Monday, April 24, 2006

Dream your life away...while you're awake!

Among the more eyebrow-raising subsidiary movements now afoot in SHAM--a parent movement that, you would've thought, already had raised eyebrows about as far as they could go--is the endeavor to teach you "how to get the most out of your dreams." Literally. I just watched a GMA piece titled "While You're Sleeping." ("Dream Your Troubles Away" was an alternate crawl that danced across the bottom of the screen during the segment.) The guest was one Deirdre Barrett, a Harvard psychologist whose research in dreams has led her to collaborate on several books on the topic, including, a few years back, one of her very own, The Committee of Sleep.Though Barrett, at least, treads a certain middle ground between academia and pop culture (like, say, a lightweight Marty Seligman), many others have forged into this area whole-hog, seriously proposing that the solutions to things that trouble us or inhibit us while we're awake may lay in things we conjure while we're asleep. Let me qualify that: I don't really know how "serious" they are in making that case; I suspect they're no more serious than the gurus elsewhere in self-help. But they do know a terrific marketing hook when they see one. Americans tend by nature to put a lot of stock in dreams (especially when you're speaking metaphorically: "Follow your dreams!" and such). And almost all of us are tempted to take the easy way out--"Hey, I know! I'll find the answer in my dreams!"--before we commit to rolling up our sleeves and doing the arduous work normally required to overcome major obstacles. I'm reminded of those fat-burning systems that supposedly "melt the pounds away while you sleep!" It was the same lure: No pain, plenty of gain.

Now, I'm not a psychologist (though I've been accused of playing one on TV and during other SHAM-related media appearances). But I'm not sure that surrendering the conscious to the unconscious is such a good idea. Aside from--again--the glaring lack of science behind this initiative, it does not strike me as prudent or healthy to urge people to act upon, or even give a great deal of credence to, impulses (let alone "life plans") that suggested themselves while their rational selves were basically shut off. I don't know about you, but if I implemented even half the stuff that came to me in my dreams... Well, we've leave that for another day, on another blog. Heck, sometimes it's bad enough what I think of while I'm awake.

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