It's interesting that you bring up verbal expression because that's my model for dream dynamics. When we want to say something, we know in general what we want to express. Evidently, however, we don't make up the sentence in our minds beforehand, because we sometimes catch ourselves getting the words wrong or find that we go blank when trying to dredge up a specific word. What seems to be true is that we have an idea in mind that we then dress in words on the fly. That is, we start saying something, trusting that the initial words we choose and the idea we have in mind will form a context that will evoke the correct words to finish the sentence.
As interesting as this is, there is something just as interesting that happens inside the listener. If you were to walk up to someone and say something completely out of context--I am talking about a perfectly fine English sentence, but one the listener doesn't expect, the listener won't have a clue as to what you said. The words will seem as gibberish. For another to understand what a person says, he must first have the speaker's context in mind. If you don't believe this, try the experiment of speaking totally out of context. Also become sensitive to the many times we ask, "What?" when someone initially starts speaking to us. We need for the context of the speaker's remarks to sink in before the remarks make sense to us.
Whether one calls the "nonself-aware" process of getting an idea about what to say "unconscious" is a matter of taste. I would call it "unconscious," but I'm not really satisfied with my nomenclature, in the main. The term "nonself-aware" has its problems too. One reason I have little trouble with "unconscious" is that I believe there are various levels of unconsciousness. Certainly here we are talking about a process that takes place just below our threshold of full awareness.
The notion of levels of unconsciousness plays an important role in my view of sleep. Once one gets past sleep onset, there are basically four sleep stages. REM sleep and non-REM stages 2, 3, and 4, which are defined in terms of EEG artifacts. My level assignments relate to "distances" from REM sleep. I see stage 4 as being farthest, stage 3 somewhat closer, and stage 2 closer yet. These are distances from experience, because that is what REM sleep is--it is experienced thought.
One should be able to test the notion that the distance assignments are distances from experience by waking people when they're in the various stages and measuring their arousal thresholds. Waking up brings one into the world of experience, too, so the distances of the sleep stages from one another should be reflected in their respective arousal thresholds. That is, the threshold for stage 4 should be highest, that for stage 3 should be next high, and that for stage 2 and REM sleep should be about the same. Those experiments have been done, and that has been found to be true.
The way these distance assignments operate is this: when we first fall asleep, we dive into stage 4 and stay there and in stage 3 for an hour or more. Stage 3 then gives way to stage 2 and we either have a short REM dream or we dive back to stages 3 and 4 without the REM sleep.
When we first go to sleep, we need to go to a physiological "place" away from experience to assess the behavioral import of the day's events. That distance from experience (both waking experiences and the REM state) allows us to concentrate but limits our ability to anticipate what will happen when we allow ourselves to experience our solution in a REM dream. We need a closer "place" where we can make those anticipations and devote ourselves to making final preparations for REM dreaming. That place is stage 2. When we move to stage 2 and donít REM dream, what has happened is that the heightened awareness stage 2 provides has led us to judge that our deep-sleep solution needs more work. Even when we do REM dream, the first dream is short, indicating it's not really ready for prime time.
After our first sleep cycle, we start another cycle that has a lot of stages 4 and 3 sleep and ends with stage 2 and a longer REM dream. After the second cycle, sleep mainly involves stage 2 and REM dreaming, with the REM dreams generally getting longer with each cycle. All of this is understandable in terms of the notion that there are levels of unconsciousness.
Our last REM dream of the night is often 30 minutes or more in length. If we were to awaken during it, we would remember a small portion of it and call that remembrance the night's dream.
