Thursday, June 28, 2012

Determinism in dreams even with phone numbers

An all-American burly man, approaching Sixty, pillar of the community,  father of half a dozen children, grandfather of twice as many, comfortably retired, volunteering for all community activities, church-going to the boot, including donning the red coat - he already has a flowing white beard - and playing the Santa Claus in the malls at Christmases, rescuing stray animals, brought in the following laconic dream:

I dreamt of someone named "Martin Had" and his phone number which was "628-0967" [the phone number has been slightly changed to preserve the anonymity.

Patient declared that he absolutely knows no Martin, that he has looked in the phone book and there is nobody by the name of Martin Had,  and he could understand dreaming someone called Head: but Had!?). Why would anybody be named Had, and yes he did call up that number and it went to the answering machine. And yes, he left no message.

So we tried to start playing with various permutation and combination of the numbers hoping to correlate it with his age, his daddy's age, his wife's age, lotto numbers, but came up with nothing. Finally he said that all he could think in connection with it was that 0967 reminds him of the year 1967. Around that time he was in the army, Vietnam war was at its height, though he got stationed in Germany, and the year was 1971 not 1967.

But I said that there can be no smoke without fire. That name and those numbers got to have meaning, and he knows it in his unconscious, and the only way to reach it is through his associations and at least one of the dream's origin must lie in the circa 1967-1971. Perhaps some Martin he knew during that era.

The patient suddenly went into a reverie as if he was listening to some distant drums. When he came out of it I remarked that the way his mind was preoccupied, something associated with Martin perhaps came to his consciousness and he said  "Yes, I did know somebody called Martin. Father Martin Phillip. He was a major in the army and a chaplain. I was his assistant and did odd jobs for him and sang in the choir when he conducted the service. Very brilliant man. I learnt a lot from him. He is still alive. I have been thinking of visiting him. But I guess I have already made my peace with him. I called him a few months ago to make sure I had paid my respect before he died.  

The way he said it all, especially about making peace with him and paying respect before he died, sounded to my third ear as if Major Martin Phillip was a father figure to him and towards whom he harbored the same ambivalence that men harbor towards their father. But instead of exploring further on this angle, curious as to what the numbers could mean, I asked him if they had something to do with the girl friend he had during those years. Now I know this patient fairly well, and he had a torrid love affair with a German girl  to whom he almost got married but did not while stationed there. This German girl subsequently came to the US and lives in an unhappy marriage, and in the last few years every now and then calls him up and tempts him to leave his wife and join her.

The patient immediately began talking about this old flame: a girl who was very high spirited, loved sex, traveled with him on trains across Europe to all kinds of places and was game for something exciting all the time.  As he went on to describe how he almost got married to her but did not, and how she is willing to leave her husband for him, for the latter is a no good drunk, and how he finds the whole thing ludicrous because he does not believe in divorce, I wondered if Major Martin was not indirectly substituting for this drunk husband of the lady.

He had called Major Martin recently out of the blue to pay his respect before he died. Could it be looked upon as making amend for a death wish? Perhaps a death wish displaced from the lady's husband to Major Martin?

"Could the phone number be that of the girl who is pursuing you? For we know from your dreams in the past that you do have temptations to reciprocate her overtures."

"If it is true then you should get the Nobel Prize. Let me look into my cell phone and see if the phone number is that of hers."

He pulled up three numbers. None of them were remotely close to 628-0967.

"Could it be possible that the name Martin Had is fragment of the wish:  if only Martin had married that girl and me."

Patient was impressed. "You may be on to something. It that girl and I would have got married certainly Father Martin would have done it. Anything Father Martin asked of me I couldn't refuse. If Father Martin had approved of my marrying her it would have been a done deal. Coming to think of it I spent so much time during that period making up my mind to approach Father Martin but did not for if I had and he had said yes  it would have been a done deal."

"Could then dream be showing the desire to see the fantasy "if Martin Had married us two" coming true? And that the phone number emerges so you could redo your past? In the dream it is not the girl's number but perhaps Father Martin's number that is coming up so you can approach him to make that fantasy a reality. What is the number of Major Martin?"

