There was a building on the street where I grew up which always fascinated me, perhaps becasue I never ever saw anybody inside it. Generally the parking lot was empty as well. The building had three large windows facing the street and they always had shades reaching right to the bottom, keeping everything inside hidden, which gave me the creeps. There was something uncanny about the building. It was a doctor's office.
I am inside that building. Everything appears familiar, though in reality I have never been inside. There are masked men after us and in fact they have taken us as hostages. There are three or four of them. They are wearing ski masks. We are trying to escape from them underneath two desks that face each other. Under one desk is my mother, my sister J, and myself. My mother is trying to comfort and reassure me. Under the other desk are my mother's relatives. I look intensely at the carpet to forget about the masked men who are after us. The carpet has red, blue and black designs that I have seen somewhere. Since I am the youngest, my mother tells me to make my escape by going down the basement where there should be an escape door. But when I go down into the basement I find it completely dark with no way to escape. I notice pipes all over the place, perhaps connected to a boiler. I wait in fear of the masked men, and hear one of them coming down the stairs. He takes me upstairs. When I reach upstairs I find that he is my father. I feel safe and he puts me back under the table with my mother.
The above was the recurrent dream when she was 4 or 5. The dream that she recently dreamt
was almost identical except for one detail. The man who comes down the stairs, whose approach she awaits in great fear and anticipation, this time does not turn out to be her father but one of the masked men. One of the masked men who comes down and puts a gun against her head and pulls the trigger. She does not see herself dying, but wakes up in fright her heart beating fast.
"Why did you find that building creepy, and why does it come in the dream?
The girl could give no associations. But based upon our theoretical knowledge of typical dreams, we know that uncanny buildings, mansions, churches, temples, museums, statuesque structures, eerie ruins are typical dream symbols of the mother, and quite often taking refuge in them symbolizes the fantasy of returning/escaping back to the womb. Once the most familiar, or rather the only object we knew for nine months, the process of repression, changes it to something uncanny, strange and eerie. No different than how on returning to our old school or college or house or city, after hiatus of decades, we find everything oddly strange, as if we cannot believe that once it was the place whose every nook and cranny we explored. Even the feeling of strangeness and slight eeriness that women's genital areas and articles of clothing intimately connected to it give us, owes to the fact that it was once our home. The strangeness acts as a block/defence against the wish to go back there. The feeling of dread and eeriness which caskets, and other enclosed spaces, including the phobia of getting buried alive by mistake, arises from the same complex - the temptation and horror of returning to the womb.
So the dream is taking her inside her mother's womb (medical building) and we are left with no choice but to assume that she is frightened of something and is seeking her mother for protection. Now the dream portray the objec to fear as the masked men and so we have to analyze as to what danger is represented by the masked men, and what wish underlies behind for the fullfillment of which she is willing to court that danger.
At first she could bring up no memories to tell us as to where the masked men were taken from, but on some encouragement she remembered that when she was very young - and she confirmed that the dream started immediately after this event - one evening, while returning to her 'subdivision' with her family, some police cars rushed past them with their sirens blaring and lights blazing. Her father joked that for sure they are headed to our house. And to their surprise on arriving at their house they did find those police cars on their driveway.
Her half-sister T, about 13 years older than the patient, had broken up with her boyfriend, and he had come to their house in a ski mask and had kicked open their door, busted their windows, smashed a glass grille, and poured their alcohol in the swimming pool.
She went on to tell that the boy was weird and though her half-sister T had gone back with him, when he showed up at her graduation party, her father had gone after him to teach him a lesson. The graduation party had all her mother's relatives present.
"Now the memory accounts for just one masked man, why there are 3 or 4 in the dream?"
"Because if there was one masked man, my father would have overpowered him. But if there were three men than they would overpower him." So whatever the wish that needed fulfillment required that the father be overpowered, and she herself should be overpowered by the men. So here was the hysterical phantasy of giving into sex only when overpowered and having no choice over the matter.
"Any other associations to 3 or 4 men?"
"Yes, in my life about 3 or if you include my fiancee 4 men who have had romantic interest in me."
"Why these men are coming after you in a doctor's office?"
To this she produced the association that the fear of the masked men was similar to the fear of needle she felt when getting vaccine shots, and these shots were given in a a doctor's office.
