Private Myths / Edition 1

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Overview

Every night we enter a mythic realm, a dark, primordial world of fear and desire. What this world offers, Anthony Stevens suggests, may well be the key to understanding our waking mysteries--ourselves, our society, and our history. A prominent psychiatrist and practicing Jungian analyst, Stevens views dreaming from both psychological and neurological perspectives to show how dreams owe their origins as much to our evolutionary history as a species as to our personal history as individuals.

A work rich in symbolic and scientific insight, Private Myths traverses the course of dream interpretation from distant hunter-gatherer times to the present. This analysis is as authoritative as it is wide-ranging, including discussions of the biology of dreaming and the discovery of REM sleep, elaboration of the latest neuroscientific techniques in sleep research, and an assessment of the century-long legacy of analytic practice to dream interpretation. In a close look at the actual processes of dream formation, Stevens relates "dream work" to other creative capacities such as language, poetry, storytelling, memory, play, symptom-formation, magic, and ritual. He draws on his many years of experience to analyze key historical dreams, such as Freud's dream of Irma's injection and Hitler's dream of being buried alive, and enriches this discussion with analyses of his own and his patients' dreams.

Remarkable in its breadth, Private Myths makes the principles of dream interpretation accessible to scientists, the findings of dream science accessible to analysts, and the discoveries of both available to anyone intrigued by the mysteries of dreams and dreaming.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune

Can we understand ourselves through our dreams? That's the question at the center of Private Myths, a thoughtful and wide-ranging look into the different ways that scientists and therapists understand dreams...Stevens takes an intriguing look at the link between creativity and dreams, concluding that 'the capacity for creative thought and action lies ready and available in the unconscious psyche of us all, if only we can develop the means to use it'...[This book] is rich with possibilities and ideas, and [Stevens'] belief in the transforming power of our nocturnal theaters is energizing.
— Chris Petrakos

Boston Book Review

The task Stevens has set for himself is no less monumental than the level of work undertaken night after night by the dreaming brain. It is the work of quantification and assimilation, both vertical (linear, logical) and lateral (associative, creative) thinking, uncanny juxtaposition of science and art, and synthesis, synthesis, synthesis. Stevens, a distinguished Jungian analyst, psychiatrist, and author, is a great believer in dreams—his own and others'. Throughout the book, the writing reflects the seriousness of the undertaking—thoughtful, erudite, encompassing, critical. Given the inherently academic fabric of the context, Stevens might have produced a waterlogged assembly of the many forces that contributed to our understanding of the human mind and its tendency to dream. He has managed, instead, to write an eminently readable book.
— Jean Monahan

Choice
Stevens provides the most comprehensive review and integration of material on dreams known to this reviewer--his is truly an outstanding book and one that should be read by all persons interested in oneirology, or the study of dreams. He very successfully presents the known scientific findings on the neurology of sleep and dreaming and how they are used to support a psychological theory of dreaming.
Chicago Tribune - Chris Petrakos
Can we understand ourselves through our dreams? That's the question at the center of Private Myths, a thoughtful and wide-ranging look into the different ways that scientists and therapists understand dreams...Stevens takes an intriguing look at the link between creativity and dreams, concluding that 'the capacity for creative thought and action lies ready and available in the unconscious psyche of us all, if only we can develop the means to use it'...[This book] is rich with possibilities and ideas, and [Stevens'] belief in the transforming power of our nocturnal theaters is energizing.
Boston Book Review - Jean Monahan
The task Stevens has set for himself is no less monumental than the level of work undertaken night after night by the dreaming brain. It is the work of quantification and assimilation, both vertical (linear, logical) and lateral (associative, creative) thinking, uncanny juxtaposition of science and art, and synthesis, synthesis, synthesis. Stevens, a distinguished Jungian analyst, psychiatrist, and author, is a great believer in dreams--his own and others'. Throughout the book, the writing reflects the seriousness of the undertaking--thoughtful, erudite, encompassing, critical. Given the inherently academic fabric of the context, Stevens might have produced a waterlogged assembly of the many forces that contributed to our understanding of the human mind and its tendency to dream. He has managed, instead, to write an eminently readable book.
Anthony Storr
This is the best recent book on dreams known to me.
New York Review of Books - Charles Rycroft
Stevens...has made a convincing case for the thesis that Jung, in his argument about archetypes and the collective unconscious, was, at least, trying to say something important about the evolution of mind...[T]hose who have an interest in dreams will be more than rewarded by the number and variety of the ones that Stevens reports and interprets. These include dreams of Freud, Jung, and Stevens himself, as well as of their patients; dreams of the organic chemist Friedrich Kekulé, the art critic John Ruskin, the sleep researcher William C. Dement, Alexander the Great, Bishop Joseph Lanyi (who was tutor to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated at Sarajevo in 1914), the physicists Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, Descartes, William Blake, J. B. Priestley, Adolf Hitler, and many others, including such fictional characters as Gilgamesh. In every case, Stevens is concerned to show how archetypal 'big' dreams can affect the individual development of the dreamer, give birth to new scientific ideas, or influence the course of history.
Toronto Globe & Mail - Rosemary Sullivan
Stevens' ambition is to bring psychoanalysis out of the self-absorbed isolation in which it now languishes, into the mainstream of biological science. A practicing psychiatrist with a scientific training, he asks: 'What are dreams anyway?' Is it possible to look at dreams from a neurological and a psychological perspective? Do our dreams owe their origin to our evolutionary, as much as to our personal, history?...All cultures have recorded and interpreted their dreams, and Stevens offers a swift but fascinating history of human dreaming...[He also] explains what is involved in 'dream interpretation.' Does it work? The dream I had after reading this book made a lot of sense to me.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Hugh Freeman
Erudite and humane...A brave attempt, which by encouraging new research may help to advance us towards some real understanding of the still largely unresolved mystery that dreams represent.
Joseph Campbell
A myth is a public dream, a dream is a private myth.
New York Review of Books

