There is a lot of jargon in this file that may be cleared up if
you read my article on Deleuze and Guattari's postmodern philosophy,
Signs and Subject, all well greased and in place. All social/familial taboos
in operation. All tasks of production and consumption completed and finally
Brian goes to sleep. Some time later that night Brian awakes, too frightened to
scream, heart pounding and he is on some kind of roller coaster ride in a land
without gravity. Brian just had a nightmare.
There has been a break in the flow and the insertion of a nightmare machine
in the factory of the unconscious. It shreds its way through signification (what
is what) and subjectification (who is who). The usual codes have unraveled, and
the flow of de-coded signs circulate in things that are only themselves. Brian'
ears are red and buzzing, and he wonders why they are on his foot. He hears a
old voice of a therapist asking what he thinks the ear on the foot represents,
and now he knows the therapist must be mad, speaking about what the falling mast
might mean symbolically as another wave pushes his ship under the swell. Both a
breakthrough and a breakdown of a world that revolves around the subject. Now
the subject is whirled around. Around may not be the right word, as around
implies a center and there is no center here.
Standard wisdom dictates that we move away from offensive and frightening
scenes. These reactions keep us out of trouble, keep our hands from being burned
by the stove, keep germs off our food, keep our bones from being broken by cars
and cliffs. However, this aversion reaction also keeps us in line and in
alignment with early training that may no longer be valid. Taboos may be said to
function in the same way. There are boundaries we are taught not to transgress,
or there will be Hell to pay. But were these boundaries put into place by a
perfect parent, guardian or teacher? Unlikely. And in a society whose parameters
and values change at an unparalleled pace, one's value programs need to be
upgraded more than once a generation.
In fact, this is the classic definition of the neurotic. The neurotic is a
person who encounters offensive, frightening scenes and backs away. But they
keep backing away until there is no further back to go, becoming deeply
compressed within themselves, and no longer venturing out the front door, no
longer touching anything without washing their hands, no longer peering over
Societies too become neurotic, become paranoid, and then begin trying to
control everything, the media, the way children are raised, what we eat and
drink, who we talk to. Modern societies have tried to do away with these
tyrannical systems, but in doing so have not replaced them with anything, and so
our values have become confused, conflicted, fickle. One group tries to save
trees, and tries to save the jobs so they can feed their family. The higher,
synthetic truth that will bring together opposites is harder and harder to find.
When people don't have an inner value to call on, they look around, see what the
neighbors are doing, and follow suite. There is no real inner status, so outward
signs of status become important.
Dreamworkers have always been aware of this condition of the retreating
self/society and the machines that keep it in place. Spiritual dreamwork
discusses these issues in terms of enlightenment and salvation. That is, there
is a veil of illusion we call our lives, and the paths that allow us to
transcend these illusions. Psychological dreamwork discusses these illusions in
terms of neurosis and psychosis, and the appropriate level of challenges and
supports are set up to allow the individual to make choices from places other
than overwhelming affective/emotional states. Postmodern dreamwork addresses
these illusions more as social constructs and looks for ways to subvert
repressive forces and open up creative lines of escape. In this view, the
nightmare is not something for the subject to escape from, but a path to escape
the neurotic subject.
What are those gaps in the dream, those shifting scenes of the dream?
The self passes through various states as it (they) rolls around the body
without organs. Some of these states are quite discontinuous. Freud and Jung
both addressed this discontinuity. They knew it was more than a lapse in brain
Interestingly, recently, the REM theory of dreaming collapsed. In 1953,
Aserinsky, a grad student of Nathaniel Kleitmann, found that when you waken a
person whose eyes were moving rapidly during sleep, they tended to recall
dreams. Eventually the REM cycle was found to be fairly regular and that it
activated parts of the neo-cortex through fairly random neural bursts. Since
then, Alan Hobson and his friends have insisted that dreaming is simply the
sleepy mind dealing with these random firings and gaps are times when there are
pauses in this activation.
Over the last few years, a whole new picture began to emerge from the studies
of a neurosurgeon who followed the dreams of patients with brain damage. Mark
Solms noted that the activation sequences that the brain needed to dream (or
more accurately, to recall dreams) was *independent* of the REM activation. Oh,
REM brain stem activation got this new Dream-On sequence going at times ( a
spiral like activation that cycles through our motivation centers, our
spacio-temporal-imaginal centers, our higher visual centers) but so did other
things, and once activated, it follows its own independent activation.
But all these notions seemed dated, or limited, when considered within a
Deleuzio-guattarian engagement. Molar aggregates scrape and fight about
territory all the time, and when this occurs over millions of years, brain
structures get pushed to the limit and turn into revolutions.
Dream discontinuity here becomes more a matter of intersecting lines
disrupting the subject of the conjunctive synthesis. At least from the point of
view of the body without organs.
The body without organs. Imagine a body that has not been organized into
brains, hearts, genitals, legs, arms, skin. A body like this has no real
interior, there are just flows, almost a perverse polymorphic distribution of
intensities that offer a smooth surface around which the dynamics of the
subjects, the objects, the affects, the cognitions, the forces of production and
consumption travel, not in paths where the end is known, but in partial paths,
in trajectories. An egg, crisscrossed by forces, dynamics, vectors. As we
approach the surface of this egg, the intensity drops to zero and everything
begins to slide.
