Explanation of the "Big" Dream Section

When Carl Jung, the psychiatrist and student and colleague and friend of Sigmund Freud, spoke to a member of a tribe in a remote part of Africa (to which no white man had ever gone), he was told that there are small dreams and big dreams.

I have noticed the same thing in the dreams of myself, of my patients and in dreams of others from around the world that have come to my attention: Some dreams (and fantasies) are relevant to our own personal lives, and some are bigger, relevant to our families, our neighborhoods, our towns, our countries, our world, and, on occasion, perhaps, to the whole universe.

Big dreams are more common than you might think, and, in some, sense, even small dreams are big in that they almost always include more than the dreamer as backdrop or as other figures in the dream.

U.S. psychology, as a whole, at this point in time, is not interested in dreams. This can be seen by the fact that dreams are barely mentioned in the DSM-IV of the American Psychiatric Association (and, maybe I will be wrong, but my impression is that they may be demoted even further in the upcoming DSM-V). In fact, if a person, has a troubling dream, even a terrifying dream, this is considered to be a sleep problem. If a person didn't want to go outside in L.A. due to an unreasonable fear of running into a rattlesnake, the DSM-IV would say this person had a rattlesnake phobia. However, if the very same person were to have recurrent nightmares of being in a pit filled with rattlesnakes, the DSM-IV would see this as a sleep disorder. Same terror, same object, but it all seems to depend on whether you have it when you are awake or asleep.

There is no point in going on with a discussion of the DSM-IV. I mention it only to show that dreams (big and small) and their little cousins fantasies and daydreams, are "swept under the rug," as it were, by the DSM-IV as if they were meaningless particles of dust.

But, whatever "stuff" dreams and fantasies are made of, they are not nothing, at least according to the school of psychology started by Sigmund Freud. So it is in honor of this tradition, I am making an attempt to present and dignify a few "particles of dust" that have come to my attention, and as they continue to come to my attention, with the belief that those interested in such "stuff" in general, might find an up to the minute reports on the latest actual "Big Dreams" as they come to my attention and as I have the time and inclination to report them.

The reader will remember that, with respect to dreams and fantasies, as with other things in life, "big" and "small," "meaningful" and "meaningless," "important" and "trivial," seem to be relative concepts.

Another point here is that all the dreams and fantasies I have placed in this section will also appear, in their proper place, in the category "Dreams." I would like to feature them to compensate for them being all but ignored in my profession as of late.

Just because a dream feels big or important to the dreamer doesn't make it a "Big" dream in Jung's sense. It can be very important for the person's own life but not for anyone else. It can even have archetypal material in it and still be relevant mostly to the dreamer and the dreamer alone. For a dream to be "Big" in our sense, it has to be archetypal, big to the dreamer, but also big to others as well.

Further, there are, in my view, degrees of "Big." A dream can be relevant for a problem a couple is having, a problem a family is having, a problem a whole nation is having, etc. Though, in one sense, even our own problems can feel giant and infinitely important, from another angle they are not as important as a world-wide problem.

It has to be added that having a Big Dream is not fun and games. First of all, and by its very nature, a big dream is not something that is always understood and appreciated by others, even by loved ones. Since they are big and often contain new takes on familiar situations, others might not understand them as creative and interesting. They may discount them, find them confusing and irritating, and, in the extreme, might even see them as "crazy." What's more, just because they are big or feel big doesn't mean they are true or useful. They may have symbolic meaning but may contain thoughts and suggestions that really are "crazy" if they were taken literally and if someone tried to force them into action.

Moreover, even if the dream should contain a gold nugget, as it were, the fact that no one else appreciates can alienate the dreamer. If the dreamer is already emotionally and socially unstable, a very dangerous state of affairs can develop. We all are familiar with the image of the unappreciated artist, the genius who is scorned and rejected. The bitterness that can arise, the disparity between the recognition the genius has of his or her own gift and the reception it receives, can lead to the genius withdrawing into fantasies of superiority that can lead to the discounting of others and actions that treat others as inferior. In the extreme it can lead to fantasies of wiping out others who can't see the truth. This can happen if the dreamer is wrong and delusion, but it can happen and be just as dangerous if the dreamer is right and everybody else is wrong.

We all are in this situation when we see things that seem clear to us but that no one else sees. This may happen more or less often. The bigger the dream the more the feeling of isolation that can develop. Being embedded in valued and secure relationships can help prevent a person from "going off the deep end," however it is no guarantee. "Talking down" a person who is out on the edge based on some idea or dream, is the job of psychologists as well as policemen who can be very good at it.

So, if you have what feels like a "Big" Dream, there are a few things to think about. First, is it really "Big," or does it just feel big; does it really contain a solution or herald a new state of being, or does it just seem like it? Second, if it does, on reflection, seem to contain something new and useful, does it pertain to you alone, to people you know and are involved with, or, possibly, to a bigger group of people or even to the whole world? And, third, if no one is listening to you the way you think the dream deserves to be listened to, are you reacting in a bitter, angry way, like a child with a tantrum, or in a more mature way?

If someone else has what seems to them to be a "Big" dream, the same questions apply when you hear it, and it is important to watch their reaction if you don't react the way they want. It can be just as dangerous to follow someone who you think has a "Big" dream as it can be for you to follow your own. There is nothing on the face of a dream that seems "Big" to yourself and maybe to others that you can use as a sure sign to tell if it really is big and useful or some pipe dream.