COMMENTARY

Why Do We Dream?

Robert A. Berezin, MD

Disclosures

May 18, 2018

The Brain's Illuminating Pathway

All of consciousness is a synthetic illusion that we believe to be real. The images of both wakefulness and dreaming are created by the imagination. "Image-ination" is the creation of images. Our brain creates living, feeling images of people.

It utilizes its regular pathways to create these hallucinated illusions within the REM trance. These alive-seeming personas are created by webs of neuronal connections that loop all throughout the architecture of the brain—through the amygdala and the hippocampus, et cetera, the limbic feeling centers; the frontal lobes, the judgment center, the temporal lobes, the center of a sense of realness; the salient memory cortex; the various brain nuclei and ganglia; the body- mapping centers, both cortical and subcortical, creating the presence of bodies; the auditory and thinking centers; and the vision centers to create the seen dream movie. The webs of these connected neurons create an activated brain map of neural constellations of webs of constellations that take form as images.

The brain creates representational images at around age 3, at which point these synthetic images are taken to be real. In waking life, we use reality as our projection screen where we believe our neurologic projections to be real. We think we believe what we see. In fact, we see what we believe.

Likewise, dreams are experienced as just as real as in waking life. In this case, we inhabit the projection of images on the dream screen of the theater of consciousness itself. The central element of the work of dreams is to digest emotional conflict that has been stirred up during the day. As such, it is the major subject of our dreams. Consequently, the limbic system is central to dream formation.

Explication of Eddie's Dream: A Volatile Family History

The meaning of Eddie's dream is as follows ; the anxiety that generated the dream derived from the argument with the professor.

The way a dream operates is that the surface conflict is like the crust of a piece of pie. The deeper meaning of the dream cuts all the way to the center of the pie, to the person's core. Eddie reenacts a form of the already established internal play to digest the surface conflict.

The feeling relatedness in Eddie's dream is one of sadomasochism. The ogre, a monomaniacal bully, hates Eddie. He is stalking Eddie in order to kill him. Eddie is in the masochistic position of this relationship: threatened, terrified, humiliated, and impotent. By his actions later in the dream, it is clear that the masochist in this relationship is also filled with hatred and murderous rage. The limbic system clearly creates the feeling relationship between dream characters.

The inner context for the dream, then, was a story that already existed inside Eddie based on his formative emotional experience with his mother and father. The emotional conflict with the professor resonated with this inner story. The surface of his inner story was the problematic relationship with his father, who was an arrogant, self-involved, and cruel man. Eddie spent his childhood hopelessly seeking his father's approval, to no avail. When Eddie sought approval from his professor, sure enough, his hopes were dashed once again. He was forced to submit to unresponsive disapproval from male authority.

More profoundly, the inner story of Eddie and his father telescoped to the more disturbing relationship with his mother. Hers was a secret world of physical and emotional sadism and violence. In fact, his father's humiliations were an extension of the core violations by his mother. Eddie's experience of his father was already filtered by what had come before. The relationship between Eddie and his mother was one of unadulterated sadomasochism. Mother related to Eddie by her sadistic and violent rage. As the masochistic object of this rage, Eddie was on the receiving end of unrelenting physical and emotional abuse, cruelty, humiliation, and threat.

We can see that the ogre figure is a combination of the professor, Eddie's father, and centrally Eddie's mother. The fight with the professor elicited this inner context, where Eddie was subject to a humiliating victimizer who had all the power. The dream story unfolded and was written through this prism.

A dream is not a documentary of past experience. Eddie's dream was not a literal replay of the trauma of Mother's beatings and humiliation. But clearly, the drama of Eddie and Mommy Dearest was the foundation of the dream.

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