 He looked up in his cell phone. "His number is 291--0966."

The patient immediately noticed that 0966 the last four digits were common  with the last four numbers of the dream -0967except for the last number which was off by one.

We looked at the first three numbers but could only see that the 2 is common between 291 and 628 and there is no other similarity.

Suddenly the patient said if we take the last number of 291-0966 (Father Martin's number) and put it in the beginning then it becomes 629 (1)-096. Now 629(1)-096 is quite similar to 628-0967 the dream number.

Based upon other associations which were not clear enough to write here, mostly because they are connected with many other facts about the patients which I as his psychiatrist knew about him but which will be impossible to describe here, the difference in the two numbers 629-0966 and 628-0967 which were off by 1 number in the lay in the fact that it involved subtracting and adding of 1 from those digits in a manner that was to make it possible for him to minus himself from his wife and be an addition to the woman who he once loved.

As to why the dream transposed 6 from end of 291-0966 to its beginning, converting it to 629(1)-096, lay the desire to go  back to his past and make the wish that Father Martin had married them a reality and which was only possible by taking the present to the past - transposition of the last digit to the first.

Interestingly while in the dream he is wishing to go back in time and change his life trajectory and make a life with his German ex-girlfriend, in his waking life he is totally devoted to his wife, and would not change his big happy family for all the temptations in the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The inexorable Repetition Compulsion from childhood sexual abuse

A woman, now in her fifties, whose psychopathology revolves around the consequences of having been subjected to sexual abuse by her father when she entered puberty, and who is now very sick, riddled with self punishing impulses which at times have turned into frank suicide attempts, reported  two dreams that were virtually identical but for one minor detail. Both dreams occurred on the same night.

I am at Stuart's house. I climb up the steps which are covered with green old fashioned shag carpet. I have grocery bags which I place upon the kitchen counter and start making the dinner.  I cut the potatoes and cheese for I am making perogies. All of Stuart's family is there, sitting at the dinner table, his sisters, his father and his brother Jerome who is sitting at the end. His mother comes to help me finish making the dinner. 

The second dream was exact repetition of the first except instead of perogies it was meatloaf that she was cooking and Stuart's mother does not come and she finishes the cooking all by herself.    

The dream occurred after the patient was taken off from Trileptal and Prozac, which had been started when she was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. She was still left on 300 mg. of Lithium and 2 mg. of Risperdal. Antidepressants make her tremulous and agitated and the anti-seizure mood stabilizers make her feel weird. She nevertheless always gets put upon these medications whenever she goes to the hospital. These hospital admissions occur for suicide attempts and because of that the psychiatrists who as a rule know very little about it other than as an excellent justification to hospitalize and make some money automatically put her on anti-depressants and mood stabilizers.

When she is heavily medicated she does not dream but nevertheless wakes up with severe anxiety and overwhelming sense of having done something wrong, an affect which she is unable to shake off for rest of the day. Only by evenings her mood improves, she feels  near normal and finds energy to do a little house work and occasionally to override her agoraphobia and go out for shopping with her boyfriend.

"Why does the dream take place at Stuart's house?"

"Because when I ran away from  home, I was 15 then, I lived at Stuart's for a while. He was my first boyfriend, it was a welcome relief to have normal boy-girl relationship, and his family was nice to me."

"So is the dream showing that you are running away from your father?"

"I don't know. Maybe the dream is showing what we actually did at Stuarts, which included sitting around the dinner table and eat.  His brother Jerome always sat at the end of the table so the dream shows it that way. The dream is simply replaying what took place in my life during that period."

"No, the dream does not have time to waste upon simply replaying the past. Some wish fulfillment must be taking place which requires the recreation of the scene for its fulfillment."

"Well we always ate at 5 pm on the dot. Things were so organized at their house. The Stuarts were nice people, so it was a welcome relief from the abuse and harshness that existed at our house. At my father's, children had to work very hard and everything was oriented towards pleasing the adults. It was just the opposite at the Stuart's."

