Social Medicine -or- World Health Watch of Dream Work

Man as an Active Perceiver -or- The World of Private Self Perception

Recently a student from South America completing his Masters degree asked for some information (see below). First, as part of "Field Notes of a Dream Researcher" is a brief review of my own Masters thesis.

My Masters thesis was completed at the University of Zurich, and had the title "Man as an Active Perceiver: Modulation of Human Perception and Action". My philosophical thesis was that neuroscience viewed perception from a mechanical and passive perspective. To remedy this philosophical problem, I proposed that perception was an active neuropsychological process. In my own words; "Yarbus has shown data, that man is a visually active selective perceiver. Data has long been accumulating, showing that each of us live in a world of private self perception and action." (p1) My thesis was completed in 1983. To my surprise, a number of years back I discovered that my thesis was pragmatically tested and proven in a study published in Switzerland. You can read about the 1983 "eye tracking" study of drivers (scroll down in the wikipedia article to "eye tracking while driving a car", also see footnote 30 of the wikipedia article).  

Here is the request for information and my reply. 

Dear Mr. Hagen, 

My name is Juan Hernandez and i'm a psychologist from Venezuela, at this moment i'm writing a thesis for my master degree in clinical psychology and i'm developing research in the field of dream interpretation, so i find out your website and i'm very interested in reading your e-book. Today i try calling to the phone numbers listed on your website but unfortunately i haven't been able to communicate. Therefore, i'm writing to find out how could i buy the e-book, and also i want to ask if you could suggest me where can i find some articles or books about the use of dream interpretation in systemic psychotherapy, beacause most of the material i have read comes from the psychodinamic approachs. 

Thank you for any help you could give me in this matter. 

Greetings from South America. 

Hi Juan, 

Thanks for your interest. The book is in the process of being revised. I'll send out some clinical psychology reading resources that includes other approaches than the psychodynamic. Could you let me know what your Masters thesis is all about? 



Reply; Hi Mark

Well, at this moment i'm working trying to propose a way of work with dream interpretation in the systemic-oriented clinical practice. I've found that there's not much work made in this field, in fact, systemic and narrative therapy approach have no theory of dreams and do not suggest one specific way to work with dreams in psychotherapy. That's why i'm trying to develop my work in this subject. I have some experience within the Jungian approach, because of my own psychotherapic process, and some courses i have take in the past, and i'm also very interested in shamanism, and all that interesting knowledge that comes from the different ancient aboriginal cultures.

So, if you have any material that you think can help me, i really will apreciate it.

Thank you very much for your answer.


Psychodynamic Social Medicine -or- World Health Watch of Dream Work 

Systems oriented science aims to understand the "complex systems" of nature and society. You are correct in your assessment that in the "psychodynamic" systems oriented medical and clinical approach to understanding society, little comprehensive field research and work in this part of the field has been done. What work there is, is still socially and medically fragmented. 

I also agree with you, that narrative oriented therapy using dreams is still in its infancy as it relates to the mainstream health movement. Despite Freud's efforts to disseminate the "royal road" of the "talking cure", it still has not been put to good applied and pragmatic use by the medical community well over 100 years later. The work posted at the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) website and "Field Notes of a Dream Researcher: 1001 Nights in the Global Village" at my facebook page is my attempt to remedy this social situation and medical problem of the disregard of dreams as a social anamnestic and diagnostic source of relevant medical information. 

Systemic social medicine is one hermeneutic point of departure for such a psychodynamic system oriented enterprise. In the German written book "Socialmedizin systematisch" (Systemic Social Medicine) Jens-Uwe Niehoff provides a social medicine perspective of the "health care system". Demographics, family trees, fertility, birth, causes of death, classification of medical problems and epidemiology are some of the topics of discussion found in Niehof's book. If we could collect a large enough sample of dreams from around the globe and hermeneutically  analyse them we would have a better understanding of our global health problems and anthropological social systemic needs. 

All these health and illness related topics can be found and traced in our collective dream patterns, which reflect the medical sociology and the social epidemiology of our psychosomatic  well being. Many dreams posted at the IIDR website provide insight into the medical heath, both physical and psychological of those living in the global village. By the end of "1001 Nights in the Global Village", a comprehensive psychodynamic field study, mapping and perspective of those living on the planet will be completed. WHO is listening? Who cares? 

From a social psychodynamic psychotherapy perspective the individual and the family communication system has most likely been the most studied. Family therapy approaches (this link also provides an overview of approaches that you are asking about) see many if not all social health problems beginning in the family. This certainly was also Freud's message about the psychodynamic heredity of culture, families and the child's "Oedipus complex". 

