Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)


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Schlachet, P. Schorske, C. New York: Knopf. Zanasi, M. Rice A dream not explored is like a letter that has not been opened. The Talmud It has now been over years since Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, though the nature and meaning of dreams have fascinated mankind for all of recorded history. The function of dreaming is mysterious. How dreams are understood in psychodynamic theory is a direct consequence of the hypotheses inherent in that theory. Freud conceptualised that individuals relegate unacceptable affects, memories or experiences to the unconscious.

Sleep weakens the monitoring function of the brain so that the unacceptable elements of the unconscious become somewhat more available Craig However, the monitoring function is still sufficiently effective so that the awareness is highly coded. There may well be an adaptive purpose to dreaming Cartwright In psychodynamic groups, dreams are often communications about unconscious elements of group process: communication to the group about and by a member Whitman ; communication about the group through a member Kieffer ; or dreams becoming linked with other dreams to deepen understanding of particular elements of group process Rutan and Stone In the dream, after her criticism, Ann herself returned from a vacation and found the group members voting on whether they should allow her to continue in the group.

Given that the therapist was about to leave for a vacation, it seemed that the dream might be revealing some unspoken group reaction about the therapist-induced breach in the group meeting schedule. It may also hint at unspeakable wishes toward the therapist for abandoning him as his previous therapist had done. His last contact with her was through a letter she sent in which she told him she would not be back.

In groups, all dreams are potentially group dreams and all members are encouraged to associate to the dream material. Then she briefly investigated her yearning to be close to men — her father, her husband and the group therapist in particular. Yet she kept all at a distance.

She said she feared men. The job of the therapist is to assist the patient and in this instance the group in decoding the dream. We have also implied some techniques that may be useful in harvesting the rich fields that dreams in groups provide. The guidelines include the following: Value dreams Group therapists subtly reward or do not reward content that appears in groups.

Therapists who do not appreciate the power of dreams will find patients do not present dreams in their groups. If a therapist desires to use dreams to explore unconscious data, then all dreams that are presented should be considered important. Allow group members to associate interactively When a member shares a dream the other members and the leader may feel an urge to interpret it. This is rarely helpful, especially at first, and it usually results in a cognitive discussion.

Although the example above is brief, the process amongst the members leading up to it was long and circuitous. Tolerating the uncertainty of this circuitous process, and avoiding premature closure through too early interpretation, allows the group members to more fully understand what is happening. Members learn to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing until richer meanings and understandings can emerge.

Allowing the process to evolve slowly also gives the therapist a chance to reflect on what the dreams and related behaviour might mean.

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-Heroines’ Journey- Emerging Story by Refugee Women during Group Analytic Music Therapy

The following assumptions can help inform that reflection. This task had special meanings and difficulties for Ann, who aspired to be a writer. However, the book had still a long way to go, and Ann had yet to publish anything. Her mother, now in her nineties, was even more difficult to relate to than when she was younger. Interviewing her about the book was the most comfortable connection Ann could make with her. Ann raged about how her mother controlled her via money, and yet she could not make her way in the world without it. For Ann, connecting with her mother and separating from her was torturous.

Her connection with the therapist and the group had the same ambivalence. The dream relates to the adaptive task of the group In this instance, the adaptive task of the group was coping with the loss of the therapist and the group. To cope with the current loss, the members will use behaviours and skills that, though once successful, may now be a frequent source of discomfort. It may be a pattern that led to the dilemmas that brought them into therapy in the first place.

However, the dream will also give the members an opportunity to address those earlier losses again and seek a fuller resolution of them. In the current example, Ann, Barbara and Bob all indicate how dream material makes available earlier loss experiences. The material of the dream may be represented in the group and vice versa Through projective identification the dreamer and the members may recreate the dream or its genetic roots in the group dynamics. That is, the group members may play out the dream giving it more immediate vitality.

