Sunday, June 11, 2017

Further dreams of escaping death

The patient whose dream of trying to pass his own aggressive illness upon the friend of his son - see blog entry of April 25 - in his next session reported further dreams of escaping death which may be of some interest to aficionado of psychoanalysis, especially since the dreamwork used typical dream symbols to cobble together the manifest content.

Most of the dreams were chaotic and only a few fragments he could recall with reasonable accuracy. But since they all followed the same theme we could figure out what the dreams were trying to convey.

The following dream  he could recall with good amount of manifest material.

He was out in a business area, running from one place to another doing errands, even though it was like 2 am and no businesses would have been open. [The dream had disregarded this anomaly.] He felt an urgent need to urinate while driving from one spot to another and stopped to relieve himself at a house which he had recently purchased but had still not closed upon. He had the keys to the house or knew the keycode of the lockbox. He assumed it would be empty so there should be no problem in his slipping in and out and relieving himself. To his surprise he found a hobo living there with two of his family members. They were squatters. They had eased themselves into the house illegally.  In fact they were cooking something on the stove at that weird hour as if it was quite natural to do so with no concern the house did not belong to them and it was so late in night. He went out to find some legal authority to help him throw them out. A middle aged police woman happened to be around and came to his rescue. She ordered the hobo and his family out of there which, to his surprise, they agreed to without any protest. 

The house, where enroute, he had stopped, was his own body. Though he does possess many properties he had none in the area where the dream shows he had one. This falsehood conveyed the wish to deny his having the deadly disease. The occupied house/his body was taken over by the hobos (disease) but only in dream. But since dreams are fiction and do not exist in reality, the illness was fiction too and the disease did not exist. It was all a bad dream
The hobo and his family were obviously the illness that were occupying his body illegally and needed to be gotten rid of.
When he had the dream, it was actually around 2 am, and he did have an urgent need to urinate at that hour of the night. This need to urinate which was real need had been woven into the structure of the dream to escape getting up and getting rid of the need by actually going to the bathroom by dreaming of doing so in that house.
Having a lot of unfinished business was an attempt to postpone death. "I have so many things to take care of that there is no way I am dying." One of the unfinished business was to find the hobo (the disease) in his property (body) and throw him out. The police woman stood for his mother who had got rid of all the childhood ailments successfully, whose image he was now invoking to do the same with the current disease. She had been transformed into a police woman to symbolize the legal system whose help he was taking to get rid of the disease. For the disease had no legitimate right to invade his body and he was getting  the law enforcement to get the illegal aliens out of his body..
The hobo and his family departed so easily was another wish fulfillment. The disease had gotten rid of in a hurry without any difficulty.

In another dream he saw himself in a bright and sunny day on a road which had a row of shops from one end to the other. He was supposed to catch a train after he went through those shops, primarily to find a restaurant to eat.  Each restaurant he entered, he felt like he had been there before and the food  in the past had not been bad.  It looked like at every restaurant he stopped he could not make up his mind whether to eat there or not and kept on finding himself in the next restaurant doing the same thing. All this indetermination about eating and moving from one restaurant to the next was accompanied by anxiety that he will miss the train if he does not hurry up.

The train symbolized the last journey and exit from the world. Going to the row of restaurants was an attempt to go back to all the women from the past with whom he had had relationship and to get a fresh lease on life by impregnating one of them and starting a new family, which, because of the obligations incurred, would postpone taking the last journey (dying).  Restaurants symbolized the girls from the past and eating there for having intercourse with them. But just like all these relationships had not ended in his having a child with any of them when he actually was having relationship with them, even in the dream this reality was preventing him from indulging in the fantasy that he was getting a fresh lease on life through having a family with one of them. The anxiety/fear of dying was shifted, for lessening its impact, from fear of dying (getting on the train) to just its opposite, missing the train (not dying); a reversal.

Another dream a short one was of confronting death itself which came in form of a hoodlum/animal dressed in black hoodie, that was challenging him in front of Burger King. Fear and darkness was the ambiance.

Entering the Burger King restaurant was to eat food. Consuming food symbolized having intercouse, which would have given fresh lease on life through rebirth (having a child). But death, in the form of a frightening animal, was preventing it from happening. The  animal also symbolized the Oedipal father, the deathly fear of whom had first appeared during the Oedipal phase for having sexual attraction towards the mother the pursual of which would have led to castration and death.

There were a lot of other dreams, all vague, the common theme of which was that he was breaking the law and would get into trouble if caught. All of these dreams originated from the wish (which his conscience deemed illegal) to give his disease/fate to others. In one dream he had invited somebody to one of his houses for some educational instructions. He noticed the invited person had parked his car illegally. It was facing the wrong way. He felt the anxiety (guilt) of that man's wrongful action. The man then began entering the house. He was watching this from a distance. But while the man was crossing the threshold of the door, its wooden frame suddenly developed gaping splits,  giving it an eerie dilapidated look.

