Sunday, May 27, 2012

Haunted by the supernatural - A shy girl's dream

A young woman who just turned 31, still single, reported the following dream:

A supernatural force is chasing me and another boy and a little two and a half year old baby. The older two of us are like protecting the younger one. We run to hide on a bed and cover ourselves with a white comforter. But the force emerges from behind us as two cocoon like figures shrouded in white sheet and quivering from top to bottom - she made motions of quivering with her hands to give expression to how those wavering figures appeared. One of them looks just like me. Both have brown hair. At that point I become evil myself. My eyes pop out of their socket. The white of the eyes become cone like and the pupils turn into points of a pen. I begin to write with those coney eyes on a big white thing, may be a big piece of paper. The writing is dripping with blood.

Isn't the dream crazy? she exclaimed and then added that the force remains in the background, camouflaged, and only steps out ever so briefly, but without actually harming us. Throughout the dream we are hiding from it. At one point instead of the boy a girl is accompanying me.

"It all made sense while dreaming but now it sounds so weird. I forget most of the finer details. If only I could remember all of it it would make such a fantastic movie."

"Who was the boy with you with whom you were taking care of the baby?"

"Actually he was pretty insignificant in the dream. His presence does not matter."

"Even if he appears insignificant to you, the fact that the dream chose to give it a representation means something significant lies behind it."

"That is not true about my dreams. All kinds of insignificant and inconsequential people appear in them. For example the other night a coworker of mine who I have no feelings for and couldn't care less about - don't mistake me he is not bad looking or anything like that -  was my husband in my dream and we had a child together who I was taking care of. Now there could be no reason for the dream to show this man as my husband. And then he and I having a child?! Having children is farthest thing on my mind. So my dreams can be full of insignificance."

"Well if the dream censor objects to our motives and emotions which are trying to make their way to fulfillment in the dream towards a significant person then the dream-work will try to fool the censor by substituting an insignificant person for the former. There may be guilt associated with seeing the significant person as your husband and father of your child so you have substituted this insignificant person for him because in real life you have no feelings for him. The dream censor (conscience which never fully sleeps even while dreaming) will be clueless as to what is going on with such a deception and will allow the dream to proceed as something innocent and will not wake you up.

"Who could be such a significant person who I cannot even dream of being my husband and the father of my child?"

"Girls often have fantasies of getting a child by their father, and there is always guilt associated with such fantasies.  Recall how one of your earliest memories is of your father driving away after your parents got divorced. And you told me how when you were three or four you were like your father's shadow. On your weekend visits you went everywhere with him and could not bear to be separated."

I was also familiar with some other facts about the girl which gave me reason to make the above construction. She once had a dream as a little child where she had sneaked in to her father's bedroom and could see what he was dreaming. He was dreaming of a  bustling city that was hovering above his bed. A kind of floating city where all the daily activities and concerns of mankind were taking place. The dream was interpreted as her wish to make her and his dreams to co-mingle and make a dream world/city/life of their's together. Her father never married after he divorced her mother, and growing up at times she felt sorry for him and wanted so much for him to have a family life of his own

"The boy who was with me had brown hair," the girl recalled.

The psychoanalytic commentary had brought out a fragment of the dream out of amnesia/repression and  now she could add that detail.

"What pictures or memories come to the mind when you think of the brown hair?"

"All my brothers have brown hair. Just like me. Mine is a little lighter. My mother's hair was brown too but darker than me,  like my brothers'."

"Is that boy then your brother?"

"Yes, he is."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because the little kid whom we were saving was my brother too. At one point in the dream he said, "Don't leave me, for I will die."  So it was me, and the brother next to me, who were saving the youngest one from some disaster. The dream was end of the world kind of dream. Like you see in those apocalyptic movies where everything is destroyed and only a handful of people are left who band together and watch out for each other. We were such a leftover group, my two brothers and myself,  trying to survive, running away from the supernatural force which was following us."

Knowing her I knew the greatest disaster of her life had been the sudden death of her mother when she was still quite young. I asked her, "Is the dream a replay of the disaster of your mother's death."

"Could be.  Her death was in a sense like end of the world for us children. And though we still had our step-father, it felt as if we were small, weak and helpless against the big world. And while growing my mother had at times told me that if something happens to her I must take care of my brothers. I always felt responsible for them. When she died, in many respects, I took her role with them."

"How old was the little kid you two were taking care of?

"Two and a half years."

"How old was your youngest brother when your mother died?

"Two and a half years."

"Who are the two figures whom you ran for refuge but who paradoxically change into the supernatural entity itself and rise out of the bed.?"

It was easy to see that they had to be familiar figure to whom they were running to to escape from the disaster only to find that they had inadvertently ran into what they were running away from.
"I don't know. They rose from the back and as if they were part of the comforter, like blended into the comforter. One of the figures looked like me. She had brown hair similar to mine."

"Was she your mother?"

"I don't know about that. But my mother had brown hair and blue eyes like I have. She was very pretty, my mother, and I am vain too like her." She gave a shy smile. "And now a memory comes up, so here is your associations which you are asking of me. Someone my mother dated in high school I ran into him when I was visiting my hometown, and he gasped with astonishment at the resemblance and said that it is so spooky how you look just like your mother. Everybody was crazy about my mother because she was so pretty."

