#8 Social Dreaming Matrix during the Covid-19 pandemic. Notes from 28 May

#8 Social Dreaming Matrix during the Covid-19 pandemic. Notes from 28 May

Participants: 55
9 dreams
Over 50 associations


  • Rollercoaster of emotions: (overwhelming, intense, sad, angry, loss, helplessness, guilt, shame)
  • Mine as a container: (Digging for the unknown. The SDM is like a mine. Images of being stuck in a mine. The fear of a mine being a landmine. In mines can be hidden dangers (like Covid); canary in the coal mine to signal the presence of poisonous fumes. ‘Mine’ as associated with selfishness. Material from mines can be gems or used to make weapons. Also: the typical miners’ disease is black lung – like COVID impacting on us)
  • (Fear of) terror/despair: (landmines, Khmer Rouge, dangerous trains, dead babies, destruction)
  • Children representing resilience of humankind (group of boys being rescued from caves in Thailand, a painting of our younger selves speaking to us; children wanting to put their mark on the world, children being aborted, birthed or nurtured; worry about the ecology of the world)
  • Transformation of meaning (stories of failure are being transformed into leadership/survival narratives, also the images shared in the SDM transform during the session; what is truth? hearing what we want to hear; the picture of Dorian Gray)

Dream: I found myself at one of the outdoor underground stations. There was a train on the platform where most of the carriages are full, but the front one near where I was standing was empty. Announcements are made for people to move to the front carriage but no one did. I just observed. The train left. I became very anxious that I should have got into that empty carriage whilst it was there and available. Subsequent trains will be full. Guilt feeling about being out anyway. I should be in my house.

Dream: I was travelling in a car with three male colleagues to meet with a female colleague at her home. I’m not clear what the purpose of meeting is. When we arrive, we park opposite her house which is on a country road. I walk across the road to the house and there is a car approaching me from my right. I have difficulty getting across the road in time. My legs don’t seem to work. I only just make it. Colleague lets us in with husband. Meeting begins. Connected with photos and drawing. Don’t understand. I accidentally damage a photograph. I feel guilty and foolish and go outside by myself. What I first thought was a beautiful cottage now has a crumbling exterior. To get inside, I have to climb a staircase with wooden steps that are unstable and worn. I carefully and anxiously climb back down. In interior of house with many rooms. At first, they seem well decorated and comfortable but each in turn becomes deteriorated and shabby. Ends.

Dream: On a street. A good friend runs towards me with 2-year-old son in arms. She cries ‘HE’S DEAD, HE’S DEAD’ but the child smiles and moves. I’m thinking – that’s strange.

Dream: Invited by neighbours. They live two floors down where I live. They write, produce and direct movies. One of them was going to show me the last edit of their last movie. She started to show it to me. I saw an animated movie where wolves were eating pigs in a very violent way. I felt shocked. I told her ‘you haven’t worked before with animation and your movies are not violent like this.’ She said ‘don’t worry, it’s just animation. It’s not real blood or real pig.’ Felt surprised. Had a sensation of not talking to same person that I used to know. This work reflected another thing completely different that I thought about her work and herself. 


  • A parent would say to a child – don’t worry, it’s just a dream.
  • Train – fragment. Fear of space, the space around us.
  • Train – Cambodia, Khmer Rouge – would leave front carriage open because of mines on the train tracks. You could ride there for free.
  • It’s only a dream – clash of the Titans – Perseus refuses to acknowledge his lineage. Visited again and again in his dreams to remind him.
  • Space – reassuring dream of being in completely white space – absolutely terrifying.
  • Child – children of the world telling us we should worry about the ecology of the world.
  • Left on platform whilst train is leaving – after pandemic made the countries lock their boarders – feeling of having a train leaving the station and being left behind. Moving to a different place. Postponed for quite some time, hoping there’d be better time to make this change. When everything became closed, I realised that I might find myself in a situation where I cannot leave anymore.
  • Dead child but smiling – first patient I accompanied as she was dying from cancer, laying in her bed, peaceful and smiling.
  • I was crying at the first dream. I only stopped when someone said it’s just a dream. I want to say a few things, but I am not able to.
  • Cambodia (Khmer Rouge) – carriage at the front of the train. Dream where I was standing with my wife at the back of a large hall, there was a celebration. One of my clients (CEO) was standing in the front. In his hands he had a set of my paintings and he made a comment that ‘I see things very differently.’ He started to make some marks on the painting which upset me. Mixed feelings that I was happy to see that he had my painting, but upset that he was tampering with them.

Dream: spiral staircase in the ground. European – looking, ornate and decorated. It’s dark. As I go down, I see a series of paintings lined up on the wall. They looked like my own paintings. 