In waking life, the ego uses narrative bridges to compensate for this
discontinuity. Even when we wake up, the technique for learning dream recall is
But when sleeping, the access to the neurotransmitters that allow identity
structures to rigidly hold together and produce grids, thereby
reterritorializing dominate cultural axiomatics, disappear. That is, the dream
state is full of narratives and subjects, feelings and thoughts, repressions and
productions, and these work in a way that is unfamiliar to the subject, who upon
waking may recall a "dream" but in fact is only recalling the last
slice, the one it can identify as a story.
Disjunctions appear as gaps between dreams because the subject relates to
them from its experiential story-frame. Deterritorializations may be experienced
as apocalyptic or may be seen as loss of consciousness. Each dream story, while
it is being produced, is like a child playing on a train track, and a track at
the intersection of an infinite vortices. The subject consumes the dream as
narrative, but can only rarely use that narrative structure to reterritorialize
its identity. Again, probably due on the bio-chemical level to the dissolving or
wavy grid of control that occurs during dreaming. (Interestingly activated first
by the very spot that leucotomies -earlier called lobotomies - are performed, ie
dopamine, active-producing, connecting, interest-producing, action-producing,
Gaps in the Dream. Freud saw them as a cover-up, but one in which a sharp
mind could follow back by association, to a source. Oedipus gouging out his
eyes, then retracing his steps of the crime. Whether one goes for the theory of
being able to recover authorial intention or not, the process, free association,
did emerge as a skill by which the subject could begin to produce his/her own
streams and lines of escape.
Jung, in his charming Hegelian way, saw the gap as a portal being held open
by two unreconcilable opposites, two things that the ego just could not let go
of, yet could not have, two horrors, two beasts in eternal struggle for one
reality they could never both inhabit. Through this portal held by the struggle
emerged the uncanny transcendent.
OK, perhaps its just another tyrant awakening in the desert and slinking off
to Bethlehem, but when the dream becomes one of many sites where the intolerable
may first occur to us, where the molar limit produces molecular cracks and
bleeds the brood of the night, then here is a factory that produces the
un-containable rupture across which the nomad may skate.
Like desire (and madness) dreams seem to be the most powerful when they bring
us into contact with radical otherness. Daniel brings Nebruchanezer into contact
with a dream that transforms the religions of Babylon. Joseph brings Pharaoh
into contact with a dream that alters the state of Egypt. Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde is written after a Robert Lewis Stevenson encounters his own Hyde in a
dream. Freud and Jung encounter desire and madness in dreams and create and
alter the course of psychotherapy.
This radical otherness is better characterized as a continual process of
becoming other, which begins in the desire to escape bodily limitations. These
limitations can be both cultural as well as natural. To regress back to
representations for a moment, in dreams we often find ourselves up against our
own cultural and psychophysical limit-expectations. We stop at red lights in our
car in a dream. We open dream doors. We walk upstairs and eat meals. Yet in
other dreams we fly, we breath water, we walk through walls, men become women,
we can be several identities at once, we become animals and crooks, we have sex
with taboo people and inanimate objects.
And perhaps most radically, we stop being we. I am not the center of my dream,
but just one trajectory intersecting the dream.
*zzzzz* Desire as productive, creating breaks in the flow and connecting one
desiring machine to another.
*zzzzz* Dreams/nightmares as productive, and what they are producing and how
does this work? Careful, does each dream produce a singularity, or can we
abstract and generalize since we have all been caught in the same habits of
*zzzzz* Dreams/nightmares in their different phases of deterritorialization
of subjective space, their territorialization of brain space, the
teterritorialization of ?
*zzzzz* If you must remain psychoanlaytic, how about a slight shift? Instead
of seeing nightmares as a failure of the censor, what happens if we posit that
the nightmare is a deflection of something so ungraspable that it can only be
said to be a successful censoring of that experience.
*zzzzz* Dreams/Nightmares as ruptures between the binary thinking of
conscious/unconscious, wake/sleep, aware/not aware, here/not here?
*zzzzz* What might have young Felix or Gilles have thought to themselves when
they first had to tackle Descartes Dream problem about reality and knowing?
*zzzzz* How might the dream/nightmare be seen as a co-patriot of
In ancient Delphi, people would sleep on the steps of the temple of Apollo,
seeking (incubating) the dream that would allow them access to the oracle
inside. Mythically, this access to the truth was a later imposition of Apollo on
a pre-Greek people who practiced dance and rites that were assigned by the
Greeks to Dionysos. Pan is one of his entourage and was said to have taught
Apollo dream work at Delphi. In the Dionysian groups, the questions or problems,
if that is what they really were, were danced along the hillsides and meadows
and involved transformations in ecstasy. This moving-into may be distinguished
from Apollo's seeing-from afar. With the dominance of Apollo, the dramas were
all contained in the amphitheater and the ecstasies relocated to the dream (and
the one oracle, who was imprisoned in the center of the temple and surrounded by
the priests who did all the interpreting of visions and dreams). This same
set-up was found in the cult of Asklepios (Aesculapius in Latin). At these
popular dream healing sanctuaries the amphitheater was ever near the spa. The
patients would be cured when they encountered Asklepios or one of his family or
animals in a dream. The becoming other, so to speak, was limited to particular
containing vessels. Still, Dionysos is seen as Apollo's dark brother and has his
own months where he is still the god at Delphi.
Like Dionysos, the nightmare remains nomadic subject, the free autonomous
subject which exists momentarily in an ever shifting array of possibilities as
desiring machines distribute flows across the body without organs.
For more articles like this, see the Postmodern