One of the most interesting features of dreams is their wonderful condensation of persons, places, and things. For example, a dream scene may really be made up of several places we have seen: a dream person may have traits of feature or manner that belong to two or more persons. For this reason we may doubt that dreams are founded on actual experiences, since the dream characters or scenes are not to be found in real life in exactly the same form as in the dreams.
The condensation of dreams is sometimes explained as due to fusion of two or more images coming to sleeping consciousness at about the same time. Most of us are probably familiar with dream objects which change as we look at them; for example, a lady dreamt that a ghost sat on the end of her bed: this soon changed to her mother's image. Such changes are probably due to some likeness which the dream figure creates, the likeness replacing the first dream character. In the case mentioned, probably the ghost (wearing a white gown) suggested the dreamer's mother because the dreamer had often seen her mother in a white night gown, and sitting at the end of her bed. It is not to such features of dream life that condensation refers, but to a combination in the dream character of several features possessed by several persons or things. For instance, if the ghost in the dream mentioned had certain physical characteristics, as hair and eyes of the dreamer's mother and the remaining characteristics were those of a ghost, this would be a condensation. In passing, it might be mentioned that the characteristics of the mother would usually escape recognition.
As stated, some would explain the condensation as due to two images coming to consciousness at the same time. In the example given, the mother's image and the ghost's image, resulting in a replacing of certain characteristics of one by characteristics of the other. However, we will find on study that it is the effort or work of the dream to produce such condensations or combinations. The object is to present a situation that would be otherwise complicated in as brief a fashion as possible.
In the ordinary type of condensation the dream image, if concerned with a person, has features characteristic of many persons, but which features are not possessed by each of the persons in common. In the dream the image may have the face, for example, of one person but is understood in the dream to have a certain name -which is really not the name of the person whose face is portrayed. Or the visual features may be made up of those of many persons. Or the dream image may act in a manner peculiar to a person who seems absent in the dream. The same condensation may occur with places, - namely, a dream scene may be made up of various places we have viewed.
This condensation often serves a purpose. For example, if two persons are hostile toward me, the dream image may have the physical characteristics of one of these persons, and may act in a manner characteristic of an absent person. The image, therefore, condenses individuals who represent a common feature - their hostility. Usually, the meaning behind the condensation is not recognized by the dreamer: this serves to preserve sleep, since if} the meaning were recognized anxiety might be caused.
Condensation may occur with places: also with animals and things. A scene, really a condensation of many places, may result from the mind's having noted a resemblance between the places, or in which certain related incidents occurred. Similarly, animals and things may be composed of various likenesses which the mind has noted. A condensation may even take place of animals and humans. For instance, a dream image may have a pig's head, the body of a certain man, or other combinations. This might have resulted from the thought that this man was a pig, - a squealer, a boarish sort of a person. The condensation of dreams is the dream's effort at brevity, to combine things which have a likeness.
Condensation may also occur with words, and this is what makes some dream words sound like gibberish. However, they can with study often be separated into their component parts. For example, in a dream studied by Dr. Brill, the dreamer sees a man pointing to a sign, which reads, Uclamparia, wet. Uclamparia was found to be a condensation of eucalyptus and malaria. Such word-condensations or fusions are often called neologisms.