WON FROM THE VOID AND FORMLESS INFINITE: EXPERIENCES OF SOCIAL DREAMING
by W. Gordon Lawrence
The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness ma y extend. For all ego-consciousness is isolated: it separates and discriminates, knows only particulars, and sees only what can be related to the ego. Its essence is limitation, though it reach to the farthest nebulae among the stars. All consciousn ess sepa rates, but in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more external man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from pure nature and bare of all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises, be it never so childish, grotesque, and immoral. So flowerlike is it in its candour and veracity that it makes us blush for the deceitfulness of our lives.
(Jung, 1953, p.46)
THE BLIND ARCHITECT DREAM
The dream was of being at a dinner party in the paris apartment of friends. During it a visitor arrived from the provinces. He had to get to a new cathedral because he was involved in its construction and I seemed to be the only person who knew wher e it was. He was very insistent that he go by taxi as he had travelled a long distance by train that day. I went down to the street with him where the taxi was waiting and gave precise instructions to the driver. It was only later in the dream when talking with the fellow guests that I realized that the stranger was a blind architect. I remember thinking in the dream, `Who would employ a blind architect?’ A deaf composer is possible. Beethoven proved that. But a blind architect?
The dream occurred in Belgium in the autumn of 1990 at the beginning of a conference which included `social dreaming’ as an activity. The next day I offered the dream to my colleagues during what is called the Social Dreaming Matrix. Among the associations to the dream was the suggestion that I was the blind architect of social dreaming in that I found a space for thinking about dreaming which no one had used before. What was to be in that space was in the process of being discovered by those who take part in this activity called social dreaming.
In outlining the development of social dreaming the difference between `discovery’ and `invention’ is worth clarifying. Invention connotes a completed innovation that is tangible or definable, like a steam engine or a concept such as `social class’. An invention can only be improved through modification. Its essence cannot be altered or it is a new invention. Discovery is different in that it leads to more and more disclosures and revelations as long as there are people to experience and perceive.
A tighter distinction has been offered by my colleague David Armstrong who referred me to the book The Emperor’s New Mind by Roger Penrose. In it Penrose discusses computers, minds and the laws of physic, and asks if mathematics is an invention or a discovery. He argues that mathematicians are really discovering truths which are independent of th e mathematician’s existe nce because they are already `there’. The examples he gives are of such structures as the Mandelbrot set and complex numbers.
He discriminates between discovery and invention by saying that discoveries:
are the cases where much more comes out of the structure than is put into it in the first place. One may take the view that in such cases the mathematicians have stumbled upon `works of God’. However there are other cases where the mathematical structure does not have such a compelling uniqueness, such as when, in the midst of a proof of some result, the mathematician finds the need to introduce some contrived and far from unique construction in order to achieve some very specific end. In such cases no more is likely to come out of the construction t han was put into it in the first place, and the word `invention’ seems more appropriate than `discovery’. These are indeed just `works of man’. (Penrose, 1989, pp. 96-7)
To illustrate succinctly: Frued did not invent `transference’; he discovered it.
But how does a discovery generate revelations by others? Bion writes to the effect that if we are to get beyond `memory and desire’ – the memory of past experiences and insights and the desire for particular kinds of experience – we have to experience a `blindness’ because that is how we discover what is already there but has never been lodged here in our ken. Bion, in his second Brazilian lectures, says that Freud, in correspondence with Lou Andreas Salome, wrote `that when he was investigating a very dark subject he sometimes found it illuminating to investigate it by artificially blinding himself (italics ad ded). Bion goes on to say that perhaps Milton’s blindness was induced by the unconscious need to be so in order that he could investigate `those things invisible to man’ which he reveals in Book III of Paradise Lost. This idea of artificially blinding oneself, which is a creative posture, is a key element of the capacity to be available for discovery (Bion, 1975, pp.62-3). Such a posture is one that yields the kind of original and intense insights that are `Won from the void and formless infinite’.
A gloss on this notion of blindness and creativity would be the deafness of Beethoven. While his deafness made him irascible and had a bad effect on his personal relationships, it had the opposite effect on his capacity to compose. Anthony Storr in his book The School of Genius quotes from a study of Beethoven.
`In his deaf world, Beethoven could exp eriment with new forms of experience, free from the intrusive sounds of the external environment; free from the rigidities of the material world; free, like the dreamer to combine and recombine the stuff of reality, in accordance with his desires, into previously undreamed-of forms and structures.’ (Solomon, 1978, quoted in Storr, 1988, p.52)
Social dreaming, it is being postulated, has been a discovery. To discover the dimensions of the conceptual space in which to locate social dreaming it has been necessary, first, to blind oneself to conventional and received opinions about the ways to understand or interpret dreams; to experience dreams as phenomena in their own right; to rid oneself of a priori frameworks for limiting the n ature of dreams. In this I have not always been successful.
Second, the sense of experimenting with `new forms of experience’ has been possible through David Armstrong who read drafts of this paper to make links and associations to the ideas I was offering which generated further thoughts. We continue to discover the text and so to give voice to thoughts unspoken.
What I offer here is a description of a method of working with dreams which is in the making. As Yet I do not fully understand what I am doing but as I am joined by more and more colleagues at times I get glimpses. And I am only at the stage of making notes. so to speak, towards a conceptualization; formulating `visions or dreams of conclusions’ to borrow a phrase from Robert Jay Lifton. What is written here is exploratory and the reader may well discover more than I have.
EXPERIENCES TOWARDS A DISCOVERY
There is a particular form of education which uses the capacity to learn directly from experience both the conscious and unconscious processes of being in group life. It stems from the work of Wilfred R. Bion (1961) on experiences in groups. Like anyone who has been involved in understanding the unconscious life of institutions in this Bion tradition, I have had the experiences of hearing a dream that belonged to the group because it spoke in some way to the emergent life of it. With such dremas I had always been very cautious, not wanting to devalue them in any way by naive or wild interpretation. But always I felt inadequate to work with them and any associations that I might have had I thought to be pedestrian. I called these group dreams and sometim es, in my mind, `social’ dreams.
This was because I had learned, in some measure, to work with dreams in my own psychoanalysis and so I was predisposed to see dreams as being a personal possession. Whatever the penumbral associations I might have they were centred on myself and my past an d present life and, as I recall, arose from the sense of deadness of any analysand. Probably like most other analysands. I can still remember the dream I brought for my first session. Anything more I had read on dreams confirmed me in the view that dreams were a gift from the unconscious to be interpreted in personal terms.
Nevertheless, like anyone who has read anthropological texts, I was fascinated by the way that so-called primitive peoples made use of their dreams. The people of the Kalahari desert, written about by Laurens van der Post, were able to use their dreams to illumine their daily lives and vice versa.
