The Psychoanalytic Study of Dreams

In this course we will explore dreaming from the perspective of different psychoanalytic models of the mind.  To keep our discussions connected to your analytic work, please bring dreams from your clinical work, which you believe illustrate the concepts in our readings and or dreams you find particularly perplexing.

Each of the learning objectives for this course will serve to further and deepen the associate’s analytic work leading to improved treatment outcome.

Additional Optional Readings for a longer course on dreams:

Grenell, G. (2002). The Termination Phase of Psychoanalysis as Seen Through the Lens of the Dream. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50(3):779-805.

Dreams can reveal an analysand’s readiness for termination.  Dreams of graduation, funerals, people or objects separating, self-examination (capacity for self analysis) may all be preconscious reference to termination.

Lansky, M.R. (1990). The Screening Function of Post-Traumatic Nightmares. Brit. J. Psychother., 6(4):384-400.

The compulsion to repeat can be seen as a wish from the ego, originally overwhelmed, as preparing itself in both dreams and repetitive acts to replay and eventually to master overwhelming traumatic experiences. Soldiers, returning from battle, experienced dreams as though they were flashbacks – exact replays.  But, on careful examination the nightmares were not exact replicas and some contained material from early family experiences.  Viewing the dream as exact replicas of battlefield experience, when they clearly were not, must be seen as an aspect of the disguise function of the dream, a screen to prevent the dream from being too troubling and too connected to ongoing painful and conflicted material, past and present, embedded with guilt and shame.  The rationalization that the nightmare has nothing to do with one’s life experiences is used to prevent the dream experience from integration into the entire continuity of one’s life, childhood, and military experience.

The nightmares clearly have a screening function to conceal from awareness infantile trauma and its residuals.  Most of the patients were raised in families where marital strife, physical violence, and alcoholism were rife.  The handling of intense shame and rage by placing it on the battlefield is rationalized as coming from the battlefield only and not connected to one’s entire life.

Mancia, M. (1999). Psychoanalysis and the Neurosciences: A Topical Debate on Dreams. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(6):1205-1213.

Dreams allow old experiences to be reconsidered in the present allowing new meaning to be assigned to past experiences.

Watson, R.I., Jr. (1994). The Clinical Use of the Analyst’s Dreams of the Patient. Contemp. Psychoanal., 30:510-521.

The analyst’s dream involving the patient can represent (1) neurotic conflict in the analyst; (2) a transient identification with the patient; (3) the mind of the analyst attempting to symbolize and integrate (understand) the patient; (4) a containing function of the projections from the patient with the analyst identifying with the projected disavowed parts of the analysand’s mind.  Also, the dream may be a representation of the current interpersonal action in the analysis.


When I last taught this course a few years ago, I focused on the work of Mark Solms, specifically his ground-breaking article entitled “The Conscious Id” (Neuropsychoanalysis, 2013).  I wrote about that article and a few others in Chapter 2 from my book The Wisdom of Lived Experience (2016, Karnac).  For this 6-week course I will use that chapter  entitled  “Neuroscience emphases on Lived Experience” as the basic text, with additional optional readings drawn from cited references (Solms, Friston, Bolte Taylor).  My hope is to keep the neuropsychoanalytic understandings we cover as close to clinical material as possible.  As noted below, the last of our 6 sessions will focus on clinical vignettes which arise from the learnings and discussion arising from the readings.

Main reading:

Anderson, M. (2016) Ch 2, “Neuroscience emphases on Lived Experience” in The Wisdom of Lived Experience, pp25-43 (Pagination differs in this electronic copy of the chapter.)

Added Optional reading:

References from The Wisdom of Lived Experience: This link contain the entire Reference list from the book (pp 129-136 from the book), for added optional reading.  Nearly all of those readings are on PEP-Web.

Psychopathology III: Psychotic States

Welcome to Psychopathology III.

In this course, we will explore psychosis and the unrepressed unconscious, with a specific focus on the impact of early and/or severe traumatic experiences.

