Sunday, February 8, 2015

An incest dream

A man in his late thirties, who still lives with his mother, came to the therapy session and talked about his love for everything old, like classic cars, vintage comic books, turn-of-the-century houses with their turrets and other castle like features, and recalled how as a  young man he took a friend of his to the Boston-Edison Historic area that has some of Detroit's most magnificent mansions, and his friend got mad at him for dreaming of living in such high places, given that they were black and thus not entitled to such uppity lifestyles, and the patient laughed at his friend for being so dumb as to not see that now only bums and prostitutes lived in and around those houses, and they were so run down and abandoned that in all probability they could be purchased for virtually nothing. Then he added that recently houses have been coming a lot in his dreams. On being asked to give an example he narrated the following:

The dream was about this most incredibly beautiful house. It belonged to an older man who is planning to turn it into a church. But I swindle him from doing so by giving him some money.  There is lot of guilt associated with this trickery as if I should not have done that to him. The house is on Detroit river. In fact the river comes right to the house, waves coming over that green grass to the back door and then receding rhythmically. There is a steamer on the river, an old river boat, red in color. What is so remarkable is that I can see every part of it distinctly. It is a showboat with the twin wheels rotating under the water, which I see so clearly. I can't tell you enough as to how vivid the dream was and how much in detail I could see every aspect of it. I think there was a cruise ship too in the dream.  Or maybe the riverboat got replaced by the cruise ship. It had endless number of rooms, the ship was gigantic. Even in the dream I was thinking if it is put alongside a skyscraper no doubt it will be taller than the skyscraper. And there I go again thinking of majestic houses - for skyscraper is in the same category as houses, just a grander version of it. 
Also in the dream I was a seaman, about to go into the water and the river.  I was building a boat to do so or maybe I was already on the boat, or doing something of the sort, something a seaman would do.   

Patient was asked for associations to the house. He said, "It is a white house, a barn house, ranch, very elegant. I walked around it from the back to the front, admiring its beauty. The walls are beautifully carved with round projections that are so pleasing to the eye."

These associations strengthened the impression that the beauty of the house which he could not praise enough was beauty of some woman,  and considering how the dream revolved around old majestic  mansions, the woman whose beauty he was appreciating was no other than his mother as she must have appeared to him when he was very young. But this presumption did not bring us any closer to the essential 'dream-thoughts' that lay behind the 'manifest content'.

Then the patient recalled a detail that puzzled us greatly. The house was not constructed like regular houses are, which are rectangular in shape, but at an angle. When asked to draw to explain how the rooms were not straight but at an angle he drew the following.

The slanted lines which are disjointed in the blog entry because of my inability to draw diagrams using a computer were not broken but continuous in his drawing.  

 \                           \                           \                    \
  \ Dining Room  \  Living Room  \  Kitchen    \
   \                            \                            \                    \   \  Front Door
    \                             \                            \                    \

The association that the patient gave as to why the house was at an angle was rather strange. He said  for years his penis was not straight but bent because he had fallen upon his penis while wrestling in high school. But the problem had recently cleared up and his penis was fine now.

This association was clearly connected with the castration complex and his sense of inferiority about his sexual organ. It is an inferiority complex that no man escapes from, and which impels so many to fall for ads that promise a bigger and better penis with creams, pills and pumps etc. It has its roots in the oedipal phase when one is confronted with the inferiority of one's organ in comparison to the imagined, and thus greatly exaggerated, size of the father's.  This contrasting of one's potency with that of the father's perhaps was responsible for that element of the dream where he is thinking that if he puts the ship next to the skyscraper it will be just taller.

When asked if his penis was really bent, or he just had a feeling that it was so, he admitted that it was more in his head than in reality and there was no objective evidence there was anything wrong with it and none of the women he had had sex with had ever mentioned that there was anything wrong with his penis.

