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Dreams, the Dreamer, and Society

Montague Ullman


Published by State University of New York Press, Albany. Copyright 1993 State University of New York. New directions in dream interpretation/edited by Gayle Delaney. p. cm.--(SUNY series in dream studies)



The author wishes to acknowledge permission from the American Journal of Psychoanalysis for the reproduction of a passage from "The Social Roots of the Dream," a paper originally published in Vol. XX, No. 2, 1960 and to Contemporary Psychoanalysis, the journal of the William Alanson White Institute and the William Alanson White Psychoanalytic Society, New York, for permission to reproduce a passage from "Societal Factors in Dreaming," a paper which originally appeared in Vo1.9, No. 3, May 1973.

Many, if not most, people have a natural curiosity about their dreams. However, there are very few resources at hand to help them pursue this interest in a serious way. Dreams have a low priority in our society (in all civilized societies) and, as a consequence, little or no attempt is made to encourage their pursuit or to provide the necessary means to do so. The only socially sanctioned arrangement available is to seek a professional who, for a fee, will offer the help necessary to interpret the dream. In this respect, we have not advanced much from the way dreams were handled in ancient times. The skills and prerogatives around dreamwork continue to be vested in a small group of people who are acknowledged as experts by virtue of their specialized knowledge. The question I wish to explore is whether the skills necessary for dreamwork can and should be shared with the public at large. Can we transform dreamwork from a therapeutically valuable operation in the hands of specialists to a universally accessible experience that is available to anyone who wishes to take the time and trouble to learn how to go about it?

In recent years, many books have appeared for the general public which address this issue (Delaney, 1988, 1991; Faraday, 1974 and 1979; Sanford, 1968; Taylor, 1983; Ullman and Zimmerman, 1979; and Ullman and Limmer, 1988). They speak of the benefits to be gained by working with dreams and offer several approaches to them. My own work emphasizes the skills necessary for dreamwork and the importance of a small group as the optimal supportive and helping agency. I will present what I consider the basic information that is needed if serious dreamwork is contemplated and a description of how I structure a small group setting to meet the needs of the dreamer. Finally, I will explore dream images in a larger social frame of reference, seeing them as pointers not only to personal issues but to related social issues as well.

In our society we grow up rather ignorant about the nature of our dream life. This is unfortunate because it leaves us without any understanding of a language we have been speaking all our lives and, therefore, without the means to connect to our dream life. We fail to introduce dreamwork into the family system, the educational system, or any natural system. For the most part, we come together only as adults to find a way to work with dreams. Much learning has to take place before we are ready to proceed.

The new recruit to dreamwork needs several different kinds of information, namely, clarity about the distinction between dreaming and what we call the dream, a grasp of those qualities of dreaming that make the dream a significant event in our lives, an understanding of the dreamer's predicament, the kind of help the dreamer needs, and the way that help can be provided.

Dreaming and the Dream

Dreaming and the dream refer to two different, though closely related, events. Dreaming is an intrinsic part of the sleep cycle that recurs every ninety minutes during sleep and is associated with distinct psychological changes that signify a state of arousal. The dream is a remembrance in the waking state of whatever we can bring back from the previous night's dreaming episodes. The two are not the same. The dream originates in the dreaming experience, but it is that experience transformed into the waking mode of expression. These two modes of consciousness resort to different languages to say different things about the same organism. In order to understand the dream, we must begin with an understanding of the way in which the two languages differ and what it is we are saying when we use dream language.

Our Two Languages

Waking language appears to have evolved as a way of speaking to each other about the world and the way we experience ourselves in that world. The world is broken down into manageable and agreed-upon categories which can then be communicated through a structured grammar that conveys the way our experiences are organized in space and time in a logical manner. Language is a way of categorizing reality to be able to talk about our experiences.

But our needs go beyond what can be transmitted in this fashion through language. We seem to need a more direct way of encountering and expressing the impact upon us of the world in which we live. We need a more effective language for the expression of feelings. In waking life we resort to the arts, music and poetry. While asleep and dreaming, a pictorial, figurative language takes over and reflects our feelings. This dream language has much in common with poetry in that both rely on metaphor for their expressive effect. There are, however, at least three significant differences in the way the poet and the dreamer use metaphor. The poet rearranges words to create the metaphorical quality he or she needs to best convey the feelings he or she wishes to communicate to others. The dreamer shapes images into metaphorical statements. The poet addresses an audience outside himself or herself. The dream is a private message to oneself. Finally, writing poetry is a task of greater or lesser difficulty. Dreaming and the creation of visual metaphors is something that happens to us through no deliberate or volitional effort on our part.

The neophyte in dreamwork has to learn to look at these images not as photographic reproductions of reality but as metaphorical ways of conveying the nature of the predicament felt by the dreamer. We have adapted what, in all likelihood, is a primitive imaging capacity that we probably share with animals lower on the evolutionary scale, and we use this as an instrument for symbolic rather than literal expression. Our sleeping self is concerned with managing certain residual feelings. Metaphorical imagery is a most suitable symbolic vehicle for containing and conveying feelings. A person who pictures himself or herself in a dream driving down a steep hill and having the brakes suddenly fail will experience the sensation of being in an uncontrollably dangerous situation far more powerfully than ordinary language could convey. In the dream we are part of the metaphor we ourselves are creating, a fact that places us in an immediate relationship to the feelings being generated. We are the actors, not the reporters, of the scene taking place. There is no way out except through terminating the dream either by generating feelings strong enough to awaken us or by somehow resolving the issue so there is a natural passage back into dreamless sleep. The concept of the visual metaphor is basic to dreamwork, and its importance cannot be overly stressed. We are more like poets than scientists when we sleep. We express our personal poetry in a language we have been using since childhood, yet this language continues to feel strange and unfamiliar to us as adults. To understand this fully we must also take into account the content of our dreams, what is being expressed through this language.

Dream Content

When we use this pictorial language what are we saying, that makes the remembered dream so potentially illuminating when awake? Our imaging capacity provides the form that our consciousness takes, but where does the content come from?

As we fall asleep we close off our input channels. No new information is coming in, so whatever we become conscious of during this period of dreaming has its origin some time before falling asleep. Freud spoke of the "day residue" as the starting point of the dream. Some recent event sets up a lingering tension that surfaces at the onset of a dreaming period and acts as a shaping influence on the content to be developed. What gives this recent residual feeling its extraordinary power lies in the fact that, regardless of how trivial or insignificant it may seem at the time, it connects with unresolved issues from the past. It touches on vulnerable areas still being worked over. We are unaware of this connection when awake, but when we are asleep, it comes clearly into view. The first important point, then, is that the dream starts in the present. The issue it addresses derives from our past but continues to be of some importance for us in the present.