"You mentioned Jerome specifically by name while you did not name the sisters and also made sure to mention the exact position where he sat. Any associations to Jerome?"

"Jerome was my brother's friend. My brother also lived at Stuarts for a while after running away from home like me."

"Didn't you tell me your brother was sexually abused as well?"

"Yes, he was. Our step-grandfather who lived upstairs with our grandmother abused him."

"So the dream is showing you two escaping from abuse. Jerome appears in the dream with so much prominence because he serves as a link to your brother in the dream . The dream is certainly about the wish to escape from the terrible conditions of your home. And while you were not that much close to your two sisters you were close to your brother. In the dream Stuart's sisters are ignored perhaps to show your indifference towards your sisters but your solidarity with your brother."

"Yes, I was very close to my brother, who was just two while I was four, when our mother abruptly left us.  It was very heavy load for my father, taking care of the four of us and being on the road for he was a truck driver. Though his mother who lived upstairs helped him to take care of us."

"Why is the color of the carpet green?"

The patient could not come to any reasonable associations to it except that Stuart's family did have a shaggy carpet that was so characteristic of the 70s though it was inside the house not at the entrance steps.

On theoretical grounds the color green was interpreted as a symbol of jealousy and the patient confirmed that she was kind of jealous of Stuart's family because everybody lived happily and did not have to worry about getting abused or exploited.

Patient could come up with no associations as to why the dream showed her climbing up the steps, why she was cutting potatoes and cheese making perogies, and then meatloaf and why the dream had occurred twice.

When , on theoretical grounds,  interpretation was made that climbing the steps must be depiction of sexual intercourse, the patient started to laugh and said, "There is nothing sexual about this dream and I know you will tell me somehow it is connected with my redreaming the sexual abuse in hands of my father."

But I was not willing to give up that conjecture which the patient herself brought up so spontaneously and which was grounds for assuming that perhaps it was the central theme of the dream. Now many of her previous dreams on analysis had shown themselves to be repetition of the furtive sexual activity that had taken place between her father and herself in the wee hours of the night, fearful that the grandmother will hear something unusual and which were always initiated by her father and always resented by her for they would leave her feeling dirty and morally wrong. It was this knowledge about her, from years of treating her, which emboldened me to pursue this line of inquiry.

I said to her, "I will not be surprised that behind Stuart's house perhaps lies your own house. And your relationship with Stuart emerges so readily and repeatedly because behind it lies hidden memory of your relationship with your father."

"No, the dream has nothing to do with my father. He was not there, and I dreamt of Stuart because I loved him. We had wonderful times together and I would have married him if he had not left for service and his parents had not objected on grounds that we were too young to get married. And the dream is about Stuart's family and that is all to it."

But from previous sessions I knew the girl dreams of her relationship with her father almost every night and then wakes up in the morning feeling dreadful, tremulous and guilty, quivering and shaking and unable to leave the house afraid that if she goes driving, out of nervousness she may run into some other vehicle and kill the other driver. This dread of meeting a vehicular accident on the road, which was the basis of her agoraphobia, had two contrary wishes fueling it. One to encounter her father on the road by chance in the garb of a stranger and to make violent love to him and second to kill him for doing such a wrong thing. I also knew from the analysis of her previous dreams that dreams of being with Stuart and his family were invariably a cover up for being with her father and their family. They were two parallel families one which she loathed being part of and one which she desired so much to blend in with.

"Did you cook at Stuart's family?"

"No. Their mother did it.. I was treated like one of the children. May be I helped her here and there. But no I only cooked at my house."

"Did you make perogies at Stuart's family?"

"No. They were not Polish. But I cooked perogies at my house. And coming to think of it it was much harder to make them than meatloafs, which I had to cook for my father quite often, for he loved them, and in the dream it is not Stuart's mother who is helping me with the cooking but behind her lies the memory of my grandmother. For those suckers are hard to make and can take your entire day and she would come at the tail end and help me finish doing them. But I could cook those meatloafs for my father all by myself. In fact I loved cooking. We had assigned  chores like cleaning the dishes, vacuuming etc. I always exchanged my chores with my sisters so I could cook."