Projective identification is a defensive and coping process by which individuals deal with unwanted aspects of themselves, usually unwanted feelings and fantasies. People may also use it to protect aspects of themselves that they feel are under threat. Essentially, the individuals deny the undesirable in themselves, but see it in others, even if it is not there.

That is, they project that which is undesirable onto others. However, unlike simple projection, these individuals — through body language and looks; through the tones, rhythms and cadences of speech; through humour, feelings, mood, behaviour, clothes, perfumes and aftershave lotions, and much else besides — bring pressure to bear on others to play out their undesired parts.

Ogden put it this way: Projective identification…addresses the way in which feeling-states corresponding to the unconscious fantasies of one person the projector are engendered in and processed by another person the recipient , that is, the way in which one person makes use of another person to experience and contain aspects of himself. The projector has the primarily unconscious fantasy of getting rid of an unwanted or endangered part of himself — and of depositing that part in another person in a powerfully controlling way. In association with this projected unconscious fantasy there is an interpersonal interaction by means of which the recipient is pressured to think, feel and behave in a manner congruent with the ejected feelings and the selfand object-representations embodied in the projective fantasy.

Dreams often contain and give voice to parts of us we wish to disown. As the last phrase suggests, this is especially true if the dreamer or group does not examine the dream. The group was low-key, but unusually tense. And my father — ugh! Her father was in bed with her and she tried desperately to get away from him.

She was reluctant to explore the dream and was angry with the therapist for inviting her to wonder about it and its relationship to the group. She felt that, like her father, the male therapist was robbing her of what was hers. Eileen, another group member, associated to her own experiences of incest.

First, she spoke about the incest experience of her friend, whom we later discovered was her lover. Throughout this slowburning tirade she acted as though the therapist was not in the room. Again the daughter had desperately distanced the father in the proverbial bed. In this example, Barbara did not want to think about or own her fears, wishes and desires hinted at in the dream. Very quickly others picked up her unwanted feelings, especially Eileen, who, with the other members, played them out.

The therapist, as the father, had dared to wonder about the meaning of the dream and was pushed farther and farther away. The anxiety silenced them. The group would have remained a mere enactment of the unexamined dream, had not one man finally spoken. Andy, after describing his fears, said he felt the therapist had been right in raising the dream as a group issue because it was affecting everyone in the group. This allowed for a tentative exploration. The group had contained the projection and stopped the enactment. Just as a group may enact an unexplored dream, so a dream may contain unexamined behaviour of the group.

That struggle may be manifest in a dream. She assumed she had come for a group session, though she did not recognise any group members in the dream. Instead she found a very young boy alone in the home. Then she learned that the therapist would be back in an hour and a half the length of a group session. She felt very anxious and angry that the therapist could abandon a child like that.

The group played with the dream for some time. They saw the infant as Evelyn abandoned by the therapist, Carol and Darlene. Later, Evelyn noted that she never knows how she feels about the therapist going on vacation until during the vacation itself, when she experiences all kinds of physical problems.

This dream is worthy of exploration in its own right. However, for our purposes it has the following significance. The session before this one the members of the group had talked at length about adoption and loss in their families. Jane mentioned in passing that she had cut out articles from the papers about adopted children and shared them with her adopted daughter.

Chuck reacted quite strongly, suggesting that her daughter might experience that as intrusive. The session was powerful and dealt with many personal concerns of the members. However, the members were reluctant to explore beyond those concerns, which focused largely on events outside the group. Or in more classic psychoanalytic terms they remained within the unconscious of the members, unwanted and unexplored. Thus, it seems Evelyn became the primary recipient of those unaddressed concerns, which found their initial encoded expression in the dream she reported in the following session.

The group had been exploring some angry feelings between Bill and Carl. Both men came from families where physical violence and substance abuse were common occurrences. They always sat next to one another and chatted amicably prior to group, but in recent weeks they had got into ferocious arguments during group sessions.