What we do with this residue while dreaming is quite extraordinary when judged by waking standards. We seem able to do many things at once. We scan our entire life history for events and experiences that are emotionally related to it; we explore our past ways of coping with whatever vulnerable areas may have been exposed; we mobilize the resources at our disposal and try to come to some resolution. In short, while dreaming we are reassessing the significance of recent events in the context of our past. In a rather clever way we express it all through pictorial metaphors that highlight the feelings evoked in the course of this self-exploratory adventure. And it is all done effortlessly and seemingly instantaneously. We have brought a current residue into a relationship with past residues. In so doing we bring together important information relevant to what we are struggling with now. The range and extent of that information is not easily available to us in the waking state. If aspects of it are available, they are not readily seen in relation to the current issue. This is the second significant feature of our dream life that contributes to its value as a potentially healing instrument.

This brings us to the most important quality of our dream life, particularly in its relation to the question of healing. We are alone when we sleep and dream, perhaps more alone than at any other time in our life. We have temporarily disconnected from the world around us. We have temporarily suspended our social roles and our social facades. We no longer are in need of our social defenses, those various ways of protecting ourselves from truths we cannot or do not wish to see. In the act of going to sleep we undress not only physically but psychically as well. When our brain gets the signal to start dreaming we are emotionally nude.

What happens next is best described by analogy. There is a magical mirror in this place where we find ourselves. It is a mirror capable of reflecting a profoundly honest picture of who we are rather than who we would like to think we are or who we would like others to think we are. Another bit of magic in this mirror is that only the dreamer can use it. No one else can look into it. Being alone and confronted with a mirror that provides a private view, the dreamer risks looking into it himself. The view reflected back is the view rendered by the imagery of the dream. It is a view without pretense. It is the truth. In a sense it is a privileged portrait of intrinsic value to the dreamer in search of a more honest self-concept. For the most part, our dreams are not understood or appreciated in their individual and social significance, and we are largely unaware of the personal and social choices and opportunities offered through our dream life. Once we are awake, there is an overwhelming tendency to slip back into a familiar character structure and behavioral pattern. At a social level the dream is also of dubious value to the dreamer who is concerned more with fitting in than with whatever he or she is fitting into.

It is much easier to adapt to the social blinders we have grown up with and are accustomed to than to challenge and reevaluate them in terms of the social truths they may be hiding from us. Both the individual and society are the losers. This will be considered further in a later section.

The Dreamer's Predicament

What about dreamers who want to become active agents in relation to their dreams and to repossess in the waking state all that they have to offer? They have at hand a potentially healing instrument. It deals with an issue of concern in the present. It mobilizes relevant information from the past that is honest and reliable. Taken together, these three aspects of the dream image speak to the essence of what emotional healing is. It means becoming more whole, more in touch with ourselves. It means shedding light on characteristics that would otherwise continue to operate autonomously in the dark.

At some level, there seems to be an awareness of this. Perhaps this is what lies behind the universal curiosity about dreams. The dreamer senses that there is something important about the dream, but whatever it is, it eludes one's grasp. A person is in a difficult position. The dream does not readily yield its secrets. It appears challenging and frustrating in its strangeness and disregard for time, space, logic, and causality. It uses a language that is difficult to understand.

To better appreciate the dreamer's situation let us take a closer look at what happens in the change from sleeping to waking. On awakening the dreamer does not simply engage in a change in physical state. There is also a profound change in his or her psychological state. The person resumes his or her social role and reenters the world of other people and the world of social responsibility. In order to carry out this role he or she has adopted a social facade that serves as a protective device and wards off truths about the outer and inner world that the person is not yet prepared to face. We are all quite clever at warding off certain truths when we are awake. We fashion a set of blinders that keep us from seeing things as they really are. These blinders take the form of what we refer to as defense mechanisms. We hide from the truth by denying, suppressing, rationalizing, and engaging in various other defensive maneuvers.

We are in a better position now to understand the difficulties the dreamer has. In finding oneself awake and in possession of a dream, a person has, without being aware of it, moved from a realm of profound honesty, the dreaming state, to a state in which his or her defenses are once again activated and where he or she is somewhat handicapped in the ability to be completely honest. The way of seeing things when awake tends to be a mixture of honest and expedient perceptions in relation to the outside world. The view a person now has of himself or herself and others is different from the one he or she confronted while asleep. The blinders have been restored, and so the person is now capable of seeing himself or herself only as his or her own defensive operations permit. We screen information in or out as suits our waking needs. We have dispensed with this screening device while dreaming. Looked at through these screening devices, the images we have created now strike us as strange, mysterious, and intrusive. They offer little or no hint of the valuable information they contain, and they convey their message in language that is foreign to our waking way of thinking.

There are, then, two reasons why the dreamer is in trouble when confronting a dream. The first has to do with the clarity and honesty of his perception of himself while dreaming as compared with being awake. The second is related to his or her unfamiliarity with the language of the dream. Since serious dreamwork is not among our priorities, nor is it socially encouraged, we are not prepared to relate to the metaphorical language of the dream. We try to teach children to appreciate the poetic metaphor but we do not acquaint them with the dream metaphor.

So there the dreamer stands, more or less helpless before his her dream, blinded by the honesty in the pictures being reflected, and a victim of social neglect that failed to teach him or her anything about the language of the dream.

First Aid for the Dreamer

The dreamer needs help. He or she has to turn to other people for that help, and herein lies the paradox of the dream and the nature of the dreamer's dilemma. On the one hand, the person has created a most personal and intimate representation of an aspect of his or her inner life. On the other hand, he or she has to go public with the dream to realize fully the information communicated by the imagery. The dream has to be transformed from a remembrance of a private experience to a public communication. When a personal experience is transformed into a social one the question of risk arises. When a person is asleep and alone, the initial risk is taken. When the person is awake and visible to others the sense of risk, vulnerability and exposure is experienced differently. To transform the dream into a social experience means facing possible social implications. Since the dreamer is dealing with something unknown, the social implications are also unknown and unpredictable.

In order to help a dreamer, the others involved must have a clear understanding of the dreamer's predicament and be able to respond to the needs that arise from it. The two overriding needs are, first, for the dreamer to feel safe and secure in sharing the dream and, second, for the dreamer to be helped to remove the blinders so that a clear and honest vision can emerge.

The need for safety is obvious. The dreamer is risking exposure of vulnerable parts of the psyche, which he or she can do only in an atmosphere of trust and safety. The most important factor in achieving the necessary level of safety and trust means giving the dreamer total control of the situation and making sure that all the interactions taking place between the dreamer and the group are nonintrusive in nature. As we will see later, this element of control is built into each stage of the process. It implies that sharing a dream is a voluntary decision made by the dreamer. At no time is anyone under constraint to share a dream. Any existing constraint is experienced equally by the entire group. Only the dreamer determines the level of self-disclosure he or she feels comfortable with, and no one pushes him or her beyond that level. Finally, the dreamer can stop the process at any point.