On a trip to Taiwan in 1985 I found through the Maryknoll missionaries that the aborigines of Taiwan told fortunes by means of dreams. In fact, the practice of oneiromancy was common for gauging the future or assessing misfortune in daily life. When tribes went hunting, head-hunting, or had a particular religious service, the plan or atart was made when the chief, the priest or the initiator had a good dream. If a hunter had a bad dream started the hunt started he was either sent home or the party all rested until someone dreamt a good one. All the key events in life, such as marrying, opening up new land, building a house, were decided by means of oneiromancy. Illness too was treated by such means.
The Taiwan aboriginal tribes used their dreams so frequently that they had a taxonomy of good and evil dreams. For example, to dream of the sea was to predict that there would be good crops. To be cut by others or to fall into water was an evil dream. :To dream of a fresh cut-off head on the eve of head-hunting was a good dream, as was the dream of having pleasure in sexual intercourse. To dream of having to clean the toilet meant that there would be no game on the next hunt.
There is a long history of using in Western civilizations but this use has tended to be viewed as being superstitious and unscientific. The book for interpreting dreams, of which there have been many over the centuries, were designed for those whose lives were dictated by fate, chance and hardship. They are still available in various forms and tend to be dictionaries of dream symbolism.
An exception was the work of the Marquis de Saint-Denys who published in 1867 Les Rêves et les mouens de les diriger. This resulted from his study of dreams from the age of thirteen. His interest was what was later to be called `lucid dreaming’ which is the same as the techniques employed by the Tibetan Yogis. Rereading the book recently I was struck by how ordinary he makes dreaming and how contemporary sounding is his thinking as he writes about memory and dreams, the association of ideas, how to guide dreams, and transformations and transitions in dreams.
Among all these scattered pieces of information there were two facts I held in my mind: the dream that is offered in a group which is beyond the individual dreamer’s personal life and which speaks to the life of the group; also the accounts of the use of dreams by primitive peoples. I vaguely felt there had to be a connection between the two but it was beyond me.
In addition, I had been very impressed by the experience of having visions about political events which Jung describes in the U book Memories, Dreams, Reflections<-” . There he recounts that towards the summer of 1913 he felt himself to be in a state of pressure. The source of this pressure he perceived as existing in concrete reality and not coming psychically from himself. He goes on to say:
In October while I was alone on a journey, I was suddenly seized by an overpowering vision: I saw a monstrous flood covering all the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. When it came up to Switzerland I saw that the mountains grew higher and higher to protect our country. I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood. The vision lasted about an hour. I was perplexed and nauseated, and ashamed of my weakness. (Jung, 1964, p. 169)
This vision recurred leading Jung to conclude that he was `menaced by psychosis’. Because of this perception, if he was asked by others about the political future of Europe, he could only reply that he did not have any thoughts on the matter.
In the spring and summer of 1914 he had three repetitions of a dream in which Europe was covered in ice as a result of Arctic cold. The cold, as he put it, `descended from out of the cosmos’. The end of the dream was of everything flowering in the land and there was a profusion of grapes which he proceeded to disturb to a large crowd.
In July 1914 he was invited by the British Medical Association to give lecture in Aberdeen `On the Importance of the Unconscious in Psychopathology’. He says that as a result of this invitation, importance in itself, he was prepared for something fateful to happen because it came when he was bombarded by such visions and dreams. As a consequence his life-work became defined.
On 1st August the world was broke out. Now my task was clear: I had to understand what had happened and to what extent my own experience coincided with mankind in general. Therefore my first obligation was to probe the depths of my own psyche. (Jung, 1964, p. 170)
If any justification is needed for listening to the messages of one’s visions and dreams it is there in Jung’s experiences.
By chance – or serendipity or providence or whatever – the fourth fact presented itself. I read in a footnote in some book a reference to The Third Reich of Dreams
by Charlotte Beradt. Before I possessed the book I felt intuitively that this was the link for which I had been searching.
Charlotte Beradt collected 300 dreams of Germans between 1933 and 1939 when she than had to leave Germany for America. Most of these she took down from people herself and this was supplemented by a doctor friend who was able to query his pateints unobtrusively. These dreams she noted in code and hid in the spines of the books in her library. Subsequently, she was able to send them to different addresses abroad where they were kept till she herself left Germany. It was some years after that she came to evalua te her material when there was a large body of historical facts on the Nazi regime through documents and research. During the war she published only one paper, called `Dreams under dictatorship’.
The events which lie behind the varied dreams she collected were explicit. They `sprung from man’s paradoxical existence under a twentieth century totalitarian regime’ (Beradt, 1968, p. 15), that is, Hitler’s Germany. Beradt makes the point that these drea ms were not the products of unresolved inner personal conflicts either of the present or the past but:
arose from conflict into which these people had been driven by a public realm in which half-truths, vague notions, and a combination of fact, rumour, and conjecture had produced a general feeling of uncertainty and unrest. These dreams
may deal with disturbed human relations but it was the environment that had disturbed them . . . [They] stemmed directly from the political atmosphere in which these people lived . . . They are almost conscious dreams. Their background is clearly visible and what lies on their surface lies also at their roots. There is no facade to conceal associations, and no outside person need provide the link between dream image and reality – this the dreamer himself does. (Beradt, 1968, pp. 14-15)
In the same book Bruno Beetelheim writes an essay. In it he argues that Beradt is too simplistic in her explanation. He postulates that the dreams `have their roots in the inner conflicts evoked by social realities within the person who dre ams them’. Be that as it may, Beetelheim concedes that under a system of terror people have to purge even their unconscious mind of any desire to fight back or of any belief that rebellion can succeed because that is the only way that they can be safe. Any expression of hatred or of resistance endangers one’s life. Therefore, Beetelheim argues, we cannot feel safe until we are certain that not even the unconscious can push us towards a dangerous thought or action. That is why Hitler was not assassinated. If the tyrant is not destroyed early enough then his total control, once established, undermines the belief that any resistance can succeed (Beradt, 1968, p. 156).
Bettelheim assesses Beradt’s work using an a<+” priori framework which is exclusively psychoanalytic. The originality and sheer courage of what she did is acknowledged but, I find, the tone of the discussion is carping.
Having read Beradt’s book I was stunned by the potentia l of what she had achieved. What would happen if we had some Mass Observation-like study of dreams in the UK at different points in history? (Reading the recent biography of Naomi Mitchison, the Scotti sh writer, I find that she included her dreams in the accounts she wrote for Mass Observation.) For the moment, after reading Beradt, I was content to play with the idea of having a group of people who would dream socially, in the sense that I was using that adverb.
In what were to be my last months at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in 1982 I put on such a group with Patricia (Paddy) Daniel, a psychoanalyst who had long experience of working with groups in the Bion tradition. As we discussed the project be forehand it was she who said that we ought to call it a `matrix’ because this would allow us to suspend temporarily notions about group processes. At this point we did not want this aspect to be part of the equat ion, so to speak, because we felt that the fo cus on the group process could take us away from the work of understanding the dreams. In other words we were not interested in having a `dreaming group’. Another way of looking at this is to say that we wanted to name a configuration that would carry out certain activities – of which we were not certain. `Matrix’ was chosen because it is a `place out of which something grows’; it is derived from the Lation for a uterus. We decided that the best arrangement of the chairs would be in the form of a spiral so th at people could have their backs to others and be situated at different angles. A group would tend to arrange the chairs in the form of a circle.
