ON DREAMS – And Making Movies.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on January 23, 2011

Dreams are a type of self- communication. In some cultures, they are a communication from unknown parts of the universe, and as such they are shared in town meetings and included in community decisions. The Raramundi of Northern Mexico plan their sleeping arrangements to facilitate waking and discussing their dreams. The Ashanti of West Africa, believe in dreams as actual expressions of feelings and behavior and will bring legal action against another on the basis of the content of the dreams. The Iroquis hold an annual festival of dream sharing through pantomime and story telling, which then becomes part of their community lore. In ancient Greece, dreams were believed to be messages form the Gods. In the modern Western world, Freud considered dreams to be the “royal road to the unconscious”. Freud’s theory of dreams, along with the concept of the unconscious remains one of his most important contributions to a theory of mind.

My own interest and experience with dreams began at my grandmothers’ knee. We would sit and eat breakfast together in the kitchen, and she would begin my day by asking me what I had dreamt the night before. We developed this morning routine in which she taught me how to be curious about my dreams.  Many years have passed since then, and her interest in dreams deeply influenced me,  even before I became a psychoanalyst. I have always kept a special place in my thinking for dreams, and what they are about. While I approach them playfully, I take them very seriously.

Since dreams are your own production, we could think of your unconscious as the production company and major studio behind the show. Dreams are like your own movie: You are the director, scriptwriter, set designer, costume designer, editor, cameraperson, etc. You provide all the special effects. Dreams are hatched and incubated in your unconscious, and derive their story line from your personal data center. Often dreams are amalgamations of daily experience, situations that trouble us or stress us, wishes that are held dear or sometimes in abeyance, and rehearsal areas for new behavior. Dreams can also provide a narrative in which we try to resolve something, and/or re-live a past experience or trauma. Dreams are internal communications that may speak to us of personal work that has to be done, redone, initiated or completed.  They are based on our history and experience, and on material that remains unformulated in our unconscious. The stuff that is known deep inside but has yet to be put into words.

The story, narrative,  or content of a dream comes directly from your unconscious and bypasses the sequential logic of consciousness. This accounts for why dreams are often nonsensical and fantastical: the language of the unconscious utilizes sensual experience: sounds, sights, smells, colors, textures, and feelings.  The unconscious has a logic of its own. Dreams also dissolve time- they bring together events from the past,  present and future, as well as events that have never happened or will. Dreams are direct communication with our own stories and how we experienced them, or pieces of them. Experiences come back to us through dreams in movie like, Technicolor precision. If there were an advert for our dreams upon waking it would say: pay attention to this, be curious, what was that about? Give it some thought. This is about something in you. It is your own, uncensored, uncut production.

No wonder Freud saw it as the “royal road” to the unconscious: our individual yellow brick road to our very own Oz.

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