American Dreamers: What Dreams Tell Us about the Political Psychology of Conservatives, Liberals, and Everyone Else

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Overview

When politicians and pundits refer to the American Dream, they do so to evoke images of national unity, identity, and a better future. But in what ways does this metaphor manifest in the actual dreams of sleeping Americans? In American Dreamers, dream researcher Kelly Bulkeley takes the ideology of the American Dream one step further-into the study of sleeping dreams-to explore how the nocturnal side of human existence offers a key to the psychological origins of people's waking beliefs and political passions.

Bulkeley builds on sixteen years of scientific research involving thousands of dream reports to show how the playful fancies of our dreaming imaginations can be interpreted as insightful expressions of our hopes and fears about issues as varied as the environment, religion, family values, and the war in Iraq. Examining in particular detail the dreaming tendencies of conservatives and liberals, the book centers on ten people of different political perspectives-a dreamers' focus group-who kept yearlong sleep and dream journals. The dreaming and waking stories of these "ordinary" Americans (among them a cancer survivor, a lesbian horse rancher, a former Catholic priest, a young waitress engaged to be married, and a soldier preparing for his third tour to Iraq) provide raw psychological material and a window into their deepest beliefs, darkest fears, and most inspiring ideals.

Hyperventilating political pundits have described in lurid detail what conservatives and liberals disagree about, but rarely do they try to explain why they disagree-and that's the real question. At a time of bitter partisan conflict and governmental paralysis, American Dreamers calls the country back to its visionary origins, arguing that dreams can serve as a royal road to the creation of new political solutions that integrate the best of conservative and liberal ideals. If we truly want to learn something new about the American Dream in people's lives today, Bulkeley proposes we take a good close look at how well Americans are sleeping and dreaming at night.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
No book about dreams could be more timely or more important than Kelly Bulkeley's American Dreamers. Whatever is important in people's waking lives is reflected in their dreams—politics included. American conservatives report different dreams than American liberals. American Democrats report different dreams than American Republicans. Dr. Bulkeley paints his portraits of American dreamers with a palette that reflects his scholarship in both religious studies and dream science; the results are filled with insights that will delight, amuse, and infuriate his readers. American Dreamers provides insight into the country's future, insight that is available from no other (or better) source.—Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., Co-author, Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War Veterans

"Any political pundit who wants to speak with intelligence and genuine insight about the psychological motivations of American voters across the political spectrum would be well advised to read Kelly Bulkeley’s American Dreamers. Kelly Bulkeley is arguably the most rigorously empirical and psychologically subtle contemporary interpreter of the phenomenon of human dreaming. Over twenty-five years of writing and research is deployed in this urgently relevant, nonpartisan, and broadly sympathetic analysis of the underlying psychological and spiritual concerns that unconsciously organize the political views of ordinary Americans today." —John McDargh, author of Psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory and the Study of Religion and associate professor of the psychology of religion, Boston College

"A beautifully written reminder of the depth of differences, and a dream of how difference might be understood. Bulkeley is on to something profound about us; we would benefit enormously if we could even just glimpse that understanding."—Lawrence Lessig, author of The Future of Ideas

"This story we tell ourselves in our dreams passes the impurities of our waking life through an ethical filter and exposes truths we have not yet acknowledged. American Dreamers is a comprehensive and very readable account of our unconscious adaptation of what is still a hazardous and imperfect waking domain. Bulkeley's professional life has revolved around dreams and what we can learn from them. This book is true to its title. He has opened the door to the sociology of dreams."—Montague Ullman, M.D., author of Appreciating Dreams: A Group Approach and clinical professor of psychiatry emeritus, Yeshiva University

"With an exemplary grasp of dream science built upon thousands of dream accounts, Bulkeley presents a multifaceted and nuanced portrait of the ways our deeply seated ideas, values, virtues, and fears become apparent within our dreams. This groundbreaking and timely work challenges us to develop a greater understanding of and respect for all people across the political spectrum."—Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, author of In the Midst of Chaos and Let the Children Come

Publishers Weekly
Author and former president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, Bulkeley (Dreaming Beyond Death) takes a step beyond the metaphor of "The American Dream" by asking, "How does the metaphorical American Dream relate to the literal dreams of Americans when they sleep each night?" His method is to examine ten Americans who, for a year, are subjected to surveys, interviews and dream journaling. Admitting that his research is no "perfect mirror of a nation of 300 million" (lacking, as also admitted, any Hispanics, African-Americans, Midwesterners, Deep Southerners, Evangelicals, Jews or Muslims) Bulkeley mines dream journal excerpts for their significance in each subject's political and everyday lives. The extent to which "people's political views are reflected in the form and content of their dreams" turns out, unsurprisingly, to be variable ("only the dreamer can ever know for sure what his or her dreams mean"), and Bulkeley's broader generalizations fall flat; still, it's an insightful look at the role dreams play in political thought for a group of (white) middle-of-the-road Americans.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807077344
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 7/15/2008
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Kelly Bulkeley is a visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union and a faculty member in the dream studies program at John F. Kennedy University. A former president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, he is the author or editor of several books, most recently Dreaming Beyond Death: A Guide to Pre-Death Dreams and Visions, Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming; Dreams of Healing: Transforming Nightmares into Visions of Hope; and The Wondering Brain: Thinking about Religion with and beyond Cognitive Neuroscience.

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Table of Contents


Introduction     1
Conservatives and Liberals, Awake and Asleep     15
The War on Terror     39
Religion, Spirituality, and Faith     65
The Natural Environment     93
Work and Money     111
Family Values     131
Conclusion     151
Dreams of Politics and Politicians     161
Further Readings in Dream Research     189
Acknowledgments     193
Notes     195
Bibliography     203
Index     211
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