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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/746

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

knowledge of the ordinary dream processes, it enables us in advance to deal with many of the extraordinary phenomena of dreaming, sometimes presented to us by wonder-loving people as awesomely mysterious, if not indeed supernatural. The careful analysis of mere ordinary dreams frequently gives us the key to these abnormal dreams.

Perhaps the chief and most frequent tendency in the mechanism of dreaming is that by which isolated impressions from waking life flow together in dreams to be welded into a whole. There is then produced, in the strictest sense, a confusion. For instance, a lady, who in the course of the day has admired a fine baby and bought a big fish for dinner, dreams with horror and surprise of finding a fully developed baby in a large codfish. The confusion may be more remote, embodying abstract ideas and without reference to recent impressions. Thus I dreamed that my wife was expounding to me a theory by which the substitution of slates for tiles in roofing had been accompanied by, and intimately associated with, the growing diminution of crime in England. Amid my wife's rather contemptuous opposition, I opposed this theory, pointing out the picturesqueness of tiles, their cheapness, greater comfort both in winter and summer, but at the same time it occurred to me as a peculiar coincidence that tiles should have a sanguinary tinge suggestive of criminal bloodthirstiness. I need scarcely say that this bizarre theory had never suggested itself to my waking thoughts. There was, however, a real connecting link in the confusion—the redness—and it is a noteworthy point, of great significance in the interpretation of dreams, that that link, although clearly active from the first, remained subconscious until the end of the dream, when it presented itself as an entirely novel coincidence.

The best simile for the mechanism of the most usual type of dream phenomena is the magic lantern. Our dreams are like dissolving views in which the dissolving process is carried on swiftly or slowly, but always uninterruptedly, so that, at any moment, two (often indeed more) incongruous pictures are presented to consciousness which strives to make one whole of them, and sometimes succeeds and is sometimes baffled. Or we may say that the problem presented to dreaming consciousness resembles that experiment in which psychologists pronounce three wholly unconnected words, and require the subject to combine them at once in a connected sentence. It is unnecessary to add that such analogies fail to indicate the subtle complexity of the apparatus which is at work in the manufacture of dreams.

It is the presence of the strife I have just referred to between apparently irreconcilable groups of images, in the effort of overcoming the critical skepticism of sleeping consciousness—a feeble skepti-