Restoration of the Dream -or Understanding Media

by Mark Hagen

Introduction: Understanding Dreams in the Global Village

I read newspapers, daily. When I'm in the car, I listen to the radio, or sometimes I try to learn something new with instructional tapes. If a topic looks interesting, I'll watch an information show on television. I connect with people who tell me things, what they have seen and done, things that happen at their work. Of course, I see and do things myself. I read journals and manuals to keep up to date. I still read fiction, but not as often as I used to. I'm on the World Wide Web several times a week, e-mail and research. Every piece of information, everything someone tells me, comes from a different point of view. All this information. When it comes to my own life, I could use some device to determine what is true and important, to discover answers that apply to me.

Actually, each of us has a built-in device to evaluate experiences and the information we encounter each day. We are born with this communication process. It is called the dream. The dream is a medium that allows us to process the interplay of the media I (we) use (see list above) everyday. Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media, has provided access and understanding to how media organizes communication in the "Global Village". As our lives progress, we interact with others. These interactions shape the structure of our lives, individually and collectively. We draw meaning and memories from these interactions. The question is: "How does the individual as well as society organize and remember life as it unfolds?" Dreams provide the media route to understanding. Biotopographic psychology is a tool to analyze and explain the influences and effects of media on dreams.

Literary Landscape of Group Communication and Media

The social environment we inhabit is made up of the communicative connections we make to form groups, such as families, work teams, social organizations, clubs and so on. These groups can be conceived as the spaces where we conduct our lives. We can think of life then, in geographic terms, with a topography of the various connections that shape our lives. These connections evolve through time as we meet different people to form and reform relationships. They adapt as we change and are changed by them through our life cycles. These changes that occur over time are remembered as history.

The effects of existing in groups are multi-directional. Just as we are influenced by other people, they and the groups where we meet are shaped to varying degrees by our contributions to them. How we view and act within the spaces and connections of our lives are determined both by inherent biological characteristics and by environment, cultural experiences. The study and interpretation of dreams through biological and environmental determinants, I call Biotopographical Psychology.

Dream Research of the Cultural Idiom -or- Dreams as Literary Texts

The biotopographic method of social research of dreams assumes linguistic determination. Like other behaviours, language is both a consequence of the biological capabilities of the speakers, and of the type of relationships that develop within societies and the experiences of the speakers. The cultural idiomatic exchange of knowledge through a society, teaching, begins with instruction in cultural linguistic skills: syntax, semantics, pragmatics, dramatics, rhetoric and semiotics. Language reflects knowledge in its structure as well as its content.

Language and ideology are reflected in dream structures. Dreams themselves are a language of symbols in which biological forces in our subconscious minds deal with the residue of daily events encountered by dreamers. Through language instruction, the unconscious is fashioned.

Biotopographic Psychology views dreams as literary texts, biographical documents written by individuals influenced by the cultures in which they live. It is a mental process that we have each inherited in our genetic make-up, to sort through the daily experiences we encounter in our environments, and expressed through the languages learned as we have been educated within our various our cultures. This is the sociology of the dream.

Examining dreams will therefore reveal the life histories of individuals, groups, communities and nations, and their structures of social classes and cultural influences. The activities of the various cultural structures and institutions that influence us then become transparent. Dreamwork provides a developmental profile of individuals and cultures as illustrated by structured self perception (self images) or presentations of the self to society. Transparency is achieved through the talking cure.

Ethological Determinism of Play -or- Nature versus Nurture

Freud's as Jung, Adler and Rank's theory of civilization (among many others) was one of "unconscious determinism," the basic ethological assumption that behaviour and motivation result from unconscious biological forces. The images seen in dreams are explained as symbols formed by the unconscious to represent the action or frustration of basic human drives on our active lives. Language is formed and used to explain these symbols.

Most Freudian interpretations emphasize the main biological drives as sex, pleasure and anxiety, largely overlooking the primary role of play. Play is the primary drive of individuals in society. It influences role playing, entertainment, sports. Think of how we define people by the activities they undertake that touch upon our lives; he/she is a doctor, fire fighter, coach, parent. Biological determinism theory has been used as a powerful tool to explain the inequities of status, wealth and power evident in our patriarchal, capitalistic societies.

