One of Sigmund Freud’s core theories relates to the idea of Wish Fullfilment. It is an interesting idea that ties in with a famous case regarding someone he referred to as “Dora”.

Freud suggests that wishes play an important role in a person’s emotional state. Therefore, his beliefs suggest that wishes are very important in mental health.

What is Wish Fulfillment according to Freud?

Wish fulfillment refers to the satisfaction of a desire through a thought process that a person doesn’t actually control – it is involuntary.

Freud suggested that wish fulfillment can take place in normal dreams, daydreams, during mental disturbances like psychosis, or any other mental health condition for that matter.

The process of wish fulfillment

Freud argued that wish fulfillment takes place when the unconscious desires that a person have are repressed by the ego and superego – tying in with Freud’s theory of the mind.

Freud proposed that the unconscious mind attempts to resolve this repressed conflict by using dreams.

Freud’s Case of Dora

“Dora” is the pseudonym given by Sigmund Freud to a patient that he had diagnosed with Hysteria – a condition which is now known as a Somatic Disorder. The account of this event was told in Peter Gay’s book Freud: A Life for Our Time [1].

At the time, Dora lived with her parents – whose marriage was going through a tumultuous time. Also, another couple – Named Herr K and Frau K – lived with Dora and her parents.

Dora alleged that Herr K made a sexual advance on her – something Herr K denied. Dora’s father didn’t believe her, and he decided to take her to Freud for therapy.

Freud entered the therapy with an open mind. Dora told Freud that she believed his father was having close relations with Frau K – and was therefore trying to help Herr K on the orders of his wife Frau K.

Freud initially accepted Dora’s account, which helped her to find her voice in therapy more. But Freud went further, and suggested that Dora should accept that she had also played a role in the problems that the family were going through.

Freud based this on the analysis of dreams during therapy. First, Dora had a dream where her house was fire. In this dream, Dora’s father woke her up, while the mother wanted to stop and save her jewellery. Yet the father refused to let himself and two children perish because of her jewellery. In the dream, they all made it of the house alive, when Dora then woke up.

The second dream that was discussed lasted for a longer time. In this dream, Dora was walking in a town that she didn’t know. Yet then Dora entered the house she lived in. Upon entering, she found that a letter was left that said that because Dora had left the house without her parents being unaware, that her mother had decided not to tell her that her father was ill.

The letter went on to say that Dora’s father is now dead. Dora was going to the station to try and see them, but the train she intended to catch never arrived. She walked to a thick woods in the dream, and a man told her she would need to wait for two an a half hours.

Dora reported how she felt very anxious, and that she had a feeling as if she couldn’t move on. Then she was back home suddenly, before a maid appeared to tell Dora that her mother and the others were already at the cemetery. Dora soon awoke.

Freud believed these dreams were linked to Dora’s sex life. Freud proposed that Jewellery referred to hr virginity – that the father was failing to protect her from Herr K, but that the mother was trying in vain to help her.

Then Freud interpreted the railway station in the second dream as a comparable symbol. But his suggestions that Dora had a part to play in the family’s issues created problems.

Dora reacted furiously to Freud’s suggestion, and abruptly finished the treatment. This left Freud disappointed – and he considered the therapy to me a total failure.

Freud believed that Dora was repressing a desire for her father, a desire for Herr K, and a desire for Frau K. Freud argued that Dora’s hysteria was arising as a result of her jealousy towards the relationship between Frau K and her father, along with the mixed feelings she had in regards to Herr K’s sexual approach to her.

Despite Freud believing that the case had been a failure, he considered it to be an important case in terms of developing his theories.


Freud was criticised for never properly testing out his wish fulfillment theory. His findings with “Dora” are certainly interesting to analyse.

Freud’s theory of wish fulfillment was one of several theories the Austrian neurologist had. You can read more about Freud by clicking here.

See Also


This website should be used purely for informational purposes, and does not intend to, nor should it ever, be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.

We strive to keep all of our pages updated, and ensure that our website is full of factual and in-depth information. However, we encourage you to browse this website with care.

As a reminder, this website and all content within it cannot and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional. You can read our full disclaimer at this link.


If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.


[1] Gay, P (1989). Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.