Part 2 Social Dreaming #2: Thursday 19th January: Wellcome Collection Reading Room
Facilitation and write up: Elizabeth Cory-Pearce and Mannie Sher
The second Social Dreaming event for 2017 had
16 dreamers, 12 of whom stayed until the end of the session
11 dreams were presented
Forty four or so associations were made
The matrix began fairly promptly with little delay in sharing the first dream. This involved people piling into a car to travel to the country, which brought up associations of who is able and comfortable to travel and converse and who is not. A second dream was offered of feeling the sun’s warmth in contrast to a third dream involving a violent neighbourly dispute and feelings of being hurt and of danger. This was followed by a dream in which one was the aggressor and trouble maker and not the victim, and was associated with the side effects of a medication. An ongoing theme emerges of violent incursion, and now moves towards theft in a fifth dream describing a break-in to the dreamer’s home, in which the bathroom tiles are removed and stolen. A further dream of a break-in scenario is offered, this time a family living at the White House is robbed of its electricity. An association was made that the things being taken (tiles, electricity) are not usually stolen in break-ins. Political meaning was attributed to this kind of theft. That things can be taken from us by political systems without us really noticing. A further association followed, noting that tiled surfaces are reflective but after their removal only an ugly surface remains incapable of providing reflections. It was pondered that perhaps this is a way of saying the ‘glossy’ world we live in is not so glossy after all.
A new dream was shared of a friend whose entire body is covered with tattoos except for her face. The friend said she is moving to the United States, continuing a theme of people movement. Someone described dreams containing vivid, terrifying intense images that are draining. In these dreams they feel afraid, they are falling down stairs or being kidnapped yet from a seemingly safe environment. Political associations were made to these dreams, of things being taken away from us, like our freedom and our rights. Brexit and the US elections figure in the associations, and the sense that morality itself has been stolen, snatched away and manipulated. This imagery was linked to the image of stolen tiles and electricity as functional parts of a home and their removal was associated with social dysfunction (you cannot shower in water without tiles; you cannot operate household appliances without electricity). An association was also made to hygiene. A further dream was then shared in which Donald Trump told the dreamer she has bad breath. There was laughter but the dreamer pointed out this was not funny. An association was made to ‘having a bad taste in one’s mouth’ and to Trump being in bad taste. However an association was also made to fears of authority, such that even when we don’t agree with something we may follow it if it said by someone in a position of authority.
The association of glossiness is revisited in a description of the Kardashians, in the public interest in their ‘bling’ and the recent robbery in which jewellery was stolen. A theme recurred of political theft in which things can be taken away from us without us noticing, as it was suggested that the Kardashians are a distraction. As several countries are passing laws that deprive us of our liberties we are not noticing because we are distracted by a kind of celebrity glossiness. A dream was shared in which the dreamer felt laughed at by everyone in the room. This was associated to as a moral idea that being in the spotlight is not always a good thing.
Gender was raised as an issue in that there was only one man in the group, one of the facilitators. An association was made to a television documentary in which a Polish man being discharged from hospital was asked if he had any friends or family, and he said no, no one at all. This was felt to be very sad by the matrix, ‘my worst nightmare’, something even shameful to admit and yet the person in the documentary seemed just so ‘matter-of-fact’ about it. This raised the topic of migration, returning us to the opening theme of people movement and developing this theme to explore ideas of belonging and experiences of globalisation. An association was made that whilst at one time collaboration in circumstances of diversity was held up as an eminent value, something cherished, now it seems to have been rubbished. This is an example of something being rubbed out or stolen away, our liberal values. A contradiction was then explored between the way in which digital technologies have facilitated rapid, global connections and yet at the same time we are experiencing a lack of concern for what happens in other countries or even in neighbouring villages.
A few associations were made to checking domestic appliances to make sure things were safely turned off, because if not a fire could start and burn the house down or it could get flooded. This was linked with women checking their sanity, making things safe and keeping things in order in the context of not feeling safe when the most powerful man in the world can express violence towards women and get away with it. It was noted this was two days before the women’s march. It was noted how the British Prime Minister Theresa May is more often described in terms of clothing rather than her intellect. One member of the matrix alerted the group that she now felt excluded as she is not on social media and has not seen these images the group describes. The dreamlike qualities of social media were commented on – which is real, online or off? The experience of being unable to distinguish dreams from reality was also shared. Who defines the online world, men, women, government, or corporations? And do we inhabit one or the other or both? What about people who are digitally excluded? An association was made to feelings of over-indulgence and fullness on Christmas day, that social media leaves us saturated and over-full, and yet in both we consume to excess unable to stop ourselves.
The matrix then closed and review mode commenced.
During the review no further dreams or associations are presented. It was pointed out that dreams came quite forcefully and quickly but then the matrix seemed to move away from dreams to focus increasingly on associations and shared associations. Many if not all members of the matrix commented on the comfortable feeling of the space. The evening evoked a further sense of warmth and cosiness and the furnishings established a feeling of creativity. The group was smaller than other SDMs and people felt comfortable and in touch, even though the images were challenging and the subjects troubling. Overall the matrix was experienced as calm, although the topics raised were often challenging and at one point one member experienced feelings of exclusion. The unusual combination of dreams that reflect inner anguish being shared organically amongst a group of women who on the outside look ‘together’ was described as comforting. It was felt that more of this sort of activity should be happening in society, and that instead we are being asked to keep our anguish to ourselves and to reflect in private (e.g. in mindfulness meditation). Doing activities like this would be preferable to neighbourly conflict and judging one another. The SDM was described as enriching, and a feeding metaphor emerged of sharing dreams as associations as a form of nourishment. Unusually calmness and anxiety could sit alongside one another in the matrix. It was pointed out that some of the key material in the TIHR archive was produced by women, such as Isobel Menzies Lyth, and that we can find women’s powerful voices among men’s.
Overall we observe that there was an imbalance of dreams and associations, perhaps triggered by the realisation that worries were held in common, such that these commonalities were explored rather than the production of further dreams. Coming together as a group of primarily women with shared anxieties seems to be experienced as comforting in the face of a politics hostile towards women. Theft without noticing and things not appearing as they seem on the surface; belonging and not belonging; and function and dysfunction emerged as continual themes. An image that resonated with the group was of the theft of glossy bathroom tiles as amounting to a loss of the capacity to reflect, for example on difference, and that something uglier was taking its place. How can we ensure conditions of safety when we become fearful of the people next door? Feelings of being saturated, over full and flooded were met with images of constant checks on safety.
Next Social Dreaming Matrix #3 will be held on Tuesday 24th January 3-4.15pm in the Wellcome Collection Reading Room.