Ronald Reagan is making love to Shirley Temple.
When asked to give more details, for what she reports looks like a bare sketch of the actual dream, she said there is nothing much to add. She refused to give the details of what exactly Reagan physically was doing to Shirley Temple by saying that the whole thing is silly anyway, and may be there are no specifics, and the only reason the dream even got stuck in her mind is because it is improper for an old guy to be making love to a little girl.
She could come up with no associations regarding Ronald Reagan or Shirley Temple other than that they were actors.
Since no associations were forthcoming, the technical rule of psychoanalysis allowed me to give interpretation of the typical symbols. "Generally presidents, kings and queens, film heroes and heroines, celebrities, stand for parents. So Ronald Reagan must symbolize your father."
"If you say so. Though my father did not look anything like Reagan. But now that you bring this up, I do remember what sparked the dream. I was in my bedroom almost falling asleep when from the next room, where my boyfriend was watching TV, I heard from the show somebody saying" Don't trust an adult who tells you to keep a secret." Its connotation to childhood sexual abuse must have started the dream process."
"Any other memories that emerge in connection with Ronald Reagan?"
"All I can think of is that Reagan was a Republican. And there is so much chatter on the TV about those three Republicans trying to be our next president. As far as I am concerned all three are the same. They are jerks who want to make rich richer by stealing from the poor. They are against labor, against car industry, against Planned Parenthood so women can have children who they cannot afford to take care of. They want to screw those mothers and children by forcing them to live in poverty."
"Just like the Republican Reagan was screwing the child Shirley Temple!?"
But even if that was one of the meanings of the dream it could not be the central one. Such political issues do not have sufficient emotional investment to forge a dream. Dreams are invariably connected with issues that are close to one's own heart. Impersonal third party matters do not make a dream. They may act as facades but cannot be its wellspring. So I took the next step and made the construction that If Ronald Reagan was symbolizing her father then Shirley Temple had to be herself.
To my gratification she immediately confirmed the correctness of the interpretation.
"That makes lot of sense. I wanted to be so much like Shirley Temple, to act and dance like her. And when I was nine my father regularly took me to singing and dance classes to help me achieve my dreams."
"How old did Shirley Temple look in the dream?"
"So the dream is personifying your sexual fantasy towards your father. And now as you told me earlier in the session, before we started analyzing the dream, there is hardly any intimacy left between you and your boyfriend, and recently you had asked him that at least he should hold and hug you, and he shows no passion even in that, so your mind is harking back to your childhood and seeking outlet for your love needs by settling upon your first love, your father?"
"Well, first of all my father never molested me. Second, I have no such thoughts towards my father. So what you are saying does not make any sense."
"Well they will not make sense immediately. In fact they will appear weird when first presented to you. Such thoughts from Oedipal Period are not present in the conscious mind. Only in hints and allusions do they dare make a passage into the consciousness. They have easier time finding expression in dreams, but there too not directly but almost always in displacement."
"I do remember missing my father very much when my parents got divorced. For a period he was completely out of my life. And then I missed him so terribly. So you are right that I was very attached to my father. And when he came back in to my life to make up he took me to those singing and dance classes ."
"You think the fantasies of your father making love to you arose during that period when your mother and father got separated and you could not see him?"
"Who knows. But now I remember another dream."
The fact that at this juncture a dream emerged into her consciousness was affirmation of the correctness of the interpretation. And the theme of the second dream left little doubt that I was on the right track.
"I dreamt it when Loopy (her husband, twenty years her senior and a father figure) was still alive. Somebody is coming down the hallway of my home. My bedroom was at the end of the hallway. I could hear the rhythmic sound of his footsteps: thump, thump, thump. He was after me. And I could not move. I was like frozen. I could not yell, scream, move, or do anything. Finally somehow I managed to pick up the black lamp that was on the end table next to my bed and threw it inside the drawer that was open and it started a fire. That woke up my husband and stopped that person halfway in the hall. I woke up out of the dream, my heart pounding."
The dream could be easily seen as a continuation of the same theme of Ronald Reagan [father] having sex with Shirley Temple [her]. The long hallway with her room at the end was interpreted as the genital passage with the womb at the end, and the rhythmic thump thump as depiction of sexual intercourse. The imagery of throwing the lamp into the drawer, in conjunction with the rhythmic thumping, as the man made his way up the hallway, made me think of the shower scene of Psycho where sexual intercourse was depicted in the sadomasochistic language of the knife going rhythmically into Janet Leigh.
"Is that man coming down the hallway your father?"
"Well the guy who was coming down the hallway was somebody big and larger than life like Big Foot. And coming to think of it my father was a big man too."
The change of father imago into something like Big Foot was seen as distortion of the image of father to hide the incestuous origin of the thought and lessen the anxiety. And I proceeded on with the analysis by asking, "Where is that lamp taken from?"
"There was a lamp like that next to my bed. If I had to grab something to fight with that would have been the most logical thing to grab."
"The dream took that detail into consideration to depict something important. Dreams do not care two hoots for logic and do not incorporate things to make it logical."
"Yes," she agreed, "There is no logic to the lamp starting a fire. Throwing the lamp into a drawer does not start fires."
"Tell me more about that lamp?"
"It belonged to my daughter. I had bought her this canopy bed and this lamp. For a while it was in the room next to mine. She slept in that room when she would come from her father's to stay with us for the weekend. And when she was not there Loopy's brother Mick, when visiting us, would sleep in that same bed. Later I found that Micky was a child molester. He is in jail for it now. I don't think he ever abused my daughter, but the very thought of Micky sleeping in the same bed where my daughter slept I feel guilty that I had subjected her to the possibility of child molestation."
So once again there was the theme of child molestation. And with this association the meaning of the dream became clear. The second dream was continuation of the same incestuous fantasy. Her inability to move, scream, run etc. while the big man was approaching her showed the ambivalence towards giving into the incestuous fantasy versus fighting against it. Part of the mind was seeking the incestuous satisfaction while the other part, out of fear of it, was rejecting it. Her being frozen and paralyzed was depicting her refusal to run away from it. And she could find courage to stand up to the temptation by showing that such a satisfaction will be so passionately strong - lamp starting the fire - that it will take away her will to protect her own daughter if she is exposed to similar situation (child molestation).
It was the fear of harm coming in this manner to her daughter that finally gave her strength to get out of her frozen state (sleep paralysis/catatonia) to pick up the lamp and throw it in the drawer to start a fire which would wake up her husband and put a stop to the terrifying incestuous fantasy from getting fulfilled. It was soliciting the help of her love of her husband to act as a counter-force to the attraction of her father.
One may remark that the original wish continued to make inroads even as she struggled against it when one considers that the lamp and the drawer and the fire make excellent symbols to depict the male and female genitals and the consummation of sexual passion respectively.