Wednesday 8 July 2020

Short Observations

  1. Short idea (194): Mania and Anxiety can be seen as forms of increased psychological Energy (Libido), that is, excitement. Each can be taken as the opposite of Relaxation.

  2. Short idea (179): It is only when it feels that all is lost that the self can emerge.

  3. Short idea (71): First come the explorers, then the map makers. Each child is an unexplored continent (or world or universe). A person who becomes interested in self-discovery and wants it to be useful has to become both explorer and map-maker.

  4. Short idea (85): To the young, old age and death seem as unreal as a dream. To the old and dying, youth and life feel no different than last night's dreams.

  5. Short idea (118): Psychotherapists learn quickly that people who appear good are almost never as good as they appear, and people who appear bad are rarely ever as bad as they appear.

  6. Short idea (145): One image of love that comes down to us from ancient times is of a cute little chubby infant, Cupid, shooting one of his tiny arrows into someone's heart. This image appears In paintings and on greeting cards and in T.V. advertisements selling gifts for happy lovers. But the image of Cupid shooting an arrow into an heart must have had different meaning for the ancients. We don't use bows and arrows for hunting or warfare, but they did. To be shot in the heart with an arrow would not have been thought by them to be a wonderful, happy experience.

  7. Short idea (65): Even in a dream there is left and right, near and far, inside and outside, ordinary and awesome. When the dreamer wakes up, there is also a left and right, near and far, inside and outside, etc. It's difficult to describe the difference. This is partly because it's difficult to compare the two. And this is partly because it's difficult or impossible to be in both states at the same time.

  8. Short idea (10): In every conversation there are things unstated and un-statable. In every thought process there is something unthinkable. There are things we aren't grasping, can't grasp, and never will be able to grasp — no matter how confident and optimistic we are feeling at any particular moment.

  9. Short idea (170): Asthma, emphysema, and COPD are physical problems, but there is also a psychological side which is experienced as dissatisfaction and desperation in the deepest, most central, most personal spot in the ego. 

  10. Short idea (182): Relaxation is not a "Yes" or "No" thing; it's not that we are either relaxed or not. Relaxation and Tension are two poles of a continuum with an innumerable number of possible positions. There are  degrees of relaxation and degrees of tension.

  11. Short idea (60): Success can serve as an anesthetic for the suffering that comes from peering into the deeper levels of reality.

  12. Short idea (110): There are two ideas of psychological strength: first, if someone is anxious and tense, and they turn away from their psychological pain and push on to meet their obligations, this is considered, by one camp, to be psychological strength. The other idea is that, if someone is anxious and tense, and they turn inward towards their pain and face it and explore it and come to terms with it, that is considered, by the other camp, to be psychologically brave and strong. Often a husband will have one idea and a wife the other. It is not difficult to think of the conflicts that can arise from this configuration.

  13. Short idea (16): Everything you experience is real, but not everything is real in the same way:  Some things are useful and substantial and important to you; others are dangerous; others are pale reflections, elusive and amorphous and hard to describe and maybe fleeting and unrepeatable and useless; others mislead you like a delusion that comes into the head while lying in bed on a long Winter's night.

  14. Short idea (38): For many, the things they are most proud of when they are doing them are the very same things they are most ashamed of when they reflect on them later.

  15. Short idea (112): It is an interesting psychological hypothesis (not a theological hypothesis) that the search for God involves the search for the self (finding God involves finding oneself). It would go the other way too: The search for the self would be, deep down, also a search for what people call, "God." This doesn't mean, necessarily that God = Self, just that the search for one might turn out to involve (or even be) the search for the other.

  16. Short idea (124): Even old wise men can have delusions, even many delusions.

  17. Short idea (101) : Psychologically speaking, sometimes the only way out is in. At other times, the only way to penetrate deep inside oneself is to go outside and get lost in the world.

  18. Short idea (74): If you watch an horror movie and get anxious, and even feel some fear, this is real anxiety and real fear, but it is caused by events in the movie. What percent of all the anxiety and fear a person feels in life is caused by events in inner "movies"?

  19. Short idea (23): Mattress ads claim that the reason a person sleeps badly is because of the mattress, and, if you use their mattresses, you will sleep perfectly. It is the springs or the stuffing or whatever. This is a good example of an attempt to explain a psychological state of unrest or discomfort by reference to a thing or event in the external world.

  20. Short idea (122): Computers have been compared to brains and spoken of as brains, but the brain has different parts. It seems to me that computers can be correctly compared with the higher cortical brain, the part considered to be responsible for logical thinking, the type of thinking used to solve complex mathematical problems. But computers do not have lower brains, the part of the brain connected with need and want and drive and emotion and passion. Because of this, computers can't be irrational; they can generate random series of numbers, and they can make mistakes, but this is different from being irrational. To be irrational you have to have interests, and you have to have passions that make you act irrationally by going against your interests. Computers don't have interests, so they can't act irrationally. If a computer could be given a lower brain, such a computer would be much more human.

  21. Short idea (190): Knowledge and Power: 
    The Intellect thinks: "Knowledge is power."
    The Imagination, when it experiences Self-Knowledge in itself or in others, thinks: "Super-Power!"
    When the Imagination experiences Consciousness, it thinks: "Magic" or "God-like" or even "All-Powerful" ("Omnipotent") and "All-Knowing" ("Omniscient").
    [This observations grew out my wife, Adelle Hersh's, thought that it is both a blessing and responsibility to have self-knowledge.]

  22. Short idea (12): A human relation is like a weaving or a web; it can be torn or broken, and then it needs to be mended which involves work.

  23. Short idea (13): There is a difference between the mind, the psyche, and the self. Mind has to do with thinking and imagination. Psyche includes the mind. And the self includes the psyche.

  24. Short idea (202): It is not necessary to have a philosophy of fear, anxiety, depression, and terror, but it is necessary to have a philosophy of the place of fear, anxiety, depression, and terror.

  25. Short idea (172): Linear (or active) Thinking is a chain or line of thought in which we use thoughts to solve a problem. Associative (or passive) Thinking is a line or chain or thoughts linked together by previous associations. Both Linear and Associative are step by step processes with each link in the chain, each point on the line, connected to the previous one by an understandable connection. There is another type of thought that we might call Archetypal in which an idea "pops into ones head," and it seems completely unconnected with any previous thought. It "came out of no where," as it were, "out of the blue." If, on examining a new archetypal thought, it does seem connected with ones previous thoughts at all, it seems more as if it is an observation or commentary or insight about the line of thought that came before. It may seem as if it came from outside oneself, almost as if it was the point of view of another, often more intelligent and wiser, person.

  26. Short idea (151): Last week there was a video on the Internet from Australia that was receiving a lot of hits. It was of a life and death struggle between a pond python and a crocodile. The fight lasted over four hours. The python won and wound up eating the crocodile. I think that unless a person knows what it must have felt to have been the croc and what it must have felt like to be the python, he or she is lacking a significant chunk of self-knowledge.

  27. Short idea (84): If we make an analogy between the Imagination, Sensation, Need, and Thinking on the one hand and four rivers on the other, then there is a place where the rivers merge with each other and eventually form an ocean. Or, we can start with the idea of an ocean and picture the Imagination, Sensation, Need, and Thinking as four rivers that separate and flow out of it. — Without the ocean and its rivers we would all be dead. On the other hand, people often get swept away and drown in one of them. It's naive to forget the dangers of the rivers and the ocean and equally naive (and even fanatically suicidal) to try to get rid of them.

  28. Short idea (180): If there are deep truths and generalizations about the best ways to live, each person must find them him or herself.

  29. Short idea (49):
    1) Psychological Suffering = Suffering.

    2) Psychological Suffering + Unconsciousness = Suffering x 2 (or possibly x 3).
    3) Psychological Suffering + Consciousness + Time + Quiet + X + ? = Peace + Calmness.

  30. Short idea (5): Some have, as the whole goal of their lives, to come out of their shells and to enter the world and to venture out and to live and experience and achieve. Others have, as their goal, to retreat from the world, to dampen and tone down their experience, to withdraw from new experiences, to filter out much of the incoming stimuli, to protect themselves. The same person can have the opposite goal at different times, even at different times of the same day.

  31. Short idea (186): Seeing is a power. Seeing "below the surface" is a great power.

  32. Short idea (94): Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, according to Lord Acton. In our day, with our microscopic focus on human motivation, we might look at it even more cynically. Human nature is already corrupt, but most humans don't have the power to act it out. Fear keeps most of us in check. Give us power, and we let go. Give us absolute power, and look out. — On the other hand, we know there are other, more positive forces working in us, and, in some of us, they hold sway no matter what.

  33. Short idea (195): There are beautiful ideas and there are true ideas. Occasionally we find a beautiful idea that turns out to be true. And, occasionally, we stumble across a true idea that we come to see is very beautiful.

  34. Short idea (57): "Seek the truth," they say, but is that enough? Mustn't we then catch a glimpse of it, and then aim towards it and try to grasp it, and then learn to hold on to it and then to handle it and to clarify it and refine it and absorb it and digest it, and also to carve it into something beautiful and useful to ourselves and others?

  35. Short idea (59): If you have a camera whose pictures are getting more and more inaccurate — this is a good metaphor for getting old. Decaying tools can cause problems. There are additional problems if you don't know your tools are decaying. And still more problems when you insist to others that everything's fine when everyone can see it isn't.

  36. Short idea (28): Regarding the psychology of Place: the most important thing is Where you are and Where you're not. Here versus There.

  37. Short idea (35): Elephants are so big many people have trouble imagining they are emotionally vulnerable and sensitive and can feel fear, let alone dread and terror and agony.

  38. Short idea (52): There is a difference between a decision you make inside your head while lying in bed and one your whole body makes after it gets up.

  39. Short idea (54): Being decisive is not always good. With some people it's better if they never make up their minds. If you're getting ready to do something bad, we pray you will waiver.

  40. Short idea (105): In some ways, Heisenberg's ideas can be applied to consciousness: when we try to "observe" our own conscious experiences, the act of trying to observe them changes them or even destroys them. The reason this happens is different from why, according to Heisenberg, our attempts to observe sub-atomic particles change them. Speaking metaphorically, we are embedded in our conscious experiences, absorbed in them. In order to inspect them, we have to pull out of them, and this pulling out, this distancing ourselves from them, is part of what changes or destroys them.

  41. Short idea (140): Usually people see myths as attempts to explain and understand processes in nature such as the cycle of day and night. Even if true sometimes, at other times they may be attempts to explain or describe and stay conscious of internal processes and cycles such as the cycle of emotions (from elation to depression). Inner and outer are both pieces of nature and the same processes and cycles are found in both. So an outer cycle can be used to bring attention to a parallel process that goes on inside.

  42. Short idea (183): People say "Relax!" but this assumes that it is in our power to relax. A Jewish prayer says, "Grant us Peace, Thy Most Precious Gift, Oh Thou Eternal Source of Peace" (Union Prayer Book II). If we think of the word "peace" as being an ancient word for what we now call "relaxation," the prayer implies that we can not relax, that we can not choose to relax, that we can not do something to make ourselves relax. It is not up to us. At this point in my life, I would say I agree, though with some reservation. 

  43. Short idea (36): Devastating experiences make a person feel closer to those who have been through similar experiences and distant and separate from those who haven't. Losing a child separates a person from most other people; losing an old parent makes one feel part of the natural flow.

  44. Short idea (174): A psychological metaphor: The Ego crystallizes from its substrate, the Self, and then dissolves back into it. It crystallizes again and then dissolves. It crystallizes again, and then dissolves .... But in one of these crystallizations it can solidify and harden. If this happens, it has to crack apart or be cracked apart to return to the Self until it crystallizes again. "Dissolving" is another word for "Relaxing," and "Solidifying" is another word for "Working."

  45. Short idea (166): Do animals have religious experiences (that is, numinous experiences, experiences of the sacred)? Do they have a sense of sacred space, sacred objects, and so on? — This is another way of asking if there is a religious instinct.

  46. Short idea (7): Feelings do not come labeled. Often we don't know what we are feeling and have to wait to find out. Other people may see and tell us. Or we may notice the effect of what we just said on someone and realize we must have been angry. Or we may get a call from a doctor we saw last week and realize all the feelings we have had in our body was nervousness. Or we may never find out. We may feel the feeling but not know what it is. And soon we may forget we are feeling anything. People can go their whole lives feeling tense, never relaxing, and never knowing it.

  47. Short idea (88): "The Great Mystery" — To many, these words are exciting, inspiring, and meaningful. To others, the idea of a Great Mystery is dangerously irrational and superstitious and agitates and angers them. What does this disagreement signify? One possibility is that it is a simple, intellectual disagreement and that one side is right and the other wrong. Another possibility is that there is a Great Mystery for some but not for others. It also may be that, for most people, those not at the extreme ends of the continuum, there are occasions when they sense a Great Mystery, whereas, at other times, they think the idea is a childish, naive wish.

  48. Short idea (34): If you rely on people being unreliable, you won't get as angry as if you assume everybody is reliable. (But many people really are reliable much of the time.)

  49. Short idea (43): A good side of difficult experiences is how they peel off the surfaces of yourself. If you're a fan of self-knowledge, this is a plus. It creates a chance to catch a glimpse of things you don't and can't usually see. If the painful experiences are rooted deeply enough, they cast a new light on ordinary experience and behavior. This, in turn, can lead to the development of new adaptations.

  50. Short idea (130): "2 plus 2 = 4" may express an eternal truth, but adding 2 plus 2 is a mental operation that takes place in particular people at particular places and times. Thinking is an activity that uses up time, and it always occurs in a particular place. Thinking can be done out-loud or to oneself, with others or alone, while awake or while dreaming. Like all other activities, we think for reasons, and these reasons can be more or less conscious. And we can think too much or too little, and in a useful way or in a way that causes trouble for ourselves and/or others.

  51. Short idea (87): If you cut off the head of a worm, the body goes on for a long time. It's pretty much the same with people. If you cut out our ability to think (maybe by some violent emotion), we can still eat and drink — and vote.

  52. Short idea (158): I can think of 5 roots of anxiety: Ignorance, Knowledge, Cowardice, Attachment, and Chemical Interactions.

  53. Short idea (1): In psychology, as in war (and as in life in general) there are no experts. Some psychologists have a lot more experience than others. These are the wily veterans, more familiar with the up's and down's of "the battlefield" than the greenhorns — but they are not expert in the way people who use Microsoft Word or tie bow ties or dice vegetables or solve calculus problems can become expert.

  54. Short idea (171): Derived from my own introspection and understanding of Freud's and Jung's dream theories: If you are heavily caught up in the external world and intent on succeeding and feeling you have a good chance of succeeding, then Freud's theory applies. If you are withdrawn from the world or are pursuing private and personal goals, then Jung's applies. For Freud, dreams reminded you of your inner goals that were overshadowed by you concentration on externals. For Jung, archetypal dreams drew you into deeper and deeper places in yourself and in the world as it appears to you when you feel alone. 

  55. Short idea (131): To a vast degree, the world is not what we think or imagine or perceive or expect or want it to be.

  56. Short idea (189): We tend to believe "he was a good man": 1. If he was polite to us and 2. if he gave us things or helped us. If he was difficult with others it does not make as great and deep and lasting an impression on us as how he was with us.

  57. Short idea (163): More important to me than coming up with a psychological diagnosis (from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual, 5th Edition) is to answer the question whether or not the patient can get better and how.

  58. Short idea (14): You are driving on a winding, icy mountain road in a blizzard. You are struggling to see enough to stay on the road and in your lane. There are five cars behind you. They have it easier than you; They can keep their distance and follow the tail lights of the car in front of them. Some in the cars behind are impatient. — Moral: if someone seems slow, it may be because they are weak or infirm or old or meandering, but it also may be that they are making an all out attempt to find their way on treacherous ground we will all be entering.

