Monday, October 19, 2009


In continuing “A Day with James Fosshage” on October 10, 2009 at the monthly program meeting of the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Dr. Fosshage advocated for an approach to dreams different from the way Freud, or even Jung, might conceive of dreams. Fosshage noted that Freud saw dreams as wish fulfillments, to protect against waking (guardian of sleep), and to discharge instinctual energy. To function in these ways, wishes and instincts must be disguised if they are to guard sleep, and so Freud divided the dream into manifest content and latent content, the latter which fell under the scrutiny of dream analysis, a chaotic endeavor said Fosshage. Jung, noted Fosshage, saw dreams as an attempt to correct or compensate for the conscious state, particularly when the conscious ego state deviates from the Self. Others (Fromm, French; Greenberg) have noted the problem solving nature of dreaming. Kohut saw self state dreams as an attempt to restore self consolidation from fragmentation and dissolution. Stolorow and Atwood refer to dreams as the guardian of psychological structure.

Fosshage agreed with those who emphasize the dream functions of development of psychological organization (and self consolidation) and memory consolidation. He noted that dream mentation, just as in waking, can reinforce, transform, or develop patterns of organizing experience. He enumerated the many similarities of waking and dreaming mentation: Both organize and integrate memory into data, leading to increased adaptation; both use imagistic and verbal encoding; both regulate affect and problem solve. Furthermore, reverie and REM activity both occur in wakeful and dreaming states. He reminded us that REM deprivation leads to psychological disorganization, compensated somewhat by daytime reverie/REM activity. Dreaming and waking states differ in that waking utilizes more often explicit thinking and verbal processing, while dreams utilize imagistic processing more often, as well as have more access to unconscious processing.

If dreaming states serve an organizing function, and dreams are not simply defensive, then distinguishing between manifest and latent contents is no longer a useful demarcation. Classical dream analysis, deciphering the latent meaning from the manifest dream, is, then, no longer the goal. Instead, Fosshage encouraged the therapist to listen to the patient’s experience, to encourage the patient to fill out the narrative (What were you feeling when [this] was happening?), and to inquire about themes and issues in the dream and their applicability to those in waking life. He discouraged assuming a transference component to the dream unless the therapist is in the dream or referenced when telling the dream. In general, Fosshage encouraged therapists to look for evidence within the dream, not to our theories, for our ideas about the dream. Likewise, Fosshage does not see dreams as shifts in self states, but rather, they show the transformative process at work. He cited his previously published Case P as an example.

1 comment:

John Lambert said...

Thanks for your Fosshage commentary, Lycia. I found Jim to model being truely "present" to participants. Re: his discussion about waking and sleep REM (which serve the function of consolidating neural networks), I have decided to expand dream exploration to not only focus on affect, but on interaction with present and past figures. Also, am encouraged to continue with renewed energy to do more of the "processing" necessary to better help our patients.