Stevens...has made a convincing case for the thesis that Jung, in his argument about archetypes and the collective unconscious, was, at least, trying to say something important about the evolution of mind...[T]hose who have an interest in dreams will be more than rewarded by the number and variety of the ones that Stevens reports and interprets. These include dreams of Freud, Jung, and Stevens himself, as well as of their patients; dreams of the organic chemist Friedrich Kekulé, the art critic John Ruskin, the sleep researcher William C. Dement, Alexander the Great, Bishop Joseph Lanyi (who was tutor to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated at Sarajevo in 1914), the physicists Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, Descartes, William Blake, J. B. Priestley, Adolf Hitler, and many others, including such fictional characters as Gilgamesh. In every case, Stevens is concerned to show how archetypal 'big' dreams can affect the individual development of the dreamer, give birth to new scientific ideas, or influence the course of history.
— Charles Rycroft

Toronto Globe & Mail

Stevens' ambition is to bring psychoanalysis out of the self-absorbed isolation in which it now languishes, into the mainstream of biological science. A practicing psychiatrist with a scientific training, he asks: 'What are dreams anyway?' Is it possible to look at dreams from a neurological and a psychological perspective? Do our dreams owe their origin to our evolutionary, as much as to our personal, history?...All cultures have recorded and interpreted their dreams, and Stevens offers a swift but fascinating history of human dreaming...[He also] explains what is involved in 'dream interpretation.' Does it work? The dream I had after reading this book made a lot of sense to me.
— Rosemary Sullivan

Times Higher Education Supplement

Erudite and humane...A brave attempt, which by encouraging new research may help to advance us towards some real understanding of the still largely unresolved mystery that dreams represent.
— Hugh Freeman