As Johan Huizinga Homo Ludens understood, play drives the arts: humour, poetry, performance. The arts create societal mythologies that define what activities are valued and pursued within cultures. They influence expectations of human behaviour, instructing individuals how to act according to the rules of the game, rules that change according to fashion. Just as the rules of a sport league change from year to year to increase scoring or on field action, the laws of society change to reflect evolving ethical and aesthetic values.

Biological determinism makes up only a part of the theory of Biotopographic Psychology. Another, more recent assumption of what determines human behaviour that also contributes to Biotopographic Psychology was put forward by behaviorist B.F. Skinner.

Environmental Determinism of Play and Learning -or- Nurture versus Nature

B.F. Skinner put forward the theory of "environmental determinism". Human behaviour and motivation is shaped in response to stimuli from the surrounding world. This is more than our daily encounters. We are products of our social-environmental, and therefore of cultural experiences of learning. Cultures develop through generations and are imprinted on individuals through succeeding generations. Of course, they are influenced by the experiences of each generation, and so evolve through time. The study of this cultural evolution is the anthropology of the unconscious.

Environmental determinism makes up only a part of the theory of Biotopographic Psychology. Another, more basic assumption of what determines human behaviour that also contributes to Biotopographic Psychology was put forward by Freud, Jung, Adler and Rank.

Jean Jacques Rousseau's Dream of Transparency of Communication

The dream of achieving transparency in our social environment stems from the eighteenth century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau recognized that freedom and opportunities for individuals would increase if the workings of societies' institutions, political structures, social groups and business organizations, were evident to all participants.

The dream provides a context for an examination of social relations and memories to provide this transparency. The unconscious mind sees our life throughout our entire biological cycle, remembering and making connections that are forgotten by the conscious mind.

Within patriarchal, capitalist, communist and fascistic western societies there are influences that seek to arrange social organization to their own benefit. This politicization is achieved by revising history to distort our collective memory or by teaching gender and class roles to groups and individuals that will serve the ends of those wielding power. The effects of these politically oppressive hidden agendas and ideologies show up in the dreams of people within such politicized groupings.

When we analyze a number of dreams, communication patterns emerge that reveal the workings of various influences on our larger social structures. By contributing to the dreambank you will provide some of the raw data which we can examine for these dream patterns.

Dream Research, Dreamwork and the History of Dreaming

The biotopographic research of dreams involves the study and exploration of the historical language of dreams by reviewing them as biographical documents much like letters or diaries. Biography is a narrative of the individual, or self, and its relationship to the social environment. The dreams sent to the IIDR provide data from which we can measure the unconscious social dynamics of individuals, families, societies and nations. The biotopic unit of analysis of dreams is the symbol.

Dreams provide a common interpretive language for understanding our individuality and our roles in society. They are one way to explore memory, which can be described as a topic in the human mind, and the vehicle through which it is revealed. Human beings have a strong visual sense. Even with the use of other senses, we "paint pictures" with words, music or movement. Thus, dreams are a graphic medium through which we visually review the social reality of our lives. The words used to describe dreams create audio-graphic images.

Dreamwork represents the biotopographical articulation of everyday social orientation and interactions. At the end of each day, our mind retains psychological residue from the daily activities we have undertaken as individuals and in collectives. The mind works through these unresolved issues as we sleep. Dreams reflect the history of the individual and society both as semiotic products and as producers of life. By examining these dreams, we get a historical vision of social reality through the narratives of individual life histories. Dream narratives provide a past that is relevant to understanding the present situation. This in turn motivates future action.

Film, Dreamscreen and Culture Industries -or- Transpersonal Psychology

Dreams may be described as movies, with images projected onto a dreamscreen within the mind. As literary narratives or screenplays, dreams can be categorized into genres. Within the narratives of the dreams of individuals, patterns, common themes and symbols emerge which are indicators of collective dreams for the groups to which individuals belong. These are the collective dreams of societies, the essence of biotopographical psychology. The archetypal interplay between individual and collective dreams occurs through generations. Families, for instance, provide a historical or ancestral aspects to our dreams. I call this collective, ancestral memory. Dreams therefore reveal a transpersonal and transgenerational unconscious.

