Since the 9th of November regular Social Dreaming Events (SDEs) have been taking place at Tent City University, Finsbury Square, London, facilitated by the staff and colleagues of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.

SDE facilitators are working at St Paul’s and in other cities around the world – Tel Aviv, New York, Melbourne, Bristol, Dublin and elsewhere. Contributions from these centres will appear on this blog.

The task of the SDE is to associate to dreams made available to the Social Dreaming Event in order to make links and find connections between individual thought and social meaning. The social context in which these social dreaming events are taking place is the Occupy movement as a protest against the anti-social consequences of capitalism.

Social Dreaming was invented in 1982 by Dr Gordon Lawrence, a social scientist working at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, as a form of enquiry into social phenomena through the use of dreams. This method is now widely recognised and used in many countries.

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15th December # 32

15th December #32 

The background to this SDE is the review meeting of facilitators held during the day and an exploration of the possibility of relocating to Tent City University in the occupied UBS building nearby. We had been to Finsbury Square to find the organisers to arrange a review meeting and to recruit participants for the SDE being held at 5 – 6 this evening. We were noting how un-occupied the site looked.

At 5.00

2 Facilitators

3 part time participants

4 dreams

We note how muddy and slippery the ground is. One facilitator wears high heels and it brings into sharp focus the disparity between ‘city’ ware and the sartorial needs when living in an encampment exposed to the elements.

A group of people are near the Events tent and we approach them to invite them to the SDE.   A woman expresses interest but cannot come this evening. There are two other women filming the conversation and I ask them who they are. They say they are making a documentary about poets and rappers. I’m not sure if they are filming, but I continue answering their question about social dreaming and suggest they ‘Google’ it for more information and leave them to seek more recruits. I see the other facilitator has been standing in the background to avoid any chance of being filmed.

A young woman is sitting next to the Events tent and we ask her in. She tells us that she is about to go to a street party at Piccadilly Circus and that everyone will be going – that’s why no-one is on the site. She is persuaded to come into the tent and tells her waking dream/aspiration then a dream from sleep.

1.    Dream/Aspiration (w) – we all live happily together on earth, humans and animals. I will teach tigers – my favourite animal – not to kill for meat, though I might let them have some.

2.     Dream  (w) – I’m in a helicopter under water. It’s all made of glass so I can see all around, all the fishes and sea life. It is vivid, colourful and beautiful.

She asks us for our dreams, but we don’t offer any, but ask her about the helicopter that is usually in the air but now in the sea. She says it’s strange, but wasn’t strange in the dream.

Association:  A facilitator remembers the helicopters that hovered over Tent City earlier. The dreamer did not know about that but remarked that they like to watch, but asks ‘what can you see from above? You can’t see what people are really like from an enclosed space like a helicopter.

This dreamer leaves to go to the party.

The facilitators sit together in the tent and discuss the question of holding the sessions in the UBS building, the filming activity and what we may be representing by holding that space.

3.    Dream (f) – I am a model for the day (never something I’ve aspired to) and arrive at the venue with 5 hours to prepare. I wonder why it takes so long to do hair and make-up, etc. Then I’m told, angrily, that I’m late and unprepared. I get angry because they haven’t shown me my dressing room and have left me wondering what to do for 5 hours.

Association:  Sometimes fashion shows take place in marquees, this striped tent reminds me of that sort of venue.

A man is passing the tent, looks in and is invited to join. He says he has no dreams and is hiding from a drunk who has been following him around. We have a discussion about Social Dreaming.  He is on his way to the Occupy everywhere fancy dress party in Piccadilly Circus and points out he is dressed as an airman.

4.  Dream (f) – I keep dreaming about the ending of a residential event, like a group relations conference. I see people I’ve been close to leaving and I feel at a loss not knowing what to do.

Association:  Tent City is a closed community but is in a process of flux. People are moving to St. Paul’s and/or the UBS building.  There may be feelings of loss and uncertainty here.

It’s nearly the end of the session time when an older-looking man comes in. When asked, he says he doesn’t remember his dreams but responds with one when told it can be a dream from childhood.  He has one from age 10.

