Disclaimer: This article and the accompanying artwork are subject to copyrights. This is a long version of my article ‘Dreams as Articulation of Space” published in the 2019 Winter edition of DreamTime. I have removed footnotes and other references and divided the article in four different entries. If you want to reproduce this article in full, please contact me first.
We build cities without bricks every night. Or countryside areas. Or planets. How does the dream master decide on the spatial surroundings that appear in our dreams? Why does the unconscious build specific dreamscapes the way it does?
My Dream Landscapes.
I’m not an architect or landscape professional, so it has always taken me by surprise the way in which my imagination builds oneiric spaces. In fact, before I started paying attention to my dream symbols, I was paying attention to my dream landscapes. The researcher in me took on the task of consciously examining the emotional associations I had with those places that were appearing in my dreams. This prompted me, as earlier as in the year 2007, to create a collage photo-album called Oneiric Landscapes on Flickr.
Questions About Dream Landscapes.
The relationship between psychology and space shapes not only our waking life but also our dreams. However, we aren’t always aware of the impact that some spaces have on our psyche until they start popping up in our dreams. In waking life, we might be fully aware of the positive or negative associations we have with a place, but not of the special bonds that our inner “I” has with the surroundings. Thus, some questions arise:
- Which factors contribute to linking waking life spaces and oneiric spaces?
- Do we relate to space in our dreams as we do in waking life?
- Does the relationship with our oneiric landscapes reflect our functional or dysfunctional ways of relating to the space/s we live in?
- Do we show feeling and reactivity towards specific dream locations?
- Why does our psyche create some totally-original dream landscapes and chooses some specific spatial features?
The Space-Psyche Bond.
We can apply some theories that examine the bond existing between space and psyche to the study of dream landscapes. I believe it can help to answer some of these questions — Psychogeography, Place Attachment Theory, Spiritual Geography and Energy Geography.
The French Guy Debord and his manifesto Introduction à une Critique de la Géographie Urbaine, [Introduction to a critique of Urban Geography] written in 1955, is considered the father of Psychogeography. This theory was defined in 1958 by the group Situationist International as
“The study of the precise effects of the geographical environment, consciously ordered or not, by acting directly on the affective behaviour of individuals.”
Psychogeography focuses on our psychological experiences of the city and reveals aspects forgotten, discarded or marginalized from the urban environment. Psychogeographers propose the act of one getting lost in the city. This is done through the practice of dérive or ‘drifting’. Drifting is, in plain English, letting oneself get lost in our everyday surroundings to discover or re-discover them by forgetting what we know about them. Walking with a purpose has an agenda, so we don’t adequately absorb certain aspects of the urban world. Therefore, the drift connects better the walker with the city.
This theory (a spin-off of the theory of psychological attachment) studies the emotional bond between a person and places. According to this theory, one of the most important factors that makes us bond with a place is that the attachment serves a psychological function as provider of security and well-being.
There are several variables that play in Place Attachment:
- Places for which we have a conscious preference.
- Locations that are meaningful to us for different reasons.
- Rootedness, i.e. the attachment to a place due to familiarity (continuous residence or family heritage for example). Familiarity explains why people define themselves as city or country people or prefer certain types of homes or habitats.
- Childhood memories and spaces, both private and public.
- Other variables like the length of residence in a place, ownership in a place, social interactions in a given location, and building size and age.
According to this theory, negative attachment do exist, but it doesn’t create a psychological bond. However, people suffering from PSTD nightmares have dreams that take them to the place where the traumatic event occurred and they will certainly disagree. In fact, some articles about dreams of survivors of Nazi concentration camps, prove this affirmation not to be valid for dreams. Negative place attachment also shows up in dreams, especially in nightmares.