  59. Short idea (96): The logic and geometry of experiences is different from the logic and geometry necessary to get through everyday life in public. Here is an experiment in introspection the reader can do to see what I mean: Focus on a sensation deep within your body. Now focus on one on the surface of your skin. Now focus on a visual sensation somewhere outside your body. Now focus on a far away sound, as far away as possible. Now try to focus on outer space, space past our Milky Way galaxy, the furthest part of space there is. Now ask yourself where this last experience took place. I think you will find that the experience of outer space, if you had it at all, was a combination of thoughts and images within your own head. So, typical of the laws of logic and geometry for experiences, outer space was outside your body, beyond sights you were seeing and sounds you were hearing, but, at the same time, it was inside your head. — If you want to explore your own experiences, you have to get used to this kind of twist.

  60. Short idea (8): Everybody has to be inside sometimes and outside sometimes. There is a door that separates the inside from the outside. Some walk easily, back and forth, through the door. Others have to be dragged in and/or out, screaming. And, for others, the door is jammed, and, to get them in and out, a wall has to be broken down.

  61. Short idea (4): In the night: the eyes close, the outer recedes (but does not disappear completely), and the inner comes to the fore. In the morning: the eyes open, the inner recedes (but does not disappear completely), the outer comes to the front. The inner and the outer are in a relation, and, together, they make a whole.

  62. Short idea (178): The only way not to have expenses and expenditures is to be dead.

  63. Short idea (201): We can injure ourselves while we are sleeping

  64. Short idea (128): I was informed of a dream of someone's patient after the election of Pope Francis I. The dream proposed a riddle: "What do Tiger Woods and Pope Francis I have in common?" And the answer was also given in the dream: "They both breathe the same air and eat fish from the same oceans." I thought this dream was worth reporting.

  65. Short idea (48): Psychological pain is always an opportunity to learn about our illusions; about where our feelings are registered in our bodies; about our bloated or otherwise incorrect self-images; about our unreasonable and immature expectations; about our obsolete, un-honed, imprecise, conflicting, or superficial values.

  66. Short idea (121): There is an intoxication from alcohol or drugs, but there is also intoxication from ideas or ideals, or from beauty or love or success or power, or even from danger or food or sex. Some intoxication contains inspirations leading to wonderful things; others contain dangerous, even deadly, seductive delusions. However, whatever the content or cause, intoxication, in itself, can be a dangerous state for the person intoxicated and for those around him or her. It can turn into mania which can lead to exhaustion, ranting and raving, and other dangerous behaviors. (Jung called the danger "inflation.") Since the need for intoxication seems to be one of our basic needs, it must be indulged in with circumspection and in the right time and place. I think, perhaps, it is natural to spend about one seventh of our time in some inspired state. I get this from the idea of the Sabbath: From a psychological angle, I see the law to set one day a week (and no more) aside to be with the Lord as recognizing the human need for intoxication and as setting some boundaries to limit it.

  67. Short idea (148): We all have good tendencies, and we all have bad tendencies. We all have saintly tendencies, and we all have evil tendencies. We all even have godly tendencies, and we all even have demonic tendencies. A tendency we have that isn't always good and can be evil or even demonic is to think we are being good or saintly or even godly when we are being bad or evil or even demonic.

  68. Short idea (175): Anger is a way of holding things at arm's length, of isolating oneself from what you are angry at. We know the negative sides of this distancing for oneself and for others, but a positive function is that it seems to be a necessary step in thinking; it is pre-condition of observing and analyzing.

  69. Short idea (80): Smoking and being a jerk are similar in many ways. They are both addictions that are hard to kick. Still, each can be given up by a simple choice even if this is only after years of denying there is a problem in the face of everyone else saying there is. The choice often comes after some "revelation" that the behavior is not good for oneself or for loved ones. And, like all addictions, there is a period of withdrawal and maybe of back falling and of longing to return to the old, easier way. — Being a jerk, I think, is rooted deeper in the personality and requires more than a change in behavior to understand and uproot completely.

  70. Short idea (69): Sensations are like the sounds of the individual instruments in an orchestra; Feelings are like the sound of the whole orchestra. A Sensation is like a moving picture of an individual leaf on a tree moving in the wind; A Feeling is like a moving picture of all the leaves (and the whole tree) moving in the wind.

  71. Short idea (53): If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it is worth a million thoughts and feelings. If words are cheap, then ideas and feelings are worth next to nothing. If actions speak louder than words, then they drown out thoughts and feelings altogether.

  72. Short idea (161): Memory is a skill.

  73. Short idea (73): There's a difference between accepting, liking, and, maybe, loving yourself, which is a wonderful thing, and being in love with yourself and worshipping yourself which is, at best, immature.

  74. Short idea (81): I was raised in an environment where it was considered a problem if a child preferred being alone. It was understood as a fear of others, and the child was encouraged to overcome the shyness and "be more social" and "try to make friends." Preferring to be alone was seen as an escape from others, from the natural inclination to be with others. But it also happens that being with others can be an escape from being with ones own thoughts and feelings and the figures that appear in ones dreams and fantasies. Not everything frightening lies without. Not everything good lies without.

  75. Short idea (108): There are people who object to religion with their intellects; the ideas of religion don't seem rational to them; they strike them as superstitions. But there are other parts of a person's psyche that can have a negative reaction to religion. A person's emotions and feelings may be jarred by one or more religious practices, or a religious practice can jar a person's value system. Even a person's imagination can rebel against religion: it is possible to have one's own images of how the world was created and so on. I think the body too can react negatively to some thing or things in a religion. If all these parts of a person object all together, the person is, for all practical purposes, no longer involved in the religion in any deep way. The person will have to turn elsewhere for answers to the deepest questions.

  76. Short idea (95): Every experience has a "tail," which is to say that a piece of every experience lingers on after the experience is over. For example, the experience of being in a severe thunder storm lingers after the storm is gone. The alertness, the feelings of fear and/or awe, etc. Tails can last a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, days, weeks, months, years, and even for a whole life-time. As you get older you accumulate more and more of these permanent tails, and all new experiences you have are filtered through them. The thicker the web of old tails, the less of each new experience will get through, and, gradually, new experiences will all come to feel pretty much the same, have the same flavor, as it were. Experience will become stale.

  77. Short idea (25): There are two types of people. One type thinks they're really something. The other type thinks they aren't anything much. People who think they're something are surprised when they realize they will die. Those who think they're nothing special may be surprised when they realize they're alive.

  78. Short idea (97): An altar is a focal point for attention, and it is made to focus attention. A little girl dies and a mother makes a little altar at a spot in a room and places a cross on it, the child's favorite ribbon, and a picture. The altar focuses the mother's attention (and is made to focus her attention) on these things. The things help her remember, and to remember in a positive way, and so to counteract the grief and terror of the loss. Not only can the mother sit in front of the altar, but, wherever she is, she knows the altar is where she left it; and she knows the moves she must make to get back to it; and this, by itself, makes her feel a little better. Creating the altar is an unconscious process and can't be contrived. It happens as everything in nature happens.

  79. Short idea (133): If a person's goal is power, then winning feels good (even if he or she is seriously wounded in the process). However, if a person's goal is to be good, then winning will feel bad (as well as good), because it brings with it responsibilities (that is, responsibilities to the ones who have lost to you).

  80. Short idea (115): Alfred North Whitehead said that all European philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. Plato lived roughly 2,500 years ago and Freud lived roughly 100 years ago, but, to paraphrase Whitehead, I would say that all psychology, including all American psychology, has been a series of footnotes to Freud. — I say this even though I am not a Freudian.

  81. Short idea (146): Every century is unique. Every decade is unique. Every year is unique. Every day is unique. Every moment is unique. Every thing is unique. Every event is unique. For example, every breath is unique. It is also true that we often feel that everything is the same, tedious, and boring and that nothing ever changes.

  82. Short idea (17): An agitated, angry moment; an ecstatic, happy feeling; an itch in the right knee; a dream of a red fox walking in the snow; a thought of tomorrow's barbecue — all are made of the same "stuff." There is a common denominator.

  83. Short idea (188): It seems to me that there is a third option when confronted with an unpleasant situation besides Fight or Flight. There is also Assessment. Assessment includes Stopping, Waiting, Observation, Feeling, Thinking, and Imagining.

  84. Short idea (70): There are unknown events going on inside and outside our bodies that, at this very moment, are shaping our futures.

  85. Short idea (90) : Dying is not death. It is an experience (or ongoing experiences) within life. It often involves a long series of "Goodbye's."

  86. Short idea (29): When a person withdraws from the world as much as she or he can, what's left is Psychology, that is, the psyche.

  87. Short idea (89): Say there is a king who is a great man, and he has a servant. This doesn't mean that the servant is a great man (or even a great servant).

  88. Short idea (168): You can make two columns — one for all the things in life that are fun and one for all the things in life that are just work. For many people, as you get older and older, activities that were in the first column when you were younger have to be moved over to the second column. Towards the end of life, activities that were fun or so easy that they were barely noticed, like breathing or walking, can become labor and even labored.

  89. Short idea (42): "He knows his own mind!" — This can mean, "He knows his own tastes" (he differentiates his tastes from the group's taste); "He knows his own thoughts"; "He knows his own beliefs"; "He knows his own values"; "He knows his own view of further out things;" and so on.

  90. Short idea (141): People in cities understand daytime (and light) and its subtleties more than nighttime (and darkness) and its subtleties.

  91. Short idea (125): There is obviously a world of difference between having $20 as all the money you have in the world and having $200 million in your banks. A person with $20 is very very different from someone with $200 million. There is at least one way, however, they are identical: They both have to count and watch and hold and spend wisely and spend well if they want to be responsible and good. The $20-aire has to count and watch and hold on to his or her pennies and spend them wisely and well; the $200 millionaire has to count and watch and spend wisely and well and hold on to his or her 10's of thousands, but both have to count and watch and spend wisely and well.

  92. Short idea (165): Two Provisional (and condensed) Definitions: 1) Humility = Self-Knowledge + Knowledge of the Future. 2) Arrogance = Ignorance. Axiom: The more self-knowledge you have and the more knowledge of the future you have, the greater humility you have.

  93. Short idea (3): "Everybody is a moon, with a dark side never to be seen by others." — Mark Twain. This was true when Mark Twain was alive, but now psychology gives us ways of seeing the dark sides of ourselves and others — if and when we want to.

  94. Short idea (76): To give in to impulses or to resist them? Everything depends on learning which to give into and when.

  95. Short idea (21): Everything passes including the awareness that everything passes.

  96. Short idea (200): Perhaps the most seductive things in the world are words — including the words that come into your head. 

  97. Short idea (47): Some experiences are too painful to remember. This doesn't mean they're gone.

    The first snow covers the grass.

    Soon we forget the grass.

    But it's still there.

  98. Short idea (120): If you think brain activities underlie all our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and so on, here is a paradox: I can influence your brain (say through my words to you), and you can influence mine, but it seems impossible for me to influence my own brain or for you to influence yours. Why? Because if you think you are doing something to influence your own brain (maybe telling yourself happy words to make your brain have a different chemistry), it is your brain making you want to do the thing in the first place, it is your brain that lies behind your actually doing it, and it is your brain that causes you to be aware you are doing it. Similarly, if a man is strong enough and big enough, maybe he could lift any human being on earth, but he could never lift himself.

  99. Short idea (78): There are two psychological states, A (withdrawn) and B (involved). One's self = A + B. It is only while in A that a person can learn about A, about B, and, therefore, about A + B. While in B there is too much activity, and so no time to look at B. Yet to know about oneself it is not enough to know only A. A has to look out at B and examine it as well. — Further, no one can be in A and B at the same time. It is probably impossible to be good without knowing oneself, which requires A. It is impossible to be good while in A. A good person must act in B based on what is learned in A.

  100. Short idea (93): To explore the idea of experience, it is useful, for a few minutes, to pretend that the following idea is true, even if it is false: Every experience you have is part of your body. Every sound you hear is part of your body. If you are driving a car and look out and see green grass and green and brown trees — and whatever you are currently looking at — this is all part of your body. Under this view, your body has different layers, to use an imperfect word. There is the visual layer, the sound layer, the skin layer, the muscle layer, the inner organ layers, the heart layer, the lung layer, and so on. Each embodies it's own unique type of experience. The central part of this idea is that there is a layer of sights and and a layer of sounds that are each part of your body but are experienced as outside of it — as outside the skin and what is inside the skin.

  101. Short idea (31): Having a positive First Impression of something is different from judging it to be Good. You can often tell immediately if you like something. If you begin not to like it after a week or a month, you say, “It turned out to be no Good in spite of my early impressions." Whether or not something's Good for the whole world may take a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand or even a hundred thousand years to tell. If something turns out to be Bad, then it was just a Fad. A fad can last for a hundred thousand years.

  102. Short idea (143): Anger is like a storm: You can't prevent or stop or control it, but you can do your best to weather it and keep down the damage.

  103. Short idea (137): A tentative psychological idea: There are two kinds of people: those who are too anxious and those who aren't anxious enough. A person is either one or the other. If a person could choose his or her type with respect to how they worry, they would have to choose between being a worry wart or a naive babe in the woods. It must be added that people often don't worry about the things they should be worrying about.

  104. Short idea (153): There are many reasons to have censorship in movies. For example, it can be awful to see abuse and killing in films, and many would like a censor to keep these things out of what we and our children see. One reason not to censor is that films are an expression of the psyche and soul of a people. In this way they are like dreams, and like dreams, they probably have a balancing function. If you could censor dreams, the individual might become unbalanced. Also, films can be used to monitor what is going on in the collective psyche. This monitoring can give sensitive people a window into the future of a nation, into what is about to happen, and it gives some time to prepare. Censoring, whatever its value, takes away this mirror.

  105. Short idea (51): There may be a difference between what you think you value, what you want to value, what you tell others you value, what values you act in accordance with even though they are not your own, and what you value. It may not be until you are an old man or woman and have seen yourself react in many different situations that you become conscious whether you value this more than that or that more than this, when it comes right down to it. Sometimes it is only in extreme and unusual situations that we see what is really and truly important to us. What you value is connected with how you choose to behave, not just with how you picture yourself.

  106. Short idea (37): The trouble in describing the deeper levels of the psyche objectively is that there is a tendency either 1) to water them down (because the experiences are so dramatic you don't want to sound crazy) or 2) to over-dramatize them (in a desperate attempt to express how surprising and remarkable they feel) or 3) to fall under their spell and become subject to their ways of viewing things and of speaking (which is to give up all attempts at objectivity).

  107. Short idea (30): For whatever it's worth: I've come to believe that either there are two realities or one reality with two "faces." I prefer the second. If true, then one face appears in our dreams, and the other appears when we wake up.

  108. Short idea (142): It is helpful for psychologists to think of some families as cults. The leader (often the father) is experienced as God and his wishes are experienced as divine law. Conflicts can develop when family cult law conflicts with civil law. In such cases, families are mini-religions.

  109. Short idea (75): In the following I use a flute as an example, but I could have used any thing: It is difficult to stay clear about the difference between the sound of a flute (gotten from hearing), the sight of a flute (gotten from vision), the feel of a flute (gotten from touch), the memory of the sound or sight of a flute, the image or sound of a flute in ones imagination, the idea or concept of a flute (from thinking), the desire to own a flute or see a flute or hear a flute, and a flute.

  110. Short idea (77): "If only I had listened to her (or him)!" is a thought I have had many times. But I have also had the opposite thought: "I shouldn't have listened to her (or him)! I should have listened to myself!" Based on this, sometimes I should listen to others, and sometimes I should listen to myself. It would be nice to have a rule to tell when to do one and when to do the other, but I haven't found one.

  111. Short idea (150): Following his quadruple bypass heart surgery, former president, Bill Clinton, was interviewed by Diane Sawyer on October 28, 2004 for her program, Primetime Live. President Clinton spoke about his changed values with respect to the political "game," and he added, "I thought, you know, you've been given an unknown but substantial amount of extra time. And you should give it back. So, that's what I'm going to try to do.” On the one hand, it is nice that he has had some sort of conversion to wanting to devote his life to helping people. On the other hand, it would be nice to think of all presidents, including him, as being devoted to this during their presidencies.

