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Atwood, G.E. (2015). Dreams and Delusions: A Conversation. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:5-19.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:5-19

I: How are Dreams to be Understood?

Dreams and Delusions: A Conversation

George E. Atwood, Ph.D.

As a young man, just discovering the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl G. Jung, I had the idea that by studying dreams I might run across the secret of human nature. For decades I have continued to study and think about dreams, and while I may not have discovered the mystery of the psyche, I have developed a perspective on the process of dreaming.

What follows is an imagined dialogue between a graduate student named Adam and me in which I discuss the use of dream interpretation in psychotherapy, the relationship between the dream and its near cousin, the delusion, and what light dreams might shine on human nature.

Dreams and Dream Interpretation

Adam: Let's discuss dreams. I just want to get you started somehow, so talk to me about nightmares and how you work with them.

G.A.: A lot of stories come up for me, my young friend. Here is one. Long ago, a 35-year-old man, a teacher at a small college, came to me with a serious depression. After our first meeting, he sent a note describing a dream, which became the centerpiece for our work together.

I watched a teenage boy walking into a large room. He had suffered a damaging cerebral injury in an earlier fall from a swing. He approached a table behind which sat an array of older men, and in the center, kind of like the chairman of the board, was Walt Disney. on the table were various small objects: pens, coffee cups, keys. the boy concentrated on these things and, psychokinetically, made them begin to whirl, levitate, and move up and down the table. It was a dazzling demonstration of paranormal powers.

Then Walt Disney reached over the table and gently cupped the boy's head in both his hands. This affectionate holding continued for a few moments, but then Disney began to press inward.

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