The course and the readings may feel dysregulating.  Although an intellectual grasp of the material is important, the very nature of such realms of human experience require an emotional and intuitive grasp of the felt experience of “being with.”  Our intention and hope is to foster a containing environment during our class time in order to allow for the emergence of an emotional grasp of these often non-verbal, somatic, non-symbolized states of being. Feeling disturbed and disrupted will most likely be part and parcel of the learning experience, and the process of encountering these extreme states of that which has interrupted or shattered the growth of the self of an individual.  Ogden wrote:

We regularly create the soothing illusion for ourselves that we have nothing to lose from the experience of reading, and that we can only gain from it.  This rationalization is superficial salve for the wound that we are about to open in the process of our effort to learn.  In attempting to learn, we subject ourselves to the tension of dissolving the connections between ideas that we have thus far relied upon in a particular way: what we think we know helps us identify who we are (or more accurately, who we think we are). [from Primitive Edge of Experience p.3]

We also want to consider that Ogden’s views regarding learning pertain to our approach to understanding the psychotic realm.  It is inherently disturbing.  We stand to lose something—perhaps, what we thought we knew, and to gain a new way of hearing, and a softening to the suffering of others.

Psychopathology I (Neurotic States) included the developmental achievement of triangular relationships and the clinical emphasis of working with the repressed unconscious, and Psychopathology II (Borderline States) focused on the dyadic realm, between self and other where splitting and projecting of concrete states of mind prevail.

Psychopathology III will delve into profound problems of and within the core self. Our focus will be around the question of what allows for healing and growth in the analytic endeavor with severe pathology, specifically with clinical interventions that are based on the analytic experience of “living with and through.”  Through our readings and class discussions, we hope to explore new ways of hearing and being with psychotic processes and the unrepressed unconscious where the primary therapeutic work is to bear the impact of coming to know what has been relegated to the body and orphaned in non-symbolized lacunae of thought.  This type of therapeutic labor allows for the possibility of raw and unbearable experience(s) to be born into the realm of symbolic thought; suffered and known.

Elective: Field Theory and Development of the Self of the Analyst

This course, designed by the cohort, has three distinct yet related sections. The first four weeks will focus on learning some of the most recently remerging psychoanalytic theory. The next four weeks will be “Coffee with an Analyst”. During this time, we will interview four analysts on their perspectives on theory, their practices over decades, and the development of their sense of analytic identity. The final three weeks will be focused on our own emerging sense of analytic identity in ourselves as psychotherapists. We will address our own development as a learning cohort, as individual professionals, and our emerging identities as psychoanalysts.

Section I – Field Theory: Maureen Pendras, MSW and Ann De Lancey, PhD

Classes 1-4.

[Detailed Learning Objectives, Clinical Impact of the Knowledge or Skills Learned, and References will be distributed to class separately]

Introduction and Overview

Welcome to the Field Theory part of your elective. We are excited to explore and learn about this topic together.

Antonio Ferro has likened the analytic process to cooking, and to the unique character of what any dyad creates together.  We consider this course in a similar vein: our own attempts to create something together with you: something that is changed through the process of being and talking together and that is different from and more than the sum total of its ingredients.

“We should keep our discourse on the unconscious subversive… It should be fresh. It should be free.”
—From Giuseppe Civitarese, An Apocryphal Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge. In New Books in Psychoanalysis Podcast, June 4, 2019.

Civitarese’s Two Favorite Metaphors

From Civitarese, G. (2019). An Apocryphal Dictionary of Psychoanalysis.  New York: Routledge.

Three Blind Mice

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?


Charlie Brown, from PEANUTS
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA





A Penny for your Thoughts?

Google Search — Charlie Brown and Lucy: A Penny for Your Thoughts

Section II – Coffee with an Analyst

Classes 5-8 will address the following topics regarding development of analytic identity: Changes over time in regards to theory and practice, how the work of psychoanalysis has impacted sense of self and intimate relationships, wisdom gained over time, the intersection of psychoanalysis with social and political issues, beliefs on the healing effectives of psychoanalysis.

Section III – Goodbye Process
Maureen Pendras, MSW