  112. Short idea (162): To our Sense of Time, a moment can seem a lifetime, and a lifetime can seem a moment.

  113. Short idea (187): In my experience everyone is bad. In my experience everyone is good. In my experience, when focusing on the bad of a person, the person is experienced as all bad and when focusing on the good of a person, the person is experienced as all good. In my experience, when focusing on the reality of a person, the whole person, the good and bad of a person recede into the background as natural properties inherent in everyone.

  114. Short idea (40): If you want to examine worms or Sumerian clay tablets or other galaxies or the species of human beings in any one of its many aspects, there is a department in some college where you can go. But if you want to examine your own mind and study it, where is the college that has such a department?

  115. Short idea (156): Many people would be just as sad if there were only one religion as if there were only one type of food or one type of tree or one type of person.

  116. Short idea (129): For every single problem, there is always a solution, and there is always at least one good and right way to solve it and one wrong and bad way.

  117. Short idea (132): Every family struggles with psychological problems to some degree (just as every family struggles with physical or economic problems to some degree). It is a matter of degree.

  118. Short Idea (41): If Moses had decided never to come down from Mt. Sinai and to stay forever with the Lord, we might not have learned we shouldn't steal or kill or disrespect our parents.

  119. Short idea (2): Take anything on the earth or in the heavens or in the seas: There is someone who could become interested in learning about it. Whether it is a rainbow or the rhyming system of certain poems or ancient Sumerian palaces or how to fix a toilet or the mating habits of Sumatran elephants or the cost of pine nuts from China or the composition of dust or how children learn to spell. So it is no wonder that there are some people who are interested in learning about themselves.

  120. Short idea (63): We make decisions all day long, but only a few are made consciously. Decisions pile up. Over the years we have piles and piles of them lying around. One day we turn around and look at them. It can be a shock, like looking in the mirror and seeing that your hair has turned white. You've looked in the mirror every day but never quite saw yourself this way. However, in peering at the sum of what you've chosen, you aren't seeing how you now appear, but who you now are.

  121. Short idea (198): To argue that evil doesn't exist because all it is, is the absence of good (privatio bono) is parallel to arguing that death doesn't exist because all it is, is the absence of life.

  122. Short idea (164): The nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, can be used to illustrate a psychological point. Once the big egg fell and cracked and broke, all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put him back together again. We are like this, psychologically. We start whole, but then we fall and crack up and break, and then nothing can put us back together again. We long to be whole again. Is it possible?

  123. Short idea (154): Good Action along with periods of Silence and Aloneness can be a shield, a refuge, and a hospital for a weary, lost, bloody soul.

  124. Short idea (86): When good people become bad, they often become very very bad, and when bad people become good, they often become very very good.

  125. Short idea (45): There is physical abuse, intellectual abuse, religious abuse, emotional abuse, and abuse where one person browbeats and tyrannizes another person with tastes or values. Physical abuse is probably the most painful. (I say probably.)

  126. Short idea (104): People do the worst things when they think they're right. They can do even worse things when they know they're right.

  127. Short idea (169): Regarding which mattress is the most comfortable: When you are tense and troubled, no mattress feels comfortable.

  128. Short idea (138): Feelings can be thought of as like watercolor paints: They can stand alone, individually, or blend together. There are an infinite number of possible blends. You can have a specific feeling, and then a new one can come and mix with it, wholly or in part. Or the new one can become superimposed on the first in a transparent or opaque way. Or, like two side-by-side colors, if you have two "side-by-side" feelings, one can stand out and be brighter or more intense than the other and the other can be shadowy and vague and in the background. And so on.

  129. Short idea (199): Many people are running towards something and also running away from something, and they feel they will die if they stop running. Sometimes they are right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes they will die if they keep running.

  130. Short idea (46): An abusive episode is like a tornado. Once it passes there is a calm just like on any other day. The only sign of what happened is what is left behind. — The weather is normal 99.9% of the time. Then along comes a tornado and kills a lot of people.

  131. Short idea (123): The ongoing argument between Creationists and Evolutionists assumes either we are descendants from the apes or we have not evolved from apes. There is a third possibility: that we are apes.

  132. Short idea (181): Whatever else is true about Empathy, it requires at least two psychological functions, feeling and imagination (and not just feeling). You have to be able to imagine what it is like to be going through what another is going through, and then you have to be able to respond with the same feeling you would have responded if you were going through it.

  133. Short idea (103): A house can make sounds like those of a living creature. Some people, especially at night mistake these sounds for the sounds of living creatures entering their houses.

  134. Short idea (119): We all feel filled with Energy sometimes, bursting with Energy; at other times listless and sluggish and filled with inertia. This feeling of Energy has a psychological label: Libido (sometimes "Libido" is used to refer to all psychological energy, sometimes only to sexual energy). If we look at objects in the physical world we can often see what fills them with energy. For example, a moving object hits one that is still, and the second objects moves, filled with the energy transferred from the first object. It is not so easy to see what fills us with the feeling of Energy or takes away the feeling. If we do see what does, it is difficult to understand how this can happen. For example, how can bad news make us feel all the Energy draining from us? We may be able to picture how a virus could take the wind out of our sails, but how can hearing bad news do it?

  135. Short idea (155): In every good marriage, at some point, the wife gives her husband an ultimatum. It can come in different forms, but, however presented, in tears or in anger, deep down, it is an ultimatum. If this ultimatum comes from the wife having reached her limits and not from a power complex, and if it is based on just and valid premises, and if the husband sees this and thinks he has been wrong and changes, either in actions or intentions or both, then the marriage can grow into a good one. Otherwise, not. Until then it is a baby marriage, naive and untested. 

  136. Short idea (99): The Imagination usually does not come clothed in the words "I am your Imagination at work here." Usually it comes with words like: "So and so is trying to hurt me!" or "What a wonderful thing this is!" or "He is a prince of a man!" or "She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen!"

  137. Short idea (68): It is very important to Adapt. But to what? Definitely to other people, to the forces of nature, and so on. But also to our feelings, our thoughts, our pains, and to figures that appear in dreams and fantasies. What stands in the way of Adaptation? One thing is the denial of the existence of an experience, or, after recognizing its existence, the denial of its importance or significance.

  138. Short idea (79): Of all the reasons a man climbs mountains, two stand out. The first is to test his endurance, skill, and tenacity and to compare his achievements with those of others. The second is to gain new vistas, to leave the ordinary and enter a new and higher realm, and to achieve a lofty spiritual experience. It is possible to climb for both reasons, and even at the same time.

  139. Short idea (203): Psychology has set up its store at the intersection of Reality and Imagination, at the corner of the Literal and the Metaphorical — there in that fire pit, in that cauldron.

  140. Short idea (185): Hypothesis: Believing in a life after death is as instinctual as eating or breathing. No matter how silly the idea seems to our thinking, no matter how irrational, no matter how vague or self-contradictory, deep down we it is still there. It's as impossible to hold off the opposite belief too long as it is to hold your breath too long. You can hold it at bay for a while with your rational mind, but, as soon as you relax, the belief in a life after death, for yourself and others, grabs hold again.

  141. Short idea (39): We can find ourselves in unfamiliar territory such as in another state or a foreign country, but we can also find ourselves in an unfamiliar inner state of mind. There are unfamiliar thoughts and feelings and images and impulses and dreams.

  142. Short idea (92): "God is in the Heavens." If you are thinking about God, and you are thinking of Him in the Heavens, you are doing this in one of two ways: 1) you are outside under the sky, actually looking up into the sky, and picturing Him up in the sky. Or, 2) you are inside, picturing Him, picturing the sky, and picturing Him in this pictured sky. For 1) you have to be outside, with eyes open, looking up at the sky. For 2), you can be inside, sitting in an easy chair, eyes closed, imagining the sky with God in it. There is such a big difference between 1) and 2) that I think people who think about God in the heavens in the second way may not be able to picture Him in the heavens the first way.

  143. Short idea (9): "Going along with others" versus "Getting along with others."

  144. Short idea (66): An educated man I know thinks the idea of "ghosts" is a primitive superstition. Last year his mother died. Recently he dreamed his mother and another dead relative came to him inquiring if he had taken care of the paper work required for them to move to another state or country. He said he had. Even in the waking state after this dream in which he dutifully carried out an obligation to the dead, he didn't think twice about looking down on and ridiculing those he heard saying they saw a ghost or communicated with the dead. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

  145. Short idea (135): It is correct to say that, at any moment, we have five senses (some say six or seven) that are functioning to get information about the environment in which we live. It is equally true that, at any moment, we have one overall sensibility or sensorium which we can, if we want, analyze into sights and sounds and tastes and feelings which we can label as inside us or outside.

  146. Short idea (64): I see the human Imagination as a step forward in evolution. It is a tool for learning new things, for acquiring new inspirations and intuitions, and for testing new behaviors without ever having to get out of bed. On the other hand, it is fragile and extremely fallible and must be handled very very carefully. It is too easy to fall into it, thinking it is reality.

  147. Short idea (82): Certainly it can be cowardly to run away from someone you are afraid of. The psychologist recognizes that it can be just as cowardly to run away from someone in a dream you are afraid of.

  148. Short idea (20): The same door can look different from inside and from outside depending, in part, on our moods. However it looks at any given moment, it is important that it be well balanced, with oiled hinges, and with a strong lock.

  149. Short idea (117): Whatever journey each one of us is on we can't slow it down, but we can't speed it up either.

  150. Short idea (61): The Jewish people, as a people, suffer from PTSD. This doesn't mean that every individual Jewish person has PTSD.

  151. Short idea (157): You can't trust anyone completely or count on anyone completely — not even yourself. This can be a hard fact to swallow and adjust to.

  152. Short idea (91): There's a parallel between the passion of sex and and the passion of anger. I think almost every human being in the world would agree that there should be some limitation and restraint on the expression of sexual impulses and angry impulses (both for themselves and for others). It would be impossible for all humans to agree on just where the lines should be drawn, but pretend we all could agree. Pretend we all went to a big conference and could all agree that people, from now on, can express their sexual and angry impulses up to a certain boundary line but no further, that certain sexual and angry behaviors are totally unacceptable. Then, we might also agree that, as long as people do not step over the lines, everyone is free to express their sexual and angry impulses any way they see fit in accordance with their own individual styles. The points I am making are: 1) every human being has sexual and angry impulses; 2) every human being has to limit them; 3) every human being needs to express them in some way; 4) and people have just as much variation in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their anger as they do in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their loving feelings.

  153. Short idea (62): The average person in the United State knows about as much about Arab countries as he or she knows about the planets Jupiter or Neptune. It is probably vice versa also.

  154. Short idea (18): What can be done in a minute? – Here are some things: certain complete conversations, brushing of teeth, driving about 1/4 mile on a dirt road, feeding a dog, ...

  155. Short idea (167): Speaking as a psychotherapist, I guess that some school shootings and work-place shootings are irrational, incorrect, misguided, illegitimate, and immoral attempts to gain power, respect, and dignity.

  156. Short idea (67): Some people believe there is a Secret to Life that will enable them to handle any problem if they can find it and learn it. Some who believe there is such a Secret think they can learn it in school; others think they can learn it from a wise person; and others think they can find it in themselves, but they all believe that such a Secret exists somewhere and that they can find it. Others think the belief in such a Secret to Life is just a wish and a fantasy.

  157. Short idea (107): I think psychology could (and should) be a meeting ground for all religions, a common ground. The deepest religious experiences are experiences, vague perceptions of the deepest levels of our psyches, and can, I think, be taken as psychological perceptions. Here are five explanatory points: 1) Religious dogma is not the same as living religious experience. 2) My view implies that no religion has exclusive access to reality; each is a different window into reality. 3) Religion should not feel in competition with science or with other religions; they are all searching for reality. 4) Religion is not "primitive superstition" but an attempt to express truths that are difficult to express in ordinary language. 5) Religion should be viewed as bringing to light new areas for scientific research; it should not feel pushed into standing against science in order to defend the objective territory it knows it has found and knows it has been exploring for millennia, often heroically.

  158. Short idea (27): Some psychologists such as James and Jung have distinguished between Active Thinking and Passive Thinking. Active Thinking is work, because it requires an expenditure of energy over time. And, like any work, it can exhaust.

  159. Short idea (109): Anything can become everything within a person's experience.

  160. Short idea (177): It is continuously amazing to me how people can feel they are the greatest, when everyone else can see they are jackasses or fools. To be fair we have to include ourselves in this evaluation and be aware that we also, at the exact moment we feel we are at our best. are often being selfish and stupid and blind and weak. Just because a person feels good and thinks they are good doesn't mean they are. It is sobering to see what we are really.

  161. Short idea (19): Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Emily Dickinson were opposites: De Saint-Exupéry never had a home; Dickinson never left hers.

  162. Short idea (113): From a developmental point of view, I think that Sensation must have been the first adaptive psychological function to appear (every living cell senses — as do human infants). Imagination assumes Sensation and builds on it, and I think it must have been the second function to appear (dogs dream). Thinking assumes Imagination and Sensation and integrates them into itself, and, I think, it must have been the third of the functions to appear (language is needed for thinking; infants don't yet have language). Reflection, Evaluating, Moral and Ethical Reflection, and Planning integrate Sensation, Imagination, and Thinking, and I think it is the fourth function to arise and probably does not arise in everyone. Wisdom couldn't develop without being able to build on the previous four functions and there would also have to be character traits present such as courage. And, if there is any psychological function further along than Wisdom, perhaps some Unifying function, it would develop, if at all, only after everything else was in place and functioning.

  163. Short idea (139): I am sympathetic with those who speak of an inner and an outer world, but this way of speaking leads to needless complications. I think it is less confusing to say there are two ways to experience the world: inner and outer. — There is an inner way of experiencing something and an outer way.

  164. Short idea (11): An interesting thought a violent schizophrenic patient told me many years ago: "I like to think that everyone has the same amount of suffering they have to experience in their lives. For some it is spread out, and, for others, most of it comes all at once, but we all have the same amount of suffering."

  165. Short idea (197): Things we like and enjoy can be bad for us, including some people we like and enjoy.

  166. Short idea (126): Here is a powerful idea I heard that I think is an exaggeration with some little truth in it, though you may have a different opinion: All suffering that remains unconscious becomes a physical illness. If the suffering is the private suffering of one individual, the individual will get a physical illness. If it is the suffering of a country, people all over the country will get sick. If the unconscious suffering is of all the people in the world, people all over the whole world will get sick. If the unconscious suffering is deep enough, painful enough, and unconscious enough, the resulting physical sickness is a fatal one.

  167. Short idea (111) : There are four kinds of hurts. Hurts administered by an enemy, hurts administered by a friend, hurts administered by ourselves, and imaginary hurts. Each requires a different kind of response. 

  168. Short idea (191): There are certain moments when we can become aware of the intimate connection between the Mind and the Body and the World around us. One is when we take an in breath. Another is when we feel our heart beat. Another is when we have a sexual response. Another is when we get furious. And another is when we feel an intense pain. Another is when we see or hear. And so on.

  169. Short idea (50): If you think nobody in the world cares about you, you have to be willing to look closely at the possibility that you don't care about anybody in the world. There is also the possibility that you are absorbed in a waking nightmare (in which nobody cares about you) and that you're not aware it's just a nightmare.

  170. Short idea (159): Almost everything that is happening has never been imagined by anyone.

  171. Short idea (44): I think everybody has been abused by someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. I think everybody has abused someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. Abuse is not everything and everywhere, but it is part of life.

  172. Short idea (196): Every person on earth, I would guess, is, by nature: 1) remarkable, 2) ordinary, and 3) inferior. Through work a fourth state can, if things go well, can be added, and this fourth state can be positive or negative depending on which direction the person exerts his or her energy.

  173. Short idea (100): People change all the time, like it or not. But there is much argument about whether or not "people can really change," change their personalities. Does psychotherapy lead to real and deep and profound changes or only some more or less temporary and more or less superficial changes of behavior? Psychological observation shows there is such a thing as a complete transformation of the personality. This is not the same thing as willing yourself to change your behavior or deciding not to focus on yourself so much or anything on this level. And it is not the belief that you have changed or a dream or fantasy that you are a new person. It involves a complete and total metamorphosis of the way we think, the way we feel about things, the content of our fantasy life, and a re-valuing of all our values (to use Nietzsche's term). It takes time. Some people say it feels as if they are being reborn.