The other procedures we established were that we could ask questions and make associations and our work would be focused on that. We were both certain that the dream was not to be seen in any way therapeuticall y and that we were temporarily to rid our mind s of clinical connotations. The matrix was to be an aid for cultural enquiry to be conducted through dreams. Because of our experience of taking groups in the Bion tradition we puzzled a lot about the place of transference in the sense of what authority we would have to make our roles and what authority the participants might have to make this activity. The dream was to be the currency of the situation rather than the relationships between and among the participants and ourselves. What reality and significance all this would have we were prepared to discover. We did not know what was right so we fully expected to get things wrong.
We ran, then, for eight weeks a programme called a `Project in Social Dreaming and Creativity’. It was composed of weekly ninety-minutes named as a `Social Dreaming Matrix’. The sponsor was the Group Relations Training Programme of the Tavistock Institute, of which I was then joint-director. The Primary Task (purpose) was `to associate to and interpret the potential social content and meanings of participants’ dreams’ (Lawrence, 1989).
What was clearly established in this first venture was that people could have dreams that had a social dimension. So the principal hypothesis was substantiated. At the end of this project it could be said that:
it [can] be hypothesised with more firmness that it is possible to have dreams which speak of our unconscious fears and anxieties about the society in which we live. The individual dreams around certain basic themes such as the family, work and relationships with parents, and similar significant others. Society however only exists `in the mind’ as a construction of individuals based on their experiences of relationships with others with whom they happen to be connected. (Lawrence, 1989, p.80)
In that same paper I went on to say something which I have now substantially revised. `By being able to disentangle the latent from the manifest content of social dreams there is a realisable possibility of identifying the unconscious relatedness of the individual to society’ (Lawrence, 1989, p.79).
Then there was a gap of six years. I went to Shell International Petroleum Company for three years and afterwards was invited to join the International Foiundation for Social Innovation in Paris as President.
But chance or serendipity or providence works.
THE DISCOVERY OF EXPERIENCES
Through the Foundation in Paris we held a working conference in Israel in 1987 on the theme of leadership and innovation. For 1988 I was asked by Verad Amitzi and Hanni Biran of Innovation and Change in Society (Isreal) to provide some form of training for therapists and organizational consultants which would be experiential and germane to their metiers<-” . As I thought about it I decided that here was an opportunity to try the Social Dreaming Matrix again and to build a programme around it, thinking that, to the best of my knowledge, there had been no attempt to link dreaming with professional practice except in terms of psychoanalytic training.
The details of this new Programme of Dialogues – `Social Dreaming, Consultancy and Action-Research’ – were that we started on a Sunday evening with an opening plenary. My idea was that people should be `on site’ i On order to dream before the first Social Dr eaming Matrix (SDM) which was at 8 a.m. on the Monday. The programme lasted till Thursday evening. Each day there were two Social Dreaming Matrices, first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. All in all there were seven of these. In between there were what I called `Dialogues’ (D) and `Mutual Consultation Sets’ (MCS).
In designing the programme I was concerned that there be opportunities for thinking about practice. Dialogues I regarded as one such opportunity and the Consultation Sets as another. The former were an opportunities to be available for thoughts. One staff member introduced a topic for ten to twenty minutes (no more than twenty) and the remainder of the session was used for mental associations and thinking further thoughts. Among the top wics were: `To Surprise the Soul’ and `Psychoanalysis and Organizations’. On this particular programme I included a showing of the film Who’s in Charge? which Allan King and myself had made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This is a film of working with a group of unemployed Canadians and was designed to enable them to find their authority to interpret their state.
The Mutual Consultation Sets were opportunities for participants to examine their own case material in a disciplined manner using both systemic and psychoanalytic insights.
Why this kind of structure? I wanted to have the Social Dreaming Matrices set in a context that was work and reality oriented. I did not want Social Dreaming to be some marginal activity. And clearly I wanted to see if there were links to be made between working in, say , a bank or an industrial enterprises as an organizational consultant and social dreaming.
The opening plenary for the whole programme was held on Sunday evening as the first working day after Sabbath. Because it was very noisy I had switched off the air-conditioning for otherwise I would not have been heard. My memory is of thirty-two people fa cing me, all anxious and all complaining of the heat. My colleagues had never taken such a programme before and also were anxious. I, at least, could imagine what it might be like. I introduced the programme by giving something of its history and then asked for people’s feelings and associations to being present in it. One participant, whom I came to respect very much, was a distinguished professor with a Jungian background. She pointed out that there was nothing new in this programme because the Jungian had been doing it for years. I let her remark pass.
In the night that followed I had a vivid dream. I was busy writing. Page after page flowed effortlessly from my fountain pen. I would cast the pages aside on the floor as I needed uncluttered space on my desk. What was I writing? The truth about Israel, no less! And I knew it was true. It had never been so clear for me. Then I realized that, as I wrote the last sentences on each page, the first ones on it were beginning to fade. The truth was an evanescent as a snowflake.
All in all there were about 60 to 70 dreams in the programme as a whole.
The first dream was about mice. In reality there were mice in the building because it was in the countryside and I assumed they were field mice, though I never encountered any. This was mixed in with a remark that the way we were sitting – the chairs were arranged in a spiral – was as if we are in layers.
At this moment my anxious was overwhelming. Here was I in a roomful of Israelis, with the exception of three, having a series of associations that were frightening. Mice – rats – the Nazi propaganda that Jews = rats=vermin=extermination=people in layers in mass graves. I kept silent, thinking to myself that it was for others to make the connections.
The sixth speaker – and here I am talking of a very short period of time – referred to a dream of people dividing into couples going in different directions. She said that there was a smell of old clothes.
This fuelled my associations. But I kept silent because I felt that to offer them would be an intrusion from an outside who had a different racial history; who had been a spectator, so to speak, rather than a participa nt. As I always feel when working in Israel, I was in a roomful of people whose shared history and individual family tragedies are too much for any human being to support.
Now, I feel differently about that particular event. I should have had the courage to voice my associations which were subliminal for the remainder of the programme. The one defence I can offer is that I had yet to discover the containing capacity of the matrix. I knew this intuitively but obviously not enough to have faith in it and in the participants who were creating it.
This burden of tragedy was illustrated in part by one participant who said he had come to the programme because he could not dream. He was an immigrant from Russia. Imagine my joy to see him in one session with a little notebook in which he had written down his dream. It was of Israel as a great, smooth slab of marble in which there were no cracks, no place, no dirt, no soil, for anyth ing to grow.
I had felt that transference would play little part in a Social Dreaming Matrix – or rather I could not see how it could be used for the `work’ of the matrix, unlike a conventional group where transference is of the essence of its life.
