Example: For some considerable time I have been troubled by a nightmarish dream which is so realistic sometimes I think I am going to die. In my dream I have swallowed something which is literally choking me or is going to poison me. I wake up and rush down the stairs to the kitchen, spitting and choking, holding my throat and making all sorts of disturbing noises which frighten my wife. I have had this dream as many as five or six times a night. My doctor says it could be to do with the last war. I was a child then and my dad constantly had to wake me up to take us down to the shelter, sometimes as many as four times a night, and we were bombed out twice. I cannot recall having any fears about this at the time’ (Mr KT).

Abreaction is a re-experiencing of painful or traumatic events or situations. In many dreams it is obvious that the process underlying dreams is attempting to trigger an abreac­tion. This suggests the dream process, as Jung and Hadfield say, is a self-regulatory one in our psyche. In many cases where a person explores the feeling content of their dreams in a confident way, abreaction occurs. Although it has been given different names in recent years, such as primal therapy, rolfing, discharge, catharsis, abreaction is still a basic psycho­logical healing process. Pans of our experience become re­pressed because there is an automatic reaction in us to avoid pain. Therefore painful experience may never be fully felt or understood at the time. Reliving them allows us to review and integrate vital information about ourselves. Frequently all the analysis in the world cannot relieve a neurotic pattern until the repressed emotion holding it in place is released and un­derstood.

The strength with which we hold out against allowing our being to abreact spontaneously is seen in the above example. Mr KT is brought to the brink of reliving his very stressful childhood again and again. Yet he manages to avoid actual memory and, in particular, the experiencing of any childhood emotions and fears.

The opposite is shown in this account by Clive, who explored with me a dream about being shot in the arm in his father s shop. ‘For several hours I could find noth­ing about the dream. My mind simply wandered. But with help I persisted. Suddenly I seemed to break through, first to seeing how the shop was a place in which I have uncon­sciously experienced great emotional pain. My father was al­ways criticising. Never a word of encouragement. Then I burst into powerful sobbing as I felt the pain of wanting my father to love me, instead of cnticising all the time, and help me grow into somebody capable of meeting life. And then, some­thing I just had not wanted to see, the 30 years of my life I had wasted by avoiding any contact with authority. My father was the original authority in my life. I had cut off from him be­cause of the lack of support, and I had done the same with school and other authority situations. But what a relief to un­derstand myself, and to meet that young vulnerable boy I used to be. How I loved him and understood him/myself.’ abroad General: your feelings about that country.

If you have lived in that country: overall experience of that place. Were you happy there, lonely? What characteristics of the people did you take in?



Abreaction | The Dream Meanings

Keywords of this dream: Abreaction

A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

Sigmund Freud was the founder of modern therapeutic analysis of dreams. Freud encouraged clients to relax on a couch and allow free associations to arise in con­nection with aspects of their dream. In this way he helped the person move from the surface images (manifest content) of the dream to the underlying emotions, fantasies and wishes (latent content), often connected with early childhood. Be­cause dreams use condensation—a mass of different ideas or experiences all represented by one dream image or event— Freud stated that the manifest content was meagre’ compared with the ‘richness and variety’ of latent content.

If one suc­ceeds in touching the feelings and memories usually con­nected with a dream image, this becomes apparent because of the depth of insight and experience which arises. Although ideally the Freudian analyst helps the client discover their own experience of their dream, it can occur that the analyst puts to the client readymade views of the dream. Out of this has occurred the idea of someone else ‘analysing or telling us about our dream.

Carl Jung used a different approach. He applied amplifica­tion (see entry), helped the client explore their associations, used active imagination (see entry) and stuck to the structure of the dream. Because amplification also put to the client the information and experience of the therapist, again the dreamwork can be largely verbal and intellectual, rather than experiential.

In the approach of Fritz Perls (gestalt therapy) and Moreno (psychodrama), dream analysis is almost entirely experiential.

The person exploring the dream acts out or verbalises each role or aspect of the dream.

