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The associative unconscious, abductive logic and social dreaming

The associative unconscious, abductive logic and social dreaming

This talk will introduce the concept of the associative unconscious and its connection with Social Dreaming. The work of philosopher Charles Pierce will be used to explain the processes used in the development of working hypotheses and their function in psychoanalytic and socioanalytic work, with particular emphasis on the methodology of social dreaming.


Tavistock Institute

September 18, 2017


  1. The Associative Unconscious, Abductive Logic and Social Dreaming Talk for

    the Tavistock Lunchtime Series 2017 Professor Susan Long Director of Research and Scholarship at the National Institute for Organisation Dynamics Australia
  2. Beginnings u “Most people turn away from what is concealed

    in themselves just as they turn away from the depths of the great life and shy away from the glance into the abysses of that past which are still in one just as much as the present.” u Fredrick Schelling (1815)
  3. Freud Repression: avoiding anxiety The return of the repressed: Tricks

    of the Unconscious in forming dreams; jokes; slips of the tongue and neurotic symptoms Free Association to reveal unconscious processes.

    which thoughts and feelings shall be permitted to arrive at the level of awareness and which have to remain unconscious Eric Fromm (1962)
  5. The Social Unconscious u The concept of the social unconscious

    refers to the existence and constraints of social, cultural and communicational arrangements of which people are unaware: u 1.unaware insofar as these arrangements are not perceived (not known) u 2.and if perceived are not acknowledged (denied) u 3.and if acknowledged are not taken as problematic (given) u 4. and if taken as problematic are not considered with an optimum degree of detachment and objectivity (Hopper 2003 p. 127.)
  6. • All human thought and meaning is implicate (Bohm) in

    the human capacity for symbolisation. • All past, present and future thought exists in potentiality within the capacity to use and interpret signs and symbols. • Some thought cannot be realised by thinkers for several reasons. Background to Associative Unconscious
  7. Thought that cannot be realised u Repressive or psychotic processes

    in the individual u Repressive or psychotic processes in the group u Cultural restrictions from family, group, society, gender etc. u Technological and practical restrictions: the right containers for the thoughts are not available u Historical development of ideas – some ideas are not ready to be thought
  8. Associative Unconscious u A mental network of signs, symbols, signifiers

    able to give rise to thoughts, feelings and impulses in members of an interacting community. u The network is between people, yet within them.
  9. Associative Unconscious u The associative unconscious is the potential field

    of thought (shared representations) by a community; u The infinite of human thought, remembering that thought is transformed emotional experience (Bion); u This can be accessed through free association, dreams, art, poetry shared in a social context; u It may be unavailable due to repressions, social and historical constraints etc.
  10. Peircian Logic Deduction u Provides certainty u Nothing new is

  11. Abduction u A surprising fact C is observed u But

    if H were true, C would be a matter of course u So, hypothetically H is true. u Kepler’s observation of anomalities in the path of Mars so it must be an elliptical path; u Darwin’s observation of diversity and similarity in species led to theory of evolution through mutation and adaptation to ecological niche.
  12. Peircian Logic Abduction u Presents possibilities u The conjectural method

    (Ginzberg) using clues – Freud, Holmes and Morelli u A flash of insight u A surprising fact (breaking a habit of expectation) u Associations from experience
  13. Abduction u Abduction occurs through learning from experience u Abduction

    occurs through associative thinking
  14. Working socioanalytically u Noticing the surprising u Finding patterns u

    New ways of seeing u Hunches
  15. Socioanalytic Methods u These methods generate meaning through understanding the

    clues – finding patterns in seeming chaos or unconnected occurrences u They work with dreams, drawings, photo’s films, music, associations, metaphors and patterns (right brain) to come to “the surprising fact” u Their aim is to generate “working hypotheses” -the first step in scientific enquiry
  16. Socioanalytic Methods u Access to associative unconscious: the infinite of

    thought u Access through abductive logic u Access through methods that generate associations u Finding interconnections using chaotic seemingly unconnected ‘bits and pieces’ of human phenomena as clues
  17. dreams u Unconsciously processing emotions (evidence from Neuroscience) u Creating

    narratives (Grotstein 2000) u Social Dreaming to access social narratives and themes in dreams. u Associative Unconscious: ‘a network of ideas, symbols, signs and images’ (Long and Harney 2013)
  18. Social Dreaming, Associative Unconscious and Creativity The context of the

    Social Dreaming Matrix has as its emphasis: u democratic process, u free association; u non-judgement; u focus on the dreams not the personalities; and, u spirit of curiosity and enquiry It is a significant vehicle for access to the associative unconscious which in turn is the crucible of creativity.