Donald Meltzer saw psychoanalysis as ‘a forcing house for symbol formation’; and by symbols, he meant autonomous symbols such as, primarily, dreams, in the context of their containment by the psychoanalytic setting and the transference–countertransference. Meltzer thought Freud’s theory of ‘day residue’ and ‘decoding’ was inadequate and his theory that the function of dreams was to keep the dreamer asleep was strangely offbeam – Meltzer says he could not possibly have believed; it followed from his neurophysiological model, rather than from his practice. Psychoanalysis has always been concerned with symbol formation but again, the definition has progressed from an equation between symbols and signs to that of autonomous symbols as containers for meaning, evolving within a particular emotional situation. In a paper on ‘Symbol and allegory’, Meltzer gives dream-examples from the same patient to illustrate the difference between creative and fixed symbol formation. The dreams are not only symbols in themselves, they are about symbol formation.