If one dreamt of a house, in gestalt one might stan by saying I am a house’ and then go on to describe oneself just as one is as the particular house in the dream. It is important, even if the house were one existing externally, not to attempt a description of the external house, but to stay with the house as it was in the dream. This is like amplification, except the client gives all the information. This can be a very dramatic and emotional experience because we begin consciously to touch the immense realms of experience usually hidden behind the image. When successful this leads to personal insights into behaviour and creativity. See dream processing; amplification; gestalt dream work.

dream as a meeting place Any two people, or group of people who share their dreams, particularly if they explore the associated feelings and thoughts connected with the dream images, achieve social intimacy quickly. Whether it is a family sharing their dreams, or two fnends, an environment can be created in which the most profound feelings, painful and wonderful, can be allowed. Such exposure of the usually pri­vate areas of one s feelings and fears often presents new infor­mation to the dreamer, and also allows ventilation of what may never have been consciously expressed before. In doing so a healing release is reached, but also greater self under­standing and the opportunity to think over or reconsider what is discovered.

Herbert Reed, editor of the dream magazine Sundance, and resident in Virginia Beach, Va., initiated group dreaming ex­periments. It started because Reed noticed that in the dream groups he was running, when one of the group aired a prob­lem, other members would subsequently dream about that person’s problem. He went on to suggest the group should attempt this purposely and the resulting dreams shared to see if they helped the person with the problem.

The reported dreams often formed a more detailed view of the person’s situation. In one instance the group experienced many dream images of water. It aided the woman who was seeking help to admit she had a phobia of water and to begin thinking about learning to swim. In another experiment, a woman presented the problem of indecision about what college to transfer to and what to study. Her group subsequently said they were confused because they had not dreamt about school. Several had dreams about illicit sex. though, which led the woman to admit she was having an affair with a married man. She went on to realise that it was the affair which was underlying her indecision. She chose to end the affair and further her career.

Whatever may be underlying the results of Reed’s expen- ments, it is noticeably helpful to use the basic principles he is working with. They can be used by two people equally as well as a group—by a parent and child, wife and husband, busi­nessman and employee. One sets out to dream about each other through mutual agreement. Like any undertaking, the involvement, and therefore the results, are much more pro­nounced if there is an issue of reasonable importance behind the experiment. It helps if one imagines that during sleep you are going to meet each other to consider what is happening between you. Then sleep, and on waking take time to recall any dream. Note it down, even if it seems far removed from what you expected. Then explore its content using the tech­niques in dream processing.

Example: My wife and I decided to attempt to meet in our dreams. I dreamt I was in a room similar to the back bedroom of my previous marnage. My present wife was with me. She asked me to help her move the wardrobe. It reminded me of, but did not look like, the one which had been in that bed­room. I stood with my back to it, and reached my hands up to press on the top, inside. In this way I carried it to another wall. As I put it down the wood broke. I felt it ought to be thrown away’ (Thomas B). Thomas explored the dream and found he connected feelings about his first marriage with the wardrobe and bedroom. In fact the shabby wardrobe was Tom’s feelings of shabbiness at having divorced his first wife. In his first marriage, represented by the bedroom, he always felt he was married for life. In divorcing, he had done some­thing he didn’t like and was carrying it about with him. He says ‘1 am carrying this feeling of shabbiness and second best into my present relationship, and I need to get rid of it.’

dream as a spiritual guide Dreams have always been con­nected with the spiritual side of human experience, even though today many spiritual leaders disagree with consider­ation of dreams. Because dreams put the dreamer in touch with the source of their own internal wisdom and certainty, some conflict has existed between authoritative priesthood and public dreaming.

A lay person finding their own ap­proach to God in a dream might question the authority of the priests. No doubt people frequently made up dreams about God in order to be listened to. Nevertheless, despite opposi­tion, Matthew still dreamt of an angel appearing to him, Jo­seph was still warned by God to move Jesus; Peter still dreamt his dream of the unclean animals.

The modern scientific approach has placed large question marks against the concept of the human spirit. Study of the brain’s functions and biochemical activities have led to a sense of human personality being wholly a series of biological and biochemical events.

The results of this in the relationship between doctor and patient, psychiatrist and client, some­times results in the communication of human personality be­ing of little consequence. It may not be put into words, but the intimation is that if one is depressed it is a biochemical prob­lem or a brain malfunction.

If one is withdrawn or autistic, it is not that there is a vital centre of personality which has for some reason chosen to avoid contact, but that a biochemical or physiological problem is the cause—it’s nothing personal, take this pill (to change the biochemistry, because you are not really a person). Of course we have to accept that human personality must sometimes face the tragedy of biochemical malfunction, but we also need to accept that biochemical and physiological process can be changed by human will and courage.