  174. Short idea (184): For those interested in experience, there are at least two variables to consider. First is the variety of experience, and this is achieved by living fully. The second is the nature of any individual experience, and this is understood through introspection and meditation.

  175. Short idea (72): For many people, one of the most difficult things, psychologically, is to accept the feeling of uncertainty.

  176. Short idea (22): Imagine that every single religious architectural structure in the world was destroyed. And that it became illegal to be a teacher of religion and even to talk about religion. And that there was a way of implementing these laws, so there was never again a religious structure, a religious custom, or even a religious idea that ever appeared in public. Some people would say this would make the world a better place; others would say it would be a disaster for the world. The question for the psychologist is, "Is there a religious instinct in us that can not be eradicated no matter what we might do to try?"

  177. Short idea (147): It is easy to have bad motives and to try to cover them over with warm smiles and expressions of care and concern and with promises to always be helpful. So it is possible to be doing very bad things and to appear like an angel. We all fall for this. It is also possible to be doing very good things and not to care at all about how you look. You can be so involved in doing this good thing that you forget about others around you, and they can think you are selfish and self-centered and short-tempered and bad. We all make the mistake, at times, of thinking people are being bad when they are really being very good.

  178. Short idea (192): There are two political parties in the United States. Younger members of each party are sure they are right and members of the other party are wrong and maybe even evil. Older politicians may feel this but become more practical and are willing to compromise in order to get anything done. But there is a third position: Neither party is completely right but that each expresses a part of the truth. Compromise is not a process where good makes a deal with evil to get at least some good. Rather it is a struggle that leads, if it works, to incorporating the goodness and truths of both parties into a higher, more complete good and truth. This struggle can take centuries.

  179. Short idea (32): I have developed a method for thinking about minor problems. I withdraw into myself, and wait for a clear and illuminating impression to come. Of all the clear and illuminating ideas I have had, I estimate about 15% have been useful to me or to others. “Clear and Illuminating” is not the same as “True and Useful.”

  180. Short idea (83): Without feeling disrespectful in any way, it is useful for a psychologist to think of the impulse to spiritual beliefs as an instinct. If it is, it is as deep rooted as the impulse to eat and the impulse to sex. Some ascetics have tried to cut their eating down to a bare minimum. Other ascetics have tried to eradicate all traces of their sexuality. Ascetics of a different kind try to eradicate all spiritual impulses in themselves. On the other extreme, some dissolute people brag they give into all impulses to eat or to engage in sex. Others, of a different type, are proud they believe in the reality of every visionary experience of every person who reports them ("If a person feels there's a ghost in their house, sure, there must be one"). — Extreme positions with respect to spiritual realities are similar to extreme positions with respect to the other instincts. They have their places in the history of the world and in the history of each individual's life, but, for most people, in the end, they are impossible or near impossible to sustain. It usually doesn't work to give into them all or to try to get rid of them all.

  181. Short idea (149): Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time thinking about the psychology of Anxiety. If I had to sum up my thoughts at this point in time about what is Anxiety I would say: Anxiety = Future. 

  182. Short idea (55): Learning and Knowledge are not always good. It depends on what people learn and what they do with the knowledge.

  183. Short idea (144): One type of injury, like a cramp, can be helped by exercising it and by not giving in to it. Another type, like certain sprains, require the opposite. These require immobilization and no movement and are dependent on time to heal. It may be that sometimes these never heal; the best you can hope for here is to learn to compensate, to learn what movements to avoid aggravating the injury. There are also these same two types of psychological wounds and the same two types of psychological healing.

  184. Short idea (173): Some mythic stories can be understood, among other things, as attempts to present psychological states of mind that are difficult (or even impossible) to describe or present in ordinary language. An example is an American Indian story that tells about a man who was picked up off the ground and blown far away from his home by a great wind. When he landed he became a great healer. The whole story is one big metaphor.

  185. Short idea (160): What we believe is different from what we think we believe.

  186. Short idea (58): The call to psychology (to know yourself) is: "Stop! ... Stop more! ... Stop everything! ... Stop completely! ... Stop now!" — When everything stops, one's self comes into view (like it or not).

  187. Short idea (193): If you believe that there is a religious instinct, then atheism will be viewed as a form of neurosis. It can be seen as a form of hysteria (possibly conversion hysteria) in which one whole chunk of reality is denied.

  188. Short idea (6): The way humans are built we can not see the back of our heads directly, no matter what we do.  We can get around this, if we want, by setting up a few mirrors or by asking others to look and tell us what they see. We also can't see the "back sides" of our own personalities. If we want to get around this we can look at our dreams (which reflect the sides of ourselves we can't see) or ask people how we look to them.

  189. Short Idea (24): There is the god of the Jews, the god of the Arabs, the god of the Christians (the son of the Jewish god), the gods of the Babylonians, and the like. Each people has its god. Is there a god that is the god of all peoples?

  190. Short idea (102): Everyone has two sides, but only one side comes out and shows at a time. Some people show one side more than the other, and other people show the other side more often. But all people have both sides.

  191. Short idea (176): If you are the type of person who is devoted to thinking, it is probable that you are not the type of person who continually tries to balance your feeling state in order to feel as good as you can feel. And vice versa: If you are constantly monitoring your feelings and sensations to adjust them to their optimal state, it will be almost possible for you to be what is called "a thinker." All your thought and energy will be devoted to adjusting your feelings.

  192. Short idea (98): In colleges in the U.S. we are trained to see Imagination and the Intellect as inherently at war. I think it is more useful, and probably more accurate, to focus on the possibility of them cooperating and on what they have in common. After all, they are part of the same organism and probably developed with the same goal, that is, the adaptation of the organism. I think they have a common source, and images are part of thinking. The two are like two gangling beasts who are married and who are constantly stumbling over each other and who often get into conflicts but who, deep down, still love each other, or, at least, should learn to get along.

  193. Short idea (136): The eyes and ears are extra-sensitive parts of the skin and sights and sounds can be thought of as feelings received through touch. At the same time, the less specialized areas of the skin can be thought of as relatively insensitive eyes and ears that receive sights and sounds through touch. — If this isn't true, it is a useful mental exercise in introspection.

  194. Short idea (127): Freud and Jung disputed over whether dream images were signs (of something else) or symbols. I wonder if it isn't possible that dream images and, actually, each and every thing, is both a sign and a symbol at the exact same time. Every thing is a sign of other things; every thing is also a symbol. Every thing
    1) is
    2) is linked to other things
    and 3) points beyond itself to things in the future and to things in the past.

  195. Short idea (15): An experience of the whole, no matter how important and healing and tremendous it may feel, is, itself, only a minuscule and transitory piece of the whole.

  196. Short idea (56): Knowing thyself is a means, not an end. Unexamined lives may not be worth living, but it doesn't mean examined lives are. Knowing you're a jerk isn't enough; you have to do something about it. But what and how?

  197. Short idea (134): Just as there are people who are stronger than me and people who are smarter than me and people who have more money than I do, there are also people who are morally better than me. And the same goes for you.

  198. Short idea (114): Frederich Nietzsche famously said, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." This is now the title of a popular country song in the United States. Hard to believe, but true. The irony is that the beautiful and inspiring idea that has come into the minds of so many people who are suffering was not true of Nietzsche himself; he got weaker and weaker over time. 

  199. Short idea (26): The Israelites thought it was a miracle when the Red Sea closed over the Egyptian army. But, when the Egyptians back home heard the story, they would not have thought it was a miracle. The escape of the hare is a miracle to the hare but a curse to the fox and his family. Current day Israelis and Egyptians hear the story with different ears.

  200. Short idea (106): Everyone has two sides to one degree or another. There is the normal, sane side and the wild, crazy side. People feel good when they manage to let out the wild, crazy side in a normal, sane way. They feel bad if they never are able to let it out or if it bursts out in a wild and crazy way.

  201. Short idea (33): Everybody is normal. Some people are also abnormal. – This is a paradoxical way to put it, but I can't think of a clearer way. Implications: Abnormal people will begin to seem normal if you get to know them, and normal people may turn out to be abnormal. – You can use the same formula for “ordinary” and “extra-ordinary”: Everybody is ordinary; Some are also extra-ordinary; etc.

  202. Short idea (152): An introspective exercise I did made me think that thinking is a branch of the imagination and that reason is a branch of thinking. However, it is just as possible that thinking and fantasy are offspring of the same parent (maybe the need to grasp the future). Or that they both come from the same root or need. Or that they are two forms of the same thing.

  203. Short idea (116): From a psychological point of view there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of religions besides the five or six major religions. If religion can be compared to vessels on an ocean, the major religions are like giant ocean liners — like the Queen Mary or the aircraft carriers. The smaller religions are like lifeboats or submarines or tugboats or schooners or houseboats or barges or ferries or fishing boats or rowboats. Some religions are one man (or one woman) boats, big enough for one person only. Of these one man boats, some people make their own which is not easy. Psychologists often see patients who are struggling to make such a one man kayak or canoe. I suppose the ideal is to set out and swim free, without any boat, but that feels almost — almost — unfathomable, inconceivable; at least it is sink or swim.

JMH International Essays — Announcement

Original Essays on the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence 

We thank all those who have submitted an essay to the JMH International Prize Essay Contest. As of now, February 1, 2017, we have decided not to continue with the contest.

For those who feel they have an important contribution to the subject of the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence, please feel free to submit your essay with the form provided here. If the judges agree that the essay is a significant contribution, we will publish it here (subject to agreement with the author).

We include here links related to past essays — For the 2014 contest, click here for the summary article and here for the list of winners; for the 2015 contest, click here for the summary article and the list of winners; and for the 2016 contest, click here.

Longer Observations

  1. Longer observation (6): Everything is Real: Speaking informally, in ordinary language, not scientifically or even logically, we can say, from a psychological angle, that everything is real, but, at the same time, it is also part of the Imagination, part of our Thoughts, and filled with our Feelings and Emotions.

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  2. Longer observation (17): The Center of Everything: It is usually as clear as a bell to young children that the sun and moon are the largest and closest objects in the sky; that the sun is the brightest object in the sky and the moon is the second brightest; that the sun is the center of the daytime sky and moves around our earth; and that the stars are the faintest and most distant objects in the sky.

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  3. Longer observation (8): A Mother's Sensitivity: When a mother becomes pre-occupied with some concern or other, she may not feel able to handle her children at the level required by her own standards. This is especially true if the children are also worried about what is worrying the mother. It's difficult enough for the mother to handle her own feelings.

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  4. Longer observation (18): The Great Mystery: Whatever you think about the Great Mystery, the Answer, or the Secret, there are many people who spend much of their lives searching for such things. A portrayal of someone on a Search or Quest for such things is given by Somerset Maugham in his book, The Razor's Edge.

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  5. Longer observation (2): What makes Success: The very thing that makes a person a success in the world, the very consciousness required — the work ethic, the cool objective eye, the ability to close off subjective thoughts and feelings and to focus on an end — these abilities, and they are abilities (abilities that not everyone has but that can be developed);

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  6. Longer observation (20): Limitations of the DSM-5: Whether or not the newest edition (Fifth Edition) of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual for mental illnesses is an improvement over the Fourth Edition is being debated within the mental health professional community. Which ever side of the debate we find ourselves on, perhaps we will agree that any attempt to categorize mental illnesses has inherent limitations. We use the image of a building with windows to demonstrate the point.

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  7. Longer Observation (5): Measuring Time: There are many ways of measuring time.

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  8. Longer Observation (22): Looking for the Best: Some people are not satisfied unless they have the best, whether it be the best car or the best cheese or the best wine or the best house. If they feel they have anything less, they feel dissatisfied, that they are missing something. There is value in this approach to life, in this value system, but there is also at least one important short-coming.

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  9. Longer observation (11): The Body & the Earth: In early thinking the human body is sometimes compared to the earth.

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  10. Longer Observation (4): Dream of a Raging River: If a patient can’t cross a raging river in a dream, this can be the whole focus of therapy, and it may take many years for her to discover if she needs to and wants to cross and then how to cross and if she can. And then there is the crossing itself and, finally, the beginning of life on the other side.  These are difficult goals to explain to insurance companies.

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  11. Longer observation (19): Imagining Ourselves Dying (2): Imagining dying is different than trying to imagine death. Dying is a process; death a state. Here I want to write about a certain type of dying, one where there is no pain, no physical discomfort, and no inconvenience. Here is I am trying to imagine an unusual situation: You find that you will be dying, painlessly, in 30 seconds. I think most people, if they became convinced of this, would be upset. The question is, "Why?"

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  12. Longer Observation (9): Imagination & Reality: Forgetting the difference between Imagination and Reality.

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  13. Longer observation (12): A Suggested Model of Memory: Here I would like to make a suggestion for a possible research approach to Memory.

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  14. Longer observation (13): Imagining Ourselves Dying (1): There are different ways to try to imagine we are dying. One way is to picture ourselves in the middle of our daily activities, and then to picture the same scene without us in it. And we think, "That's what it would be like if I were dead!"

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  15. Longer observation (15): Is he Bad or Mentally Ill (or Both)?: In these modern times we hear people discussing people who have done something bad. One person says, "He's just bad! No excuses! He should be punished!" and the other person says, "No! He's mentally ill! You would have done the same thing if you had been through what he has been through! We should be compassionate!" The person in question could be a criminal on trial or a political tyrant or even a family member who is hurting and, maybe, tyrannizing, people within the family.

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  16. Longer observation (7): Science and Self-Knowledge: It is easy to have views about things, even strong views, even certainties, and to be wrong. Science does not guarantee truth, but the scientific method is an attempt to subject our views, even our certain views, to a slow and methodic and public scrutiny, filled with checks and safe-guards to try to filter out as many false views as possible.

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  17. Longer observation (16): The Growth of Trees and of People: If you look casually at a large tree that has lost its leaves for the Winter, you might be struck by an intriguing and/or beautiful pattern, but the pattern itself will probably appear meaningless and random. A grove of trees or a forest can feel even more overwhelming and confusing and meaningless to an intellect trying to understand it. However, if you begin to think about the tree (or trees) from the angle of their history, the patterns begin to make sense.

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  18. Longer observation (3): "Why do Good People Suffer?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

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  19. Longer observation (10): Experiences of the Location of Sounds, An introspective report: The following is a report of observations I made on four nights over a 3 week period.

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  20. Longer Observation (21): Deep Cures: Traditional wisdom says that the Lord heals, not doctors. In our times, when medicine is charging ahead recording remarkable successes in its crusade against suffering, is there any place for this old wisdom? In discussing this question I will be focusing on psychological suffering.

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  21. Longer observation (14): An Objective Measure of Success?: Here is a mathematical formula offered as an expression of the amount of success in a person's life: s = (h-l) + w + gwh - d

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  22. Longer observation (1): Raised in a Cave: I read about a South American Indian tribe. In their territory there was a cave, and, occasionally, a newborn child would be selected (I forgot how) to be raised 100% in the cave.

    read more >>>

Freud's Irma Dream and the Possibility of Biochemical Pathways from Diseases to Dreams

A later version of this paper was published in Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Volume 5, Number 4. December, 1995 (267-287)

In the time of sleep ... small impulses seem to be great ... Since the beginnings of all things are small, obviously the beginnings of diseases ... must also be small. These then must be more evident in the sleeping than in the waking state. (Aristotle On Prophecy in Sleep)

I would like to thank Dr. Dietrich Hoffmann for discussing tobacco chemistry with me and for editing the sections on tobacco chemistry in a rough draft of this paper. I have included his suggestions, but I may have missed some, and so I take responsibility for errors.



