Electric Dreams

Dreamwork, DreamPsi and Ethics: An Invitation to the Psiberconference

Linda Lane Magallón

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Magallón, Linda Lane (2005 September). Dreamwork, DreamPsi and Ethics: An Invitation to the Psiberconference. Electric Dreams 12(9).

Prior to the Freudian revolution, no culture discounted dreampsi. At the very least, dream prophesy and precognition (foretelling the future) were known and acknowledged. Additionally, there's evidence as far back in history as the Babylonian period that clairvoyance (seeing at a distance), telepathy (perceiving other people) and mutual dreaming (having the same dream as another person), if not common, were widely recognized.

So what happened? Scientific materialism developed such a distrust in unseen experiences that some people questioned whether dreams even existed. Fortunately, the scientific approach is eventually self-correcting, especially with the advent of new technology. Besides demonstrating the reality of dreams, the scientific method provided a test of dream telepathy (at Maimonides in the 1960's), with related forays into waking psi like remote viewing and Ganzfeld exploration. Reacting to a flood of criticism by skeptics, Ganzfeld became one of the most rigidly controlled experiments in the laboratory. The evidence for verifiable psi is quite in accordance with scientific standards.

But that seems to have made little impact on dreamwork. There is currently no dreamwork method that routinely asks, "Is this a psi experience?" or seeks a psi explanation. The evidence for psi must shout to be heard over the murmur of non-psi dream interpretation, which favors the idea that the world of dream has only one inhabitant -- the dreamer. Any notion of communal dreaming gets quashed as a result.

Sigmund Freud actually mentioned telepathy in his writings, but it made no lasting impact because a telepathic explanation is not a component of his "free association" technique. Instead, the dream was presumed to refer backwards, but not retrocognitively to previous psi events. Rather, the stimulus was supposed to be known events of childhood that had been repressed; their memory being subsequently triggered by current events. Or the stimulus was assumed to be known events of recent occurrence that had not yet been fully processed. Because his theory limits dream influence to whatever the dreamer was previously aware, it never occurs to users of Freud's technique that a dream might refer to something that has never been known, like psi or subconscious perception. Or never put into words, like subliminal or subverbal sensing. Dreamers are right to question the practice of assigning free association (which depends on known words) to each and every dream.

Dreampsi involves the verifiable perception of what's "out there." This is 180 degrees from the practice of projection which is built into Freudian psychoanalysis. It's assumed that the dreamer is going to project his own ideas, hopes, fears and expectations on to the analyst, who welcomes it as part of the therapeutic process. It's only when the dreamer accurately perceives something about the psychoanalyst that the analyst gets nervous. Sometimes I think the confidentiality requirement is more to protect the analyst than it is to protect the dreamer. I also wonder how much dream interpretation is the analyst's presumptions projected onto the dreamer. Quite a lot, I suspect.

Projection is such a pervasive practice that when dream interpretation moves from the individual couch to the group therapy circle, it comes along for the ride. In one popular method, there are cursory attempts to solicit information from and about the dreamer, but the method doesn't really reach its stride until the projection begins. Then the reigns are cut loose and every other person in the group is permitted, nay, encouraged, to gallop through the wide field of dream meanings, while the primary dreamer gets left in the dust. The result is that the poor dreamer is pelted with possibilities, none of which is designed to hone in on what the original dream actually said to the dreamer. Supposedly, from this erratic display of hoof sans harness, some pebble of truth will fly up and hit the dreamer, who will feel a resonance. But what if none of the explanations really fit? Is the dreamer protected from being bamboozled into claiming a resonance that he doesn't really feel, just to satisfy the group's need for speed?

Carl Jung actually had psi experiences from childhood, but instead of defining them as psi, he developed an interesting cover story call "synchronicity." This concept deliberately turns our attention away from cause and effect and substitutes happenstance in its place. I have never understood why Jung felt he had to resort to this alternate explanation for every profound life event. Some, perhaps, but not every single one. Maybe Jung felt his own life was so out of control, that he wanted to avoid the seemingly impossible idea that he could control it?

At any rate, a worst-case use of synchronicity is designed to excuse the dreamer from all blame or credit for dream events. If dreams just "happen," if writing them down freezes them into a fixed modality, then we don't have to take any responsibility for change. We just react to our fate accompli. We don't track down the possibility that we may have influenced the construction of our dreams. Therefore, it's just archetypal that I'm having shadowy dream figures threaten me. It has nothing to do with the fact that I obsess over my health rather than get off my duff and make a medical appointment. Oh, no. It's just synchronicity that I'm having precognitive dreams about airline crashes. It has nothing to do with the fact that I spend every night scanning the evening news for catastrophes. Does it?

Fritz Perls produced a popular dreamwork presumption that arises from Gestalt psychology. Dreams are part of me; dream characters are part of me. Actually, I like this approach, but as one step in the process of maturation, not as the end of growth. It encourages us to take responsibility for our own "stuff," rather than ascribing it to the gods, the demons, the community, the archetypes, fixed fate or our unreachable past. It helps us define our projections and take back what we projected onto other people during psychoanalysis.

There's a built-in problem, though. Ego-centrism. If everything is part of me, I'm not likely to pay attention to the fact that the other guy exists. I'll never see him, not within dreams, not without. The world, waking and dreaming, becomes all about me, me, me. Pushed to its extreme, this attitude converts to: I can do anything I want in the dream because it's all my dream. I can interpret this dream however I want, because it's all mine. To blazes with everyone else.

If the dream is totally my world, then elements like manners, morals and respect for dream characters are mute. Ethical questions, about impact on humans in the waking state, don't even enter the equation. While this attitude may be fine for a hermit (although I doubt it), it breeds havoc with interactive dreaming and dream sharing. It becomes a real problem when telepathy and mutual dreaming are natural dreamtime events. It brews trouble, if not for you, then for the others in your community who have to put up with you.

These are only some of the current dreamwork practices (and underlying theories) that impact our attitudes and ideas about dreampsi. There are plenty more. In the upcoming IASD Psiberconference, I will tackle the difficult job of discussing dream ethics, in relation to interactive dreaming. It's a challenging task because we bring to the discussion popular beliefs about dreams that we've never questioned. It's time we do so.

I invite you to join the discussion. You can surf to the Psiberconference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams at http://www.asdreams.org/psi2005/index.htm

(Dream Flights)