While the safety factor is a necessary condition it is not sufficient by itself. The dreamer needs active help from the group to make discoveries that are difficult to make alone. How the group does this will be described in connection with the various stages of the process as they unfold.

The process is structured to meet both of these needs. It rests on the premise that if a person remembers a dream, he or she is ready to be confronted by the information in that dream, aside from the question of whether the person wishes to or not. The dream is not a threat but an opportunity. Dreams are communications to oneself and as such imply that the dreamer is ready to confront, if not resolve, the issue being dreamed about. All dreams can serve as an aspect of the healing process. Through dreamwork the dreamer becomes more whole in the sense of being more in touch with oneself. Even profoundly frightening dreams have a healing aspect, and in a supportive social context the dreamer can find the courage to face what the dream is saying. Once this happens, his or her relation to the issue changes, regardless of the time it may take for the issue to ultimately be resolved.

Stage IA: Eliciting the Dream

The following question is put to the group: Who has a dream he or she would like to share with the group? Let us assume that someone volunteers to tell a dream. He or she is asked to speak slowly enough so that those who wish to can take notes. The person is asked to tell all he or she can about what was in the dream, but not to add his or her own thoughts and later associations.

The dreamer is asked to limit himself or herself to the manifest content of the dream, including any feelings connected with the imagery. Were he or she to give associations at this point, the dreamer would influence the way the group handles the dream in the next stage. Personal associations can limit the group's responses and the range of their imagination.

Although the dreamer is free to share any dream that is deemed important, emphasis is placed on recent dreams. It is important to discover the immediate life situation that triggered the dream, the life context that shaped the dream. It is the context that defines the issue that will be dreamed about. Only by identifying that context can the dreamer find the answer to the question why he or she had the dream on that particular night. The further back in time that a dream goes, the more difficult it usually is to reconstruct the context and the emotional climate arising out of that context.

Stage IB: Clarifying the Dream

When the dreamer has finished his or her account of the dream the members of the group can ask questions to clarify what they have heard, but they cannot pressure the dreamer beyond what is in the dream. The group is entitled to know:

1. Are the characters in the dream real people?

2. If real, what is their relationship to the dreamer (without going into the details)?

3. What are the dreamer's feelings in the dream?

4. Are there any colors in the dream?

5. Was the dreamer his or her present age?

With a new group there is often a tendency to ask more questions than necessary, either in an attempt to get the dreamer to give more associations or to make something more concrete and clearer than it actually was in the dream. Vague and illogical sequences must simply be accepted as such. No account can ever be perfect, and no attempt should be made to make it so. If there are complex spatial arrangements in the dream a diagram can often be helpful.

The Safety Factor in Stage I. It is the dreamer's choice whether or not to share the dream. He or she is not apt to do so unless the person has enough trust in the process and the atmosphere generated by the process.

The Discovery Factor in Stage I. Occasionally, the act of sharing a dream is associated with a sudden burst of insight. The willingness to share a dream means that there has been some lowering of defenses. A direct relationship exists between lowering defenses and the emergence of insight.

Stage II: The Group Makes the Dream Its Own

In this stage the dreamer does not participate actively but is asked to listen to the responses of the group while others make the dream their own. The dreamer is encouraged to jot down anything of interest so that it is available when he or she does respond later. In making the dream their own, the group members are asked first to sensitize themselves to any feelings or moods, that they connect with the imagery (Stage IIA). They are cautioned to speak of the dream as if it were their own and to address their comments to each other, not to the dreamer. Listening to the dream may have aroused various feelings in others or they may share feelings that might have arisen if they had created those particular images themselves.

When this phase is finished, the group is asked to consider each element in the dream symbolically and to link that element metaphorically to some actual or imagined life situation (Stage IIB). They are also told that they are free to share any other feelings that may arise when working with the meaning of the metaphors. Again, stress is placed on the importance of offering everything they say as their own projection.

It is particularly important that the group's comments are not addressed directly to the dreamer. In this way the dreamer feels free to accept or reject what is offered. The group's contributions can be generated in a number of ways. Members can work with the imagery as if it came from their own lives. They can scan their past and present to give the images a personal meaning or to identify the feelings connected with them. They can try to think of the feelings or meanings they might have were they to give their imagination free rein. They may place themselves into their imagined view of the dreamers life, identify with the dreamer and come up with projections based on this identification. Regardless of how they come about, none of these projections is to be seen as applicable to the dreamer's situation until he or she later validates them. The important point is not how the projections are arrived at but how to create the largest number of them in the hope that some of them will resonate with the dreamer and leave him or her feeling that he or she has encountered a significant truth.

As the group begins to offer its projections, the dreamer undergoes a number of interesting reactions. When a group member presents feelings that resonate with the dreamer, the dreamer may not have been aware of these feelings until someone else conceptualizes them. By the same token, a metaphorical translation offered as a projection may feel right and lead to an insightful response. Even when the dreamer cannot identify with the projections from the group, they still may be of help by defining what the image is not. This may then bring the dreamer closer to what the image is about. The interest shown in the dream, the way the group members share their projections, and the help the dreamer feels when some of these meanings strike home all have the effect of facilitating the dreamer's concordant efforts at self-exploration.

The Safety Factor in Stage II. When the group members share feelings and meanings as their own projections the nonintrusive character of the process is maintained. Throughout this stage the dreamer remains in a safe position and is the guardian of his or her own reactions. Should the dreamer experience something coming from the group as true, he or she is free to deal with it either to acknowledge it (which usually happens) or to distance himself or herself from it (rare under the conditions of safety and freedom that exists). At a later stage, the dreamer can decide whether or not to share it with the group.

The Discovery Factor in Stage II. This has already been alluded to, but it is surprising how often the projections of the group are meaningful to the dreamer and how many levels of the personality are touched.

Stage III: The Dreamer's Response and Working Toward Closure

The second stage is only a game. It runs its course, after which the attention shifts back to the dreamer (Stage IIIA). It is important that the dreamer has a clear idea of what is expected at this point. He or she is invited to respond and is free to do so in any way. The dreamer can begin either with his or her associations and thoughts about the dream or with the impact of the group's input on him or her. He or she is free to carry it to any degree of self-disclosure that is comfortable. The dreamer is given all the time needed and is asked to tell the group when he or she is finished. It is important that he or she not be interrupted during the response.