I was wrong. On the morning of the third day one of the oldest-looking men in the room with the silver hair of cliche opened the matrix. He said that he never remembered the past, he made a point of getting on with life in the here and now, but last night he had had three dreams. The first saw him as a young naval officer caught in a storm. The second was of running refugees from boats caught in a storm. The second was of running refugees from boats into Israel, near Haifa, after the war. It was the time of the British Mandate. The third dream was of taking such refugees by truck into the desert and of giving them supplies and tools and having to say: this is where you will live.
I cannot convey how moving these accounts were. He was near to tears and the room was at one with him as he spoke. For myself, I knew that I had to keep my eyes fixed on him so that whenever he looked at me he would be supported in some way.
The associations were to the Mandate and to the history of Israel. The fact that I, the sole native Britisher, was present was, I am hypothesizing, a link between the matrix and the dream. I base this on what facts of history had not been present to date in the matrix.
In the matrix, because of the external noise and English being spoken with pronounced accents, I sometimes misheard. There was a good deal of talk of what I thought was the `empty father’. Was it the matrix, the consultants? No, I was wron g, what they were talking of was intifada. This raised questions for the participants about their own history of persecution and the despairing feelings they had about intifada. They were quick to point out that identification with the aggressor is a real phenomena.
I take a sequence of dreams from one dreamer at random and quote from the notes. He has a central feeling of weakness, of inability to have control over the situation. In reality he had a telephone call that he had to collect his daughter from the airport and found that he had lost his identity card, which is very symbolic. He felt that he wanted to be here and there at the same time – a split. The ‘plane was late.
He is in an ocean, he fights the waves, he wants to survive.
He comes to an office in the kibbutz and he finds there are people who are already there and he doesn’t feel easy with the situa tion.
He tries different things that don’t go together in the kibbutz. He wants to find a solution to the problem of private and collective things going together – a wedding for example. He has the feeling that each time he awakes the solution he already found in his dream has got lost. (I try to reproduce as well as I can the fragmentary nature of the account.)
David Armstrong, on reading this passage on the Israeli dreams, offered me a number of associations. His view is that much of the content is about the matrix itself, or rather the experience of it. Will anything grow in the `marble’ of a matrix? Who is the `empty father’, the empty consultant-founder?
There was surprise, at times, that dreams were fragmentary, as if the wish was to have `whole’ dreams whose manifest content could be quickly translated in terms of the latent content. At the beginning I had said to my colleagues that we should just try to work with the fragments and that we should not succumb to the desire to provide all-embracing interpretations – act out some `saviour’ role for Israel as if we were members of the Diaspora come home to put things right.
At the end of the Israel programme I was well enough pleased. We had established, once again, that people can dream socially if invited to do so. The idea that the matrix exists in its own right but is also a refractor of phenomena from the societal contex t seemed to have more substance. I toyed with the idea of the matrix as a prism. The Dialogues had been stimulating and the Mutual Consultation Sets had given participants opportunities to reflect systematically on their roles in their outside organizations.
The particular situation of Israel as a state and its unique political position in the Middle East had been present in the dreams in a way that was quite profound. People who took part said that the experience of the activity of dreaming socially and the ability to make associations allowed them to reflect on their professional roles in a richer way than they had hitherto experienced. Most important of all, we had seen that dreams are part of the staff of living and not some specialized activity.
Because of the enthusiasm of international colleagues, there followed a series of such programmes in Germany (1989), Sweden (1989), United Kingdom (1989), Australia (1989), America (1990) and the United Kingdom (1990). All were basically of the same design as the original in Israel. In most of these programmes there were about 60-80 dreams oresented.
In Germany it was agreed that dreams be given in German and English. In the main people could translate for themselves. While it slowed down the pace I felt that this gave us more time to reflect. At the end of the programme most p eople remarked that transl ation could be a transformation, i.e. in giving the dream in another language new aspects of meaning could be found; translation could be enriching. Usually translation was felt to be constricting. This point about translation, I see with hindsight, is cons istent with the social processes of `opening out’ through association and elaboration that seem to be engendered by the Social Dreaming Matrix.
As the dreams had unfolded from participants I had been struck, given the ages of the majority, that there was no explicit reference to the war. And, of course, I was carrying the memory of the Israel programme and bearing in minds the pioneering work of Charlotte Beradt in Germany. One participant who worked as an expert in politics and economics in a South American country would make references to his feeling of dread about being in a fasci st regime there. He had a lot of dreams on that theme. South Americ a, I felt, was some kind of displacement.
I was in a dilemma. I felt that if I, working as a matrix taker, so to speak, was to introduce the theme of Nazism and the war I would be bringing in a political element for which there was no clear evidence except for the `fascist’ dreams but which I felt had to be in the unconscious. I spoke about this to my two consultant colleagues, explaining my difficulty, saying I could not understand that such a formative experience for so many in the programme was being avoided, denied or just plain forgotten.
How the evidence came to the surface was striking. The sole exclusive German speaker gave a dream the day after this discussion with my colleagues. He was in a cemetery and in it there were three bushes. There were no people. After discussion among the participants this phrase drei Buchen was translated as three beeches and we thought lit tle of it as we each puzzled on what the dream might mean. It was only in the consultants’ discussion afterwards that my German colleague (Burkard Sievers) slapped his thigh and said, `There it is, drei Buchen, Buchen, Buchenwald!’ In a real sense it was a relief for us. While two of us have had a long history, knowing each other for about twenty years, and the third member is near my age, we had never spoken about the war years and our experiences. But we did that evening.
We shared this in a subsequent plenary discussion with the participants. One man told of a recurrent dream since childhood during the war but never reported in the matrix. And others spoke of what they had had to do to suppress their memories.
Something of the extraordinariness of dreaming comes out. Again, I take one at random from my notes. A woman dreams that a baby, who could be her son, was stolen by enemies. A woman appeared who had a saucepan for a nose and a trombone for an ear. She was pursued by a man and wild animals. She had the miraculous ability to fly but she lost this ability. Just then a parabolic disc fell from the sky. There was smoke and gas. She tried to save herself and the baby. There was a great smell. She escaped but there was an explosion. The images of the dream as it unfolded became more and more Bosch-like in my mind. The associations were about the Apocalypse.
With hindsight could this dream have been anticipating a united Germany and the fantasies a lot of people hold about a possible repetition of the war years if there is a united Germany?
Speaker: I’m in the dissecting room of the University of Padua. The cadaver is a woman.’
`Is that it?’ someone asked.
`It’s the fifteenth century.’ He then went on to say that at that time there were two ways of conceptualizing the human body because of opposing scientific orientations. In some ways this was a mirroring of the programme which was using and looking at drea ms in a way that was different from the conventional psychoanalytic one.
There was at times in the programme an idealization of the Aborigine as a dreamer. We felt that we were lacking a critical element of Australian life by not having an Aborigine among us. This led to explorations of political life in Australia, with its short roots in the cultures of the northern hemisphere, which denies the tremendously long history of the Aborigines.