In attempting to find what the human spirit is by looking at dreams, creativity stands out.

The spiritual nature may not be what we have traditionally considered it to be.

An overview of dreams and how dreamers relate to them suggests one amaz­ing fact. Let us call it the ‘seashell effect’. When we hear sounds in a shell that we hold to our ear, the noises heard seem exterior to oneself, yet they are most likely amplification of sounds created in our own ear, perhaps by the passage of blood. Imagine an electronic arcade machine which the player could sit in and, when running, the player could be engulfed in images, sounds, smell and sensation. At first there is shim­mering darkness, then a sound, and lights move. Is it a face seen, or a creature. Like Rorschach’s ink blots, the person creates figures and scenes out of the shapeless light and sound.

A devil appears which terrifies the player. People, de­mons, animals, God and angels appear and fade. Scenes are clearcut or a maelstrom of movement and ill-defined activity. Events arise showing every and any aspect of human experi­ence. Nothing is impossible.

If, on stepping out, we told the player that what occurred was all their own creation due to unconscious feelings, fears, habits, thoughts and physiological processes occurring within them, like the seashell effect, they might say ‘Good God, is that all it was, and I thought it was real. What a waste of time.’

Whether we can accept it or not, as a species we have created out of our own longings, fears, pain and perhaps vi­sion, God, with many different names—politics, money, dev­ils, nationalism, angels, an, and so on and on. All of it has flowed out of us. Perhaps we even deny we are the authors of the Bible, wars, social environments. Responsibility is diffi­cult. It is easier to believe the source is outside oneself. And if we do take responsibility for our amazing creativity, we may feel ‘is that all it is—me?’ Yet out of such things, such fears, such drives, such unconscious patterns as we shape our dreams with, we shape our life and fonune, we shape our children, we shape the world and our future.

The shadow of fear we create in our dream, the situation of aloneness and anger, becomes a pattern of feelings, real in its world of mind. We create a monster, a Djinn, a devil, which then haunts and influences us. Or with feelings of hope, of purposiveness and love, create other forces in us and the world. But we are the creator. We are in no way separate from the forces which create our existence. We are those creative forces. In the deep­est sense, not just as an ego, we create ourselves, and we go on creating ourselves. We are the God humanity has looked so long for.

The second aspect of the human spirit demonstrated by dreams is consciousness.

The unconscious mind, if its func­tion is not clogged with a backlog of undealt with painful childhood experience and nonfunctional premises, has a pro­pensity to form gestalts. It takes pieces of experience and fits them together to form a whole. This is illustrated by how we form gestalts when viewing newsprint photographs, which are made up of many small dots. Our mind fits them together and sees them as a whole, giving meaning where there are only dots. When the human mind is working well, when the indi­vidual can face a wide range of emotions, from fear and pain to ecstasy, this process of forming gestalts can operate very creatively. This is because it needs conscious involvement, and if the personality is frightened of deep feeling, the uniting of deeply infantile and often disturbing cxpcrience is cut out. Yet these areas are very rich mines of information, containing our most fundamental learning.

If the process is working well, then one’s expenence is gradually transformed into insights which transcend and thereby transform one s personal life.

For instance, we have witnessed our own binh in some manner, we also see many others appeanng as babies. We see people ageing, dying. We see millions of events in our life and in others.

The uncon­scious, deeply versed in imagery, ritual and body language, out of which it creates its dreams, picks up information from music, architecture, traditional rituals, people walking in the street, the unspoken world of parental influence.

The sources are massive, unbelievable. And out of it all our mind creates meaning. Like a process of placing face over face over face until a composite face is formed, a synthesis of all the faces; so the unconscious scans all this information and creates a world view, a concept of life and death.

The archetypes Jung talks of are perhaps the resulting synthesis of our own expenence, reaching points others have met also.

If so, then Chnst might be our impression of humanity as a whole.

If we dare to touch such a synthesis of experience it may be seanng, breathtaking.

It breaks the boundaries of our present personality and con­cepts because it transcends. It shatters us to let the new vision emerge. It reaches, it soars, like an eagle flying above the single events of life. Perhaps because of this the great hawk of ancient Egypt represented the human spirit.

Lastly, humans have always been faced by the impossible.

