Self Analysis -or- Philosophy of the Art and Science of Dreams

Dreamer: Frank, 37, North American

I am inside a boat, very mechanical, modern and very compartmentalized with structured typical grey riveted metal sheet walls, floors, doors and outlets. However, it's an open boat, with no windows and open walls like a typical car ferry (high, large, civilian, slow and flat bottom), an average size river ferry (20 by 10 car size). I'm part of the crew and for some reason happen to be preoccupied by something in the lower of 3 or more decks where the engines are.

While maneuvering down the ladder I check out the outside waterscape movement which is in typical fluid relation with the floor of the turning (departing) boat that I use as my point of reference. I gradually manage to reach the front of the low ceiling bottom floor when all of a sudden, having no communication with the rest of the crew, I notice something goes wrong.

The problem is not with the ship or the engines but with the current, the maneuver or something else. We appear to be navigating on a narrow urban water channel, a 200-foot-wide river, barely the length of the ship, with 12 to 15 foot straight concrete walls on both sides. Since I'm on the lower floor, I cannot see what is going on and can only view the bottom of the walls where the water level is.

There is an upheaval. The engines seem to be put to full throttle and the boat slowly starts to incline to the right, the front tip facing and only inches from the river side wall. I immediately sense that the ship is about to turn over and my survival instincts kick in. I jump out of the boat, towards the high concrete flat wall and find some sort of housing in the concrete wall. It is just enough to allow me to stand safely while the boat turns on its back, gets drawn away by the strong current.

Somehow I get out of the channel, and end up sitting on the front lawn of some kind of convenience store, my legs extended and leaning on my arms. I'm trying to catch my breath and cool down from my emotions, trying to figure out what happened. I noticed that in front of me there is a group of young (aged 20-30) people, enjoying their recently purchased candies and other sweets. They are in and around a red roofless car. One of them is making a lot of noise with some drum on his lap. He is an Asian-American male. He suddenly stops the annoying noise and starts playing and singing a popular Cat Stevens song. I immediately calm down, notice the sunny sky and the clouds and start feeling comforting emotions about being alive and the simplicity of happiness.

My questions: are these thoughts of any significance, or are they just ego restructuring and soothing impulses?

Mr. Hagen's Reply: Self Diagnosis

Interesting dream. If it is "just ego restructuring", what is being restructured in the ego? Send some associations, this could help in the interpretation.

Check out Hannah Arendt's "The Human Condition". Although written 40 years ago, it is a classic work on the nature of work, life and society. Also see Peter Berger's "The Social Construction of Reality".

Are you really a conformist, following the way society organizes reality? The economic way society organizes itself was very accurately described by the sociologist Thorstein Veblen in "The Business Enterprise" and "The Leisure Class".

Frank's Reply:

Thanks for the references. I will definitely check them out, as soon as I complete my latest great discovery: "Voltaire's Bastards" from John Ralston Saul, which surprisingly appears to address the topics you just pointed to. How do you do that?

Well, this is one of these dreams that come out from nowhere, without any obviously identifiable pre-triggering conditions. Actually, I've been recently pondering within myself about the significance or futility of such mental imaginings, but that's another story.

As for associations, this is my perception. The boat represents a societal construct. It could be a company, a work group, an army, a municipal service, a simple, anonymous, construct that people can understand and operate within, like a job, you know. I am working on this boat not because I want to or because it means anything, but because I follow the way society organizes itself. It provides remunerated purposefulness and in return provides social peace, anonymity and the freedom to ponder life at will, after working hours.

Something goes wrong and I don't know why. There is some unexpected change in the duty routine and people are caught by surprise. I am attracted towards the lower levels of the ship, where I can see and feel the inner working mechanisms of the (life) vehicle, even if that inclination exposes me to critical remarks on my intelligence or true social level. It has gotten me to be the only one at the right place at this dramatic moment. Pure luck, but some kind of an earned pure luck. (Please, forgive me.) I manage to get out, and apparently I'm the only one who does. I'm lucky enough to find a "housing" in the channel wall. The housing looked like a place where you would find a statue in a church, or some kind of ornament in an old building, a flat almost semi-circle "floor" carved in the cement, with a reverse hyperbolic space like half of a reversed cone.

Why my comments "earned pure luck", and "forgive me"? I interpret "earned" as an unconscious self-gratification for my inclination to pursue other interests instead of sticking to my narrow career plan or business line. I often get criticized for wasting my time, or being "pretentious" (showing-off).

