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Appallingly lame article on dreams in the Washington Post

On November 29th covering

My hometown paper published this article. Let me sum it up: the writer had an intriguing dream and he wondered if it had any meaning. He developed the point of view that, because he couldn’t discern any meaning in this dream or other dreams, they have none. This is a logical fallacy known as arguing from ignorance. This is commonly used by lazy art critics: “I don’t see the value in X, therefore X has no value”. Let X = hip-hop, or minimalism, or bebop and you’ll see what I mean. It’s less common to see this type of lazy thinking in the Health section.

The writer collected quotes from a couple of experts who agree with his point of view, and made inaccurate reference to a few pieces of obsolete research. If he spoke with anyone who disagreed with his point of view, it didn’t show up in the article. He referred to the dream theories of Freud and Jung, but it is clear he didn’t understand them. Not only did he clearly not read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, I would wager he didn’t speak to anyone who had read it. Apparently didn’t speak to any of the many members of the four psychoanalytic institutes in Washington, let alone someone from the national or international psychoanalytic associations. This is shoddy journalism.

He was actually a couple of phone calls away from a good story. The past decade has seen a truly interesting trend to coordinate what we learn about the dreaming mind/brain from the inside with what we learn from the outside. The inside part comes from the reports of the dreamer, the outside part comes from the observations of the neurologist. This coordination occurs in the new field of neuro-psychoanalysis, one of the proponents of which is Mark Solms. Not everyone agrees with him, but that’s where the story is today.

This is what we have to put up with. It’s perfectly natural for my field, Psychoanalysis, to be the object of criticism and even satire. It’s healthy. But we have a health writer in a major city newspaper writing a story asserting that it is certain that certain contents of your mind are meaningless. As if this could ever be proven. And an editor decided it was worth printing.

This is not about whether people care about or respect psychoanalysis, though I clearly think it is a hugely valuable approach to human nature. Its about taking the psyche seriously.

The things that psychoanalysis takes seriously are unnerving and disturbing: the not-conscious parts of ourselves and the weaving of meaning and association thoughout our daily lives. Dreams and feelings, and the ways in which past relationships are echoed in our experience of present ones. The motives we have that are often hidden from ourselves. This is where the wild things are. Many people wish this all would go away. Dream on.

One Response

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Ryan Hurd

Nov 30 at 18:00


thanks for bring this to my attention. i track dreams in the media too. it seems like crummy articles written from a faith-based “scientific” point of view are all too common these days in the major press.

and from my experience with dreams – you tend to get what you expect.

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