Social Dreaming

Thursday 1 December: 5.00 – 6.00 pm  #19

4 people present and 2 x facilitators plus 2-3 lookers-in, one offering a sandwich, others just looking or chatting. A difficult session, owing to one very vocally aggressive member with his bottle, constantly interrupting and somewhat paranoid, who seemed to get increasingly angry/bitter, etc.  Two others had been in the morning and wanted to engage in the dreaming again and look at connections, but were continuing being cut across.  A quarter of an hour before the end, they quietly left the tent, saying goodbye, as if wanting to come back another time.  We were left alone with the disturbing guy just sitting there and decided to say goodbye to him and leave ourselves.

The open side of the tent encourages interruptions and also makes it difficult, especially in the dark, to hear clearly.  The feeling this time, different from previously was of something very chaotic, winding down, a bit threadbare and hard to focus in, and a real split between a small group of ‘explorers’ trying to cluster together and a ‘rogue elephant’ getting in the way.


Six dreams, including one from a facilitator:

1.            He talks generally about his recurring dreams where he is being tempted but each time resists the temptation.  This makes him feel good.

2.             He then tells of a dream where he is visiting his father who is in hospital with cancer.  The family is there and the rest of the family go in, leaving him and his brother outside.  He goes in and sits down but is ignored.  He feels (maybe is) invisible.  Then his father acknowledges him but says ‘where is he?’  He assumes his father wants to know where his brother is.

Association: The dreamer says he feels the dream is liberating, not disturbing.  He’s not acknowledged, so can leave the family and join the ‘rainbow family of life and light’ (a post-Vietnam movement starting in the States and still around to which he is connected – a kind of alternative community).

3.             (Older man’s dream last night) with a woman colleague, running some event for a group of adolescents.  They are aggressive, larking about and jeering (like Educating Essex?).  Thinks ‘what are we doing here?’  The event is over and he’s crouching under a low wall behind the playground.  Doesn’t want to be seen by the group on the other side, but he is.  The girls are jeering.  He sees a boy he thought was more interested and says something to him.  But he jeers too.

Association: Links to the gap between generations.  Lack of connections.

4.             (Younger woman’s dream).  She’s in a car on a very windy road but she doesn’t know how to drive.  She has a terrible feeling of fear.  Her hands are on the driving wheel and she is driving along the road.  She’s actually managing to drive!

Links this with a recurring dream.

5.             She finds she is flying, skimming the surface, down over the water like a bird.

Association:  ‘Managing the impossible’ – faith in being able to do something oneself, faith in oneself – how powerful that can be.  Then counter association by the more aggressive man – “fear of flying” = orgasm.

6.             (Dream also shared this morning?)  He’s driving a car, a Lamborghini or a Lotus.  He gets out and passes it over a fence.  There’s a very tall building with people on a balcony.  They walk off the balcony and land on the floor.  They get up and stare the dreamer in the eye and walk off.

Association:  to ‘a typical Manchester dream’ (the dreamer has disclosed he is from Manchester).  Half-spoken association to the Twin Towers and people deliberately walking out of the windows.

Dreamer wanted to go a bit farther but stalled by the very vocal guy.  Says something like ‘I’ll talk about it tomorrow’.

Facilitators: David Armstrong, Rachel Kelly


Tension between engagement and disengagement.  Retreat into the ‘rainbow family’ outside society versus working to re-engage from a different position / perspective.  Hope versus despair: can pass rich man’s toys over a fence versus even when they walk off the balcony they land on their feet and stare you in the eye.  Potency of the young – faith, self belief: illusion or reality.  Getting beyond the jeering: on both sides.  Creativity: “you’re responsible for yourself” let’s work with the dreams versus “it’s them, the 1%.  We can’t do anything.

Some feeling of things winding down: splits within the City, wish to make something new, ‘manage the impossible; up against something more destructive / disbelieving.

Facilitators: David Armstrong and Rachel Kelly

Note after 1 December, 5.00 – 6.00 #19

Reading a very interesting old paper on ‘The Vortical Environment’ in Volume 3 of the Social Engagement of Social Science, the day after, came across a reference to ‘dissociation’ as a defensive response to a turbulent environment (characteristic of complex, indeterminate or unpredictable social fields).  The system becomes stalemated and unable to develop active adaptive strategies.  Uncertainty and complexity are ‘compounded by the presence of maladaptive responses’: superficiality (loss of depth), segmentation (separation of means and ends: transformation of the social field into a set of fields, integrated in themselves but poorly integrated with others) and ‘dissociation’: a ‘retreat into private worlds’ and a withdrawal from social bonds that might entail involvement in the affairs of others; hence a reduction in the willingness of one to coordinate one’s behaviour with that of others or to allow one’s own actions to be regulated by the behaviour of others.  It is also a denial that another’s world and reality are relevant and that shared values exist between oneself and others.  Consequently, no commitments are made beyond what is considered to be one’s own’ (cf SE of SS, Vol III, p211).

I think this kind of systemic analysis has a good deal to offer re understanding the current crisis of capitalism eg behaviour of bankers, widening gap between 1% and the rest, splitting between private and public sector etc.  But it also, maybe, infects the anti-Capitalism movement itself as evidenced by one vein in the dream material we are gathering eg disengagement rather than re-engagement, withdrawal and retreat from the host culture, maybe a tendency to see Tent City as an alternative ‘home’ but disconnected.  In last night’s material some evidence of recognition that one may still feel ‘homeless’ even in this home: hence search for the (illusory?) ‘rainbow family of life and light’.