There are over forty writings on Freud's Irma dream, the first dream he ever "submitted to a detailed interpretation" (Freud, 1900, p. 106). Freud used it as "a specimen dream" in The Interpretation of Dreams (pp. 106ff), the book he praised as containing "the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make" (Freud, 1900, p. xxxii). In the early 1900's, both Karl Abraham and C. G. Jung discussed the dream in letters to Freud, and Freud responded to both (Freud & Abraham, 1965; Freud & Jung, 1974). As far as I can tell, the first article on the dream was written in 1954 by Erikson, and this has been followed by one after another book chapters and journal articles (and letters to editors). Well over five hundred pages have been written about the dream so far, and many of the analyses represent independent thinking. (I include the dream as Appendix 1 below).

The analyses have produced much interesting information about Freud (a lot can be inferred from a dream, just as a lot can be inferred from a letter, and there is no single correct deduction). In this paper I present connections between the dream and Freud's smoking and cancer. It appears that there is a congruence between the image of Irma’s mouth (in the dream) and the reality of Freud’s mouth in 1923 when he developed his cancer. The most obvious explanation of this is that Freud was smoking at the time of the Irma dream in 1895 and that there was irritation at the place in his mouth where he later developed his tumor. Examination of his own analysis of the Irma dream (in ...) suggests that he was conscious of nasal irritation but not of its possible connection to a tumorus growth.

Four other possibile explanations of this congruence will be mentioned, the most interesting of which is that the tumor had already begun in 1895 and that the dream marked its initiation. Though this may seem unlikely, it serves to underscoref the possibility of a connection between physical processes like tumor biogenesis, and dreams. This in turn leads to the question of the possibility of using dreams as diagnostic tools in physical illnesses. This is virgin territory, and I will sketch out a research proposal in this area with which I am involved.

There is a vast difference between saying that a dream may “capture” sensations that are currently pre-conscious or unconscious but that could become conscious if attention is focused on them and the view that a biological process might provoke a dream where there is absolutely no sensation even with focused attention. 

Freud thought that the bodily state of a dreamer can provoke dreams. He even examined some of his own dreams in this light (for example, his dream of riding a horse [1900, pp. 229-32]). He took it as obvious that "internal organic somatic stimuli" can provoke and be the sources of dreams (Freud, 1900, Chapter 1, Section C3 , a section also containing a review of the literature from Aristotle to the late 1890's).

With respect to dreams as prodromes or "symptoms" of diseases, Freud wrote that "pronounced disorders of the internal organs obviously act as instigators of dreams in a whole number of cases" (1900, p. 34). Without admitting for a moment that dreams may be prophetic, he accepted the possibility of dreams having some diagnostic powers.

Parallels between the Irma Dream and Freud's Cancer


In the Irma dream, Freud was confronted by a female patient who had, on the inside of her mouth, on the right, "a big white patch [Ger.:Fleck]."1 While this patch reminded Freud of diphtheria (1900, p. 111), it fits the definition of leukoplakia as "a lesion of the mucous membrane characterized by white patches" (Churchill's Medical Dictionary).

Pichler's now almost legendary notes (Pichler, n.d.), written during his sixteen years as Freud's oral surgeon, described many leukoplakia in Freud's mouth.  An example is in his first note where he described Freud's first surgery of April 20, 1923.2 Pichler wrote that the surgeon, Dr. Marcus Hajek, "performed an excision at the right anterior palate arch because of a proliferative papillary leukoplakia [papillären wucherunden Leukoplakie]" (from the note of September 16, 1923).  Please note that Irma's white patch was also on the right.

Elsewhere in Irma's mouth, Freud saw "extensive whitish grey scabs upon some remarkable curly structures which were evidently modelled on the turbinal bones of the nose." This can be correlated with the "proliferative papillary leukoplakia" described by Pichler in the above note (papilla: "a small nipplelike projection or elevation" [Churchill]).

It is as if Pichler's description of what Hajek saw when he looked into Freud's mouth in 1923 is a technical rephrasing of Freud's description of what he saw when he looked into Irma's mouth in 1895.3 Further, from 1926 through 1939, Freud suffered over thirty treatments (excisions, electrocoagulations, or both) for "an endless cycle of leukoplakia, proliferation, precancerous lesions" (Schur, 1972, p. 364).

Knowing Freud's later medical history, even the following scene from the Irma dream sounds familiar: "I took her [Irma] to the window and looked down her throat, and she showed signs of recalcitrance, like women with artificial dentures." Following Pichler's radical cancer surgeries of October and November of 1923, Freud, like Irma, had to wear a prosthesis (which was a denture by Churchill's definition of denture — "a removable prosthesis replacing natural teeth and associated tissues"). Because of the trismus (lockjaw) that accompanied Freud's operations it was often difficult for Pichler to insert the prosthesis (for example, "It was not possible to insert the inferior plate because of the lockjaw" — note from September 30, 1923).  As an example from another source, Max Schur, Freud's internist from 1928 to 1939, wrote that, at the beginning of 1938, Freud suffered severe pain and "could not open his mouth" (1972, p. 492). We may picture these doctors struggling to open Freud's mouth in a manner analogous to how Freud struggled to open Irma's mouth (in his dream) many years before.

It is time for an aside. After completing the above, I came across a book on Freud's cancer by an eminent Argentinean cancer surgeon, now psychoanalyst, named José Schavelzon (1983). Dr. Schavelzon has gone to the extraordinary trouble of finding the histological preparations of Freud's oral lesions from the period 1927-1939, twenty-six of which are reproduced in his book. His goal was to understand the causes of Freud's death.

Chapter 4 of Schavelzon's remarkable book (a book that should be published in English) is devoted to the Irma dream. There he presented (in 1983, ten years before me) almost the exact observations I have presented above. In addition, he suggested that the surgeries in Freud's mouth had left the nasal cavity visible from the oral cavity — hence the "structures ... modelled on the turbinal bones of the nose" seen by Freud in Irma's mouth. He also took the "whitish grey scabs" as referring to the results of the numerous operations and electrocoagulations. In Irma's infections he saw the infections Freud suffered over the years from the surgeries and x-ray treatments for his tumors. Finally, he referred Irma's "pale and puffy" appearance to Freud's appearance in 1939 when he lost his beard and became pallid (Schavelzon, 1983, pp. 77-78).

That a cancer specialist in Argentina in 1983 made essentially the same observations as a psychologist in Los Angeles in 1992, does not prove, but does attest to the reliability of  observations correlating images from the Irma dream and Freud's cancers.

We must now face the difficult and important question of how a dream of 1895 could have prefigured a disease process first noticed in 1923.

Perhaps the Parallels are Coincidental


Someone might argue that, when Freud wrote, "on the right I found a big white patch," he meant his own right, not Irma's, (although "right" is certainly closer than "left"). Or, it might be argued that "proliferative papillary" is not congruent with "curly structures," since papillae are not necessarily curly. Arguments such as these could be made to prove that there are no substantial parallels between Freud's dream and the later physical reality.  Alternatively, someone might accept that the parallels are substantive but attribute them to chance.

Doubts such as these in my own mind led me to examine all the dreams in The Interpretation of Dreams. By my criteria (which I cannot present in this paper), at least twenty percent of the dreams in the book (including those of Freud and of others), describe some discomfort or disfigurement of the head.

One dramatic example is a dream of a woman patient who "had been obliged to undergo an operation on her jaw which had taken an unfavourable course." In the dream she heard an acquaintance of hers "complaining bitterly of pains in his jaw" (Freud, 1900, p. 125). This dream may be correlated with the operations Freud himself suffered on his upper and lower jaws in 1923.

Still, it is possible to challenge the criteria I used to select the dreams and/or the significance of twenty percent.  It might be argued, with some justification, that "significance is in the eyes of the beholder." In what follows I accept that Freud's dream mirrored a future reality. The problem becomes not if there is a connection but, given that there is, how to explain it. I will now discuss four possible explanations.

1. Was the Irma Dream Precognitive?

1. Was the Irma Dream Precognitive?

We cannot reject this view out of hand. It is possible that the Irma dream was a paranormal precognition showing Freud his mouth as it would appear in the future. However, usually precognition is reserved for a mental image that corresponds to a future, unrelated event in the external world. If both events occur in the same person (as in the case we are discussing), there does not seem to be a need to raise the question of precognition.

In this section I also include the possibility that the parallel between the 1895 dream and the 1923 reality is an acausal, meaningful coincidence (an example of what Jung and Pauli called synchronicity) as well as the possibility that there was a psycho-physical parallelism between the dream and reality of a type we can not yet, and possibly never will be able to understand.

2. Did the Dream Contain a "Blueprint" or a Wish for Cancer?

2 Did the Dream Contain a "Blueprint" or a Wish for Cancer?

Sometimes a person's obsessive fears come true, and it may seem as if the person unconsciously manufactured the feared event. For example, to an outside observer, a jealous husband may seem to engineer the very infidelity he consciously dreads. A similar mechanism might explain the Irma dream, a compulsion to cancer that produced both the dream and its translation into reality.4


Another version of this view is that there is some sort of pattern that molds a person's life both mentally and physically. It might account for what dreams a person has as well as what illnesses a person develops, to pick two examples. This pattern or blueprint may be thought of as archetypal or genetic or both. Or it may be conceived metaphysically as a form that stamps its images on substances, or, again, as a fractal whose degree of irregularity is identical at all scales of a human life (mind taken as one dimension, body as another).

Applying this to Freud, we might try to intuit a life pattern. Even in childhood, his physical problems focused in the head. Between the ages of two and three he fell from a stool, and its corner struck him behind his lower jaw (Freud, 1900, p. 560). In his teens he suffered terrible toothaches (Freud, 1990, pp. 1, 18), and in 1880 he wrote that "two of the best teeth in my mouth have just broken, which will cost me a lot of money to repair" (p. 179). In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud presented many dreams of teeth being knocked out, and the Irma dream was not the only one to contain dentures. And, of course, later in life he lost many teeth in Pichler's surgeries and had to wear a prosthesis.

In 1873 Freud wrote his friend Silberstein that "my natural good looks had been robbed of their symmetry by the rebellious encroachments of a bedbug" (1900, p. 40). In 1933 he wrote Lampl-de Groot complaining about his "immortal catarrh" (Freud, 1992, p. 168). He suffered from headaches off and on throughout his adult life. He applied cocaine to the inside of his nose during the 1890's and smoked from the age of twenty-one on. He had close associations with the German nose and throat doctor, Wilhelm Fliess, a man who thought that the nose was the center of all problems, and Freud allowed him to operate twice on his nose. He had oral cancers and precancerous lesions along with many oral surgeries from the year 1923 on. At the very end, cancer reached the orbit of his right eye, making Freud, like so many of the figures in The Interpretation of Dreams, a one-eyed man.

I find the idea of an unconscious blueprint quite attractive and would adopt it except that I think the Irma dream itself points in another direction.

3. Did Freud's Smoking Provoke the Irma Dream?


It is possible that Freud had been smoking the night preceding the Irma dream, the evening of July 23, 1895. It is also possible that abrasions on the oral mucosa from this smoking stimulated the Irma dream and explain many of its images.5 The dream would have been neither pre-monition nor pre-cognition but a present visual representation of a bodily state mixed with knowledge of the effects of smoking.

Was Freud smoking on the evening of July 23, 1895?

I have not found any substantial evidence to prove that Freud smoked on the evening of July 23, 1895, but it is not unreasonable to assume that he did. It is well-known that under the influence of Fliess, an adamant non-smoker, Freud made repeated attempts to stop smoking from 1893 to the early 1900's. These attempts are documented in his letters to Fliess (Freud, 1985). Following a period of abstention of almost twelve months (Freud wrote fourteen months but see Schur [1972, p. 6]), Freud began smoking again on June 12, 1895. On June 17, he apparently gave it up again. Then, on June 22, about one month before the Irma dream, he wavered, and his words may possibly be construed as an admission of some smoking: "So I shall come [to Berlin] early in September. How I shall manage to do without you afterward, I do not know. I am having enough troubles with smoking." The next mention of smoking is in the letter of October 16, in which Freud renounced smoking again and implied that he had been smoking heavily: "I completely gave up smoking again ... to be rid of the miserable struggle against the craving for the fourth and fifth [cigar]; I prefer struggling right away against the first one."

We also know that Freud smoked under pressure ("smoking ... has served me for exactly fifty years as sword and buckler in the battle of life" [from a letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, May 8, 1930, quoted in E. Freud {1976, p. 252}]) and that he was under pressure the night of July 23 when he was writing "late into the night" (Freud, 1900, p. 113) "to justify" himself (p. 108). Later in life Freud would write long hours into the morning "wreathed in tobacco smoke" (Engleman, 1976, p. 64).

So, though there is no direct evidence that he smoked on the night of July 23, 1895, I think it is a reasonable assumption.

Irma's complaints

In light of this assumption, we may examine Irma's complaints: "If you only knew what pains I've got now in my throat and stomach and abdomen — it's choking me." These complaints might well have been Freud's own if he had been smoking the night before the dream.

Regarding the choking, it may be relevant to quote Martin Freud who wrote about having once entered his father's waiting-room of the Bergasse flat after a meeting of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

The room was still thick with smoke and it seemed to me a wonder that human beings had been able to live in it for hours, let alone to speak in it without choking. I could never understand how father could endure it, let alone enjoy it: which he did. (my emphasis, Martin Freud, 1957, p. 110)

Regarding stomach and abdominal problems, Max Schur wrote that during the years he cared for him, Freud's "`irritable,' spastic colon attacks ... were prevalently precipitated by excessive smoking" (1972, p. 58). In a letter to Max Eitingon dated May 1, 1930, Freud admitted the connection.

Cardiac and intestinal symptoms have forced me to go to a sanatorium ... Here I have made a quick and satisfactory recovery ... by an act of painful autonomy. For 6 days now I have not smoked a single cigar, and it cannot be denied that I owe my well-being to this renunciation.

(quoted in Schur, 1972, pp. 410-11)

And, finally, regarding the mouth and throat pains I quote from a lab report by the pathologist Jakob Erdheim who did the reports on many of Freud's lesions: "Specially noticeable this time is the widespread inflammation which covers the whole of the mucous membrane and is the consequence of excessive smoking" (quoted in Schur, 1972, p. 411).

To repeat, all of Irma's complaints are complaints Freud could easily have had if he had been smoking the night of July 23, 1895.

Freud saw concern about his health as one of the major themes of the Irma dream (1900, p. 120). Concerns about his health also filled his letters to Fliess in the period before the Irma dream. Blum (1981, p. 543), as far as I can tell, was the first to suggest that the Irma dream reflected a concern about his smoking: "The suggestive physical examination of Irma ... may also be an allusion to ... Freud's own cardiac and oral-respiratory (smoking) concerns."

However, if Freud was concerned about the effect of smoking on the tissues of his mouth, I can find no mention of it. He wrote of his concern over his cocaine use, his migraines, his catarrh, and his rheumatism. And, though very worried about the effect of smoking on his heart, apparently he was not worried about the effect on his mouth. He would certainly have been conscious of any unpleasant sensations in his mouth caused by smoking, but maybe not of their significance and ultimate importance. It is just such a gap of consciousness that produces dreams. Achilles had his heel, Freud his mouth.

Given Freud's alienation from the medical community of Vienna and his struggle to define his theory and find his unique place in society and history (themes that can be followed in the Fliess letters), it would have been natural for him to force his attention away from "minor" irritations in his mouth and view them the way he viewed Irma's problems — as hysterical symptoms, psychological and imaginary. Still, troubling sensations may have escaped suppression and found their way into his dreams, not labelled as his own, but as Irma's.

Unconsciousness of the "messages" from ones own body is characteristic of ambitious, inspired people who push on and on in high gear. A misunderstood Irma lives in many of us. The following note from Freud to his fiance on February 2, 1886 can be taken as expressing the sentiment of many Jewish men throughout history, even in this day: "I have often felt as though I had inherited all the defiance and all the passions with which our ancestors defended their Temple and could gladly sacrifice my life for one great moment in history" (Freud, 1960, pp. 202-3). The fact that this note was written under cocaine adds to the impression of a man who pushed himself without "listening to" his body (to Irma). (Here cocaine is the intellectual's version of the steroids taken by athletes.)

