Psychoanalysis, Sleep and Dreams

Psychoanalysis, Sleep and Dreams

André Tridon
André Tridon

Author: Tridon, André, 1877-1922
Psychoanalysis, Sleep and Dreams



By André Tridon
“Tridon applies the psychoanalytical doctrine to a number of everyday problems, a business that ought to be undertaken on a far more extensive scale. His chapters on the psychology of war hysteria and of comstockery are acute and constructive.”—H. L. Mencken.
“His presentation of psychoanalysis is admirable.”—New York Medical Journal.
$2.50 net at all booksellers


Author of
“Psychoanalysis, its History, Theory and Practice”
and “Psychoanalysis and Behavior”


“Nothing is more genuinely
ourselves than our dreams.”



I wish to thank Dr. J. W. Brandeis, Dr. N. Philip Norman, and Dr. Gregory Stragnell, for valuable data and editorial assistance, and Mr. Carl Dreher who lent himself to many experiments.


St. Augustine was glad that God did not hold him responsible for his dreams. From which we may infer that his dreams must have been “human, all too human” and that he experienced a certain feeling of guilt on account of their nature.
His attitude is one assumed by many people, laymen and scientists, some of them concealing it under a general scepticism as to dream interpretation.
Few people are willing to concede as Nietzsche did, that “nothing is more genuinely ourselves than our dreams.”
This is why the psychoanalytic pronouncement that dreams are the fulfilment of wishes meets with so much hostility.
The man who has a dream of gross sex or ego gratification dislikes to have others think that the desire for such gross pleasure is a part of his personality. He very much prefers to have others believe that some extraneous agent, some whimsical power, such as the devil, forced such thoughts upon him while the unconsciousness of sleep made him irresponsible and defenceless.
This is due in part to the absurd and barbarous idea that it is meet to inflict punishment for mere thoughts, an idea which is probably as deeply rooted in ignorant minds in our days as it was in the mind of the Roman emperor who had a man killed because the poor wretch dreamed of the ruler’s death.
We must not disclaim the responsibility for our unconscious thoughts as they reveal themselves through dreams. They are truly a part of our personality. But our responsibility is merely psychological; we should not punish people for harbouring in their unconscious the lewd or murderous cravings which the caveman probably gratified in his daily life; nor should we be burdened with a sense of sin because we cannot drive out of our consciousness certain cravings, biologically natural, but socially unjustifiable.
The first prerequisite for a normal mental life is the acceptance of all biological facts. Biology is ignorant of all delicacy.
The possible presence of broken glass, coupled with the fact that man lacks hoofs, makes it imperative for man to wear shoes.
The man who is unconsolable over the fact that his feet are too tender in their bare state to tread roads, and the man who decides to ignore broken glass and to walk barefoot, are courting mental and physical suffering of the most useless type.
He who accepts the fact that his feet are tender and broken glass dangerous, and goes forth, shod in the proper footgear, will probably remain whole, mentally and physically.
When we realize that our unconscious is ours and ourselves, but not of our own making, we shall know our limitations and our potentialities and be free from many fears.
No better way has been devised for probing the unconscious than the honest and scientific study of dreams, a study which must be conducted with the care and the freedom from bias that characterize the chemist’s or the physicist’s laboratory experiments.
Furthermore, dream study and dream study alone, can help us solve a problem which scientists have generally disregarded or considered as solved, the tremendous problem of sleep.
Algebra and Latin, which are of no earthly use to 999/1000 of those studying them, are a part of the curriculum of almost every high school. Sleep, in which we spend one-third of our life, is not considered as of any importance.
How could we understand sleep unless we understood the phenomena which take place in sleep: dreams?
Even Freud, whose research work lifted dream study from the level of witchcraft to that of an accurate science, seems to have been little concerned with the enigma of sleep and sleeplessness.
This book is an attempt at correlating sleep and dreams and at explaining sleep through dreams.
Briefly stated, my thesis is that we sleep in order to dream and to be for a number of hours our simpler and unrepressed selves. Sleeplessness is due to the fact that, in our fear of incompletely repressed cravings, we do not dare to become, through the unconsciousness of sleep, our primitive selves. In nightmares, repressed cravings which seek gratification under a symbolic cloak, and are therefore unrecognizable, cause us to be tortured by fear.
The cure for sleeplessness and nightmares is, accordingly, the acceptance of biological facts observable in our unconscious and our willingness to grant, through the unconsciousness of sleep, dream gratification to conscious and unconscious cravings of a socially objectionable kind which we must, however, accept as a part of our personality.
February, 1921.
121 Madison Avenue
New York City