The psychohistory perspective, sees the child as the (transpersonal focal point of all history. Horst Richter's "Eltern, Kind und Neurose" (Parents, Child and Neurosis), and Alice Miller's  "poisonous pedagogy" are works that use the psychodynamic and psychohistorical perspective of the family unit and society. You can imagine for example that the children of Holocaust survivors attest to the transgenerational transmission of the memory of trauma and PTSD through their communication and dream patterns, perhaps even via biological heredity mechanisms. 

As a University student, I was able to listen to the systemic epidemiological ideas of Gregory Bateson "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" and John Bowlby's ideas about "Attachment, Separation and Loss". Their work has influenced my thinking about collective dream patterns. Others whose work I was interested in as a student and post-graduate was that of Virginia Satir (called by some "the mother of family therapy"), Murray Bowen, Salvador Minuchin's "structural family therapy" and Paulo Freire to name a few. 

Psychodynamics of Family Communication -or- Ecology of Family Dreams

The family and family communication figures prominently in many dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website, here are a few; 

Biopsychosocial Model of Personality -or- Psychopathology of Everyday Life

The biopsychosocial model of personality was proposed by Gardner Murphy "Personality: A Biosocial Approach to Origins and Structure" in 1947. Murphy sees in the dream the expression of individuality and creativity. There are no accurate global measures of dreams that indicate health development, and dreams that reflect physical illness and/or psychopathology. Similar to the ICD-10 (mental and behavioural disorders) and the DSM-4R,"The Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual" (PDM) does provide psychodynamic indicators and classification system for mental health and illness. The PDM utilizes many psychoanalytic concepts and has a distinct psychoanalytic flavour. Neither the Centre for Disease Control, Health Canada, nor the World Health Organization (as far as I know) use any kind of indicators to measure the health and illness of populations based on information derived from large numbers of dream reports. 

Joseph Natterson (ed) "The Dream in Clinical Practice" is one of the few books that provides an overview of the psychopathological spectrum of dreaming. Such clinical presentations of schizophrenia, depression, dissociation, phobias, paraphilias are all discussed by various authors. Here are some of the IIDR dream interpretations about psychopathology; 

The Effects of Stress on Dreams -or-Stressed Out in the Global Village

Stress and its effects on dreams has been investigated by Louis Breger (et al) "The Effects of Stress on Dreams". Many dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website attest to the epidemic problem of stress; 

The Collective Shadow -or- Transparency and Obstruction in the Global Village

Dreams can provide insight into what Carl Jung called the "collective shadow". My own preference to understanding of this dark and obfuscated side of human nature, can be traced back to the philosophical work and social optical ideas of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau's ideas on narcissism, education and child rearing practices take on a modern perspective and find a psychological home in many dream interpretations found at the IIDR website. Jean Starobinski "Jean-Jacques Rousseau: La Transparence et l'obstacle" (Jean Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction) explores the social problem and conflict of psychological darkness and the opaque in history. Only via the creation of a transparent society can the obfuscation mechanisms used to hide our dark hostile dream world of everyday life be illuminated. 

Said differently, the psychological conflict between self-disclosure and self concealment is a central psychodynamic driving force in everyday life. It is one of the main aims of the IIDR to expose this concealed historical dark side of our collective dream world and begin to bring an end to the "obstruction of justice". While I usually am not a friend of conspiracy theories, the everyday "perversion of the course of justice" such as seen in "perjury", is a daily happening. This dark side of humanity is expressed in numerous dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website. Here are some; 

All dreams are a psychological form of self disclosure. For any psychodynamic oriented treatment to be effective, self disclosure becomes the clinical psychological basis for understanding and treating the health problems that are being presented in therapy. The IIDR dream interpretation, "Jung's Personality Theory -or- Pauli's Johari Window" attests to the psychological problem of obfuscation and the need for self disclosure. Seen on a global scale, sociometric and biometric methods can be applied to the dream. Such a collective depth psychological "Johari window" enterprise would greatly enhance the medical information and understanding we have about the health and illness patterns of populations on the planet.

Further Reading: 

  • Sidney Jouard "The Transparent Self"
  • David Brin, "The Transparent Society"
  • Carlos E. Sluzki and Donald C. Ransom (ed) "Double Bind: The Foundation of the Communicational Appraoch to the Family"
  • Milton Rokeach "The Open and Closed Mind"
  • Emil A. Gutheil "The Handbook of Dream Analysis" 

You also asked about "shamanistic" perspectives as they relate to dreams. Here are two; 

  • Carlos Casteneda, "The Art of Dreaming"
  • Holgar Kalweit "Traumzeit und innerer Raum: Die Welt der Schamanen" (Dreamtime and Inner Space: The World of Schamanism) 

Best wishes on completing your Masters thesis. 




All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.