5.  Dream (m) – I’m in a crowd of people all walking in the same direction. To the right I can see fairground things, roundabouts, swings and stalls. There is an old man on my left who waves to me to follow him. I have to struggle through the flow to reach him. I find myself in a tunnel that leads out to a narrow ledge that is becoming narrower until I can’t continue. I look down and see the brightly lit people far below walking into a big cave. I look up and see black nothingness. I seem to be both looking up and down at the same time.  I see this old man’s face years later and recognise him as my father.

Associations: Tent City especially the new blue and white stripy Events tent that also links to the image of the stripy marquee where fashion shows take place, and the idea of the circus and the destination of the street party goers flocking to Piccadilly Circus which, it is pointed out, is presided over by Eros. The image of the Pied Piper leading the children into the mountain as revenge for not being paid for ridding the town of rats.

There’s a conversation about being left-handed and that it comes from the Latin word ‘sinister’ and that left-handed people have often been persecuted because it is thought to be an attribute of the devil. The dreamer, a facilitator and a facilitator’s mother all are left-handed.

The story of the Pied Piper seems to resonate with money, debt and revenge and with it a sense that many old stories and words are disappearing from the younger generation who are trying to re-invent an idealised world that will bring about the same disillusion that we all have to experience. In some ways it feels that we project the human life cycle onto a world that will carry on without us.

'Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.'

Facilitators: Jacqui Sirota and Olivia Joyner

 

14th December #31

Social Dreaming #31

14 December 2011

Three people – presenting one dream.

Those present are interesting in their archetypal representations:

 

  •        1 resident
  •        1 radical
  •        1 researcher

All are roughly the same age; the same levels of articulacy and the same class.

Themes of the event are: formality and informality – the resident waving and inviting the facilitator in; the radical shaking hands as he knows of the protection afforded by formality; he introduces the researcher – a foreigner whom he is taking on a tour.

Dream

I’m in a field in the countryside in the dark; there are lines of black figures – all ominous, but who do not want to arrest me or my friends and family. The figures have the authority of arrest, but they do not do so – they only want to frighten and hurt me and my people – they want to exercise their power for the sake of it.  I am alone and even though there are many of us present, my aloneness is intense and personal. They are zombies who want to come across the barbed wire and take my home and territory for no other reason than their desire to inflict pain and because some lawyers’ documents say they can.

Associations:

  •         There is no logic in this, only a brutish exercise of power to cause pain.  The lady researcher says this is from the days of their lives; not a dream, but close to their daily life.

 

  •        The creation of ‘paper palaces’ in today’s institutions; this did not happen in villages, but these ‘paper palaces’ create in their own momentum – growing and taking over for their own purposes.

 

  •        The Resident talks of amnesia – translates from personal amnesia to social amnesia; to social anesthetics in which humanity and meaningful engagement are forgotten.  The dream is so much like “random acts of willful malevolence”.

 

  •        “Living in rarity” – shortages, where parts of oneself/parts of society grow in ‘rarity’ – some have more; some have less – tension is caused by the gaps.

 

 

  •        Re-humanizing: the camp is trying to re-humanize – people are always trying to find their private spaces – even having your own room in your houses – here, we are re-humanizing through finding ways of being together and sleeping together.

 

  •        There are questions about the ‘Tavistock’ – a mechanical baby -the Radical and his family attended the Tavistock in Swiss Cottage – confusion between the two Tavistock’s – one deals with families; the other focuses on society and the world.

 

  •        “Geographical fens sue” – (organising your environment to suit yourself to get the best optimization).  Where you are literally has a relationship with what you dream. He dreamed in the city of that black field in the country.

Thoughts:

  •       There appear to be significant differences between the Occupy camp in Parliament Square and the one in St Paul’s and the one in Finsbury Square. The camp in Finsbury Square has no proximity to power – neither political power (Parliament), nor ecclesiastical power and the power of God (St Paul’s), or monetary power (the City).  The organisers of Occupy appear to be trying to be respectable, and they seem to want to distance themselves from the disreputable, in society’s terms, who are ‘dumped’ in a ghetto in Finsbury Square.  What is missing in the Finsbury Square camp? There seems to be an absence of confrontation – there is nothing to confront – no Parliament, no Church, no capitalism, and no police. The absence of authority renders resistance impotent.

