The Dream After A Century: Symposium 2000 on Dreams (Book Review)

Author:  Lansky, Melvin
Publisher: International Universities Press
Reviewed By: Beth Kalish, Volume XXIX, No. 4, pp.37-38

What has happened to dream analysis in contemporary clinical work? What has changed and what has remained? Is it still considered the "royal road" to understanding the unconscious mind?  Given the plurality of views in psychoanalysis today, are their major differences to the status of dreams among analysts?  This book, beautifully elaborated and edited by Melvin Lansky, attempts to analyze some of these provocative issues. The book is a compilation of papers and discussions stemming from a historic event. Symposium 2000 was held in celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams.  It explores a wide range of views concerning the current status of the dream in psychoanalysis. Each of the clinical papers demonstrates the author’s use of and technical thinking about dream material in the context of his/her own clinical practice experience. Lansky notes,"The choices in the handling of the dream made by each clinician, reveal, implicitly or explicitly, the position that clinician takes toward theory and its relation to clinical work."

In his introduction, Lansky presents a comprehensive review for the reader, of what he calls a "selective overview" of the legacy of the Interpretation of Dreams. I found this section a refreshing and clarifying re-orientation to Freud’s original writing and thinking. It could serve any analytic candidate well, as an important way to begin the task of tackling primary source material found, for example, in the Standard Edition.

Following his excellent Freudian review, Lansky launches into current controversial topics in what he calls, "Pluralism and the Forking of the Royal Road." In this section he draws from Solms (1995) and Rangell’s (2004) concerns that we have a crisis in psychoanalysis posed by a multiplicity of theories that must be resolved.  Lansky states his agreement with Rangell (1997) regarding the convincing argument for a total composite theory which "synthesizes disparate contributions into a unitary model." (p. 19). Lansky beautifully elaborates the thesis that pluralism and the excitement it engenders with so-called new discoveries in psychoanalysis can pose an enormous risk of further fragmentation in the profession. A kind of new radicalism exists, a pars pro toto thinking, in which there is an overemphasis of one aspect of psychoanalysis over another. Such thinking leads to the loss of a balanced view so basic to psychoanalysis.

The introductory section concludes with the important question of, " What is the status of the psychoanalytic study of the dream today?" Lansky uses this provocative question to introduce the reader to the detailed papers to follow. The book format and specific content is divided into three topical sections, each with a different chairperson followed by several sub-chapters representing papers by individual presenters and followed by questions from the audience and discussion.

Steven Ellman’s paper, Dreaming, Endogenous Stimulation and Development, is the only one in the text that focused in depth on the neuroscience of dreaming. His interest in REM states began as early as the 1970s and he continued his laboratory research for some 20 years. He was attempting to find ways to operationalize Freud’s concepts of dreaming and drive theory, calling his work

"endogenous (internal) generated stimulation" (p. 48). While the early experiments were with animal subjects, he continues his formulations drawing largely from clinical examples from his patients. I found his paper fascinating and particularly important, in that once again we are reminded of the value of retaining (as opposed to discarding) drive theory within a unitary conceptual model of psychoanalysis.

During the discussion of Part I, Mark Solms joined in to support Mark Blechner’s ideas that Freud used dream phenomena as evidence for the function and structure of the mind. He used this to underscore the basic importance of what distinguishes psychoanalysis from the numerous forms of psychotherapy that have developed in this century. Freud’s was the first serious attempt to make a scientific theory of… "What makes us tick, of what makes us who we are."  But like any other scientific method, this method has both strengths and limitations. It is our job as analysts to grasp the problem, identify weaknesses in our method and find solutions that do not fragment theory, as we know it. Solms is emphatic on this point:

You can’t have a whole lot of different theories about the same thing and each of them correct. The psychoanalytic method, for all its strengths, doesn’t seem to enable analysts to decide between these different theoretical points of view . . . I think that the way we all privately solve it is that we know that our theory is right and the others are all completely wrong. (p. 73)

This next section is a series of clinical papers with focus on case material to illustrate how each analyst works with dream material in his/her practice. The authors come from diverse theoretical views with a commonality of interest as well as commitment to dream work. The choices made by each clinician reveal  his/her position toward a particular theoretical perspective. In this brief review it is not possible to discuss each paper, however I found this section most interesting as representing the heart of the book. The reader can easily tie each clinician’s theory to his unique way of working with dream material vis-à-vis the case illustrations. Dream process notes always have a profound way of speaking to analysts!

