Friday, September 25, 2009

Quantum Dream Play

Freud’s dreambook, like Newtonian physics, assumed a separate entity, subject to external and internal forces with precise deterministic laws. His book was a result of self-analysis, with the distant Fleiss as his external force. Freud, the classical scientist, distanced his dreamwork from the traditional divine or demonic external forces and turned inward to recent waking impressions and unconscious memories and desire. In this early work, he offered an internal, horizontal split driven by repression and neurotic defense to maintain the sometimes alien unconscious world. The goal of his dreamwork was to make the unconscious conscious by decoding the distorted repressed material.

The result for Freud is an isolated ego beset by threats from without and primitive forces from within--in his dreambook sexual but later aggressive and eventually death itself. Dreams become neurotic symptoms like hysteria and obsession defending against the anxiety and unpleasure that these forces produce in the lonely, vulnerable ego as a result of the fragmentation of mind, body and spirit of the Cartesian world at the turn of the century.

In the 1930’s quantum theorists added uncertainty and fuzziness to classical particle physics. Particles like electrons manifested out of a field of infinite potential when observed, only to return to the wave state. Electrons separated by near-infinite space would respond to each other in instantaneous complementarity, faster than light could ever travel. Particles were no longer alone, and neither were individuals. Melanie Klein, a child therapist, emphasized the two-person interaction of mother/child and therapist/patient. The two-person model relied on splitting and projection just as the quantum model did in the field of particles. Projective and introjective identification paralleled the introduction of complementarity to further fuzzy the Freudian classical model of the horizontal split of repression.

Two followers of Melanie Klein--Bion and Winnicott, furthered the two-person field of dreamwork. Bion offered a process of meaning creation from raw emotional input called dreamwork alpha that is similar to the manifestation of a particle from the underlying wave field and the explicate out of the implicate. In the two-person model of Bion, the mother contains the child’s projections of raw, unprocessed experience and transforms them into meaning before returning them, digested, to the child. In a similar way a dream contains raw experience, transforming it into symbolic meaning for the dreamer, often with the help of an analyst, who facilitates the digestion process rather than decodes and interprets as in the one-person Freudian model. The goal is not just to resolve repression by making what was unconscious conscious, but to integrate split-off, projected aspects of the dreamer and make what was fragmented whole, just as quantum theory added a holistic dimension to fragmented classical science.

Winnicott called the two-person field transitional space--the location of dream and creativity, where meaning and integration emerges from creative chaos. Dreamwork and therapy were two people playing together in transitional space, where things are neither created nor discovered, neither me nor not me, just as in the uncertainty of quantum fields an electron is neither particle nor wave. Like Bion, Winnicott doesn’t interpret as much as facilitate the play of me and not me and the integration of split-off aspects of the patient or dreamer.

Carl Jung was influenced by quantum theory and mysticism and extended the two-person model of dreamwork to the Self and collective unconscious. The Self, an archetype that evolves in dreamwork in what Jung called individuation from the collective, is a sort of transitional object between the personal me and not me of the universal, the manifestation of the explicate from the underlying implicate. Jung acknowledged Freud’s dreamwork as causal explanation but proposed individuation and psychic regulation as the purpose of dreamwork. When the individuation process is overly biased either towards the collective or the personal, dreams emerge from the unconscious to compensate the unbalanced conscious position and integrate the polarities. The archetypes of the collective unconscious contained the infinite potential of the implicate order that required individuation to be manifest in the personal, explicate order.

The collective and its connection to the implicate order has been advanced by Montague Ullman and his dreamsharing groups. As in the two-person model, the group listens to the dreamer and resonates to the material, but rather than interpret or facilitate, the group responds as if the dream were their own, transforming the individual experience into a communal dream. The quantum effects of complementarity, non-locality, holism, and uncertainty that the two-person model demonstrated are even more evident in a group. It’s as if the separate, individual consciousnesses of the group, fragmented and dispersed by the Big Bang of creation, are able to coalesce, overcoming the classical mind-body-spirit split as well. Bohm spoke of the holographic whole where each part contains the timeless essence and the ocean of energy of the implicate order out of which explicate life emerges feeling alone and isolated, vulnerable and afraid. The intersubjective awareness in a group seems to offer a higher state of consciousness as the members evoke the implicate potential of the group. When Jung speaks of the purpose of dreamwork as individuation vs the causal approach of Freud, perhaps the purpose is evolutionary as well.


  1. This is a terrific post and the beginning of a great blog. I love this line: "Particles were no longer alone, and neither were individuals. " I guess that's what we've all been waiting for, the particles and the individuals, that is.

  2. Yet Freud found it overwhelming with Jung, who was too conected.