Awesomeness of Dreaming
Dr. Greene, David Patrick Ph.D.
February 20th 2015
The dream that I am going to try to interpret occurred in the fall during my first year in the United States as a student. Even though for all my life it had never crossed my mind that all that nonsense that we dream about could actually mean something, using Freudian and Jungian methods and patterns that I learned in Dr. Greene’s winter term elective, “Dreams,” I realized a significant connection between dreams and the human unconscious. This dream of mine is split into the three scenes. In the first scene, I am in the center of Boston with Serbian friend who goes to Boston University. In the midst of a leisurely walk, all of a sudden, an alien ship starts approaching from the sky. It is still on its approach, but I could see it coming. At that point, some people on the streets begin to panic, but others seem to disregard this extraordinary event and continue on with their lives. In the next scene, we are still in Boston. My friend and I enter a café, and inside it, my father is sitting at one of the tables. As we are sitting down with him, my friend and my father tell me that I have to sit elsewhere because they have more people coming and there is no space for me to sit with them. Somewhat discouraged, I go and sit down at another table alone. In the third and final scene, I see this beautiful panoramic view of a forest where the tops of the tree are all I am able to focus on. In the background - beyond the treetops - a spectacular sunrise begins to happen. Attracted to the beauty of nature, I manage to put myself into a giant bubble and slowly begin drifting towards that sunrise. Suddenly, the bubble pops, and as I am falling down into the forest, I wake up. I believe Sigmund Freud would have put my dream somewhere in between bewildering – “seem to make little sense and come out of ‘left field’ as it were” and confused – “these are the dreams Freud is most interested in as they have been heavily encoded, so must mask important content” (Greene, David Patrick, PhD, “Freud's Theory of Dreams”, Dreams, Kent School, Kent, CT, winter term, 2015). I believe my fantasy lies here because everything is fully masked in the dream except for my father, who is obviously fulfilling the role of my father, and doesn’t represent substitution for anything, yet simple wish-fulfillment. According to Freud, dreams are distorted places for unconsciousness. The hidden, actual meaning of a dream can be determined using the analysis. Freud believed that by analyzing the dream, we can reach the unconsciousness and gain access to it. “Freud’s reason why our minds have to hide and disguise all these symbols is to keep us dreaming. Often, the message that our mind is trying to send us is in some way a threat to ourselves, our ego.” (Greene, David Patrick, PhD, “Freud’s interpretation of dreams”, Dreams, Kent School, Kent, CT, winter term, 2015) The material that “threatens our ego” is called repressed material. “The efforts of a patient to prevent the uncovering of his repressions because of the painful nature of the repressed material were called his resistances, and these it was the object of the physician to overcome” (Tansley, A. G. "Sigmund Freud. 1856-1939." Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 3.9 (1941): 246-75. JSTOR. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.) Freud called the process of “protecting our sleep,” Dream work, “the function of dreams is to preserve sleep by representing the wishes as fulfilled which would otherwise wake the dreamer” (Appignanesi, Richard, and Oscar Zarate. "Little Dictionary." Freud for Beginners. New York: Pantheon, 1979. 170. Print.) Dream work converts the repressed material and converts it into a manifest content or “what we remember” when we wake up. Three major characteristics of these dreams are: substitution, displacement and condensation. “Substitution is a disguise for any place, noun, object people in our dreams and they represent our free personal association to those objects” (Greene, David Patrick, PhD, “Freud’s interpretation of dreams”, Dreams, Kent School, Kent, CT, winter term, 2015) Displacement is a sort of a censorship, where latent content is replaced by an allusion, and something that is threatening your ego is replaced by something that doesn’t; usually verbs, actions or feelings. “The hearth of the problem lies in displacement, which is by far the most striking of the special achievements of the dream work. If we enter deeply into the subject, we come to realize that the essential determining condition of displacement is a purely psychological one: something in the nature of motive. One comes upon its track if one takes into consideration certain experiences which one cannot escape in analyzing dreams.” (Sigmund Freud, ˝On dreams˝, James Strachey, New York, W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, 1980, pg.56). Finally, condensation is putting all these hidden symbols into a dream image. “Anyone who has reviewed an art exhibition will be aware that the number of words required to describe and interpret the works on display adequately always seems excessive; in short, 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. This commonplace indicates the degree of condensation of ideas which imagery facilitates. As Freud points out, a similar economy of expression is typical of dreams: 'Dreams are brief, meagre and laconic in comparison with the range and wealth of the dream-thoughts. If a dream is written out it may perhaps fill half a page. The analysis ... may occupy six, eight or a dozen times as much space'” (Walker, John A. "Dream-Work and Art-Work." Leonardo 16.2 (1983): 109-14.JSTOR. