DREAMS AND PSI: THE CLINICAL DIMENSION
PSI AND ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
PROCEEDINGS OF AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON HYPNOSIS, DRUGS, DREAMS, AND PSI HELD AT LE PIOL, ST. PAUL DE VENCE, FRANCE, JUNE 9-12, 1967
Sponsored by Parapsychology Foundation, New York
SERVADIO: I will summarize my latest views, which I have recently reported.
I would like first of all to discuss the dynamics of paranormal dreams. In my opinion the key concepts to understand in the dynamics of paranormal dreams are frustration and transference. By frustration I mean any kind of physical and/or psychological obstacle that can prevent or hinder expression or communication. By transference I mean (following Freud’s concepts) the emotional unexpressed accompaniment of practically all human attempts to communicate. It is one of the most primitive needs of the individual, aiming at restoring the lost primordial unity through distances, and at filling gaps between the self and the whole. Freud called transference a universal phenomenon of the human mind. It affects the whole of each person’s relations to his human environment, and is merely uncovered and isolated by analysis. If transference in its broader sense is a primitive emotional mechanism, intended to breach distances-physical as well as mental-between people (when obstacles and frustrations are felt to be insuperable by more “advanced” means), it is most natural that it should be accompanied by attempts to express its particular significance in images, signs, and symbols. It is also understandable that such images, signs and symbols should belong to the crude, primitive regressive language: a “forgotten language,” as Eric Fromm would call it. In fact, it is not forgotten; it is obsolete. But in some particular occasions and under certain mental conditions, we are all bound to use it again. The most frequent occasions occur when we sleep and dream.
In 1933, Freud contended that telepathy may be the original archaic method by which individuals understood one another and which has been pushed into the background in the course of phylogenetic development by the better method of communication based on signs apprehended by the sense organs. I, in turn, contend that whenever distance between people is felt unbearably frustrating, because of the urgency of some kind of communication, individuals may revert to that original archaic method of mutual understanding, crude and limited as it may be. They revert to a more immediate kind of communication, to a communion of some sort; to a telepathic contact. The condition of sleep and the regressive quality of dreaming make dreams and dreamlike phenomena most suitable for this kind of event.
In a typical telepathic dream or in a telepathic event during sleep, we usually find the following conditions: a transferential tie between two people; a singular emotional event of an objective or subjective sort; conditions adverse to better communication-distance, helplessness, inhibitions, and repression; the necessity of defeating them; and finally the sleep state itself, which with its regressive quality favors the appearance of archaic means of expression. Briefly, these are the general dynamics of a paranormal dream as I studied them in the psychoanalytic setting, where the mainsprings of such dreams, frustration and transference, can be closely and minutely investigated.
The interpersonal problems of the dreamer seem to have a direct bearing on these dynamic processes. In my opinion, based on my own analytical experience, in specific transference-countertransference situations a patient is apt to produce a paranormal dream concerning an occurrence in the analyst’s life. Apparently a patient may unconsciously feel that his analyst neglects him and his problems because he, the analyst, is emotionally preoccupied with other people’s, or his own problems. Dr. Hollós in Hungary and I in Italy4 simultaneously discovered this mechanism. It is a sort of unmasking by the patient of emotional material pertaining to the analyst’s mind, material thrown in the analyst’s face, so to speak. This occurrence challenges the analyst’s attempts to conceal or repress something negative and perhaps unfriendly to the patient which appeared in the countertransference.
These occurrences are of great importance in the analytical situation, contrary to what some authors have thought. A possible paranormal element can be included in a dream and manipulated in the dream work in different ways. I shall give you a couple of very brief examples. In a particular dream, a patient of mine was preoccupied with lending a man a fountain pen and not getting it back from him. The pen, which appeared as a telepathic element, was the meeting point of a whole range of problems concerning, on one side, the patient’s difficulties of psychosexual adjustment, and on the other a crisis in the analyst’s life, having mainly to do with writing.
