Sleep. In the dream factory

Jason DeBord regrets the disappearance of a much-loved game in the XIXth century: “What did I eat last night?” A player told one of his dreams, and the other participants had to try to deduce what he had eaten the day before (certain foods had the reputation of causing incredible dreams). “Sounded awesome, didn’t it? I would have loved to play this game”, enthuses DeBord.

Jason DeBord is moderator of r/Dreams, a section [du réseau social] Reddit devoted to dreams. Under the nickname RadOwl, he manages messages published by 250,000 members. He is part of “dream specialists” who use the interpretation of dreams as a therapeutic process – an increasingly common practice. Most of the dreams he analyzes revolve around the same inescapable subjects: public nudity, the alleged visit of a deceased loved one, the flight or the fall, sex with an unexpected partner, the inability to find a examination room or childbirth.

Since the start of the pandemic, many Westerners have been getting up later and abandoning their alarm clock. They therefore go through longer phases of REM sleep, which is very conducive to dreams. Result: online groups devoted to dreams are booming. Jason DeBord explains:

Right now, people are having a lot of weird dreams, which they remember when they wake up. They then think about it and look for meaning.”

On r/Dreams, a user nicknamed idk shares her concern: “I’m a woman, but I dreamed that I had a penis, that it was detachable, and I panicked because I couldn’t find it anymore”, she describes. A man named Dr Diaz points him to Freud – and his famous theory that the desire for a penis is a stage of female psychosexual development. “Freud would have WITHOUT NO DOUBT had things to say about it! ” he answers.

Collective interpretation

All human beings have dreams, and many cultures have a tradition of interpreting them collectively. In ancient Egypt, dreams were recorded in the form of hieroglyphs. Nowadays, in Malaysia, the Senoi tell each other their dreams to face their anxieties, pushing each other to bring back memories of their dreams to others – in the form of a song or a poem. In Maori and Australian Aboriginal traditions, meaningful dreams are seen as a way to convey messages, such as the location of a source of water or food. Among the Chontals of Mexico and the Kichwas of Ecuador, the sharing of dreams – accompanied by medicinal plants – makes it possible to forge links within the community. In Muslim cultures, dream telling is still very common. This custom is inspired by the writings of Ibn Sirin, who, in the VIIIand century, interpreted dreams of minarets and holy men as a window into the subject’s piety.

Marginalization of dreams with Freud

Westerners, more rationalists, for their part discarded these practices following the marginalization of the interpretation of dreams in the Christian tradition, but also in reaction to Freud. According to Antonio Zadra, professor of psychology at the University of Montreal and co-author of When Brains Dream. Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep [“Quand le cerveau rêve. Sciences et mystères du sommeil”, inédit en français]the marginalization of dreams goes back to XXand century, which was marked by a violent rejection of Freudian psychoanalysis. “Freud asserted that dreams betray unacknowledged sexual desires and urges dating

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Sleep. In the dream factory

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