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What Dreams May Come (on May 6th) May 6, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)


“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.”

– possibly Sigmund Freud, as quoted in his New York Times obituary (09/24/1939)


“The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises.”


– Sigmund Freud, as quoted in his New York Times obituary (09/24/1939)


“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”


– from The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud


Let’s talk about our dreams. During this pandemic, some people have mentioned having particularly wild dreams – even when they weren’t sick. People have also talked about either remembering or not remembering their dreams, but in the opposite way than what is normal for them. I recently dreamed there was a brown rabbit sitting at the foot of my bed. It wasn’t doing anything; just hopped up and sat there for a bit. Not touching me, or biting me – not even really looking at me or wiggling its nose – just sitting there.

Prior to seeing the movie US, a dream like that would have had me running to search for Freud’s take on the symbolism of rabbits. Rather than going down that particular (and surprising) rabbit hole, let’s just stick with the work and the history.

Born today (May 6th) in 1856, Dr. Sigmund Freud was a neurologist who studied researched cerebral paralysis or cerebral palsy, as it is known today. In an attempt to better understand the workings of the brain, Freud collaborated with Dr. Josef Breuer, a physician who utilized a type of hypnosis very different from what Freud had previously studied. Breuer’s work, especially with a patient referred to as “Anna O,” laid the foundation for psychoanalysis – the development of which would lead to Freud’s legacy as the “Father of Psychoanalysis” and dream interpretation.

“…here we have another limitation to the effectiveness of analysis; after all, analysis does not set out to make pathological reaction impossible, but to give the patient’s ego freedom to decide one way or the other.”


– from The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud


“Psychoanalysis in the hands of the physician is what confession is in the hands of the Catholic priest. It depends on its user and its use, whether it becomes a beneficial tool or a two-edged sword.”


– Bertha Pappenheim (also known as “Anna O”)

Bertha Pappenheim (a.k.a. “Anna O” and “Only A Girl”) was a Jewish Austrian feminist, education organizer, and writer who was born into a wealthy and prestigious family. She was highly educated, cultured, and spoke multiple languages. She was immersed in a variety of cultures throughout her childhood. In her twenties, around the same time that her father became ill, she started experiencing a variety of physical and mental ailments. The ailments became worse after her father’s death. Breuer initially diagnosed her with hysteria (a pretty common diagnosis for women at that time, regardless of how they presented) and started her on a new type of hypnosis therapy. Rather than trying to cure or “correct” her, however, Breuer placed “Anna O” under hypnosis and encouraged her to talk in order to reveal the underlying causes of her symptoms. Breuer believed that the underlying causes were childhood traumas, suppressed memories, and suppressed thoughts. “Anna O’ referred to this therapy as her “talking cure” and it did in fact alleviate some of her symptoms and reduce the intensity of others. (NOTE: She discontinued her therapy with Breuer after accusing him of getting her pregnant; an accusation that is either not mentioned in either of their biographies or dismissed as a symptom of her illness. Later in life, as an educator, Pappenheim would not allow girls in her care to utilize the therapy that had become commonplace.)

By the time Freud (who never met Bertha Pappenheim) started collaborating with Breuer, he had pretty much given up on the possibility of hypnosis being a consistently viable treatment for his patients. Breuer’s method, however, was different and so Freud began to encourage his patients to speak freely about whatever came up in whatever manner it came up. He referred to this stream of consciousness as “free association” and eventually concluded that dreams were the key to the subconscious and repressed memories. His clinical experience evolved into the development of psychoanalysis.

“Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity.”


– Sigmund Freud


Keep in mind that during the bulk of this work on a new form of treatment, Freud himself was experiencing symptoms that, had he been a woman, would have led to a diagnosis of hysteria. Naturally, he started using his new treatment on himself and ultimately codified a system of symbols and dream interpretation that supported his theories about sexual development and its correlation to maturity; an  understanding of “wish fulfillment” and the desires of the ego and super ego; his seduction theory, which explained certain neurosis as the result of repressed sexual trauma and abuse; and postulation of the Oedipus Complex, which he said manifested as “castration anxiety” in men and “penis envy” in women. (NOTE: Freud firmly dismissed Dr. Carl Jung’s discussions of an “Electra complex,” positing that there was one issue experienced by different genders in different ways, as opposed to multiple issues which could be experienced by any gender.)

As I started reading Freud at a tender age, I could go on like this all night… especially since the history is just as interesting as the clinical concepts. But, at some point I need to go to sleep – perchance to dream. And if you ask me if you’re in my dreams, the answer may surprise you. (Or not: after all, a little over half of small business professionals dream about work and the vast majority who dream of work, put those dreams into action when the wake. Keep that in mind next time you think I dreamed up a sequence.)

“Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.”


– from The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

If you’re curious about what I might “dream up” next, feel free to join me for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Wednesday, May 6th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM. Please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Kiss My Asana, the yogathon that benefits Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga program is officially over. But, I still owe you two posts and you can still do yoga, share yoga, help others by donating to my KMA campaign.

You can also check out the all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.


“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”


– from a letter written by Sigmund Freud to Dr. Wilhelm Fleiss, otolaryngologist (dated 10/15/1897)






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