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Summers, F. (2015). Of Pajamas, Tuxedos, and Nighthawks: What am I Doing in This Dream? Commentary on a Sample Dream Reported by Dorothy Grunes. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:190-195.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:190-195

Of Pajamas, Tuxedos, and Nighthawks: What am I Doing in This Dream? Commentary on a Sample Dream Reported by Dorothy Grunes

Frank Summers, Ph.D.

In my view, a dream must be taken on its own terms. A dream is an experience different from any other, just as perceptions, fantasies, and illusions are all unique ways of relating to the world, or ways of Being-in-the-world, as Heidegger called them. the assumption of the traditional analytic metapsychology of dreaming is that a dream is a poor perception (Freud, 1900). Chapter VII of The Interpretation of Dreams, followed to this day by mainstream analytic thinking, begins with the assumption that a dream must be a frustrated need for a motoric outlet. Without such a route for tension reduction, the psychic material is dreamed so as to achieve an outlet in disguised form. But that metapsychology assumes a dream is an epiphenomenon, a poor perception. It is not. A dream takes place in its own mental space and has its own characteristics that make it a dream, as opposed to a fantasy, perception, or any other mental act, including a poor perception. Dreams are not epiphenomena; they cannot be reduced to daytime events, whether wishes, memories, or psychological states of any kind, because the dream experience is unique. To reduce a dream to an expression of daytime material in disguised form is to miss the unique experience of dreaming. (For a more complete critique of the metapsychology of dreams, see Summers, 2013, this volume.)

This non-reductionistic view of dreams has profound clinical implications. the assumption that a dream is an indirect representation of unexpressed daytime thoughts makes the dream itself no more than the bearer of a daytime message. This view leads to the classical technique of asking for and following associations to arrive at the latent thoughts of which the dream is composed. However, looking at the dream as a way of being rather than an indirect embodiment of thoughts and feelings from waking life implies a clinical technique that explores the experience of being in the dream. the unique being of the dream is a drama in which the dreamer lives as protagonist of the dream. the dreamer believes in the reality of the dream while it is being dreamt. That is, the dreamer lives in a world that is as real to the protagonist as the perceptual world is to the patient in waking life.

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