The patient would not accept the interpretation but her father's placing her in the position of his wife rather than his daughter had aroused the fantasy of being his wife and acting the mother of his children and it was this fantasy that she dreamt of nightly and woke up from it tremulous and guilty ready to commit suicide because of its morally unacceptable nature.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Courting suffering as a way of mourning the death of a beloved sister

An attractive, recently divorced,  mother of two young children, barely out of her twenties, reported that she purposely courts difficulties, traps herself into physical and psychological suffering, and despite knowing she is letting herself into trouble, is unable to put a stop to it.

When asked to give an example she said like she sat over a traffic ticket for an year till the notice came that her driver's license has been suspended. "My brother who is a lawyer could have got the case dismissed, or at least got the points off, or I could have just gone to the court myself, or simply mailed the check, for it is hardly any sum of money for me to pay off, but I did none of it."

When I tried to console her that everybody postpones paying traffic tickets because we feel we have been unfairly targeted out when everyone else is doing the same,  and the delay in taking care of it is a defiance of fate (parents) for inflicting bad luck at such an inopportune moment, she said, "No. My procrastination has  deeper roots than ordinary stubbornness.

"There is something in me which inexorably postpones.This is not the first ticket I ignored. I had received one couple of years ago, and that one too I ignored and lost my license and had to pay hefty fines to get it back. I knew precisely what was coming. Yet I was powerless to oppose. Why did I let it happen again? Why?"

Then she added that a few years ago she developed gall stones, and despite knowing the diagnosis, and getting occasional sharp pains as a warning of impending serious trouble, postponed the surgery till it turned into an emergency."What was the point of jeopardizing my health like that. But I did it nevertheless."

Patient then added that she does not feel emotions the way she should. She is too cerebral. She does everything by the book. Never fails to do what is expected of her, but without joy or sorrow. Why?

Now this had been a recurring theme in our sessions. Her inability to feel affects (emotions). And we had traced it to a tragic event in her childhood that had built a wall against emotional pain. The event had such a massive potential for causing pain that across the board she has gone numb towards feeling emotions beyond the point of their being faintest signals to take care of what the situation demands.

We once again took up the theme of this emotional trauma having numbed her. But the girl said that talking about it so far has made no difference. That my interpretations have not restored her ability to feel things. And while she knows very well that that particular experience is what has turned her into a practical, orderly, methodical person,  an "efficient machine" as her brother puts it, as to how the process occurred she has no clue.

"While I sometimes think of that tragic day, more correctly try not to think of it, I also feel the contrary feeling that that event had no effect upon me."

When she was told that this contrary belief is another layer of defense and a denial of the impact of that event, kind of bravado that such a thing may affect others but not me, I am made of stronger stuff, she began recounting the experience again.

"I told you before as to what happened. When I was six years old, my father shot my sister as a matter of honor. He disapproved of her seeing a boy who did not belong to our religion or community. My father was from Old Country, and the girls don't date there. Out marriages are arranged. To my father, a patriarch of 7 children, my sister, the oldest one, to do something like that, and that too with a Black man was a matter of utter loss of control and insult. He gave her several chances to call off the relationship, but when she did not, in a fit of rage, fueled by cocaine and alcohol, for he had recently been lured into doing these American things, which of course he did not find insulting to his sense of honor, there is complete double standards in our culture, he took a gun and shot her right through her head on her birthday while all the relatives who had gathered  to celebrate it watched in horror.

"The aftermath was horrible. It completely destroyed the family. We immediately became focus of intense curiosity in the neighborhood, school and the community. I was so ashamed to walk home from school, because our big yellow house became an object of fascinated horror. I would walk past the house as if I did not live there, sometimes wandering aimlessly for hours before sneaking in in the cover of dark when nobody was looking. I wanted no part of being associated with that house.

"But what is strange is that I felt no sadness at her death. I blocked it out. And despite the fact that I loved her so much. She was my favorite. More like a mother. She took care of the younger ones. Maybe it has to do with the fact that everybody went hysterical. There was so much screaming and shouting. Then my father pointed the gun at the sister who is the next oldest as a warning to the rest of us as what fate awaits us if we do the same. It cowed the girls, but not my brother who ran after my father, threw the birthday cake at him and threatened to counter kill him as my father walked straight to the police station.

