Thursday, April 5, 2012

Obsession of cleaning the kitchen sink in a dream and its analysis

A woman in her mid-forties reported the following dream which she dreamt all night long, waking out of and going right back in to it over and over again.

I am at my kitchen sink, and I am cleaning it with a hose. My husband comes from behind and hugs me which irritates me.

When asked for associations the patient mentioned that she is a neat freak who must have her kitchen sink clean all the time; anybody leaving unclean dishes, for that matter anything dirty in the sink, irritates her to no extent and she must immediately give up whatever she is doing to clean the mess; spaghetti sauce or something red in the sink makes her especially angry.

Now we know that fear of contamination, germ phobia and horror of touching are all different version of the same complex;  fear of sexual contact in displacement. And the watering hose in the dream can be immediately interpreted - for it is such an obvious symbol - as a watering penis.

Was she taking the male role in sex through identification with her husband?

 But her husband coming from behind and hugging her had irritated her. Now we know that hugging from behind is indicative of obsessive-compulsive proclivities. Obsessive people have greater fascination with the buttock (nates) and prefer sexual intercourse by mounting the woman from behind, like the animals. Humans perhaps are the only mammals who routinely have sex through frontal contact (missionary position). Preferring sex in this manner points to the factor of regression and the emergence of archaic modes of sexual expression in the obsessional neurotics - a regression to anal phase of sexuality and attraction to sado-masochistic forms of sex. And this patient does suffer from severe obsessions. Everything in her house, especially kitchen, has to be arranged and put in perfect order. Her need for control is so great she must keep in touch with her children and husband at all times to makes sure that they are not in trouble like having met an accident.

Now the regression of sexuality to anal-sadistic forms comes at a price. There is generally severe reaction-formation to its expression as well. There is greater guilt over indulgence in sex, and a person may undertake all forms of motor rituals and other obsessive games - especially involving playing mental games with numbers - to "undo" giving in to the temptation and indulging in the prohibited (regressed) sexual behaviors. There is a fear that since one indulged in the dirty anal sexuality all kinds of harm and punishment will follow. In this patient the (unconscious) fantasies of indulging in anal form of sex was followed by all kinds of fears of harm coming to her and her family as a punishment.

There is one more peculiarity about obsessive-compulsive and which applied very much in this case. They hate to be second best. They always want to be on the top. They forever want to compete with you. Our patient had given up all social gatherings out of fear of coming out second best with people she would run in to there. Her hated rivals from childhood. The very fact of meeting someone the next day even for the most inconsequential thing would keep her awake all night out of fear that in the meeting she may come out lesser of the two.

And it was this factor of coming out lesser than the other person that lay behind her irritation about her husband making love to her from behind. The night before the thought had crossed her mind to make love to her husband which she had quickly suppressed. But the desire had persisted into the sleep and dream. All night she had indulged in it but with great irritation for it meant his hose (penis) contaminating her sink (genitals). She had tried to get over it by showing herself as the one who was doing it through identification with her husband. But even then the thought that her husband should make love to her from behind, mounting her, and thus reminding her of her inferior (castrated) genitals was preventing her from having sex with him in real life and in dream as well.

Her especial irritation with red spaghetti sauce in the sink was connected with her abhorrence of the yucky menstrual bleeding and its reminder that men have it better than her in life without any justification. For despite her crippling obsessive problems, which keeps her housebound, she nevertheless is thoroughly convinced that she is much better than her husband.


  1. Where is the rest of it?

  2. Sorry my friend. This dream was analyzed half-way and then I lost interest in it because it got stale while I was busy with other things and the details of the session faded away from my memory. It got published by mistake and I tried to delete it but it would not. At your request I have tried to bring closure to it and republish. As you will notice, it has been rounded up by going in to theory of obsessional neurosis than more details about the dream

  3. I may not have the time to do the cleaning every single day but I do make it a point to do some cleaning especially when I have the weekend off. This task may be annoying for some but this helps in keeping our homes odor and germ-free.

  4. This is such a great idea. Spills are at times unavoidable especially in the refrigerator and these just make everything messy and sometimes stinky. The use of such liners is certainly helpful in keeping our fridge in good condition. Thank you for sharing this post.