Interview with Dr. Rosa Genovese, Actress, Author and Theatrical director. Dr. in Clinical Psychology

The world of dreams has characterized the existence of Man since his appearance on Earth. Over the course of the millennia, various interpretations have been made of the nature, meaning and usefulness of dreams. From the oldest civilizations that have existed, including the Babylonian, Jewish, Greek, Roman, modern and contemporary, each one has expressed their own opinion on seeing dream as a representation of real life, as language of the soul released from the body during sleep, as inspiration and message from God or other spiritual entities, or as a symbol of our irrational passions. Despite Cicero’s deep skepticism, according to which dreams are worthless and, therefore, unworthy of any consideration, we take the liberty to disagree, attributing to them an importance we probably have not yet been able to grasp the full richness of. That is why today we will be talking with Rosa Genovese, (Italian) Doctor in Clinical Psychology.

T: Rosa, Thank you for accepting my invitation and being here with us today.
R: Thanks to you, Maria Teresa, for giving me the opportunity to talk about this interesting and important topic. As you say, dream accompanies man from its origins. Moreover, humanity has always been fascinated by the mystery and the dream is still today, despite the fact that scientific studies give us more and more precise responses to what happens at the cerebral stage, partly wrapped up by mystery. There are, of course, more answers and more interpretations for the same phenomenon.

T: Rosa, as we have stated in the introduction, there are so many views about the dream – from its total uselessness to prophetic prophecy inspired by the gods, to the utmost expression of the intellect or our subconscious, as we will learn more in a little bit. Personally, as a Naturopath having a holistic view of life and health, I believe that knowing and deepening dream-related issues, trying to interpret their symbolic meaning in the most correct way, can help us identify unresolved issues at an emotional level kept in the depths of our subconscious. In this way we can help people become aware of their symbols and meanings, especially when it comes to recurring dreams, and to ‘work’ during waking and conscientious times to remove the problems that have caused them. This can be done by helping our client/patient to develop a new perception of reality and, consequently, a new way of approaching it and interacting with it.
As Dr. in Clinical Psychology, what is your personal opinion on this subject? Do you find that dream interpretation is absolutely crucial as part of the analytical therapy? And if yes, why?
R: In the context of psychoanalytic therapy, dream analysis is a fundamental moment in the path of self-knowledge of the subject that needs help. Interpretation must, however, be considered within the analytical-client/patient relationship. I emphasize the importance of the therapeutic relationship because it can not be excluded from an interpretation in the here and now of analytical dynamics. Otherwise we would fall into the naive idea that dreams have a static, fixed interpretation. To understand the difference between dream interpretation within a therapeutic relationship and static interpretation, we need to think about people who give meaningful meanings to dreams by matching them to numbers and then playing them in the lottery. This, for example, it is what usually happens in the southern regions of Italy and, particularly, in the city of Naples. It should also be said that different psychotherapies follow unlike theoretical approaches, and that there are several ways to attach importance to dreams and to interpret them. In the psychoanalytic field dreams have certainly a primary place in therapy. Freud considered dreams the way to access the unconscious. Today, however, not all psychotherapies consider it crucial to make the unconscious conscious in order to reach the solution of the psychological problems of the patient. When we talk of psychoanalytic interpretation, we have to think of a dream meaning that emerges from the subjective story of the patient involved in the therapeutic relationship of the here and now as a path to self-knowledge. This can not be ignored. It should also be added that the same psychoanalysis in different orientations works otherwise. The Freudian setting is different from that of the Jungian example. But the relationship between the analyst/patient and the therapeutic alliance that is necessarily emerging is the common denominator of all kinds of psychological therapies, in the path of interpretation and if we want to reinterpret dreams and experiences, which is then the path leading to healing.

