Irma’s Injection and the Emergence of the Analyst by Carole Niquet


The dream, “Irma’s Injection” (1) is described by Lacan as “the initial dream, the dream of dreams, the inaugurally deciphered dream”. (2) In the Traumdeutung, Freud returns very often to it “every time he needs to get his bearings”. This dream completes its analysis through the keystone of interpretation, namely, “after complete interpretation, the entire dream is revealed as the fulfillment of a desire”. (3) What desire is it about, in this particular case?

This dream is realized “at a highpoint of his creative capacity” at a “stage in the development of Freud’s ego, an ego which has a right to a certain respect, for it is that of a great creator”. (4) Freud insists that this dream is decisive, writing to Fliess in the year 1900 that “one day perhaps there will be inscribed, on the threshold of the house in the country at Bellevue where the dream took place – In this house on July 24th, 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigmund Freud”.(5)
What this dream reveals is that Fliess is starting to fall from his position as a subject supposed to know. This dream occurs on the very day Freud begins to write his Project for a Scientific Psychology (on July 23, 1895, according to a letter from Freud to Fliess) – in other words, when he really begins to assume his theoretical autonomy by an attempt to formalize the psychic apparatus. The Other is no longer flawless and can be mistaken. If there is guilt in the dream of Irma, it is from undermining the knowledge that he had supposed Fliess had, the belief in Fleiss to the point of passing his speech before his own. This dream thus marks the beginning of Freud’s emancipation from Fliess, and therefore the advent of Freud as psychoanalyst.
But this dream does not make Freud a master for all that. As Lacan imagined Freud to say, “(…) I am not the creator. The creator is someone greater than I. It is my unconscious, it is this voice which speaks in me, beyond me. That is the meaning of this dream.”(6)

Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis

1 Freud, S., The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud Paris, Vol. IV, (1900), The Interpretation of Dreams (First Part), Vintage, 2001, p. 106.
2 Lacan, J., “The Dream of Irma’s Injection”, Seminar, Book II, The Ego in Freud’s Theory and the Technique of Psychoanalysis, tr. S. Tomaselli, Cambridge Press, 1988, p. 147.
3 Freud, S., L’interprétation du rêve, op. cit.
4 Lacan, J., “The Dream of Irma’s Injection”, Seminar, Book II, The Ego in Freud’s Theory, op. cit., p. 148.
5 Ibid., p. 150.
6 Ibid., pp. 170-1.