Sunday, 9 August 2009


Adam Phillips, in Terrors and Experts, says something interesting about the interpretation of dreams. 'A dream is enigmatic--it invites interpretation, intrigues us--because it has transformed something unacceptable, through what Freud calls the dream work, into something puzzling. It is assumed that the unacceptable is something, once the dream has been interpreted, that we are able to recognize and understand. And this is because it belongs to us; we are playing hide-and-seek , but only with ourselves. In the dream the forbidden may become merely eccentric or dazzlingly banal; but only the familiar is ever in disguise. The interpreter, paradoxically--the expert on dreams--is in search of the ordinary.' [64]

But why must the extraordinary be turned into the ordinary? That sounds like false reckoning (or false translation) to me. The implication here is 'because it started out that way'; but that's surely not true: dreams are as likely, or are more likely, to grind their metaphorical molars upon extraordinary aspects of our life. The perfectly habitual aspects of it won't snag the unconscious's interest. So could it be that dream-interpreters turn the extraordinary into the ordinary because the ordinary sounds more comprehensible to us, because it produces the sort of narrative the dreamer prefers to wake up to? ('...those skinny cattle eating the fat cattle and not getting fat? That's about harvests, mate.') But if the currency of dreams is the extraordinary, common sense suggests that the interpretation of dreams should be extraordinary too. The sense of recognition Phillips is talking about here, that 'aha! that's what it means!' is all about the transcendent rush, the poetry, not about the mundanity.


Tomas said...

That's puzzling indeed. After reading your post, I clearly see my art as a hide-and-seek play now despite my all sound statements.
Thank you for the help to talk simply- it would be fine to have a cup of coffee with you - to dream over a cup of coffee together with you in the soul uplifting silence that reveals the essence of the light.
Thank you for that fabulous sip of fresh air.
Best wishes from

Adam Roberts said...

I'm sure it would be fun, Tomas.