Chicago Tribune
Can we understand ourselves through our dreams? That's the question at the center of Private Myths, a thoughtful and wide-ranging look into the different ways that scientists and therapists understand dreams...Stevens takes an intriguing look at the link between creativity and dreams, concluding that 'the capacity for creative thought and action lies ready and available in the unconscious psyche of us all, if only we can develop the means to use it'...[This book] is rich with possibilities and ideas, and [Stevens'] belief in the transforming power of our nocturnal theaters is energizing.
— Chris Petrakos
Boston Book Review
The task Stevens has set for himself is no less monumental than the level of work undertaken night after night by the dreaming brain. It is the work of quantification and assimilation, both vertical (linear, logical) and lateral (associative, creative) thinking, uncanny juxtaposition of science and art, and synthesis, synthesis, synthesis. Stevens, a distinguished Jungian analyst, psychiatrist, and author, is a great believer in dreams--his own and others'. Throughout the book, the writing reflects the seriousness of the undertaking--thoughtful, erudite, encompassing, critical. Given the inherently academic fabric of the context, Stevens might have produced a waterlogged assembly of the many forces that contributed to our understanding of the human mind and its tendency to dream. He has managed, instead, to write an eminently readable book.
— Jean Monahan
Toronto Globe & Mail
Stevens' ambition is to bring psychoanalysis out of the self-absorbed isolation in which it now languishes, into the mainstream of biological science. A practicing psychiatrist with a scientific training, he asks: 'What are dreams anyway?' Is it possible to look at dreams from a neurological and a psychological perspective? Do our dreams owe their origin to our evolutionary, as much as to our personal, history?...All cultures have recorded and interpreted their dreams, and Stevens offers a swift but fascinating history of human dreaming...[He also] explains what is involved in 'dream interpretation.' Does it work? The dream I had after reading this book made a lot of sense to me.
— Rosemary Sullivan
New York Review of Books
Stevens...has made a convincing case for the thesis that Jung, in his argument about archetypes and the collective unconscious, was, at least, trying to say something important about the evolution of mind...[T]hose who have an interest in dreams will be more than rewarded by the number and variety of the ones that Stevens reports and interprets. These include dreams of Freud, Jung, and Stevens himself, as well as of their patients; dreams of the organic chemist Friedrich Kekulé, the art critic John Ruskin, the sleep researcher William C. Dement, Alexander the Great, Bishop Joseph Lanyi (who was tutor to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated at Sarajevo in 1914), the physicists Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, Descartes, William Blake, J. B. Priestley, Adolf Hitler, and many others, including such fictional characters as Gilgamesh. In every case, Stevens is concerned to show how archetypal 'big' dreams can affect the individual development of the dreamer, give birth to new scientific ideas, or influence the course of history.
— Charles Rycroft
Times Higher Education Supplement
Erudite and humane...A brave attempt, which by encouraging new research may help to advance us towards some real understanding of the still largely unresolved mystery that dreams represent.
— Hugh Freeman
Library Journal
Modernizing Erich Fromm's The Forgotten Language (1951), Stevens (The Two-Million-Year-Old Self, Texas A&M Univ., 1993) presents a masterful work on the psychology and physiology of dreams, discussing, among others, the theories of Freud and Jung. Jung's theory, he concludes, holds up better under the scrutiny of current dream research than the psychoanalytic approach. He subjects the famous dream of Descartes to analysis and shows how Hitler interpreted his revelations as the guiding hand of Providence. Resonant with the belief that dreams are a living aspect of humanity's consciousness, this book shows that dreams illuminate the archetypal foundation of the psyche and reveal the contents of the unconscious. Highly recommended.-Dennis Glenn Twiggs, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Kirkus Reviews
Wide-ranging essay on the importance of dreams by a Jungian analyst who maintains that they are the "only natural oases of spirituality left to us."

Stevens (Archetypes: A Natural History of the Self, 1982, etc.) sees dreams as having the function of myths and religion, that is, the integration of old wisdom with new knowledge. Through dream work, he explains, we can get in touch with the primordial self—what Jung called the archetypal reality—and develop our capacity for consciousness. Stevens traces the development of theories about dreams from ancient writings to current work in neurobiology. Jung's theory of archetypes, which he discusses here at some length, is "remarkably compatible" with modern neuroscientific findings, especially in connection with the dreams of young children, which are full of archetypal implications. He discusses the capacity for the human psyche to fabricate images in a chapter on symbolism and describes his own three-stage approach to dream analysis (looking at the personal, cultural, and archetypal contexts) in a chapter on dreams in therapy. For those inspired to try their own hand, he offers practical advice and recommended readings. Besides relating his own dreams and those of his patients, he touches on the probable functions and origins of such common experiences as anxiety dreams, dreams of falling or flying, and sexual dreams, and he analyzes some famous dreams by Freud, Hitler, and Descartes. To Stevens, the findings of psychology, analysis, ethology, and neuroscience have now come together to produce the most exciting period in the history of the study of dreams. The enthusiasm that Stevens has for his fascinating subject is infectious. Not everyone will be persuaded that dreams and dreaming hold the key to the future of our planet, but it is an intriguing idea.

Erudite and engaging.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674216396
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/25/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 0.82 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony Stevens is a distinguished analyst, psychiatrist, and author of many books, including Archetype: A Natural History of the Self, The Roots of War, On Jung, and The Two Million-Year-Old Self.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

The Poetry Machine

From Gilgamesh to Freud

Freud, Jung and After

Dream Science

Conscious and Unconscious, Collective and Personal

The Dream Work

Symbolism

Dreams in Therapy

Practical Dreamwork

Common Dreams

Dreams and Creativity

Some Famous Dreams

Dreaming and the Art of Consciousness

Science and the Soul

Bibliography

Glossary

Index

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