I will review what irritating sensations would have meant to Freud if he had attended to them: He would have had to admit that cigar smoking did not agree with him. And he would have had to face the prospect of giving up smoking, not because of Fliess' complaints, but because of the "complaints" of his own body. But this would have interfered with his work. In the letter of June 12, 1895 from which I have already quoted, Freud explained that he had returned to smoking after his long abstention because "I constantly missed it ... and because I must treat this psychic fellow [psychischen Kerl] well or he won't work for me. I demand a great deal of him. The torment, most of the time, is superhuman."

In short, if Freud had become fully conscious that Irma's complaints were his own, he would have had to consciously weigh the relative value of health and work, and he might not have been able to push himself as hard. To Fliess he wrote, "Psychology is really a cross to bear. Bowling or hunting for mushrooms is ... a much healthier pastime" (August 16, 1895). If he had gone for health — if he had allowed his psychischen Irma to guide him instead of his psychischen Kerl —, there might have been no psychoanalysis, perhaps not even a need for psychoanalysis.

The Irma dream may have fascinated Freud so much, because he may have sensed that it contained a "picture" of how he would die. This would explain the almost infinite importance he attached to this dream (and to dreams in general). Since he never did understand the dream from this point of view, his fascination with dreams persisted. If he had understood the physical meaning of the dream, he might have lost interest in dreams, and hence in psychoanalysis. [This line of thought becomes muddied if we accept the bold conclusion of Schavelzon [1983] that the cancer of 1923 was a slow-growing verrucous carcinoma and that the squamous cell carcinoma that developed later was caused, not by his smoking, but by the trauma to the oral tissue from all the unnecessary excisions, electrocoagulations, and x-ray treatments performed by his doctors. — Dr. Schavelzon was kind enough to send me copies of the histological preparations. I showed these to members of the Department of Pathology at UCLA Medical Center, and they agreed with him that Freud's tumor was a veruccous carcinoma!]

The doctors in the Irma dream

Let us continue to assume that some of Freud's physical problems were embodied in, and voiced by, the dream figure of Irma. Let us go on to assume that the doctors who examined Irma in the dream expressed medical views within Freud himself as he introspectively examined his own physical symptoms.

In real life, Dr. M. was Dr. Joseph Breuer, Freud's mentor and benefactor. In the Spring of 1894, Freud had consulted Breuer for a second opinion regarding his heart condition. Fliess had been insisting that it came from the toxic effects of nicotine. Breuer vacillated between this diagnosis and Freud's diagnosis of chronic myocarditis saying that "it might be the one thing or the other" (emphasis in text, letter to Fliess of April 19, 1894). A few days later, Freud wrote that Breuer had "quietly accepted the possibility of a nontoxic heart condition" (April 25). By June 22 Freud was smoking again, supporting his decision with an argument he badgered Breuer into accepting. The argument was that two of Freud's women patients had the same heart problem he had, and one had never smoked and the other had given up smoking. Therefore, he concluded, smoking was not causing his heart problem and abstinence would do no good. He wrote Fliess: "Breuer, to whom I repeatedly said that I did not consider the affliction to be nicotine poisoning, finally agreed and also pointed to the women."

I conclude that Freud saw Breuer as a man he could manipulate into giving medical judgments allowing him to smoke. The Breuer of the dream, who pronounced a cheerful prognosis for Irma, would have been the part of Freud who let his need to smoke nudge his medical thoughts away from nicotine poisoning. (In real-life the two men focused on Freud's two women patients; in the dream they focused on Irma.)

Leopold represents a stricter medical view point.  Freud described the real Leopold as a "slow but sure" doctor (1900, p. 112). In the dream, it was Leopold who percussed Irma saying, "`She has a dull area low down on the left'" and who indicated "`that a portion of the skin on the left shoulder was infiltrated [infected].'" In other words, a "slow but sure" part of Freud was wondering if the problem in Irma's shoulder (that is, in his shoulder) was tuberculosis.

In those days it was known that tubercular patients should not smoke. On January 18, 1884, Freud wrote to his future wife, Minna Bernays, regarding a box of cigars she had sent him: "Schönberg [a tubercular friend of Freud], much as I like him, won't get one [of the cigars], my reason being that he shouldn't smoke. But the truth is: I give nothing away that comes from you" (Freud, 1960, p. 91). This letter shows Freud would never have allowed a tubercular patient to smoke. If the Leopold line of thought in him, the "slow and steady" approach to the problem, prevailed, the patient (that is, he, himself) could not smoke.

The waking Freud, however, did not take Leopold's diagnosis seriously but recognized in the infiltrated shoulder the rheumatism in his own shoulder "which I invariably notice if I sit up late into the night" (1900, p. 113) as, presumably, he had been doing the night of the Irma dream. I would argue that even this rheumatism might have been aggravated by smoking. Films and photos of Freud, albeit from a later period, indicate that he held his cigars primarily in his left hand, usually between the second and third fingers.6 It is all but obvious that when he wrote and smoked he held his pen in his right hand and his cigar in his left.7 My guess is that, on the night of July 23, 1895, Freud was up late writing and smoking. He smoked with his left hand, perhaps one or two, maybe even three cigars. It may seem far-fetched to someone who has never smoked, but I think holding cigars up to the mouth throughout an evening could have aggravated (and even caused) a shoulder pain.

The dirty syringe

We must now examine the conclusion of the dream in which all the doctors — Dr. M., Otto, Leopold, and Freud himself — suddenly dropped their previous theories and became "directly aware ... of the origin of the infection." They saw that the cause was an injection from a dirty syringe given to Irma by Otto.  The needle contained "a preparation of propyl, propyls...propionic acid ...trimethylamin," and Freud saw the formula for trimethylamine (English spelling) "printed in heavy type."

We must take this very seriously, because it represents, not abstract theory, but a direct medical intuition on the part of Freud, the collaboration of all the views in him--psychological and medical — representing his deepest and perhaps most correct understanding of the cause of dream Irma's problems.

Freud gave his associations to the "preparation of propyl...propyls...propionic acid" (1900, pp. 115-16):  The evening before, his wife had opened a bottle of liqueur given to them by Otto, a friend described as having "a habit of making presents on every possible occasion." Freud added that he hoped that Otto "would some day ... find a wife to cure him of the habit." He went on to say that the liqueur gave off such a strong smell of fusel oil that he refused to touch it, and he identified this smell with that of amyl-alcohol, the fifth in the homologous series of aliphatic alcohols beginning with methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-, and amyl-alcohol. Hence the propyl of the dream (with propyl replacing amyl — the kind of substitution common in dreams) (p. 116). Historically, propyl alcohol (propanol, n-propyl alcohol) was discovered in crude fusel oil by Chancel in 1853, three years before Freud was born, and it is possible that Freud was confusing amyl with propyl in his memory.

Turning to trimethylamine, in the dream the formula had been printed in heavy type "as though there had been a desire to lay emphasis on some part of the context as being of quite special importance" (p. 116). To trimethylamine Freud associated Fliess's view that it was a product of sexual metabolism. This fit the dream, since Freud thought the cure for Irma's problem was sexual intercourse (Irma was a widow). Trimethylamine also led to thoughts of his friendship with Fliess who had physical problems of his own (pp. 116-17).

However, there is another possible interpretation of the dirty syringe. It is difficult to think of a better metaphor for a cigar than a dirty syringe that can inject strong smelling chemicals capable of causing pains, stomach problems, and white patches in the mouth. This reading suggests the possibility that Otto, who gave presents "on every possible occasion," had given Freud a gift of cigars, and, that on the night of the Irma dream, Freud had been smoking these cigars. In dream language: Otto had injected Irma (Freud) with a strong smelling preparation. On this reading, the dream's conclusions could hardly be more appropriate: "Injections of that sort ought not to be made so thoughtlessly...probably the syringe had not been clean."

Otto — Dr. Oskar Rie

In real life Otto was Oskar Rie, a younger colleague of Freud who became a close personal friend and remained so until Rie's death in September, 1931. In the late 1890's, Rie was the Freud family pediatrician. For years, Rie, Freud, and two other friends played a card game called taroc every Saturday night.

As one might expect, I have not been able to establish whether or not Dr. Rie gave Freud a present of cigars sometime before the Irma dream. For example, I can find nothing in Freud's letters about such a matter. But it can be established that Rie smoked at the Saturday night card games. His grandson, Henry Rie recalls that

my father had a cigar cutter (a device for cutting a small hole in the closed end of a cigar) which had belonged to our grandfather. I remember hearing that Oskar Rie smoked cigars at the weekly card games at Freud's ... I [do not] know whether he smoked cigars on any other occasions. (a response to an inquiry by me to his cousin, Dr. Anton Kris, conveyed to me by Dr. Kris)

Therefore, Rie probably would not have been an adamant anti-smoker.

Coming at the gift issue from another angle, on May 10, 1923, two and a half weeks following his first cancer surgery, Freud wrote a letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé describing his recuperation: "I can again speak, chew and work, indeed even smoking is permitted — to a certain moderate ... degree. The family doctor himself supplied the cigar holder for my birthday" (Freud, 1960, p. 343).

Who was this family doctor who supplied the cigar holder? Romm (1983, p. xii) says Felix Deutsch to whom Freud showed this first tumor, but Schur, who was very close to Freud from 1928 on, contradicts this. Concerning the time period of the first operation, Schur wrote, "At that time [just before Freud showed the tumor to Felix Deutsch] ... Freud had no physician whom he consulted regularly. His friend Otto [sic] Rie, his family pediatrician, was his trusted advisor" (Schur, 1972, p. 348).

We know that Rie was the children's doctor in the late 1890's, and Schur tells us here that Rie remained Freud's "trusted advisor" even in 1923. Therefore, it would have been natural for Freud to have slipped into referring to Rie as his "family physician" in his 1923 letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé. The idea that Rie was the family doctor who gave Freud the cigar holder in 1923 following surgery for oral cancer is consistent with the image of the doctor who injected Irma with a dirty syringe and who may have given Freud a box of cigars somewhere before July 23, 1895, in spite of Freud's attempts to abstain.

However, the idea that Rie gave Freud cigars in 1895 is contradicted by a letter Rie wrote Fliess on June 12 of that year reporting that Freud was smoking again (Schur, 1972, p. 86).  It will be remembered that Freud also wrote Fliess on this date admitting he was smoking again. If Rie was assisting Fliess to keep Freud from smoking, then it could have been Freud's irritation at Rie (as described in the preamble to the Irma dream [1900, p. 106]) that converted Rie into the negligent figure appearing in the dream.

"Propyl, Propyls...Propionic Acid...Trimethylamin"

If the dirty syringe was a cigar, how do propyls, propionic acid, and trimethylamine fit in? In fact, all of these are chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Propionic acid is a rancid smelling oil that was identified in cigar smoke in 1871 (Johnstone; Plimmer, 1959) and has also been isolated in tobacco leaf (Stedman, 1968).

Tobacco contains many agents with the propyl moiety as well (the dream speaks of propyls). Propyl alcohol, which was found in fusel oil in 1853, was identified in cigar smoke in 1961 (Berry, 1961). 1-Methyl-4-isopropyl-1-cyclohexene; 6,8-Dihydroxy-11-isopropyl-4,8-dimethyl-14-oxo-4,9-pentadecadienoic acid; 5-keto-2-isopropylhexanoic acids; Dipropyl phthalate; Isopropyl formate, and 2-methyl-5-isopropylacetophenone are some of the components with the propyl rest in tobacco leaf and/or smoke (my italics, Stedman, 1968).

As for trimethylamine, in Freud's day it was known to be in tobacco smoke and was incorrectly thought, along with other volatile amines, to cause the aroma of the smoke. The volatile trimethylamine has a pungent, fishy odor and contributes to the "off flavor" of cigar smoke (Schmeltz; Hoffmann, 1977).

In the late 1800's very few compounds had been isolated from tobacco.  By 1959, with the growing interest in tobacco carcinogenesis, four hundred had been found in the leaf and in the smoke.  By 1968, over twelve hundred chemicals had been identified (Stedman, 1968), and, by 1988, over three thousand had been reported to be present in tobacco and about four thousand in tobacco smoke (Roberts, 1988).

Whether or not it is a coincidence that propyls, propionic acid, and trimethylamine all occur in tobacco, I leave open.


In 1873, Albert Cottard published a book called De la Valeur de Triméthylamine dans le Traitement du Rhumatisme Articulaire in which he gave case studies to prove that trimethylamine was a cure for rheumatism of the joints.

Cottard mentioned various fishes, including herring and sturgeon, in which trimethylamine had been found.8 He wrote that Russian doctors were prescribing the eating of herring milt or whole herrings soaked in milk or caviar or the like for chronic catarrh and for the beginning of tuberculization of the lungs, among other things (p. 17). He wrote that it was the trimethylamine in cod-liver oil that led, Kaleniczenko, to report "l'action bienfaisante" of that oil (p. 18).

It is possible that Freud, who lived in France in the mid-1880's, knew of this cure and even entertained the idea of using some form of trimethylamine for his catarrh and for the pains in his left shoulder that he diagnosed as rheumatism (it could not have been pure trimethylamine, since trimethylamine is a gas at room temperature).

Cottard's book points to the high reputation enjoyed by trimethylamine at the end of the nineteenth century and makes its dream portrait as a poison stand out even more clearly. In fact, the emphatic nature of the dream makes it almost necessary for us to inquire further into the possible toxicity of the preparation. If the white patch and curly structures in Irma's mouth point to Freud's future cancer, then the dream is stating that the cancer came from a preparation of propyls, propionic acid, and trimethylamine (presumably from a cigar). Generalizing, and putting it into contemporary terms, Freud's dream theorizes that the preparation of propyls, propionic acid, and trimethylamine in cigar smoke is carcinogenic.

Though there is no way, in practice, for us to find out what caused Freud's tumor, we are entitled to ask if it could possibly have been the trimethylamine from one of his cigars. Though trimethylamine is not considered to be a carcinogen, when mixed with nitrites in an acidic environment, it can be nitrosated into a very powerful procarcinogen, dimethylnitrosamine (DMNA) (N-nitrosdimethylamine).

This suggests two questions. First, could cigar trimethylamine nitrosate in the mouth of a cigar smoker? And, second, if so, could the resulting dimethylnitrosamine cause oral cancer? Based on the latest research, the answer would seem to be "Yes" to both questions, though these specific hypotheses have not been tested.9

In Appendix 2, I explore, in more detail, a possible pathway from cigar trimethylamine to Freud's cancer as "proposed" by the Irma dream. Appendix 2, combined with Appendix 3, constitutes speculation on the type of biochemical pathways that might have led from smoking a cigar to the Irma dream.

How could Freud's dream have implicated trimethylamine?

It is likely that Freud knew of the theory that smoking caused oral cancer. In 1761, the London physician, Dr. John Hill, had connected the use of snuff with oral cancer (Redmond, 1970), and, in a book published in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, in 1795, Sömmering had proposed that pipe smoking could cause carcinomas of the lip (Wynder & Hoffmann, 1964). Though the view was not as widely accepted in medical circles as it is now, it had its advocates.  Further, in his own medical training, Freud must have seen cigar smokers with leukoplakia and oral cancers.

It would also have been natural for him to have identified trimethylamine with cigar tobacco, given that, as we said, in his day, it was correlated with the aroma of cigars. In his dream, Freud could have connected unpleasant oral sensations with cigar smoke trimethylamine and concluded, in images, that leukoplakia might follow. Not only did the Irma dream contain a picture of Freud's future cancer, but it also contained a reasonable theory of its etiology.

4. Did Freud's Cancer Provoke his Irma Dream?

4. Did Freud's Cancer Provoke his Irma Dream?



Before returning to Freud's case, I will state the general theory to be discussed in this section. The hypothesis is that disease states produce aberrant chemicals that can provoke dreams. To use cancer as our example, the hypothesis is that some tumors produce chemicals that can provoke dreams. If true, these dreams can be thought of as "psychological" tumor markers and might conceivably be used in diagnosing diseases (also see Smith, 1990). (A tumor marker is a chemical associated with a developing tumor. Many researchers have been trying to identify tumor markers to aid in early diagnosis.)

