Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two dreams showing oppositional defiance in an obsessive-compulsive patient

A Single man in his mid-fifties, a devout Christian, who would give the shirt off his back to the needy, who is always apologizing for imagined transgressions and cannot thank enough for every consideration shown to him by others no matter how small, whose thoughtfulness towards his co-workers knows no bounds including buying card and cake for every single one's birthday, who often charges the customers at the bookstore, where he sometimes is on the cash register, less than the tag price and to make up the difference puts money from his own pocket in the till,  reported following two dreams in quick succession.

Dream 1. I dreamt that I left the back door of the bookshop open.  On finding my lapse the boss took me to task severely.

The patient added, "The dream was so real that I rushed to the book store early next morning and took a sigh of relief on finding the door locked though I knew all along it had to be that way since I am not even in charge of opening or closing that door."

Dream 2. I am in a concert. I am unfolding chairs for my co-workers. I hear people laughing at me and my boss is upset. Without realizing I had unfolded and placed those chairs facing away from the stage. 

Without going into the associations which were scanty anyways,  I could decipher the meaning easily. Knowing the patient for over 20 years made the task easy.

While the patient is picture of humility and consideration towards his co-workers, in his unconscious there are thoughts to insult and get even with them, a legacy of his childhood when he was bullied by other children.  He grew up in the Sixties, when long hair and lush sideburns were the rage. But not to his father,a barber, who hated seeing his business taking a nosedive due to the trend, and who  gave his sons - patient had a brother - hair cuts worthy of skinheads, and no doubt as a means to exhibit some control over the matter.

The father was cruel in other ways as well. He was quick to lose temper and any attempt on part of the sons to act with him with any equality was dealt with a quick physical punishment. He had arrogated himself to sanctimonious superiority with the sons especially since his humble station in life contrasted sharply with the patient's extraordinary talent with drawing, especially drawing cartoons.  To make matters worse the mother was anxious and agoraphobic and very fearful of all the lurking dangers of the world, which she worried would fall upon her sons and instilled fears in them about separating from her and taking chances. Added to this was the constant indoctrination at the church that Jesus loves those who avoid confrontation and turn the other cheek. All these factors had combined to sap the self confidence of the two boys, and their ability to defend themselves from their cruel peers. They had been subjected to relentless teasing and sometime brutal physical violence as children. The adulthood was marked by failure to approach any woman who took interest in him on grounds that she would be better off with some other man. If any rival appeared in the picture the dread of competition and confrontation, because every confrontation with the father had led to defeat and punishment, had caused him to invariably withdraw from courting the girl in favor of the other person on the rationale that he would make a better husband. The bottled up rage for facing defeat in hands of others, who were inferior to him, for the patient is extraordinarily talented and a most honorable and decent gentleman,  now emerged against his co-workers, who had become the substitute for the bullies of his childhood, and the boss who now represented his father.

Both the dreams were obvious attempts to cause harm to the bookstore and thus to all those who worked there. There were legitimate grounds for wishing ill to those people. He was the senior most person there but got the least respect and the lowest pay. He had joined long time back when all that was required was a high school degree. The co-workers had joined after their college graduations and had started at higher pay scales. He had special grudge against the boss who just did not like the patient because he dresses up in clothes more befitting the Sixties era, sports long side burns, brings down his hair over his forehead as Beatles did, appears somewhat grungy and a relic of the hippie era. The boss had another reason for disliking him because despite his desire to please everybody and offering to do every one else's job in addition to his own he makes subtle mistakes that irritates his boss out of proportion to their impact upon work.

The dreams were continuation of this tendency to cause trouble to his co-workers and boss in a passive-aggressive manner. Leaving the door open was to cause theft in the store.

The second dream was also of revenge. When asked why the concert. He said maybe it was not concert but a gym.

Why gym? He said that the college had its graduation ceremonies in the gym, and he was unfolding the chair for the co-workers to watch the students graduating.

Patient had resented watching students far inferior to him in talent getting diplomas. His co-workers were paid   higher than him because they were graduates while he was not. Also a few days ago he had received a letter of rejection from Disneyworld at his attempt to get a job there as a cartoonist. He suspected that his lack of education beyond high school had played a role in the rejection.

His turning the chair facing away from the stage was expression of contempt at the degrees of his co-workers and of the graduation ceremony itself.

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