The Clinical Use of Dreams: The Human Dilemma

The editor Joseph Natterson The Dream in Clinical Practice provides an anthology of articles related to the clinical use of dreams. Dreams provide a medical foundation for diagnosis and treatment. The Holy Writ of psychiatry the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) provides a literary plotting and scripting device for psychiatrists and medical professionals. If we collect the dream texts of individuals from around the planet, what we will find is the psychological dynamics of psychopathological consciousness and of failed dream work washing over the planet as we speak. A vicious cycle of plotting, speaking, writing and reading about social problems exists.

A medical way to view the dream, literature and art, is by reading symptoms. A symptomatic reading uncovers buried and censored problems in the text. These are invariably human dilemmas and problems. When repressed material "leaks out" and gains access to social reality a symptom reading becomes possible. The buried social problematic (or focal conflict) of the dream is central to the dreams understanding and ending the repetition compulsion (return of the repressed material) it creates.

Louis Breger The Effect of Stress on Dreams shows that stress influences the content of dreams providing further support to the pioneer of stress research Hans Selye The Stress of Life discovery of the medical basis of the wear and tear on the mind and body. We have come to learn that war, rape, child abuse, armed robbery, or auto and industrial accidents can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The nightmares that relive traumas are invariably part of the clinical picture. They represent the polyphonic voices of the walking wounded. Reading symptoms in dreams provides a way out of social psychopathology. Their decoding allows the mind to focus on gaps and blind spots generated by censorship and repression. Censorship produces a blindness and deafness that has estranged, alienated, and depersonalized us from our authentic, creative selves and our natural environment.

In my private practice, I have been faced with such disorders such as Agoraphobia, Panic disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, Munchhausen by proxy (the induction of illness into a child by the parent) and Multiple Personality Disorder. Before the diagnosis came, the understanding of the clients dream patterns was usually necessary, dreams which then clinically framed the treatment. The dream is the living tissue of the mind-body relationship, and can be clinically examined. A biopsy of the dream yields a slice of life from dreamscreens that is raw, factual, visceral, and unadulterated. The dream text provides sociometric and biometric data that is recorded. From a database of dream texts we can examine health and pathology. A history of society's dream work is being developed at the IIDR to counteract the practice of altering, neglecting, and ignoring dreams. In the archetypal canon of Dream Vision we can see, hear and sense how tribal communication has failed and is failing on the planet. Misanthropic, necrophilic and death driven dreams prevail. The nightmaric thematics of war, revenge, self-defeat, anomie, masochistic self-hatred, humiliation, depersonalization, degradation, and alienation are all found symptomatically circulating in Dream Vision.

Projected onto the silver screen of film we find almost every form of psychopathology. Film can help us view the thematic menu of the troubled minds. Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (see film trailer) deals with the problem of amnesia. Hitchcock's Vertigo (see film clip) animates the fear of heights. Raiders of the Lost Ark (see movie clip) shows us a snake phobia. The movie As Good As It Gets (watch film trailer) has as a sub-plot obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is screened in the film Born on the 4th of July (see movie trailer). The exotic nature of dissociative disorder has found a vision in the films The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil. Anti-social personality disorder was immortalized on the screen by Antony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs (see film trailer) as the psychopathic cannibalististic serial killer Hannibal Lector. The film Fatal Attraction (see film trailer) features a women that can be viewed as suffering from a borderline personality disorder. Suicidal ideation is a sub-plot for the film It's a Wonderful Life (see movie trailer). Schizophrenia is a topic discussed in such films as The Fisher King and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.  

Here are some of the dreams sent to the IIDR and their interpretations;

A summary of the problems the planet is faced with can be read in the article Almanac of Dream Vision: Boulevard of Broken Dreams. More dreams and interpretations will be added in the future, including clinical dreams.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.