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Open Letter to the Dream Group Forum

BY MONTAGUE ULLMAN, M.D.

Dream Appreciation Newsletter vol 4 nr 4, Fall 1999

Where will the Dream Group Forum be at the close of the next decade? To answer that question, we first have to see where you have been.

You have laid the foundation for something that is unique and, in my opinion, terribly important. You have created the first institution for the training of leaders to engage in group dream work in the community in a serious and effective way. This has been largely due to the hard work and devotion of the founders of the organization and a handful of others who offered to help. For all this I wish to commend you and express my personal gratification.

In this communication, I want to map out the direction I hope the D.G.F. will take in the future. Before doing this, however, I want to share a concern of mine that comes out of my experience with the psychoanalytic movement in the United States. I grew up with that movement and believe I can speak objectively about it.

Psychoanalysis has lost considerable ground in recent years. Two factors built into the way it was institutionalized account for the fact that it has been overshadowed by the many other modes of therapy that have sprung up. The first was the cult-like, almost religious adherence to Freud as the founder of psychoanalysis. What was lost sight of was that depth psychology was an evolving, growing organism, and there had to be new psychological space into which it could grow. Many of Freud's original followers left him for that reason.

When I returned from overseas in 1945 to continue my psychoanalytic training, four groups had split off from the orthodox Freudian group.

In search of a freer intellectual atmosphere, the American Academy of Psychoanalysis was formed (of which I was a Founding Charter Fellow). That was a step in the right direction, providing the rich new input of thinkers like Harry Stack Sullivan, Karen Homey, Erich Fromm, Abraham Kardiner, Clara Thompson, Bernard Robbins and William V. Silverberg.

But in my view, the Academy had from a flaw. The occurrence and treatment of emotional disorders was also a social problem, and it was the responsibility of professionals to recognize it as such. That meant reaching out to the public in a collaborative effort to evolve preventive strategies that might reduce the growing number of psychiatric casualties. I have over the years tried to alert my colleagues to this responsibility, but to no avail.

The reason for this brief historical review is to alert you to the danger of ending up in the same way several decades from now as an organized group of privately practicing dream group workers. That alone will not succeed in bringing the rich healing potential of dreams to the attention of the community. It won't reach the younger generations through the educational system. It won't reach other target populations in need of help - the older population, drug addicts, incest survivors, prisoners and, of course, the general population in search of deeper truths about their own subjectivity.

How many people in Sweden are aware of the message Poul Bjerre left them: Dreaming is a natural healing system, analogous in every way to our immune system, circulatory system, etc. This is the message I hope I have taught. In one way or another, a concerted effort has to be made to leave that message at everyone's doorstep.

The D.G.F. should take pride in the fact that at this time in history, Sweden is the only country in the world where this dream could be realized. You have everything going for you - you have well-trained leaders from many different professions and skills, you have at least one and probably several friends in the Swedish Parliament, you have several hundreds of people who already have had some experience with dream work, and you have members with contact with the media. In short, you have everything you need to transform this dream into a reality.

To put it simply, you have a unique opportunity to transform at least one member of the dream-deprived family of nations into one where the creativity, imagination and power of the truth as embedded features of dream imagery are available to all. Some of you have worked hard to do this, but it can't be accomplished by the sporadic efforts of a few. This was obviously among the original goals of the D.G.F., but it is obvious it will need the concerted effort of every member to reach it. You have available to you a process designed to be in the hands of the layman. You have everything in place but one to successfully undertake this task. That one thing is some organizational restructuring to give equal status to these two educational goals - to train leaders and to alert the public to the importance of dream work.

How to bring about this systematic change I have to leave in your hands. I can only stress the fact that some change is necessary if you are to make these two goals co-equal. You have succeeded in the first. The task for the coming decade is to succeed in the second.

You have a wide range of talent and experience among your membership. There should be enough members who can be mobilized into a cohesive group, section or whatever administrative arrangement you deem necessary to see real movement in the direction I am suggesting. You and you alone are in a position to introduce dream work into the family, the school, the clergy, the business world and the various professions. It won't be easy.

Dreams in the current era are, unfortunately, counter-cultural in the honesty with which they expose not only personal tensions but social tensions as well.

It will take manpower, dedication and the skillful use of mass media to get this project underway. The soil has been prepared and all is in readiness for a sturdy tree of dreams to grow in Sweden. I wish with all my heart that you succeed.

- Monte