Social Relations in Dreams
"Sleep," wrote Lord Byron, "hath its own world."1 Like media consumption, sleep transports us to another reality. Falling asleep we drift away from the objective world of everyday waking life and enter the "kingdom of dreams." Here, entangled in phantasmagorical imaginary scenes, we are absorbed and lost, hour after hour, throughout the night. In the morning we awaken and "return to reality."
In twentieth-century America, dreams have been studied more than any other form of imagination. Numerous interpretive psychological theories have been elaborated, and an extensive dream literature has emerged. Since the early 1950s, there has also been much study of the biological aspects of dreaming. Through the use of objective measurement devices--especially electroencephalogram readings--we have acquired some interesting information on the frequency, and duration of dreaming. We know that everyone dreams for long periods of time ever night, and not just during periods of rapid eye movement. However, such objective approaches have their limitations. Commenting on the rise of "scientific" dream studies, Robert Van De Castle writes, "Dreams could now be indirectly observed unfolding as the pens charted their course across the slowly moving EEG paper. However, we seem to have remained fixated at the level of fascination with the ups and downs of the ink tracings and have neglected to study how these squiggles relate to the ebb and flow of phenomenological dream experience."2