Despite my repeated requests, my psychoanalyst refuses to explain to me my dreams. Does this seem normal to you? Gisèle Z., Mulhouse
It's not only normal, but inevitable. No analyst can "explain" their dreams to his patients.
The dream is a kind of coded message that sends us the unconscious. It resembles those that Radio London was passing on the air during the war: there are always two levels. That of appearance (the dream seems to tell a coherent story) that, following Freud, we call the "manifest content", hides another, the "latent content". It can only be accessed after a long decoding process. The problem is that the code used by the dream is particular to each dreamer, but also to each dream of each dreamer. So there is no "key dreams". The same cupboard can mean a thousand different things depending on the dream in which it appears.
This is why the psychoanalyst does not know the meaning of a dream. He can only encourage his patient to "work" on it, that is, to "associate" (say) what each of its elements (words, names, objects, colors, etc.) can evoke for him: "It reminds me of ..." We thus obtain a sum of "associations" which are like so many pieces of a gigantic puzzle. It is rare that they allow to "interpret" a dream completely. Sometimes she draws an understandable beginning of the outline. Sometimes they are too sparse for a meaning to appear.
Anyway, the work done on a dream makes it possible for others to arise and that, little by little, from dream to dream, and from needy decoding to needy decoding, we end up approaching memories and thoughts buried in the unconscious.
Psychoanalyst, author of "To speak is to live" (NiL, 1997), Claude Halmos responds each month to four letters selected from an abundant mail, of which we publish extracts.