Most cancer researchers today think that carcinogenesis is a multi-stage process.  The view is that tumor development can be divided into at least three stages. Initiation consists of a single, datable, and irreversible event apparently consisting of a mutation in one key gene in one single cell (Solt, 1980). This initiated cell may sit dormant for years, or even decades, until a promoter stimulates it to divide repeatedly. The result is a visible growth of millions of cells each bearing a copy of the original mutated gene. Progression occurs when one of these cells acquires a second growth-promoting mutation that allows for uncontrolled growth into a carcinoma (Varmus & Weinberg, 1993).

At some point in the development of a tumor, often only surprisingly late, a person becomes conscious of discomfort. It may be that before this there is a dream recognition of a problem. Future research can tell if such dream recognition occurs, and, if so, at which stage of tumor development. For the sake of argument and for the sake of simplicity, let us assume that an initiated cell can provoke a dream and try to imagine how. The reader will please remember that this discussion is hypothetical and theoretical.

It seems to me that, if a tumor cell can provoke a dream, either it would be through a paracrine action (on neighboring cells) or an endocrine action (on far away sites) or through a combination of both. In the first case, via a paracrine effect, there might be a secretion or excretion or shedding of a cellular product capable of stimulating a neighboring nerve ending which would then relay information into the brain. In the second case, via an endocrine effect, one or more products of the cell (or metabolites of these products) would travel in the blood, through the blood-brain barrier, and directly stimulate a brain neuron. In the third case, there might be both paracrine and endocrine effects bringing a large assortment of information into the brain such as exactly where the cellular events were occurring, just what substances were being produced, how much was being produced, and for how long. All this information would merge with information from short-term memory (day residues), long-term memory (including repressed material), and archetypal-genetic memory (helping to determine which images would be used), as well as with phosphenes and other data to form dream experiences such as: Woman, Right Upper Mouth, White Patch, Growth, Choking.

At some stage in the development of a tumor — possibly just after initiation, definitely during progression, and, obviously, at least somewhere in between — the immune system will respond to the substances produced by the cells. Cells of the immune system that arrive on the scene will secrete modulating substances that may effect the brain. (Study of the effects of these substances on the brain is just beginning, more focus up until now having been placed on the effect of the brain on the immune system.10) If the immune system contributes to the formation of some "cancer dreams," then these dreams must be considered part of the body's immune response to a cancer and not just epiphenomenal by-products of the cancer.

In Appendix 3, I list substances produced by oral cancers (and the immune response to them) and try to imagine how they might, in accordance with the hypothesis of this section, lead to dreams.

How might this hypothesis apply to Freud's case. The idea would be that a tumor or premalignant lesion (presumably caused by chemicals in cigar smoke) was in Freud's mouth in July, 1895 and provoked the Irma dream.

In 1895, Freud might have had a premalignant leukoplakia in his mouth that he felt with his tongue and that led to the Irma dream (a possibility expressed by Dr. George Bernard of the UCLA School of Dentistry, personal communication). It is even possible that Freud's oral cancer was initiated by cigar smoke some time before the Irma dream and that the substances produced by the initiated cell caused the dream. Promotion and progression would have occurred some years later, with the tumor becoming palpable and visible only in 1923. (Presumably, initiation represents an earlier stage of tumor development than leukoplakia).

And it is even conceivable that initiation occurred on the night of July 23 or the morning of July 24, perhaps moments before the Irma dream. In this case the dream would have contained Freud's vague perception of the beginning of his cancer, his subjective awareness of its initiation. This would certainly explain why the dream exercised such a fascination on him and why he felt a compulsion to analyze just this dream. Of course there is no way to prove or disprove this thesis.

A biological function of dreams in fighting diseases?

A biological function of dreams in fighting diseases?

To help conceptualize the theorized place of dreams in the flow of experience, I will divide the flow into an afferent and an efferent arm. Using Freud's dream as an example, we might arbitrarily say that the afferent arm began with the manufacturing of trimethylamine in a tobacco plant in Cuba. It continued with the leaves being picked and processed, rolled and packaged, and then shipped to Vienna. When Freud smoked one of the cigars, trimethylamine (or more likely the tobacco alkaloids) entered his mouth and was nitrosated to DMNA (or to carcinogenic, tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines [TSNA]) whose metabolites penetrated the tissue in the oral mucosa, entered a nucleus of a cell, and alkylated DNA (see Appendix 2). This cell then began to produce abnormal products or normal products in abnormal amounts. Some of these products (or products of the immune cells that "noticed" them) stimulated peripheral and central neurons (see Appendix 3). So much for the afferent arm. Next came the dream. And then, following the dream, the efferent arm began, which consisted of outgoing responses on many levels: Molecular, electrical, behavioral, and the like.

Let us call the afferent arm A, the efferent arm B, and the brain state associated with the dream, DB. The temporal sequence is A-DB-B. And let us call the phenomenological experience of the dream, DE. Even if DE is only an epiphenomenon of DB, it is still a psychological tumor marker, since it is an indirect product of the tumor. The question arises, is there any biological function of DE? DB is a biological state that leads to a whole series of biological states in the efferent arm of the process. DE, however, is an experience that would seem to be outside the biological sequence A-DB-B. For example, it is not an antigen to which an antibody might respond. It might seem, therefore, that DE could not have a biological function.

However, if we keep focused on a strictly phenomenological-behavioral level and do not slip into the biological point of view, it is quite clear that DE, the dream experience, can have just as much a subjective push to action as pain or fear. The Irma dream, for example, at the very least, stimulated Freud to self-analysis. Shortly after the dream, Freud began work on The Interpretation of Dreams which he described as "a portion of my own self-analysis" (1900, p. xxvi). The intense struggle to understand his own dreams may even have prolonged his life. Perhaps he smoked just a few less cigars or puffed just a little less on those he smoked or aimed the smoke into his mouth in a slightly less noxious direction. Even if he did not consciously understand the Irma dream as a biological response, it may have functioned like a "No Smoking" sign placed into the dream by an oral mucosa demanding more temperate and careful smoking. (Cf., the sign in one of Freud's dreams that reminded him of notices "forbidding one to smoke in railway waiting-rooms" [1900, p. 317]. Jung actually gave up smoking because of a dream [in March, 1953, Jung, 1975]. For traumatic dreams as warnings see Smith [1990]).

It is possible that, in a thousand years, Freud may be remembered, not for any specific aspect of his psychoanalytical theory, but as the first ambitious European intellectual to take his dreams seriously.



Historical anecdotes

I would like to propose that an all-out, scientific investigation be launched into the relation between dreams and disease states (assuming, of course, that pilot studies prove the subject fruitful). The promise is a cost-free, non-invasive form of diagnosis (with brain as diagnostic "machine"). The justification are anecdotal reports from antiquity to modern times (e.g., the two cases where Jung diagnosed illnesses from dreams of patients referred to him for that purpose by their physicians, [Davie, 1935; Jung, 1954]).

We are designing an exploratory study to see if there might be a possibility.

A definitive research project in this area would take people who feel healthy and who test healthy in their medical checkups and see if their dreams predict what illnesses they will develop. Studies of this type would require large numbers of subjects and would have to be longitudinal. They would be extremely expensive.

An intermediate stage of research would be to work with people who know they are sick but where the diagnosis is still unruse. We are proposing a study in which dreams will be collected from people entering head and neck clinics with suspicious, but still undiagnosed, lesions. It will be seen if the dreams can be used to differentially diagnose malignant from benign tumors.11 Other such studies might easily be imagined (e.g., one in which the dreams of people exposed to a particular virus are examined).

If simple studies like these, with their obvious conceptual and methodological complexities, produce results, long-term studies on larger populations might be attempted.

Some complexities of such research

Not all dreams predict illnesses, and probably not all illnesses produce dreams. The situation is quite complex. A dream registering a minuscule event inside the body would be like the human eye picking up a supernova in the vast regions of space: Everything would have to happen just right — the event would have to be large enough and emit enough perceptible data, at just the right time and in just the right direction. For a body event "B" to register in a dream, not only would it have to emit (or stimulate the emission of) one or more psychoactive substances, but these substances (or their effects) would have to arrive in the brain at just the right moment. Unless the brain could store them in memory, they would have to arrive just before, or during, a dream (during REM sleep). If they missed this opening, they would go unrecognized. On the other hand, if they came too often, adaptation might occur with neurons ceasing to respond. Here, though there might be a few relevant dreams, if the dreamer was unable to recall them, the opportunity for diagnosis would be lost.

It also might be that some parts of the body are more able to produce dream markers than others. Areas like the mouth (where there is rich sensory innervation and a copious blood supply) may be the areas best able to translate their problems into dreams (for example, the Irma dream).

But even if a body event registered itself in a dream, for a dream analyst to recognize the connection would be extremely difficult. It would be similar to the problem of recognizing the connection between movies and historical events. No doubt, WWII stimulated films that contained images of the war. But when did films begin to "pick up" the pre-war situation, and when could someone have figured out from a movie that there was going to be a war? Looking back at 1930's films, we might agree on some as definite pre-war films. But who, at that time, could have known and by what criteria? And how can we know what today's films tell of our future even though there probably are connections that future generations will see clearly when they look back?

We are in a similar position with dreams. It is easy to hold Freud's dreams and his later illnesses in front of us and compare them and find similarities. It is an immensely more difficult job to look at present dreams of apparently healthy people and say what developing illnesses they may be recording. Therefore, it has been easier for researchers studying connections between dreams and illnesses to select people with given illnesses (like asthma) and then study their dreams — a review of many such studies can be found in Warnes & Finkelstein (1971). As far as I know, there are no studies going the other direction, that is, starting with dreams and trying to diagnose illnesses. So far, this direction has only produced anecdotes.

The main difficulty in studying dreams as perceptions of objective events is the great variation in how a physical event can appear for different dreamers and for the same dreamer at different times. Sleep lab experiments, designed to reveal effects of external stimuli on dreams, show that stimuli often appear symbolically and in a manner dependent on the background and symbolic style of the dreamer — for a review of the literature see Arkin & Antrobus (1991).

To give an example available to everyone, just before waking from sleep because of a full bladder, it is common to dream, but it seems impossible to predict what the dream will be. Rarely will the person think of having to urinate. The dream will be of running down a hill next to a stream or of a man drinking a cup of skim milk with ice cubes in it or of a sea battle or of a car leaking gasoline or of a stranger urinating or of wearing a tight belt causing pressure in the lower abdomen or there may be no dream at all. (For psychoanalytic interpretations of such dreams, see Freud, 1900, pp. 402ff.)

Not only can the same stimulus apparently produce different images, but the same image can represent different stimuli, even in the same dream.  If the dirty syringe stood for a cigar, it also reminded Freud of needles he used to give injections, and who knows what other layers of more symbolic meaning it may have had?

To hint at the subtleties and complexities of the problem, we might imagine a large toy store just before Christmas in which some of the toys have been sold.  At opening hour, hundreds of children come in. Among them are those who bought the toys and are coming to pick them up. Though we know that some incoming children have bought toys, how can this help us with specifics? If we pick a toy and wonder which, if any, of the hundreds of children have come to pick it up, how can we answer? Equally, if we pick a child walking into the store, how can we know which toy, if any, he or she is coming to pick up?

Similarly with dreams and illnesses: Even assuming we know that some images are connected to some illnesses, how can this help us in specific cases? If a person wakes with a dream image, how can he or she know what, if any, physical state led to it? Or, if we think of a particular illness, how can we predict what dream images, if any, it might provoke?

Moving on in spite of the complexities

In spite of these immense difficulties, I will present five generalizations from my own clinical experiences with dreams. I present them to open the discussion and stimulate debate, and not to add to the list of dream books dating back to antiquity:

1) Discomfort in a dream is identical with discomfort the dreamer will experience when he or she awakens. (Not all waking discomfort, though, appears in dreams.)

2) It does not matter who in the dream feels the discomfort (the dreamer or another dream figure — animal or human): It is always the dreamer's discomfort.

3) Wherever in the body the discomfort is experienced by the dream figure, that is where the discomfort will be felt by the dreamer when he or she awakens.

4) The discomfort in a dream tends to be more severe than the discomfort the dreamer experiences when he or she awakens. (This is Aristotle's idea.)

5) Which subjective feeling of severity — dream or waking — more accurately reflects the objective, physical danger to the dreamer, varies from dream to dream: Sometimes the dream exaggerates the problem, but sometimes waking consciousness underestimates it.

Here are four examples where these rules apply: A man dreams of being shot in the stomach by the Mafia and wakes with indigestion; a man dreams of a lion biting a bull on the back of the neck until it is dead and wakes with a headache at the base of his skull; a woman dreams of an airplane crash where some passengers are decapitated and awakens with a head cold. And the Irma dream seems to fit the rules.

Concluding thoughts

I conclude by repeating that I think dreams may have many meanings, and so I do not think that the Irma dream was only a representation of a physical state nor do I think that dream analysts ought focus only on physical states underlying dreams. I do feel though that, given our present state of limited knowledge, it is always appropriate to scan dreams for possible underlying physical states. And I will add on behalf of my interpretation, that if it had been accepted by Freud (alongside his own), it could possibly have headed off much suffering for him and those who loved him.

Appendix 1


Dream of July 23-24, 1895

A large hall — numerous guests, whom we were receiving.— Among them was Irma. I at once took her on one side, as though to answer her letter and to reproach her for not having accepted my `solution' yet. I said to her: `If you still get pains, it's really only your fault.' She replied: `If you only knew what pains I've got now in my throat and stomach and abdomen — it's choking me' — I was alarmed and looked at her. She looked pale and puffy. I thought to myself that after all I must be missing some organic trouble. I took her to the window and looked down her throat, and she showed signs of recalcitrance, like women with artificial dentures. I thought to myself that there was really no need for her to do that. — She then opened her mouth properly and on the right I found a big white patch; at another place I saw extensive whitish grey scabs upon some remarkable curly structures which were evidently modelled on the turbinal bones of the nose. — I at once called in Dr. M., and he repeated the examination and confirmed it....Dr. M. looked quite different from usual; he was very pale, he walked with a limp and his chin was clean-shaven....My friend Otto was now standing beside her as well, and my friend Leopold was percussing her through her bodice and saying: `She has a dull area low down on the left.' He also indicated that a portion of the skin on the left shoulder was infiltrated. (I noticed this, just as he did, in spite of her dress.)...M. said: `There's no doubt it's an infection, but no matter; dysentery will supervene and the toxin will be eliminated.'...We were directly aware, too, of the origin of the infection. Not long before, when she was feeling unwell, my friend Otto had given her an injection of a preparation of propyl, propyls...propionic acid...trimethylamin (and I saw before me the formula for this printed in heavy type)....Injections of that sort ought not to be made so thoughtlessly....And probably the syringe had not been clean. (ellipsis points in text, Freud, 1900, p. 107)

Appendix 2


Could DMNA, applied to the oral mucosa, cause tumors?

Since its discovery as an hepatocarcinogen in 1956, dimethylnitrosamine (DMNA) has been associated primarily with liver tumors.  Researchers, trying to understand its metabolic pathways, have generally administered it to animals orally or by injection. It is not surprising, therefore that, when Pool-Zobel et al. (1992) administered DMNA in vapor form, via inhalation, and found that nasal tumors developed, they described these results as "exceptional."

Dimethylnitrosamine is a member of the class of chemicals called N-nitrosamines. N-nitrosamines that exist only in tobacco and tobacco smoke are called tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNA). Hecht et al. (1986) were able to induce tumors of the oral cavity in eight of thirty rats by swabbing the mouth with two TSNA. Studies such as these have convinced researchers that TSNA can cause oral cancers in users of some smokeless tobaccos (e.g., Hoffmann et al., 1991).

DMNA also exists in tobacco smoke (as does a propyl rest, N-Nitrosodi-n-propylamine, Hoffmann & Wynder, 1986), and it seems reasonable to propose that it too might induce oral tumors, though this has never been studied.

Will trimethylamine nitrosate turn to DMNA in the mouth of a cigar smoker?