To a baby, walking and not wetting its pants is impossible, but with many a fall and accident it does the impossible. It is a god in its achievement.

To talk, to fly heavier-than-air planes, to walk on the Moon, were all impossible. Humans challenge the impossible every day. Over and over they fall, back into defeat. Many lie there broken. Yet with the next moment along come youngsters with no more sense than grasshoppers, and because they don’t know what the differ­ence is between right and left, do the impossible. Out of the infinite potential, the great unknown, they draw something new. With hope, with folly, with a wisdom they gain from who knows where, they demand more. And it’s a common everyday son of miracle. Mothers do it constantly for their children—transcending themselves. Lovers go through hell and heaven for each other and flower beyond who they were. You and I grow old on it as our daily bread, yet fail to see how holy it is. And if we turn away from it, it is because it offers no certainties, gives no authority, claims no reward. It is the spir­itual life of people on the street. And our dreams remember, even if we fail.

For this is the body and blood of the human spirit.

dream as a therapist and healer There is a long tradition of using dreams as a base for both physical and psychological healing. One of the earliest recorded incidents of such healing is when Pharaoh’s ‘spirit was troubled, and he sent for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men; and Pharaoh told them his dream, but there was none who could interpret it’. Then Joseph revealed the meaning of the dream and so the healing of Pharaoh’s troubled mind took place (Genesis 41).

The Greek Temples of Asclepius were devoted to using dreams as a base for healing of body and mind (see dreams and ancient Greece).

The Iroquois Amerindians used a social form of dream therapy also (see Iroquoian dream cult).

The dream process was used much more widely throughout his­tory in such practices as Pentecostal Christianity, shaktipat yoga in India, and Anton Mesmer’s groups (see sleep move­ments).

Sigmund Freud pioneered the modern approach to the use of dreams in therapy, but many different approaches have developed since his work. Examples of the therapeutic action of gaining insight into dreams are to be found in the entnes on abreaction, recurring dreams, reptiles.

The entry on dream processing gives information about using a dream to gain insight and healing. See also dream as meeting place.

A feature which people who use their dreams as a thera­peutic tool mention again and again is how dreams empower them. Many of us have an unconscious feeling that any impor­tant healing work regarding our body and mind can only be undertaken and directed by an expert, the expert might be a doctor, a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or osteopath. Witness­ing the result of their own dream process, even if helped by an expert, people feel in touch with a wonderful internal process which is working actively for their own good. One woman, who had worked on her dream with the help of a fnend (non expert), said It gave me great confidence in my own internal process. I realised there was something powerful in myself working for my own good. It was a feeling of cooperating with life.’ One is frequently amazed by one’s own resources of wisdom, penetrating insight and sense of connection with life, as met in dreamwork. This is how dreams play a pan in helping one towards wholeness and balance.

The growing awareness of one’s central view of things, which is so wide, piercing and often humorous, brings developing self respect as the saga of one’s dreams unfolds.

There may be no hint of this, however, if a person simply records their dreams without attempting to find a deeply felt contact with their contents. It is in the searching for associ­ated feelings and ideas that the work of integrating the many strands of one’s life begins. Gradually one weaves, through a co-operative action with the dream process, a greater unifica­tion of the dark and the light, the painful and transcendent in one’s nature.

The result is an extraordinary process of educa­tion. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

When Freud, as a qualified doctor and neurologist, became interested in psychology, it was still a branch of philosophy. He gave to it a geography of the human mind, showed the influence the unconscious has upon waking personality, and brought dreams to the attention of the scientific community. His book The Interpretation of Dreams was a turning point in bringing concepts on dreaming from a primitive level to alignment with modem thought. With enormous courage, and against much opposition, he showed the place sexuality has in the development of con­scious self awareness. Freud defined dreams as being:

1- Thoughts in pictures’—a process of thinking while asleep.

2-‘Ego alien’. They have a life and will which often appears to be other than our conscious will. This led older cultures to believe that dreams were sent by spirits or God.

3-‘Hallucinatory’. We believe the reality of the dream while in it.

4-‘Drama’. Dreams are not random images. They are ‘stage managed’ into very definite, sometimes recurring, themes and plots.

5-‘Moral standards’. Dreams have very different moral stan­dards than our waking personality.

6-‘Association of ideas’. In dreaming we have access to in­fant or other memories or experience we would find very difficult to recall while awake.

