DREAMS AND PSI IN THE PSYCHOANALYTIC SETTING
PSI FAVORABLE STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
PROCEEDINGS OF AN INTERNATIQNAL CONFERENCE ON METHODOLOGY IN PSI “RESEARCH
Le Piol, St. Paul de Vence, France September 2-6, 1968
Parapsychology Foundation, Inc. New York, New York
SERVADIO: My latest views on this subject are summarized in last year’s Proceedings, and they are published in extenso elsewhere.
What can be the actual dynamic reasons, if any, which may be promoting and conditioning paranormal dreams? This is probably the main point where psychoanalysis can give its best contribution to a very ancient problem. Should we consider alleged or actual paranormal dreams as occurring for no conceivable reason and without any particular motivation? That is in a non-causal, timeless, spaceless, synchronistic setting as the late Professor Jung would have put it. Or can we justify their occurrence from a psychological and psychodynamic angle? In my opinion this justification is possible and I have tried for many years to show how and why this is so. As I have repeatedly stated, the key concepts in the dynamics of paranormal dreams are frustration and transference. By frustration, I mean any kind of obstacle that can prevent communication. By transference, I mean the emotional accompaniment of all human attempts to communicate.
As in this conference we are mainly concerned with conditions that seem to foster psi occurrences, I asked myself whether the psychoanalytic situation is a favorable instrument to promote such occurrences. I arrived at a negative conclusion: the psychoanalytic situation as such is not suitable for willfully provoking psi phenomena. When psi phenomena do take place in the analytic setting, their very occurrence indicates a flaw in the ideal psychoanalytic rapport. What can be expected from parapsychologically-oriented analysts is the ability to acknowledge and interpret those psi phenomena that may take place with their patients, not the capacity or the good will to use the analytic tool to foster paranormal occurrences.
All Psi phenomena in the analytic situation are conditioned by a particularly strong unconscious tension in the transference-countertransference aspect of the relationship between analyst and patient. The typical precondition occurs when the analyst is occupied with problems or interests which the patient perceives through extrasensory channels as similar and concurrent with his own. He then produces either a dream or a fantasy or a symptom which shows that in some way or other he knows how to call the analyst away from his (the analyst’s) preoccupations, back to his (the patient’s) expectations and needs. A Psi occurrence in the analytic situation runs counter to the ideal dynamics of the analytic work, whose typical trend is to consistently and persistently reduce intrapsychic conflicts and tensions, bring them to the fore and interpret them, and ultimately aim at their final disappearance. It is quite true that this trend is subject to all sorts of obstacles, and that the analytic situation is fraught with imperfections of all sorts. It is also true that the sort of communication which occurs between analyst and patient, implying subtle cues and the occurrence of empathy, cross identifications and listening with a third ear, is apt to pave the way to subliminal and paranormal encounters. However, every analyst knows that his task is comparable to that of a specialized practitioner who tries to ensure the smoothest possible circulation in the blood vessels of a person. Some strange or interesting phenomena might occur during the treatment, either spontaneously or following some voluntary interventions he made upon the veins or arteries of his patient, but surely he would not let himself be swerved by them in his work; and to artfully provoke them would be contrary to the main tenets of his art.
When an analyst becomes aware of some parapsychological phenomenon which seems to have taken place in his relationship with a patient, he has only one choice: that of interpreting the occurrence, making its preconditions clear to himself and possibly to his patient, therefore eliminating, at least temporarily, the tensions which have been instrumental in provoking or facilitating the psi event. As pointed out before, in a perfect psychoanalytic treatment, no serious intrapsychical clashes between the emotional world of the patient and that of the analyst would manifest themselves unexpectedly. Therefore there would be no need to intervene in order to identify the unbidden guest and to re-establish order in the psychic world “à deux.”
All I have said should not be considered as a diminution, or even less as a dismissal of the psychoanalytic contributions to the study of paranormal phenomena. The analytic setting offers an interpersonal frame of reference particularly suitable to the study and the comprehension of psi. It would be idle to speculate whether the frequency of paranormal occurrences in the analytic situation is greater or smaller than in other sorts of human relationships; also, it is largely admitted nowadays that many such occurrences escape our attention. This makes real statistical evaluations utterly impossible, or at least very difficult. I think, however, that the great majority of paranormal occurrences which are ascertained and classified as spontaneous are simply wasted, because nobody is usually in a position to perform a detailed investigation of the circumstances and psychological conditions which were instrumental in provoking or favoring the events. The possibility of such an investigation is certainly much larger in the analytic situation, where the Psi phenomenon can be scrutinized by the therapist, who possesses detailed information about that particular situation in which he is simultaneously actor and observer.
A few psychotherapists have attempted to exploit the situation and make “experiments,” for instance card-guessing, with their patients. I am extremely critical of such initiatives for two orders of reasons. One is a matter of professional ethics: I consider it incorrect to use the patient in any way which represents a deflection from the purpose and scope of the therapy. The second reason is technical: the whole transference-countertransference relationship is certainly changed by such interventions. This makes it impossible to evaluate the impact of any given situation between therapist and patient upon the paranormal events possibly related to it. Moreover, it is to be expected that cardguessing, or other similar experiments, will be unconsciously perceived by the patient-subject as something magical added to the cure, or as a seductive playing on the part of the doctor, or in some other phantasied fashion. These objections-and others I raised some years ago against a project of this sort being carried out somewhere in Europe-have probably come to mind to the workers in the field. In fact, I have not heard of any similar attempts being made by any psychotherapists in the last eight or ten years.
EMILIO SERVADIO, LL.D.
President, Italian Psychoanalytic Society Rome, Italy
MARGENAU: Thank you, Dr. Servadio. Miss Strauch will now talk on dreams and psi in the laboratory.