Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Dream of revenge struggling against filial piety

A 61 year old musician, reported the following dream which comes to him every now and then since his  father's death.

My father is alive. But he does not look like my father. He looks like somebody else. Though I know he is my father.  

 "While he was alive I never dreamt of him. Why do I dream of him after his death, and then too as some other man? Isn't it strange?"

On being asked who is this other person he replied nobody in particular.

Patient rejected the conjecture that these other people have some common attribute with his father and it is this common attribute that allows the substitution.

When told that perhaps he misses his father, now that he is gone, and therefore when he sees somebody during the day who acts towards him as a father figure he dreams of him in the night, because it enables him to see his father as once again alive, he said that make no sense.

"The person who comes in the dream looks nothing like my father. I can never recognize him. He is not anybody I am familiar with. He has nothing in common with my father."

"Anyway what happens between you and and your father in the dream?"

"I guess, we just talk. As to what we talk I can't tell you. But wait a minute. I do remember now as to where the dream mostly takes place. It is a familiar place. Yet it is not a place I know in real life. Every time I see that place, I know I have been there before."

Now a place which one has never been to in real life but looks very familiar can be immediately interpreted as the womb. A familiar place where we spent our first nine months but which has no existence in reality after one is born. So it was a variation of the Oedipal fantasy:: Meeting the father in the womb during parental intercourse. But this fantasy, which is so often encountered by the therapist while listening to his patients, will sound bizarre to the person who is not well versed with psychoanalysis. It is one of the primal fantasies, arising from the wish to see parental intercourse from the vantage point of being right inside the womb, while being sandwiched between the father and the mother. The bisexual theme of this fantasy is highly arousing and its enactment as a threesome is one of the staples of the porn industry.

Despite figuring out this element of the dream, I could still make no headway as to why his father does not look like himself, but someone else. And with no more associations coming forth, I threw in the towel, and we drifted off to other things.

He talked about how he is the last surviving member of his family. His sister died couple of years ago, and the mother just a short while before that. The father had died over a dozen or so years ago.  How, since the other three are gone, he often thinks of his own death. There is no one ahead of him to die. It is his number now.

Then he began talking about how his mother always put down his father. She could never stop criticizing him for his drinking. It was a relentless criticism. And she used him to further put down his father.

"She loved me. Showered me with all kinds of gifts while did nothing for my father. What love she should have shown him she showed to me."

Knowing the patient very well, I objected, "But didn't you tell me that she use to put you down. Strip you off your self-esteem?"

"She did that too. She put me down with one hand and spoilt me with the other. It was a dysfunctional family. She loved me, yet she hated me. Not that my father loved me any better. He did not find in me what he was looking for. He was looking for somebody who was a jock. Somebody who could work or cars with him. I was not what he was looking for in a son.  I was Momma's boy. He showed no interest in my guitar playing. When I picked up the guitar I was like natural on it from the first day [patient is one of the best  guitarist in Detroit area]. But he never came to any of my shows. Music was not a real job for him. But I take back. When I did start playing professionally, he did finally give me grudging respect. He could play a little guitar himself. Some hill-billy songs. "Wildwood Flower" was his favorite. Only when I played that one to him, he realized how well I played. But by then it was too late. I was already grown up. I have been to his grave only once. I went with my family, and you know how talented my children are,  and we played and sang Wildwood Flower at his grave."

"Since he never recognized you for who you are and he did not see in you what he was looking for in a son, is it possible that you are bringing back from his grave - in your dream of course - and not recognizing him for who he is. You are telling him that he too does not fit the bill of what you wanted in a father?"

"I never thought of that," the patient confirmed the correctness of the interpretation. "I was never accepted by him as a worthy son. And now that he is gone I can finally dare to dream that he too is not acceptable to me as a father. 

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