The dreamer usually is appreciative of the concern shown by the group, the sharing of projections and the occasional bull's-eyes that come through. All of this leads to the desire to give something back to the group. Often he or she is amazed at how many of the group's responses were meaningful. The group's projections come in a random fashion and often have an impact at different levels of his psyche. In some cases the group's work has helped the dreamer come into good contact with the dream, and no further work is needed. The dream has made the connections between the images and the life situation. He or she feels in touch with the issues involved and is aware of why the dream occurred when it did.

In most instances, however, more work is needed, work that takes place in the form of a dialogue between the group and the dreamer (Stage IIIB). The purpose of the dialogue is twofold. If the dreamer has not fully developed the immediate life context that shaped the dream, the initial questions should be directed to elucidating that context. The dialogue then shifts to help the dreamer focus on any element in the dream that he or she has not yet commented on.

There is a clear structure within which the dialogue is conducted so that the dreamer's control over the process is maintained and any tendency to be intrusive is curbed. The dreamer is told he or she has complete freedom to decide whether or not to respond to a given question. If he or she does respond, then the level of self-disclosure he or she feels comfortable with is determined by the dreamer.

Specific instructions are given to the group about the kind of questions that may be asked in order to invite a response from the dreamer (without demanding one) and to ensure the dreamer's privacy. Intrusiveness would elicit defensiveness and would interfere with the dreamer's ability to connect with the imagery. To maintain the optimal milieu in which the dreamer feels the safety and freedom to continue exploring the dream, the questions have to be based obviously on the dream or on whatever the dreamer has shared with the group. If the questions are not obvious they are apt to heighten the dreamer's anxiety and defenses. The questions have to be open-ended so that they do not demand an answer but leave the dreamer free to go wherever he or she wishes with the question. The questions serve only to help the dreamer focus on an aspect of the dream that has not yet been developed.

The questioning continues until the dreamer, along with the group, experiences a sense of closure. This comes about at a point where the dreamer feels the connection of the dream to his or her present life and, in some measure, to the past, and feels able to develop further insight into the dream on his or her own if he or she wishes.

Orchestration. When this step is necessary it is considered part of the dialogue. It is treated separately here because the exchange with the dreamer now takes a different turn. Up to this point information eliciting questions have been asked to clarify the dream content and to build bridges between the imagery and waking life. The dialogue may have given the dreamer a great deal, but he or she may not yet have an overall grasp of the dream and its meaning. Further questioning elicits no new data and leaves the dreamer still puzzled. There is a random quality to the game in Stage II and the dialogue, so whatever the impact they may have had, the insights still remain disconnected. The relevant data may have been elicited but are not yet seen in their relation to the dream. What is needed now is an effort to pull together the information that has been made available and to organize it as it applies to the sequential arrangements of the imagery of the dream. But this should not be attempted before all the relevant data have been elicited. It is an attempt at integration which takes the form of a playback by someone in the group, usually the leader, of what the dreamer has shared, put together now in its metaphorical reference to the sequential arrangement of the imagery of the dream. The person who offers the integration makes it clear that he is trying to put together (orchestrate) what he heard the dreamer share with the group, but inasmuch as it is filtered through his own psyche it is likely to include some of his own fantasies and distortions. It is therefore offered as his own projection, and although not put as a question, it is meant as a question for the dreamer to respond to as he or she sees fit. When this is done well, it often adds a finishing touch to the process and brings about a closure that might not have occurred otherwise. The dreamer, of course, is given an opportunity to respond.

The dialogue is the part of the process that requires the most skill and the most experience. It also requires some advance preparation. Careful listening to all that has been shared is an essential precondition for formulating helpful questions in the dialogue. This is not easy to do. The group members have pretended that the dream was their own and often listen to the dreamer more in the hope of validating or developing their own ideas of what the dream means instead of paying full attention to all that the dreamer shares and the way he or she is connecting the dream to his or her life. Listening is a skill that has to be learned. It means taking seriously everything the dreamer says, particularly those things that are emphasized or said with feeling. It also involves listening to what the dreamer does not say, that is, elements in the dream the dreamer has not mentioned.

The questions directed to the dreamer should be simple, clear, and obvious. They should be information-eliciting questions and not used to offer information or an interpretation to the dreamer. The information embedded in the imagery has come out of the life history of the dreamer, not out of the lives of the group members. The questions are attempts to externalize this information. Once the relevant facts are brought out, the dreamer often is able to see their connection to the imagery.

By calling attention to elements in the dream not addressed by the dreamer the group assumes an advocacy role for the dream. This helps the dreamer to go beyond the waking tendency to stay with the most immediate and obvious connections that come to mind. Once the dreaming experience is transformed into the dream as a waking memory it is seen from a waking perspective, which often results in a limited and distorted view of the dream. There is a tendency to recognize and deal with those elements in the dream that fit most readily into the waking mood and to neglect other elements. The group's responsibility is to consider all of the elements in the dream and to ensure that they are all called to the dreamer's attention. The dreamer still retains the freedom to respond to the question or not. In practice questioning along these lines is helpful for someone who has already been launched on the road to self-discovery in Stage II. When the nonintrusive atmosphere is maintained in the question period, the dreamer's desire to get deeper into the dream is stronger than any tendency toward avoidance. It is up to the group to keep that curiosity alive without invading the dreamer's privacy. The group has to develop a sensitivity as to when a dreamer is inviting them in or out. They learn to follow, never to lead, the dreamer. The group must always remember that its mission is to dose the gap between the dreamer awake and the dreamer asleep. The group is never to test its own interpretive ability or to deal with personal reactions experienced during the process. There are occasions when these reactions do intrude, in which case the leader stops the dream process and opens up a group process in order to deal with the issue. However, this is rare if the structure is adhered to. Group members are generally able to contain their own reactions.

The important point about the orchestration is that, to the extent possible, it should be based solely on data coming from the dreamer and not from the theories and fantasies of the person doing the orchestration. In this way it differs from the projections offered to the dreamer during Stage II. Although the orchestration remains a projection, it is built upon what the dreamer has shared with the group rather than what comes out of the psyche of the person offering it. It should not be taken as an opportunity for free play of the one doing the orchestration.

Sometimes there is the feeling that an orchestration is needed, but either the time has run out or the data appear too profuse and too complex to be put together at the time. When that is the case a delayed orchestration may be attempted. The data offered by the dreamer are reviewed some time after the group has met but before the next group meeting. A delayed orchestration can best be done if all the data from the dreamer are available. It is usually helpful to have that information available in written form. The procedure is the same as before, scanning the data to identify the context and the metaphorical relation of the data to the sequential arrangement of images in the dream. This is then offered to the dreamer at the next meeting as a projection and a question, as previously described. The dreamer is given time to respond if he or she so wishes.

