Sunday, March 17, 2019

Why we are losing our dreams

Too many of us have lost touch with our dreams. It's no exaggeration to state that our society is suffering a severe and protracted dream drought. 
   From the viewpoint of many spiritual traditions, this is a very serious condition. It's through dreams, say the Navajo, that humans keep in touch with the spirit realm. If you have lost your dreams, say the Iroquois, you've lost part of your soul. "It is an age-old fact," declared the great psychologist C.G.Jung in his last major essay, "that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions." 
    There are three main reasons for the dream drought in many modern lives:

1. Bad habits. 

The rhythms and routines of a typical urban life simply don't support dream recall. Too often, we are jolted awake by alarm clocks - or bed mates, or kids who need to get to school - and stumble out into the world, fueled with caffeine, to try to get through our rounds of deadlines and obligations. In many situations, we have nothing that supports and rewards the habit of taking time to collect our dreams. Most of us also lack a practice for creating a safe space where we can share our dreams, receive helpful feedback, and be supported in devising creative action to embody the guidance and energy of our dreams. If we don't do something with our dreams, we will not dream well.

2. Fear and regret. 

We run away from our dreams because we think they might be telling us something we don't want to hear - about the dark side of ourselves, or trouble or illness ahead. We slam the door and say "it's only a dream." This is a poor strategy. Issues we leave unresolved in the night are likely to come round and bite us in the rear end in the everyday world. 
    Alternatively, we dream of something wonderful - of joy and delight with Mr or Ms Right, of a dream home, a dream job, a world of peace and beauty. But when we wake up we tell ourselves there's no one like Mr Right in our life, or we don't have the looks or the money or the ability to manifest what we enjoyed in our dreams. So we kiss off the dreams, telling ourselves they are "only" dreams. Again, this is a foolish reflex. If we can dream it, we may just be able to do it.

3. Artificial sleep cycles. 

Very often our concept of a good night's sleep is at odds with our dreams. Many of us believe - supported by any number of sleep doctors and pharmaceutical companies - that we need to spend seven or eight hours each night in uninterrupted sleep. This idea would have amazed our ancestors. Before the advent of artificial lighting (gas and then electricity) most humans experienced "segmented sleep" divided into at least two distinct cycles, a "first sleep" and a "second sleep" as they used to be called in England. 
    Experiments by a team led by Dr Thomas Wehr for the National Institutes of Mental Health suggest that, deprived of artificial lighting, people revert to the ancient sleep plan, with an interval of several hours between the two sleeps.One of the most interesting findings of Wehr's research was that during this interval subjects typically register elevated levels of prolactin, a pituitary hormone that helps hens to brood peacefully on their eggs for prolonged periods, and assists humans to lay eggs of a different kind, but putting them into a benign altered state of consciousness not unlike meditation. Sleep historian A.Roger Ekirch says flatly, "Consolidated sleep, as we experience it today, is unnatural." 
    The French had a charming word for the liminal state between two sleeps: dorveille, which literally means wake-sleep. Among indigenous and early peoples, it's a time when you might stir and share dreams with whoever is available. It's a highly creative state, so much so that in my Secret History of Dreaming I have called it the "solution state", based on the many scientific discoveries, and other breakthoughs, have come in this zone. While we are primed or medicated to give ourselves just one longish sleep period,we are limiting our chances of recalling and sharing dreams, and depriving ourselves of easy access to the fertile field of hypnagogia - the images that come and the connections that are made - between sleep and waking.


James Wilson said...

Hi Robert, when I've read your story about Freud in your book the Mysterious Realities it made me think of Freuds dream you wrote about in The secret history of dreaming. The Irma dream. And how he might have missed the important message about his health that was hidden in the dream. Because he over analyzed the dream.
After reading the story I wondered how it's possible that a messenger who can do something difficult as seeing and predicting a future, and is willing to warn Freud about this future, gives an unclear message to him. Which he couldn't understand. A messenger who can do something as difficult as seeing and predicting a future, should be able to perform a simple task as passing on this important message. Freuds live depended on it. (if the theory that the dream is about his health is right)

You remark: "it is possible that a single affected cell could trigger a dream ..... that was shaped into a dream by the production company in the brain." Made me think.
As well as Jungs remark: "To me, Jung wrote, dreams are a part of nature, which harbors no intention to deceive, but expresses something as best it can"

I thought if this were my dream, what if the body of Freud is the messenger and the production company (as you call it) of this dream? There is the theory that each human body is a world on it's own, with it's own consciousness and memory bank. A collective of 100,000 billion cells with it's own consciousness, comparable to that of an individual person, but by comparison, a very different being with it's own world of experiences and memories. Slowly built up in millions of years (from primate to human). With a lot of memories and experiences from those millions of years still present in the background.

When this consciousness wants to create a dream it has all the images of animals, objects, humans, landscapes etc from millions of years at it's disposal. (And also different perspectives from which to experience the world around itself. Because it evolved as different beings in these millions of years) All very different from the consciousness of the individual person that is "living" in this body. With the memory bank and world of experience of only a dozen years.