So she was equating getting penetrated by the hypodermic needle with getting sexually penetrated by the masked men. So here was the [dreaded] central wish of the dream around which rest of the dream was festooned. The motive force was the desire for sexual satisfaction with the men who were taking interest in her, with special interest in the fourth one, her fiancee, and the dread was the reflection of fright over it.
"Any other association to the doctor's office?"
When they gave shots I tried to block out the fear by just look intensely at the red, blue and black design of the carpet.
The colors of the carpet also symbolized the pleasure that awaited her if she gets over her fright of getting [sexually] poked by men. This of course is my construction.
We are trying to escape from them underneath two desks that face each other. Under one desk is my mother, my sister J, and myself. My mother is trying to comfort and reassure me. Under the other desk are my mother's relatives.
There were two desks in our bedroom. My sister and I use to play underneath it using a computer keyboard pretending to be supermarket cashiers or doctor's office girls.
So here was the promise of becoming grown up, enjoying all the pleasures of adulthood, if one gives into getting sexually penetrated by men and from which she was running away and hiding under the desk, seeking the protection of her mother. Mother's presence next to her, and desk itself as symbol of mother attests to it.
Mother's relatives under the other desk appear in the dream because of her father going after the ski-masked kid at Sister T's graduation party. In the party all the mother's relatives were there. They come into the dream as an attempt to shift, at least partially, the danger of men from herself to them.
Since I am the youngest, my mother tells me to make my escape by going down the basement where there should be an escape door. But when I go down into the basement I find it completely dark with no way to escape.
Further elaboration - duplication - of the fantasy of returning to the womb. But what looks like escape turns into a no-escape situation for return to womb is one-way street to death/darkness. So the mother's encouragement/pull to return to her, instead of giving into having sex with men, is no solution either, and the dream shows it as absence of any escape.
I notice that it has pipes all over, perhaps connected to a boiler.
The association to it was A Nightmare on Elm Street horror movie and its main character the serial killer Freddy Krueger. Apparently in the movie Freddy Krueger gets burnt in a basement which has similar pipes and boiler. He also emerges disfigured and half-charred, evil and revengeful. Also the patient's association led to her recalling the detail that Freddie Krueger does the killing in people's dreams, and if they don't wake up in time, they die in real life as well. Recall here, how in her recent dream she wakes up before the masked man shoots her.
Now the lure of horror movies psychologically is based upon the lure of incest and dread and castration associated with it. So Freddie Krueger's coming after innocent children is nothing but fulfillment of incest fantasies with father where the guilt over it regresses the satisfaction in to sadomasochistic forms - getting shot or knifed. The fear generally completely blocks out the pleasure of the underlying sexual satisfaction.
The girl confirmed that as a child she was addicted to horror movies. A reflection of her strong attachment to her parents which was now making it difficult for her to make transition to strange men.
The pipes and boilers were allusions to male genitals rather an exaggeration of it - the eerie feeling, the horror of it - while the disfigurement and half-charring of the body were symbolizing castration.
The impulse to castrate was directed against her father [Freddie Krueger] whom she would encounter in her mother's womb as a competitor and find it as a danger. In her real life too, she had extremely ambivalent relationship with her father, whom she had once loved very dearly but now could not criticize enough.
So her fright was as much of getting sexually penetrated by men as of the fear of her own desire for revenge which would not hesitate to castrate, disfigure and char them who would dare to poke her.
I wait in fear of the masked men, and hear one of them coming down the stairs. He takes me upstairs. When I reach upstairs I find that he is my father. I feel safe and he puts me back under the table with my mother.
Here the father is being represented as her savior. "Instead of having sex with these strange men, who will penetrate me, and cause damage just like my sister T's boyfriend did to the window and the glass grille of my house, I rather run back to my father who will protect me and save me. In dream she climbs back with her father who puts her back under the desk with the mother [incestual fantasy with the father while in the womb].
In the contemporary dream, which was sparked by separation from her father, he is being replaced by one of the masked man.
It is one of the masked men who comes down and puts a gun against her head and pulls the trigger. She does not see herself dying, but wakes up in fright her heart beating fast.
In the recent dream, unlike the ones she dreamt as a child, she is making progress for she chooses one of the masked man as the person making love to her instead of running back to her father and mother.
To understand this we have to interpret that the sexual activity is depicted as getting shot with a gun and having sex is equated with dying.
The pounding heart is reflection of the anxiety that accompanies sexual excitement.