The Safety Factor in Stage III. The safety factor rests on the dreamer's right to decide what to share or not to share in his or her initial response and later in the dialogue. When the dreamer is tempted to withhold something too private to share, he or she must be reassured by the leader that he or she has the right to do so and need not feel guilty. The primary goal of the process is to help the dreamer connect to the dream. While the sharing is important, it always remains secondary. As experience with the process is gained it becomes apparent that the freer the dreamer is in sharing his or her reactions the more data the group members have to work with and the more helpful they can be.

The Discovery Factor in Stage III. The same mechanism operates here as in Stage I. As the dreamer responds, spontaneous connections and insights occur. Often in the questioning period a simple information-eliciting question-such as "What thoughts or feelings did you have just before falling asleep?"-can immediately alert the dreamer to a sense of why the dream occurred when it did. By the same token direct questions about elements in the dream not mentioned by the dreamer can elicit a flow of relevant information.

Stage IV: The Dreamer's Review of the Dream

The dreamer is encouraged to review the dream in light of the work done by the group before the next meeting. Alone, but having had the benefit of the group work, the dreamer may now find that some things he or she had rejected while in the group may not fit. By the same token, the dreamer may reject some things he or she thought did fit while with the group.

These four stages define the process. They are fashioned to meet the dreamer's need to feel safe while being helped to connect with his or her dream images. The process should be experienced as nonintrusive and respectful of the dreamer's privacy as well as his or her authority over the dream. By allowing a safe public airing of the dream, there is a release from much that was secret and burdensome, which results in a greater capacity for honest self-scrutiny and a deeper sense of communion with fellow dreamers.


The following example of a workshop experience was chosen because it illustrates the four stages of the process and also refers to socially relevant issues. The dreamer, Else, is a Norwegian photographer in New York on an assignment. While here she had an affair with a black musician who worked in Harlem. The dream occurred toward the end of her stay in New York. The group, of course, was not privy to any of this information at the point when Else volunteered to share her dream.

Stage IA: Else's Dream. "There was a small pond of dirty brown water. It seemed to be connected with industrial waste or farming. I was passing it on my way somewhere. There was a man bathing in the pond. To me he seemed white. He is drunk. There are others with him. It's a kind of party. They are all drunk. A voluptuous woman is also in the pond bathing. She is very white and naked. The man dives down. He doesn't come up. I know he has drowned. The woman tries to find him.

"I have almost passed by as this was happening. The thought came to me that perhaps I should go back and try to rescue him but I don't.

"Then one day later someone who I think is my mother or secretary phones the drowned man's mother on my behalf to offer my condolences. Then I see that his mother is black, an African, so at this point I realize the man was black. His mother is dressed like an African. She has a lot of people around her and says she doesn't need my condolences."

Stage IB. The following additional information came out in the questioning:

1. In the dream no one was recognized except for the possibility it was Else's mother who made the phone call.


2. At some point in the dream she realized there was shit in the pond.


3. It was dark as if the scene were taking place at night.

Stage IIA. The group made the dream their own and shared the following feelings evoked by the imagery:

"I have a feeling of dissipation and disgust at that drunken party and the dirty pond."

"I feel as though I'm denying something, as though I don't want to have anything to do with it."

"The feelings I have are those of confusion, disease, and death."

"I have an innocent feeling. I'm just passing by. There is a feeling of detachment."

"I feel ambivalent. I feel distant but involved."

"I feel powerless."

"A feeling of degradation. "

"It leaves me with a feeling of foreigness. "

"His mother makes me feel rejected."

Stage IIB. The group then considered the metaphorical possibilities of the images. Some of what they came up with follows:

"The woman is voluptuous. I'm expressing something both sexual and motherly."

"I feel self-righteous."

"There is a triangle in my dream arousing envy and jealousy. She can't save him but is willing to endure horrible things to be with him."

"The scene suggests an orgy."

"There is a sense of something going on on a large scale, a feeling of excesses."

"Work and nature converge and result in contamination."

"My feelings about the man change completely."

"Women dominate in my dream, first the voluptuous woman, then the mother."

"I have problems around a black man I'm going with."

"In the kind of bathing I'm doing it's the opposite of cleansing."

"Industrial waste is something occurring on a large scale and is toxic. There is a lack of caring as evidenced by the drunkenness and the shit."

"I'm not a part of his world."

"The women have the strength."

Stage III: The Dreamer's Response. The dream was given back to the dreamer and her response invited:

"I got lots of new ideas. I felt a lot while you were talking. I still can't put it together.

"When I went to sleep I felt very relieved. I had made a decision. My boyfriend here is black. I'm doing a photographic piece on Harlem. I sent a first draft to my agent and he was critical. I thought of trying another approach and started to do some preparation for it, but then the thought occurred to me that maybe I should just not do it. I felt so relieved.

"I didn't want to deal with half-truths in the article. That would be to betray by boyfriend. His life is rough right now. Perhaps I can't help him. I'm realizing more and more how different we are. I can't reach him."

Stage III: The Dialogue. It was evident that beginning contact with the dream had been made, but there was more work to be done. The work was carried further through the dialogue that ensued.

Why the voluptuous woman?

"I'm sure it was me. She is shining white there in the moonlight. I'm sure he finds me attractive. She is the Madonna and the Whore."


What were your last thoughts as you were about to fall asleep?

"I had a fantasy conversation with my boyfriend. I feel he is in deep trouble."


The scene at the pond?

"It was of Norwegian nature. It feels like where I grew up. I connect the pond to a well that was there. The water was brown and dirty. As a child I was scared of falling into it. There was a bull roaming around there that also scared me. I was afraid the bull might push me down the well."

Else volunteered more about the woman:

"The woman is the feminine part of me that I thought could help him. The dream tells me this is not so. Even with my femininity, I can't help him. And, do I really want to help him?"

Why the shitty water?

"I love New York but there are also ponds full of shit. I drink too much in New York."

Else went back to the image of herself walking away.

"It's really so simple. I'm walking away as if I'm just looking. That's what I do. I go places and do things but I'm just looking. It's been my whole life. On my tombstone they'll put: 'No thank you, I'm just looking' like I always say to the salesgirl at Bloomingdales."

Why is his mother in the dream?

"I have been in Africa. African women do all the work-they are strong."

Why is your mother in the dream?

"I would like her to help me. It would be good to have a mother who could help, an archetypal kind of mother."

Stage III: Orchestration. The session ended here with a partial sense of closure about the dream and an awareness of the connection of the feeling of relief, which came not only from her deciding to give up the idea of the piece she had set out to do but, more significantly, her awareness of the limitations in relation to her boyfriend and her inability to rescue him. With all that Else had shared spontaneously and all that came out in the dialogue there was a sense that more could be done with the dream if more time had been available. Under these circumstances a "delayed" orchestration can be attempted. It simply is an effort to bring together the highlights of what the dreamer shared in the group with the possible metaphorical meaning of the images and the sequential development of these images in the dream. Else left for Norway shortly after she presented the dream, so there was no opportunity to share any afterthoughts with her in person.