[This threat from the father that the fate of her sister awaits her if she gives into passions rather than conduct herself with reason perhaps had a role in blocking her emotions but the point could not be confirmed.]

The patient continued, "But none of it affected me. I felt no sorrow. Even when the mourners came to mourn, and my people can really wail and shout at these occasions, my emotions were paltry considering the magnitude of the loss and the manner in which it had happened. I could not cry. I forced myself to do so or rather I buried my face on the floor and pretended as if I was crying so it does not look like what had happened was not being viewed by me as not horrible. But that was not me doing it. Even today I can feel no sorrow at what took place.

"When my father died a few years ago I was numb again. Everybody who came to the house, who, incidentally, never visited him while he was in prison, and now that he was gone and they would never be able to make good with him, could not cry and beat their breast enough over his death, with one of the ladies passing out in grief, all I could say to myself was 'what hypocrites!"

"What was your reaction when you saw your father shoot your sister and the gore that followed?"

"I did see the blood spattered all over. But I did not see the actual shooting. My younger sister, who was four then, and I were playing outside, when we heard this loud sound and saw through the window the commotion going inside . My sister began to cry immediately sensing something terrible has happened. And I began to assure her that everything will be alright as long as we recite this prayer. There is a prayer in our religion which all children are taught and we all firmly believe that reciting it takes away the evil and make everything come alright.   

"So I began reciting it even before we entered the house. And what I saw made me recite the prayer ever more rapidly and continuously. I think for a whole hour I was doing nothing but reciting the prayer, assuring my sister, and believing myself that the prayer will "undo" everything that had occurred."

So here in nutshell was the seed of her obsessional neurosis. Doing things right - ritually, methodically and without feeling emotions - will make all painful things disappear. She was trying to blow away the painful reality with her prayers. She had blocked out the pain of what she was witnessing with the aid of the obsessive repeating of the mantra that warded away evil.

"That night I had horrible toothache. And I wanted to report it to someone to do something about it. But I did not. I just suffered with it."

This was interpreted as the beginning of her mourning for her sister. "If she had died and had suffered such a horrible fate and pain it behooves me to suffer the toothache without any protest as well. At least it will give my sister some solace, since her spirit had to be watching, that she is not alone in her suffering but I her sister was suffering too."

Patient did not first agree with the interpretation, but after sometime remarked that "I never thought of it that way, but it does make sense. For after that I became a stoic and herorically bore all suffering, and never protested anything evil that came my way." And as if to confirm the correctness of the interpretation a little later she got up and showed me how her legs, hip and back ache all the time, with her joints making creaking sounds with the movements. As if mourning for her sister had left permanent imprints of physical pain upon her body.

From that point onward reactions to disturbing experiences were transferred on to her body as pain, protecting her psyche from feeling any emotions. But it came at a price. For neither could she feel positive and pleasant emotions either. And the courtship of pain - hysterical conversion of all stress induced emotions into bodily aches and pains - had made her vulnerable to getting into medical problems without taking care of them.

Some theoretical questions arise.

Why did the girl resort to chanting of the prayer and how did it help her? For this resorting to chanting was the beginning of her not feeling any pain or other emotions.

It appears to have been an attempt to reverse (undo) what was happening. If she was a grown man - like her brother who went after the father and threw the cake at him - she would have used her muscles and resorted to physical action. But as a child and a girl she chanted the prayer, which after all are nothing but asking God to take the muscular action to reverse the situation and punish the person who had done the deed.

And the motive behind it was to prevent generation of disturbing emotions inside one's self. For emotions (affects) itself are nothing but bodily reactions to anticipation of harm and pain. And the pain of seeing her sister suffer so much would have generated too much emotions and pain inside her. For if it could happen to her sister then it could happen to her. It was the anticipation of this possibility that made her pretend through the medium of prayer that everything was alright or going to be alright. Since everything was going to be alright she need not feel the distressing emotions. It was kind of denial of reality which otherwise would have been catastrophically painful.

