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Dreams and Psychology


Psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams  was published at the beginning of 1900 and the 20th Century. The book was not initially popular and even among psychoanalysts the techniques were not as well developed as those of transference and defense analysis.  Still, the publication marks the re-entry of dreams into mainstream culture after centuries of neglect.

 It is true that dreams were used by mystics throughout the ages and even studied scientifically by aristocratic gentlemen in the 19th Century, but in general, they had been suppressed as useful or meaningful for nearly a thousand years. Sigmund Freud saw dreams as protecting sleep, and even more, as protecting our deepest desires and fears. By connecting dreams to the operations of the unconscious, he assured their connection to psychology over the next century of development.

Jungians and C.G. Jung

Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung broke away from Freud and the Psychoanalytic Society to start a more humanistic and imaginal approach to psychology.  The Jungian Analytical School saw dreams as part of a natural process of healing and wholeness that was leading us towards our own individuation and unique being. They developed a rich body of literature which has deeply influenced the Dream Movement and continues to explore the meaning and value of dreams through mythology, symbols, archetypes, personality types and many esoteric systems that engage us through our imagination and soul.

Mythology and Dreams

Some say that dreams are personal myths and myths are cultural dreams. In modern dreamwork myths are ancient stories from a culture's sacred history that are revived as modern metaphors which can amplify and deepen our use and understanding of dream imagery.

For understanding how ancient myths can significantly enhance one's life, I highly recommend Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces. It is also a wonderful introduction to mythology and especially as it is used by Jungians. For a little more his series I suggest the Masks of God. All these have recently been re-released and are readily available.
There are two wonderful video collections now on Joseph Campbell, the most popular is an interview style with Bill Moyers called the Power of Myth and the other is a longer class like presentation called Transformations of Myth through Time. They are readily available in North America at local video stores for rental as well. I suggest with both of these that you have your dreams ready as you read or watch them!

To begin you online search of Joseph Campbellology, try the Joseph Campbell Home page. Great for bibliography as well as classes, seminars and foundation issues.

Another great beginning mythology series is by the late Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas which traces the great mysteries from the Stone age through Christianity. Highly recommended.

Self Guided Field Trip: If you are familiar with how to access Usenet, I suggest that you take a trip to alt.mythology, where there is an attempt to re-interpret mythology in modern day meanings. I feel there is a slight bias toward the light and New Age thought, and often it becomes a place to argue about Dungeons and Dragons issues, but beyond this is a developing community of myth concerned individuals focused on the patterns of meaning and value through myths and mythic symbols.

If you want to explore the world of mythology via the web, I suggest starting with Yahoo Mythology.  A great place to find a collection of resources on mythology not only on the web, but individual mail lists dealing with various cultural mythologies.
For an update on the latest sites and information, be sure to check the ED Dream Resources as well as the latest issues of The Global Dreaming News Online Articles on dreams and dreaming are indexed at the ED Dream Library .


Early Twentieth Century Dreamwork besides Freud and Jung

The dream traditions of Freud and Jung seem to have had the largest influence on the modern dream work movement, but they have not been the only influences. The idea of the unconscious was not as popular in America as in Europe and the works that de-emphasized the role of the unconscious gained popularity and influence. This is especially seen in the Existential movement which appealed to the American spirit of free will and self determination. But before the Human Potential movement and its influence on dream sharing, there where a variety of Continnental influences that are hard to characterize as a group, and include Medard Boss, Andre Breton and Alfred Adler.

Alfred Adler & Dream Styles

"The whole personality is expressed by night and by day. "
A. Adler , 1929, pg 171

If we can characterize desire in Freud as erotically oriented, and desire in Jung as wholeness oriented, then we can say in Adler that desire is oriented to overcoming early feelings of inferiority. These feelings stem from the beginning of life, dependent and small, and evolve as we find ways of overcoming these feelings of inferiority and becoming productive.

Adler made a few mistakes in his assessment of dreams and the modern Adlerians have tried to correct these views. For example, Adler felt that the more psychologically healthy individual would not dream. Now we feel that the amount of dreaming is unrelated to psychopathology. But in general, the idea that dreams produce feelings that can lead us to act upon life and live better is continued. Also, that the inferiorities we suffer in life are also seen in dreams and thereby create a continuum between wake and sleep were these issues can be experimented with, safely played with and changed in cooperation with the waking self.