A REM dream is not a perfectly continuous thing, either physiologically or subjectively. For one thing, there are times when the dream show goes blank and then starts up again. I have taken the position that we criticize our REM dreams while we dream them and that it's this criticism that brings the dreams to an end. Conceivable if the found problems are not very serious, we can simply stop the show and then begin again with a better attempt, all within the same REM period as defined by sleep researchers. When Freud woke up with the Irma dream in mind, what did he remember? His entire last REM dream? That's highly unlikely. What he probably remembered was that portion since the dream last went blank. I say this because the start of the Irma dream really does seem to be a starting point. At least T.M. French would think so, since he said dreams begin with a denial of the problems the dreams eventually deal with. And the Irma dream begins with such a denial. There are no problems. It's Martha's birthday. Everything's wonderful and everyone is happy.
Does "secondary process" thinking intrude in the reporting of dreams? Here again we have language difficulties, because much of what you call secondary-process thinking is what I view as being responsible for the entire dream. Nevertheless, I know what you mean. We can never know the dream before the dreamer awakens and reports it to us, so in a sense there's no conclusive evidence that dream remembrances get modified. But there is a fair amount of suggestive evidence that they do. For example, the longer it takes for a person to wake up from an alarm clock, the more probable it is that the reported dream will be "thought-like" rather than "dream-like." The time we take to awaken does seem to be used to make modifications. Do we make modifications even when we awaken immediately? Probably.
As far as the transformational mechanisms of displacement, symbolization, condensation, and the rest are concerned--displacement does occur in dreams. That's obvious in the Irma dream, where Breuer (Dr. M.) becomes the victim of displaced anger really directed at Wilhelm Fliess. At the so-called latent level, the level of Freud's associations, it's clear, however, that Freud recognizes that Fliess is the problem. All of the warnings Freud brings to mind relate to Fliess.
Freud missed the mark as far as condensation is concerned. If I remember correctly, Freud took the position that one's associations to a particular dream element do not really belong to that element but more properly to the dream as a whole. So the associations he finds with respect to the Irma figure in the dream, for example, are not linked specifically to the figure. The act of experiencing this dream object does not evoke them; rather, this dream object merely represents the concurrence of a portion of the associations that support the dream as a whole. I think this is incorrect. I believe that the associations one obtains through free association do represent associations that were linked specifically with the object associated to. Furthermore, these associations are not linked to dream object willy-nilly. The associations have a rational basis for being together. With the Irma figure, that's obvious. The Irma figure is the representative of women who resisted Freud for one reason or other.
Regarding symbolization, the dream symbols are chosen for their appropriateness to the associations they evoke and to their function as control elements. For us to pay attention to a dream's meaning, the dream, which is of our own making, must flow along effortlessly. The way I see this as happening is that each dream moment should be thought of as an assemblage of dream objects, each with associations attached. The act of experiencing each moment evokes all of those associations, which provide underlying meaning and contain the associational seeds of the next moment.
For example, when the Irma figure complains of pains in the throat, stomach, and abdomen--if she stopped there, there would be no clear direction as to where to go next. These are associations to three different women. But then she says, "It's choking me"--a probable quote from Emma relating to an organic problem due to Fliess's negligence. Freud then looks at her and finds that she is pale and puffy, just as Emma was, and Freud is led to think that an organic problem may be involved. Incidentally, the fact that Freud let the ungrammatical statement "It's choking me" stand would argue that he tried to report the Irma dream as accurately as possible, even to the point of not making what would seem to be a minor grammatical correction to it.
The link to verbal communication is this: What is a word? It is merely an experienced sound or array of letters on a page. What is it that gives a word meaning? It is the memories that we have associated to the sound and the visual image of its written form. Without those memories, the word would not have meaning to us, no matter what a dictionary might say.
Unlike as with dream objects, the memories we are taught to associate with a particular word are often arbitrary. They have more to do with the history of the language than to our personal history. That's why context is so important in verbal communcation. Context selects out the types of memories that bear upon what's being communicated.
I think your discussion of "how the perception of the therapist emerges in dreams and how patients wish to communicate these images to the therapist" would be fascinating.
| Behavior OnLine Home Page | Disclaimer |
Copyright © 1996-2004 Behavior OnLine, Inc. All rights reserved.