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.) Through the implementation of these theories, I was stunned by how much more I was able to unearth from previously hidden symbols. Before being introduced to these theories, the first scene in Boston with my friends would just be free associations. I would simply associate Boston with rowing on the Charles, and visiting Boston University while on an official visit. I personally find aliens rather distasteful, and think of them as being more threatening than friendly. This being said, it was only natural for me to start thinking of the possible reasons why aliens would appear in my dream. Then it hit me. Given that I had an SAT approaching that Saturday, it became obvious that the aliens were a subliminal message that related to the SAT. This panic that I experienced is a displacement for the jitters that students have before important test. In this dream, it became obvious to me that the people who were not showing signs of panic obviously weren’t fretting about an upcoming SAT, because they were simply not taking it. In the second scene, I was already feeling more comfortable with using Freud’s theories. On the piece of paper that I wrote my dream, I instantly circled all the places, people and objects as substitutions and underlined all verbs, actions and feelings. I immediately asked myself what my personal associations are with those words. So I circled café, my father and my friend as possible substitutions. My father and a friend telling me that I can’t sit with them and me sitting alone were underlined as displacements. I started with substitutions, and I hit the wall. When I asked myself what do I personally associate with café nothing rang the bell, and although I see my father as an authority figure, and my life tutor who was always there for me to clear my path and make it easier, I couldn’t fit it inside this dream. I moved onto the displacements. Not being able to sit with people who you care about obviously causes feelings of rejection and misunderstanding, and sitting alone is displacement for someone who is an outsider (alien). In that moment, the little bulb above my head lit up like it was charged with a million watts. The night before I had the dream. There was this situation that I don’t quite remember, but what I do recall is that I felt so left out among my new Kent friends. I was very depressed because of it, and I really wanted to talk to my father and find some comfort since he is always there for me. Unfortunately, the time difference prevented me from doing so. As a natural instinct when I am feeling sad, I began listen to Beethoven for hours on end. I felt so alienated to this new life that I started as a student in the US. Then every piece of the puzzle started to fit in. The café was a substitution for Kent school as a place where everything is happening, and I realized that my father isn’t a substitution, but a wish fulfillment. As for my friend in this scene, even though he was a personal association in the first scene, in the second one he was a substitution for my friends at Kent. Just like that, I was once again fascinated by how brilliantly my mind was able to disguise one person in two different ways. When analyzing the third scene of my dream, I hit a wall again. Like I had done previously, I circled and underlined all the possible substitutions and displacements. I personally associated the sunrise above the treetops as something joyful, peaceful, beautiful, however, I was feeling completely the opposite. I was sad and depressed, and putting myself into a bubble didn’t make sense as a displacement. For me, the word ‘isolation’ is what comes to mind when I think of one being enveloped in a bubble. When one needs and wants some solidarity, he or she can separate her or herself from the community, however, I was depressed about exactly the opposite. I wanted to be included in the social things with my new friends… not isolate myself. Flowing towards the sunrise also differed from the rest of the dream. The only thing that seemed to make sense was the bubble popping and me falling down. But for some reason, the entirely of my thoughts did not relate to how I was feeling. So I turned to Carl Jung and tried to interpret it using his ideas. Jung’s perception of the dream is “The unconscious is the unknown at any given moment, so it is not surprising that dreams add the conscious psychological situation of the moment all those aspects which are essential for a totally different point of view.” (Jung, Carl G., Dreams, translated by R.F.C. Hull, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974. “General Aspects of Dream Psychology” par 469) Jung agrees with Freud that personal association of a dreamer is of great importance and “he recognized that no interpretation can be undertaken without the dreamer.” (Dreams, par 539) However, Jung doesn’t agree that all dreams are simple wish-fulfillments. As he is quoted saying, “The further procedures to which Freud subjects the dream-contents I have to reject, for they are too much influenced by the preconceived opinion that dreams are the fulfilment of ‘repressed wishes.’” (Dreams, par 541) Jung took Freud ideas and elaborated on them. Why should symbols in dreams only be personal? How should you approach dreams that you can’t manage to decipher even after applying Freud’s methods to tear them apart? Jung claims that “The whole dream is essentially subjective, and a dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, ant the critic. This simple truth forms the basis for a conception of the dream’s meaning which I have called interpretation on the subjective level. Such an interpretation, as the term implies, conceives all the figures in the dream as personified features of the dreamer’s personality.” (Dreams, par 509) This means that every object, person, and