Dream as Guardian of Sleep -or- Sleep the Guardian of the Dream?

Hypnotic Experiments in Dreaming -or- Conditioning the Marketplace of Thought

As a University student, being Socratic at heart, I was always critical of the presentation of one sided philosophical and rhetorical arguments. Whenever I sensed a Professor or another student was trying to sell what the philosopher Harry Frankfurt called "Bullshit", I called them on it whenever I could. This was not only done for myself, instead it was done mainly for my fellow students, who I felt were being academically indoctrinated by some pet psychological ideology and/or theory. Everyday, psychological ideas are conditioned, circulate and are being bought and sold as the gospel in the marketplace of thought. Some of these ideas are not rational, yet many are lured into believing them.  

One of these ideas may be Freud's theory that the dream is the guardian of sleep. Professor Detlev von Uslar presented this theory one day in his class, ironically it was presented in the same auditorium where the physiologist Walter Hess who had won the Nobel Prize lectured to his students. After presenting Freud's theory, and only Freud's theory to the students, von Uslar opened the discussion to the students. I voiced and advocated for a different idea, namely that sleep is the guardian of the dream. The psychological and physical effects of dream and sleep deprivation would support the latter idea (sleep as the guardian of the dream) than the former.

In the literature, such as Cathy Caruth "Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History", the dream as the guardian of sleep is discussed and Freud's theory is still in circulation. M. Nachmansohn "Concerning Experimentally Produced Dreams" (1), using hypnosis attempted a hypnotic experiment to test Freud's hypothesis that "dreams protect sleep". A patient who had been sleepless due to headaches of organic origin was given the hypnotic suggestion that if the headache returned while sleeping, that "she should dream about it without waking up". Nachmansohn also suggested other dream content found in the dream, like her being in school teaching, instead of being at the hospital. Here then is the hypnotically induced dream report of the patient;

"I was teaching in a home for children. There were boys and girls in the class. I used the first hour for arithmetic. I do not know what exercises I gave them. My head was buzzing and I didn't even know whether the answers were correct. Then, suddenly, I was in the middle of a forest with the children; we had nature-study. The buzzing in my head did not stop. I told the children that I was going to Wil where there is a doctor who might help me. In that moment I heard the nurse talk. It was already after the morning bell."

The hypnotic suggestion was to dream about the headache, which she seems to have done...and more. Evidently the organic nature of the headaches and sleeplessness are clearly represented in the dream. In the dream we are told; while in "nature-study", the "buzzing" in her head "would not stop". The organic problem has also had a cognitive effect on her ability to concentrate, in the dream we are told; that during the arithmetic hour, she had given arithmetic exercises, however because of the buzzing, she did not know whether the answers were correct. The dream seems to tell us why the suggestion to dream and sleep was successful, the suggestion had short circuited the signal, the alarm bell to wake up. We can read this at the end of the dream, where she says; "It was already after the morning bell." We might speculate that the hypnotic suggestion acted like a medical "hypnotic" which was successful at least for awhile to keep the patient asleep.

1. M. Nachmansohn "Concerning Experimentally Produced Dreams" in David Rapaport (ed) "Organization and Pathology of Thought"





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