One woman participant had a vivid dream of identification with an Aboriginal woman. For the time she was recounting it one felt what it might be like to be in the skin of such a woman suffering the degradations of contemporary Australian urban life.
A dream that was repeated was of balloons. The first was of a huge inflated condom in the sky which was like a Zeppelin. The programme ended with a reference to the French film in which a small boy, in order to save his balloon from being punctured by bull ies, lets it slip from his fingers and float upwards to the sky. While I felt that there was a need to have a uniting symbol to end the work of the matrix I could accept that the balloon was representative of dreaming which is not to be punctured because it is freeing in its own right.
Because we were in the land of dreams with its dream paintings, I visited the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne to view Aboriginal arts. This derives from the Australian Aboriginal myths of creation. There are variations from tribe to tribe but essentially they are the same. The common eleme nt would be that, in what is called the `Dreamtime’ in the long-distant past, the earth was flat and featureless. The earth then was peopled with giant, semi-human beings who were like animals but also behaved like men and women. They came out of the earth where they had slumbered for countless time. These Dreamtime heroes did all the things that Aborigines do today. But the Dreamtime came to an end and, where these creatord had been active, the land took its shape: an isolated hill, a watercourse, or some other natural feature came into existence. These Dreamtime heroes shaped the land and shaped the daily lives of present Aborigines and even formulated the laws that determine all aspects of seular and sacred life to day.
The similarities between the myths of Australian Aborigines and other cultures nearer to home are easy to find. Ancient Greece was peopled by the gods of Olympia who shaped the mountains and the volcanoes. And the sagas of the N ordic races describes how th e gods made the complete universe. So dream and myth are inexorably linked and it seems to be accepted that life as it is lived now was once enbedded in dream (Roberts and Mountford, 1965, pp.9-15).
Before me I have a reproduction of Ipalu: Bush Banana Painting. What strikes me is the almost Mandelbrot set-like qualities of the patterns in the painting. These patterns have morphological meaning with their roundels and paths. Peter Sutton, in Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia<-” , analyses this morphology. In very crude ways the fashion in which dreams and associations are linked in the life of a matrix could be represented morphologically.
In this paper I am not going to give examples from Sweden, America and Britain. The experiences in these countries further demonstrated that people very quickly learn to dre Dam socially and to have associations to their dreams. What is also apparent is the wonder of the possession of an unconscious and the ability of human beings to romp in the theatres of their minds.
SOME EXPERIENCES OF THE EXPERIENCES
As the Social Dreaming Matrices have evolved there have been more and more discoveries. These are very much in the Elizabethan sense of the word as `revealing’.
THE `IDEOLOGY OF THE INDIVIDUAL DREAM’
Alastair Bain, originator of the Australian Institute of Social Analysis, wrote to me in a letter, `there is a real struggle in letting go of the ideology of the individual dream<-” and the associated notion of possessiveness.’
Our contemporary thinking about dreams derives from Freud who caused us to take dreams seriously. Any exploration of dreaming has to start from his work and that of the great psychologists, like Jung, who followed. Freud was a clinician so it was the individual who was his focus. He held a `neurophysiological model of the mind’, and, in the words of Meltzer, he had a tendency to treat `hypotheses as if they were observed facts’ (Meltzer, 1983, p. 23).
Irrespective of his orientation Freud developed a number of concepts that are with us today. He made the formulations that the dream was `the guardian of sleep’ and elaborated on `the dream as wish fulfilment’. Manifest and latent content’ was a key concep tualization, as was the `the dream consor’ and also `dream work’. These have been the essential tools in conventional dream analys vis.
In his far-reaching analysis Meltzer argues that there is no evidence that the dream is either the guardian or the destroyer of sleep. He also questions what Freud meant by `wish’ and writes `a wish is something that envisages its fulfilment without consid eration of the means required for its fulfilment’ (Meltzer 1983, p. 12.
Erich Fromm has also questioned Freud’s position on wishes.
Instead of assuming that the dream is the destorted presentation of a wish, one may formulate the hypothesis that the dream represents any feeling, wish, or thought that is sufficiently important to be present during our sleep, and that its appearance in dreams is a sign of its importance. In my observation of dreams, I have found that many dreams do not contain a wish but offer insig ht into one’s own situation or into the personality of others. (Fromm, 1980, p. 72).
Currently, much of what Freud proposed on dreams is being re-evaluated by a new generation of psychoanalysts.
The ideology of the individual dream in the context of psychoanalysis make sense. It is a logical activity. The analysand-dreamer and the analyst are in a dyadic exploration in which transference feelings are a critical dimension. Any significant other persons are held in minds by the two subjectively. The focus is on the inner world of the individual situated in the environment.
I have, however, a nagging doubt that the popular excitement about the individual dream is because it feeds narcissistic preoccupations. In the West we live in cultures which have such qualities. The individual comes to feel no interest in the future and regards history as an encumbrance (Lasch, 1979). There is an irrational belief that the individual is a sel }f-contained system, complete in him or herslef. The dream, if regarded only as a personal possession, can, at worst, reinforce this separation from the world.
This way of construing dreams is understandable because, not only has dreaming become important in the therapeutic world, itself an invention of this century, but also the twentieth century has seen the triumph of the `I’. We are preoccupied with ego-consciousness. Our feelings, our wishes, motivations and will are mediated by the `I’ in relation to the outer world in which we live. There is a tendency to regard the `I-ness’ as being pre-eminent.
But late in this century we are beginning to struggle to rediscover our connectedness to the environment in which we live. Among the positive benefits of the Green Revolution and ecological awareness is the emergent re-conceptualization of t he nature of th e relatedness between the individual and the cosmos. That we live in an eco-system is difficult to deny now.
This ideology of individualism has been expressed by and through poets since the seventeenth century. John Holloway argues that poets have been expressing their wish to find the terms of life for themselves by undergoing some spiritual journey on their own to find insight. While this has led to new forms and genres in English poetry it has smacked of arrogance, even sterility, as individuals have attempted to seek out fundamental truths for themselves in their own terms (Holloway, 1977).
Something of this reflected in the enormous growth in the `human relations’ industry of counselling, therapy and interventions like assertiveness training. At their worst, all reinforce the personal boundaries around the individual and the `I’, separating people. making them believe they are unique and differentiating them from others and the events and pheno mena in their worlds. The concern for others inevitably diminishes as the individual thrusts to a position of, something ruthless, self-fulfilment or se lf-actualization. The dream can be used as grist for this mill of self-aggrandizement.
On the other hand, the Social Dreaming Matrix, it can be postulated, asks for dreams that go beyond the individual and are focused on the environment. During the day we emphasize our autonomy and the nature of the boundaries that separate us from other people and make us unique. But our dreams are organized on a different basis. As Ullman puts it:
Our dreams are more concerned with the nature of our connections with all others. The history of the human race, while awake, is a history of fragmentation, of separating people and communities of people nationally, religiously, politically. Our dreams are connected with the basic truth that we are all members of a single spec ies.
