Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ringing of doorbell in dream as symbol of death knocking on the door

A man in his early fifties who suffers from agoraphobia and cannot go beyond a few miles from his house brought in the following dream to the therapy session

I am sitting with my eldest sister on a couch, along with her ex-husband. The door bell rings and her ex-husband and I feel that we must protect her. 

There were no associations to any element of the dream, which was laconic to begin with.

I asked him,"Is there anything in common between your sister's ex-husband and yourself?"

"Their daughter who is my niece."

But this association did not help and knowing how much the patient dislikes this sister of his, who was oldest in a family of four children, while he was the youngest, and who would hit him, lock him in the closet, scare him in other ways, after their mother died due to breast cancer, when the patient was just four, I asked him if her ex-husband also dislikes her.

"Yes, he must. She is a pit bull. A mean mean bitch. She cheated on him and then took him to the cleaners. Just like she cheated me and my brother. She, and my other sister went to my father's house just before he died, and took everything of any value there, including all the family pictures, albums,  including  the pictures of my mother's and her family, so I have nothing left to show my children and my grandchildren. My father was a prolific picture taker, and we had tons of pictures from Polaroid instant camera."   

"So there is something in common between you and your sister's ex-husband. Both of you got cheated by your sister and have a reason to wish her ill. So the compulsion to protect her must have arisen to counter the ill wish.."

"But I have not seen her for 10 years. Neither her ex-husband. Why would they come in my dream now?"

"Yes, good question. Why now?" Though both of us knew the answer.

Recently his son had gone in to and had unearthed that his mother had a half-sister, who lived just a few miles from his home, and from her he had learnt a whole lot of family history and also viewed a lot of pictures of his mother when she was a child and of other relatives of theirs. He also saw pictures of a second cousin of his who looked identical to the dream sister. The wish had then arisen for him to meet his sister and demand to get some of the pictures that she had taken from their father's house. But his past attempts to contact this sister to do so, even request that if he could just come to her house and scan those pictures into his laptop, had been refused, arousing death wishes towards her.

So there was a renewed wish to contact his sister, anticipation of rejection, and arousal of death wish. The dream however, under the influence of conscience (superego), showed the counter-wish: to protect her sister from his death wish and sharing of the blame with his ex-brother-in-law.

 I conjectured that the death wish was given a concrete pictorial representation in the doorbell's ringing.  This was based upon my observation as to how old people at the eve of their life,  dread so much a knock on the door, or any other noise or unusual sound, which signifies that someone is trying to make an entry in to their house. Some of them stack chairs and other objects at the door so as to prevent messenger of death making an entry. Some of them will try to caulk or put insulation on every nook, corner and crack, as if to seal every single entry point and window of vulnerability through which death in the garb of cold air may sneak into the house - the house itself symbolizing themselves.

When I conveyed these thoughts to the patient he remarked, "Yes, ringing of the bell probably did mean death knocking on the door."

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