In the group discussion that followed Ellen Rees, stressed several central questions that could be useful to all clinicians in their practices, such as 1) How do we understand and use manifest content of the dream? 2) What is the role of defensive process in the formation of dreams? 3) What is the relationship of the dream to unconscious fantasy and to memory? 4) How do we understand and use references to the analyst in the dream? 5) Are dreams always about transference? 6) How do we come to understand the meaning of a dream within a session? 7) What is the role of the past in dream formation-the genetic past and- the past during analysis? 8) Can the dream promote psychological organization? She asked the panel to comment on the productions of the other panelists, and how they understood and used the dreams they presented. A lively discussion arose with comments from the audience, revealing similarities and differences between them. 

The rich variety of papers read and discussed included contributions from Elsa First, Robert D. Gillman, Paul Lipmann, Philip M. Bromberg, Marianne Goldberger and Mervyn Peskin among others. 

The final chapter of the book, appropriately titled " Rejoinder," consists of a long dialogue with all the commentators, presenters and the audience responders. How this detailed a discussion was ever clarified and organized for publication, speaks to the subtle skills of the book’s editor. The beauty of this section is that it gives the reader the moment to moment opportunity of "being there." We hear from each speaker by name and exactly what they are responding to from the previous speaker. While in some respects the dialogue between the speakers tends to wander far from dreams as a topic and tends to emphasize theoretical differences, I found it meaningful as a way to summarize a highly charged interchange among distinguished presenters. Owen Renik, who served as chair for this part of the program, ended by commenting on the astonishing amount of energy generated by the speakers and the audience. He acknowledged the work of Arnold Richards in creating this event and suggested that Richard’s energetic style was contagious throughout the Symposium.

In concluding this review, I would like to add the value of the book itself as a very important contribution to the utilization of dream work in the 21st century. This book brings the old and new together for consideration that one rarely has the opportunity to read in our current literature.

References

Ellman, S. (1992) Psychoanalytic theory, dream formation and REM sleep. In Interface of psychoanalysis and psychology, ed. J. Barron, M. Eagle & D. Wolitzky, Washington, D.C. American Psychological Assoc. pp 357-374.

Rangell, L. (1997). At century’s end: A unitary theory of psychoanalysis. Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis. 6:465-484.

Rangell, L. (2004) My life in theory. New York: Other Press.

Solms, M. (1995) New findings on the neurological organization of dreaming. Implications for psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 64:43-67.

Beth I. Kalish

The third section of the book "Commentary and Rejoinder, has contributions from Owen Renik, Sydney Pulvert and Howard Shevrin. Pulver began his commentary, saying that most of the papers in this book represent a variety of viewpoints, "including the relationists the researchers, Mahlerians, Kleinians, evolutionary theorists, Anna Freudians, classical analysts and conflict theorists" (p. 247). Yet he found they all work with dreams in much the same way. The basic approach utilized by the panelists included: 1) Getting associations, 2) Emphasizing the importance of the dream experience, 3) Exploring the transference and 4) Exploring defenses.  Of course, it is clear that three out of the four points refer to all aspects of analytic work, not just limited to working with dream material. To that degree, dream work needs to take its rightful place in the overall context of the total analytic experience. Dreams are a part rather than the whole of the analysis in any clinical endeavor. While most of the presenter’s material reflects work stemming from conflict theory, that of James Fosshage’s theory illustrated a deficit model or that of developmental arrest. Philip Bromberg’s and his approach are farther from that of Freudian methodology than the other presenters are different from each other.

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