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Dream Analysis

However, Freud was cautious about symbols and stated that general symbols are more personal rather than universal. A person cannot interpret what the manifest content of a dream symbolized without knowing about the person’s circumstances.

‘Dream dictionaries’, which are still popular now, were a source of irritation to Freud. In an amusing example of the limitations of universal symbols, one of Freud’s patients, after dreaming about holding a wriggling fish, said to him ‘that’s a Freudian symbol – it must be a penis!’

Freud explored further, and it turned out that the woman’s mother, who was a passionate astrologer and a Pisces, was on the patient’s mind because she disapproved of her daughter being in analysis. It seems more plausible, as Freud suggested, that the fish represented the patient’s mother rather than a penis!