BEFORE the various dream mechanisms are discussed in detail, it will be necessary to give a brief outline of the psycho-analytic conception of the unconscious mental life, as this enters so largely into the formation of dreams. The term "unconscious" does not connote, as in the popular sense, lack of consciousness, but signifies mental processes of which one is not aware, and cannot spontaneously be brought to consciousness, but which may artificially be recalled by means of the special technique of psycho-analysis; or which arise spontaneously in dreams, psychoneurotic symptoms, or the various symptomatic actions of every-day life. The unconscious contains nothing that has not been learned, thought, or experienced.

Unconscious mental processes are not mere physiological nerve activities but are psychically active and dynamic; in fact, they have all attributes of normal thinking but lack the sense of awareness. These processes remain unconscious, because they are prevented from reaching consciousness through a force termed resistance. This resistance, which it is impossible at this point to describe in detail, is of great importance in the analysis of dreams and in the psycho-analytic treatment of functional nervous disturbances. Only thoughts which are emotionally painful or disagreeable, and which we have repressed either in adult or childhood life, tend to remain in the unconscious.

Thus unconscious thoughts may be repressed not only in the acts and thinking of every-day adult life, but also in our childhood, the latter forming what is known as the infantile unconscious. This infantile unconscious is of great psychological and practical importance, because in it the thoughts are so deeply buried by the resistances imposed through our mental and moral development that it becomes very difficult of access. It is, however, clearly revealed in certain typical dreams, such as the dream of the death of one of our parents or the dream of being dressed in insufficient clothing. Such dreams reveal our infantile unconscious and therefore our childhood wishes, although the exact memory for these wishes apparently may have vanished long since. It is such wishes from the infantile unconscious, that also reveal themselves in many nervous symptoms of adult life, such as fears, obsessions, and hysterical symptoms. In fact, upon analysis nearly all dreams will be found to contain some elements from the infantile unconscious or highly tinged by it. The latent (unconscious) thoughts which motivate a dream are furthermore complicated by our conscious thoughts and also by daily instigators or physical discomforts arising during sleep. However cleverly or completely we may decipher or analyze these, if the unconscious thoughts are not reached and laid bare, we can never fathom the real meaning of the dream, because it is the unconscious which makes the dream, although the unconscious may be thrown into activity by conscious thoughts or organic stimuli. Since the only function of the unconscious is wishing or desiring, the dream as a wish fulfillment can never be completely understood until we have these unconscious thoughts in our possession. Dreams are therefore the royal road, in fact, the easiest road, to a knowledge of our unconscious mental life.

Thus the unconscious contains not only recent experiences, but likewise impressions of infantile or childhood life, all of which are actively and dynamically functioning like conscious processes. The unconscious is therefore the great repository of our mental life; in it are contained thoughts and wishes which may be foreign to our personality, to our moral or ethical nature, thoughts which we constantly and apparently successfully repress, but which inadvertently and to our surprise suddenly crop out as symptomatic actions, psychoneurotic symptoms, or dreams. All functional nervous disturbances, dreams, and slips of the pen or tongue are motivated by unconscious mental processes, of which they are the symbolic expression. The unconscious is a kind of limbo of seemingly forgotten groups of thoughts or complexes, which are constantly striving to reach consciousness and are just as persistently rejected by the repressive action of the censor. But frequently the censor nods and is caught unawares, the repressed wish slips through in the form of a dream, and we are repeatedly surprised to discover how primitive, how selfish and savage, may be our unconscious desires. Accordingly dreams reveal, either in a literal or symbolized form, our unconscious, which is our true mental life, and not our outward activities, which are changed by the conventionalities of society. As a heritage of our long ancestral line from primitive man, there remains in all of us something of the barbarian and savage, which has become repressed and veneered by the refinements of culture and civilization. It is in the unconscious, where we have repressed it, that we find the traces of our savage ancestry. The unconscious is barbaric and primitive in its elements and likewise unethical, because ethical interpretations of motives occur only in states of advanced civilization. Thus the unconscious contains not only our adult and infantile characteristics, but the emotions of the childhood of the human race as well. As I have previously expressed it,1 the value of the analytic method lies in the fact that through it one is able to discover repressed material and thus establish a definite psychological connection between symptoms and repressed experiences. The entire psychical complex may be constructed through the data furnished by psycho-analysis. All the heterogeneous material consequently falls into certain law and order. It is here that the great value of Freud's work lies: in demonstrating that mind is a dynamic phenomenon, and that its manifestations follow definite laws of cause and effect, as in the physical world. The unconscious thus becomes a symbol, a working hypothesis, in the same manner that certain mathematical signs are symbols, or the physical conception of an all-pervading ether.

1 Isador H. Coriat, "A Contribution to the Psychopathology of Hysteria," Journal Abnormal Psychology, vol. IV, no. 1, 1911.

Thus the existence of the unconscious is the result of a repression, and the unconscious consists wholly of repressed material. For instance, certain ethical or moral standards may conflict with the individual's personality and it is exactly these standards which undergo the process of repression. Such standards are of the nature of wishes which are constantly striving for real gratification in every-day life, or in psychoneurotic symptoms and for imaginary gratification in dreams. The fact that these standards are repressed is the most convincing proof of their existence. The so-called New England conscience is one of the best examples of repression.

This repression of emotions at the same time admits their reality by trying to avoid and negate them. The effort of these repressed emotions to find an outlet leads to all forms of nervous invalidism such as so-called nervous prostration and various types of morbid fears. Such individuals externally appear cold and austere, apparently emotionless, and lacking all essentials of human feeling, yet their dreams show various degrees of forbidden desires which only in this manner come to expression. Conditions like these teach us that we are all emotional volcanoes, and when we pride ourselves on having subdued our emotions and on not yielding to so-called vulgar feelings and temptations, nevertheless it is certain that, hidden within the depths of our unconscious, these repressed desires are as potent and active as though they assailed every second of our conscious thinking.