Monday, April 4, 2011

Incestual dream causing severe anxiety of falling from a height

An Irish-American married man in his late twenties reported:
"Last night while sleeping on the couch - instead of in our bedroom, because my wife and I are not getting along - I dreamt the following, and I might as well tell you right away that the dream occurred because I was lying stiff and uncomfortable in one position on my back on that narrow couch all night long. Well here is what I can recall of the dream.

I am on top of my house. The roof is steeper and taller than my real house. I am at the very top. I am scared as hell of falling and therefore stiff as a board, clasping, clinging, almost clawing with my feet and toes, afraid to even breath. I see a shredded cable and I want to reach out to it to prevent myself from falling. But I am afraid that its knife like serrated edges will cut my hands. I must have lay there like that dreaming for half an hour. One time I tried to reassure myself that it is a dream. Finally I wake up with anxiety and my feet and toes were like on fire, for I had kept my toes in that clawed position just like in the dream.
It took me some courage to look at the clock across the room, it was 3:35."

The patient attributed the dream's instigation to the fear of losing his house to foreclosure. "We are having a rough time. My wife has lost her job. I am not getting enough work. May be I am holding on to the house to prevent foreclosure - not letting it go away from me by lying on top of it."
We both agreed that while this wish contributed to the formation of the dream, it could not be the main one. There had to be some deeper wish that provided the energy for such an intense dream. The patient reported that the dread felt in the dream was out of this world to be explained by the fear of impending foreclosure.
The patient then brought in another day residue - a fight between him and his wife the night before. His wife had threatened to leave if he did not change his ways and made more money.
"We are not getting along. We have not slept together for couple of months. One time when we did, it was more for the sake of doing it than either of us being really in to it."
Patient could come up with no other associations to other elements of the dream so I asked him
associations to the report he made after coming out of the dream, that the time was 3:35.
"Because 33 is a homo number. I don't know whether I heard this joke in the college or made it up myself but the number 33 is number for gays. I saw the clock at 3:35, but I must have got up couple of minutes earlier, I think at 3:33. So I must have woken up exactly when I was turning gay in my dream."
"And why number 33 is for gays?"
"Because two 3s, one behind the other look like one guy is sticking his dick in the others."
Since the patient had risen out of the dream out of anxiety, and the number 33 and its allusion to homosexuality emerged in his mind, it was natural for me to look for other elements of homosexuality in the dream, along with fear of castration which always accompanies homosexuality and which would explain the massive anxiety, so I asked him, "Why the shredded cable? "
"Yes it is shredded with serrated edges which are like knives and I am afraid to hold on to it lest they cut my hand."
I made the following construction: "That is an unmistakable allusion to castration. Climbing on the top of the house could be depiction of homosexuality, the house being one of the 3 and you clinging on to it the other 3. The castration that may follow from indulging in homosexuality is being depicted by the shredded cable and the element of your falling down from the house is representation of your falling down from your high standards."
The patient rejected the construction."I don't think so. I have no interest in homosexuality. I cannot stand the thought. I feel no attraction towards men."
"We are not talking about overt homosexuality. Nor do I think you have any interest in the actual homosexual act. Nevertheless all humans beings are highly bisexual. The homosexual impulse which you are dreading in the dream may have arisen from a very ancient period of your life, and it perhaps came to a stop at that stage out of fear of castration, allowing your heterosexuality to flourish. But like in every other human being it remains in the background in the unconscious. "
"If there is such an ancient homosexuality in me, it got to be very ancient, for I have no conscious desire to go homo. And I am glad it is in the unconscious."
Based upon certain other things that he started talking about his wife's family and his hostility towards her parents the following construction was made:
"Do you think the house is your mother. And it is the thought of incest that is being threatened by castration (shredded cable)?"
Patient rejected that construction immediately. And it was to be expected. For sexual thoughts towards the mother are subjected to the greatest repression and its uncovering is
never accepted immediately.
But the rejection was immediately followed by following confession.
At a very young age he discovered some pornographic VHS tapes and how it changed his life,
because watching it provoked great fear of being discovered and by his mother. "I would come home at 2.30 from school which would leave about 45 minutes to watch those tapes, because my mother would return from work at 3.15. So I would watch the tapes furtively."
Now looking at pornography at that tender age invariably provokes incestuous fantasies. For the child knows no other objects but his family for the libido to flow towards. So despite his immediate rejection that the dream was representing incestuous thoughts he went on to confirm the construction by bringing the memory of the pornography and its connection with his mother.
Then the patient suddenly recalled another piece of dream which till then was in repression and the correct interpretation had now given it a passage to consciousness. "while I was lying stiff on that roof lying next to me was a brown pair of pants with a patch of green.
For the world why would I think of that pant. It got thrown away years ago, all tattered, for I wore it all the time."
"How is the pant connected with your mother?"
"That patch of green on those brown pants symbolize my mother. She was as Irish as they come. She was a Mulligan before she took my father's name. The green symbolizes her Irish heritage. I know too why the roof is so much steeper and higher than the house in which we live, because
it stands for my mother who is so much higher and steeper than my wife.'
So the dream was depicting the return of his libido from his wife to his mother, because of the tension between the two. But trying to climb such a steep target - one's mother - was fraught with danger of castration and falling from his high standards.
The danger of castration was displaced on to fear of his hands getting cut by the serrated edges of the cable. Cutting of the hand is especially preferred for depiction of castration because it is with hand that one masturbates to discharge the sexual tension and incestuous fantasies. Since
the castration was expected from the father, to whom the mother belongs, there was also an attempt to compensate for this high transgression (treason): submission of oneself to the father to appease him. It was the negative Oedipus Complex: taking the passive (feminine) role with the father. It was this homosexual impulse, trying to find expression in the dream alongside the positive oedipal striving, that had made him observe so intently the time of 3:35, which he ingenuously changed it to 333, the time he presumed he had woken up, because of its better connection with homosexuality, the link being provided by the gay joke.
And so the panic which woke him was as much over his sexual impulses getting directed towards his father and homosexuality as towards the mother. His great stiffness was a defense against emergence of incestuous thoughts - see my blog on fibromyalgia - and a defiance of the fear of castration - a stiff body being equivalent to an erect penis. We can recall here Freud's essay on how seeing Medusa's head - reality of castration - turns a man into stone. But this conjecture could not be confirmed for we ran out of time.

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