The Process of Dreaming

Dreaming is sleep thinking. However, it is not thinking in words but in visuomotor imagery. Most of this imagery can be easily and immediately understood, but the meaning of some of it is implicit. The chief aim of the PDS is to formulate and to dramatize dreamers' intrapsychic conflicts and to indicate what dreamers are doing about these conflicts. Conflicts, with concurrent anxiety and decreased self-confidence, aggravate concern for the future. Lack of sensorimotor contact with the physical environment during dreaming facilitates the organization of effort to do something about disturbing conflicts, which take the form of the subjects of dreams. The central nervous system, which is active even in sleep, can pay full attention to a dreamer's intrapsychic processes only when it is not distracted by environmental stimuli. If these stimuli exceed a certain intensity, they interrupt dreams, just as acute anxiety associated with fears of a dreamed conflict stops the process of dreaming. Mild, subliminally perceived environmental distractions are usually incorporated into dream events without misrepresentation of the main dream message.

To specify conflict, dream analysts specify attitudes, affects, thoughts, intentions, actions, counteractions, and any revealed personality traits that bear on the conflict. Analysts also look for any allusions to the manner in which dreamers guide, control, or curb their overt social behavior. When dreamers' personalities change, dreams change also. Personality means the role an individual plays, consciously or unconsciously, in psychosocial relationships; role comprises the intrapsychic processes and the conscious or unconscious overt behavior of the individual. It is not possible to divide cognitive functions into perception (the senses) and reason (thinking) because action as a whole is both the point of departure for reason and a continuous source of organization and reorganization for perception. Desire prompts action; desire is the root of perception, thought, and action.

While sleeping people view their dream events, they are somewhat like people witnessing empirical events that occur independently of themselves. However, the similarity does not exist in people's looking at real likenesses of empirical events; it exists in their seeming to see empirical events when they are not really seeing them. They are not spectators of resemblances to empirical reality; the dreamers resemble spectators of empirical events. Contrary to frequent assertions, dreamers do not hallucinate (if by hallucination is meant a sensory perception for which no environmental sensorimotor stimulus exists). Furthermore, during sleep dreaming (excluding hypnagogic dreaming), conscious self-monitoring and self-evaluation (SMSE) of mental processes in terms of reality criteria are dormant. Having no visual sensations of the surrounding environment, sleep dreamers do not really hallucinate. "Lucid" or hypnagogic dreams can initiate sleep dreams but differ from them in etiology and psychological significance. Hypnagogic imagery means literally "imagery leading to (sleep) dreams"; it can be spontaneous or deliberately induced and is conscious or semiconscious. It can help people to fall asleep. Hypnagogic dreaming is a state between wakefulness and sleep dreaming. Hallucinations occur in hypnagogic states. A pathognomonic sign of schizophrenia seems to be the presence of intermittent non-SMSE states; rare in the beginning, these states become permanent in the most intellectually disordered and deteriorated chronic cases. The length and frequency (over unit of time) of non-SMSE episodes increase with progressive personality breakdown. These episodes may stop getting worse at any time, but then they continue. Patients with mild conditions can learn to live with the psychosis by avoiding anxiety-arousing psychosocial situations. Deterioration can be measured in the percentage of time during which patients are incapable of SMSE ( Piotrowski, 1969). These recurring semiotic blackouts, which deprive patients of voluntary mind control while sensorimotor orientation is retained, may explain why mild psychotics are fearfully alert and selfcontrolled. Adequate SMSE depends on normal functioning of cerebral frontal lobes.

