Sunday, June 23, 2013

A dream confirming Zombies are our own evil impulses projected upon others

A high spirited woman, in her early thirties, mother of two, 12-year-old boy and  a 2-year-old girl, living with latter's father, whom she must incessantly criticize, because of a constant need to not feel inferior to men, brought in the following dream:

[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.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fear of needles and fear of going to the dentist.

I recently came across a gentleman, who is now in his early Sixties, who boasted that he has no fear of dentists. "Others chicken out at the very thought of going to the dentist but I can face without fear their prying in to my mouth, their giving injections in to my gum, and their putting in of those frightening instruments to keep my mouth open."
Now fear of the dentist arises from the castration complex. Teeth serve as an excellent symbol of the penis and any thought of harm coming to them provokes castration anxiety and a desire to run from the dentist's venue in a hurry.
What lay behind this nonchalance and absolute lack of fear?
Later in the session - it was his first session with me - when I suggested that he get some blood tests done for he had not seen an internist for a long time, he declared that that is out of question. He dreads needles and has avoided going to a doctor for God knows how long because the very thought of needle makes him faint. He bitterly complained that it is just not needles but the idea of  blood coming out of his arm in to the test tubes that makes him queasy and he falls to the ground when he witnesses it. He went on to declare that the medical profession should do the blood drawing while a person is lying down so he does not pass out, fall  and hurt himself.
Now the phobia of needles also arises from the castration complex. So this man's extraordinary castration anxiety found an outlet in the fear of needles with medical professions but as if by reaction formation he developed a completely opposite attitude towards the dentists.
The psychology of daredevils and those who climb the highest peaks and do bungee jumping etc. appear to be operating under the influence of the same reaction formation; a defensive maneuver designed to overcome their exquisite sensitivity to and fear of danger. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A dream of revenge getting discharged upon the wrong person

A young man, recently divorced, had two dreams on the same night, back to back. He claimed the first dream was premonitory.

The First Dream:

I receive a text from K -the girl he had broken off a few weeks ago after dating her for couple of months- that she wants to meet, and not because she wants to get back together but for the sake of children [they have a child each from previous marriages who had begun to get used to each other].  I message back: absolutely not.

He added that surprisingly a few days later he did receive a text making the exact same request but so far he has not replied to it.

The Second Dream:

I am back in the house where I grew up. It is Christmas. My ex-wife is taking down ornaments from the Christmas tree. But it is not she who is doing it. A pair of sneaky hands just emerge and take away the ornaments.  It is difficult for me to explain how, but the best I can describe is that the hands belong to nobody, they just emerge out of nowhere and are taking off the decorations from the tree. I am watching all this through a camera that is monitoring the entire proceeding. I want so much to hug her. My love for her, which I no longer feel when I am awake because she cheated on me, returns in the dream. Then slowly the realization comes that we are divorced and I feel great sadness. I wake up missing her terribly.  

Patient initially was only interested in talking about how the first dream predicted what was to take place a few days later. There was an element of pride in his premonitory power and a desire for me to be impressed by it.

Since I hear all kinds of premonitory dreams especially from my obsessive patients who cannot dream enough the death of others and therefore once in a while their dream does turn premonitory, I was not very impressed by it and we quickly proceeded to analyse rather than appreciate this psychic gift of his.

But the task was not that easy. Why would he dream of receiving that text before it actually arrived? It is not that he needed some extra time to think over it before the reply. In fact in real life he had just sat upon it unable to make up his mind to accept this veil invitation to rekindle the relationship. If he was psychic and could foresee the future, even if only in dreams, couldn't his psychic abilities have done a better job and shown him dreaming of something more important than a mundane instant message text. Perhaps the clue to decipher the dream lay in his reply: absolutely not. He had ruthlessly rejected her.

Why did he reject the offer from K, who possibly really loves him, to get back together, and then immediately proceeded on to another dream where he is craving to hug and love his ex-wife, who had cheated on him and had broken his heart?

Now we know all the dreams on the same night arise from the same circle of ideas; same dream-thoughts. So unable to make head ways with the first dream, it was but natural to abandon it and go on with the second one in the hope of finding the common dream thoughts behind the two dreams.

To figure out the wish which had motivated the second dream was not rocket science. It was a desire to hug and love his ex-wife again.

But why on Christmas day, why was there a Christmas tree and what could be the meaning of those sneaky hands taking down the ornaments from it?

"Why was it Christmas day?" I asked him.

"That is when everything came to a head - on the Christmas day year and a half ago.  For weeks we had been arguing on how the Christmas day should be spent between the two families. I was exhausted by the bickering as to whose parents' house we will go for what, and for how long, yet I was looking forward to the Christmas day hoping that somehow the spirit of the holidays will straighten things out between us. Then came the shock. She disappeared, leaving me and my son waiting for her all day, not returning till the next morning. I had no choice left but to do some detective work, which, in this day and age with electronic trail everywhere is not hard, and found that she was having an affair. So I guess in the dream I was going back to that Christmas day, a time when I was still not aware that she was cheating on me and when my love for her was still untainted."

"Why was the dream taking place in the house you grew up instead of the house where you lived with your ex-wife?"

"My fight with my ex-wife at least partly arises from my anger at my mother. She was addicted to prescription medications for many years and could not take care of us the way she should have. She was either depressed or busy partying and drinking with a bunch of card players in a bar not too far from home. And I think my anger at her for this neglect has become generalized to all women and it emerges as a need to control them. I drove my ex-wife away because of my subliminal anger at her and my need to reform her. I could not control my mother from her self-destructive behavior because she was my mother and I had little power over her, but that impulse found an outlet with my wife. And I think she could not handle my controlling nature and finally copped out of the marriage by having the affair."

"Whose hands were removing the ornaments?"

"They are my wife's. Perhaps my mother's. Perhaps the snake who broke our marriage. He was my close friend, he grew up with me, I trusted him, and he stabbed me in the back by having an affair with my wife. The hands are doing the job sneakily because the destructive influence upon the marriage of the three was not visible. They were all working behind my back, or at least out of my consciousness, to pull the plug on my marriage. I think the dismantling of my marriage is being symbolized by the ornaments being pulled off the Christmas tree.

"But also by making those sneaky hands do that dastardly deed I was protecting my ex-wife from blame. If I could convince myself that she cannot be faulted for cheating on me then I could love her again. My pride cannot  forgive her. Without forgiving her I cannot love her again.  But in the dream I found the way to love her by making the blame as much as my mother's and my friend's as her's.

"The camera monitoring the dream field itself is a reflection of my need to control everybody. I drive my mother crazy too by trying to control every aspect of her life which comes in guise of stopping her from smoking and taking all the medications that doctors prescribe her which I think have worsened her in the long run than helped her. And I think I drove my wife away by trying to improve her beyond her ability to improve and micromanaging our marriage."

After getting the associations to the second dream [which have been condensed and put as a monologue here for easy reading] from the patient it was not hard to decipher the first one.

The condition for his loving his ex-wife was for him to absolve her from the guilt of having cheated on him. One way to do was to reject that aspect of his ex-wife which had cheated and only remember the part that he had loved till that Christmas day. And this rejection was being practiced against the girl K from whom he had recently separated from. In the dream he was making K, the innocent one ,as the culprit, who had done nothing wrong to him, in order to salvage his love for his ex-wife.

Patient told me that he meets his ex-wife many times a week to pick up or drop off their son and though he still finds her extremely beautiful, he no longer feels any love for her.  But, he added, in the dream it is another matter. Perhaps his pride goes to sleep allowing him to forgive her and to love her with all his heart the way he had done once upon a time.