While awake we move through our lives in a sequential, linear moment-by-moment fashion with a point representing birth and another point the present moment. But when we go to sleep and begin the dream we create pictures of what’s going on in our psyche from points of space and time which are outside of our waking organizations. (Ullman, 1981, p. 1).
It seems to me now that this inherent quality of the dream – to be connected – is the one which to concentrate in order to be able to discover meaning in these social, even cosmic, terms.
THE PRIMARY TASK
Since I started this activity of Social Dreaming there has been a substantial shift in my thinking about the Primar y Task which, as I indicated above, I now want to revise. What Meltzer (1983) has to say about manifest and latent content is highly pertinent. The point is that by postulating these two dimensions Freud implied that the dreamer is tricky and must be hiding some information. It also leads to the idea that the dream is a puzzle to be solved like a `whodunit’.
In the beginning of Social Dreaming I tended to hold this viewpoint without questioning it and, indeed, had it in the Primary Task. Now I feel that the dream, the dreamer and dreaming have to be celebrated and all valued in their own right. This only reflects the thinking of Jung who saw the dream in phenomenological terms and insisted that each dream be taken in its own right and its symbolism unravelled and decoded. In the dream it is the `cryptic or hidden meaning’, to use Meltzer’s phrase, that one is di scovering without assuming that there is an obscurity of meaning. This, Meltzer argues, was the logical error that trapped Freud because of his preoccupation with showing that dreams were not nonsense and were to be taken very seriously. Freud overstated ca se.
The Primary Task is now more clear for me because of the experiences of working with it. The work is associative, not interpretative in the classical, clinical psychoanalytic sense. I now recast the Primary Task as: to discover the social meanings of available dreams in the matrix.
This means that a lot of the work is left to the individual who uses his or her authority to find meaning. At the present time I am content to leave it all at the level of associations and meanings, identifying allegory and symbolism. I am anxious not to go beyond the evidence and am content to provide the resources and conditions for people to learn how to dream socially.
The hypothesis which I offer is that a Social Dreaming Matrix exists to discover what only a Social Dreaming Matrix can discover. That is its sole raison d’etre.
To take the same thought processes as are used in psychoanalysis into a Social Dreaming Matrix is not valid because, it is my hypothesis, a different vision or even type of dream is evoked. More particularly, if the container-system for receiving the dream is changed, the dream-contained will change.
For example, dreams can be interpreted in terms of the journeys of a hero. Jean and Wallace Clift in their book The Hero Journey in Dreams have developed a beautifully coherent scheme for understanding the stories that people live by. The monomyth that we live by, they argue, using Jugian notions, can be divided into three phases: the Departure, the Initiation and Return. The hero jo urney seminars which they organize make use of Ira Progoff’s system of Intensive Journal Workshops. Within these seminars there are opportunities for dreaming. The dreams they describe in their book can all be interpreted in terms of the journey (Cliff and Clift, 1988). Here. I would hypothesize that it is the nature of the seminar-as-container that generates the dreams of the journeying of heroes.
The idea of the `matrix’ has been central. Whereas in a group we search for a universe of meanings, in the matrix a multi-verse of meanings can coexist. If you think about it, once a dream is offered there can be as many associations as there are people in the room. That’s a lot of associations.
The way that the seats are arranged in the matrix tries to further the unique work of the participants in the matrix. At first, they were arranged in a spiral so that people were at different angles to one another. Now the design is a biot like a snowflake. The chairs are arranged in blocks of four in a diamond shape and linked to each other. All face in towards the centre.
In the American programme we thought very hard about the matrix because the participants found the idea so new. The matrix was seen there as an expanding universe with `black holes’ of ignorance, not knowing, unknowing; perhaps as a representation of the cosmos. For myself, I think of the individuals in the matrix each with their personal world of other individuals alive and dead so the matrix is full of the shades of biographies (the dead are alive).
Bion wonders about the psychoanalytic theories of the mind which sound like the astronomical theory of black holes and asks which causes which. `Is this some peculiarity of the human mind which proj Qects it up into space, or is this something real in space from which derives the idea of space in the mind itself? (Bion, 1975, p. 62). He does see cosmology as a model for psychoanalysis but would use the latter as his starting point for investigating the human mind. With the matrix do we have a representation of both the cosmos and the human mind to process dreams for their meanings?
For this kind of work I am convinced that the matrix is the medium which gives a different message to participants than if it was a group. This is also expressed through the seating arrangements. There is not the tyranny of belonging to the group as a pers on because the dream is the medium for discourse not the individual. One can feel disconnected, at times, in the matrix but a connection can always be found because of th e richness of the associative culture it engenders.
What Freud wrote about the dream censor is of little value to us now but the idea of `censorship’ in a broader, literal sense is worth retaining. It is important in the Social Dreaming Matrix that there be a work climate that is non-judgemental so that people do not censor by laughing or disapproving. For example, a member of one matrix had a dream of himself and his wife doing the washing together, which they do in reality. They were sorting out underpants. He and his wife buy the same pants and have done for years. Someone in the matrix grinned so it was difficult for him to continue. He spoke of his embarrassment. He then went on to say that there was a helluva difference when they put them on. Later in the conference he offered more dreams, one of which wa s being at a circus of performing spiders. One spider could prance round the ring like a circus horse and even had a flowing mane.
I think what excites me about the Social Dreaming Matrix and the other events, particularly the Dialogues, is that one does think new thoughts. And sometimes I am amazed to hear colleagues speak out thoughts that have been private for years or never though t before. The authority for this rests not on individuals but in the events and the work which they pursue.
More and more I begin to accept Bion’s notion that we have to be available for thought – the notion that there are thoughts in search of a thinker. Can we extend this to think in terms of dreams in search of a dreamer? What I think the Social Dreaming Matr ix questions if the ideology that dreams belong to a person and are to be interpreted as such. This is not to devalue that kind of work – so important for myself in my own psychoanalysis. All I am saying is that the matrix produces different kinds of dreams through dreamers. The context is different, that is all.
The change of context changes the nature of the relationships among the participants. Earlier I have said that I had been confused about the place to transference in the matrix and gave the example of the Israeli who spoke of the experiences of the past re worked through his dreams. I can now say that my hypothesis is that, if the transference issues between the participants and the `takers’ of it were to be addressed directly, it would rob the dreams of the opportunity to experience these issues of authority. The transference, if you will, has to become apparent in the dream; it is avoided if it is worked with directly in the `here and now`.
Recently a woman recounted her dream in a matrix that was being taken by another man and myself. Her dream was that she had to go to her cousin’s house to see his wife to say that she could not come to a party that was planned. She could not do so because she had to look after a child in connection with her work. As she stood in the hallway of the house of her cousin she noted it was very narrow and the stairs which she went up to another floor took up most of the space.
