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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Fromm notes that this traditional interpretation of dreams as irrational, primitive strivings is “undoubtedly true.” Yet, according to Fromm (1951, p. 33) there may be benefits associated with the “reality” found in our dreams. He offers the following provocative perspective on reality and dreams:

“. . . the question is whether [this traditional interpretation] is exclusively true or whether the negative elements in the influence of society do not account for the paradoxical fact that we are not only less reasonable and less decent in our dreams but that we are also more intelligent, wiser, and capable of better judgment when we are asleep than when we are awake.”

This challenging perspective would seem to be aligned with the dynamic factors operating in the three dreams presented at the start of this essay. In all three dreams we find that insights are available to the dreamer. These insights, in turn, influenced the behavior of both Sarah and Dan during the days following recall of their dream. Sarah reflected on the “cutting” that occurred when interacting with her co-worker, while Dan had some nagging feelings about his wife.

The question becomes: did either Sarah or Dan take any action based on these dream-based insights? This would seem to be the key question to ask when considering the value of Fromm’s proposal: if a dream does offer an insightful perspective on reality, then does the dreamer do anything about these insights and do the actions taken yield a positive benefit for the dreamer? Does Sarah somehow confront her co-worker – or perhaps spend less time with him? Does Dan find a way to talk with Betty about the dream and even share some of his concerns about being shuttle about when infirmed or old?

In the case of Katherine, we don’t know if the content of her dream actually influenced events occurring during the following day (dropping of the mobile by her boyfriend). We are left with an important question: can dream content be influential (and beneficial) even if the dreamers don’t recall the dream? Does the dream somehow “linger” back in the recesses of the dreamer’s mind? Could it possibly operate as part of the peremptory ideational stream that I have described in previous essays? (Bergquist, 2023a; Bergquist, 2023b).

Beyond the Interpersonal Relationship

Fromm (1951, p. 45) would have us look beyond the cases of Sarah, Dan and Katherine. He believes that dreams can serve many important functions other than just providing insights about other people with whom we are relating:

“Not only do insight into our relation to others or theirs to us, value judgments and predictions occur in our dreams, but also intellectual operations superior to those in the waking state. This is not surprising, since penetrating thinking requires an amount of concentration which we are often deprived of in the waking state, while the state of sleep is conducive to it.”

We find many examples of dreams being the source of creativity—especially as noted by Deirdre Barrett (2001) in her proposition that dreams serve as The Committee of Sleep. This phrase regarding the dream as a committee was first offered by the novelist, John Steinbeck, who declared that “it is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” (Barrett,2001, dust cover). Barrett reflects on the long history of dreams being deemed beneficial as sources of insight about the world. She identifies a wide range of instances when dreams produced master works of art, major scientific breakthroughs (including the works of two Nobel Prize winners), and the more mundane solutions to everyday problems.

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