Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1997). Topics in Dreamwork Series: Alfred Adler & Dream Styles . Electric Dreams 4(3), www.dreamgate.com/dream/ed-backissues/ed4-3.htm (March 30, 1997)
Topics in Dreamwork Series
Alfred Adler & Dream Styles
"The whole personality is expressed by night and by day. "
A. Adler , 1929, pg 171
If we can characterize desire in Freud as erotically oriented, and desire
in Jung as wholeness oriented, then we can say in Adler that desire is
oriented to overcoming early feelings of inferiority. These feelings stem
from the beginning of life, dependent and small, and evolve as we find
ways of overcoming these feelings of inferiority and becoming productive.
This strivings follow us right into the night; "Now just as our
waking life, we have seen, is determined by the goal of superiority, so
we may see that dreams are determined by the individual goal of superiority."
(Adler, 1929, p.155)
For Adler, the dream tries to help us overcome the same feelings of
inferiority we feel in our life, but without the restraint of concrete
reality. Thus the dream is not only a experimental laboratory to safely
try out new possibilities, but also a window on the style we use in general.
To interpret the dream is to interpret the style of the dreamer.
"We should remember that the selection of pictures, remembrances
and fancies is an indication of the direction in which the mind is moving.
It show you the dreams's tendency, and eventually we can see the goal at
which he wants to arrive." (1929, p. 163)
The unique *life style* of the dreamer becomes the unifying image around
which the dream models itself. Adler points to a repetitive dream for evidence:
"Why do we have the same dream repeatedly? This is a curious fact
for which no definite explanation can be given. However, in such repeated
dreams we are able to find the style of life expressed with much more clarity.
Such a repeated dream gives us a definite and unmistakable indication where
the individual goal of superiority lies." (Adler, 1929, p. 169)
The golden rule in Adler's Individual Psychology is "Everything can be different" (Ansbacher, 1957, p. 363) and so each interpretation was to be unique. But there are trends that show up.
Dreams of falling are seen by those who fear falling in life. Dream
about dead people indicate the dreamer has not finally buried the dead
and is still under the influence of the living. Dreams of cruelty and making
messes indicate rage and desire for revenge. Short dreams indicate the
dreamer is short-cutting the path between their problems and their style
of life. Long dreams indicate the dreamer is good at finding long detours
for their problems.
For demonstration sake, try out this exercise meant to bring out the
"problem solving" aspect of dreaming:
EXERCISE: Take a dream and comment on it "as if" the dream
were indicating the way you want to solve your life problems.
a. Break the dream down into pieces and for each piece summarize the
action. You may wish to further give a functional generalization to each
part as we did before, like saying that the refrigerator is keeping things
cool, the table is for setting things on, the road is for traveling down....
b. Say before each part, "I'd like to solve my social problems
by...[fill in the action]".
c. Notes: How realistic or not this solution would be? What feelings
come with this image?
Example: "In my dream there was a long hall and at the end an open
Broken down using functional generalization:
Long Hall: a long way to go, feels like a long way, a lot of time between here and there.
Open Window: opportunities, a way out, a fresh viewpoint, escape.
Now try putting them in the formula:
"I'd like to solve my social problems by running down a long hall and jumping out the window"
Hmmm, this rings a bell, but doesn't sound like a good solution. So I try again:
"I'd like to solve my social problems by keeping them at a distance
until I see them from a new viewpoint." Now this might be useful and
something I could try.
Thus, for Adler, dreams come from unsolved social problems and are oriented
towards the resolution of those problems. Still, the waking individual
is needed to decide if those solutions are simply a confirmation of fears
or offer some new path. As van de Castle notes (1994), Adler didn't really
give much hope for dreams offering very good solutions. Rather he felt
the benefit would be in connecting the dreamer to the feelings around the
general life style issues.
Exercise: Use the previous exercise, but instead of asking if the dream
realistically captures a solution, ask yourself if the dream captures your
general style or approach to problems in general. Can you recognize this
style? Is something you want to continue to choose, or would you prefer
to choice another style?
Adler made a few mistakes in his assessment of dreams and the modern
Adlerians have tried to correct these views. For example, Adler felt that
the more psychologically healthy individual would not dream. Now we feel
that the amount of dreaming is unrelated to psychopathology. But in general,
the idea that dreams produce feelings that can lead us to act upon life
and live better is continued. Also, that the inferiorities we suffer in
life are also seen in dreams and thereby create a continuum between wake
and sleep were these issues can be experimented with, safely played with
and changed in cooperation with the waking self.
Next Month: Surrealism and Self Astonishment