I. Sleep Defined 1
II. Fatigue and Rest 11
III. The Flight from Reality 20
IV. Hypnogogic and Hypnopompic Visions 32
V. Where Dreams Come From 36
VI. Convenience Dreams 44
VII. Dream Life 48
VIII. Wish Fulfilment 58
IX. Nightmares 67
X. Typical Dreams and Sleep Walking 75
XI. Prophetic Dreams 85
XII. Attitudes Reflected in Dreams 92
XIII. Recurrent Dreams 102
XIV. Day Dreams 113
XV. Neurosis and Dreams 118
XVI. Sleeplessness 127
XVII. Dream Interpretation 144
  Bibliography 158



Literary quotations and time-worn stereotypes exert a deplorable influence on our thinking. They lead us to consider certain open questions as settled, certain puzzling problems as solved.
From time immemorial, the unthinking and thinking alike, have accepted the idea of a kinship between sleep and death. Expressions like “eternal sleep” show by the frequency with which they recur, how constantly associated the two ideas are in the average mind.
Not only is that association absurd but its consequences are regrettable, at least from one point of view: if sleep is a form of death, the psychic phenomena connected with it are bound to be misinterpreted and either granted a dignity they do not deserve or scornfully ignored.
The superstitious may loose all critical sense and see in sleep and sleep thinking something mysterious and mystical. The scientist, on the other hand, may consider such phenomena as beneath his notice.
No sober appreciation of sleep and dreams can be expected from any one who associates in any way the idea of sleep and the idea of death.
Respiration seems to be the essential feature of life, and its lack, the essential feature of death. As long as respiration takes place, the two ferments of the body, pepsin and trypsin, break up insoluble food molecules into soluble acid molecules which are then absorbed by the blood and carried to the cells of the body where they are utilized to build up new solid cell matter.
When respiration ceases, a degree of acidity is reached which enables the two ferments to digest the body of disintegrating each cell. This is according to Jacques Loeb the meaning of death.
No such chemical action is observable in any form of sleep.
From that point of view, sleep is a form of life.
Sleep is even a more normal form of life than the average waking states.
In the normal waking states, the vagotonic nerves of the autonomic system which upbuild the body and insure the continuance of the race should dominate the organism, being checked in emergencies only by the sympathetic nerves which constitute the human safety system.
The vagotonic nerves contract the pupil, make saliva and gastric juice flow, slow down the heart beats, decrease the blood pressure, promote sexual activities, etc.
The sympathetic nerves on the contrary, dilate the pupil, dry the mouth, stop the gastric activities, increase the heart beats, raise the blood pressure, decrease or arrest the sexual activities, etc.
In peaceful sleep, we observe that the vagotonic functions hold full sway. In sleep, our pupils are contracted. Even when they have been dilated by atropine, they become contracted again in sleep.
In sleep, the digestive organs continue to perform their specific work, all the popular beliefs to the contrary notwithstanding. Infants and animals generally go to sleep as soon as they finish feeding. Animals digest infinitely better if allowed to sleep after being fed, than if compelled to stay awake, walk or run.
The activity of the sexual organs is as great in sleep as in waking life; in certain cases, it is even greater.
At certain times, during sleep, the pressure of the blood in the brain is greatly reduced, and certain authors have concluded that sleep was characterized by brain anaemia, which some of them consider as the cause of sleep.
Indeed, unconsciousness can be induced by producing a temporary brain anaemia, for instance by compressing the carotid arteries of the neck for a minute or so. Sleepiness almost always appears then and lasts as long as the pressure is exerted.
Special manometers show that the fall in the blood pressure invariably precedes the appearance of sleep. In dogs whose skulls have been trephined for purposes of observation, the brain can be seen to turn pale as soon as the animals fall asleep.
But we have here simply one of the vagotonic activities mentioned previously. In the normal organism, the blood pressure should be low, rising only in emergencies, when the organism is facing some danger and must be prepared for fight or flight.
And in fact, the slightest light, noise, pain or smell stimulus, is sufficient to bring the blood back to the brain during sleep. Our sympathetic nerves are on the watch and even if the subject does not wake up, they rush the blood whenever it is needed for emergency action, in this case, to the general switchboard of the organism, the brain.
But this so-called brain anaemia is not constant during the entire period of sleep. The pressure falls gradually before sleep sets in and only reaches its minimum an hour after sleep has begun. Then it increases gradually and becomes normal again about the usual waking time. We shall see later that attention follows an identical curve.
It has been pointed out that in sleep the respiration becomes slower and that the amount of air inspired and consequently of oxygen assimilated is lowered. But inaction in the waking states will show exactly the same results.
A smaller quantity of carbonic acid is eliminated in sleep, the decrease being about sixteen per cent. But that condition is not due to sleep. It is due to many other factors such as the absence of light, etc.
The nature of the food taken before retiring has also a notable influence on the quantity of carbonic acid eliminated by the sleeper; the quantity varies from seventy five per cent after a meat supper to ninety per cent after a diet of starches.
The sweat glands of the skin secrete more actively in sleep than in waking life, which is also a vagotonic symptom and is also due to the fact that the sweat centre is easily affected by carbonic acid.
