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Emotional Truth Can Heal, but at What Cost?

Reality tracks us down, even when we think we’ve given it the slip

Grant H Brenner
7 min readSep 20, 2019

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
’Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day

- Crosby, Stills and Nash

Quoting Thomas Ogden, a contemporary scholar of the work of Wilfred Bion (and a great psychoanalyst in his own right) there are “four principles of mental functioning”:

  1. “Thinking is driven by the human need to know the truth — the reality of who one is and what is occurring in one’s life”;
  2. “It requires two minds to think a person’s most disturbing thoughts”;
  3. “The capacity for thinking is developed in order to come to terms with thoughts derived from one’s disturbing emotional experience”;
  4. “There is an inherent psychoanalytic function of the personality, and dreaming is the principle process through which that function is performed”.

Perchance to Dream

Knowing the truth is a basic human need, Odgen, interpreting Bion, tells us:

Dreaming occurs continuously both while we are awake and asleep. Just as the stars remain in the sky even when their light is obscured by the glare of the sun, so, too, dreaming is a continuous function of the mind that persists even when our dreams are obscured from consciousness by the glare of waking life. Dreaming is the most free, most inclusive, and most deeply penetrating form of psychological work of which human beings are capable.

Dreaming is something we do together, a canonically creative and primal social act. Dreaming is what gives birth to full reality, rather than a broken-up simulacrum. We can dream up a new world, we can dream up ways of dealing with traumatic experience we never imagined, we can day-dream as in a…



Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer