29 December 2006

Thinking in the form of a movie

Dreams, daydreams and fantasies are overlooked for all the good they do – or can do – for us. On the contrary, we scold people for frittering away time daydreaming or fantasising about things which are unreal and may not happen. In everyday life, dreams and daydreams have no substance. It’s foolish to spend time in such activities.

Yet, in older traditions and cultures, such as those of ancient Hindus, Chinese and Tibetans, or Native (American) Indians, dreams, daydreams and fantasies played an important part in forming imagery and imagination. They were essential in the formation of the concept of ‘I am’ and, therefore, essential to life.

Moreover, people believed that dreams, daydreams and fantasies could be used effectively for relaxation and healing, for solving problems, and for guiding the progress of their tribes. These people went to the extent of using hypnosis or hallucinogens (mind-altering drugs), such as opium, datura or peyote, to induce daydreams and fantasies… using symbols for meaning.

In the West, perhaps thanks to Descartes, imagination didn’t fit into the nature of rational thinking, and was considered ‘unreal’. It was with the advent of psychology in Europe and, particularly, Sigmund Freud’s declaration that dreams, daydreams and fantasies can help unravel a great deal about a person’s mind, that the use of dreams, daydreams and fantasies became popular as a psychoanalytical tool.

Besides Freud, many psychologists began working with dreams, daydreams and fantasies. Among them Carl G Jung, Roberto Assagioli, Carl Happich, Hans Carl Leuner, Wolfgang Kretschmer and Robert Desoille… who started using daydream and meditation in therapy, introducing the Eastern concept of ‘I am’ in their psychoanalysis.

It was Kretschmer who referred to daydreams as inner visions, or ‘thinking in the form of a movie’.

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