The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving--And How You Can Too

Deirdre Barrett, Author
Deirdre Barrett, Author Crown Publishers $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8129-3241-6
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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Taking her title from John Steinbeck, who once wrote that ""a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it,"" Barrett gathers supporting evidence for the idea that dreams can enhance creativity and solve problems, not only for Nobel Prize winners and other overachievers like Coleridge, Gandhi and Dal , but for everyone. Drawing on personal narratives, anecdotal evidence and clinical studies, Barrett (The Pregnant Man and Other Cases from a Hypnotherapist's Couch), a faculty member at Harvard Medical School's department of psychiatry, shows how ""the Committee"" works across all disciplines and media--including poetry, film, engineering, music, sports and politics. She also crosses cultural boundaries to show that dreams in non-Western societies serve a similar creative function. Intriguingly, Barrett explores dreams that foreshadow ""illnesses that did not yet show physical symptoms"": one man dreamt of a panther piercing him ""just to the left of his spine between his shoulder blades,"" in exactly the spot where, two months, later a malignant melanoma was found. Barrett provides readers with dream exercises and specific techniques for making the most of their sleeping hours. In addressing the ""accuracy of dream recall,"" she reinforces her credibility by acknowledging a greater ""potential for distortion when people other than the dreamer repeat the story."" However, her use of the catchall term ""Committee"" begins to lose its irony through repetition, yielding the occasional impression that Barrett actually believes that some independent body governs dream content. But that's one small stylistic quibble with an otherwise graceful and fascinating work. (Feb.)
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