Dreams concern intrapsychic conflicts related to potential and actual interpersonal relationships that are important to the dreamers. Dreams help people to clarify conflicts and attitudes toward conflicts. This function of dreams is practical and more intimately personal than any other mentation in which both inner psychic life and intentions regarding relationships are embraced. Dreams are connected in very intimate and pertinent ways with actual, everyday living. Dream content is not theoretical or impersonal. That the language of dreams is basically visuomotor is therefore fitting, because the language is far more informative about intrapsychic processes than is public -- verbal and conceptual -- language, the main function of which is interpersonal communication. Dream reports are of necessity verbal, but understanding dreams requires penetrating beyond the words of the report and reconstructing visuomotor imagery of which the verbal report may be an inadequate presentation. Anything in a report that has no specific visual referent in the dream should be eliminated. Nonpictorial additions and imagery changes distort the dream. Therefore, dreams should be recorded immediately (within five minutes) after waking; studies have shown that dreamers unwittingly change their reports when the time between dreaming and reporting is longer. Individuals are almost exclusively self-centered and narcissistic in their dreams, and they can much more easily gratify themselves in pictures than in words. Visual imagery is much more closely affiliated with affects than words are, and imagery is still more closely analogous to sensorimotor impressions of external, objective reality than words are. Individuals differ among themselves more in their pictorial language than in the standardized verbal language. Humans acquire the knowledge and use of pictorial languages early in infancy, before they are able to speak. Thus, many scenes of early childhood are innermost experiences that can rarely be put into words. These experiences, however, may surface years later in visual imagery, especially in dreams. Many seemingly irrational dreams, if interpreted as observable, lifelike events, are found to be consistent and intelligible when the main conflict, revealed intentions, and affects are extracted. Whereas gestures without words are common enough and are expressive, words do not exist by themselves in direct, human intercommunication; words are accompanied by gestures, by tones of voice, or by something of the sort. When interpreting a dream, we must be aware of the full meaning of all dream events -- intentions, affects, moods, and specific senses that are reflected in the imagery.

We live in a period of television. Each day, people spend long hours looking at TV pictures and being bombarded by pseudosolemn and overzealous exhortations to buy this or that item. Such vapid talk irritates many people. Favorable (or adverse) criticism of verbal advertising does not correlate with sales. By contrast, visual, kinetic advertising consisting of simple, prominent images increases sales. These findings have influenced even political propaganda. Election results and grave political decisions depend on pictures. No doubt, visuomotor stimuli prompt action more effectively than words do.

Safely, sleeping dreamers do not need to adapt to external, physical reality (adaption is contrasted with interaction). Therefore, dreamers do not experience fear or anxiety that might be aroused by thoughts of possible threatening consequences or by inadequate mastery of a conscious, real-life situation. This freedom from threat encourages imagination. How safe dreamers feel under ordinary circumstances is demonstrated by the relief they experience when they wake from the terror of nightmares. "Experiential recording mechanism" provides the necessary memory data to present a conflict on the dream stage. In actual, waking life, intrapsychic conflicts occur within the body of one person; in dreams, however, motivating forces and counterforces are, as a rule, attributed to several figures, with each figure embodying one force or counterforce and being free of irrelevant attributes. The result is an easy and reliable identification of dreamers' intrapsychic conflicts that are currently disquieting. Dreams perform a function similar to that of the Rorschach inkblot test ( Piotrowski, 1977, 1979, 1980). Both dream reports and Rorschach response records can be regarded as psychological microscopes. As with the physical microscopes, users have to learn to see what is there and how to interpret the findings. Rorschach responses and dreams differ in the kinds of information they produce. Rorschach responses reveal both the assets and the weaknesses of personalities and the more lasting traits and give a much more comprehensive analysis of personality. Single dreams deal with the rather specific intrapsychic conflicts that disturb dreamers at the moment and that they try to alleviate, seeking to resolve or at least reduce enervating inner contradictions. Dreams can be simple or very complex and complicated. Inevitably some lasting traits are also disclosed in single dreams. A series of successive dreams pertaining to the same conflict literally lays open to view the dreamer's progress in fighting the problem.

Asleep, dreamers are secure; their reality criteria are not aroused. Consequently they do not react with strong, overt affects to their dream events, except in nightmares. Because the sense of physical reality is at best dim, no opportunity exists for strong, physical reactions, even when the events of some dreams are such that, had they occurred in conscious, waking life, they would arouse intense affects.

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