Since we are constructing a possible pathway (I emphasize possible) to Freud's cancer based on his Irma dream, the other relevant hypothesis is that trimethylamine will nitrosate to DMNA in the mouth of a cigar smoker as do the tobacco alkaloids.

Lijinsky et al. (1972) found that trimethylamine converts at an optimum range of pH 3-6 but will proceed even at pH 6.4.  This fits the pH of saliva, which, according to Rao (1978), varies between 4.5 and 7, depending on many factors in the mouth.

According to Dietrich Hoffmann, an expert in the field of tobacco carcinogenesis (personal communication), trimethylamine is water soluble and hence soluble in saliva; cigar smoke is particularly rich in the nitrous oxides, more so than cigarette smoke, and so the cigar smoker would have plenty of nitrous oxide for nitrosation; cigar smokers tend to have thiocyanate in their saliva, a chemical that is known to catalyze the nitrosation process; and, finally, saliva is acid enough to allow the reaction to take place.

I must add that another expert, John Wishnok of M.I.T. (personal communication), thought that the reaction would not proceed rapidly enough to take place in the mouth, and that DMNA would not produce oral tumors. However, it has been shown that the TSNA can be formed in the oral cavity by nitrosation of the alkaloids (Tsuda, 1991).

I have no intention of trying to design a study that would answer these questions definitively. If someone ever did, however, I would be curious to see if the adding of propionic acid and a component with a propyl rest (as "suggested" in the Irma dream) would have an effect.

Possible mechanisms for tumor carcinogenesis from DMNA

It seems that DMNA and TSNA do not produce tumors directly but break down into intermediate products that cause the tumors. Bartsch & Montesano (1984) have described studies showing that DMNA is metabolized into such products in the buccal mucosa (as has also been shown for TSNA [Murphy et al., 1990]). The exact mechanism by which intermediate products cause cancer remains unknown, though many accept that it is often via alkylation of cellular DNA (e.g., Elespuru et al., 1993). An alternative mutation site is cellular RNA which may have a greater propensity for alkylation by DMNA than DNA (discussed by Hradec, 1989).

A possible pathway to Freud's tumor, based on the Irma dream, might run as follows: Trimethylamine from a cigar was nitrosated in his mouth to DMNA which was then metabolized into intermediate products that, in turn, alkylated DNA or RNA in one or more epithelial cells in the right, upper oral mucosa of Freud's mouth.

Appendix 3


The goal of this section is to show, hypothetically, how an illness might provoke a dream. To narrow the discussion I focus on cancers, in particular, on oral cancers and precancers. Ideally I would like to focus on Freud's case where, apparently, there was a verrucous carcinoma that originated on the right glossopalatine arch (Schavelzon, 1983; Romm, 1983). Unfortunately, there is little research on verrucous carcinomas and not that much is known about the biochemistry of oral cancers in general, especially at their very early stages.  Therefore, I am forced to include studies on all types and stages of head and neck lesions.

The normal oral mucosa

The following is a simplified version of the histology of the normal oral mucosa of the soft palate (taken from Ten Cate, 1989, Chapter 18). (The soft palate and glossoplatine arch are histologically similar).

Looking at soft palate tissue from the top, down we have: First, the submucosa containing blood vessels and nerves; second, the lamina propria consisting of a supportive matrix made of collagen and other substances such as laminin; third, a basement membrane separating the submucosa and the lamina propria from the oral epithelium; and fourth, the stratified squamous epithelium arranged into a layer of well-ordered squamous epithelial cells called the basal layer on which are layers of cells, the outermost ones of which get sloughed off. New cells continually form from the basal cells and migrate out (down). Basal cells themselves are apparently produced by stem cells in the basal layer.

The lamina propria contains cells of the immune system such as macrophages and mast cells (capable of secreting histamine, leukotrienes, serotonin, etc.) and other inflammatory cells which tend to arrive on the spot when needed.

Capillary networks of the oral mucosa reach to just before the basal epithelial cells coming down from larger vessels in the submucosa above and are much more profuse than in the skin. There are no blood vessels in the epithelium itself.

There is dense sensory innervation of the oral mucosa from the lesser palatine branch of the maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve, the tonsillar branch of the glossopharyngeal nerve, and the nerve of the pterygoid canal. This area is one of the most sensitive in the body, ranking a little below the fingertips.

There are free nerve endings in the lamina propria and in the epithelium. There are also many specialized nerve endings in the lamina propria including Meissner's corpuscles, Ruffini's corpuscles, bulbs of Krause, and mucocutaneous end organs. And there are some taste buds in the epithelium of the soft palate. Warmth, cold, touch, pain, and taste are the primary sensations experienced in the mouth. Touch receptors in the area are involved with the swallowing, gagging, and retching reflexes.

Oral carcinomas

Precancerous and cancerous lesions are distinguished microscopically by abnormal divisions, variations in cell and nuclear sizes and shapes, disturbed polarity of basal cells, loss or reduction of cellular cohesion, and cell crowding, among other things (Kramer, 1980).

Presumably, one day researchers will be able to account for these abnormalities by pointing to changes in cellular molecules, changes that begin at the stage of initiation. We might imagine a stem cell on the basal membrane of the oral mucosa with a gene that has just been mutated by a carcinogen. This gene would soon encode an abnormal protein or its normal protein in an abnormal amount. Depending on which gene was mutated, the cell's structure might begin to break down, and its attachments to other cells and to the basal membrane might become disrupted in various ways. This cell may begin to wobble and to travel and to lose orientation with respect to its neighbors, and it may begin to secrete or shed products that will be received by other cells and that will affect them in various ways. Some of the products may diffuse through the basal membrane and into the lamina propria and even into the capillaries. Some that are moved to the membrane surface or placed in the extracellular environment may encounter cells of the immune system surveillance "team" which, in turn, will mobilize an immune response.

This is not science fiction. Just such cellular products have been found in oral cancer cells, though it is not yet possible to determine which products are produced at which stages. Unfortunately for the sake of diagnosis, none of these substances has been found to be specific for head and neck tumors, and no one substance occurs in all head and neck tumors. Substances produced by oral lesions

I group these substances into eight overlapping classes. Most of them have been found to be overexpressed in head and neck malignant and/or premalignant lesions. I do not include all substances found, and, in some cases, there are conflicting studies. Since we are engaged in an exercise in imagination, there is no need for completeness.

1) Factors contributing to cell structure and cell attachment: The intermediate cytoplasmic filaments keratin and vimentin (de Araujo et al., 1993); filaggrin (Scully & Burkhardt, 1993); the integrin α6β4 (Van Waes & Carey, 1992); sialic acid (Xing et al. 1991); gangliosides (Ruoslahti, 1991); carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) (a glycoprotein) (Kurokawa et al., 1993); urokinase-type plasminogen activator (Clayman et al., 1993); and, since the tumor suppressor gene, p53, has been found to be mutated in oral cancers (references in Scully, 1992), and since this gene seems to effect expression of the DCC gene, we may guess that, in some tumors, there is an abnormal expression of the DCC protein, a NCAM-like adhesion molecule (Varmus & Weinberg, 1993).

2) Factors that may, in different ways, lead to increased cell division: Products of the mutated p53 gene; products of the mutated Ha-ras, Ki-ras, N-ras genes (references in Scully, 1992); products of the mutated c-erbB-1 gene (Maran et al., 1993) and c-erbB-2 (neu) gene (Hou et al., 1992) both via production of faulty receptor proteins; proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) that is necessary for replication of nuclear DNA (Coltrera et al., 1992).

3) Secreted growth factors:  Proteins of the fibroblast growth factor family that are encoded by the mutated gene, int-2, (references in Scully, 1992); transforming growth

factor-β (TGF-β) (Maran et al., 1993).

4) Membrane carbohydrates detectable by antibodies from the immune system: Aberrant histo-blood group antigens including incomplete antigens of the ABO, Lewis, TTn, and P blood group systems (under- or overexpression, Bryne et al., 1991); antigen H, a precursor of A and B (under- or overexpression, Bryne et al., 1991); (most cells in verrucous carcinomas express antigens in a way similar to cells in normal adjacent mucosa [Bryne et al., 1991]).

5) Factors shed by tumor cells that modulate the immune response: Gangliosides (Chu & Sharom, 1993); TGF-β (as a cytokine); leukotriene B4 (el-Hakim et al., 1990).

6) The immune system's direct responses to the tumor: Serum IgA; higher levels of CD4 ("helper") cells (Maran et al., 1993); HLA class I and II antigens (in verrucous carcinomas, Mattijssen et al., 1991); beta 2-microglobulin (Manzar et al., 1992)

7) Products of immune cells that modulate the immune response: Interleukin-2 (secreted by Th cells) that promotes gamma-interferon production; prostaglandins (Maran et al., 1993).

8) Products whose functions are unclear or difficult to place in one of the above categories: Products of the mutated c-myc and N-myc genes (references in Scully, 1992); products of the mutated bcl-1 gene (Scully, 1992); gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (Schwint et al., 1992); glutathione-S-transferase-pi (Hirata et al., 1992); the transferrin receptor (Tanaka et al., 1991).

Possible pathways from initiated cells to dreams using the Irma dream as our example

With the above list in hand, it is time to speculate on possible connections between cancer cells and dreams.  I continue to use Freud's case for this exercise in imagination.

1)  It is theoretically possible that an initiated cell could have shed a chemical that could have stimulated a neighboring nerve ending (say a twig from the lesser palatine nerve). The signal would then have been transmitted, through the foramen rotundum, to the pontine trigeminal nucleus where the primary neuron would have synapsed with secondary neurons. Axons of these secondary sensory neurons would have relayed impulses to the sensory cortex (that is, to the postcentral gyrus of the parietal cortex) and deposited them there in their proper somatotrophic position in relation to other sensory input. In some cases, the firing of one neuron in the mouth can be consciously experienced, and this may have been the case with Freud. The sensation would then have been mixed with other data and a dream would have occurred. On the other hand, the firing might have been below the normal threshold but somehow capable of being experienced in a dream. (I have not been able to locate any theory attempting to explain pathways for subliminal perception. This subject is very complex conceptually).

TGF-β and the product of the int-2 gene are both known to stimulate neural growth. One may wonder if they will be shown to create action potentials as well. It is also possible that other chemicals (such as G-proteins or Substance P), that are already known to create action potentials, will one day be shown to be produced in abnormal amounts by cancer cells and excreted into their environment. These are all testable hypotheses.

 2) Smoke (its heat or its chemicals) or tumor chemicals could have stimulated touch, temperature, pain, and olfactory receptors and/or taste buds in Freud's mouth and might have led to the symptoms of choking and pain appearing in the Irma dream. Leukotrienes and prostaglandins are found in some oral tumors and are known to sensitize nociceptors. Possibly one or both of these chemicals contributed to the dream.

3) At a stage in tumor development when cell proliferation had already begun, increased pressure from crowded cells could have activated sensory mechanoreceptors that led to bodily sensations that, in turn, became included in the dream. This might have occurred before Freud ever focused on these bodily sensations in waking consciousness.

4) Prostaglandins and interleukin-2 are both known to effect the brain and can induce somnolence. It has also been theorized that systemic cytokines, like interleukin-2, can reach the central nervous system where the blood-brain barrier is absent and possibly where it is made more permeable by a pathological condition (references in Nisticò & De Sarro, 1991). It would be interesting to study the effects of these substances on dreaming.

We might guess that oral tumors produce other substances that can be active in, and transportable to, the central nervous system (perhaps chemicals not quite as virulent as the anti-Purkinje cell antibodies produced by tumors from other parts of the body). It is even possible that some tumor substances can induce REM sleep (the sleep in which most dreams seem to occur) as well as determine the content of dreams.

5) Once one starts thinking about how dreams might come from physical states, there is no end to the number of ideas that arise. Those sketched out in this section are only a few that come to mind. They happen to be testable, but others may not be. For example, what if the dream state is a rudimentary stage in the development of consciousness? One may wonder if evolution is not moving towards making creatures that are more and more conscious, not only of the external world, but also of inner events. The initiation of a tumor is a small event from one angle, but a very important event from the point of view of the individual (and, perhaps, the species). Perhaps, in a million years, people will know immediately and directly that a tumor has been initiated, as clearly as we now know when we stub a toe. Perhaps receptors and ligands are evolving at this very moment towards this end. And, perhaps, a million years after that, it will be only necessary to think certain thoughts and the initiated cell will dissolve. Perhaps events on this continuum happen even now, occasionally and in certain people. Perhaps Freud was one such person.



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End Notes

End Notes

1.The identity of the real "Irma" has been debated and discussed in many articles since Schur (1966) first suggested that she was a patient of Freud named Emma Ecstein.

2.For a history of Freud's illnesses and treatments see Schur (1972), Romm (1983), or Schavelzon (1983).

3.Pictures of the turbinate bones of the nose (the nasal conchas) can be found in any standard anatomy text. An artist's rendition of what Freud's initial cancer may have looked like can be found in Romm (1983, p.19, Fig.7).

4.This seems to be at least part of the view expressed by Schavelzon (1983, p.79).

No creo que el inconsciente "sepa" de una enfermedad 24 años antes de que se manifieste, aunque sí que a menudo guía nuestros actos de un modo que puede dar pie a esa suposición. Cabe agregar que para el inconsciente no existe el factor tiempo, de modo que "24 años antes" no es un dato invalidante. [I do not think that the unconscious knows about a sickness 24 years before it is manifested. Even so it does often guide our actions in a way that may encourage that supposition. It can be added that, for the unconscious, the time factor does not exist. So, "24 years before" is not an invalid datum.]

(I thank Errick Clarke and Alicia Amador for this translation; similar views are expressed by Resnik, 1987, p.188)

5.This explanation was suggested to me by my wife who was concerned with my own cigar and pipe smoking at the time.  My struggle with cigar smoking helps explain my fascination with the Irma dream.

6.Photos in which Freud held a cigar in his left hand can be found in E. Freud et al. (1976, pp.179 [c.1906], 201 [c.1912], 212 [1917], 223 [1920], 200 [1922], 236 [1925], 250 [1929]) and Freud (1992, pp.120 [1909], 118 [c.1932]; 141 [probably from the 1930's], 160 [probably from the 1930's], 164 [probably from 1933]). Photos in which he held a cigar in his right hand can be found in E. Freud (1976, pp.222 [c.1921], 296 [probably 1938]). Film taken in 1928 by the analyst Phillip R. Lehrman show Freud holding his cigar sometimes in one hand and sometimes in the other.

7.Freud wrote a letter from the house of his Hungarian host and hostess, Anton and Rozsi von Freund, describing how he arranged his desk for writing.

"I have simplified the writing table considerably. The picture of our hostess and little girl remains standing in the middle, on the right a bowl of fountain pens, on the left another filled with cigars." (dated August 9, 1918, Freud, 1960, p.322)

8.In humans, trimethylamine is formed, in part, from the breaking down (metabolizing) of dietary choline (which comes from lecithin, a major component of animal fat) by bacteria in the intestine, and it is excreted in the urine. Trimethylaminuria, a fish-odor syndrome, occurs in humans when trimethylamine is not broken down properly.

9.Today it is believed that it is primarily the nitrosamines from nicotine and nornicotine that are associated with the increased risk of smokers developing oral cancer, especially if they also drink alcohol (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989; Hoffmann et al., 1991).

10.In the 1950's and early 1960's, the Soviet Academy of Sciences directed medical researchers from Korea to East Germany to prove that the nervous system,(especially the cerebral cortex as the "highest" human organ), must direct the process of carcinogenesis. There are hundreds of articles on this research in "Eastern Bloc."

11.Assuming that one pathway between diseases and dreams begins in the peripheral nervous system, it is useful to begin with lesions of the mouth because of the high innervation of the oral cavity.

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

via reflection on the world
via reflection on one's immediate experience

   the One   the Whole
the Sacred
the Ordinary
feeling stuck
feelings of failing,        of dying
 waking up — feeling reborn
   focusing   on the self
confronting the   unconscious
the whole person
living in multiple       worlds
learning about     the world
feelings of success,     of the good life