Wish fulfillment

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The biblical patriarch Jacob saw the ladder led to heaven, but Freud might have called it a phallic symbol.[1]

Wish fulfillment is the satisfaction of a desire through an involuntary thought process. Wish fulfillment can occur in dreams or in daydreams, in the symptoms of neurosis, or in the hallucinations of psychosis. This satisfaction is often indirect and requires interpretation to recognize.

Sigmund Freud coined the term (Wunscherfüllung) in 1900 in an early text titled The Interpretation of Dreams.

According to Freud, wish fulfillment occurs when unconscious desires are repressed by the ego and superego. This repression often stems from guilt and taboos imposed by society. Dreams are attempts by the unconscious to resolve some repressed conflict.[2]

Freud resisted subjecting his theories to scientific testing and verification, as did his followers.[3] Freud rejected evidence against his theory in what his critics describe as an unscientific fashion. A patient of his once said she had a dream in which she spent time with her mother-in-law, and complained that wish fulfillment did not explain this dream, as she found her mother-in-law quite unpleasant; Freud responded her real wish must have been to disprove his theory.[3] Freud's ideas about dream interpretation have been dropped as counterfactual or untestable by evidence-based psychologists in disciplines such as cognitive psychology.[3]


  1. ^ Schept, Susan (30 May 2007). "Jacob's Dream of a Ladder: Freudian and Jungian Perspectives". Psychological Perspectives. 50 (1): 113–121. doi:10.1080/00332920701319533. S2CID 170508153.
  2. ^ Sigmund, Freud. Die Traumdeutung [The Interpretation of Dreams] (in German). Leipzig, Vienna: Franz Deuticke.
  3. ^ a b c The History of Psychiatry (interview with Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman)