".... to the things themselves!"
Husserl (see note Delius1)
Ed Husserl said " Return to the things themselves" and in this
statement can be unfolded much of the phenomenological and existential
beginnings in dream work. This is best seen in the develop ment of Dasien-analysis
as developed by Medard Boss. Here is how Boss himself separates himself from
Freud and Jung:
" There are two main reasons I have chosen to make a clear distinction
between the phenomenological approach to human dreaming and the interpretation
based on the more traditional dream theories. First, such a separation will
effectively highlight the true nature of the phenomenological approach, as it is
applied in Dasein-analytic therapy. And the second, a direct confrontation of
phenomenological understanding of dreaming, on the one hand, and Freudian-
Jungian "dream interpretations," on the other, will confirm that the
latter, do not actually interpret, i.e., make intelligible, the phenomena of the
dreaming itself, consistently "reinterpret" without this
"reinterpretation" having any basis in observable facts. Rarely if
ever do Freud and Jung pursue the wealth of significance inherent in dream
entities themselves, preferring instead to impose meaning on them form without
to confirm them with prescribed theory"
Medard Boss P. 143 , _"I Dreamt last night..."_
Without going into whether or not this is a fair assessment of Freud or Jung,
I'd like to say this is a fair assessment of Boss. It is the *surface* of the
dream image itself that is presented to us in our waking memory that Boss find
so interesting. And in his Dasein-analysis he sticks with the surface of the
dream and allows the patient to unfold his or her process as it unfolds. The
most famous example, and the one that is used by one of Boss' modern proponents,
Erik Craig, is the dream series of an engineer. The dreams evolved over a three
year period from near dreamlessness, to prisons, to mechanical dreams of
turbines, cars and planes, to plants and animals to real human beings. (Craig,
How do we stick with the surface of the image without pouring out our
preconceived notions and re-interpretations? Boss offers an revision of
Husserl's technique of "Bracketing out" where we attend to an object,
carefully noting all that comes to mind, but immediately setting it aside and
returning to the object of study again and again. If Husserl is to be believed,
we not only reach observations of the object outside of preconceived notions,
but begin to experience the experience as well in a mystical non-psychical way.
But this goes a little beyond our purposes here. For Boss, and for many later
phenomenologists, there becomes a complete unfolding of reality by attending to
the surface and no need to delve below the surface with theories and
speculations. If there is a mysticism we need to draw on here, its simply that
there is a recognition that the sleeping self and waking self are but two parts
of the same self and dreams are simply the flow of life into the night. In
philosophical parlance, there is no deep object/subject split. In terms of dream
work, this means that we consider the dream not as something we have or make,
but a part of our existence that we live.
But let us begin with the (modified) technique of bracketing:
EXERCISE: Bracketing : Choose a dream. Enter the dream in your imagination as
if you were there. Begin to describe the dream in the minutest details without
going beyond what you can directly see, hear, smell, or otherwise sense.
Describe any actions in the dream and any thoughts you have in the dream. As you
describe the dream image, return each time to the image and experience it again.
If a thought about what the dream image means comes up, simple set it aside or
bracket it out and return to describing the image. Include how you experience
the image, but if you fall into why you are feeling that way, set those
speculations aside. Set all assumptions and guesses aside. Bracket them out and
return to the image itself. Try to stay with the image for a few minutes. Follow
the Gestalt maxim: "Lose you mind, come to your senses"
Example: Dream: ‘I saw a refrigerator through the kitchen door'
"It is chalk white and disturbs me. Its about 6 feet tall and rounded
like old refrigerators. I like those old General Electric refrigerators...ooops,
set this train of thought aside and go back to describing the image. The hinges
are chrome and the handle, the handle seems vague to me, a handle with one side
open. It reminds me of -- oops, set that aside. The door opens from left to
right. Its a little off the floor, maybe an inch or two. There may be some
dripping water there. There is a guard on the bottom that looks rusted. I hear
it humming. Hey, I'll bet this dream is about how.. oops, set this assumption
aside and return to the image."
Is you mind starting to wander? Have you begun to wonder if this is going
somewhere? Note where you have wandered, but return to the image. What does it
sound like? Where is the refrigerator plugged in? Is the cord black, green, grey?
What shade? Is there a tangle in the cord or is its straight? What did you feel
when you saw the refrigerator? Where in your body did that emotion have the
strongest feeling? Was it a comfortable or uncomfortable feeling? Was it a
feeling getting stronger or weaker, or was it steady? Where there any smells at
Make a few notes about the difference between the dream before the
descriptive exercise and afterwards. How do you feel about the dream image now?
Is the image more or less important, more or less meaningful?
This basic idea of bracketing out preconceived notions and focusing on the
details of the dream as a valuable procedure in itself . Not only does this
approach sharpen our skills in attending and recall with dreams, but allows us
to become aware of the notions we and others try to impose on the meaning of
dreams. One of the main underlying motives of this class is to teach ourselves
to be our own authorities in the matter of our own dreams, and to allow others
to do the same. My hope is that this comes about by seeing a variety of
approaches and beginning to question the authority by which we and others
interpret our dreams. Its not something we can just say, "Oh, ok, let's no
longer impose unconscious assumptions on our dreams". Rather it is a life
long process of letting go of old authorities, find and understanding new ones
and forever being vigilant of our own.
That the approach has its limits need not concern us much. Like all living
things, there is a limit. We may touch transcendent points were we feel clear of
all theory and meta-assumptions, but as James Hillman points out, even
bracketing-out of theories is itself a fantasy theory. What seems to be the
value of bracketing is not that we can take this technique and reach the
god-head, but rather that we can open a few windows and air out our homes. And
even more, that we begin to appreciate what is already before us. In the next
group, the surrealist, we begin to not only appreciate our dream images, but to
find in them the most wonderful of all experiences.
Note: Delius1 from H. Delius
About "to the things themselves" - this is a slightly distorted
version of the last sentence of Husserl's "Vorwort"(preface) or "Einleitung"(introduction)
to "Logische Untersuchungen" (1900/01). *} There he proclaims his
purely DESCRIPTIVE method - as opposed to speculative, dialiectic,
constructionist, transcendental and ALL other philosophers who try to develop a
THEORY about "the World", "Bewusstsein", "Being",
"Knowledge"... etc.etc. Like later Wittgenstein (few people ever
notice this similarity!) Husserl's attitude was strictly ANTI -THEORETICAL. Like
Wittgenstein, he claims that all philosophy can ever do and achieve is
"describing, description" (in PU, somewhere near # 133 *} ) - but
while with Wittgenstein the object of this description was the use of words
(rules, "language games"); with Husserl it was the
"phenomena" = acts and structures of consciousness. These, in a loose
manner of speaking, he also calles "die Sachen" (= the objects of
phenomenological reflection). Husserl's actual wording was a kind of request and
(philosophical) war-cry: "Und nun zu den Sachen selbst!". "Sachen"
in German is a kind of weak synonyom for "Dinge" = things. But the
request: "Now let us turn to the things themselves" has nothing
whatever to do with the (Kantian and later) "thing in itself" (which
would be a metaphysical, theoretical construct, spurned by Husserl!). The
"things themselves" here simply means: the things (phenomena) as they
present themselves "purely", i.e. when freed from all the theoretical
accretions, prejudices, unjustified opinions we may have about them. "Zu
den Sachen selbst" has indeed become a kind of slogan among the
phenomenologists of the first third of this century - and in English expositions
it has turned into the somewhat misleading (see above!) "To the things
+++Boss, Medard (1977). _"I dreamt last night...":A New Approach to
the Revelations of Dreaming - and its uses in Psychotherapy_. New York: Gardner
--------. (1957). _The Analysis of Dreams_. Arnold J. Pomerans (trans),
London: Rider & Company.
--------.(No date on this book! ). _Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis_.
Ludwig B. Lefebre (trans), New York: Basic Books.
+++Craig, Erik (1992). Dreams and Phemomenology Workshop. ASD Conference:
Santa Fe, NM.
--------. (1987a). Dreaming, reality and allusion: An existential
phenomenological inquiry. In F. van Zuuren, F. Wertz, and C. Mook (Eds.),
_Advances in Qualitative Psychology: Themes and Variations _ (pp. 115-36).
Berwyn, PA: Swets North America.
--------. (1987b). The realness of dreams. In Richard A. Russo (Ed.), _Dreams
Are Wiser Than Men_. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
--------. (1988)a. Freud's Irma dream: A daseinsanalytic
reading. In Erik Craig (Ed.), _Psychother apy for Freedom: The Daseinsanalytic
Way in Psychology and Psychoanalysis_. Special issue of _Humainistic
Psychologist,_ 16(1), 203-216.