T: In his book The Forgotten Language Erich Fromm, a famous German psychologist and sociologist, argues that “in symbolic language, inner experiences, feelings and thoughts are expressed as sensory experiences, events of the outside world.” Would you agree with this statement?
R: Yes, I might agree. In fact, we often live our dream as something that happens to us and not as something that deeply belongs to us and which we ourselves produce. We treat it as something that needs to be understood, studied, analyzed, and interpreted. Moreover, dream is an expression of our so-called mute cerebral hemisphere, which in most people is in the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere is the one where the language is based and is the analytic hemisphere, at least in most people, though there are exceptions. The right hemisphere is that of creativity, intuition, holistic vision of the world. As the left breaks down, it analyzes the experience in detail. Through dreams, the right hemisphere sends us messages with its communicative mode, which is a mode that is expressed through  symbols. That is why we can feel dream as something that happens to us and not that we produce ourselves.

T: Still referring to dreams, and considering that both Western and Eastern civilizations have viewed myths and dreams as meaningful expressions of the intellect, and people’s inability to comprehend them as a form of illiteracy, Fromm asks himself also another question, that is: “Is it important to understand this language when one is awake?”What is your view and how would you answer this question?
R: I think it is important because our brain is composed of two parts: the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere that are specialized in differente areas and communicate with each other through nerve fibers, the most important of which is the callous body. So it is the same physiological structure of the brain that answers us: It is important that the two hemispheres communicate with each other. Pathologies arise if we use only one way of processing information. In order to feel complete we do need to integrate analytic and holistic mode. Dream happens when we sleep and understand, or at least try to understand its message when we are awake can only enrich ourselves and also help us in many situations of our life.

T: When we talk about dreams and their possible interpretation, two great figures emerge: Freud and Jung. The differences between the two are many, but in an attempt to summarize as much as possible, we can say that Freud considers dreams the realization of repressed irrational passions we might experience during our waking hours. According to him, the human being has impulses, feelings, and desires that motivate his actions, but which he (Man himself) is not aware of. Man, therefore, would be driven to act by his “unconscious”. Freud also believes that these irrational desires are deeply rooted in our childhood; that they emerge through dreams during adulthood; and that in reality they are the result of generally destructive and/or incestuous sexual impulses … . Jung, on the other hand, says that every dream represents both the desires of the past and the goals that the dreamer sets for their future. With his theory, Jung ends up conceiving the unconscious as an entity possessing its own intelligence, whose ability greatly exceeds that of introspective consciousness. These two visions – and the consequent schools of thought – are almost always presented as antithetical to each other.Instead of seeing them in opposition and, thus, having to opt for one or the other, couldn’t the truth be in the middle and, therefore, include both of them?
R: We know that for Freud dream is the fulfillment of a desire that has been removed; that dream has a manifest and latent content; and that the analyst must go and investigate its real meaning as a detective by shedding “light” in the patient’s unconscious. Pathology for Freud can be triggered by a current event, but has its roots in childhood and in sexuality that develops in precise phases. Furthermore, dream is deformed by censorship that always works unconsciously to hide content that the subject is unable to accept. Well known is the famous Oedipus complex that Freud derived from the Greek tragedy of Sofocle, where Oedipus had sexual intercourses with his mother without knowing that she was in fact his mother. Freud transposed the story to a phantasmatic level, extrapolating from that tragedy the following concept: the child wants his mother, but this desire is censored by the child and then by the adult because the very thought is unbearable and also for fear of his father’s revenge. Fear that can then trigger the sense of guilt. Freud’s investigation, therefore, focuses mostly on the childhood years of the subject and on his sexuality. Then he will also investigate the aggressiveness inherent in man with what he called ‘the instinct of death’. Freud developed an essentially pessimistic vision of man and his destiny. As for Jung, Freud initially regarded him as his favorite pupil, almost as a son, surely as his spiritual heir. But Jung, at some point in their amicable and professional relationship, broke his master’s expectation and developed his own theory which, in my view, introduced two fundamental aspects. One consists in having a vision of man that takes into account all his lifelong path. Freud, on the contrary, focused only on the early years of the patient’s life where, in his view, all psychic life took shape, since for him it was at that time that everything was going to happen. He considered healthy only people who would reach a mature and heterosexual sexuality. Jung, instead, introduced the concept of detection. This is a concept that is very important because it moves from a pre-sexually-based theoretical/psychological plan to a plan, that, as we could say, it’s more existential, where man tries, throughout his life, to understand who he is; he tries to identify himself, that is, to discover his own individuality and creative uniqueness, and his being in the world: it seeks meaning, the meaning of his being into this world. And it is in this kind of thought that dream also assumes a different meaning from what Freud meant. Freud referred to the subject’s life, while Jung extends the vision to an unconscious which is not only individual. Jung introduced a second fundamental concept, that of the collective unconscious, elaborating a spiritual vision of life where all humanity is evolving, and the dream of the individual is inserted into a vision not only of ontogenetic, but of his personal development, even phylogenetic. It is like saying that we are all connected and dreams can assume archetypal aspects that belong to the subject and his evolutionary stages as it is inserted into the historical path of whole humanity. Now to answer your question about the possibility for these two theories to integrate with each other. I do not think this integration is really possible because Freud’s and Jung’s psychological theory differ from each other on many fundamental aspects, so that Jung turned away from his master for some ideas he felt irreconcilable with each other. There are Freudian, Jungian, and Adlerian psychoanalytic schools, but they follow different theoretical approaches that originate from different therapies; even though currently the various psychoanalysis schools are looking for a confrontation and are more open to dialogue than in the past because they can not ignore current studies and recent discoveries of neuroscience. Time and again in the psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic fields, however, it has been pointed out that different theoretical approaches can also work because they all share a common basis: the therapeutic relationship based on an empathic relationship, and the therapeutic alliance between analyst and patient, which is a “contract” of some sort in which they join their efforts in the pursue of a common goal according to agreed terms.

