Imaginary fields : the cultural construction of dream interpretation in three contemporary British dreamwork groups.
Dreams have, SInce time immemorial, both reflected the
culture of those who dream them and have been used by them,
with or without the help of soothsayers, to shape their personal
lives and that of the culture of which they form part.
Anthropologists have also, since the beginning of their discipline,
commented on and analysed dreams in diverse cultures and in
turn derived from these and other analyses, theoretical principles
In the modern world, and particularly in the twentieth
century, first individual and then group therapies have
incorporated the narration and analysis of dreams into their
methods. More recently still, this process has been, at least
partially, democratised and the therapist acting on the individual
patient has transformed her/himself into the dreamwork
facilitator and resource person for a, more or less, autonomous
In this research I established and jointly facilitated three
dreamwork groups In order to use experiential groupwork
methods to demonstrate the articulation of embodied, but implicit,
knowledge. In my analysis of the group process I use
anthropological concepts derived from the survey of literature at
the beginning of my thesis.
The analysis proper proceeds In four stages.
The first is concerned with "dreamwork", the way that the
narration to and within the group can be shown to be collectively
converted into a verbally expressed narrative of an experience
seen as having hitherto been concealed and confined to the
Second, I turn to the analysis of structure and process In the
group itself and the communicative context in which this
dreamwork took place.
Third, I use an hermeneutic analysis to unpick the emiC and
etic interpretive, and to some degree feminist-inspired,
perspectives used by the group to make sense of the narratives
they have collectively created.
Finally, I move outwards to the processual, meanIngcreating
and outcome, analysis of such groupwork methods as
gestalt, psychodrama and imagework which are used to elicit
meaning from narrated dream imagery.
I conclude that dreams are transformations of cultural
symbols and that their interpretation is an example of what
Obeyesekere, significantly calling on both psychoanalysis and
cultural analysis, has called "the work of culture".