Dreams are informed by the popular culture entertainments of societies, which are created by the culture industries. Cultural values are reflected in theatrical, sporting, literary and other play activities. French sociologist Michael Foucault exposed the historical power/knowledge/sex relationship through archaeological sociology. Dominant narratives shape the dramatic voices and scripts of actors and audiences in the political and social forum and theatre of history. They mould the dramaturgical language by which we define ourselves and others. In a society where the economic interests of business are ascendant, for instance, we define ourselves by the jobs we hold and declare displays of products we consume as indicators of success. These displays and declarations are a form of public theatre presented at social functions and other gatherings, and what is considered suitable displays changes with fashion.

We take direction for our roles in this public theatre from representations in the cultural media dominated by our power elites: television, radio, print and the "legitimate" theatre. An indication of the importance to the power elite of the control exerted through media is evident in the effort extended by large corporations to dominate new media, such as the internet, which have begun to provide freedom of expression to previously disenfranchised individuals and collectives.

Metaphysics of Dreams? -or- Self Deception in Dreams

How do we know what is truth in dreams? How do we know what is literal and what is symbolic? Surely the dreamer's preconceptions, correct or otherwise, will effect the narration of her or his dreams. How do we determine reality?

Metaphysical tools, such as logic are applied to the examination of dreams. French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan believed that neurosis was driven by repression of the truth. However, when this occurs, logic dictates that psychodynamically the truth will be submerged in the subconscious and return to consciousness in disguised forms such as dreams, and symptoms, behavioural problems and "Freudian slips".

The dream is the most consistent narrative through which we can discover the underlying malaise that causes such symptoms. The unconscious memories that spur dreams are counter memories to the inappropriate ideas and roles we are taught during the waking day, or they are the result of defense mechanisms the unconscious mind raises against the repression, suppression and oppression of individual and collective truth as revealed through counter memory. Beginning with the revelation of individual counter memories, we can undertake a talking cure to re-build true societal and community histories. The dreams you contribute to the dreambank will provide the raw material for this project.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams and the Political Psychopathology of Everyday Life

Those who win the wars, write the histories. The narrative scripts of history and dreams are fashioned by dominant individuals and groups. The dreams and narratives of subjugated groups and communities are marginalized. We do not accept that the strong rightfully rule the weak, ethically or logically. The ability to suppress others does not convey a moral right to power, nor necessarily indicate the ability to manage complex organizations. An inability to manage leads a power elite to justify the oppression of racial and sexual minorities, women, the impoverished and vanquished as consequences of failings inherent to those groups. The poor are described as lazy, the negro shiftless, women emotionally unstable when those in power are unable to realize the constructive potential in those communities.

Historical narratives are then shaped at the expense of the truth, casting blame for failure, seizing credit for success. Political linguistic tools, rhetoric, persuasion and propaganda, are used to fashion these distortions into our collective history. The dominant narrative even dictates the language. The languages of sexism, classism, racism and lookism have been taught and learned by several generations in patriarchal western societies. Thus political oppression is the primary source of psychopathology in everyday life. Dream analysis as a non-Marxist form of "critical pedagogy" is the first step toward a solution.

As a result of the political suppression of truth, a radical revision of personal and collective histories is essential. The talking cure is a psychodynamic linguistic tool for a program of social medicine within the mental health movement. Dreamwork represents the intersection of structures of everyday collective and individual memories and knowledge. Dreams can therefore be used to remember and express suppressed and oppressed truths.

Biotopographical psychology's metaphysical mission is the Restoration Of The Dream. It makes possible the salvaging of oppressed truth which lies submerged in our subconscious selves as revealed in our dreams. The main aim is to end the nightmare of those living on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and lead individuals and society towards a rapprochement of conscious and unconscious forces which will generate healthy dreams and self awareness.


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