In the prior session Bill had stood up in a threatening manner and then fled the group 30 minutes before it ended. Then I felt the ground shake, and I saw two giant dinosaurs coming toward me, one from my left and one from my right. They were huge and they looked very angry. Gradually I realised they were not coming for me, but they were going to have a huge fight to the death right in front of my beach chair. I was paralysed with fear. Then I woke. He was enormous, and his face never changed. It was as if it were made of concrete. I went from feeling very confident I would win to knowing I would be killed.

But the fight was about to begin and there was nowhere for me to run. Bill said he fled so that he would not strike Carl, just as he had often left the house rather than fighting back when his dad would beat him. Summary Since time immemorial, dreams have played an important role in understanding human desires, and many have explored how best to use dreams in a group therapy setting Schlachet In this chapter we have outlined some ways in which dreams may be particularly helpful for individuals in therapy groups.

Thus, dreams may be the containers of both individual and collective anxieties, which if left unattended can lead to acting in or acting out. Yet, when members understand those dreams and give voice to their meaning, separately and collectively, they gain a better understanding of themselves and their interactions with each other. They also gain understanding of their collective struggles.

In brief, effective exploration of dreams can lead to intrapsychic, interpersonal and group-wide change. References Cartwright, R. Craig, E. Charlottesville, VA. Kieffer, C. Rutan, J. Whitman, R. Dreaming may no longer be viewed as an exclusively internal and autonomous working-through process, as classic one-person psychology approaches suggest Freud , ; Meltzer A dream met with unsatisfying intrapsychic containment may initiate a search for a less damaged, better external containment, thus unconsciously replicating what the dreamer may have done in childhood.

Dream-telling will often have a compelling unconscious emotional aspect, which will manipulate the audience into feeling, and even acting out, a certain relation to the dreamer. The therapist and the group have to be ready to work the dream through instead of allowing its enactment.

Both intra and interpersonal theoretical and technical approaches to the work with dreams will be described. Freud described the personal and idiosyncratic ways an individual protects him- or herself from difficult and conflictual emotions in order to preserve sleep. These aspects should be considered in understanding the dream-work, and bear witness to the endless creativity and richness of the human mind Sharpe Dreams have been understood as symptoms, as compromise formations between instincts and inhibitions, at once born out of unconscious conflicts and reflecting them.

Starting with Freud , who for many years analysed his own dreams, the aim has been to understand unconscious conflictual processes — as if dreams were a microscope, helpful in detecting and magnifying hidden elements in the psyche. Intrapsychic aspects in object-relations contributions Dreams are a way of thinking Meltzer , of trying to give meaning Bion to an encounter with a difficult emotion.

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These intrapsychic working-through container-contained processes Bion b have soothing and organising functions. Their origins can be traced back to interpsychic processes between mother and child. Maturity makes dreaming i. This conceptualisation is in line with investigations of the use of the emotional timeless memory for unconscious coping with conflicts in dreams Palombo In practice, intermediate positions may be taken between these polar approaches.

There are benefits to considering manifest together with latent specific contents, to approaching the dream material as ever-deeper representations of different levels of consciousness, as well as to understanding the dream processes. All these approaches may provide important clues to therapeutic directions. The distance from the dreadful in the dream may measure ego-functioning Steward The higher the symbolisation ability, reflecting the level of alpha function, the less evacuation of feelings and subsequent acting out in the waking state Khan In group analysis1 it may promote therapy and growth of the entire audience, including the analyst and the group-as-a-whole, by reowning the split-off Scharff These techniques will be exemplified by the same dream that will be used later on to explore interpersonal approaches to the work with dreams.

I fled with my girlfriend to a place that was crowded with people who were hiding. A male 2 Kapo carrying a club came to hit us, and we could barely persuade him to remember he was Jewish and join us. A similar encounter happened with a female Kapo who wanted to attack us with a club.

Then we both continued trying to escape, and hid inside two separate large drawers. A Nazi soldier came by with a barking dog that even scratched under the cupboard doors with his paws — but somehow the soldier went away and we were saved. Then I found myself in an orphanage, incessantly asking the question: Where is E?