"So at least one of the two figures following you is your mother. But why would she be evil towards you? Is it possible that her premature death has generated guilt in you especially since because of it you had to take her role? Also by mothering her other children, you symbolically replaced her with your step-father. You have told me that you are very attached to your step-father as well, similar to the way you were attached to  your father. And you are afraid that she has turned evil because she had to abdicate her role to you. Maybe somewhere in your unconscious thoughts you must think she will come back from the afterlife to punish you for displacing her."

"I think those entities about to emerge out of the woodwork are there more to keep an eye on me to make sure that I am doing the job right by my brothers than to punish me. Actually the entities were not evil. They were like in the background and followed us but never quite harmed us. So I should not have said they were evil. But there got to be guilt in me about her death. For just before dying she had developed severe blood pressure due to a problem in the artery that went to her kidney. My stepfather's family is very well off, so they went to Mayo Clinic for evaluation. The doctors there told her that if she does not get operated immediately she will die in 2 weeks. She had the operation and nevertheless died in two weeks.  As if she was destined to die on that day no matter what. I feel guilty because like I knew that that was going to happen to her that day.

"And now I am deathly afraid that I am going to die too and at the same age as my mother did and from the same condition."

"What condition?"

"A heart condition. It is genetic. Our heart suddenly stops."  Here she made the same wavy motions with her hand that she had made to give expression to the quivering ghosts who had risen out of the bed.  

"How do you know it is genetic?"

"Because my grandfather, her father, died from the same heart condition, at the same age, and without warning."

"Is the other figure who rises up from the bed is he your grandfather?"

"I don't know. The figure was of an older man. Could have been my grandfather. Never saw him alive though. Just a picture of his. He died before I was born. Died at the  age of 41 too, just like my mother. And yes in that picture his hair was dark brown like that of the dream figure." 

"Is the disaster you are running away from is it the fate of your mother and grandfather? Your own death?"

This conjecture could be more boldly advanced because the white shroud, the white comforter they were all per psychoanalytic theory allusion to death.

"That is deep, but you are right. The fear that their fate awaits me is always present  in the back of my mind as a disaster about to happen.  That is the reason I avoid doctors. I don't leave home unless absolutely necessary. As if I am safer in my home from the down worlders. I have coined that term to give pictorial expression to my fear of ghosts, ghouls and other entities from the world of shadows. Another term that I have coined." 

"Why did you turn evil at the end?"

"That is a good question. There is a dark side to me. It never finds expression nowadays, but once upon a time I was mean little girl who could be spiteful and vicious. I wouldn't like to know me the way I was in high school. I am nothing like that anymore. In fact just the opposite." 

"Is it possible that this mean part of you that you have successfully conquered during the day still manages to come out in the night in your dreams? And this mean streak in you found an outlet in anger towards your mother for dying prematurely and burdening you with the responsibility of taking care of your brothers and your step-father? She left you, an only girl amidst three brothers and the step-father. That may explain why your mother and grandfather are haunting you. For if you are angry towards your mother then you may harbor fears that she will come to punish you. And the dream is giving a pictorial representation of this fear of them."

"Why would I be angry towards my mother for dying early. She had no choice over it."

"But that is not how the unconscious thinks. The child part of your unconscious mind may not reason rationally and still hold a grudge against your mother for abandoning you when you were ill prepared to take up all those responsibilities."

"I guess at times when I was young I did feel anger towards your mother. And perhaps you are right in that I no longer feel angry but sad. I am strange with my emotions. I feel them not quite the same way that they should be felt. They change in me. Often I feel opposite of what I should feel. When I am missing somebody like when I broke up with my boyfriend instead of missing him and getting sad I got angry and mean towards him. With my mom perhaps it happened the other way instead of feeling angry I felt sad and fearful. 

"But now a dream comes to my mind. The other night I saw in dream this girl who I was trying to punch. But however hard I tried to hit her it did not count. For before my fist could make contact they lost power. As if I was hitting a punching doll and the impact had no effect. It was like nothing could happen to her."

"Who was this girl?"

"This girl was my old best friend. We had a fall out and we have not been friends for 10 years. We were like sisters."

"How long ago your mother died?

"10 years."

"So could young fall out with her was a reaction to your mother leaving you? Since your mother left you, you left your best friend as a retaliation."

"That is so interesting. Because the reason I broke up with her was because she did not come to my mother's funeral. She betrayed my mother."

"Just like you felt your mother betrayed you."

"Perhaps. But she definitely betrayed my mother. For her graduation my mother gave her 500 dollars. No one gives that kind of money for somebody who is not even their daughter, and she went on to a spring break with her boyfriend instead of coming to her funeral."

This could not be communicated and confirmed with the girl, but it looked that behind the rage and desire to punch her best friend for betraying her mother lay her own guilt of betraying her mother. In one of the sessions she stated that she feels guilty all the time; feels God will not forgive her; even after going to church and confessing to God and being reassured that God forgives all sin she could never feel pure or at least not for too long,; and that when she was a little child just telling a lie to my Mom made her feel as bad as murdering somebody.  This was an unmistakable allusion to her repressed death wishes towards her mother. 

