Monday, April 18, 2011

A neurotic fear of giving into exhibitionism in dreams causing insomnia

A woman in her early forties and still very attractive but housebound because of severe anxiety complained that she worries about the silliest things that keeps her awake much of the night. When asked to describe one, she said:

Like I can start worrying that do I have socks and clean underwear for the next day. I will have to get out of the bed, go to the drawers and check it out to make sure that yes I do have clothes for tomorrow. Isn't this silly?

The obsession was quickly seen through as a component instinct of exhibitionism, passive counterpart of scoptophilic drive. Scoptophilia is a desire to look at objects for sexual purposes and its passive form is to show oneself. The original impulse is to look at one's own body and genitals and derive [sexual] pleasure from it. It further develops into looking at others' bodies and genitals, as if for comparison. The original impulse to exhibit oneself stays side by side with the desire to look at others.
Desire for fame appears to be derived from this sexual component of showing off one's body. In cases of actors and actresses and other visual arts it is primarily showing off of one's body. It is often couched in dramatics or in case of figure skating and dancing etc. it is laced with extraordinary motor skills. In many, showing off sublimates into showing off of one's intellectual abilities.
So I told her, "You must have loved to exhibit yourself at one time in your life. Now showing off has come under repression. So whenever the impulse to exhibit yourself arises, there is a counter force [conscience/superego] opposing it. It is this counter force that finds expression in the worry whether you have clean socks and underwear or not. For going out without them would be equivalent to going out naked and exhibiting dirty [sexual] aspects of yourself. The fear of going out and exhibiting your naked body has shifted by displacement into fear of going out without socks and underwear."
"On the contrary," she said, "I hate showing my body. Unlike other people who can lie down on the couch half naked even while company is at house and love to wear bikinis and go to the beach, I am absolute shy about showing any part of my body. My ex-husband, with whom I had 3 kids, I never ever allowed him to look at my naked body. So you are wrong."
But then she reflected and added, "Wait a minute. You always come up with these weirdest things which only make sense to me weeks or months later. And I do recall, as a child, once, in Pennsylvania, where we had gone to visit relatives, I walked out of the bathroom, where my dad was getting ready to give me a bath, all naked, to finish the conversation I was having with my cousin. It shocked them greatly, because I was already 6 or 7 then."
She then confirmed that she was a motormouth as a child and could not get enough attention upon herself. And added that her constant talking was perhaps exhibitionism.
Interpretation was made that she cannot sleep because these exhibitionistic urges - for they will get her in to trouble if she gives into them in public even if only in sleep - are keeping her from falling asleep. She is afraid she will dream about them and so she does not fall asleep.
She brought further associations to this. She stated that she worries all night long about other silly things like serial killers will break into her house, or gas stove will be left in on position that will cause the gas to explode and kill all of them, or some harm will come to her daughter while she is out.
Analysis revealed they were all connected with her strong desire to be loved and equally strong repression of these desires. She had unconscious fantasies of going out in the public and seducing men by displaying her beautiful body - the exhibitionistic fantasy/her obsessive fear of going out in the public without socks or underwear/going out naked - and stealing those men's coveted part. Such a daring deed would require killing of them first , which was provoking the fear of retaliation on their part that was emerging as obsessions in her mind of serial killers coming to her house and killing her and her children.
Serial killers killing her was also a secondary revision of the fantasy of them having their way with her sexually. The intercourse was being show in sado-masochistic form of getting knifed and killed by them.

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