Dreaming in the 21st Century: Clear and Present Danger
Thank you for your inquiry about the International Institute for Dream Research.
Your question of dreaming in the 21st century is an intriquing one. As you are aware there are a multitude of dream interpretation methods and schools of thought Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Rank, Horney, Klein etc. The schools of thought that I follow the most are the philosophical and the critical literary traditions. As you astutely commented, I am interested in the characters, the plot and the mood that is found in the dream report. Why do I use a literary perspective? I believe that humanity is generally illiterate when it comes to understanding their dreams. We no longer speak or poetically commune with the dream or ourselves. If our memory is autobiographical, it follows that our dreams are written biographically. To answer your question from a generational perspective, with each new generation a dream emerges and the dream of the last generation submerges.
As we discussed, generally dream interpretation is not discussed or taught in Public School, nor in High School. At a University level it is usually viewed as an esoteric subject. When you go to a bookstore, books on dreams are often found in the "New Age" section. About four years ago when I was in Zurich, Switzerland I was informed that Carl Jung's work had been religated to the University archives. Empirical studies are evidently now seen as the only legitimate form of scientific research. As you mentioned insurance companies in the US (the same is true in Canada) generally do not want to recognize dream interpretation as a valid form and method of psychotherapy. They do recognize cognitive-behavioural therapy. Why do I use a philosophical perspective? Simply put, Western civilization is heavily based on Western philosophy and the School of Athens. Dreams help me provide an understanding of what is known as the philosophy of the mind. The dream is the royal road to "Know Thyself".
As I mentioned to you I am also interested in the cultural background of the dreamer who produced the dream. It becomes a chicken and egg question, is it the culture who dreams the person or is it the person/people who dreams the culture? You are an American, I am a Canadian, yet we share numerous cultural memories, language, interests and values. Case in point, a few weeks back, about one week before September 11, 2008, I had two conversations with other Canadians about where we were on 9/11, 2001. The topic came up spontaneously. We all share cultural memories that become sub-plots embodied in our everyday lives and individual memories. CNN reported shortly after 9/11 that up 90% of Americans were experiencing some form of nighttime nightmare. Canadians I can report were certainly feeling the same way. In the 21st century television and the Internet has brought us closer together. The Canadian media expert Marshall McLuhan metaphorically calls the technological world we live in today, the "Global Village".
What is it that goes on in our nightly dreams? What do they mean? You live in America that has an estimated population of 305 million, whose demographics are varied. Tonight those 305 million people will dream approximately 1.2 billion dreams. If we were able to do quantitative research on those dreams, meaning if we could statistically measure and evaluate those dreams, what would we find? I believe that the findings would show us and provide us with insights into the cultural fabric of America and Americans. Many of the dreams posted at the IIDR website attest to the nature of cultural dreams and dreaming. Since we are in an election year in both America and Canada, I believe that what we would find is the heightened rhetoric of a culture war that has been going on for some time in the USA and in the West. President Richard Nixon said that governing is about prose, while elections was about candidates who could speak poetry. Instead of building a bridge to the 21st century as President Clinton envisioned it, the culture of greed in corporate America has built the "bridge to nowhere". I can assure you that many Americans who have lost and/or are in the process of loosing their homes today, perhaps as we speak, because of financial foreclosure are not living the dream, they are in effect living the nightmare both metaphorically and literally. Canada and Canadians have not been immune to the fallout of the American financial crisis. We as Canadians also do not live in "Canuckistan" (Anti-Canadian messages) as some American political commentators believe. Resorting to name calling as a tool to promote propoganda with a geopolitical policy agenda, can only be seen as a "might makes right" message.
A few years ago I saw a dream posted at a news website that provided me with a clue and warning sign of what we now see full blown. A popular American media personality working for a large media network reported that she had a recurring dream. She dreams that "she is frying bacon for about 20 or 30 members of her friends and family, and has only six strips of bacon and cannot get them to fry." The American dream interpreter looking at this dream believed that the dream dealt with "domestic issues". I believe that the dream could be seen in a different light, reflective of American domestic political issues and policies. "Making them fry", is a metaphor which represents a Public demand for justice. "Pork barrel politics" has not only gone on in the United States but also in Canada, however as reported by CNN last night (September 23, 2008) many financial companies may have also been "cooking the (accounting) books" for years. In poetic terms of the middle class, the "small fry" is the one who has to "bring home the bacon". Whose fault is it when they can't provide for their families? In the meantime these corporate "captains of industry" who apparently cater to every whim of Washington politicians have in many cases taken home tens of millions of dollars yearly. Is this not just a new wave of robber barons? Does anyone else see the injustice? Will anyone be held accountable? Will anyone other than the Public suffer the consequences?