  • Cambodia – terrorist movement inspired. Lots of news about the leader in jail, trying to get out of jail because of the pandemic. Whenever I hear that word (Khmer Rouge) I feel deeply touched by it.
  • Paintings – my wife is an artist. My home is full of work by her and others. We’re always talking about paintings. Something is good, something is bad. I have in front of me a traditional painting by an indigenous artist with a mask on his face. Painting arrived yesterday. She started to do this to earn money. It’s looking right at me in this moment. This is a place where I sit to work and write.
  • Trains – recently had a dream where I woke up sweating where I was trying to present an article I’d written to the president of the USA. He was completely faceless. I couldn’t tell what race he was, but I knew he was a man. In the article, making an association with the trains that took Jews to death camps and what we’re doing to black people in USA. Faceless – there is truth to this, but the world does not need to hear this. I said the world does need to hear this. Woke up sweating.
  • A dream where I was physically fighting a man, also faceless. Getting cut with scissors. I don’t know why I was fighting this person. Scary. Felt real. It was comforting that I knew it was a dream, but I woke up in a sweat.

Dream: Holiday camp – conference complex, with an outdoor element. There were swimming pools. At one point I was stuck in a toilet cubicle. Shower room. steam/sauna room. I was trying to get to the conference and got distracted looking for a person or thing (changed within dream). Conscious it was not my role to find it but had a strong moral compulsion to help. Made me feel like I was going to be late to the conference. Ill prepared. Was not dressed correctly. Felt anxious. I couldn’t move very quickly. Wanted to be quick but moved very slowly. Overwhelming sense of failure when I woke. Physically pain in my shoulders and neck – clenching muscles in the night. 


  • ‘Does not need to know this’ – I was on a call led by a prominent business school sharing how to respond to COVID. Case study relating to a set of miners in 2010 who got trapped inside a mine. Took 70 days to get out. Shared story of leadership and innovation and collaboration etc. Fairly familiar story. I found there was a whole set of other stories that got no mention by this business school. That story was related to many of the miners – experiencing divine providence. Led in prayer every day. All of them decided that no one would talk about what had happened. They signed a book deal and decided they’d only reveal some parts in a book.
  • Miners – happened in Chile. It was on the news long after the 70 days. I remember the agreement to not talk about it. They got out one by one in a capsule – only space for one. It went up and down so many times to get them out.
  • Sitting with paintings – sense of the capsule – front car of the train. Being there to traverse the mines. Mine. Sitting in a room with a painting of my much younger self. She’s staring at me. I am filled with dream that she believes that I am the mine that is blowing things up. I am putting people in the capsule.
  • Two-year old child. It was a boy. He has this smile – mischief – his eyes are looking at you. Saying ‘I’m alive, but only I know that.’
  • Mines – Dream: neighbours brought over some homemade hummus. Looked at it like it was a bomb and threw it away.
  • Neighbours – last night my neighbours were celebrating their boy’s birthday. Brought us some cake, but my husband and I threw it away. Concerned it could have COVID.
  • Cave – divine providence. Reminding me of Perseus. Caged and pregnant.
  • Mine – all these dreams are not mine. I cannot do anything with them. Like the birthday cake, I want to throw them away.
  • Pregnant – dreamt I was pregnant and getting married. Watching a couple get married. Woman looked Greek but wearing mourning clothes in black. Had a large, white pregnant belly that was poking out of her clothing.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Bride wore black.
  • It’s so difficult some of the time, a lot of the time, to live with myself, but also in the dreams, making me think about how difficult it is to live with each other.
  • Mines – great grandmother, who I never met, I knew that her husband owned a stone quarry. He was killed. As a woman, she had to go down into the mines and work with the workers in the dark. Growing up I was very scared of dark spaces.
  • Children, mines, paintings – making a painting with fiancé’s daughter. She drew a sailboat with sharks in the water.
  • Dark cave, being trapped, lying face down, trying to escape, very narrow. Looking up, I find myself beneath a huge crocodile.
  • I felt extremely upset at the first dream. As I thought about the train – at 7 I was put on the train for school. I remember seeing and waving to my mother who stayed on platform as train pulled out. The awful feeling that she turned away before I was out of sight. I was so perplexed about why there was so much noise with all these children when I felt so upset and sad. Extraordinarily vivid memory.
  • Mines – Dad deployed in Iraq. Staying on grandma’s farm. My mum called. Told me and my grandmother that a good family friend who was deployed with my dad, had stepped on a landmine. Her dad had been walking in just the same area the day before and didn’t step on the landmine.
  • Mine – the world ‘mine’. fearful. Do they mean mine (Chilean miners), a land mine? Mine. There might be danger in the association. I don’t know what to expect.
  • Colleague who did a study of Chilean mine disaster. The sense of human endurance and resilience – amazing they survived. Also reminded of the boys stuck in a cave. They survived. Get in touch with something the other side of terror and despair.
  • Empty carriage – Cambodia – cake – hummus, until you take the ride or eat it you don’t know what the danger is.
  • Mines – being trapped. My own selfishness. Staying in and going out. Some of us are trapped by our own selfishness.