But one cannot completely block out emotions either. They will transfer and attach themselves to some other areas of pain. And they did to her toothache and later to her back and hip pain. The patient disagreed and pointed out to me that her back and hip pain began after an auto accident in which she went through the windshield, but I had a feeling that over that organic substratum of pain there was a layer of psychogenic pain transferred from all the emotional disturbances she experienced during the day which she did not feel very much when it was happening.

It is interesting how this girl recently tried to find a way to start feeling pain in her mind instead of in her body, which is an attempt at recovery. For reconverting the hysterical bodily pains into their psychogenic roots leads to their examination in the sphere of consciousness and a greater control (binding/taming) of them.

One day she went to a posh department store and after paying for the merchandise not thinking clearly went back to a rack and picked a pair of pants and put it upon her shoulder and then thinking that she had already paid for her shopping just walked out of the store. In the parking lot she realized as to what she had done and how easy it was to shop lift. The next day she went again and took some more merchandise and got away with it. For the next five days she repeated this behavior, till she was stopped by the Security. She had a massive emotional reaction on getting caught. She was filled with overwhelming grief, cried and cried and her thoughts became totally jumbled. While in court she lost her voice and had a massive emotional meltdown in front of the judge. The emotional reaction was so out of proportion to the severity of the crime that even the prosecutor was puzzled and joined the defense in asking for leniency. Even after taking into consideration the 'secondary gain' from feeling the emotions there was no doubt in patient's mind that it was kind of progress, even if it meant a criminal record and fines, to feel something.

She had done something wrong and she felt remorse and pain for it. In the session we wondered if the shoplifting and committing the crime was not an identification with her father and repetition of his misdeed even if the two were so far apart in their magnitude. She was recreating the situation to feel the emotions that she could not feel then by immediately starting to recite the protective mantra

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dream displaying a woman's complex ambivalence towards men

A woman in her thirties, divorced, living alone, recently having given up an abusive relationship with a Mexican American, who is unemployed, associates with criminal elements, way below her in intellect, upbringing and social class, and who is currently being pursued by a man who belongs to her social and ethnic background, who has a regular job, and towards whom she has been unable to respond because she develops paralyzing fear at the prospect of going to his house dreamt the following.

I must add before I tell the dream that the man who is pursuing her has been going overboard with his wooing. Despite his having met her only recently he texts her all the time and has been cooking candlelight dinners for her, which she invariably gets out of at the last minute on some excuse. The day of the dream she had received yet another text message from him, inviting her for yet another dinner that evening. A couple of hours before the invitation time she fell asleep and dreamt

 that I finally made it to K's house. But I see a woman there sitting with a baby on the edge of his couch. I put on my usual nice act. "You have such a pretty baby." Which is kind of fake of course. And all the while I am wondering if this is K's baby or not. 
Then I walk out to the porch. I fumble through my keys for none of them are quite fitting the lock, opening of which will get me out of there. I feel great anxiety that I will never get out of there.   Then he comes from behind and holds me. I notice in the mirror which is present in front of us the thick and exceedingly blue mascara on my eyes. I notice that he is wearing a white shirt.

The main wish behind the dream was crystal clear even to the patient. "Though I have been blowing him off deep down I want to be with him. It is so sweet of  him to cook me dinners like that, especially since I am too afraid to ask him to my house let alone cook for him. Whenever I have to be with him I get butterflies in my stomach. You know how fearful I am of strangers and of leaving my house. I have this terrible fear that I will get lost on my way to his house out of confusion. Even now the directions to his house are jumbled up in my head. So when he texted me again today, for we had ceased communicating for a while and I had begun to feel that he has moved on to someone else, my hopes for finding happiness with him was rekindled and I felt relaxed and fell asleep in the afternoon and saw myself already at his house."