T: Very interesting and thank you for these further insights, Rosa. Speaking of the unconscious and the role it plays in dream activity, Freud also cites the concept of “censor” that we have already mentioned. Do you have more to add to what you have already said about what it is and how it works, but above all could you, please, explain how from the concept of “censor” we end up with that of “neurosis”?
R: Censor is the moral part, what Freud called Superego, that is, all the introjected social norms. We know that Freud divided the psychic apparatus into three parts, the Id, the Ego and the Superego. Three fundamentally unconscious instances that operate beyond our consciousness. Freud compared the very Ego to the tip of an Iceberg. This equals to say that we do not know, that we are not the masters in our own home, that our psychic apparatus is almost all unconscious and acts outside our consciousness. According to  Freud, neurosis appears when these instances come into conflict with each other: the Id is the erotic push, the push to life without rules, and is pure vital energy without inhibition; the Superego is the one that sets limits on the basis of social rules introjected while the Ego must mediate between these two opposing forces and it is precisely when the ego fails to calibrate these different instances that unbalance steps in and neurosis may manifest itself. Hence, it should be clear by now why Freud considered the dream the way to the unconscious, because through its images and symbols, the dream is able to circumvent censorship and to put us in touch with our deeper instances that are, according to his theory, incestuous sexual desires, morally unacceptable or fixations to immature stages of sexual development. The sexual stages were for Freud the oral, anal, phallic and genital. The healthy person was to get to overcome the various stages and develop a mature genitalia. Obviously, analytical work and dream interpretation need an expert to deal with, because we are hardly able to understand the meaning of a dream that, in order to avoid the censorship, disguises itself. It’s just like a thief who, to escape the guards,  disguise himself as an innocuous old woman. This, however, happens within us, so that in a sense, we are all at the same time both thieves disguised as old women and guards. It goes without saying that this sometimes creates a very difficult conflict that leads to neurosis, according to Freud understanding, and that causes symptoms and circular thought, that is repetitive, finds no alternative solutions, and may culminate in a profound subjective illness.

