The pavor nocturnus of children and the night terror of adults, each of which can be defined broadly as an awak ening in fright from a severe nightmare, represent expres sions of anxiety of an intensity rarely witnessed directly in daytime intercourse, still less often in the analytic consulting room. Until the development of laboratory dream research in the mid-1950s, when for the first time the student of dreams had direct access to the sleeper and accordingly an opportu nity to investigate his physiological experience at first hand and his psychological experience as reported immediately upon awakening, psychoanalytic commentators on night terror and pavor nocturnus had to rely largely on anecdotal reports from diverse sources and the impressionistic ac counts of their own patients. The latter accounts, apparently in keeping with the traumatic nature of the nocturnal epi-
42 Chapter 1
sode and the amount of time intervening between the occurrence and its report, generally provided but meager descriptions of the content of the nightmare preceding the attack. Even when the elicited content was more substantial, it was of a type rather different from that of the wish fulfilling dreams that are the staple of the psychoanalytic interpretive method. Content was straightforward, if invari ably sensational, and showed little of the elaborate and bizarre visual imagery and fantastic wordplay of the wish fulfilling dream, in apparent support of Freud's (1920) claim that traumatic nightmares were an exception to the wish fulfilling nature of dreams. These accounts further suggested relatively little remembrance on the part of the patient of the attack itself-a retrograde amnesia, as it were, for events witnessed at first hand by parents, siblings, and spouses, and including, in the severest cases, bloodcurdling screams and somnambulism. Psychoanalysis, then, so largely con cerned with the problem of neurosis, was practically impo tent to examine one of the most striking expressions of the affect par excellence of neurosis, anxiety.