On a different occasion, a patient of mine produced a dream in which he distinctly saw my wife at the seashore with three little girls, whose ages he correctly assessed. He consciously knew that we had only one daughter, and he could not have known that my wife had gone there with our daughter and two little nieces.
In the same dream, the appearance of a dish of noodles had a direct connection with emotional events in the analyst’s life, the dish itself being a symbol of a breast that had been taken away from the subject by a negligent and egoistic father figure. This telepathic dream corresponded to some events in my own life, in which the emotional motive of being abandoned and underfed somehow had played an important role.
Ehrenwald, Eisenbud and I among others have described the analytic subtleties of such a situation ” deux.” We agree that the dovetailing of the analyst’s and the patient’s emotional patterns in a specific phase of the analysis seems to be a strong precondition for the appearance of a telepathic dream or other paranormal phenomena.
Analysts who have studied these phenomena have discussed the possibility of utilizing them in the therapeutic situation. A sort of agreement has been reached that if the patient has no paranoid trends, there is no harm in telling him that he has perceived something of the analyst’s life in ways that are not yet well understood. It then becomes justified to make an interpretation of the situation as if it had arisen through normal communication. Therefore you see that the recognition and exploration of paranormal events in the psychoanalytic situation is also of practical medical usefulness.
ULLMAN: I would like to add one of the best examples that came out of my own practice.’ 6 One Friday evening in 1950 I attended a lecture at the New York Academy of Medicine at which Dr. J. Masserman presented a talk and film on his technique for producing alcoholism in cats by repeatedly presenting them with a half-alcohol/half-cream mixture. The alcoholic cat, in contrast to the normal cat, when presented with a choice of whole milk versus a half-alcohol/half-cream mixture, preferred the latter.
On that same evening, a patient of mine had a dream, which she reported during her next session, on the following Tuesday. This patient was a seamstress who had never heard of Masserman, the New York Academy of Medicine, nor of alcoholic cats. She reported two fragments. The first one: “I was at home with John (her boyfriend). There was a bottle on the table containing part alcohol and part cream; it was a sort of light foamy stuff. John wanted to drink it but I said no, you can drink it later. I read the label and it read ‘Appealing Nausea,’ and I began to drink it when we went to bed, although we seemed to be in bed at the time.”
She then recalled a subsequent fragment and said: “I had a small leopard; it was very dangerous. I wrapped him up and put him in a large bowl. Mother told me to take him out or he would die.”
I think this dream illustrates a set of three conditions to which most “telepathic” dreams seem to respond. First, the oneiric material should be very unusual, otherwise the possible chance occurrences might diminish the significance of the correspondences. In my years of practice, no patient ever dreamed of a half-alcohol/half-cream mixture, neither before noi after this occurrence.
A second, and even more important condition is that the material be of a noninferential nature. This is particularly important in the psychoanalytic situation, where there is intense rapport between the two people involved, so that many subliminal cues are easily picked up.
Third, there must be a close temporal coincidence between the dream and the event to give significance to their possible relationship.
SERVADIO: Could you please say if the material you described had some particular emotional importance for you?
ULLMAN: This material had profound emotional importance for me. I can appreciate why analysts are often reluctant to publish these data.
AARONSON: There is a drink called “Tiger’s Milk.” Did your patient know about this?
ULLMAN: I didn’t know about it, but I wonder whether it existed in 1950.
LESHAN: Dr. Servadio has made an extremely important contribution to our knowledge in this field. Under particular conditions, these phenomena happen not only in dreams, but sometimes also as a direct telepathic communication in the therapeutic setting. I had a patient who wanted much more of my time than I was giving her. One day, I located my father’s watch. My father died when I was nine, and this was the only souvenir I had of his, and it was quite important to me. It was a gold pocketwatch which I never brought to the office, and which I certainly never had mentioned. In the session, this woman said to me, “Is something wrong with the wristwatch you’re wearing? I see you wearing a pocketwatch instead. You should tell time by it instead of the watch you usually wear.” It seems to me this was the dovetailing.
