This double vision appeared almost immediately after an emotional shock, when she found that her husband had been unfaithful to her. It immediately flashed across her mind that her husband was leading a "double life" (her own expression), and a more detailed analysis demonstrated that this idea was symbolized by seeing objects double. In fact, after the emotional shock, she first saw her husband double, and it was only later that this doubling spread to other objects. In her dreams, too, all objects appeared double, thus proving that the double vision was not due, as in most cases, to an organic affection of the eye muscles, but in this particular case had a psychical origin and was a symbolization of the woman's conception of her husband. Indeed, when she first saw her husband double, there was associated a great anxiety and fear of losing him through his unfaithfulness, and therefore the double vision was at first a reinforcement of a wish to retain her husband's affections, and only later did it symbolize his double life. Thus this symptom, in its symbolization, condensation, and wish fulfillment, like every hysterical symptom, bore a striking resemblance to the structure of a dream.
Since inversely, too, the formation and structure of a dream bears an extraordinary resemblance to an hysterical symptom, dreams are very valuable for exploring the unconscious mind of the hysterical. An hysterical symptom is a repressed wish attempting to find an outlet; a dream is a repressed wish in which the outlet is taking place in the process of dreaming. Both are symbolized wishes, and both can be understood only through psycho-analysis.
Stammering, also, is frequently a symbol of an unconscious mental process, the speech defect arising in an effort to conceal a repressed thought or idea, often an idea of an unpleasant or shameful nature which continually tends to obtrude itself in consciousness. Like a slip of the tongue, stammering is not accidental, but is motivated or caused by an unconscious mental process of which the sufferer is not aware.1 The following case demonstrates how the study of the dreams of an individual not only gave an insight into the mechanism of that individual's nervous disease, but likewise furnished the material for the successful cure of the condition. The case in question refers to a condition of hysterical blindness in a little girl of eleven.2 In this case it could be shown that childhood hysteria, like adult hysteria, has the same mechanisms, in that the hysterical symptoms expressed the fulfillment, often symbolic, of a repressed wish, exactly the same process which takes place in the dreams of normal individuals. Thus an understanding of the psychology of dreams furnishes us with the data necessary for the understanding of hysteria. In children, however, the mental processes are much more simple than those of adults, and consequently their dreams and hysterical symptoms are far less complicated; in fact, as previously pointed out,1 they are literal fulfillments of undisguised wishes.
1 Isador H. Coriat, "Stammering as a Psychoneurosis," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, vol. IX, no. 6, 1915.
2 For a complete report of this case, the reader is referred to my paper on "Some Hysterical Mechanisms in Children," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, vol. IX, nos. 2-3. 1914.
The little girl lost her eyesight within a period of a few weeks, becoming almost completely blind. A complete examination of the eyes and the nervous system revealed the fact that there was no evidence of any organic disease. The condition was therefore interpreted as purely functional, a form of hysterical blindness, particularly since the child showed other evidences of hysteria, such as a nervous cough, hysterical convulsions, and an inability to feel touch and pain over one entire side of the body.
1 See chapter VII (Dreams Of Children And Of Primitive Races), Dreams of Children.
In order to understand the mechanism of this hysterical blindness, it was determined to undertake a study of the little girl's dreams as offering the readiest means of access to her unconscious mental conflicts and wishes. In this I was fortunate in securing the intelligent co-operation of the little patient's mother. The following dreams were recorded. The dream instigator as ascertained follows each dream in parenthesis.
Dream I. She was chasing her pet squirrel around the house, and it also appeared as if the squirrel chased her. (She has a pet squirrel.)
Dream II. The house took fire, and all the family were saved except her baby brother (eighteen months old), who was burned up. (The chimney had recently been cleaned out, because the family feared it would catch fire.)
Dream III. She was coming from a moving-picture show with her mother and her younger brother S. (age nine), and her elder sister O. (age thirteen). Then she saw a man in a near-by store, and because she felt he had no right there, as the store was closed, she called up the proprietress of the store, telling her that she would guard it. She remained near the store and sent her mother and the other two children home. (She had recently been to a moving-picture performance.)
Dream IV. She and her brother (S., age nine) were coming down the street, and through a crack in the board-walk she saw a penny, and she stooped to pick it up. Then she saw pennies all around, and she filled her pockets full. Then a man came and shot her brother S. and killed him, and she felt badly. Then the man also shot at her, but merely frightened her.
Dream V. Her baby brother G. was missing. He had run away and gone up to church, and she started to run after him, and then he turned and ran into a snowdrift and disappeared.
Dream VI. She and her three-year-old brother (R.) and a little girl playmate, B., were sliding down hill with their sleds. Finally R. ran into a snowdrift and disappeared, and B. and she ran on and left him there. (The instigator of these last two dreams was frequent coasting with her sled.)