“Experiences in Social Dreaming”

Have you ever heard of Social Dreaming?

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of the Social Dreaming Matrix is to “transform the thinking of the dreams by means of free association so as to make links among the dreams and become available for new thinking and thought.”

Basically, Social Dreaming is a new way to understand dreams–instead of focusing on the personal context, it looks at their social dimension.

I hadn’t heard of social dreaming until recently, but it turns out social dreaming  is a technique being used in a variety of ways  to understand and enact social change; the London Occupy Movement meets regularly for Social Dreaming Events.

This term in my PhD program in Depth Psychology: Community, Liberation, and Ecopsychology, I am taking a class in Community Dreamwork where we are studying Social Dreaming (see the link to the book below and here.)

As I’ve mentioned my studies to friends, there’s been a great deal of interest so I thought I would publish highlights of my readings here.

A good introduction to Social Dreaming can be found in the first chapter of G. Lawrence’s 2003 book, Experiences in Social Dreaming published in New York (Karnac).  The author shares Fromm’s notions of three perspectives on dreams:

Perspective 1: Freud thought that dreams express the “irrational and asocial nature of human beings,”

Perspective 2: Jung saw dreams as “a revelation of unconscious wisdom, a wisdom that transcends the individual” and

Perspective 3:  Dreams cannot be controlled or managed and show our “irrational strivings,” best and worst, of our mental activity (p. 7).

In chapter one of Experiences in Social Dreaming, Lawrence says that:

1. Dreams induct us into the tension between the conscious and unconscious, the possible and the impossible, the finite and the infinite (p. 2).

2. Social dreaming operates in a matrix of dreamers. Not that they are all sleeping and dreaming together or having the same dream at the same time but coming together to share dreams and associations in an organic, flowing way. Chairs are not arranged in a circle with participants facing each other, but in a spiral, snowflake, star, or other configuration with clusters of 5-7 (p. 2).

3. Dreams may seem fragmentary but these fragments offer a glimpse of the whole, perhaps like a scrap of DNA. While individuals dream, they don’t “own” their dreams; meaning of the dreams are arrived through group free association making connections between various dreams (p. 3).

4. The matrix describes the context of the group convening to listen to the dreams and is the container for the group’s dreams and the associations which arise. The matrix itself shapes the articulation of the dreams that are being contained, thereby shaping the dreams (p. 3)

5. What comes out of the free associative work in a matrix is “a multi-verse of meaning.” Lawrence continues that “The dream arises from the matrix of emotional experience that exists prior to the formation of the group” (p. 4).

6. While a socio-democratic endeavor where all members of the matrix are dreamers and participants, a “taker” takes down the dream and often offers the first associations while “the dreamer-who-dreams-the dream” tends to make the meaning (p. 5).

7. Social dreaming recognizes that “we are such stuff as dreams are made on” –as Shakespeare put it (p. 5).

8. Social dreaming is socio-centric, not ego-centric, and arrives at knowledge not throught the “I” but from the Sphinx or “the realm of knowledge, scientific method, and truth seeking” (p. 5).

9. The mind develops based on acquisition of knowledge about internal and external knowledge (p. 8). Thoughts are things and things are thoughts according to Bion (p. 9).

10. “The tension between the finite and the infinite [conscious and unconscious] arises because the emotional elements sabotage the process”–powerful fears and other emotions that are beyond contemplation (p. 10).

11. Each free association of a dream creates a new version or understanding of that dream. “Free association is the most subversive activity” to say “whatever crosses one’s mind” in our goal oriented society can actually, according to Bollas “undermine the structure of Western epistemology” (p. 10).

12. Engaging in free association brings us closer to infinity, the god-head. (I grew up hearing how God is not only infinite, but THE infinite.) (p. 11).

13. The free associative practices of social dreaming in a matrix not only brings us closer to the infinite, it provides evidence of the infinite being in our dreams (p. 11).

14. Dreams mirror our location, our “eco-niche,” our day to day world and experiences which are then influenced by our dreams: “we make a life from their shadows” (p. 12).

15. Poets and dreamers both seek to express life through language “simple, sensuous, passionate” (Milton). The tools of the poet are the same as the dreamer. Determining the meaning of a dream dances between the explicit (explicate) and the implicit (implicate). Social dreaming “leads us away from the intrapsychic, narcissistic mode of understanding dreaming” (p. 12).

16. Dreams reveal the unknown through the known (p. 13).

17. Social dreaming reaches the unconsciousness or infinite of an organization (p. 14). “Free association is open-ended, whereas interpretation curtails exploration” (p. 13).

18. “The social dreaming matrix…comes to contain the disowned aspect (s) of the social system…(e.g. “feminine authority”)” (p. 14).

19. “The experience of the social dreaming matrix allows participants to tolerate the unknown, t be in doubts, mysteries, and uncertainties” (p. 14).

20. Each night dreams give us opportunities to pose questions to the dominant paradigm (p. 14).

21. Social dreaming serves as a transitional, serious play in the theater of the infinite or the unconscious: “here in are the roots of our civilization and creativity” (p. 14).

And social dreaming will help us create the play in the theater of our future I would say...

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One comment on ““Experiences in Social Dreaming””

  1. [...] “Experiences in Social Dreaming” (compassionaterebel.wordpress.com) [...]


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