What are dreams? Where do they come from? What do they mean? Should you pay attention to them?

When was the last time you had a dream?  What is the last dream that you remembered?  Do you write down your dreams; share them over the breakfast table; or do you keep them to yourself?  In the late 20th century we live in a world which is increasingly one-sided.  We pay a lot of attention the surface of things.  For example, restaurants are changing the way that they cook and present meals, so that they can look stunning on instagram posts.  Focus on the surface, not the subtle flavours, or the conversation!  The image can be shared aross cultures and languages with relative ease.  Everything is collapsing into the surface.  Make-over programmes suggest that how you look really demonstrates how you are inside.  Plastic surgery, again, suggests that the surface is everything.  If you can fix the surface, you've fixed the problem.  PR agencies are in big demand.  If there is a sex or money scandal at your workplace, then make sure you fix the "optics".  Make sure it doesn't look to bad.  Mouth the right words.  Our phones and TV screens are getting ever better, with more pixels, and more "realistic" images.  If you have problem in life, is there a "hack" you can do to bypass having to really think about it?  

But, at some level, we all know, as human beings, that this is an impoverished view of reality.  There is also a reality that can't be touched and captured so easily.  However polished the surface, there is much more going on underneath.  The more image conscious a person is, the more tumultuous the "behind the scenes" reality will be.  In the long-run  we are curious about how the impressive looking food tastes; and what they good-looking person is really like.  

Still, the image has come to saturate our culture.  In therapy, there are now lots of models of therapy that focus on the surface.  Do you feel better after a few sessions.  Does everything appear better?  Such therapies misunderstand us.  The human mind is a baffling thing. It cannot be collapsed into 2 dimensions.  It isn't what it seems.  If someone tells you that they are ok, that everything is fine, is that really the case?  We all know it's more complicated than that.  Surfaces are deceptive.  

Dreams open up a parallel and baffling universe.  They remind us that we are not surface.  We are not the image on the phone.  Dreams point to the unconscious.  Stuff that we are not aware of.  The psychotherapist Carl Jung used to take his dreams very seriously.  They were not play-things to be discarded, but required action.  He would use "active imagination" to understand them from different angles; paint them, mull them over in this mind.  He argued that dreams gave us a portal into the "depths" of being human, and that we needed to attend to our dreams just as assidiously as we did to surface reality of waking life.  Ignoring our dream-life would come at a cost, and could bring about maladies in our waking life.  The ads on the tube offering us the a guaranteed nights sleep on a comfy new mattress are very seductive, but perhaps we should all be paying more attention the quality of our dreams, than the grade of the "memory foam?"

Go to the profile of Dr Ajay Khandelwal, Psychoanalyst

Dr Ajay Khandelwal, Psychoanalyst

I have 25 years experience in the mental health field running addictions and psychotherapy services. I have a BA from Oxford University and a PhD on family dynamics from Essex University. I am registered member of the College of Psychoanalysts, UKCP and BACP and the Guild of Psychotherapists. I work face to face. My consulting rooms are in SE1 (Borough High Street/ Southwark Tube) and W1 (Regents Park, Harley Street). I also offer consultations by telephone.

No comments yet.