I reviewed the work that had been done on the dream, developed some additional ideas about the imagery, and mailed them to Else, indicating that they represented an orchestrating projection on my part and were being addressed to her as a question. I invited her to share any further thoughts she might have had about the dream. Briefly, I suggested that the two situations she was in (with regard to the article and her boyfriend) reawakened the feeling of helplessness and terror she experienced as a child in relation to the bull and the well. The dream brought home the growing realization that her boyfriend was drowning in the "shit" that goes on in New York City. There is the powerful statement in the dream that the man, displaced from his roots, symbolized by the archetypal black mother, becomes a lost soul. The dream ends with a sharper realization of the difference between them, a difference as sharp and unchangeable as the color of their skin.

Stage IV: Else's Additional Commentary. Else responded by mail:

"When I look back at that dream now, I see a few things more clearly than when it was new.

1. That dream marked a new phase in my relationship with Dave, my separation from him. From that day on, I started separating from him.

Before, I (the white female) had willingly joined in all his shit. I loved him and wanted to be with him. But in that dream I (the integrated me) passed by, worried and caring, but still passing by. There is nothing I can do but choose another life for myself.

2. Also, this dream made me realize other things. I can very well understand his reasons for not being nice (when he isn't) and also that he, in his own way, loves me and fights for us. But to understand is not to forgive and put up with. This I have lately realized. He cannot hurt me any longer. I am not mad at him. I just go away from him because he cannot give me the minimum I need in a relationship. And no one, for no reason, is allowed to treat me the way he does when I am needy and dependent.

3. The whole black and white story . . . In the dream his mother makes me realize that he is black and that she and the other black people don't need my condolences. Part of his not trusting me is because he doesn't trust women, but also that he doesn't trust whites. He never said so, but I am by now pretty sure that is the case. It makes me so depressed to see how much of our relationship has been a power struggle in which he cannot see my reality and deal with it; he sees only my strength. Male friends are what he relies on.

"My experience is that a relationship between whites and blacks is no problem as long as it is kept on a superficial level. It was wonderful for me with Dave in those little moments of love we were united. But as soon as we were in ordinary life, facing ordinary conflicts, the whole history-the slave trade, the Civil War, ghettoes, and the Third World stepped in between us. And the myths . . . but also, I am sure that with more time and money we could have worked things out."

The dreamwork led Else to a gradual unfolding of awareness into both the personal and the social meanings of the images. It exposed the fabric of her relationship with a black man, the problems posed by cultural differences, the problems she brought to the relationship (her "onlooker" mode of existence), and the social and historical roots of the problems he presented. The dream was triggered by events in the present. Having made a decision in one area (in relation to her job assignment), there was a readiness to make a decision in another, a readiness that hadn't been grasped in waking consciousness but that had surfaced during sleep to shape the dream. It was as if she were awakening to the fact that she could make decisions that were to her own best interest even though they might conflict with the expectations of others.

Once the decision had been clarified through the group work, many other things fell into place. The decision felt right and the reasons for it became dearer.

Else had little idea of the significance of the dream prior to the group work. Many of the group's projections touched her and made it easier for her to move into the dream.

In typical fashion the dream evoked childhood memories-the little girl and the bull, the contaminated well and the danger associated with it-memories related to the dangers facing her in the current relationship. She can now deal with the dangers through a deeper understanding of herself (she is no longer a helpless child facing the bull) and of her lover (his inability to extricate himself from the grip of historically and socially polluted circumstances).

Using Else's dream as an example, we may point to several images that have both significant personal and social referents. The black man drowning in polluted water represents a specific man in a specific relationship, but he also has a generic character. He is a member of a minority that has had a long history of persecution. There are still aftershocks of racism that continue to take a toll, a toll that can be disastrous at times. The image is there as a bridge, saying something about the personal reference to the social. Else was not just involved with a man, but with a black man in the Harlem ghetto, and the fear being expressed is that the cultural differences between them are contaminated by the toxic residues of racism.

In the dream there is also the combined image of the Madonna and the Whore and the broader social ramifications of such an image. It points to a personal and a social polarity. The Madonna is the ideal, pure nurturer. The Whore is the plaything, the pleasure-seeker living for the moment. The integration of these two polar opposites is not just the problem of the dreamer. To a greater or lesser degree, it is a problem of all women living in the twentieth century.

Here are some further brief examples of how social issues interdigitate with personal ones. Each plays into the other in a mutually reinforcing way.


A young lawyer works for a prestigious law firm that handles large and powerful business accounts. Influenced in part by his wife, he has been moving toward a life-style quite different from his colleagues. In his own words, he is "trying to change from a left-brain creature to a right-brain one." During a recent sabbatical he became more and more disenchanted with his way of life and was drawn to a freer, more satisfying life-style, one not oriented toward increasing returns of status and money.

At the time of the dream he had just returned from his sabbatical and was more poignantly aware of his plight. He referred to the "golden handcuffs" tying him to the job being more evident.

The imagery of the dream evoked a painful childhood memory of an old injury, a deep cut on his cheek that came about because of his mother's carelessness. As a child he felt this was punishment for something bad he had done. Looking back at it, he felt the "bad" was the anger he felt toward his mother but couldn't express. One image in the dream reflected his displaced anger from his mother to his wife. In the dream he can't get his wife to do what he wants and ends up hurling two empty breadbaskets at her. They miss her but hit another woman (later identified as his mother) who was dining at their house.

Later in the dream he becomes aware that this woman has an evil looking child who is holding a knife. He says to the boy, "That's dangerous. When I was a boy I got this bad cut on my right cheek, and now I have this big scar." The boy then points the knife at the dreamer's left cheek, and the dreamer jumps back in terror. Once again, but now as an adult, he would risk serious, perhaps life-threatening injury were he to buck the establishment.


A woman in her late thirties is about to embark on a new relationship. She senses some hesitancy on her part and has a dream that displays some of the roots of her ambivalence. At one point in the dream she sees her father sitting on a swing with four female relatives, all in their heyday, dressed almost like cancan girls. What emerged from the dreamwork were two powerful images that surfaced from her childhood to influence her approach to a new relationship. One was that of the male, derived from the image of her father, as privileged to flirt and play around with other women. The other image was that of the female as victimized by the profligate male, as her mother was. These are images that she is still struggling with. In a larger sense they relate to the residues of sexism, a social issue not yet disposed. The privileged male and the victimized female are still available social stereotypes.