 

  •       Re-humanization and re-animation of the protest. The social dreaming event at Occupy in Finsbury Square has become lifeless, as if there is nothing to resist.  This camp is the ‘ghetto’ camp with the rejects from St Paul – “where you are dictates the contents of your dreams” said a participant.

 

  •      Having the courage to fail is very different to having the courage to win. Power and resistance are impossible in the presence of an absence of a dialectic – Finsbury Square has become a dumping ground where people talk limply about having a better world; where resistance appears only in the dream – in the dream there is a large group of people, the dreamer is articulate; police are in the dream, there is a desire to resist.

 

  •      The shortage of dreams here in the social dreaming event mirrors the shortage of dreams in society – as if people fear having dreams because of a sense of lacking importance and the strong likelihood of disappointment. We are at the New Year – Scottish Hogmanay which is about acknowledging failures and having the courage to enter the New Year to have another go.

 

  •      The Solzhenitsyn idea of being lit up in their tents – the “proper” protesters have sent this lot into this camp. Their lenses are so different. There is a sense of the organisers wanting their protest to be acceptable, but they have to deal with the unexpected – there are eight East European-looking men speaking loudly in their language standing aggressively at the gateway to the food tent – perhaps to be sure to get the free food.

 

Facilitators:  Ruth Silver and Mannie Sher

 

13th December #30

Social Dreaming Event

13th December 2011  #30

2 facilitators

3 participants

2 dreams

When we arrive, there is confusion as the SD event isn’t on the organiser’s schedule. One of the organisers goes to some trouble to rectify the situation to enable the event to run. The Events tent is made ready. Parts of the tent are wet from the bad weather and a participant advises us where to sit so that we do not get wet.

At first nobody can think of a dream. There is a discussion about the dominance of advertising and cinema and in particular the number of Harry Potter films. A comment is made that maybe these kinds of collective dreams are replacing “real’ dreams.

Dream 1

A dream about an elderly woman who needs to move to a care home. She checks out options and finds that in Italy she can get into a very nice care home for less than the cost of care homes in the UK. She goes to Social Services to ask them if they would fund this as an alternative to going into a UK care home.

Associations:  How nice it would be to live in Italy. Venice and several other Italian cities are mentioned as desirable places to go or live. In reality Italy may not be such a desirable place with the current economic situation and political administration made up of bankers and bureaucrats. A discussion follows about the real life situation for elderly people in the UK being actually very difficult. Not all people can fly (to another country) and not all people can dream. Images of people trying to grab hold of the bottom rung of the ladder and people being chewed up and spat out are shared. A link is made to the Occupy protest and that the protest stands for people who are disadvantaged by the current system. A comment is made about how welcoming the Occupy protest is to people who are homeless and other marginalised people in society. People on benefits are now criticised widely in the media and there is a lack of compassion for vulnerable people such as the homeless. This leads to an association to a group of intellectuals who went to live on the streets in the 1960-1970s in France who called themselves ‘closhards’ in solidarity with the homeless people. They were not a group in the sense of being organized and coordinated but this was a part of their individual political stance against the system.

Dream 2

A dream by a person who worked in a hospital and during breaks they were allowed to sleep for an hour. During this hour the dreamer dreamed that they were in Rome. In the dream it felt very real. They could see, feel and smell the place. The dream was told with great passion. It was a wonderful dream that made the dreamer feel great and when they woke up this good feeling and the vision of Rome remained with them for several hours afterwards.

Association: socialist regimes where people aren’t allowed to travel. They travelled instead, in their minds, to other places. It was like an inner migration as a response to not being allowed to migrate. Another association is made to a book called Reading Lolita in Tehran. The book was about a group of women in Iran who come together regularly to read and discuss books from the West, which are forbidden reading, as a way of dealing with the oppressive Iranian regime. The dream, it is suggested, could be seen as a kind of nourishment for dealing with a difficult situation.

An observation was made that both dreams include Italy as a place of desire but that on exploration something far from desirable becomes apparent. An association is made between Rome, romantic and a utopian dream. A comment is made that it can be dangerous to have a dream, that the third Reich had a dream that many people followed unquestioningly and that ended in the holocaust. This leads to a comment that what starts as a dream can turn into a nightmare. The protest had started like a beautiful dream, but as winter progresses and the weather gets worse many people leave, and the remaining protestors are in difficult conditions. The people who leave the protest are referred to as fair-weather friends. The difficulty of staying with the protest is discussed. The event ends with a comment about looking forward to the spring.

