|PARADIGMS LOST: THE BROADER IMPLICATIONS OF LUCIDITY|
|by Janice Brooks and Jay Vogelsong|
|Repression, Suggestion and the Cult of Emotion|
|Virtually anyone could benefit from a more lucid understanding of human psychology than that provided by the psychodynamic theories, which attribute a number of questionable functions to the unconscious besides dream creation. Public awareness has already been raised concerning the repressed memories of unbearable traumas that supposedly lurk in the unconscious depths until retrieved through hypnosis. The notion has recently come under fire from conscientious psychologists alarmed at numerous judicial tragedies, like wrongful convictions for sexual and ritual abuse of children, resulting from credulity in the unconscious model.4
Scientists now know that people can and do completely forget information. Much as we come up with convincing false memories and confabulations in dreams to cover our amnesia or to fit existing scenarios, we readily distort our recollections in waking, especially when needled by outside suggestions.5 Our tendency to fill in missing information in order to patch together complete "realities" from only the smallest of cues makes us prone to intentional and unintentional psychological manipulation, especially during the process of guided fantasy known as hypnosis. Because experimenters have taken volunteers and deliberately planted memories of events that never occurred, hypnotherapists could just as easily end up creating their patients' "repressed" recollections via suggestion.6 This represents one area, then, in which this book's revisionist thinking concerning the unconscious and dreaming is well in line with other criticism of that model.7
People also need to become aware of the effects of cuing by therapists trying to elucidate unconscious emotions. In maintaining that certain feelings and wishes only register unconsciously or within imaginary divisions of self like the "inner child," therapists can impose their own versions of events on their clients. Just as the narrow context of a dream-specific situation can lead us to atypical thoughts and emotions, in the confines of a therapeutic session the suggestions of a trusted authority figure could conceivably induce manifestations of whatever unresolved feelings the patient supposedly harbors. This present emotional state will color the individual's memories of past happenings anew regardless of what he or she actually felt at the time under consideration.
Even if the therapist gets it right, it is not clear that making people open old wounds all over again actually heals them through a cathartic "release" of emotion. They may feel better only because they imagine that something significant must be happening or because they receive social support for their efforts.8 Coming to a better understanding of why one suffered in the past and developing healthier perceptual habits for the future makes a better long term goal, a goal perhaps best achieved without the distorting effects of emotionality. Another use for lucid dreaming, then, is as a means to learn how suggestible we really are so we can avoid such mistakes.
The idea of unconscious emotions seems to be based on Freud's prescientific understanding of the nervous system, which he mistakenly thought could only rid itself of energy through physical action.9 In its commonly assumed role as a dam for suppressed emotions that eventually burst forth in a torrent of pathological rage, pain or fear -- we hear nothing about all the humor we have stifled over the years -- the unconscious can be held responsible for any aberrant behavior. There are other explanations for such outbursts that do not rely on storing emotional energy anywhere, such as the fact that an individual can simply get tired of ignoring a stimulus or become sensitized to it under stress. And although the often powerful emotions felt in dreams are seldom released physically, but usually experienced only in the mind -- which might be considered "suppression" in waking -- no one seems to be near to exploding with sublimated dream emotions.
Dreaming clearly reveals emotions as psychophysiological phenomena that can be divorced from physical expression.10 Keeping the unconscious unmuddied should not, then, qualify as an excuse for indulging in the "liberating" emotional exhibitionism prescribed almost routinely by television talk shows and situation comedies. In counterbalancing the assumed repressiveness of Victorian society decried by Freud, the scales of opinion on this matter have not yet quite reached a satisfactory balance throughout the culture.
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