When I look at Freud's dream from the perspective of a conscious collective of cells who want to send an important message to Freud, some elements from the dream seem to make more sense.

James Wilson said...

- You wrote: "it is possible that a single affected cell could trigger a dream ..... that was shaped into a dream by the production company in the brain."
In the memory bank from the consciousness of his body there must be a lot of memories of when that collective of cells was damaged or attacked by substances from their environment. Toxic chemicals in the soil (from volcanic eruptions, forest fires etc), poisons from other animals or plants etc. And the memory which kind of damage it caused to them (where and how much) and how they repaired it (if the body survived the damage) Maybe after all the repeating experiences from million of years, the knowledge that his collective of cells possess is so extensive that it can predict in advance where the damage will occur and what it will look like, if Freud keeps exposing them to this poison in the years after the dream.
This would also mean that this Irma dream was, on that moment, not a clear vision from the future, but a dream that originated from past experiences.

- In Freud's dream the person who had shown the signs which could refer to the cancerous growth he developed years later, was a woman and a widow. Instead of Freud himself. If the consciousness of his body would have shown Freud himself, the chance he would understand the dream would be much bigger.
This could mean that this consciousness does not recognizes itself as the person Freud, but only as itself. And doesn't understand it has to show Freud.

In the memory bank from this consciousness there could be the repeating experiences (and growing awareness) that generation after generation it always meets (at least since it developed into a human) a consciousness of an individual person. And the repeating experiences of marriage between two people must be present as well.
Maybe his body wanted to say to Freud: you're other half is getting sick. Recognizing itself as the other half in the existing relationship / marriage; consciousness of the individual Freud & the consciousness of the body. (two "souls" in one body)
It could have shown itself as Freuds wife as well to give this message, but maybe it also wanted to show itself as a widow. Knowing the end of the relationship would come of Freud kept exposing it to the poison.

James Wilson said...

-As you have mentioned in your book, the pseudonym Freud chose has a meaning. Irma is a Germanic girl's name derived from the name Irmgard. Irmgard is a combination of the Germanic words Irm: everything included (universal), great, wonderful, mighty. And Gard: defined / fenced space, court, house, branch, sprout (of a plant), rod.

Germanic peoples lived in Europe from 2,000 years ago. Who knows how old the name Irma / Irmgard is and how long generations of Freud's ancestors have heard this name (and it's meaning). (I don't know how long his ancestors lived in or outside Europe or outside Europe) If generation after generation has heard and used this name and it's meaning, it can be included in the memory bank of the consciousness of the collective of cells. While Freud thought about a pseudonym to use, this consciousness could have stimulated the process of making the name pop up in his mind. Because a consciousness of many cells recognizes itself in terms like; everything included (universal), defined space, court, house.

- Freud mentioned he believed he had this dream because Otto mentioned, the evening before the dream, to him that Irma was not quite well yet. Which upset him and made him get this dream.
The evening before the dream he was playing the card game Königrufen with Otto. Königrufen is a card game from the Tarock family. He was an experienced player of the game. Playing it weekly with a group of friends.
I'm not familiar with the game, so looked up the rules on the internet. Unlike many other card games, there are no fixed partners in Königrufen. The cards and the bid-for contract decide who plays with whom. When one of the players announces a King of his choice, the player who has the King of the chosen color in his hand becomes the player's partner. The other two players play as the opposing team. You will only know who your partner is after you have called the King.

I wonder if playing this game the whole evening could have influenced his dream that night, as the message from Otto did.
Freud starts his dream with: "Among them was Irma. I at once took her on one side, as though to answer her letter and to reproach her for not having accepted my 'solution' yet."
He answered her letter, could refer to the game as; Irma called the King (send the letter) and Freud answered the call (took her on one side)

In the game konigsrufen, the dynamics of playing with a partner return. Calling a partner. Trying to win the game with your partner. That may have stimulated the creator of the dream to want to portray itself in the role as partner in the dream. (woman and widow)
It also occurs to me that if the letter of Irma in the dream was meant to be seen as "calling the King", and the choice (of the consciousness of the body) for the name Irma was meant to portray itself as universal, a defined space, a court, a house, the creator of the dream suggests a relationship between King and kingdom. Which reminds me of the symbols from the unconscious according to Jung. (Child, Hero, wise old man ... ) Freud is portrayed in the dream as the hero (the king who will restore the well-being of his kingdom)
(maybe these ideas have been suggested before. I can't find the book by T Hersh you're referring to.)

Robert Moss said...

James - the reference you are seeking is Thomas Hersh, "How Might We Explain the Parallels between Freud's 1895 Irma Dream and His 1924 Cancer?" an article in DREAMING (journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams) 5 no.4 (December 1995) 267-287.This is in the bibliography and notes in The Secret History of Dreaming.

I look forward to studying your most interesting reflections on the Irma dream.