Where is E? I decided to return to the hiding place, wishing only not to find that E. I open the cupboard and see him small and shrunk like a fetus. I take him back to the orphanage. The dreamer helps the group retell the dream, but from that moment on usually profits most from the process by remaining passive and watching the group work.

The group starts by narrating the dream together and elaborating on different aspects of its manifest structure, deliberately postponing the debate on latent contents. In the acts we mainly watch for recurring patterns and their course. We explore the characteristic pattern of relations between people, as well as the course and end of the narrative.

In the end we evaluate ego-strength by its ability to find a solution and integrate all parts. They are invaded without providing him so much as a hiding place. Act I starts with the escape, and centres on the two meetings with the Kapos. According to the dream sequence, it seems that with every repetition the dreamer regresses and feels less potent.

This pattern may be adumbrated as a man encountering threatening parental figures on his mental stage, and, as an increasingly impotent victim, barely surviving the disowned and projected aggression. They may also correspond to core conflictual relational themes Luborsky and Mark However, in spite of the repetitions, this dreamer undoubtedly has a complex yet very creative and strong ego-organisation, which enables him to work on coherent intra- and interpersonal themes. Manifest contents signify special features with possible meanings, which can even be explored together with the dreamer.

The only exception is the convincing dialogue with the Kapos, marking a great therapeutic development. In our example, there were many associations and allusions to the dream content. In a group, the objects of this pattern may be the analyst, a member, a subgroup or the whole group. This technical approach may be best suitable for first dreams or in preparing therapy groups for them. By creating the dream narrative together and training in working with dreams,5 participants are coached in understanding and conceptualising emotional and behavioural patterns.

A technique for analysing dreams may enable the group to better cope with difficult surfacing emotions. Dream-telling as a request for containment The following material integrates new understanding from a two- or more person psychology into the technique of dream interpretation. The main contribution is that a dream, often a message loaded with excessive exciting and threatening contents unsatisfactorily processed in a first autonomous attempt, may in a second attempt fulfil further working-through functions if told to a receptive audience.

What is containing? In an early description of containment, Bion compared it to a mental skin in Echegoyen , a sense of envelopment like a skin around oneself, which protects and enfolds Bick Britton described a patient requesting containment as searching for two things: a sanctuary, and meaning. Containment may be achieved by a variety of defined holding objects, even by words providing semantic boundaries around the emotional experience, as in therapy.

The relation with a container is also a process which transforms experience Bion b. Intolerable feelings may be evacuated or projected onto related containers e. If the processing capacities generated in the link between infant and mother are lacking, they have to be improved in therapy. Internal and external containment are not the same. Internal containment is the capability of the self to process the contained, which is the difficult material. By external containment I mean the possibility to communicate, evacuate and project intolerable contents onto a better able containing object for further elaboration.

His shriek is a communication almost impossible for his parents to ignore. I believe this kind of basic responsive interaction is internalised and continues to be more or less potentially active throughout life. It is natural to use significant others in order to cope with anxieties or other difficulties, such as a murderous superego p. The difference between dreaming and dream-telling Any disclosed content indicates both a surplus of tension and a request to further its containment by the group.

Dream-telling as a request for external containment may be an alternative to its enactment, given the right interpersonal situation psychotherapy, love, friendship. The related to and identifying audience, perceived as more able to process the unconscious intolerable dream contents, becomes a target of projection. In this sense, dream-telling in a group or elsewhere always has communicative purposes. Citing Ferenczi , p. Early experiences e. Individuals seem also to be tempted into dyads where their dream-telling is unconsciously expected to have projective influence.

However, despite wishful thinking, in post-dyadic connections the possibility to be as tuned-in and understanding as in a mother—child relationship gradually diminishes. This may sometimes even be true of individual therapy, which, although representing the highest level of understanding and acceptance, may still have strong distorting biases when reacting to threatening and ambiguous contents.

