We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR
title

Stories We Tell Ourselves

"Dream Life" and "Seeing Things"

Michelle Herman

Publication Year: 2013

The two thought-provoking, extended essays that make up Stories We Tell Ourselves draw from the author’s richly diverse experiences and history, taking the reader on a deeply pleasurable walk to several unexpectedly profound destinations. A steady accumulation of fascinating science, psychoanalytic theory, and cultural history—ranging as far and wide as neuro-ophthalmology, ancient dream interpretation, and the essential differences between Jung and Freud—is smoothly intermixed with vivid anecdotes, entertaining digressions, and a disarming willingness to risk everything in the course of a revealing personal narrative.

“Dream Life” plumbs the depth of dreams—conceptually, biologically, and as the nursery of our most meaningful metaphors—as it considers dreams and dreaming every whichway: from the haruspicy of the Roman Empire to contemporary sleep and dream science, from the way birds dream to the way babies do, from our longing to tell them to the reasons we wish other people wouldn’t.

“Seeing Things” recounts a journey of mother and daughter—a Holmes-and-Watson pair intrepidly working their way through the mysteries of a disorder known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome—even as it restlessly detours into the world beyond the looking glass of the unconscious itself. In essays that constantly offer layers of surprises and ever-deeper insights, the author turns a powerful lens on the relationships that make up a family, on expertise and unsatisfying diagnoses, on science and art and the pleasures of contemplation and inquiry—and on our fears, regrets, hopes, and (of course) dreams. 

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (43.6 KB)
pp. 2-9

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (31.1 KB)
pp. ix-11

read more

Acknowledgements

pdf iconDownload PDF (31.4 KB)
pp. xi-13

I am very grateful to Bret Lott, Dave Blum, Catherine Cocks, Charlotte Wright, and Kris Bjork; to my stalwart friend and agent, Marian B.S. Young; to the Ohio Arts Council; and to my father and my brother, Morton Herman and Scott Herman, for the kind of support...

Dream Life

pdf iconDownload PDF (18.8 KB)
pp. 1-15

read more

1

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.0 KB)
pp. 3-11

All day today I have been feeling melancholy and nostalgic, teary-eyed and loving toward all creatures great and small (from husband to cockatiel). Whereas yesterday all day I was irritable and angry—scolding the bird for chirping, yanking the dog when she didn’t...

read more

2

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.7 KB)
pp. 12-28

If I were not the sort of person who takes dreams seriously, it would not even have crossed my mind that my dream had been curative (if I even remembered it—if I even woke up knowing that I’d had a dream). But I have been paying close attention to my dreams all my...

read more

3

pdf iconDownload PDF (65.0 KB)
pp. 29-40

Even when my cats were still alive, I dreamed of them. Mostly I had “bad” dreams about them (they were lost, or they were sick, or they had died—and more than once I dreamed that I had accidentally killed one of them, spraying her with roach poison I’d misaimed...

read more

4

pdf iconDownload PDF (67.2 KB)
pp. 41-57

Here is a paradox, speaking of what is interesting and what is not: that our dreams are so interesting to us—those who dream them (even to the professional Freud-debunkers among us)—and yet nobody wants to hear them. And we know this; and still we can’t resist...

read more

5

pdf iconDownload PDF (65.5 KB)
pp. 58-69

One always feels, waking from a dream, as if one has been “told” something. Even when the message is diffi cult to understand; even when it seems to have been written in an unfamiliar or barely remembered, once-known language, or in an indecipherable hand;...

read more

6

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.7 KB)
pp. 70-80

The psychoanalyst Karen Horney considered dreams an attempt to solve confl icts, warning us, however, that the “solutions” our dreams provide were not likely to be healthy ones. For Horney, the main purpose of dreaming is to help us see what our conflicts are. In...

read more

7

pdf iconDownload PDF (55.9 KB)
pp. 81-88

I think sometimes that the real reason we want to tell our dreams is because they are art—the art that everybody makes. When we dream, said Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, we are each the “consummate artist.” Dreams provide the universal opportunity...

read more

8

pdf iconDownload PDF (41.8 KB)
pp. 89-90

Even the most apparently banal dream-journeys, the ones we all take — hastening down a school’s long hallway to find the right room (where is it? where is it?), late for a test in a hard subject we know nothing of, the final for a class we didn’t even know that we were...

read more

9

pdf iconDownload PDF (42.9 KB)
pp. 91-96

My house has been bombed; the roof is about to cave in. Or a power line has been cut (but in the dream the power “line” is an obelisk — it looks like the Washington monument—and when it’s “cut,” it breaks cleanly in half: poisonous gas escapes from its center) and...

Seeing Things

pdf iconDownload PDF (18.8 KB)
pp. 97-111

read more

1

pdf iconDownload PDF (47.3 KB)
pp. 99-106

We were in the kitchen, cooking together. It was early January, early evening. We were cooking and talking. Chopping, pouring, beating, scraping, setting pans in the oven and on top of the stove—a great commotion of cooking, with plenty of clatter and mess (which is...

read more

2

pdf iconDownload PDF (51.4 KB)
pp. 107-112

Adam Phillips, in his book Terrors and Experts, describes symptoms, from a psychoanalytic point of view, as secret ways of asking for something. At one time, my daughter had been full of secrets: her longing to be a separate person, and her terror of that longing; her...

read more

3

pdf iconDownload PDF (57.6 KB)
pp. 113-124

It was a highly unusual symptom, I was told. It was so unusual that Janet Meltzer, the psychotherapist Grace had been seeing since “the problems”—as Grace always referred to what had happened the year before—had never encountered it, so unusual that there were...

read more

4

pdf iconDownload PDF (64.0 KB)
pp. 125-136

If this had been a science fair project, I would have lost points for the small, haphazard sample, and for my exclusive concentration on literary and artistic types. (I knew this because I was one of the judges—by dint of an undergraduate degree in chemistry, a subject...

read more

5

pdf iconDownload PDF (53.2 KB)
pp. 137-143

The neurobiologist Paul Grobstein’s ideas about how unconsciousness and consciousness work together are based on the principle that the human brain is “bipartite,” by which he means not only that “there is a meaningful distinction between ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ aspects...

read more

6

pdf iconDownload PDF (56.7 KB)
pp. 144-150

My daughter is eighteen—halfway to nineteen—as I write these last pages. Time flies on paper. Of course, times flies anywhere. It hardly seems possible that I began making notes toward this essay when she was only eleven years old, when it was still diffi cult for her to be...


E-ISBN-13: 9781609381721
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381530

Page Count: 164
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Sightline Books