Social Dreaming Matrix #6: Thursday 28 July 2016,  Wellcome Collection Reading Room 

Facilitation and write-up: Elena Carter and Mannie Sher

No. of people present: 44 + 2 onlookers + 1 baby; a number of people came and left over the course of the session.

No. of Dreams: 20

No. of Associations: 57

**A review of this series of social dreaming will take place, Wed 7 Sep, 2.30pm, Reading Room. This will be a chance for social dreaming facilitators and staff from the Tavistock Institute and Wellcome Library to make sense of this series of events and their extraordinary content. We would love it if participants of the events could join us in this work. **

This was the final of six Social Dreaming Matrices. There was a large attendance and the session started with a significant cluster of dreams around spiral staircases. The spiral staircase at Wellcome Collection; you can’t be seen on the stairs in certain positions. The staircases presented were both scary and grand, with falling presenting itself as a strong theme. Other themes which arose over the hour included sensory experience: blindness/seeing, shamanism, lack of control, Brexit, parental figures.

Two dreams were presented to the matrix from individuals who were not able to attend in person. A dream about an intruder; and a dream about devices for recording final messages for loved ones on a flight. The dreams from outside caused annoyance for some who felt it was disruptive to the matrix; it was also said to be a signal of how the UK would communicate with the EU after Brexit. Boundaried and unboundaried space; who is able / allowed to share their dreams.

One of these remote dreamers reflected that they had been unable to share a dream (“I couldn’t even say a word”) at the very first social dreaming session, which took place following the EU referendum. Only now, 6 weeks on, dreams are beginning to appear again (“I hope to be present in the distance, to relate with you in this big world where integration and differentiation seems more and more real at the same time”).

A number of members of the matrix shared associations about how Brexit was impacting their sleeping state: “Since Brexit I have had dreamless periods. My dreams of the future have been shattered”; “I too have not been able to dream since Brexit. I’m usually such a visual dreamer”; “I’m quite upset because I enjoy my dreams, but after Brexit my dreams fell into small pieces”. Dreams which do not have story lines or a plot – there are just lots of people.

The nature of dreaming was discussed – is the dream a dream, or is it reality? Dreams are associated with contrasts – between truth (what is it?), fundamental truth (possibly creating conflict), and metaphor (thoughts that can be played with).  Is it ever ‘just a dream’?

Why is there this dreamless state for so many at the moment? Are we in survival mode, where dreaming of a brighter future feels an impossibility? The world around us, with Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, has arrested our dreams and hopes. Possibly, the state of dreamlessness may be the result of putting things on hold. Someone reflected that many of the dreams shared were from the past; is this us looking backwards to when life was good?

Vision and blindness come up: a dream in which “my vision is black and is covered by a dark filter. I try to see my hands and I can’t. I’m stuck in one little place”. The possibility of seeing in different ways – how blind people are able to see: blind sight.  There were associations to the development of babies, who see their mothers as parts; a breast, or an arm: detached.  Part-object relationships as between baby and mother were linked to the relationship between the UK and the EU – as individuals, one cannot see the ‘whole’ and this leads to fears of a feared powerful object.

The sensory experience of hearing only parts of dreams in the matrix due to the acoustics / feeling removed from the group (“we feel we’re on the edge, the edge of comprehension”). Feeling cut off or distant, of memories triggered by the snippets of dreams heard. For some, the dream is there, but it’s gone (“if only I could get hold of it”); it’s like straining to hear.

The matrix holds a mirror to the outside world – a world that is beyond control, a fractious and fractured real world. We feel helpless, with no influence or control. A sense of not knowing what the news will hold next, or what the future holds: will Trump be President? What will happen to the Labour Party? These associations arose from dreams of being left at nursery school, blindness, 9/11 and an airplane, being chased by rabid dogs, two dreams of a mother/loved one whose face/voice transforms and distorts. We dream of falling and loss of vision, of being unable to help (“I was a nurse but I didn’t know how to do the job”). It’s like Snakes and Ladders, you think you’ve reached the end but then you fall back down to the bottom.

Following the dreams of two loved ones who are not as they seem, the matrix shifts towards beautiful and positive dreams briefly. Of admiring very long, long eyelashes: “I am opening and closing my eyelashes and just enjoying this. I am appreciating how beautiful and how long they are”. A sensory dream of vivid and shifting colourful fabrics on the spiral staircase; a beautiful intricate Japanese cupboard with doors that open to more doors and more cupboards.

…. and then mundane dreams; dreams that ran in the opposite direction of the SDM’s mood – “I’m packing my suitcase for a conference in Poland, everything fitting well into my suitcase, neatly with lots of space; I go through customs and duty-free easily. What an ordinary dream! Why did I dream something so ordinary when other dreams are so full of anxiety?” Was the ‘mundane’ dream masking thoughts about leaving the EU symbolized by passport control? Another ‘mundane’ dream follows of an iphone screen smashing, and the dreamer worrying about his sexual attractiveness.

The mask of Greek tragedy with empty eyes and a space for the mouth was presented – waiting for the oracle to speak and offer its wisdom; “but some oracles are con artists”. Shamanism and truth: the secondary experiences of seeing, falling and balance. Is this an allusion to the tragedy of Europe? This was rebutted by the idea that dreams are also ideas about better things to come. “When I think of the dreams we have shared, falling is desperation; rising up gets one to a beautiful place”.

“Could the matrix be playful?” someone asked. The first time anyone laughed in the matrix was half-way through, when a dream came up about phones and sex. Phones and sex – the two overriding concerns of our era? There was dream competition: ‘the capitalism of dreams’.  There is both seriousness and laughter, as there are so many ideas, thoughts and feelings presented here, that “we don’t know where our emotions will be going with the next comment.”

Reflections on the Matrix

“Why is the focus today on Brexit – there’s been little mention of international terrorism?” Although one association about the sudden fear of being caught in a terrorist attack, a response to the 9/11 dream.

The matrix is different to life in the city, distractions and noise. Here we have to listen. It is hard work to be attentive to dreams and to each other. It is actually the job of the world to listen and be respectful of dreams and a world citizen; that is not just the role of this matrix or the Tavistock Institute.

Someone said the Reading Room space felt like a dream itself, with its objects and history, fragments. And “there’s so many of us, we scared the visitors off!” A visualization shared, that the other visitors were carrying their own dreams around, which bounced off the dreams in the matrix.

There was a sense of bereavement that the social dreaming matrix is ending. Applause ended the matrix, as if giving a send-off. Emotions were high and people asked where else social dreaming could take place.  Information was given about the London Social Dreaming Hub, part of the Gordon Lawrence Foundation.

People were moved that they had been private in public – a kind of tension between exhibitionism and voyeurism – saying it out loud being related to the archive project where things inside are shown outside. It was a ‘naked experience’, very profound hearing the intimate experiences of others who are strangers.

A review of this series of social dreaming will take place, Wed 7 Sep, 3pm, Reading Room. This will be a chance for social dreaming facilitators and staff from the Tavistock Institute and Wellcome Library to make sense of this series of events and their extraordinary content. We would love it if participants of the events could join us in this work.

(Please note the original time has changed, the event was at 2.30pm but will now be taking place at 3pm).

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