MUNDLE: I’d like to make a rather general observation. The material presented by the psychoanalysts must be tremendously impressive to them. They cannot reveal details concerning the patient’s problems, nor the emotional significance to them personally. These kind of data are certainly very valuable, but must be treated as a type of spontaneous evidence. This is not the ideal type of material to convince our fellow scientists. The kind of experiments that Dr. Krippner has been doing appear to be more hopeful. I think they represent an exciting new line of experimentation, and we’re thankful that someone at last has broken the habit of using Zener cards. This monotonous material has been in use for about 35 years, simply because J. B. Rhine, the first person to start a quantitative method in parapsychology, happened to use it. On the other hand, some of the difficulties in the past came from the fact that “qualitative” experiments were performed with completely free choice of material: for instance, Gilbert Murray’s experiments in telepathy in his own home with his daughters,'” and Carington’s drawing experiments.18 I think this is methodologically unsound, as Dr. Ludwig recognized. In the dream experiments, we could create a limited-choice situation. The subjects could be shown a limited number of pictures (perhaps 25 or 100) with symbolic and emotional significance (like the sun, the moon, a pregnant woman) and be told, “The target for this night’s experiment is going to be one of these.” There would then be a limited choice among totally unrelated targets. This would permit a simple and precise statistical assessment of the evidence. Your statistical methods are complicated by external factors concerning the judges, their possible ESP powers, etc. If you incorporated some sort of limited choice situation into your experiments, this would help to make your results more convincing.
ULLMAN: Thank you Professor Mundle. We did, in fact, program the initial experiments in a way that made it most difficult for ESP to appear in terms of a subject-agent relationship. We have considered this question of a limited choice, and we think it would be interesting to pursue this discussion further.
LEVINE: What we are concerned with here is the occurrence of a very improbable event within the context of a large amount of material. I wonder whether ordinary statistics can be applied to the evaluation of these results. I think that what is needed is some statistical method of estimating the probability of something occurring. There may be existing models for dealing with this kind of problem.
KRIPPNER: The recent book by Hall and Van de Castle’9 has charts of probabilities concerning dream content of several hundred subjects. For example, I out of every 300 dreams involves an egg. In other words, the probability of eggs appearing in dreams is i in 300. So, if we had an egg in one of our targets, and if a subject dreamed about an egg, this would enable us to evaluate our results in statistical terms. It would represent a departure from the way we would normally analyze the results, but might be of consequence.
LEVINE: I think there’s another element involved. You have to consider the relevant material in relation to the total produced. It’s like in psychoanalysis, where several hours elapse and you feel that only two comments are relevant. It may be completely correct that only these are relevant, but one has to take into account that they appeared in the context of a tremendous amount of material. You therefore have a mini-max situation. You want to minimize the amount of information produced and maximize the amount of relevant information. In order to maximize the Psi phenomena, you can’t have a multiple-choice type of situation. Apparently sensitives do not work this way. They flow; this is the way they work best. If you used a multiple-choice type of operation, you might inhibit the psi phenomena. What you would be trying to do is to maximize the occurrence of psi phenomena, but that would bring up other problems in analyzing your data.
AARONSON: This is a fairly straightforward problem in decision theory. Unfortunately, most psychologists are not familiar with decision theory, even though they ought to be using it. Another thing you could do is to ask each subject to keep a dream diary for a month or so, run a tabulation of self-contained images, and set up a curve, which would enable you to see what effect the targets have on these curves. This would allow you to present your results in a clear-cut graphical form.
CAVANNA: I think Dr. Levine’s point is very important. During our drug experiments with Dr. Servadio,2° we felt this need badly. We did not really know how to handle it, so we introduced a relevance factor, that is, the number of items referring to the target (regardless of their precision) divided by the total number of items produced. This parameter could be eventually subjected to further mathematical treatment. We did not attempt any such manipulation.