Expecting it from an individual therapist, sensible as he might be, often seems to be a fantastic demand — and it can be handled more successfully by a number of receptive individuals. In order to cope with this complexity, analysts tend to unconsciously select central themes, which seem to represent their own idiosyncratic tendencies. Psychic change can be conceptualised as taking place in two basic stages: an initial autonomous effort to work through stress, and, if unsuccessful, the subsequent possibility of completing it by external elaboration, especially through projective identification.

They may be considered unconscious identifications which adumbrate and usually amplify various split-off emotions attached to the dream material. As in Fairbairn, a first dialogue between the dreamer and his split parts is facilitated in the group. As Betty Joseph states, containment is not only the external digestion and returning of the better elaborated, but already the watching of containment by another person is a corrective experience, may be therapeutic. In the group, female participants processed their own defensiveness against the request for containment of emerging male primitive aggression.

At the beginning they reacted with identificatory tendencies towards the aggressive men, and subsequently integrated overt assertive and aggressive behaviour. This particular ongoing group of eight members, most of them therapists, had been meeting twice a month for three hours for over a year and a half. After the summer break, the group of seven women and one man became a group of five women and three men, as three women quit and were replaced.

A difficult integration process started: the newcomers felt left out, did not understand many of the group codes and had bad feelings about their place in the group. The most direct encounter between the subgroups was enacted by a very angry and frustrating rejection of another, more active male newcomer by one of the veteran women after he had touched her chair.

Work on these direct interactions could possibly, gradually and unconsciously, build a bridge towards integration, but in the present group this process was experienced consciously only after dream-telling. For some months, there was a good deal of tension and mostly unspoken hostility in the air while, at the same time, an aggression-container for the dreams of all participants was gradually developing. We tried to build a stable and open relationship between participants and subgroups, which sometimes bore the appearance of the dreaded split-off aggression.

During its first year, the group had normally been very open and honest, and mostly kind to one another. Judging by the dream material, there were many losses, ambivalent relations with partners, and victimisation by external aggression. Aggression could also be detected in a dream in which a frustrated participant leaned on a huge window, causing it to fall from the 16th floor. Male aggression in dreams Four months after the newcomers had joined, the quality of dreams in the group began to change.

The only male participant until then lifted the aggression threshold, as if unconsciously joining the male subgroup now permitted it. A man he had warned and threatened became the victim of his displaced violence. Later on we understood that our group had also been warned about surplus aggression. This set culminated in a dream told a year after it had been dreamt, actually by a man who had participated in the group from the start.

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Voicing my thoughts, I raised the possibility that the optimism was a reaction formation of both the group and the dreamer, in order to continue to repress hate and destructive aggression. One member asked the dreamer if the Kapos were really his parents. I went on to raise the hypothesis that the encounter between the aggressor with the club and the victim provided a possibility to meet, identify and incorporate aggression for both the individual and the group here and now.

The group responded by remembering the rejection of the newcomers. This was achieved mainly by first accepting angrier behaviour in the group, which subsequently transformed itself into assertiveness and a joining of genders, with sexual connotations. An ambivalent welcome to a newcomer combined one very rejective comment by a woman with an intimate sexual dream told by another. This process seems to represent the struggle of the women in the group to form a transitional space together with the men that would be receptive to the fantasmatic, threatening and unacceptable aggressions.

It seems that men, while unconsciously struggling with their masculine violent feelings, may be afraid of exposing these intolerable contents if suspicious of rejection. We may speculate that this inter-gender process replicates the difficulties boys as young as four or five years old encounter in dream-telling because of lack of motherly containment. As a result, masculine dream-telling may be generally inhibited. Unfortunately, fathers may lack the ability to contain and elaborate dreams due to the rejection they experienced in their own childhood.