Facilitators: Aideen Lucey and Milena Stateva

 

 

12th December #29

12th December #29

Facilitators stand around for half an hour but do not manage to recruit anyone. Arrive at an empty, cold and dark tent and stand there for a bit before deciding to ask around if people want to join the social dreaming.

The is a group of men talking in Hungarian, smoking, and eventually they take their rucksacks and go off leaving two of them there. We go around the corner to where the armchairs are on a platform and see two men and one young woman and we call out asking they are coming to social dreaming. One young man repeats our question to the other two, because the woman says she did not hear us, and the man shakes his head. This man says to us that these two are not into social dreaming today so our impression is that they are engaged in a conversation of their own which relates in some way to the book they have on the table, which is pilgrim’s progress’ by John Bunyan. The man talks about another book by Thomas Hardy and then he talks about Keats who died in his 20s.

The facilitators decide to leave them because of intruding into their space.  They approach the two Hungarian men, one of whom does not understand English and the other one says he does not dream and has no interest in dreams, all he cares about is drinking and smoking, and fxxx this and fxxx the other, so we leave him.

We wait another 5 minutes or so and decide to call it a day.  We speak to Ben for a few minutes, looking for the schedule, but Ben says there isn’t a schedule any more, in fact, he says, we are the only thing happening at Tent City now, everything else is happening either in the Bank of Ideas or in St Paul’s. He is sorry that no one came tonight.

As we leave, though, we see quite a lot of activity happening behind the closed ‘doors’ of the Tent City University tent itself, and there is an advertisement for a “mumble meeting “ which is to take place on Wednesday.

Our thoughts coming up the road are that:

  • On Mondays we get ‘punished’ for not having been at the weekend, although that’s perhaps not entirely accurate as Jacqueline came last week
  • That they are disengaging from us in that they are having their activities run in non-public places that we feel are not right for us to attend
  • Last week there were no dreams offered for discussion but that we were in a dream-like world, but tonight the site feels that things that are ‘happening’ are happening somewhere else and that leads us to wonder what role the FS site is taking up on behalf of Occupy
  • At the same time, there is a certain buzz in the place as well, some men are talking, moving about, some passers-by and some visitors are hanging around

 

Facilitators: Eliat Aram and Jean Reed

9th December #28

9th December #28

Two facilitators, one participant.

The session is best described as entering a dream-like world rather than speaking of actual dreams. Our participant, who is one of the permanent residents of Tent City, has an incredibly rich and poetic language and ideas and the session with his steering was like navigating in the world of imagination.

What have radio, television and internet done to us?  He was asking. Internet can sometimes inhibit imagination, putting the radio and the television on loudly because people do not want to hear the ghosts. We do not know who the ghosts are, but we associate to the radio by thinking about the social dreaming as a way of finding a frequency that enables us to hear the voices and what they are saying, in this case, in the social movement of Tent City.

When you are writing for a newspaper, he tells us, in the old days of newspapers the fonts were really small and there were many words. Nowadays, when you don’t have enough to say, you blow up the letters, you use bigger font.  The amount of letters in the alphabet indicates to you how many words you can have. How many languages do we each speak? Our participant says he doesn’t really speak any other language, but we say he speaks the language of dreams.

There are many languages in Tent City, literally so, he says, i.e. of different European countries, for example, but also in terms of its inhabitants.  We wonder what the language of our participant is representing.  Homelessness by choice? Sitting it out?  Connection to nature?

Tent City is preparing for winter hibernation. Raises a picture of a choice to be self-hibernating – or being an activist. A man walks into the tent asking to take one of the cardboards there. Our participant explains that you put it on the ground, below your sleeping bag, to get some distance from the cold and damp earth; there is a lot of wisdom in learning to live here, we comment. He smiles, yes, slow progress every day – not like in the Bank of Ideas, where it is all set out on large placards and it all happens very quickly.  He refers to UBS site as ‘the society of the privileged homeless’, as compared with Tent City. He says he feels more authentic at Tent City. Here is a step a day and a small group of people who are here all the time, loyal to the tents. Time is like a moebius strip, a figure of eight in 3D; there is a sense of infinity in Tent City.

