Dora's dream of being rescued from a burning house, told to Freud in late 1900. Swansea Science Festival event, 24th October 2020
A house was on fire. My father was standing beside my bed and woke me up. I dressed quickly. Mother wanted to stop and save her jewel-case; but Father said “I refuse to let myself and my two children be burnt for the sake of your jewel-case.” We hurried downstairs, and as soon as I was outside I woke up.
The above dream first occurred in 1898, when Dora was 15 years old and she was propositioned by an older married man who was a friend of the family and with whose wife, Frau K., Dora's father was having an affair. The dream occurred on each of the four nights following the proposition. The man was anonymised as Herr K. by Freud in his 1905 case study on Dora. Freud stated that the meaning of the dream was: ‘This man is persecuting me, he wants to force his way into my room. My “jewel-case” is in danger….’ The dream seems to depict Dora’s wish that she would be rescued from the danger by her father.
Dora, the pseudonym used by Freud for the young woman, now known to be Ida Bauer, then had the dream again a few weeks after starting psychoanalysis with Freud, near the end of 1900. For more details, see our chapter https://psyarxiv.com/379kz/.
At the top left of the painting Julia has depicted the spa town of Merano, where Dora / Ida lived with her family and where the K. family also lived. As occurs in our DreamsID events, for painting on, Julia chooses pages from Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams with regard to the shapes of the paragraphs, but then during the painting finds words on the page that are often uncannily relevant to the dream. Note the words ‘female genitals’ appearing twice under the jewel-case, ‘boyish’ in Dora’s brother’s head, ‘17’, at the bottom left, her age at starting to see Freud, ‘was night room in which dressing to go’, and, most eerie of all, ‘Fräulein K.’ in her mother’s head!
The aim of the Science Festival event was to look at the case study not in how it is often taken, as a criticism of Freud, but to emphasise solely the dream, Dora’s free-associations, and the historical events of Dora’s life, so as to honour her strength and life, and the poignant depiction by the dream of her life at that time. The words highlighted ‘deserves to be recorded in detail dream’, at the top right-hand side, are therefore relevant, as although there is much in dispute in the case study, we are grateful that the dream was recorded by Freud after she discussed it with him.
The event at which this dream was discussed was part of the Swansea Science Festival and had a large number of attendees worldwide online, and panel members from London (Dany Nobus), Harvard Medical School (Deirdre Barrett), Vienna (Brigitte Holzinger and Zora Wessely), Swansea, and, from Germany, writer Katharina Adler, author of the novel Ida, and great-grand-daughter of Dora / Ida Bauer.
The film of the event can be seen on our YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/ilbPU_TGeVg.
The film of the dream being read by Dr Brigitte Holzinger at the Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, which was Freud's apartment and offices where Dora / Ida first told the dream to Freud, can be seen on our YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/kkMMeSo1ndk.
Dr Julia Lockheart