell, in favor of what seems to be the more worthwhile core" (p. 17). In contrast, he observed, "Unofficially, we often interpret dreams entirely or in parts on the basis of their manifest appearance" (p. 17). With wry wit, bred of much experience, he underscored the significant gap between official and actual practice.

Believing real conduct to be more valid than prescribed doctrine, Erikson asserted that, on careful inquiry, the radical differentiation between a manifest and a latent dream "defuses in a complicated continuum of more manifest and more latent items which are sometimes to be found by a radical disposal of the manifest configuration, sometimes by a careful scrutiny of it" (p. 34). Reminding his readers that the Rorschach Thematic Apperception Test and other projective techniques had convincingly demonstrated that any behavior reflects the whole, he emphasized the principle that a continuum of dynamic meaning connects surface and core.

In Lansky's (1992) contribution to his own compendium on Essential Papers on Dreams, he concurred with Erikson: "In actual practice, there is a tendency to use an interplay of manifest and latent content" (p. 14), he asserted.

In a study of analysts of various persuasions in the United States and Britain, V. Hamilton (1996) found that with the exception of a handful of Freudians and British Independents, the majority in all orientations no longer focus on gathering associations to individual dream elements. This "new normal" would, no doubt, shock and dismay many analysts belonging to what is now apparently the associational minority. V. Hamilton's data suggested that in clinical and educational settings today, analysts of diverse persuasions apparently feel they can work with predominantly manifest content to good effect. This reality does not, of course, negate the possibility that one might function to even better effect by collecting more associational material. In that regard, it was interesting to hear that more than one analyst in V. Hamilton's study admitted they did not really feel competent to work intensively with dreams. I address such intriguing findings more in later sections of this book concerned with psychoanalytic training.

Erikson (1954) believed compulsive adherence to official mantras deriding the manifest seriously "hindered a full meeting of ego psychology and the problems of dream life" (p. 17) to the detriment of both theory and practice. In a similar vein, Lansky (1992) asserted that such dogmatic rigidity had adverse consequences not only for theory and clinical practice but that the "legacy of contempt for and suspicion of" (p. 15) the manifest had also systematically undercut psychoanalytic research.

Studying clinical reports, one sometimes wishes for more associative material. Nonetheless, in the case I am scrutinizing, considering the variables cited by Freud (1916/1972) as frequently sufficient for meaningful interpretation, it can be said that Kohut provided ample information concerning his analysand's "personality, circumstances in which he lives and the impressions which preceded the occurrence of" (p. 115) at least some of the dreams. Furthermore, Kohut proffered not just one nocturnal hallucination, but a sequence of three (plus relevant historical and transferential material). I will endeavor to meticulously mine these confluent, mutually enhancing data sources to explore Kohut's hypothesis and my own.

Via Regia

Through the medium of three dreams, Kohut served his readers a concentrated glimpse into the complex psychic reality of his analysand. Their significance and utility reminds one of Erikson's (1958) astute comment in another of his penetrating contributions, "The Nature of Clinical Evidence":

The experienced dream interpreter often finds himself "reading" a dream report as a practitioner of medicine scans an x-ray. Especially in cases of wordy or reticent patients or of lengthy case reports, a dream often lays bare the stark inner facts. (p. 257)

My experience working with Kohut's dreams (including the progression of meaning evolving across them) strongly accords with Erikson's insight.

Each nocturnal phantasy presented by Kohut can be contemplated separately. Each contains enough food for thought to constitute a meal on its own. Alternatively, the dreams may be enjoyed as integral parts of a more encompassing, sumptuous, three-course repast. Both perspectives have merit. I approach the buffet both ways. With this in mind, let us venture to the banquet and delve deeply into Kohut's account to see what we can learn.

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