In this dream, my curiosity pushed me down to the lower deck for no rational reason, and saved me. So I kind of "earned" my luck this time by keeping my interests even if I was not encouraged to do so by society. "Pure luck": how on earth could such a life-saving "housing" pop-up in front of me just at the right time and place, while the rest of the walls show only a flat surface for as far as I can see? "Forgive me" was meant as "I am sorry if I am giving the impression of congratulating myself."

I can only see meaning of the "noises" in the scene in front of the store. Only that people could get along enjoying their little pleasures, in total ignorance of the suffering and drama that was just unveiled, yards away. This struck me as very significant.

Am I really a conformist? Before I answer this question I must warn you that the Internet is not secure. ISP providers, FBI (software) agents, hackers, insurance companies, (maybe you!), all kinds of people and organizations, are avidly snooping for everything they can get, for various purposes. This is surely not a novelty for you, but will limit what I will allow myself to say.

Yes I am a conformist because I believe in social peace, family, justice, work, morality, ethic, etc, and I respect and help people who want to live in peace in a "normal" framework. No I am not a conformist because I will never satisfy myself with the norm. Once the work and/or social duties are done, I tend to rush into other universes, pursue things (mostly artistic, scientific, literary), seek for something else.

I have had hundreds of such dreams and can recall them easily. I cherish them for a while for their beauty and power. Too bad I'm not a painter.

Mr. Hagen's Reply: Self-Analysis -or- The Philosophy of Art

Interesting interpretation. Freud believed that the dream provided access to understanding and diagnosing oneself and the society one lived in.

Self-Analysis of Personality Development

The personality theory of Erik Erikson provides a psychological explanation for the problems of the ego's growth and the predictable crisis it may face. Other literature that seems to address your dream, specifically your interpretation that the boat represents a societal construct, is George A. Kelly's Theory of Personality: The Psychology of Personal Constructs. Your dream would then read that "ego restructuring" means that you are revising your personal constructs which help your mind to better navigate your life and provide a foundation for life writing.

From a different, yet complimentary perspective Karen Horney Self-Analysis tells us that; "we need to examine our unconscious motivations".... For Horney, the human psychology of unconscious motives have been studied by the likes of Freud Psychopathology of Everyday Life and Interpretation of Dreams, Erich Fromm The Fear of Freedom, Harry Stack Sullivan Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry and Fritz Kunkel Character Growth and Education. According to Horney, literature is a source for discovering unconscious motives. The works of Emerson, Schoepenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Balzac, Dostoevski and Ibsen all provide lessons, "on the art of living", and act as  "psychological treasures for those who read them with an open mind...."  

Much in the same psychological direction of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, Horney Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Towards Self-Realization sees the need for security being met with "neurotic solutions". The stresses of life cause alienation from one's self and from the process of self-realization. Horney tells us that; "We have come back to ancient medical wisdom that curative forces are inherent in the mind as they are in the body, anf that in the cases of disorders of the body or mind the physician merely gives a helping hand to remove the harmful and to support the healing forces." For Horney dreams provide insight for the therapist and the patient about the destructive forces operating in life. Removing these destructive forces is essential in the healing.      

Dreams received by the International Institute for Dream Research such as London Underground and The Mysteries of Femininity speak about life's alienation.

Philosophy of Art -or- The Bildungsroman

Beauty is a question of the aesthetics of the dream; the ego relates to the epistemology of the dream. Epistemology and aesthetics are two branches of the philosophic tree of the life of the mind. The philosophic ego, or more specifically social ego development, is another way of describing cognitive development or even the development of higher mental function. Ego development, that is ego restructuring, and the sociology of knowledge are basically synonymous. We all must be able to recognize something in order to know and understand it. Knowledge is what drives the ego and the mind. Knowledge is a priori the basic component to all philosophies, belief systems and the social construction of reality.

The forms of literature that seem to best fit your dream and your life writing (ego restructuring) are the literary genres of Bildungsroman and Kunstlerroman. The Bildungsroman derives from a German term meaning "novel of (ego) formation" or "novel of education". James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a famous example. A Bildungsroman is a novel which traces the spiritual, moral, psychological, or social ego development and rites of passage of the main character from (usually) childhood to maturity. His or her experiences lead from a spiritual crisis into maturity, which usually involves recognition of one's identity and role in the world.

A Kunstlerroman is a kind of Bildungsroman; the Kunstlerroman, or artist novel, represents the growth of a novelist or other artist from childhood into the stage of maturity that signals the recognition of the protagonist's artistic destiny and mastery of an artistic craft. Such novels often represent the struggles of a sensitive youth against the values of a bourgeois (materialist) society. Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is a favorite that provides understanding to your dream.

Hope these thoughts are of help and provide some insight,
Mark H.

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