Home Personal Psychology Sleeping/Dreaming Dreamer Beware: The Insightful Dreams of Sarah, Dan and Katherine

Dreamer Beware: The Insightful Dreams of Sarah, Dan and Katherine

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Types of Regression

A second major point that Kris (and other Ego psychologists) have made concerns the term “regression.” In keeping with Freud’s conception of regression, the ego psychologists tend to consider this process to involve one or more of three features: (1) focus on earlier experiences in one’s life (regression to childhood), (2) returning to more primitive processes such as fantasy, ritual and personification of nonhuman objects (such as envisioning animals as humans or envisioning trees and rocks with soul), (3) engaging in behaviors that are “childish” or playful, and (4) judging what is “real” based on internal wishes and feelings rather external verification.

We find this regression being artfully portrayed in Disney movies—such as when a cricket is singing about getting one’s dreams fulfilled by wishing on a star. We also find it displayed in the plays, movies and T.V. series that find protagonists displaying death-defying acts of heroism and care–resulting always in a happy ending. Be it a James Bond movie, one of the Star Wars or Star Trek features, or the latest superhero flick, the regression is in full force and many of us lap up the projected images while nourishing ourselves with a bag of popcorn (as we did as children going to the movies).

Are we not also engaging in these forms of regression when dreaming? Can this regression serve an important ego-based function, while serving also (like the superhero movies) as escape and entertainment? I offered dreams in my second essay (Bergquist, 2023b) that seem to provide both escape and some teaching. At other times, the dreams seem to be regressive in a manner that does not provide escape but does provide insights. The dreams offered by Sarah, Dan and Katherine certainly can’t be considered a source of joy and escape for them—they are “serious” and perhaps intended to alert and teach the dreamer (more like one of the documentaries we watch that concern our collapsing environment or violence in our streets).

We can consider the kind of regression found in our three dreams. In all three cases, the regression was primarily of the second type (primitive process). Actions were portrayed in all three dreams that were not based in reality (though the dropped mobile did become reality). All three dreams concerned present day challenges rather than issues from childhood (though all three dreams might ultimately relate back to childhood feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness). None of the protagonists took action in the three dreams I have presented.

Sarah could have offered some “primitive” action such as whacking her male colleague over the head. Dan might have done the same with his wife. There was no superhero to fly in and save Katherine’s mobile from hitting the ground. Most importantly, these three dreams were not wish-fulfilling. Reality wasn’t being distorted on behalf of some primitive wish on the part of Sarah, Dan or Katherine—unless we consider the damage done to be somehow what our three dreamers wanted bestowed on them (thus serving a punitive Super-Ego function).

Temporary and Ego-Controlled

A third important point made by Ernst Kris and his fellow Ego psychologists is that the regression is controlled by the Ego and is of temporary duration. While the Id and Super-ego can push for regression that lasts for a long time and is not controllable – as in the case of psychotic episodes—the Ego best serves its adaptive function by keeping the regression brief and purpose-driven.

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