The neglected object: A history of the concept of dreams in Polish psychiatry and psychology in the interwar period, 1918–1939

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences: “The neglected object: A history of the concept of dreams in Polish psychiatry and psychology in the interwar period, 1918–1939,” Jan Kornaj. Abstract:

The development of the concept of dreams in interwar Polish psychiatry and psychology was influenced by Western European concepts as well as by sociocultural factors of the newly independent state. Few Polish psychiatrists addressed the subject of dreams. They were influenced mainly by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic concept of dreams, but also by Alferd Adler’s, Carl Gustav Jung’s, and Wilhelm Stekel’s ideas. Nevertheless, they approached psychoanalysis critically. The most comprehensive concept of dreams in Polish psychiatry was oneiroanalysis by Tadeusz Bilikiewicz. Oneironalysis was a method of dream analysis based on psychoanalysis but it rejected the psychoanalytic method of free associations and challenged psychoanalytic approaches to the interpretation of dream symbols. Polish psychologists were even less interested in dreams than psychiatrists. Problems with dreams, the most elaborate psychological work by Stefan Szuman consisted of an outline of epistemological problems with general theories of dreams and a harsh critique of psychoanalysis. The neglect of the subject of dreams in Polish psychiatric society can be seen as connected with the social and professional reception of psychoanalysis in Poland. Psychoanalysis was met with opposition from conservative scholars and publicists presenting nationalistic and anti-Semitic attitudes. It was also criticized by the biologically oriented majority of psychiatrists of the Polish Psychiatric Association. In the case of psychology, the most influential Polish psychological school, Lvov-Warsaw School, promoted Brentanian intentionalism, introspection, and psychology of consciousness, therefore, leading to psychologists’ reluctance to explore unconscious states like dreams.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.