You have to work for everything you need at Tent City. How do you get the most basic things like water? If you believe that animals have the right to vote then surely we have the right to have water, he tells us in a gentle inquiry voice. We think he is saying something very fundamental about the movement, that at a very basic level every person has the right to have what they need for survival.

It is freezing cold today, but we leave feeling quite full and uplifted. The voice that spoke to us today did not want anything more than basic contact with nature, with conversation, with smiling. His last question is what do you think about laughter in dreams? We talked about facts to do with laughter. It’s a fact, one of us said, that it takes more hard muscles to frown than to smile.  Laughing is healthy, he agrees. After the session we are reminded of a question – does the unconscious have a sense of humour?

Yes, of course, is the answer.

Facilitators: Eliat Aram and Jean Reed

8th December #27

8th December #27

Recruitment

The recruitment goes as usual with some people being interested and even quite enthusiastic, others not that interested or just indifferent. The exceptions are some men cutting across the tents, who are against the movement. The first one is a young man who is not interested in the study but has come to see ‘what is this’ because ‘what they want is terrible, they are socialists!’, he says, as if he has difficulties to understand how people can be socialists. When we point out that the protesters do not identify themselves as socialists, he says ‘But they have socialist demands, I cannot understand, look at that – this is terrible!’. Next is a group of men with business suits, coats and briefcases. When asked if they’d be interested in our study, most of them ignore us and one says: “Study! Don’t do studies! Go and find work to pay taxes!”. He is obviously very agitated and angry.

Setting

The Events Tent is clean and tidy with expressionistic framed pictures hanging at the walls. For about 5 minutes after the start of the social dreaming event no one comes.  Then one new man and one regular dreamer join.

Discussion about the method

The new member asks about the method: what kind of dreams are we talking about, how does the social dreaming work. The facilitators follow with a brief summary. Then the young man who is a regular dreamer wonders about social dreaming being carried out in business organizations: ‘around black tables, having sinister conversations with sinister pictures on the walls’. This is associated with the images on the wall being our dreams of ourselves. This imagery reminds the facilitators of dystopian films such as Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’.

Dream 1

Facilitator’s dream: She is in a seaside town looking out to sea. There are white clouds passing across the sky but then small black clouds appear on the horizon. Strangely, they seem to be so close to the surface of the sea that they are touching. They approach quickly and it becomes clear that they are, in fact, great machines. They drive ashore and through the town destroying everything in their path. The dreamer is terrified and tries to hide and to protect a little boy who is with her. The father, who has been her lover, wants to take him away, she is no longer wanted (she doesn’t know this man in reality). She tries to re-engage but his eyes have become cold.

Associations

  • The coldness of the man is associated with the coldness in the world we live in nowadays and the lack of empathy; it is difficult to connect and to have warmth with each other in our times.

Three girls come and join the group. One of them tells a dream which contains fragments rather than images and a plot. In the dream she suddenly remembers a 3-year period of her life when she was in school, which she has completely forgotten. The facilitators think after the event that fragmentation was the leading theme throughout the session – fragmentation reflects the liquidity of our times and denotes change which is stemming from segregation. The question becomes how do you re-form after fragmentation. The girls keep going out and coming back for a while, yet contributing to the session, reminding us about the Greek theatre and the role of the chorus. The associations to the first dream continue:

 

  • The dream happens at the edge between the sea and the land, the beach is a border.
  • The sea: La Mer (the French for sea) and La Mére (the French for mother), repositioning rather than keeping within a boundary, the association with danger is dismissed with an association about the sea and safety (the mother) (if there is a boundary, there is no danger?); you have to keep Neptune happy; Neptune is confused – associated with the God who eats his children.  The group decides it is the Roman Saturn (who is actually the father of Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto who represent Air, Water and Death, the three things that time cannot kill), whereas it is mean Cronus, the Titan god of time and the ages, especially time which is regarded as destructive and all-devouring.
  • Anxiety with change – we can be ‘eaten’ by our times.
  • The dreams can be about the future: the machines representing the threat of a war over Europe that many are speaking about, comparing the present times with the conditions around the WWII.
  • A thought that comes after the social dreaming event is that it’s striking that ‘Greece’, now an impoverished country, is very present in the imagery of the event. We seemed to be struggling to remember the nature and roles of the ‘Gods’. They have become fading memories that ‘time’ has consumed and have lost their power…as might be happening to our present ‘Gods’.

