Saturday, March 31, 2012

A bisexual defense against castration anxiety

An Irish-American man in his early thirties, possessing all the typical Irish disposition that makes them such an interesting people brought in the following dream:

I am in a full contact fighting octagon cage, like they show in the TV.  It was so fucking scary that I cannot even describe to you. There was a tiger in the cage and there was this bed. I was on the bed.  I was scared to death of the tiger. He was going to come after me. There was a girl on the bed as well. Don't even ask who she was. I pulled back the sheet  to hide underneath. And below the sheet was a body whose head was severed. And the girl threw the head towards me as if to use it as a  bait for the tiger go after me instead of her. I tossed the head back to her. We were tossing the head back and forth as if to deflect tiger's attention. It was so crazy and scary. I can usually wake myself up from dreams when they get too scary. I tell myself you are dreaming, you are dreaming and it usually works but not this time.  I was like transfixed and could not even think of waking myself out of it. It was so fucking crazy. I was so glad when finally the alarm went off and woke me out of the nightmare. I was drenched in cold sweat.

"Since you have been analyzing my dreams, and I am reading couple of books by Freud, I can make some sense out of my dreams but not this one."

Now the dream uses extraordinary number of typical symbols, and therefore I could grasp the essence of the dream by just the manifest content but since divining something is not the same thing as confirming it with associations I proceeded on. I told him that usually frightening and ferocious animals symbolize the ferocity of one's passions, but they also symbolize the father in grip of these animal passions which can overwhelm his human side.  "Was the tiger symbolizing your father and the fear of him?"

"I don't know about that. But animals in dreams frighten me. Especially snakes. Oh I hate those mean sneaky slippery things."

"Who was the person under the sheet?"

"I don't know. But wait a minute. I think now that you bring up the topic of father, that man could have been my father. He had the same dark hair. And he did look like my father. Only difference was that my father wore glasses but this man was not."

Now the severed head allows no other interpretation but an allusion to castration. So I asked him if missing spectacles was also not continuation of the same theme. After losing his head he was losing his glasses as well. We know that losing one's vision or eye is classic symbol of castration - Oedipus blinded himself on learning that he had committed the forbidden Oedipal transgression - and glasses being extension of the eyes their missing on his father's face was another allusion of the same.

The patient had no reaction to it.

But it is the son who dreads castration in hands of the father why the dream was showing the father as getting castrated?

The explanation could only that it was showing the retaliation on part of the son. "If my father wants to castrate me then I will castrate him back. Tit for tat." Recall here how Zeus castrated his father Cronus and how Cronus in turn had castrated Uranus, his father.

So the full contact fight ring was symbolic of his mother, inside whom - the womb - he was in struggle with his  father, dreading castration and dealing with it by castrating his father in retaliation.

I asked the patient as to who was the girl on the bed with whom he was tossing back and forth the severed head.

Patient claimed he knew nobody who looked like her but on my asking if she could be the feminine aspect of his own self, the patient was incredulous and then admitted, "Well the girl was blond." After a little reflection added, "I am blond too, strawberry blond. But when young I was quite blond, like the girl in the dream."

So if the tiger was his father, and the severed head was allusion to castration, then he was in his dream vacillating between masculine and feminine attitude in dealing with the threat of castration from him (father). The logic would have gone like this: "If I was a girl then I would not have come into conflict with my father over my mother and aroused his ire so profoundly that he would have come after me to castrate me. And so let me give up my masculine/aggressive strivings towards my father and adopt a passive feminine attitude."

 But the passive attitude is as fraught with submission to castration as the active. For becoming a girl to appease the father amounts to the same thing: giving up of one's masculinity. So the severed head was getting tossed back and forth to symbolize the patient's inability to decide whether he should adopt a masculine attitude towards the father and risk castration or to adopt the feminine attitude and risk castration. Fear of getting eaten by the tiger was depiction of castration in regression. Instead of severance of the penis from the body - as was clearly shown in displacement in the revenge fantasy towards the father - the castration was depicted in the language of the oral phase - getting eaten by the father/tiger. 

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