And in her dream she could not punch her girlfriend with any force for she too harbored the same wish in her unconscious. To betray her mother and to replace her in the household.  It was like the female version of "Hamlet". Hamlet could not kill his uncle for killing his father and sleeping with his mother because he harbored the exact same wishes. 

But there appeared to be another wish behind punching her friend. It was giving vent to her anger at her mother for dying prematurely. The friend was substituting for her mother. 

"Why do I not connect and hit her when I want to hit her as hard as I can?" she asked.

"If she represents your mother then the opposite impulse arising from filial piety prevents you from doing the unthinkable."

"Yes, I do have two contrary impulses. For in the dream when I turned evil it was just part of me that turned that way. While another part of me just continued to be the onlooker.  The good part of me, the onlooker, was horrified at the emergence of  those coney bloody eyes. And all the while I was turning evil I was determined to run away from the bad guys and not become like them. There are two sides of me a  weaker scared side which joins the good guys and an evil one which sides with the bad."

I could not confirm it with the girl, for we ran out of time, but to me the coney bloody eyes derived their prominent representation from her especially strong scoptophilic instinct. The need to look at everything with great curiosity. The instinct which reaches its zenith during the sado-masochistic phase of  infantile sexuality. The popping out of her eyes was representation of her eyes popping out with jealousy over the privileges that her brothers enjoyed which being a girl she was denied growing up

She confirmed the conjecture that that part of the dream had something to do with envy "for you have to realize I grew up in UP, they are Neanderthals there when it comes to treating girls versus boys. And everybody else, my three siblings, my father and step-father, they were all big outdoorsy guys. And here I was not even allowed to mow the grass. Not allowed to shoot. Even snowmobiling, they let me do it just once. Yes, I did think that way that life was more cool if you were a boy. I am not gay or anything like that. I love men. I guess having that kind of jealousy has nothing to do with sexual orientation."

"Is it possible that behind the jealousy lay some impulses to violently hurt your brothers to get even for your mother making you a girl while she made all other siblings of yours as boys."

"I don't think so. But who knows what lies in my subconscious. For once upon a time I could be superviolent if provoked." 

"Is your current excessive shyness a reaction to his superviolent streak, keeping it buried by your building a wall of shyness and avoidance around you?"

"Perhaps. For you know how much I fear people."

"Is the blood dripping from your coney eyes a muted expression of this hidden violent impulses towards your brothers?"

"I don't think so. It could be. Though for me writing in blood symbolizes doing something that is carved in stone. Something whose fate is sealed in blood. It is final, like blood brothers; like blood oath."

And both of us wondered if writing with blood on that white paper in the dream was an attempt on her part to undo the fate she feels is written in stone. A fate that will strike her with cardiac arrest as it did her mother  for having once harbored evil impulses towards the latter and which in her unconscious she believes had a  role in causing her mother's death. For the girl does suffer from obsessive compulsive problems and does read and write all the time, perhaps to change the course of her life from its beginning. 


  1. The problem with the dream is defining the supernatural force. Was it a ghost? A demon? What is it?

    Either way the dream is clearly reflecting something in the dreamer's waking life that they are avoiding or don't want to confront. This is supported by the fact that the dreamer runs onto their bed and hides under the blankets. I almost suspect that there is denial or wilful blindness in their life with a certain issue. lists the dream symbol of a bed as: "To see your bed in your dream, represents issues that you don't care about doing anything about. Being totally accepting of a problem. Situations you have chosen to accept, live with, or do nothing about."

    If this is true then it sounds like the dreamer didn't want to face a problem, was more comfortable doing nothing about it, and then gave in to the problem and allowed it to effect their judgement.

  2. The supernatural that was chasing her and as she freely admits haunts her all the time is her past. In Hindi the word for ghost and the past are the same -bhooth.
    In rural India when somebody is possessed by a ghost and needs exorcism, it is assumed that the person is suffering from her past memories. Sometimes when a family member dies his ghost begins to haunt the living and his spirit may possess a younger member of the family.
    An aunt of mine, when her brother-in-law died, got possessed by his ghost and as a consequence stopped doing anything. Listening to her I could discern that all her life, unbeknownst to her, she was secretly in love with this brother-in-law who was her ego-ideal,and now that he was dead, she was mourning for him, and could not get rid of her memories of him, and could only make sense out of this pathological preoccupation as his ghost having taken over her body.
    Our dream-girl is also possessed by her past. The death of her mother has been a great trauma and feeling guilty over it continues to haunt her. It is the strength of this obsession with her past and its influence upon her life is what she feels as something supernatural or demonic. It is the quantitative factor of her psychopathology which is given the qualitative representation of a 'supernatural force'.
    Running to the bed and trying to hide is at the deepest level running back to mother's womb and hiding from the frightening world. That is what we do every night. Retire from the demanding and often painful world into the bed and under the blankets, sometimes curling up into the fetal position.

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