Freud originally said that one of the main functions of a dream was wish fulfilment, and an expression of the ‘primary process of human thinking’ unaffected by space, time and logic. Later, in considering recurring dreams which re-enact a recent traumatic incident, he agreed that dreams were not only an expression of the ‘pleasure principle’. W.H.R. Rivers, studying dreams connected with war neuroses, saw such dreams as attempts to resolve current emotional problems.

Although there is still controversy regarding whether there can be a valid ‘dream dictionary’, Freud himself saw dream symbols as having consistent meaning so frequently that one could attribute an interpretation to them independently of the dreamer’s associations. See abreaction; Adler, Alfred; birds; dream analysis; displacement; door; Fromm, Erich; halluci­nations and hallucinogens; hypnosis and dreams; Jung, Carl; lucidity; plot of dreams; wordplay and puns; secret of universe dreams; dream as therapist; unconscious. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

Son of a pastor, his paternal grandfather and great grandfather were physicians. He took a degree in medicine at the University of Basle, then specialised in psychiatry. In early papers he pioneered the use of word- association, and influenced research into the toxin hypothesis regarding schizophrenia. Jung’s addition to modern therapeu­tic attitudes to dream work arose out of his difference of view with Freud regarding human life. Jung felt life is a meaningful experience, with spiritual roots. His interest in alchemy, myths and legends added to the wealth of ideas he brought to his concept of the collective unconscious.

The subject of sym­bols fascinated him and he devoted more work to this than any other psychologist. He saw dream symbols, not as an attempt to veil or hide inner content, but an attempt to eluci­date and express it. It is a way of transformation where what was formless, non-verbal and unconscious moves towards form and becoming known. In this way dreams ‘show us the unvarnished natural truth’. By giving attention to our dreams we are throwing light/upon who and what we really are—not simply who we ait/as a personality, but who we are as a phenomenon of cosmic interactions.

Jung recommended looking at a series of one’s dreams in order to develop a fuller insight into self. In this way one would see cenain themes arising again and again. Out of these we can begin to see where we are not balancing the different aspects of ourself. See abreaction; active imagination; ampli­fication; archetypes; black person; collective unconscious; compensatory theory; creativity and problem solving in dreams; dream analysis; Fromm, Erich; identity and dreams; individuation; lucidity; mandala; dream as spiritual guide; unconscious. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

Example: Many times in my adult life I have woken to find I have made love to my wife while asleep. Or I wake to discover myself in the middle of the sexual act. At such times I have usually been avoiding my sexual drive and it has burst through to fulfil itself while I was asleep or under the sway of dreams.

For instance most times this hap­pened I have been in the middle of a dream in which there is a sense of absolute imperative that I must make love/have sex.

It is like being lost in a storm of glamour and fantasy or vision in which I am totally involved.

The whirl of the “dream” is towards the wonder, totality of the need to have sex. As this imperative is expressed in my still spontaneous, dreaming physical action, the experience of sex is also visionary and enormous’ (Charles W).

This fairly common dreaming experience demonstrates powerfully how dreams are an expression of a self regulatory or compensatory action in the psyche and body. Charles says that he had been restraining his sexual activity. This shows the enormous gulf which can exist between what we will to do as a conscious personality, and what our being needs to do or wishes to do outside conscious decision making.

The ‘glamour and fantasy’ Charles describes are regular features of how these deeper needs make themselves known, or attempt to coerce the conscious mind, into fulfilling the need.

If we reject the fantasy, the unconscious processes will attempt a more radical approach, as in actual physical movement while we sleep. This may have given rise to ideas about possession or devils in past ages, when it was not understood that we can split our mind by such conflicts. Fear of the possessing’ influ­ence actually heightens its power through suggestion. It is much better to understand what one’s needs are, and seek an acceptable fulfilment. See abreaction. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences

To be shot: a traumatic injury to feelings, often out of parental or other close relationship. It need not be something dramatic like being assaulted, but can be a quiet injury like not bonding emotionally with parents. Someone, something else shot: still usually refers to dreamer. Dreamer shooting someone, something: anger, fear or defence against meeting feelings or insights; aggressive sexuality. Idioms: get shot of; shot across the bows, shot in the arm; all shot to pieces; shot in the dark. See example in abreaction. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
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