"Yes, it is dream of impatience. What you are looking forward to, the dream is showing it as  already happening. Interestingly in the dream your fear of him and your agoraphobia are both nullified by the strength of the wish to be with him. In dream you are able to do what you cannot in real life.  Is it the fear of sex which underlies your anxiety of strangers and leaving the familiar surroundings of your house?"

"No. He puts no pressure upon me in that respect. He has never approached me with that intention. He just sees something in me that makes him feel that we will be happy together. He can see my avoidance of him is not a rejection but a mental problem on my part. But I must say there is something about his voice that disturbs me. It  is similar to my father's, and I think he will turn out to be as controlling as my father."

"Why do the woman, who is sitting on the edge of the couch, and that baby come in to the dream?"

The associations were somewhat indistinct but the conjuring of the woman and child was another obstacle in her path to K. The dream had blocked out the affect of fear and anxiety and had placed her in his house, but the inhibitions had now created the obstacle in a new form. 'He is still not available to me because perhaps he now belongs to some other woman and even has a child with her.' However, "the wish" was asserting itself too and was creating the doubt that may be the woman has no claim over him and the boy is not his. Her fake praise of the child was to placate the woman in case she really was his girl friend and may view her as there to steal K away from her.

When this interpretation was made the patient agreed with it but added,  "That woman may be my rival but she is also myself. For she looks fat and wears glasses. And you know how in last few months I have gained so much weight. I should be wearing glasses, which I don't. But if I were to put on my glasses I would look like that fat lady."

So the woman and the child were representing not only rivals for her wish for K but also showing her wish for being living with K and having a child by him as already fulfilled.

She could up with no association as to why the the porch comes in the dream. Neither she has porch nor K. She could think of nobody from the past or present who had a porch like that.

"From where is the blue eye mascara taken from? Why such an emphasis upon it when you were telling the dream?" She had expressed quite a bit of astonishment about the intense blue mascara while narrating the dream.

"Yes, it was some blue colored mascara. It came right across my eyes." She took her hands over her eyes and made a motion across as if to show that the mascara was plastered from one end to the other like an eye mask. "Only a drag queen would lay the mascara as thick as that. It was so blue. Unbelievably blue."

But she could give no associations to that blue. And neither could she give any association to the white shirt. However, when I told her that white usually represents death and the white shirt -like white shroud - could be representing the fear of his dying, she immediately recalled that quite a few people, including her father, had died recently. Life recently has been preoccupation with death.

And as if to confirm the correctness of the interpretation she added that she now knows where the blue color came from. Her new phone when it receives instant messages shows the other party's message in blue while her own messages are in white. That morning when she saw his message it was in the background of that blue, and it had instantly filled her with the anticipatory joy of  meeting him, even before she read what was in the text.

And then she remembered, "Oh my God, that blue represents not just the joy of meeting him but his blue eyes as well. He has the brightest blue eyes. They look like the ocean. And they are plastered over my eyes, because I want them to be part of me."

"Is that the reason the association came that that mascara is making you look like a drag queen? If you  steal part of him, and add upon yourself, then you would be kind of drag queen."

"Perhaps that is the reason I am avoiding him. For I am afraid that I will kill him while stealing his blue eyes from him. And now I know too where that porch is taken from. It is from the house of that Mexican American ex-boyfriend of mine whom I finally told to get lost. He has a porch identical to the one in the dream."

"So you are running away from the blue eyed boy back to the Mexican, who is less threatening to you because he has far less intellect and social standing and there is nothing about him that would provoke your jealousy, and the impulse to kill him and steal his valuables."

"Yes, for I never have to worry stealing from that damn African-Mexican. It is just the other way round with him. It is him who is bumming from me all the time. He borrows and we both know I will never see a cent of it. I am attracted to these losers instead of finding the right guy and getting on with my life. I just cannot escape these wrong guys."

"And why is that?"

"Because I am to competitive. I am a volcano ready to erupt. If I want something I must have it. I could easily kill that man for his blue eyes. That is the reason I choose guys who are so broke and not just money wise but in their intelligence as well. For that way I will not be tempted to steal nothing from them. Even with them I debase myself and grovel at their feet so as to not let them know that I can kill them if they get too smart with me. But there is limit to my feeling inferior. If they push my button too far and won't back off, I can get really violent. I'll eat shit but I won't be choking over it."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Surdas - An Indian Oedipus

Recently my mother told me the story of Surdas which struck me as another variation of the Oedipus theme and therefore, I feel, it deserves a place in a psychoanalytic blog like this.