Dasien-analysis as developed by Medard Boss

It is the *surface* of the dream image itself that is presented to us in our waking memory that Boss find so interesting. And in his Dasein-analysis he sticks with the surface of the dream and allows the patient to unfold his or her process as it unfolds. The most famous example, and the one that is used by one of Boss' modern proponents, Erik Craig, is the dream series of an engineer. The dreams evolved over a three year period from near dreamlessness, to prisons, to mechanical dreams of turbines, cars and planes, to plants and animals to real human beings. All of this by "simply" having the patient bracket out thoughts and feelings and imaginings that are not directly presented immediately in the dream and returning to descriptions of the image itself.

Surrealism and Dreams

For many of us, when Surrealism is mentioned the image that generally come to mind is the liquid melting clocks of Salvador Dali. But In Europe, Surrealism was also a social , political, and poetic human liberation movement that championed the dream.

Like the Romantics before them, the Surrealists saw that the reasonable and rational held out a limited view for mankind, and that rationality, reality and religion had so choked our options for experience that all the marvels and significance of being were missed. Andre Breton, the father of Surrealism within the Modernist movement, drew together this Romantic spirit with the new leftist politics and the discoveries of psychoanalysis. "(Reality) revolves in a cage from which from which release is becoming increasingly difficult." (Brenton as quoted by Kelly, 1994)

The solution was the development of practices that challenged the old order and offered the new in the cast out forms of madness, social anarchy, disobedience, the shocking and the absurd. However, this anarchy was never anything more than a temporary technique for merging the social and the aesthetic, the dayworld and the nightworld the sane with the insane. Waking and dreaming reality were to come together in Surreality.

From Couch to Culture

The middle of the twentieth century saw great wars and destruction. Therapy shifted from long term inner exploration to ways of reconstructing the individual in his/her society in a meaningful way. Well know names in social psychology  emerged, including  Horney, Kelman, Robbins, Fromm, Sullivan and Erickson. In dreamwork, the most active social therapists included  Walter Bonime and Montegue Ullman. Bonime rescued dreams from mere biological instincts and placed them within the context of human relations and Ullman released the interpretation of them from the therapist's office and placed the task within the context of general social relations.

The re-assessment of imagination in psychotherapy had been developing for sometime.
This trend may be seen in the proliferation of research and articles on the value of manifest over latent dream material. This came from and combined with the larger re-evaluation of the primary process, or imaginative thinking as a useful adaptive tool rather than as a defensive maneuver. With the social psychologists, imagination and creativity at the level of group and social interaction is explored.

These psychologists set the stage for the explosion of dreamwork that would occur in the 1960's.

Gestalt and Dreams

At the now famous 1960's Big Sur retreat center in Esalen, California, there developed in the 1960's a whole set of techniques that are now part and parcel of the dreamwork movement. From taking every part of the dream as a piece of one's self to putting the dream on an empty chair and asking it directly what it was about, Perls and the Gestalt movement made dreamwork popular in a way it had never before seen. Although much of the work has now been toned down, the dreamwork movement continues to make contact with its past and draw strength from a time when groups were struggling to get through the layers of "bullshit" to the core and essence of a full life.


Bodywork and Dreams

Many of the popular techniques used in grassroots and peer group dreamwork have evolved in part from the body based psychologies of people like Arnold Mindell and Eugene Gendlin. Each of these therapists have developed techniques that can be useful outside of therapy for insight and life enhancement.

Grassroots Dreamwork

By the 1960's ideas and practices were emerging that were taking the dreamwork beyond its role as a healing tool for therapy.  Anthropology was reporting that indigenous cultures shared dreams naturally as a part of everyday life. Shamanic and esoteric religious practices were aligning themselves with dream traveling to places beyond the commonplace. Parapsychologists were finding dreams were a useful way to explore telepathy and other psi events. Lucid and conscious dreaming were emerging as a new sub-field of dream studies. Transpersonal groups began exploring dreaming beyond the ego. Churches began having dream groups. Groups were experimenting with a wide variety of practices with dreams in these social, psychic, spiritual and imaginal realms that would in turn begin influencing the ways dream therapy would be conducted in the late Twentieth Century.   For more on the development of grassroots dreamwork see the Dream Library's Dreamwork page.


Topics and issues in Psychology and Dreams

Nightmares:  see Dreamwork/Nightmares
REM and Dream Science: see Dream Science
Ethics: see Dreamwork/Ethics
Non-clinical dreamwork: See Dreamwork
Education and Training: see Education
Organizations : See Organizations

Learn more about all of these therapy schools and how they worked with dreams in the online course from DreamGate : The History of Dreams

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