the dream itself is a representation of self. According to Jung, in addition to personal consciousness, there is also a collective unconsciousness, and that while some objects within the dream that may not represent anything to us personally, they can be amplified culturally or archetypally. Jung explains collective unconsciousness by saying, “For these archetypal products are no longer concerned with personal experience but with general idea, whose chief significance lies in their intrinsic meaning and not in any personal experience and its associations.” (Dreams, par 555) He also advocates that objects in our dreams might “have their origin in the archetype, which itself is an irrepresentable, unconscious, pre-existent form that seems to be part of the inherited structure of the psyche and can therefore manifest itself spontaneously anywhere, at any time.” (Jung, Carl G. Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 847) With this new theory to work off of, I began my attempt at decrypting the third scene in my dream once again. In the Book of Symbols, which contains archetypal meanings for almost all the symbols there are, I found the explanations for falling, a bubble, sunrise and forest. I was astonished with what I found. Under the word ‘falling,’ the book says, “More often, though , the fall feels like a loos and a divine punishment, and our myths picture it, like Adam and Eve’s loss of Paradise” (Archive for research in archetypal symbolism, Ronnberg, Ami & Kathceen Martin, editors, The Book of Symbols. London: Tashcen, 2010. Pg. 434) I realized that this archetypal explanation of a symbol of falling represents exactly what happened to me. I just “fell” into this new school in US, this new life. Back home I had everything – friends, parents, rowing, a dog – my own little “paradise”. Even though I took that night as punishment, there was still a “divine” punishment, because in return I am receiving a great education. The definition of ‘bubble’ did somewhat fit, but what attracted me more as an interpretation of it is Jung’s idea of Mandala. “Magic circle. In Jung, symbol of the center, the goal, or the self as psychic totality; self-representation of a psychic process of centering; production of a new center of personality.” (Jung, Carl G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Vintage Books, 1961/1989. Pg. 396) It became apparent to me that the bubble was my Mandala. It was a reminder that I came to Kent, with a new “goal” to get into Yale. That bubble was my “new center of personality” – my “magic circle”. My thoughts were only confirmed when I began to read further about sunrise and forests. “Sunrise is symbolic not only of the creation of the world, but of the birth of consciousness – the “day” of psychic life … And just as the sunrise is emblematic of the savior god who sinks into the land of the dead, only to ascend again.” (Archive, 90). “The forest is a place of loneliness, entanglement, healing, regression, loftiness and obstruction, spontaneous growth” (Archive, 118) Even though the book represents forest with words such as loneliness, entanglement, regression, it also uses words “healing” and “spontaneous growth”. So I concluded that even though I am bound to encounter problems in life every once in a while, my “way through the woods”, the period of “healing” and “growth” will follow. Just like the sunrise was at the end of the forest, once I reach it, I will “ascend again”. After finally interpreting the last scene, I felt as though a solution for my problem was being presented to me. It reminded me of a paragraph that I read by Jung. He divided the basic “structure” of a dream. He divided it in four “phases” of dreams. Statement of place and protagonist (Boston, my friend, my father), development of the plot (alien ship approaches), culmination or peripeteia (café and rejection), and the fourth final phase of the solution, result or lysis (ascending again). The third scene was my solution, my solution that turned out to be right, because very soon after that dream, I “cut through” the forest and found happiness at Kent. If I were to look as if from Jonathan Winson’s perspective, I would be able to recognize that “Rather than being a cauldron of untamed passions and destructive wishes, I propose that the unconscious is a cohesive, continually active mental structure that takes note of life’s experiences and reacts according to its own scheme of interpretation” (Winson, Jonathan. “The Meaning of Dreams,” Scientific American, November 1990, pg. 28). Or, as Doctor Greene would say when the whole class went “whaaaat?”, he explained “Dreaming rehearses survival skills.” (“Carl Jung & The 'Post-Freudians'”, Dreams, Kent School, Kent, CT, winter term, 2015)What is a current survival skill for someone of my age? I am sure that if you ask any senior from any high school his response would be college admission process. This can also be concluded from my dream if we were to listen to Winson. In a dream I am essentially practicing to “survive” the SAT’s, maintain good grades, and improve my social life. To “survive” through that “giant forest full of spiders, anacondas, army ants and apes.” There are infinite ways to interpret a dream. I am very glad that I chose this elective because I am now able to interpret dream in way that makes them meaningful. I would sum it all up with a quote from Dr. Greene’s power point: “Whatever you remember of a dream is what is important. The fact that you remember it, even if it appears confused and meaningless, means that some part of your psyche has done a good job encoding the unconscious message so that it could ‘slip past’ the defense of the ego.” (Greene, David Patrick, PhD, “Freud's Theory of Dreams”, slide 7/20)
On my honor: Bojan Dosljak