Society for Psychological Anthropology
Anthropology of Consciousness
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Prominent among recent psychological studies reevaluating the nature of dreams and their implications for the understanding of mind and person are the Continuity Hypothesis (CH) and Social Simulation Theory (SST). CH holds that the intensity of waking concerns predicts subsequent dream content. SST postulates that dreams select waking material that allows dreamers to rehearse bonds important for species survival. Using data from a lengthy study of middleclass American dreamers, this paper argues that, rather than being directly continuous with waking life concerns, dreams depict the cultural models we use to navigate these concerns, particularly models that pertain to identity and to social relations. Events in which models faltered trigger many dreams. Dreamers “think” about such incidents through mimesis. Models appear in dreams through visual metaphors for them that circulate in a culture. Dreams mimesis consists in copying and altering visual metaphors for models: copying a metaphor specifies a model at issue; visual alterations to the metaphor convey commentaries on model difficulties the dreamer has encountered. In dreams, then, we confront not only personal but also cultural problems that remain unresolved during the day. Such problems from the day threaten to disturb our sleep and often do, but even when they do not, as in Freud's idea of day residues, they stir the dreaming mind into action. They remain in part because discontents with cultural models do not admit of ready practical solutions but are problems of meaning. We work on them in the imagination, which prevails in dreams.