[Though even before telling the dream she broke into laughter as to how silly it was and declared, embarrassingly, that the dream could not possibly mean anything. In fact she wanted reassurance that every dream - and every single detail of a dream, I interpolated - has a meaning and there will be some normal thoughts behind her dream before she would proceed further.]
I am in a car with my friends - not my family members now - going to a mall. I am passenger [not driver]. Though they are my friends, only one of them I know, or at least can remember well enough now. She has been my best friend since childhood. Though recently we had a falling out.
In the mall - it is a big mall - we find out that it has been taken over by zombies. [The girl could not restrain herself from laughing at this point.] They are not mindless zombie who don't know what they are doing but intelligent zombies. They bite my friends who turn into zombies as well. It is not a violent bite. Not like how zombies devour and tear you in to pieces. But a gentle bite. Finally seeing everybody turning into zombie I let my friend bite my hand and I turn in to a zombie too. [she laughed again at such a girlie conclusion of the dream and added that I am surprised I agreed to it so readily. For my nature is to kick ass and not give into anything so easily].
The girl's correction that she was not with her family members but her friends gave the clue that the friends were 'replacing' the family in the dream for the purpose of repression. When two thoughts like that follow each other then one can immediately assume an internal connection between the two and in her case the disclaimer confirmed that the process of repression was trying to make it doubly sure that she tell us that the two thoughts have nothing to do with each other. In reality she was using her friends as a substitute to work out her conflicts with her family [through the medium of dream].
This construction was immediately rejected by the patient, but only to tell me in the next breath that the friend whose identity she can still recall is as good as family, almost a sister. They grew up together and she is like an alterego. "Her father and my father were alcoholics and both died young. She is 4 days older than me. We did drugs together as teenagers. We always got into trouble and together. But there were differences. While, her parents would ground her for a month for each transgression my parents within hours would forget what punishment they had given me, and I would be free to do whatever I wanted to by the next day.
"One would have thought she would have turned better than me with all the discipline she got. But it happened just the reverse. Though both of us did drugs, and no doubt to escape from the horrible conditions that existed in the house, especially the death of our fathers, she went downhill far more than me, and became far more boy-crazy than me. In fact she had no self esteem and would sleep with anyone who praised her slightly. She lost her kids to protective services because she was so far gone into drugs. I think the discipline did not work because her parents did not practice what they preached. My father was alcoholic too, but he did not hold me to higher standards than what he could practice. Her parents were druggies as well, but punished her severely for doing the same thing they were doing. It made her a chameleon. While I take punishment on the chin. She escapes them. As long as she can lie her way out of it she will do drugs and other creepy things. Not me."
"Why are you two going to the Mall?"
"We both are adventurous; Libra. We liked doing things spontaneously. However, there is a difference. I like to go against the grain, but she is a girlie sort. She likes to gossip. I think we are going to the Mall for different purposes. She is going there for buying soft stuff. Catty stuff. To make herself look vulnerable. I am going there to meet someone to kick his ass."
I have always found that Malls in dreams symbolize meeting place. Like a fair where one will meet someone for adventure, romance and life partnership. Agoraphobia arises from the same complex. A dread of coming out a loser in such an encounter provokes anxiety attack. One ceases to go to marketplace/mall out of fear that on not getting what one wants one may lose control and do something drastic.
"Where are the zombies taken from?"
"I don't know; they come all the time in my dreams. But usually they are mindless and aggressive, killing and devouring people, and I am afraid of them. But this time I find them half way decent, feel a little sorry for them, and they are even not mindless."
Recent work in therapy sessions had softened her attitude towards her boyfriend who she always criticized as mindless. So the criticism of Zombie was criticism of men. "They are dickheads and mindless, as good as zombies," was her frequent attitude towards men. Underneath, of course was her fear of them. Her father's aggressive and alcoholic ways had made her fearful of men. But she had also strongly identified with his aggression and had rejected her femininity. She took great pride in being adventurous. She had declared in other context her dislike for knitting, gossiping, wearing high heels, buying frilly things, and eating chocolate and hanging around in shopping plaza for hours."
"Why are they biting your friends and turning them into zombies?"
The girl insisted that the zombies were girls and boys. By getting bitten they were becoming ordinary people who go along with the program. "I on the other hand will never go with the flow. I refuse to be like all these girls, who will suck up to men."
"Why are you putting your hand out to be bitten then?"
"I guess, I am tired of sticking up for my rights and denying my feminine side. Remember the dream where I go to the Mall and shop around and buy high heel shoes with my mother and you interpreted that deep down I have a very strong feminine side which wants to find expression. It perhaps is making its comeback again in this dream. For now I remember the last part of the dream, which just came back to me.
We come out of the Mall and I don't know where I should sit. Like I lose my perspective. Everything looks different.
I guess it means I am ready to look at the world from a woman's point of view, even if I feel I am lost and cannot find my bearings. I went to the Mall as a passenger in the car. I think I am ready to let other women, chiefly this friend of mine, who acts so girlie, to show me how to be more like a woman."
There was element of the dream that had not yet been explained. Why were the zombies quick and full of vitality instead of moving stiffly, mindlessly tottering and barely able to stand up straight as would happen in her previous dreams?
The patient and I could only come up with the following explanation:
During the period when she was very competitive and hateful towards men she was full of evil impulses towards them. These impulses emerged as constant criticism of males during the day but in night, in sleep and dreams, they were shorn of their verbiage and appeared as pure visual images. The visual images and behavior of zombies gave the best representation to these evil impulses. What she wanted to do to those mindless/dickhead men now appeared through the defense mechanism of projection as zombies attacking and devouring her.
As to why the dreams did not show evil men attacking her directly we could only conclude that in dreams while the brain is not completely asleep still parts of it are resting and whatever action and behaviors have to be done they have to be undertaken with limited abilities. So zombies have to attack people but with a lack of proper muscle tone - in dreams we actually have motor paralysis - which makes them totter and move as if a ton of weight is on their shoulders and their feet are shackled. All their motor actions lack smoothness and their brain seems to function like a lobectomy has been done to it. But that is how the brain does function during dreams where verbal, conceptual and abstract forms of thinking are resting/sleeping and the unsatisfied wishes and their satisfaction have to be given expression through visual imagery alone. So the dreams find it easier to give representation to one's ambivalence about attacking others - the patient wanted to attack men out of jealousy but also saw that giving expression to such evil impulses was wrong and part of her mind did not want to do so - by making use of the limited activity of the brain during dreaming and showing the evil being carried out by idiotic semi-humans - the zombies. While the zombies do not carry their evil intentions smoothly because of the ambivalence they never die but keep coming on and on because the evil in us despite our best intention to extinguish, or at least to give no expression to it, persists on and on and can never be completely eliminated.
In this particular dream the zombies were not acting like morons with cerebral palsy because her attitude towards men was changing and it was with love she was approaching them and hence the zombies were biting her back too with love and with absence of ambivalence there was no need for the zombies to groan, lurch, totter and fall all over the place.
One cannot leave the subject of zombies without making a remark upon the frequency with which psychiatric patients complain that the medications you are prescribing them has turned them into zombies. Now our evil impulses which remain in check during the day because we are conscious and alert and under pressure from people around us, during the night, in dreams, can emerge as zombies because parts of the brain are asleep. Is it possible that psychiatric medications do the same: put parts of our brain in to sleep mode and so we feel we are in a dream state and are more "living-dead" than truly alive? It also raises the question whether the modus operandi of psychotropic medications is not to put aspects of our brain to sleep so other aspects can find expression without inhibitions.