The “Interpretation of Dreams” reports nearly twenty dreams about children, including infants through a thirteen year old. Some taken literally, others inferred from, others recalled. The compilation ranges from the oral drive to the phallic phase (the thirteen year old boy and his devil’s dream). But almost all of them speak about orality, leaving a ‘residue’ in relation to ‘need’ which they refer to in manifestation. This residue leads, should lead, to unconscious desire.
The parents’ desire manifests itself in certain techniques of power: ‘Make the child believe he is being loved, and let him infer that because of this love he is omnipotent.’
The issue addresses the child up against its parents’ immortality , the child becomes the slave of the desire of the other. Destiny will even be that last avatar. What else does infancy in Freud imply? The so called infantile dreams (adults also have them) show that desire is ignored in the ‘request.’ The subject dreams about attaining his request, so desire stays bound to the Other. The infant doesn’t desire ‘as’ Other, nor does he desire the desiring one who he ‘is’ in the Other, but rather he dreams of being loved by a desire which would be the Other’s. This is the reality of seduction, the limit to the impossible seduction of the Real: there is Freud’s discovery concerning fantasy.
What distinction does Freud make between girls and boys? In narrated dreams looms a fundamental one: girls desire the disappearance (death) of their mother, and boys desire the disappearance (death) of their father.
Freud says :
The dreams of young children are frequently pure wishfulfilments and for that reason quite uninteresting compared with the dreams of adults. They raise no problems for solution; but on the other hand they are of inestimable importance in proving that, in their essential nature, dreams represent fulfilments of wishes. I have been able to collect a few instances of such dreams from material provided by my own children 1
Children, in general, serve the purpose of ‘demonstrating’ that the complicated dreams of adults ‘also’ are an attainment of desires.
Later in the same chapter, a clarifying footnote appears:
The fact shouId be mentioned that children soon begin to have more complicated and less transparent dreams, and that on the other hand, adults, in certain circumstances often have dreams of a similarly simple, infantile character.2
The opposition between the complex and the simple, then, substitutes for the ‘temporal’ difference between the infantile and the adult. However, temporality accedes through another entrance: a simple dream is always the attainment of a ‘current’ desire; a complicated dream is the attainment of a ‘bygone’ desire. Thus children, as much as adults, may dream of both current and bygone desires. The infantile feature of a dream concerns the predominant actuality in the desire being attained. Still we should remember that a current desire lends its representations to the attainment of a bygone desire lacking its own representations, and that no single dream responds ‘solely’ to a current desire.
What is actual in a dream? The day’s residues. In some dreams only a small detail allows for the sliding to another ‘time’ in the connection of representations, whereas others remain foreign to the day’s residues from which they depart. Freud relates this to the displacement of desire’s intensities in the chains of representations. Yet, isn’t displacement desire itself, since it’s Symbolic? Desire in fact displaces itself, provided that it doesn’t find an ‘object’ which amounts to supposed ‘satisfaction’ neatly responding to a particular request.
The fact that what is longed for during the day should appear fulfilled in the dream suggests the desire’s displacement of this desire. In this sense, simple dreams (of both adults and children) seem to be the disappearance of desire in the satisfaction of the requirement. Could ‘infantile’ possibly mean alienation of desire in the object? In the chapter cited above, Freud states:
A closer study of the mental life of children has taught us, to be sure, that sexual instinctual forces, in infantile form, play a large enough part, and one that has been too long overlooked, in the psychical activity of children. Closer study, too, has given us grounds for feeling some doubt in regard to the happiness of childhood as it has been constructed by adults in retrospect.3
Isn’t it the same ‘attribute’ Freud introduces regarding to infantile dreams which would ‘delight’ in easily finding an object that attains desire? Apparently so, because it simultaneous denies the alleged infantile happiness and the supposed simplicity of its dreams, (by saying adults ‘also’ have infantile dreams and, transitively, children sometimes have adult dreams).