The next dream also involves sexual stereotypes. The two significant images in the dream related to this are the image of a wounded bird unable to join the flock in flight that is picked on by a group of arrogant pheasants. The second image is one of a contractor who, in reality, is involved in remodeling her home. In the dream he tells the dreamer that he can't close off the basement for repairs without, at the same time, closing off the upstairs bedroom. What became clear from the dreamwork was that there was an unresolved tension between her husband and herself. The dreamer had recently gone into therapy to deal with her problems. What the dream seemed to be saying was that the focus couldn't be exclusively on her own problems but that she would have to confront the issues in her relationship with her husband at the same time. The vulnerable areas are those that arose from her own submissive and self-deprecatory tendencies and inclination to accept her husband as the stronger and dominant one. The pheasants who picked on the wounded bird were a string of older brothers in relation to whom these trends evolved. Again, we are seeing the personal impact of social stereotypes that support the notion of male dominance.


A young woman, in the throes of feeling grown up and separate from her parents, dreams of wearing the kind of chic clothes that would appeal to her mother but which she feels don't suit her. In the dream she had put them on because her parents were coming to visit. The dreamwork explored the feeling of not being accepted for herself but only to the extent that she accepted her parent's values. The generational gap goes beyond the personal issue and speaks to the more general issue of the extent to which an older generation is out of touch with the values of the young.


In Sweden, perhaps more so than in the States, there is considerable social pressure for a woman to pursue the dual roles of career professional and homemaker. A young Swedish social worker dreams of her one-year-old child falling off the back of a motorcycle and responds first with terror that he might be hurt. Then, finding that he was not seriously hurt, gets furious with her husband who was driving the motorcycle. The dreamer found it increasingly difficult to leave her young infant at eight in the morning and not see him again until she returned in the evening. She was particularly aware of this the day before the dream. "I felt like the worst mother in the world." The dream also portrayed her annoyance at her husband for not being as upset about this as she is. There doesn't seem to be enough room for women who want to be with their children at home for the first few years of their life. The social pressure to have an independent existence is too great.

Social Issues and Dreaming

Dreams tap into unsolved problems of living, and our first task is to rescue our dream life from the personal closeted existence to which it would otherwise be relegated. I would suggest that we go beyond this to develop a point of view that links the dream not only to our personal life but also to the way we cope with the social order of which we are an integral part. The individual is a point of concentration in a complicated arrangement of social forces, most of which operate outside his awareness and, to a considerable degree, beyond his control or understanding. They do, however, leave their mark, which is often at odds with the constructive potential of human nature.

There is a built-in connection of some sort between dream images and the fact that people participate in a complex social drama that goes on about them, with each person playing a role in it. There is, however, no simple ordered way of relating social issues to dreaming consciousness. The images we use have a social origin, having been created during humanity's long struggle to evolve as a social being. The dreamer borrows these images and then reshapes them to suit his immediate expressive needs. In the examples, we have noted a congruence between the way a dreamer uses a particular image and the existence of related problem areas in a broader social context. This relationship is generally not pursued in dream work. Cultural anthropologists have looked at dreams as mirroring aspects of primitive societies. But we have hardly begun to scrutinize the influence of our own social order on dream images. Were we to do so, I believe that interesting relationships would emerge.

A dream can express not only the personal and subjective but also the historical or current social referent that actually exists or did exist. The following example from Ullman (1960) is illustrative.

When a woman dreams of a reference to her sexual organs as a head of lettuce encased in the empty shell of a cantaloupe sitting on the shelf of a supermarket she is saying something about her own personal sexual problems and, at the same time, making a statement about an aspect of social life. The personal referents arouse our interest, but the social referents are generally not pursued to any great degree.

Briefly, the personal referents are:

1. Sexual organs are seen as separate from her functioning self.

2. Sexual organs are seen as objects.

3. The object is made of completely closed leaves.

4. The object can be bought and sold.

5. There is an anonymity to objects on the shelf of a market.

The real-life situation to which this symbolism alludes may be noted as follows:

1. Involvement in a situation of incipient sexual activity that occurs apart from her own will and intent and at the instigation of her husband.

2. Reactions of irritation, guilt, and constraint.

3. A resolution through pseudo-acquiescence and preparatory sexual activity involving the use of a diaphragm.

The social referents may be similarly noted:

1. We live in a society where the capacities of people are sometimes treated as objects divorced from the person: labor, brains, beauty, talent, sex.

2. These separated capacities are bought and sold.

3. The exchange value and laws of the marketplace tend to make the transaction automatic and impersonal.

4. There exists in the nature of the external referents a detachment or separation of the individual from the commodity she needs or uses. Her real relation to the commodity is obscured and her relationship to it is determined by its manifest elements-the object exists as something apart from herself which may or may not be purchased.[1]

These external or social referents are not only of theoretical interest. They play a powerful role in maintaining a behavioral status quo. A dream may expose a particular behavioral trend that the dreamer may wish to change. He or she finds that change is not easy and is pulled back not only by the weight of his or her own past experiences but also by the external reinforcement that is always on hand in the surrounding social milieu. Stated another way, the trend pays off, that is, it has pragmatic value in a society that bathes and nurtures that particular behavior.

In order to understand the possible connection between social forces and our dream life, we have to map our efforts along at least four dimensions:

1. What we know about our own life history, the kind of person we see ourselves as - our personal consciousness.


2. All that we do not know about our idiosyncratic life history and its impact on us - our personal unconscious.


3. What we know about the nature and operation of the world about us - our social consciousness.


4. All that we don't know about the laws and operations of the social system of which we are a part - our social unconscious.

Although these categories can be discretely defined, in practice there is much blurring and overlap. What it comes down to is that we know and don't know certain things about ourselves and the world about us. Growth is contingent upon experience that exposes areas of ignorance in either the personal or social sphere, providing we are ready for the changes that have to be made. Anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings arise when unconscious areas are intruded upon or gaps in our mastery are exposed. When we feel unable to deal with the issues raised by the gap, we try to brush it aside, deal with it in fantasy, or seek other solutions. Our dreams reflect whichever path we choose. What we come up with may be the precursor to a healthy solution or may represent an attempt to sidestep a healthy solution.


In these examples I have tried to show that the private issue highlighted in the dream gains expression by attracting images that are taken from social experience and carry a congruent social valence. This generally escapes notice because we are not in the habit of extrapolating from the image to the social reality that lies beyond. Driving a car in a dream may deal with the paradoxical issue of personal power and control linked to the problem of dependency. At a social level the auto is a mixed blessing, linking us to a source of pollution while expanding our power of movement. This would simply be the surface thread which, if unravelled, might take us further into the world of giant corporations and their powerful impact on our environment and our lives.