The association threw light on his poor self esteem about his ability to make love, but did not help in coming closer to the basic meaning of the dream. And since there was limited time available to analyze the dream, and also because I was quite familiar with the patients problems and the complexes around which his illness, schizophrenic breakdown occurred,  I took the step of making the following construction: "We know that behind your fascination with these old statuesque houses lies your fascination with your mother. Could it be possible your swindling and buying that beautiful house from the old man so he could not turn it into a church was symbolic of your buying your mother from you father so you could fulfill your aims with her instead of letting him continue to have his will with her." This conjecture was based upon his buying the house to prevent it from becoming a church. Now churches, temples, mansions, statuesque houses are typical symbols of the mother, but that version of the mother which is common property of all men (God's/father's house ), best symbolized by Madonna and thus sexually unapproachable.

The patient first objected to this conjecture  on grounds that the man was Caucasian and his father was Black but then immediately added, "My grandmother was as white as any Caucasian lady and I always put her and my father in the class of Whites."

Then after a few minutes in which he talked about things unrelated to dream he spontaneously  volunteered the following, " I now know why the house is at an angle. My mother was very pretty and thin. And as you know he was a player who had children and relationships with other women besides my mother. So he was in and out of our life. But when he would come to our house I would be afraid that when he would have sex with her, his penis would go right through her body because she is so thin. But then I would tell myself that his penis will be bent and go upwards at an angle and not through her."

He was asked to draw the angle in which his father would have sex per his childhood imagination. He drew a very erect penis, almost vertical, with one testicle, which surprisingly was not dangling below the root of the penis but projecting upwards over it.  

"How did you know about erection and yes about sex itself at that age?"

"I knew about sex and erection as early as when I was 5. Perhaps earlier. I already was having erections then. There were also two boys in the neighborhood, who had access to Playboy and Penthouse, and we would look at those pictures at their house. Also with my cousins, who were slightly older than me, I would sometimes play games in which we would show each other our private parts. I remember how intensely curious I was about their bodies."

"Is your seeing every part of that ship so vividly, a continuation of this sexual curiosity which you were already exhibiting so strongly at that age?"

"That makes sense. I do know that when I first started having sex with women, which was pretty late in comparison to other kids that I grew up with, I would be so curious about their bodies that they will say, 'oh no, you are more interested in examining me than making love. You are supposed to make love to me not examine me like a doctor. "

As for there being so many rooms in that ship, on theoretical grounds, I conjectured that it was an allusion to marriage as well as its contrary: to have sex with endless number of women (symbolized by rooms). It was depiction of his utter fidelity to his mother and always choosing her over all others, and yet it depicted its contrary: a desire to spite her by having liaison with endless number of  women.

But the patient swiftly rejected the latter part of the 'construction' claiming that that is how his father was: a player. But he is just the opposite of his father in this respect. He believes in having children only after marriage, and never having affairs.

Multiple rooms on the ship stood for marriage. It was depiction of marriage by showing all other women that one must give up for the sake of one. The comparison of that ship with a skyscraper also, perhaps, was his comparing other women to his mother and finding them short. It is interesting that he has never been able to make a break with his mother. And though the two are always complaining  about each others shortcomings and continuously squabbling, all attempts by him to live by himself or with other women have failed within no time. The fact that he is her only child, with his father dying when he was just 12, also has contributed to his inability to give up his love for his mother and find an extra-familial object.

When asked as to why the walls of the  house had beautiful projections that were pleasing to the eyes, he could come up with none and rejected my suggestion that it was an allusion to his mother's breast countering it with, "if it was symbolic of any body part it would be testicles and not breasts." When I asked him if he was being sarcastic he said, "No. That is the association that popped up in my mind." I wondered if it was compensation for the lack of penis in a woman by covering the defect with  endless beautiful projections (a phallic mother; testicles through displacement substituting for the penis).

As to why the dream was trying to show him as seaman, patient said - as only a schizophrenic can do, who often seem to have a gift for seeing through dream symbols - that it must allude to semen.

When asked why he said, "Because the water that was coming up to the backyard of the house was shaped as the shaft of a penis, with the advancing tide broad like a penile forehead. And you know what backyard on the street means. So the dream must be my attempting sex with my mother in that fashion. Though it is so strange that the very thought of such a deed during my waking hours would fill me with utter disgust. I have no attraction towards my mother whatsoever."



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