T: What are, or might, be in the dream the symbols of a latent neurosis?Could you, please, mention some cases based on your personal and professional experience?
R: There is no longer much talk of neurosis today as in Freud’s times. It is more about discomfort and discomfort can manifest with nightmares, choking, restless sleep. It is important to note Rem sleep, that is, the the kind of sleep in which we dream, Rem means Rapid Eye Movement and it’s just the state we are when we are dreaming. Nighttime sleep is carried out according to cycles that are repeated during the night several times of sleep Rem and Non Rem. So we all dream many times overnight, even though people often think they do not dream, or just wake up and we quickly forget what we dreamed of. Waking up in the middle of the night completely sweaty, following a nightmare, can tell us something is wrong. Often as a result of a trauma, we have distressing dreams that can keep reoccurring. In these cases, however, it is important to turn to a specialist who can help us get better.As far as I’m concerned, I give a lot of importance to my dreams and I keep a notebook with a pen on the bedside table next to my bed, so I write down my dreams as soon as I wake up because dreams can fade away and there is a risk that we forget important details. As far as my professional practice is concerned, you know that I’ve worked as a long time professional actress, then my path went on with writing theatrical texts and staging them. Moreover, after the borth of my daughter, I deepened the theatrical teaching for children and developed a personal didactic method that came out through the text: Pinocchio dei diritti, (Pinocchio of rights) which combines the theatrical practice with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. But I still had an unfulfilled dream in my heart. Not a night dream, but a dream I could call a strong desire to resume the psychology studies I had interrupted in my youth. I went back to my academic studies and graduated in Psychological Science and Techniques in Life and specialized in Clinical Psychology. I am currently conducting the annual internship to get ready for the state examination in June 2018 which will qualify me to practice as a psychologist. Hence, my knowledge is both theoretical and observational. Only after passing the State exam I will be able to do clinical consultations. Here, in Italy, to go through psychological therapy, you need to turn to a psychotherapist or an analyst who requires further training to be acquired with 4-5 years of academic studies, which both psychologists and doctors can be enrolled in.

T: What are some tips that we could give to our readers in relation to today’s topic?
R: We could recommend them to give more room to their dreams. Take time to write down, reflect on the day. The dream opens different windows in our daily routine. We are often overburdened with commitments and deadlines and we identify ourselves with a precise role. The dream, on the other hand, brings us to a different, deeply human dimension, which is above all our emotions and desires. It brings us back to ourselves, to our fears, our concerns, our past, our present, and why not, it tells us in every way what our future might be. The dream belongs to that authentic voice inside of us we often do not listen to. To our deepest Self.

T: The World of Dreams is not only fascinating, but also as vast and therefore it is impossible to consider all aspects in a single interview. Don’t you agree, Rosa?
R: It is true, as you have often stressed, the dream has always accompanied mankind. And it always looks for meaning. The subject is vast and surely the dream manifests itself in multiple dresses. There are those who think they can anticipate the future: famous is the myth of Cassandra, whom is given by god Apollo, the faculty of foresight but at the same time the condemnation to not be believed. In ancient Greece, for example, it was believed that during sleep Asclepio, the god of medicine, would visit the person to inspire, cure, or guide them. There are those who consider the dream a divine communication, and such examples are present in the Bible: In Genesis there is the episode of God speaking to Jacob in a dream, showing him the famous staircase that goes up to Heaven. Some scientists have dreamed of their discoveries before transcribing them. Besides, to quote back Jung and the collective unconscious we can find that fundamental discoveries for human evolution have been dreamed of, thought, and realized almost simultaneously in different places of our planet.

T. It was a very interesting experience and we hope that the material presented and the issues discussed might have been useful and informative to our readers. If any of them want to contact you and learn more about your business how can they do so?
R: For those who would like to contact me for my comedies or other topics related to clinical psychology, they can do so by visiting my site or they  can write directly to my e-mail:

T: Thank you again, Rosa, for having taken part in this interview. I wish you a great success in all your activities.
R: Thanks to you, Maria Teresa, for suggesting this interview that has stimulated me to deal with a topic that is very dear to me and thanks to all the readers who have followed us so far.

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