Surdas, who lived in the fifteenth century,  is one of the most revered figures of India, and reputed to be one of the two or three of its greatest composers.  If one subtracts the Indian penchant for hyperbole, he is reputed to have composed 100 thousand verses, majority of them in praise of Lord Krishna. 

There are many legends as to what brought his extraordinary talents to fruition.  One of them being that he was born blind and therefore his whole natural talents got concentrated upon the sense of sound. Another being that he was so frustrated by his inability to concentrate all his faculties upon mastering his craft that he blinded himself in order to not be distracted by the pleasures of vision.

But the story my mother told me is far more interesting. 

Apparently Surdas was a rake and a great seducer in his youth and would find entry into genteel homes because of his religious credentials - he was a sadhu (wandering monk) - and his incredible voice.   

And one day he found his way into a household where the dowager of the house was hypnotized by his singing.  She could not be more thankful for gracing their abode by his presence and could see the ray of  divine in his eyes and voice. Full of gratitude she asked him as to what  dakshina (religious offering) he would like. 

"What can you offer me?" Surdas asked, knowing what exactly he wanted. 

"Whatever the sadhu wishes," the devout mother said. 

Surdas said, "If you saw divine in my eyes, those eyes seek your daughter-in-law."

The mother was stunned and could not believe what she was hearing but being Vaishnavi  she could not refuse giving the dakshina that she had promised.

She told her son as to what she had done and the dutiful son said that if you have promised him such then you must keep your promise. 

At the behest of the mother the daughter-in-law went to the Sadhu's chamber that night and asked Surdas as to what he wanted. But when Surdas saw her beautiful face, so pure and sacred he was immediately filled with self loathing for having such lustful intentions towards such a devi (divine) like woman. He saw in the fullness of her beauty Radha Rani (Queen Radha - Krishna's consort)  and  he asked her, who now personified mother to him, to bring him two knitting needles.

The daughter-in-law was surprised at the request, but once asked had no choice but to follow the command and went and told her mother-in-law as to what the sadhu was requesting. She said whatever he wishes we should give him for we are bound by our  promise.

The daughter-in-law returned with the needles and handed them to Surdas who said, " I cannot believe that I was going to destroy such a devout, kind and generous family all because of these lustful eyes of mine that will stop at nothing in its pursuit of pleasure." And he blinded himself with those needles. 

Once his physical eyes were destroyed he saw only the image of Krishna. The physical attraction of others gave way to the attraction for their real self, their real beauty. 

From then on he composed endless number of verses glorifying the love of child Krishna for his mother Yashodha. 

In the beginning his verses were mostly begging for forgiveness from Krishna for his  transgressions and endless declarations as to how his mind finds pleasure in no other place but in returning to Krishna over and over again. However, once chided by his guru Vallabhacharya to stop being so pathetically abject and grovelling towards Krishna out of fear that his soul will not survive without such self effacement, he started writing verses that were much more versatile and dealt with far greater range of themes.  

Surdas's blinding of his eyes for remorse over having sexual desire towards a beautiful woman who was somebody else's wife, and who when she became available to him, reminded him of Radha (Krishna's consort) and his blinding himself as a penitence for such evil designs is remarkably similar to the legend of Oedipus. 

I was also struck by the fact that Surdas could find no lust for the daughter-in-law when she did come to offer herself because it meant destruction of that sacred and immaculate beauty is similar to how Freud described Leonardo Da Vinci's inability to love women, for making love to them would tantamount to destroying their beauty. Under the spell of the beauty of his mother, whom he loved so passionately, Da Vinci could only love and admire beauty and paint it, never subject it to sexual passions. Surdas also fled from the idea of having sex with that beautiful woman in favor of singing songs of Krishna's and his mother's love for each other.