We (and I include Canada) are fighting the "war on terror" as we speak. Nearly 100 Canadians have given their lives in Afganistan. That may seem trivial to you, however if you were to equalize our populations, that would represent more than 900 American lives. You can be rest assured that on the foreign front Bin Laden and his cohorts are still dreaming of Holy war against the West. Back on the domestic front, in the background of the culture wars (see list at end of article and compare with the dream interpretation section) proclaimed by the likes of Pat Buchanan and Bill O'Reilly are dreams that provide insight into the dynamics of the culture wars. The Republican political party platform is portrayed in their books Contract with America and Restoring the American Dream (1995), what happened to those promises? In 2000 I posted this dream which you can read (follow the link), in retrospect it reads as a completely ironical piece. President Bush said last night "Our economy is in danger". There is a clear and present danger, however the harmful cause is not "the economy", the cause is the culture wars, promises not kept, the war in Iraq (Canada did not support this war in Iraq) and a culture of greed that has massively spiralled out of control under Mr Bush's watch. At this stage of the political game is the President not the "boy who cried wolf" once to often?
I was at the 2008 International Association for the Study of Dreams conference in Montreal, Quebec delivering a paper and was able to speak to numerous American women who (surprisingly to me) told me that many American women were "grieving" Hilary Clinton's loss of the 2008 Presidential nomination. Retrospectively I understood the sentiment, given that the feminist movement is strongly reflected in the dreams I have received from American women. Looking further into the 21st century, the most disturbing natural/ecological and cultural signs found in the interpretation section are the psychodynamic effects of militarism/global warming and cultural/media imperialism/mind control sweeping the globe.
I think President Kennedy in his inaugural address said it best, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for country". He also asked the nations of the world to help and join the fight against the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself." As a child of a Holocaust survivor I enlisted a very long time ago. I wish I could help everyone on the planet with all their problems and help them understand the nature of their dreams. I cannot begin to explain the material sacrifices I have made to follow my dream of educating the Public about dreams and dreaming. The everyday culture wars (which have a long history) and tragedy of the commons (of our planet Earth) which I can see everyday in dreams received by the Institute weighs heavy on my mind. Do you know how many children have died of starvation on the planet while I have written this note to you? Beyond that, I do believe that I am trying to revolutionize the way humanity thinks about dreams and dreaming. I am not a revolutionary in the traditional sense, violence (physical and psychological) is something that nauseates me. I prefer to follow in the footsteps of others who have advocated non-violent protest.
I have written many articles which can be found at the IIDR website including the articles Film Noir: The Stuff Dreams are Made Of and Restoration of the Dream which addresses how the culture wars betray our children and our future. We see many groups such as the Global Consciousness Project or the Clinton Global Initiative attempting to change our ways of interacting and communicating with each other, however these groups and social movements will only succeed once they understand and realize that change must come in the ways all of us dream today, tomorrow and the day after that. In War and Peace in the Global Village (see video) Marshall McLuhan used Finnegan's Wake as his cultural template to study and understand the nature and history of war. James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is a literary work that was weaved together by the artists visionary use of dream associations. Once we change the social dynamics of the unconscious and dreaming, only then will conscious change follow. Only via a Revolution in Dreaming can a vision of peace be achieved on the planet. Until then no substantial change in humans or humanity will or can take place. We need to build democracy from our unconscious processes, therefore from the ground up and from inside out. What I can do, is try to insert myself into the conversation, advocating for such a change. Is anyone listening?
Postscript: Revolution in Dreaming
A scientific change in our cultural logic is necessary. This requires a rapproachment of consciousness to unconscious forces at work as we speak. What is needed is a scientific leap of faith. Descartes understood this when he discovered the scientific method which is poetrically embodied in the "dream argument". Descartes cemented the scientific revolution of the philosophy of mind in Europe against religion, superstition and fear. Nearly three centuries later, Freud attempted via the psychoanalytic movement to bring forth a scientific revolution of unconscious processes. Freud's failed Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895) was not published till after his death (1939), because the science was still in it's infancy. This science is beginning to achieve a sense of maturity. A cultural psychodynamic paradigm shift in our unconscious processes will precipitate a change in our consciousness. This Revolution in Dreaming can summon an enduring cultural peace to our planet and its inhabitants.