Five Great Reads: neurotic relationships, Europe’s far right and why are your dreams like that?

<span>‘I have no trouble with the idea that dreams reveal something,’ one neuroscientist says. ‘What’s surprising is that after 120 years of dream research – and all the technology at our fingertips – we still know so little.’</span><span>Photograph: LLC/Alamy</span>
‘I have no trouble with the idea that dreams reveal something,’ one neuroscientist says. ‘What’s surprising is that after 120 years of dream research – and all the technology at our fingertips – we still know so little.’Photograph: LLC/Alamy

Good morning and welcome back to the Five Great Reads newsletter, where my colleague Kris and I bring you our favourite pieces from around the Guardian – or at least the ones that most interested us from the week that’s been.

(On which note, keep watching what’s happening in Gaza. And RIP Donald Sutherland.)

From Sydney, where I’m writing this, no one will shut up about the alleged cold. If you’re feeling the chill, make yourself a coffee, pour a hot-water bottle and settle in for a good read on the couch.

1. Why are your dreams like that?

Some dreams are weird, some are frightening, some are hot – some just leave you with a powerful dislike of whoever stole your dream suitcase. “We’ve stopped believing they’re messages from the gods,” Sam Pyrah writes (speak for yourself). But if dreams aren’t divine memos, what are they – or, why are they?

A few theories: dreaming as “an internal psychotherapist”; as emotional regulation or memory consolidation; dreams as simulations to give us “experience” to draw on in real life; as a direct access point to creativity.

Going deeper into oneirology (the study of dreams): London-based psychotherapist Jane Haynes, who originally trained as a Jungian psychoanalyst, sees great value in diving into one’s night visions – they’re “a nocturnal language”, she tells Pyrah.

How long will it take to read: about four minutes

2. A nuclear power push doesn’t answer the climate crisis

The Australian opposition leader, Peter Dutton, this week announced that he’ll go to the next election promising to eventually build seven nuclear plants (facing cross-party resistance in the process). As Dr Alan Finkel, the country’s chief scientist from 2016 to 2020, explained on Wednesday, it’s not the solution to a clean energy transition needed far more urgently – and as our political editor, Karen Middleton, pointed out the same day, it could in fact disrupt investment in cheaper renewables.

How long will it take to read: two minutes

Further reading: we have so much reporting, analysis and comment to help you get your head around the stakes of this debate. Start with our factcheck of the Coalition’s key claims; see what the plan would mean for energy prices; read Graham Readfearn’s take on a “yawning credibility gap”; Simon Holmes à Court on a “flimsy charade” and Malcolm Turnbull on “the worst of all energy worlds”.

3. From Nobel peace prize to civil war: how Abiy Ahmed beguiled the world

When Ethiopia’s PM took power in 2018, Tom Gardner writes, he was feted at home and abroad as a great unifier and reformer. In 2019, he was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his role in an historic 2018 peace accord with Eritrea, the country’s smaller neighbour. Then, less than two years later in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northernmost region, “one of the worst wars of the 21st century erupted”.

Looking for answers: Gardner, the Economist’s Africa correspondent, tried to find out more about the charming Abiy Ahmed, a politician admired by Tony Blair, who “painted himself as a westerner” – and who became “the prime catalyst for the country’s spectacular unravelling”.

“The closer someone had been to Abiy, it seemed, the less likely they were to talk about him.” – Tom Gardner

How long will it take to read: 10 minutes or so

4. Rate your neuroses 1-10

Everyone’s a bit neurotic is my reasonably safe working theory – but at what point does it get in the way of things? Like, to pick one example, your romantic life? The aptly named Shayla Love has laid out the basics, along with the good news: neurotic behaviour is “just one facet” of our personalities; you don’t have to be free of it to thrive.

Working out where you sit: Most people, Love explains, “show signs of neuroticism in response to very stressful situations”. Signs you experience more of it include heightened (and daily) reactions to social situations, an inclination to interpret ambiguous feedback negatively, and a tendency to freak out about (and, maybe, precipitate) conflict. All of which has pretty obvious flow-on effects for relationships.

Working with it: Love’s found a few strategies – most of which centre around noticing patterns, as opposed to trying to totally change your personality. A loving, trusting relationship also does wonders, turns out.

How long will it take to read: about three minutes

5. Populist, nativist, neofascist? A lexicon of Europe’s far right

The dust is (sort of) settling after this month’s parliamentary elections in Europe. Our correspondent on the continent, Jon Henley, runs through the terms routinely used to describe Europe’s wide array of far-right parties – and whether they are always the right ones.

How long will it take to read: under three minutes

Further reading: Can Europe’s progressives reclaim “security” and “freedom” from the populist right? Inquiring minds watching the tenor of Australian political conversation want to know. And will they sort out what’s going on in France?

Have a lovely weekend. On a parting note, take in this gorgeous sculpture by the Jamaica-born British artist, poet, broadcaster and educator Ronald Moody:

(Tell me if you like it!

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