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The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving-- and How You Can Too Hardcover – February 27, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"This fascinating and balanced compendium is the first critical examination of the tricky subject of the role of dreams and dreaming in creative life -- a question which has been pondered since antiquity. Dr. Barrett draws vividly and eloquently on the world's literature as well as her own clinical experience; one leaves this book with much more respect for sleep and dreaming."
-- Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist from Mars

"An Engaging yet scholarly adventure filled with absorbing anecdotes from the history books and from Dr. Barrett's own interviews with some of the world's great scientists and artists. As she explores the sometimes whimsical, often profound creative energy of the dream, her perceptive commentary illuminates why and how nocturnal inspirations occur and provides practical guidance for readers wishing to call upon the Committee as a resource. Facinating reading!"
-- D.M. Thomas, author of The White Hotel

"Barrett provides a delightful update on the creative use of dreams by contemporary artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, scientists, inventors, and others, along with a reminder of classical dream discoveries. She has gathered many unique examples from eastern cultures, as well, including India, Islam, and Africa. Her personal interviews with living artists in various fields inspire readers to recognize their own dream discoveries and use them to enrich their daily lives. Good bedtime reading!"-- Patricia Garfield, Ph.D., author of Creative Dreaming and The Universal Dream Key

"A fascinating account of the fantastic creativity of the dreaming mind. The most extensive collection of creative dreams yet, The Committee of Sleep is well written, thoughtful, and inspiring."-- Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D., author of the bestseller Lucid Dreaming

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (February 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812932412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812932416
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,554,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By bronx book nerd VINE VOICE on September 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
Dreams can be valuable sources of ideas, creativity and solutions, as clearly demonstrated by Deirdre Barrett's book. Barrett covers how dreams have assisted writers, painters, architects, biologists and chemists, for example, in finding solutions to problems or by presenting new creative ideas. All the accounts and evidence presented in this book should convince any skeptic that dreams can be a rich vein to mine. I myself often come up with creative ideas when I am in the so-called hypnagogic state, that state on the border of sleeping and waking, when I awaken in the morning. My problem is that I am usually not prepared to capture my thoughts on pen and paper, and I later find myself remembering that I had a good idea but not remembering what it was. Barrett also explores the impact that dreamers' professions and cultures have in the types of dreams they have. For example, in cultures where dreams are accepted as sources of ideas or inspiration, they are more readily shared and acted on.

On the down side, although I can't quite put my finger on it, there is something about Barrett's writing style that made it somewhat difficult to get through the text, and I found that I was forcing myself to push through the text, feeling at times that I was more reading a menu of dream selections and their details rather than a story about the dreams and their dreamers.
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Format: Hardcover
This book brings together all the best accounts of dreams which have solved important waking life problems or inspired great art. It summarizes research on how often and what kinds of problems dreams are most helpful with. There are directions for incubating creative problem solving dreams which give the reader all clear information to get started making practical use of their own dreams. Well-written and entertaining reading. Recommended to anyone who's interested in dreams or in the creative process.
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Format: Paperback
This book isn't a self-help book per se. It devotes most of the space to describing problem solving and creative dreams of historic and modern writers and scientist. But it has enough pages which outline how to incubate proberm-solving dreams yourself to make this easy and the famous examples are more inspiring than a whole book of the 'how-to' would be. Best book if you want to start getting practical help from your dream life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Committee of Sleep is a fascinating book combining excellent examples of dreams with lots of examples of how they can be used to enrich your life. It is well researched and very helpful.
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