social dreaming

Social Dreaming Matrix #5: Tuesday 19 July 2016,  Wellcome Collection Reading Room 

Facilitatation and write up: Anne Benson and Rachel Kelly 

13 dreams were presented 

26 plus associations made 

22 people were present in total. 3 people left early and at the end there were 19 people remaining, including the facilitators of the matrix. 
The Matrix 

A dream almost straightaway: in my childhood living room watching b/w TV.  A baby fluffy brown owl fluttering around – a source of comfort.  I knew I had to sit up all night but can’t remember why.  Parents asleep upstairs so I turned the volume down out of respect.  The owl needed food – I was responsible for its survival.  I brought crumbs but it had gone.

Two more familiar house dreams: one with familiar rooms each with a new door opening into an unfamiliar room – being indoors/outdoors simultaneously – a pleasure to discover extra spaces in familiar places – a sense of possibility. The other where a new cellar is discovered, at first delight then fear because the windows are open and a burglar could come in.  Panic.

Two fragmentary dreams involving old friends who haven’t been seen for a while.  With one, there is something wrong with his face – what is different about it? Trying to work it out.  A friend’s 4-year daughter is looking at my lips and comparing them to her lips.  The dreamer wishes to have ‘Alice in Wonderland’ dreams – “I don’t have them, I forget them”.

Then further fragments: in a valley, constantly returning to the same spot by a cold river, with blue plastic crates.  A souvenir shop, selling stickers and diagrams, shown with secrecy “don’t tell the others”.   The woman is a maverick, naughty, wearing very red lipstick.  Listening to the radio and engaging with the voice but upon waking up, realising we can’t do this – very frustrating.

A move to associations – from the first dream, how good to be able to turn down the volume as so much going on in the world at the moment.  The fluffy owl as the symbol of a goddess – a link to the feminine.  Not fully fledged.  A concern to look after with a plea for reassurance “but you did feed it?” The dreams are set in the domestic environment, cosy images but with a threat behind.  This brought to mind female leaders emerging in different parts of the world.  Another association: Florence Nightingale had a pet owl in the Crimea.

Another dream: walking through an empty hospital for hours – all the rooms were emergency rooms.  No people, scary and reassuring at the same time.  In the last room there was one man and two doctors – his shoulder joint was out and the doctors fixed it.

There is an atmosphere, what will happen. Will it be fixed?

A long dream marked a shift from difficult times to a period of optimism for the dreamer.  At a fancy party – in the kitchen in front of a butcher’s block – with music, the song is ‘watch yourself, show me what you got’.  There were women behind the dreamer and a man standing at the other end.  He gained eye contact and calmly she walked towards him picking up a knife.  She said matter-of-factly, no aggression: I am going to cut off your nose, then your stomach and then your penis.  The women behind applauded and she felt triumphant, ballsy – the swagger of a Kill Bill movie.

The atmosphere became more animated with 3 associations: to the vote on the nuclear deterrent – saying yes, I am going to do it – use what control and responsibility you have.  Michael Portillo – portrays himself as not aggressive at all but dreams show us that aggression is part of human nature.  Contrasts, where life is turbulent but there is calmness in the dream.  Calmness – can we trust it?  Fear of the threat of aggression, the nature of control and responsibility.  Are we observers with no power or are we active agents?

A dream where the dreamer has the power to make an aeroplane turn around for a forgotten passport, was recalled.  In associating, the goddess returns and is named as Kali the Destroyer – her era marks a period of chaos required before creativity can bloom.  Femininity is not usually known for destructiveness.  Women leaders around the world coming in to do an impossible task that no one else will do.  How ‘female’ or ‘male’ were they, would they be?  Women leaders in Latin America being metaphorically hung drawn and quartered – the Brazilian leader was the only woman in the entire government.

The matrix conversation moved to current unsettling times represented by binary positions: Remain Leave; Black White; Democrat Republican; Christian Muslim; Men Women.  Gender identity is a primitive way of categorization.  There is a battle going on, whether implicit or explicit.

Then a shift to questioning the nature of reality and its validity.  Is this really a time of significance or will we look back in history and see it as ‘normal’?  Do Cartesian dualisms really exist?   Do dreams influence our lives, how much value should we place on them?  What is the Tavistock doing with dreams?  Who is in control and what do we trust?  Do we ascribe irrationality to those with whom we disagree?  Should we pay attention to what is not rational, or is it better to live in the ‘real’ world, whatever that is?  What can be proved by neuroscience?  Is there something interesting about patterns and dreams from a sociological perspective?  The conversation was animated and heated; the hour marking the end of the matrix came at this point.

Review 

The differing pace was noted: starting slowly, quietly and becoming more rapid, intense towards the end.  The name matrix was considered, one understanding of it as a mathematical array of elements that don’t connect or move.  An alternative, from The Matrix film, as a process of moving through different realities.
The imperfection of language to express the complexity of being human was seen to add both to the challenge and power of social dreaming.  One person talked of the felt sense of self betrayal on speaking a dream.  Sharing dreams was exposing emotions – raw, but a way of learning about ourselves.  Is it easier to analyse and share thinking and ideas than to express emotions.  Is therapy ‘good’ for us?  Some felt the matrix was not about truth but more about sharing, maybe learning or knowing something new.  Something or things had brought the people together today, who knows what, but perhaps a desire for connection.

Next and last Social Dreaming Matrix #6 will be held on Thursday 28th July 3.00 – 4.15pm in the Wellcome Collection Reading Room.

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Events and engagement, Reflections and Practice