Dream 2

Another facilitator’s dream: The dreamer has an allotment which she suddenly realizes has been asked replace another one. The allotment turns out to be covered with a concrete layer.

Associations

  • The threat of eviction
  • The dream being actually about the lake at the allotment freezing
  • Another brief discussion about how do dreams work and what do they represent
  • The ‘DR’ in ‘DREAMS’ – the authority of dreams
  • The ‘Dr Martin Luther King’ and his famous ‘I have a dream’

Dream 3

The dreamer is one of the protesters. He had a dream years ago about a place in India, which was very beautiful: steep green hills, tea plantations, beautiful weather, people moving slowly.

Dream 4

The same dreamer immediately reports another dream. It is about an image of a sea displaying every single colour in a mixture of colours, it is not patchy, more of a feeling, both rough and smooth.

Associations

  • For the dreamer, both these dreams can be seen as a visionary statement of how he imagines the world
  • The tranquility of the dreams reminds people of other dreams of protesters in previous SDEs – about flying in space and visiting other places
  • These dreams seem to be a kind of not-yet-thought vision of the human condition

Dream 5

The same dreamer reports another dream of an ex-girlfriend of his, who looked like a butterfly, and who he still loves. In his dream she is there but he can never reach her.

Associations

  • This is the very opposite of the dream about the cold man
  • Freedom and attachment that contradict to each other
  • The time passing, including the time of the session coming to an end
  • The time: analogue clock (different parts coming together), replaced by the digital (a crystal) and the sand clock (the glass that contains the flowing sand is actually itself made of melted sand)
  • There is a conspiracy theory about stolen time (time is longer at work and shorter when you are off work)
  • The time in the Tent City stretches, it feels awfully long

 A ‘lucid’ dream

5 minutes before the end of the session a young woman joins us and tells us about her ‘lucid’ dream about the rights of people with mental health problems. She is herself diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder and is having an episode at the moment, but she believes that the movement can contain her condition.

End of the session

The session finishes by her asking us our names and all participants in the session introducing themselves to each other.

 

 Facilitators: Milena Stateva, Jacqui Sirota, Juliet Scott and Christian Annarumma

6th December #26

Social Dreaming Event

6th December 2011 5pm-6pm #26

2 facilitators

4 participants coming and going, one stays throughout

2 dreams

At first it is unclear if we can run the event in the usual location as a new tent is being erected. It is ready enough to use by the start time and we are invited in as the people erecting the tent put the finishing touches on it. It is dark in the tent but there is some light from the illuminated building across the square.

 Dreams:

1.            About wild animals in an enclosure.

Associations: to recent TV reports about pandas arriving to the UK from China and whether they were constrained in their enclosures. This leads to a discussion about space and the spaces at the two Occupy protest sites. A comment is made that there is a fear that if St Paul’s closes people will loose their identity, but the speaker feels that identity is not attached to specific spaces.

2.            Rows of buildings with no significance.

Associations:  People think that they will drift off if they haven’t got a building. A connection to the first dream is made that Pandas use only what they need, that there is abundance everywhere but that we fear there will not be enough. There is benefit to having a house and car, but people become too dependent on them.

A participant says that the Occupy protest is a dream and that the protesters are transforming a dream into reality. His dream is for honesty, equality and freedom. This is taken as a reference to what the Occupy protesters are standing for. Lines from an Edgar Allen Poe poem are quoted and Carlos Castenades is mentioned.

Some concern is expressed about the presence of the social dreaming facilitators – are we psychologists? Are the protestors being ‘manipulated by the illuminati’ Concern is expressed about notes being taken and what would be disclosed about the protestors. One man urges another not to disclose things, but the other man does not have concerns about disclosure and talks freely.

Towards the end a man who has not been present previously arrives and comments on the cold and gets a sleeping bag for the facilitators to sit on.   

Facilitators: Aideen Lucey and Frances Abraham

 

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