The cousin’s wife said, `Isn’t it horrible for that child?’ and went on to recount very confidential information about the child. The dreamer had not said which child she was having to see and, anyway, the matter was very confidential. The dreamer had to listen to the cousin’s wife and had to pretend that she did not know the details. The story was that the child had been conceived and born to a woman who had a contract with a man to do so. The child is wanted by the man because he and his male partner want to bring up a child.
The dream can be seen as an attempt to work out the relatedness of the participants to the two male `takers’ of this Matrix. Woma n contracting = participant giving birth; child = dream; cousin’s wife = the house in which the programme was being held which was sponsored by another institution related to the dreamer’s one.
Independently of me, David Armstrong has come to the same hypothesis based on his rereading of the dreams of the conferences that have been held in England. So we both feel some kind of scientific confirmation of the hypothesis.
THE DREAM AND THE TRANSCENDENT
When I see reproductions of Peter Bruegel the Elder’s picture of the Tower of Babel I am reminded of the matrix. The source for the biblical story of the Tower of Babel was the ziggurats built by the Ancient Babylonians. These towers symbolized the connection between humankind and the gods. While I am not suggesting that the matrix has the same qualities I am intrigued by the no Ntion that the dream offered in the matrix-as-ziggurat can link the individual dreamer with others and with all that is beyond, or transcendent. to them. And there can be different `languages’ th rough the associations, but people still communicate.
On the same theme there is the classical dream of Jacob’s Ladder which Laurens van der Post regards as `perhaps the greatest dream that has ever been dreamed in the history of man because it is a dream which conveys both its own message and at the same time tells us what dreaming is’ (van der Post, 1986, p.79). This dream shows Jacob that there is a reciprocity between man on earth and the forces of creation. The dream is a ladder up and down which messenger (Angelos) move, influencing both God and man. There can be communication between the God in the mi nd and a man on earth. Man is not just a thing to be ordered about but an imaginative, sentient being who can use his energies for creation.
Social Dreaming offers us a way of conceptualizing human beings as being more complex than the behavioural psychologists would have us believe. Dreams are not just neurones which are misfiring. Early anthropologists all put forward the idea that primitive peoples believed that dreaming was the experience of the wandering soul during sleep. A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, for example, when describing the beliefs of the Andaman Islanders writes:
Dreams are sometimes explained by saying the dreamer’s double (ot-jumulo) has left his body and is wandering elsewhere. Dreams are regarded as being veridical . . . and a sleeper is not awakened lest his ot-jumulo or double be away from his body. (Radcliffe-Brown, 1964, p.166).
If we regard dreams as complex products of unconscious trains of thought, day residues, wishes and desires, and recognize that they are also shaped by the cultural beliefs of the society of which the dreamer is a member, it can be hypothesized that the drea mer is an intimation of a mental process that enables human beings to give meaning to their waking life. Associating to the dream and discovering its multi-faceted meanings is a process of `deepening events into experiences . . . through reflective speculat ion’ (Bleakley, 1989, p. 10). This is the owrk of the soul.
The dream can take us out of our body and untrammell us, at the very least, from the nets of our conscious, logico-positivist thinking. In a review of the available literature on the subject George Gillespie asks, `When does lucid dreaming become transpersonal experience?’ He concludes that there is no objective way of establishing the truth or falsehood of the question but his conclusion deserves quotation:
In the end, then, since we have no means to be certain that any apparent experience of God, Brahman, the void, nirvana<-” , another plane of existence, or of any reality beyond the dreamer really is what it seems to be, a transpersonal experience of transcendent reality begins when I believe it begins. (Gillespie, 1988).
The observations, then, of the early anthropologists appear to have validity in the sense that the act of finding meaning to the dream the soul is involved. Also the dream by its nature ushers us into the presence of the transpersonal and transcendent, provided we have not cluttered the space for experiencing the event of the dream with our a priori notions and prejudices.
The dream ushers us into the numino us but that could never be proven objectively.
THE DREAM AND EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES
The evidence that dreams were directly linked by people in the past to their everyday activities is not too difficult. Some examples are given earlier in this paper. Indians on the British Coulmbia frontier, for example, once possessed the power to use drea ms for hunting.
Some old-timers, men who became famous for their powers and skills, had been great dreamers. Hunters and dreamers. They did not hunt as people now do. They did not seek uncertainly for the trails of animals whose movements we can only guess at. No, they located their prey in dreams, found their trails, and made dream-kills. Then the next day, or a few days later, whenever it seemed auspicious to do so, they could go out, find the trail, re-encounter the animal, and collect the kill. . .
Today it is hard to find men who can dream in this way. There are too many problems. Too much drinking. Too little respect. People are not good enough now. Maybe there will again be strong dreamers when these problems are overcome. Then more maps will be made. New maps. (Brody, 1986 edn, pp. 44-5).
An example of how this near veridical ability can be mobilized has been offered by an Israeli colleague, Michael Tiplitz. The decision before the secretariat of a kibbutz was about the kind of cash crop they were to grow. The majority favoured cotton which was a familiar adaptation. There was also an argument for alfalfa. The night before the decision was to be made the general secretary dreamt of being in a Chinese village surrounded by paddy fields for rice growing. In the dream he felt peace.
Working as a consultant with this secretariat was Michael Tipliz who had been on the first Social Dreaming Programme in Israel. As he said, when he first reported this experience to me a year afterwards, `I’d learned to take dreams seriously so when the se cretary reported it I asked for associations and tried to work with it which is something I’d never done in my consultancy before.’ The result was the decision that alfalfa would be the better crop. The secretary felt that his dream had clarified his own am bivalences.
A well-documented account of how dreams and everyday activities are linked to enhance the quality of living is provided by Kilton Stewart. In 1935 he was travelling through the unexplored rain forest of the Central Range of the Malay Peninsula. There he wa s introduced to the Senoi whom he was to study for fifteen years. The Senoi, a jungle tribe, lived without conflict with neighbouring tribes and they themselves had had no violent crimes for between two or three hundred years. He found +that these qualities of social co-operation and integration were grounded in their system of psychology.
This system of psychology had two aspects: they were committed, first, to dream interpretation and, second, to dream expression which took place in an arrangement trance or co-operative reverie. Dream interpretation was a</` regular feature of their daily lives. Breakfast was spent by each family listening to their dreams and analysing them. Afterwards the head of the household would go to a council meeting to report, discuss and analyse the dreams of the older children and the men in the community. What happened to women’s dreams is not recounted.
Stewart describes the psychology of the Senoi thus:
man creates features or images of the outside world in his own mind as part of the adaptive process. Some of these features are in conflict with him and with each other. Once internalized, these hostile images turn man against himself and against his fellows. In dreams man has the power to see these facts of his pstche, which have been disguised in external forms, associated with his own fearful emotions, and turn against him and the internal images of other people. (Stewart, 1969, p. 161).
