Continued from page 1
Both collective symbols and private symbols are used. The collective symbols (Jung's archetypes?) prevent need to re-invent wheel. They are assumed to constitute a universal language usable by dreamers everywhere. The dreaming brain has, therefore, to attend to and to process only "semi-private language" elements. This is less time consuming and conventions of a universal language apply to communication between dream and dreamer.
Even discontinuities have their reason. A lot of information that we absorb and process is either "noise" or repetitive. This fact is known to authors of all file compression applications in world. Computer files can be compressed to one tenth their size without appreciably losing information. The same principle is applied in speed reading – skimming unnecessary bits, getting straight to point. The dream employs same principles: it skims, it gets straight to point and from it – to yet another point. This creates sensation of being erratic, of abruptness, of absence of spatial or temporal logic, of purposelessness. But this all serves same purpose: to succeed to finish Herculean task of refitting model of Self and of World in one night.
Thus, selection of visuals, symbols, and collective symbols and of discontinuous mode of presentation, their preference over alternative methods of representation is not accidental. This is most economic and unambiguous way of representation and, therefore, most efficient and most in compliance with four principles. In cultures and societies, where mass of information to be processed is less mountainous – these features are less likely to occur and indeed, they don't.
Excerpts from an Interview about DREAMS - First published in Suite101
Dreams are by far most mysterious phenomenon in mental life. On face of it, dreaming is a colossal waste of energy and psychic resources. Dreams carry no overt information content. They bear little resemblance to reality. They interfere with most critical biological maintenance function - with sleep. They don't seem to be goal oriented, they have no discernible objective. In this age of technology and precision, efficiency and optimization - dreams seem to be a somewhat anachronistically quaint relic of our life in savannah. Scientists are people who believe in aesthetic preservation of resources. They believe that nature is intrinsically optimal, parsimonious and "wise". They dream up symmetries, "laws" of nature, minimalist theories. They believe that everything has a reason and a purpose. In their approach to dreams and dreaming, scientists commit all these sins combined. They anthropomorphesize nature, they engage in teleological explanations, they attribute purpose and paths to dreams, where there might be none. So, they say that dreaming is a maintenance function (the processing of preceding day's experiences) - or that it keeps sleeping person alert and aware of his environment. But no one knows for sure. We dream, no one knows why. Dreams have elements in common with dissociation or hallucinations but they are neither. They employ visuals because this is most efficient way of packing and transferring information. But WHICH information? Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" is a mere literary exercise. It is not a serious scientific work (which does not detract from its awesome penetration and beauty).
I have lived in Africa, Middle East, North America, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Dreams fulfil different societal functions and have distinct cultural roles in each of these civilizations. In Africa, dreams are perceived to be a mode of communication, as real as internet is to us.
Dreams are pipelines through which messages flow: from beyond (life after death), from other people (such as shamans - remember Castaneda), from collective (Jung), from reality (this is closest to Western interpretation), from future (precognition), or from assorted divinities. The distinction between dream states and reality is very blurred and people act on messages contained in dreams as they would on any other information they obtain in their "waking" hours. This state of affairs is quite same in Middle East and Eastern Europe where dreams constitute an integral and important part of institutionalized religion and subject of serious analyses and contemplation. In North America - most narcissistic culture ever - dreams have been construed as communications WITHIN dreaming person. Dreams no longer mediate between person and his environment. They are representation of interactions between different structures of "self". Their role is, therefore, far more limited and their interpretation far more arbitrary (because it is highly dependent on personal circumstances and psychology of specific dreamer).
Narcissism IS a dream state. The narcissist is totally detached from his (human) milieu. Devoid of empathy and obsessively centred on procurement of narcissistic supply (adulation, admiration, etc.) - narcissist is unable to regard others as three dimensional beings with their own needs and rights. This mental picture of narcissism can easily serve as a good description of dream state where other people are mere representations, or symbols, in a hermeneutically sealed thought system. Both narcissism and dreaming are AUTISTIC states of mind with severe cognitive and emotional distortions. By extension, one can talk about "narcissistic cultures" as "dream cultures" doomed to a rude awakening. It is interesting to note that most narcissists I know from my correspondence or personally (myself included) have a very poor dream-life and dreamscape. They remember nothing of their dreams and are rarely, if ever, motivated by insights contained in them.
The Internet is sudden and voluptuous embodiment of my dreams. It is too good to me to be true - so, in many ways, it isn't. I think Mankind (at least in rich, industrialized countries) is moonstruck. It surfs this beautiful, white landscape, in suspended disbelief. It holds it breath. It dares not believe and believes not its hopes. The Internet has, therefore, become a collective phantasm - at times a dream, at times a nightmare. Entrepreneurship involves massive amounts of dreaming and net is pure entrepreneurship.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and searcheurope.com.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com