In 1933, the Berlin Jewish journalist Charlotte Beradt began collecting dreams of ordinary Germans until 1939, when she fled to the United States. Beradt’s remarkable compilation shows how the ordinary objects and experiences of daily life can suddenly “turn traitor” in their transformation into monstrosity. The comforting, taken-for-granted aspects of domestic and working life become dangerous and threatening to safety and well-being. Intimate social and familial relationships become tinged with suspicion and fear as loyalties are questioned and all aspects of pubic behavior are scrutinized. People became alienated not only from each other, but from themselves. Although Beradt offers little commentary, the dreams portray an inverted world that is increasingly saturated with trauma, confusion, and paranoia.
In many respects, Beradt’s The Third Reich of Dreams bears eerie parallels with the current global crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has unleashed a sustained nightmare that undermines the normally assumed boundaries between dream states and waking consciousness. Unlike a totalitarian regime, however, the pandemic is an invisible stalker spreading physical and emotional devastation around the world. Yet dreaming facilitates the emotional work that is vital to restoration of mental health, and the healing of trauma. Perhaps the social protests that are taking place around the world in the name of “Black Lives Matter” that are calling for justice for all oppressed people are helping to move us away from the current nightmare world of violence, discrimination, and destructive politics towards dreams of future promise for a transformed and more humane world.
Participants are encouraged to bring dreams they have had during the pandemic that speak to the themes of the presentation to share during the question and answer period.
Marsha Aileen Hewitt, Ph.D., is Professor of Religion in the Faculty of Divinity, Trinity College, and the Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in theoretical and clinical psychoanalytic psychology, holocaust studies, critical theory, psychoanalytic approaches to dreams and visions, religion and trauma. Her books include Freud on Religion, Critical Theory of Religion: A Feminist Analysis, and From Theology to Social Theory: Juan Luis Segundo and the Theology of Liberation. She has published numerous scholarly articles on critical theory, psychoanalysis, the psychology of religion, feminist theory and ethics. Her most recent book is Legacies of the Occult: Psychoanalysis, Religion, and Unconscious Communication. She is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Toronto.
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