Phénicia Leroy – Choosing to make a hole; a treasure


“You can control your dreams”, so goes the catchy title of a magazine (1). It summarizes the research results found in “The Science of Dreams” which is currently experiencing something of a “renaissance”. “The real key to dreams, scientifically substantiated” has almost been achieved. The section relates three discoveries:

Firstly, the “hot zone” has recently been located in the back of the brain and includes several areas which are active during our dreams, thus proving their existence. Under laboratory conditions, researchers can predict the moment when the sleeper begins to dream, according to the increase in the neural activity of this zone. The next step is to create an image of the dream from this brain activity, by means of an artificial intelligence program.

Secondly, researchers promise “control of our dreams at will” through lucidity. The lucid dream is defined as an intermediate state of consciousness during which the sleeper realises that he is dreaming. The research aims to provoke lucid dreams via metallisation methods or via induction by “simple and effective” techniques: a pill prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease, or by means of electrodes. There would be many interesting applications: for sports training, creativity, the treatment of nightmares, against schizophrenia…

Finally, the neurobiologists have begun to agree on the function of the dream; this is resonant in the term “utility”. Until recently, two theories circulated: one arguing that dreams consolidate memory, the other, that dreams metabolize our emotions. A third track emerges: dreams could become training in order to better face the real of life.

In this “Science of dreams”, dreams do not mean anything; they do not refer to anything. These researchers dream of a grip on what it is that cannot be captured. Thus, they localise, they encrypt, they program, they optimize, all in the promise of utility. The subject himself does not interest them.

The texts of this issue of a-kephalos once again demonstrate that above all, in the neuro-scientific manner of thinking, there is an evacuation of subjectivity.

Elisabeth Marion reports on a research hypothesis around memories: those that scare us are those that make us drink. To erase these memories in a simply “neuro-mechanical” way would be the quick and effective solution to counter the symptoms they provoke. Eugenio Diaz condenses the effects of this logic into a formula: “what is not controllable is to be liquidated, keeping the subject in the dark.”

The analytic ethic is different, it supports the idea that not everything is decipherable, that there is a non-meaning. Analysis is betting that the subject is lodged where there is dysfunction, where there is an “it is stronger than me”, where the “reasonable” is ruptured… The analytic experience attests to this, as Patricia Heffes evokes in her text.

The ethical difference is in relation to this hole in meaning, to what escapes. Neuroscience seeks to cover it. Psychoanalysis chooses to make a treasure of it. In this sense, from our point of view, always, the “everything is explainable” will remain an illusion.

Translation: Raphael Montague

  1. Science et vie, DossierOn peut contrôler ses rêves[ We Can Control Our Dreams]”  n°1215, December 2018.
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