Dream: My husband and I were on the Cambridge common. We brought a sleeping bag to sleep there. Everyone was looking at us and saying: ‘there are the homeless people.’ We didn’t say anything. I thought I had to keep my phone hidden so it doesn’t get stolen. Woke up feeling like its recurring but I don’t think I’ve had it before.


  • Empty train – Cambodia – mine – hummus bomb – the bombing attacks on the London underground. The explosion. My mind keeps coming back to stories of people who were involved, but their lives just go on as normal. Got off the train and went to work even after being involved in something so traumatic.
  • Thinking about the child being sent to boarding school on the train. Resonates with my experience. I want to follow that child. I want to find the peace. Get away from the noise so that the child can speak.

Dream: There are many lifeless bodies lying in water.

Dream: Making love with an old friend.


  • Lifeless body – I’ve been disturbed about the migrant situation. People dying. Newborns abandoned because they’re a load. A dream where people are walking up to me and carrying flowers. They are all dead. Woke up in a sweat thinking – I need to do something. They have names and families. They are not a statistic.
  • Dreams with the tube – the miners – the dead baby smiling – thinking about the secret. They’re hiding things. Things that we believe but what is really happening. The miners decided to hide what was really happening and to tell the leadership story. Baby smiling whilst baby is dead – reminded of that.
  • What the world needs to know and what the world does not need to know. What is kept secret.
  • So many things we don’t know. Really difficult to stay realistically hopeful.
  • Re-emergence of emotions from my dream. Triggered by image of dead people carrying flowers. The need to do something. In my dream, I felt the need to do something so badly even though it wasn’t required. The feeling of failure.
  • Feeling ill about the image of a newborn being abandoned because it is a ‘load.’
  • Miner – we are in the matrix. In a space that feels very safe. Will we have a pact like the miners to not talk about our experience?
  • I have done a lot of tossing and turning. Dreams are coming back. Over and over and over each other.
  • This period is difficult. Feeling of emptiness.
  • Chinese saying – whatever is done on earth, the gods in heaven will know. Karma will take care of things when we ourselves are helpless in the situation.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – thinking about this expression for the last few days. Thought it was a French expression, then English. It’s an expression used in England and France, dated from 16th century and it is German. Makes me pleased.
  • Chinese saying – friend asked me to watch a movie called Stairway to Heaven. A person dies in a plane crash but doesn’t show up in heaven. They are waiting for him – a lot of commotion. He falls in love with someone he’s talking to whilst the plane is crashing. It is because of that love – he is granted extra time on earth. Notion of love. Recently noticing in the past, many people have had dreams of stairways to heaven – song stairway to heaven. Paintings by Blake depicting this idea.
  • Making love with an old friend – feel ashamed whilst sharing. Recurring dream of making love to husband. In the dream its different to how we normally make love. Associations with love making, danger and mines – very uncomfortable.
  • Woman in the room with the painting of her young self and that relationship. Reminded of story of Dorian Grey.
  • Relationship – joy to stay with friends and family.
  • Death – migrant control – poem from the Iliad. Leave we the dead my son for all thy grief and pain etc. Honoring the dead, discounting personal hubris and finding strength.
  • Younger self staring at older self – stairway – transition. Stare way. Stare their way into ourselves to reflect and create. Especially during this time.
  • Dead baby – staring at the self. When I was much longer in first relationship. My girlfriend got pregnant. I was selfish. I walked away. She wanted to have it. I did not want to. For more than a decade, I could not forgive myself or overcome the guilt for asking her to abort the baby and as a consequence, I never had a child. Loss that is always there. Always niggling away at me.


My experience in this matrix was that when I unmuted myself and commented by sharing an association to the comment about people being not just statistics, but people with names and families – my association being, “Say his name:  George Floyd” – before I said “Floyd” another woman spoke.  I experienced it as interrupting me – like there was an unwillingness to hear about George Floyd, the Black man killed by white police officers in Minnesota.  Then I realized at a later point when I once again tried to share this association, and was again interrupted, that it seems my audio is not working.  Though it has worked on Zoom calls all week.  So I share this reflection here.  Unsure of whether the chat function is used by this group.

Blog compiled by Mannie Sher, Martijn van der Spek and Lucy Walker

Image: Responsibility by Juliet Scott, 2019

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