It is in a girl — not in a boy — where Freud finds that the paternal metaphor dissolves the alleged simplicity of a desire which may find its object ‘reproduced’ from the ones offered to the diurnal appetency of requirements. By chance this girl is his daughter:
If I may include words spoken by children in their sleep under the heading of dreams, I can at this point quote one of the most youthfull dreams in my whole collection. My youngest daughter, then nineteen months old, had had an attack of vomiting one morning and had consequently been kept without food all day. During the night after this day of starvation she was heard calling out excitedly in her sleep: Anna Fweud, stwawbewwies, wild stwawbewwies, omblet, pudden!4
What about this scansion of the name where the object of necessity, reverts to the oral drive? Freud comments:
At that time she was in the habit of using her own name to express the idea of taking possession of something. The menu included pretty well everything that must have seemed to her to make up a desirable meal.5
But we know that this ‘menu,’ from the metaphor of cannibalism, contains Freud himself as father. Anna Swaawbewwy’s Fweud, Fweud Wild Stawawbewwy of Anna: the objects (stawawbewwies, wild stawawbewwies, omblet, pudden) ‘hallucinated’ in this dream are ‘not’ satisfaction, but rather the fruit ‘repeated as rebellion’ against the eating prohibition.
We know little about the oral phase in relation to the invoking drive (so explicit in this dream), even if Freud would correlate this phase with the constitution of the paternal metaphor (indeed, of metaphor itself).
Eat/be eaten metaphorizes, for Freud, in a relation to the father function, while he turns to M. Klein’s constellation to describe the relation of nutrition (mother-child).
Orality, as autoerotic satisfaction, introduces the drive through frequent sucking activity. How can we show that it concerns the relation to the mother? ‘Incorporation’ may be scopic; it can occur through breathing (“The Wolf Man”).
In The Language of Psychychoanalysis, Laplanche and Pontalis totally omit the normal relation between the oral phase and the incorporation of the father. The term ‘cannibalistic’ slides towards the signification Abraham, and later M. Klein and Bertrand Lewin granted to it. The connection between cannibalism and the constituting of (paternal) metaphor disappears, and the theory revolves around the Imaginary ternary of the relation mother-child and a (gratifying/frustrating) object which obturates the connection to the phallic signifier as absence of object and connection to the Symbolic ternary of the father function.
Desire will then be only actual: requirement and satisfaction or absence of satisfaction. The mother who comes and goes through the Imaginary space ‘must’ control her comings and goings in accordance with a child no longer subject of the Fort-Da, subject(ed) by the Fort- Da.
If full power is on the mother’s side, full responsibility will also be on her side: the necessary strawberries and omelettes, without a name articulating in the scansion of the ‘menu.’
The girls of the eyes
In the various dreams of girls, Freud seems sure that the death's desire towards the mother comes from the exclusive place the mother occupies, which the girl would like to occupy. This desire expresses itself also in an oral manner: ‘feed the father.’
In “Dreams of Death of Persons of whom the Dreamer is Fond” Freud writes:
An eight year old girl of my acquaintance, if her mother is called away from the table, makes use of the occasion to proclaim herself her successor: I am going to be Mummy now. Do you want some more greens, Karl? Well, help yourself, then! and so on.6
None the less Freud specifies that this girl especially loves her mother. Next, he turns to the dream of a psychotic girl who desires her mother’s death.
Her illness began with a state of confusional excitement during which she displayed a quite special aversion to her mother, hitting and abusing her whenever she came near her bed, while at the same period she was docile and affectionate towards her sister who was many years her senior. This was followed by a state in which she was lucid but somewhat apathetic and suffered from badly disturbed sleep. It was during this phase that I began treating her and analysing her dreams. An inmense number of these dreams were concerned with a greater or less degree of disguise, with the death of her mother: at one time she would be attending an old woman’s funeral, at another she and her sister would be sitting at table dressed in mourning.7
Hence Freud concludes the love of hysterics for their mothers, inasmuch as it is exaggerated, conceals this death desire manifested in dementia. Yet, notice, there are three women and no men in this dementia. And the girl who feeds her father is not demented.
Does a father ‘to wait on’ constitute a normal girl, the same way the absence of this father makes a mad one?
1 Freud: The child jouit playing with words. / Klein: The child becomes anxious when associating words
2 Freud: The oral phase deals with the father’s incorporation. / Klein: The oral phase deals with the mother’s incorporation.
3 Freud: The girl envies the penis. / Klein: The boy envies the bosom.
4 Freud: Woman’s libido is masculine. / Klein: Man desires to give birth as woman.
5 Freud: Excrement is a present the child gives his mother. / Klein: Excrement is the sadic weapon to attack the mother.
6 Freud: Drive has no object. / Klein: Through maturation drive attains a total object.
7 Freud: Maternity is a symptom (child=phallus). / Klein: Maternity is the fulfilment of woman.
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