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Lippmann, P. (1998). On the Private and Social Nature of Dreams. Contemp. Psychoanal., 34(2):195-221.

(1998). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 34(2):195-221

On the Private and Social Nature of Dreams

Paul Lippmann, Ph.D.

The Privacy of Dreams

Dreams are among the most private of human experiences. Alone, at night, wrapped in sleep's isolation, the dreamer calls upon the deepest recesses of brain and mind and conjures up creations of vast idiosyncratic complexity. Most are soon forgotten before waking, others are forgotten in the process of waking, and still more disappear as the day goes by. Few dreams find their way to fully awake consciousness, let alone to dream journals or to communication to others. Therefore, even before morning's arousal, there are many dreams and fragments, adventures, scenes, memories and cogitations, whole universes that are private even to the dreamer, and that rise from and quickly fall back to the unconscious. This continuous dreaming-forgetting activity reflects an internal “turning over” of the soil of memory and mind—an individual human ecological event in brain and mind. Dreaming-forgetting-dreaming-forgetting-dreaming-forgetting: it is an endless cycle of internal mentation, like a farmer plowing, planting, harvesting, plowing, planting, and so on. The idea of this intimate relationship between dreams and nature brings to mind the sight of a particular lone apple tree on a snow-covered field in the Berkshires, which stimulated some thoughts on the ecology of forgotten dreams. The fallen apples surrounding the tree would, in springtime, decay and become nourishment for the tree's future growth, the way forgotten dreams, fallen back to the unconscious, nourish mind for future daytime thinking and nighttime

* An earlier version, titled “Dreams and Social Character,” was presented at the Maccoby Social Character Workshop in Washington, D.

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