Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Dream portraying hysterical ambivalence towards mother

A 17 year old girl, whose sister had died in an auto accident a year ago dreamt the following:

I have to save my mother. She is far away in a building, it could be a barn. A fire starts. I try to reach her but it is too late. By the time I arrive she is already burnt to ashes. I see the ashes on a bench. It is in form of her shadow, as if in her shadow she is still sitting on the bench

This girl is having great difficulty in getting over her sister's death who was just 3 years older than her, and the two did quite a few things together. She has difficulty in sleeping at night. She is always anxious. She misses her sister so much that she has to often pretend when she goes to Mall or to places where they did things together that she is her sister. Fun things can only be done when she is pretending to be her sister, that way the sister does not miss out on fun. It is a mental mechanism to avoid guilt for having fun without the sister. Often she has to bargain with unknown entities that if her sister comes back to life even for a day, she will gladly go to jail for a year or for all her life. In desperation to bring back her sister she once shop lifted and hoped she will get put in jail. She had developed a special obsession to pay homage to the memory of her sister. Her sister's name had 7 letters. She would often repeat her sister's name visualizing the fact that it was made up of 7 letters and had also developed a superstition that number 7 was lucky for her. Whenever she could convert any number to 7 or some number connected with 7 such as 17 and would come across such a number as in receiving change back of 7 or 70 cents she would feel better and not guilty as if she had saved her sister's existence in some sense.

Now in contrast to her sister she has great ambivalence towards her mother. The mother is highly anxious person as well. She is always anticipating harm, and rarely leaves home. This fear of harm coming to her is also projected on to all those who are near and dear to her, including her children. She always has to know the whereabouts of the patient. The patient has to be in mother's vicinity lest something happens to her. If she goes out she had to keep in touch on phone every so often to reassure that she is doing OK.
As a consequence a dominant wish in the patient is for her mother to disappear (die). And to negate such an evil thought there also exists in her the counter wish that her mother should never come to harm and that she should save her mother from some ill befalling her.

The dream was expressing this ambivalence.

She is far away in a building

This was expression of the wish for her mother to go away as possible.
The fire started on its own but was giving expression to her own burning jealousy of her mother from an earlier period when she envied her mother and was burning to be like her mother. Now she was turning tables and making her mother burn. It was an act of revenge.
The saving of mother was expressing her love for her mother. This was the counter-wish - to save her mother from her hatred.
The bench could not be deciphered, but perhaps stood for the comfort her mother had once provided her.
The ash was taken from her sister's ashes. The sister was cremated and her ash is still with them. It was expressing the wish for her sister to be saved and her mother to die in her place.

It is in form of her shadow, as if in her shadow she is still sitting on the bench.

It is once again negation of death. Negation of her death-wish towards her mother - my mother did not die but is still alive and sitting on the bench

On successful analysis of the first dream another dream emerged in her consciousness.

I am in my bed and sleeping. Or may be I am awake. Because the room in dream is exactly the way it is in real life, and I am sleeping exactly the way I sleep. Or maybe I am dreaming while I am still awake because it is weird how my mind never shuts off, and even in my sleep my thoughts never cease to keep running in the background. In the dream - or may be she really did come - my sister appears and tells me that is is not all that bad here.

Now this patient has great difficulty in sleeping. She suffers from high level of anxiety like her mother, and one of its consequence is that she worries about harm coming to herself and those close to her. He obsessive fear of harm coming their way extends even to her dead sister, as if she will come to harm in the after life. To counter these thoughts of impending doom there is always counter thoughts running in her mind to block the anticipated harm. The background thoughts are also a method to constantly reassure herself that she is not going to disintegrate - a reflection of excessive anxiety - if she abandons her caution and falls asleep.
This state of affairs was present even before her sister's death, and was a result of her excessively high level of anxiety, which itself was a reflection of her highly sexual nature - she is suffused with sexuality - but it had worsened since her sister's death.
Now she had to be vigilant throughout the night, even in her sleep to prevent harm coming to her sister in afterlife.
Her mind had conjured up the dream to reassure her that her sister was doing fine in afterlife and so she could relax a little, and continue to sleep instead of waking up in fright.
When the dream was interpreted the patient exclaimed, "That is kind of creepy. I never quite looked at it that way. But it kind of makes sense." Confirming the correctness of the interpretation.

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