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Psychoanalyst Ullmanns studies of culture and nationality in dreams


As a psychoanalyst who has worked in Sweden and New York Montague ullman is well placed to see the differences in dreams across cultural and national boundaries.

Quite striking differences can emerge in dreams from one country to another. In particular Swedish dreams featured much more natural beauty in them

"The most striking difference between Swedish dreams and the dreams I have encountered in the States in a population drawn largely from urban and suburban areas is the more frequent reference to nature in the dreams of Swedes, e.g. bushes, trees, forests, mountains, streams, etc. Swedes are exposed to the beauty and importance of natural surroundings from an early age on and seem uncomfortable if too long a period elapses without seeing something green. On one occasion in two successive dreams presented in a group, the dreamers were out in the woods picking mushrooms. I have listened to thousands of American dreams and no one ever picked a mushroom! "

He also notes that the Swedes are much more industrious

"The Protestant work ethic as a cultural heritage is far more in evidence. Swedes are very hardworking, industrious and seem to have all their time taken up with duties, obligations to others and concern with the welfare of others to the point where in mid-life their dreams often raise the issue of "what is there in life for me?" In Sweden, as a social democratic country, the group ethic is deeply entrenched, as is sensitivity to the feelings of others. This can be dysfunctional as it sometimes results in the suppression of ones individuality, talent and abilities so as not to stand out or appear different from others. Born into a society that is a bit more left-brain than we are and certainly more rule oriented than we are, their dreams often reveal the need for a wider emotional and imaginative range. This has come out clearly in what I have referred to as the Ingmar Bergman Syndrome. Swedes are more reserved than Americans are on the surface and slow to trust. When, however, trust is established they do it with a quality that is akin to the wonderful innocence of the child. When a Swede shares a dream there is an intensity and depth of feeling that leaves me feeling I am witnessing an Ingmar Bergman scenario."

Ullman also notes the differneces in the dream work.

"Dream work Dream work in Sweden is slightly slower paced than here. Part of this is due to the fact that we are working across languages. More of it has to do with the fact that Swedes use words sparingly and think a bit longer before they speak than Americans. Swedes are also very pragmatic, and when something works, they stay with it. There are groups that have been going continuously for many years there."

Montague Ullman is a psychoanalyst who has worked both in the New York, USA and in Gothenburg, Sweden. He uses group methods to discuss and analyze dreams.

Taken from the Dream Appreciation Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 1, Winter 1997