Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A dream of teeth falling out.

Psychoanalytic theory considers dream of losing teeth a punishment for autoerotic indulgence. Recently I came across a case which supports this formulation.

The patient who is in her early thirties, but behaves more like a child because of hysterical defenses that were erected early in life to control her overarching sexual drives, and who currently lives with her boyfriend, opened the session with the statement "I have a dream for you to analyze," and proceeded to tell me the following:
I have finished my studies and got my diploma, and I am now all set to work. But my boyfriend instead of being happy at what I have accomplished wants to kick me out of the house.

She added, "What is so strange is that my boyfriend, fiance, whatever you want to call him, for he plans to marry me next year when I am done with my studies, in real life cannot tell me enough how he cannot wait for me to finish school and get a job so we can have extra money. But in the dream he is doing the reverse: telling me to leave.  It makes no sense. If he really wants me to leave he should be telling me that now, when I contribute nothing, not when I am done with my studies. But the dream keeps recurring. Which reminds that there is another dream that I am dreaming quite a bit too.

My teeth are falling out. I reach for my mouth with my hand and a whole bunch of them fall in to my hand. It is not like they are bloody or anything.  Just saliva and spit.

Now when somebody reports two dreams back to back, we take it for granted that there is a connection between the two. So I asked her if the two dreams occurred on the same night. She said no, but added that both dreams emerged around the same period and have been recurring with some regularity.

"Anything else you can think of which connects the two dreams?"

"The only connection between the two I can think of is that it weighs heavy on my chest that he is kicking me out. I looked up in a dream book that I have as to what falling out of teeth could mean and it said it means something heavy is weighing upon your chest.

So the affect in both the dream is that of some burden upon her chest.

Now the feeling of heaviness or burden upon the chest is like weight of some sin or guilt upon one's conscience. As to why a sense of guilt or anxiety generated from anticipation of punishment appears as a heavy feeling in the chest I don't know. But that is the part of the soma that is most preferred by the psyche to express this form of anxiety. 

So it was she who was feeling guilty about her boyfriend kicking her out of the house. But should it not have been the boyfriend who should have been feeling guilty?

The dream only makes sense when we assume that it was she who was planning to leave him once she finished studies and was not financially dependent upon him and was feeling guilty about using him for that end. And while the affect of guilt had remained unaltered in the dream the visual representation of the crass behavior had been reversed. It is not me who is ungrateful and leaving him but he who is leaving me. 

The dream-work can change the perceptual contents of dreams from one thing to another (distort, displace, condense, even reverse it), but with affects it has much harder time. At best it blocks it out completely. But putting the reverse affect is at best fleeting. So the affect of guilt was sailing through into consciousness quite unaltered.

Before I put forward the construction to her that it was she who wants to leave him I asked her how the dream shows the boyfriend kicking her out.

"He is telling me 'you go, you can work now, you have a job now, you can look after your daughter without my help, you can support yourself'."

"Is it possible that these are the reasoning you want to give to yourself so you can muster the courage to leave him? And it is not him that wants to leave you, but you who want to leave him, but feel guilty about it?"

The girl confessed that leaving him has often been on her mind. "Many a times I have thought of getting all my shit in the house together and just leaving. I am not the happiest person on earth. We don't have sex anymore. He is horny only in the mornings, when he wakes up. That is not normal. If he was really in to me wouldn't he want me all day and night? If he is horny only when he wakes up in the mornings it means that he was dreaming of somebody else who excited him and now wants to use my body while in reality making love to that person."

"Why is he not more in to you?"

"Because he is 56 and figgin' 20 years older than me. I am actually barely older than his daughters. I cannot nail the donkey's tail but there is something not right about his being so much in to me."

"It would make more sense for you to have started dreaming this when you were about to finish your studies. You still have a year to go."

"I am having second thoughts about continuing with my studies. I want to go back to dancing. There is phenomenal money in it. Whatever you want you have the money for it. I could take care of myself financially and every other way. I am not used to somebody else taking care of me. With all my previous boyfriends I was the one who made the money and paid the bills. He is the first one who takes care of me. It is a complete role reversal and actually I don't like it. I rather take care of myself."

The way she said taking care of herself made me think of her taking care of herself sexually as well. And considering that falling of teeth is symbolic of punishment for masturbation I put forward the construction, "Do you think the falling of teeth is punishment for taking care of yourself sexually. Since you don't have sex with your boyfriend you are finding sexual satisfaction in your own body?"

She began to laugh and said, "No. I don't have time to do that. I am too busy. I am having no sex altogether.  But I use to in the past. In fact I would do it everyday."

"Is it possible that the wish to revert to that form of sexual satisfaction is becoming strong in you? And you want to leave the studies, leave your boyfriend and go back to dancing and to finding sexual satisfaction in your own self?"

"I don't know I will agree with that or not. But let me tell you, you are a smart man." 

Three weeks later when she came back for her next session she reported that both the dreams had disappeared and she has been sleeping better.

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