Preparing the container Preparing the group Preparing the group to contain dreams is a prototype of all engagements with difficult emotions and contents. The therapist has to help his group emotionally and technically. For example, a man with an aggressive dream may detect strong distancing and even projected hate in the audience. If the splits are too difficult to contain, potential rejection makes it imperative to help the participants bear distress in order to make themselves available to external threatening material.

Better integration can be achieved if the rejection of projections is not too pervasive, which results in disabling free communication between members, and may have defensive roots. The working-through of projective identification, which is one of the most important sources of change, is made possible through closeness, openness and spontaneity. A sanctuary is often first built by a maternal holding function, including some kind of support Winnicott a , followed by a more active containment and elaboration through the group-as-a-whole and its therapist.

When strong cohesion threatens individuality, it is imperative to emphasise containment of differences and personal development. The feeling of secure containment despite variance is most important when conflict with other members or the therapist threatens autonomy and independent thinking. Another segment of the work is done cognitively through interpretations that help make splits conscious and integrate them in the reowned self of the group.

Preparing the therapist Usually the therapist is in danger from a number of sources. Blindness in the counter-transference may easily involve him in the enactment of hidden dream dramas. For example, he may be enlisted by the group to play the omnipotent analyst who, like Freud, deciphers every dream. By engaging in this role, he could contribute to the infantilisation of the group. Understanding his or her own reactions and projections are the prototypes of containment and elaboration.

Most important, the therapist should have good contact with his own dreams, accepting them as being a meeting space with the exciting and threatening. Summary Psychoanalysis began by considering the interpretation of dreams to be the main road to the unconscious of the dreamer. If preliminary autonomous attempts to process conflicts through dreaming remain unsuccessful, dream-telling may be used in a second interpersonal attempt as a powerful vehicle of projective identification onto a willing audience. References Adams, M. Commentary on paper by Hasel Ipp. Bick, E. Bion, W.

London: Aronson. Bollas, C. London: Free Association. Britton, R. New York: International Universities Press. Erikson, E. Fairbairn, W. Standard Edition 22, 5. London: Hogarth Press Freud, S. Standard Edition Grinberg, L. Group-Analysis 30 2 , — Grotstein, J. Spillius ed Melanie Klein Today, Vol. Kanzer, M. Khan, M. Luborsky, L. Christoph and J. Basic Books.

Michael, S. Israel: Btb. Morgenthaler, F. Frankfurt: Qumran. Pines, M. Rafaelsen, L. Scharff, D. Northvale, NJ and London: Aronson. Segal, H. Flanders ed The Dream Discourse Today. Steiner de, C. Steward, H. Stolorow, R. Ullman, M. London: Sage. Vardi, D. Jerusalem: Keter. Endnotes 1. Most of the described approaches may also be used in individual therapy. KZ-Polizei or Jewish police in concentration camps.

It is also possible to say that universal structures of primary processes are reflected in the structure of a play. A dream may also be a result of projective identification, much as action is in waking life. Gestalt and psychodrama also do this part of the work. The first is based on the analogy of the group with the dream. Anzieu proposed this approach, claiming that the group is like the dream. Add to basket. Relational Group Psychotherapy Richard M.

Dreams in Group Psychotherapy Robi Friedman. Group Claudio Neri. Self Experiences in Group Irene Harwood.

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Rediscovering Groups Marshall Edelson. Table of contents Introduction. The Illumination of Dreams Malcolm Pines. Dreams in Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy J. Scott Rutan and Cecil A. The enchanted world of sleep Peretz Lavie. Fabiana's Dreams Claudio Neri. Discussion of Martin Livingston's work Irene Harwood. Reflections on Dreams Salomon Resnik. Dreaming and Acting Stefania Marinelli. Part IV: Specialised Techniques. Gordon Lawrence and Hanna Biran.

Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18) Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)
Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18) Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)
Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18) Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)
Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18) Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)
Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18) Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)
Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18) Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)
Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18) Dreams in Group Psychotherapy: Theory and Technique (International Library of Group Analysis 18)

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