This increase in the activity of the skin accounts for the decrease we notice in the activity of the kidneys. (More urine is produced on cold days when the perspiration is scanty than on hot summer days.)
The lowering of the temperature in sleep is simply a result of inactivity, not of sleep.
We know that many pains, especially neuralgias, disappear in sleep. Many of those ailments, however, are of a neurotic origin and constitute a form of escape from reality. When reality has been practically abolished by unconsciousness, they are no longer “needed.”
Experiments made on instructors of the University of Iowa who were kept awake for ninety hours showed that the weight of the subjects increased during the experiments, decreasing later when the subjects were allowed to resume their natural life and to sleep. The increase was solely due to the fact that during the experiments, the subjects were relieved of their duties, remained idle in the psychological laboratory and hence consumed less organic matter than if they had led an active life, preparing their courses and teaching several hours a day.
It has been stated many times that a form of motor paralysis sets in during sleep. Yet we all know of the many motions performed by every sleeper, turning from side to side, drawing or pushing away the bed clothes, removing stimuli applied to the face, talking, not to mention, of course, sleep walking.
Sleep does not even mean complete muscular relaxation, for sentinels have been observed who could sleep standing; some people sleep sitting up in their chairs. Many animals, birds, bats, horses, sleep in positions which make muscular relaxation impossible; when their balance is disturbed by an observer, they re-establish it without awaking. Sleeping ducks keep on paddling in circles to avoid drifting against dangerous shores, etc.
In other words, there is not a part of our body which ceases in sleep to perform its specific work. Our lungs continue to breathe, our heart to send blood to all parts of the body, our glands secrete various chemicals; we hear, smell and to a certain extent, see. The lowering of our eyelids is simply a half-conscious effort to remove sight stimuli. Our nails and hair continue to grow, although, for that matter, they do so for some time even after death.
Finally our mental activity does not cease during sleep. Wake up a sleeper at any time and he will awaken from a dream. He may not be able to tell that dream but he will know for sure that, not only was he dreaming, but had been dreaming for a long while before awaking.
Wherein, then, does sleep differ from waking life?
Solely in the form of our mental activities.
Sleep is not as Manacéine, the author of the most complete book on sleep, stated: the resting time of consciousness. We do not withdraw our attention completely from the environment in sleep.
When we make up our minds, for instance, to wake up at a certain time, we seldom fail to carry out our purpose. Which does not mean that we are suddenly aroused out of our unconsciousness by something within ourselves, but more probably that our attention has been concentrated all night on certain stimuli indicating time, distant chimes, activities taking place at a definite hour, and which we had noticed unconsciously, although they may have escaped our conscious attention. It has even been suggested that as respiration and pulse are more or less constant in rest, they are used by the organism as unconscious time-registers. This is possibly one of the phenomena due to the activity of the pituitary body in which may reside the “sense of time” and which controls all the rhythms of the body.
Jouffroy, Manacéine and Kempf have remarked that nursing mothers may sleep soundly in spite of the disturbances which take place about them, but that the slightest motion of their infant will awaken them. Many nurses not only can wake up at regular intervals to administer a drug to their patients, but, besides, can be aroused out of a sound sleep by a change in the patient’s breathing foreboding some danger.
Our withdrawal of attention from reality follows the same curve as that followed by the withdrawal of blood from the brain.
Many experiments have been made to determine that curve and to sound the depth of sleep. In one case a metallic ball was allowed to fall from varying heights until the noise awakened the sleeper; in another case electric currents of varying voltage were used to stimulate the subject, etc. All experiments have yielded the same results: Sleep reaches its lowest depth during the first two or three hours, the average time being shorter during the day than at night. In the majority of subjects, the greatest depth is reached about the end of the first hour. After the third hour, sleep is easily disturbed, the more so as the usual awakening time approaches.
To conclude, we will say that sleep partakes of all the characteristics of normal life, the only essential difference we can establish scientifically being a greater withdrawal of attention from reality in normal sleep than in normal waking life.
We insist on using the terms normal waking life, for there are forms of abnormal waking life in which attention is withdrawn as completely from reality as it is in normal sleep.
In the disease designated by psychiatrists as dementia praecox, the patient may become entirely negative, some time regressing to the level of the unborn child, and withdraw even more entirely from reality than the sleeper who, without awaking, is conscious of certain stimuli and performs certain actions showing a comprehension of their nature.


What causes sleep? What causes us to withdraw partly our attention from our environment? The answer: brain anaemia, is unsatisfactory for we may ask in turn: what causes brain anaemia?
A study of brain anaemia leads one to conclude that it coincides with the usual sleeping period and that it is produced by sleep instead of producing sleep.
The large majority of laymen and scientists, however, give a much simpler answer: we go to sleep because we are tired and need rest.
Even as sleep and death have been coupled in the literature of all nations, fatigue and s

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