Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming

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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 ...

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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

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.
Patricia Monaghan
Stevens gives us what might be called a natural history of dreaming, a smoothly written and impressively researched resource for dream workers. Virtually nothing important that has been said or written about dreams during the past 5,000 years eludes inclusion, from the epic of Gilgamesh right down to contemporary scientific inquiry into lucid dreaming, with stops at St. Augustine as well as Freud and Jung along the way. Daringly, Stevens documents his own dreams as he writes each chapter and, because of his easy-but-authoritative tone, makes this personal stuff an informative rather than a self-indulgent addition to the academic material he presents. A chapter on famous dreams, including epoch-making dreams experienced by Hitler and Descartes, is especially fascinating.
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: 9780674216389
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Pages: 385
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.13 (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

Acknowledgements
1 The Poetry Machine 1
2 From Gilgamesh to Freud 8
3 Freud, Jung and After 35
4 Dream Science 83
5 Conscious and Unconscious, Collective and Personal 115
6 The Dream Work 144
7 Symbolism 176
8 Dreams in Therapy 190
9 Practical Dreamwork 227
10 Common Dreams 247
11 Dreams and Creativity 278
12 Some Famous Dreams 292
13 Dreaming and the Art of Consciousness 319
14 Science and the Soul 345
Bibliography 354
Glossary 363
Index 369
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