As far as I know, there are no socially sanctioned, legitimate strategies for discovering our social unconscious. The reason is that exposure of our social unconscious would reveal the damage we pay in human terms for our social blindness. Nevertheless, a variety of approaches address themselves to the social unconscious, ranging from the pedantically scientific to the radically political. Some are to be found in scholarly treatises with little public fallout. Some of it is heralded by countercultural and progressive movements of one sort or another. Dreams are the only universally experienced phenomena that are linked actively each night to our social as well as our personal unconscious. Since they come at us as if they were purely personal, their social message, meaning, and impact are generally lost.

One might ask how these social factors can influence the dreams of people who are neither interested nor concerned about them. The fact is that they do impinge on our daily lives. Our personal interest and concern is relevant only to our consciousness of this influence, not to its occurrence. Most of us are dimly aware of the connection between toxins in the environment and cancer. The toxic fallout is becoming more and more palpable with measurable effects. If human misery were as easily identified and as objectionable as environmental pollution, then the emotional fallout consequent to the organization and evolution of particular aspects of our society would come back to haunt us in an oppressive way. This tends not to happen unless the conflict flares into the open. Then the emotional toxins, no longer containable, break out. Anyone who has ever witnessed a social crisis can bear witness to the speed and intensity with which violent feelings escalate out of all proportion to the issues involved. Only then does the emotional disorder become evident as a social problem. Something that has registered below the level of awareness congeals into consciousness.

The issues involved in social and political causes go far beyond the immediate participants of the drama to effect the lives of us all. For the most part, we live as if this were not so. That is why so many of us have an undeveloped sense of social consciousness, or conversely, huge unexplored areas of social unconsciousness. Interest in these areas is actively discouraged. Our feelings, however, can't be turned off, and these indicators surface time and again to make their presence felt in our dreams. In so doing they register the only form of protest that may be available to us.

Thus the dream makes us "political scientists of a progressive persuasion" if only we knew that it did. We become our own commentators of the social scene.


Our emphasis has been on dreamwork as a socializing process wherein the emotional thrust of the dream is recognized by the waking or social self. This process of engagement with feelings in a supportive and cooperative milieu makes for change. While the personal problems don't vanish, they are restructured to encompass the newly recognized aspects of the self more accurately. Created under conditions of the temporary suspension of the social self, the dream has been transformed into a communication that is meaningful to the social self. The process is difficult, uneven, troublesome, but infinitely rewarding. It is more than the negative process of ferreting out personal foibles and hypocrisies. It becomes a treasure hunt where one can discover an unsuspected quarry of human virtues. Our capacities for concern, courage, tenderness, and similar qualities confront us in our dreams, waiting to be recognized and validated by our social self. Paradoxically, often our unawareness of the existence and strength of these virtues serves to perpetuate the very myths that get us into psychological and emotional difficulty.

Using the notion of myth in the sense of a false or outworn belief system, our dreams can then be regarded as holding up a mirror that gives us a view of our personal myth-making propensity and talent. If we look deeply enough into the mirror, we can identify the sources of our personal myths in the prevailing social myths that continue to obscure certain aspects of society at large.

We have raised the question of the potential of dreamwork to get a deeper insight into the social scene and for social change. Dreams have been presented as bi-directional, pointing not only to still active issues in the life of the dreamer but also to still unresolved social issues. We further suggest that the relationship between the personal and the social is a mutually reinforcing one based on the congruence between prevailing social values and the meaning of the image for the dreamer.

We exist in a state of tension with a supraordinate system of social sanctions and constraints with which we cope as best we can, given our unique psychological endowment and history. Our uniqueness is the product of, and expressed through, the collective social forces that continuously impinge upon us. The dreamer pauses nightly to assess these influences, particularly in regard to their capacity to upset any preexisting equilibrium. We can seek help from others in searching for individual answers. Who can we take as a guide into the infinitely more complex and tangled underbrush of the social unconscious? Who but our own uncorrupted core of being, that part of us that can still invest in honesty? Fortunately, the dream is a kind of emotional range finder that locates this uncorrupted core in the sea of those influences, good and bad, known and unknown, that impinge on it. This is what makes their pursuit more than a game and more meaningful than fantasy.

It is my hope that a reexamination of the nature of our dream life and its importance to us will pave the way to the recognition that dreams can be more universally accessible and that the technology exists for placing dreamwork in the hands of the public. The skills needed can be identified, shared, and learned. It is to the interest of all of us to close the gap between the intrinsic value of dreamwork and the value accorded it in the social system.

Let me close with a quote from an earlier work:

The technical skills needed to deal with dreams can be readily taught. One need only identify, refine, and help conceptualize certain intuitive faculties. At a time when expanded self-awareness seems to be the order of the day one wonders why the natural route of dream appreciation is not more popular. I would suggest that the socially reinforced privacy of the dream is not fortuitous and that our analysis of the objective and subjective sides of the dream may have some relevance here. As long as nothing of importance is allowed to find its way back to society from the dream the individual is left to his own devices and has no choice but to absorb its mysteries within his own personal consciousness or unconsciousness. No room is left for any challenge to the social order. There is room only for personal demons and the transformation of social demons into personal ones. Dream consciousness may indeed pose a danger to any bureaucratic or technologically supercharged society.[2]


Delaney, G. (1988). Living Your Dreams. New York: Harper and Row.

Delaney, G. (1991). Breakthrough Dreaming: How to Tap the Power of Your 24-hour mind. New York: Bantam.

Faraday, A. (1974). The Dream Game. New York: Harper and Row.

Faraday, A. (1979). Dream Power. New York: Berkeley.

Krippner, S. and Dillard, J. (1988). Dream Working. Buffalo: Bearly Limited.

Sanford, J. (1968). Dreams - God's Forgotten Language. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Taylor, J. (1983). Dream Work. New York: Paulist Press.

Ullman, M. (1960). The Social Roots of the Dream, American Journal of Psychoanalysis 20 (2): 187-88.

Ullman, M. (1973). The Societal Factors in Dreaming, Contemporary Psychoanalysis 9 (3): 292.

Ullman, M., and Zimmerman, N. (1979). Working With Dreams. Los Angeles: Tarcher, J. P.

Ullman, M., and Limmer, C., eds. (1988). The Variety of Dream Experience. New York: Continuum.

[1]From Ullman, M., "The Social Roots of the Dream," in the American Journal of Psychoanalysis 20(2): 1960, 187-88. Reprinted with the permission of the American Journal of Psychoanalysis.


[2]From Ullman, M., "The Societal Factors in Dreaming," in Contemporary Psychoanalysis 9(3): 1973, 292. Reprinted with the permission of Contemporary Psychoanalysis (journal of the William Alanson White Institute and the William Alanson White Psychoanalytic Society, New York).