The Senoi believe that if the individual continues to think in this way and does not have the aid of his fellows in disentangling his feelings he will end up by believing these hostile images and become psychologically and socially abnormal. Through being able to surface and analyse their dreams each individual can be master of his own dream or spiritual univers e by calling on the co-operation of the forces embedded there.
As children recount their dreams to an elder they are transformed in their meaning. The child’s common anxiety dream of falling, for instance, is responded to by the adult saying that it is a wonderful dream and asking what was discovered on falling. If th e child says that he awoke before falling it is pointed out that every dream has a purpose and that the child should relax in the dream because it is the quickest way to get in touch with the powers of the spirit world. In time this falling dream is changed for the child from an anxiety-making one into the excitement of the joy of flying.
Through these methods the child is initiated into a way of thinking that will be developed for the rest of his life. As a consequence the members of the Senoi tribe discover their deepest selves and are able t o harness their creative powers.
Having made a comparative study of the dreams of the Senoi tribe with the dreams of other cultures, Stewart concludes that:
dreaming can and does become the deepest type of creative thought. Observing the lives of the Senoi it occurred to me that modern civilization may be sick because people have sloughed off, or failed to develop, half their power to think. Perhaps the most important half . . .
In the West, the thinking we do while asleep usually remains on a muddled, childish, or psychotic level because we do not respond to dreams as socially important and include dreaming in the educative process. This social neglect of the side of man’s reflective thinking, when the creative process is most free, seems poor education. (Stewart, 1969, pp. 166-77)
In this century it has been the specialized discipline of psychoanalysis which has shaped out approach to understanding dreams and, in the process, we have lost the accumulated wisdom of so-called primitive peoples to use dreams as part of our everyday life . It can be argued that the activity of dreaming is redundant in a specialized, highly technological world which is increasingly governed by the operations of information technology but, as has been hinted at in this paper. people are increasingly aware that they live in an eco-system in which there are linkages that have been unimagined hitherto; they exist in a `wholeness’ that can be but dimly perceived because of their own experiences of fragmentation. The critical relationship for human beings is between the conscious and unconscious dimensions of the mind. The artificial separation of these, or more accurately the inability to transact between the two with a Jacob’s Ladder, furthers the fatal split between rationality and ir rationality, thinking and feeling, good and evil, the scared and the profane.
THOUGHTS FOR THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL DREAMING
Robert Jay Lifton writes:
The dream, the, is central to our evolutionary heritage. In it we find, most profoundly, both clue to and expression of the human capacity for good and evil – for holding visions, for prospective imagination. More than ever, we must dream well if we are to further the wonderful, dangerous and always visionary human adventure. (Lifton, 1987, p. 19)
My interest is only with dreams that occur during sleep and my preoccupation is only with trying to distangle their meanings through discovery in order to reveal any links between the unconscious and everyday life conducted in complex societies. The images which we have i n our dreams are social in origin but they become transformed, especially in psychoanalysis, in order to be used personally. This use of dreams I would want to preserve but, at the same time, I am also interested in the added transformation of the personal into the social. The images are two-ways in that they have something to say not only about unresolved challenges facing the individual but also about the society in which the individual is located and conducts a life. The challenge of the moral issues engendered by intifada, for example, are both personal and social. It is the sons and daughters of both Israeli and Palestininan parents who have to go and fight. The excruciating agony and grief are personal. Dreams also points us to the limiting aspects of society and when meaning is found to them they take us out of ourselves and enables us to be situated outside our skins (Ullman, 1989, p. 294). In this way personal concern becomes transformed into social concern. The ruthless of the individual for narcissistic survival can be transformed into a ruth for the future of the species in a systematically linked cosmos.
So far it has been established that individuals can co-operate to dream socially. That these dreams, on occasion, can illuminate both the social and political condition of a society has also been established. We expect a dream to be cryptic, after all it comes from the unconscious. The discovery of social meanings is never easy. What may be more important than the `product’ of the dream, the meanings, which can never be absolute, is the `process’ of arriving at the range of meanings possible. It is this act of creativity that is the hallmark of Social Dreaming. This process could be a paradigm for discovering meaning for other linkages between phenomena and events in our environment. It is a process which encourages the reflective nature of human beings as they try to make sense of their experiences in both their social and inner worlds.
As yet there is no evidence that dreaming has been brought to the stage of development which was achieved by the British Columbian Indians or the Senoi tribe in Malaya. Perhaps, in time this will be possible.
How Social Dreaming can illuminate the political milieu was illustrated in a Programme of Dialogues in Germany recently. My colleagues, Dieter Seiler, and I were puzzled about why participants had more than usual difficulties in recalling their dreams. We talked of it and had the working hypothesis that because of the reunification of Germany there was an anxiety about remembering dreams because the last `dream’ had been so horrendous. When we floated this hypothesis to the participants they, very movingly, told of what it was like to be in Germany now. They could never trust the kind of `dream’ that had been before their parents. Significantly, there had been a lot of confusion as to what a `dream’ was at the beginning of the programme. Was it a `vision’, an imaginative act, a `day dream’? We had said that we were interested only in dreams that occurred during sleep.
Our hypothesis was confirmed. Now that Germany has been reunited the people in the outside world in other countries have unspoken fantasies about what might happen in the future. At the same time, the Germans are fully aware that they are reluctant to have an identity. The last, now thankfully lost, identity was too much to bear.
Two initiative are worth noting in the development of Social Dreaming. Alastair Bain in Australia now has a Social Dreaming Matrix meeting throughout the year. Judith Szeckacs has arranged in Hungary that there be Social Dreaming Matrices meeting to monito r dreams about the transition to democracy there; a kind of mirror activity to that of Charlotte Beradt whos e insight and courage was so pivotal in the thinking about Social Dreaming.
At the time of writing, programmes are planned for 1991 in Germany, the United States of America, Britain, Sweden and Israel. This time round I hope to be working more focusedly on the linkages that are increasingly becoming apparent. Clearly, there is much to be discovered about Social Dreaming. The space has been cleared. The exploration of it is likely to be surprising.
Finally, Social Dreaming I see as being concerned with `revelation’ – not in the apocalyptic sense but in that of discovering meaning for being human at this point in history; for re-making the<+” imago of this generation’s relatedness between mankind and the cosmos as a way of continuing to re-conceptualize the relationships between human beings themselves and all that exists on the earth.
The spiritual search of Social Dreaming is fulfilled through relating the inside and outside realities of the individual. It is the dream, however, that links the individual to ultimate reality which Bion signified as O. For a praying person O will signify the godhead the person is experiencing; for a psychoanalyst O is the upcoming emotional truth of a session. The dream too will have a real emotional truth. It is the work of discovering the meanings of the dream that can be seen as `truing’. Participating in a Social Dreaming Matrix is an act of faith in the sense that there is faith in the possibility of having a dream that speaks out the truth if we can discern it. At the same time we know that the truth can never be known. It is the unknowable that is the focus of our attention. This is the paradox. Truing the dream may become, as it was in the past, a way to truing our waking, quotidian lives as a continuous process of revelation.