Doing something illegal was pushing somebody else into the jaws of death through transferring his own bad fate on to that person. Which his conscience was deeming illegal. However, the dream was pushing the blame for this unacceptable (illegal) wish by making the person who was getting pushed into death as the one who was doing the wrongful act (parking the car facing the wrong way). The dream however could not succeed in projecting the feelings of anxiety/guilt upon the victim and he still felt it, even though in the manifest dream it was not him but the victim who was doing the illegal parking. This proves Freud's rule that it is easier to reverse and change the visual content of the dream to suit one's wishes but the affect associated with it is much harder to block out.
The house as well as the wood frame symbolized woman. Wood is a typical symbol of woman (matter/material). But as he entered inside her (house/wooden frame) instead of deriving pleasure from the act he met the fate of death. The gaps (gaping splits) that appeared in the wooden frame were symbol of the frightening aspect of female genitals (reminders of castration and death).

Another set of dreams were about being poisoned. While in a hospital the nurse is trying to poison him through the IV, or a waitress is trying to poison through the food she is serving, or there is a bitter debate going on between him and the waitress over a credit card error. In all these the wish to poison the other person or put them on the wrong through giving them the disease and through such an action getting rid of it from one's own self is projected, reversed, and experienced as they are poisoning or harming him.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A dream of escaping death by passing it to somebody else

A man getting up in age after a long healthy life, in which he hardly ever was sick, came down with a very aggressive illness and when told he may not live for too long, dreamt the following:

He is in a house where a friend of his son is in great trouble. Some kind of legal trouble.  A  policewoman and a policeman are standing next to him to take him away. But the son's friend does not have proper black pants to wear which once he gets and puts it on they can take him away. The dreamer is offering the young man to take his black trousers - quite a few of which the son's friend is trying - but none of them are quite fitting him. It looks like he is purposely not trying on the right pants and in addition is doing some purposeless wasteful actions delaying everything instead of putting on those pants the way he should and leave with the police.  This is making the dreamer angry that the kid is incompetent and will not amount to anything.

The day before the dreamer had been going through his closet and had noticed how many of his black pants which were just lying there, never worn, because they were too tight, were now fitting him well and as an irony the ones which had been fitting him well, were now too baggy because of the weight loss and it had taken him some time to decide which pants to wear and while he was sifting through those black trousers the thought had passed through his mind that soon he will be wearing none of them.
In the dream this process of deciding upon which black trousers to wear had been projected upon his son's friend and had been made a ground for accusing him of being incompetent and someone who will amount to nothing. Since black, as much as white, shroud/cloth often symbolizes death, the black trousers symbolized death, which the dreamer was trying to escape by pushing it from himself upon the young lad and getting angry and accusing him of incompetence for not readily accepting it.
The two police were death itself, which had come to take him away but which the wish fulfillment had shifted it from himself to the young man. It is he who is in trouble with the police (death) not me. The accusation of incompetence was actually reversal of the realization, in service of the wish fulfillment, that the young kid is too smart to be pressured into accepting the fate of the dying old man upon himself.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Psychogenic Impotency due to Misogyny

A patient brought the following dream which he labelled as "A dream of hidden erection." 

"The dream lasted almost all night long, or perhaps not,  but it certainly felt that way. Every now and then I woke out of it, startled, to check if my penis was erect or not and then fell back into sleep and resumed the dream."  

The dream:

In am on a long motorcycle ride. A cousin of mine is my companion. She is driving while I am in the sidecar. She is reaching out with her hand to my penis as if it is the motorcycle's pistol (accelerator) grip. There is a great effort going on my part for my not wanting her to know that I am having an erection. I do want to have an erection but not because of her.  The whole emphasis on the dream is to have an erection but for her not to know that it is there. I think when she reaches out to grip the pistol she does not find erection.

The patient has a huge number of cousins so I asked why this particular one was chosen by the dreamwork to take the ride with. The way he talked about the long ride - something that went forever, it left little doubt that it symbolized life journey, in which, by the way, he has been unsuccessful in that he is 38, unmarried, still lives with his mother, has no lasting relationship, has paranoid delusions and hallucinations when off Abilify (a dopamine blocking agent), and has great difficulties in consummating the sexual act if he does find a woman willing to sleep with him (he is good looking, but women after initial attraction can sense that he is not altogether there and break off with him) and has to resort to indirect and deviant fantasies and sexual positions to manage erection and emission. 

"This question has puzzled me too," the patient replied. "But actually I know the answer.  You will recall I have related to you a recurrent dream that I have been having for the last six months or so of another cousin in which I am trying to have sex with her. The most surprising thing about those dreams, which but for some minor details portray the same theme, is that the cousin who I lead into sexual intercourse is someone towards whom I have not a shade of sexual interest, for she is not attractive at all. From our youngest years I never thought of her as attractive. And even the sex in the dream never progresses beyond going through the motions of making love, for I have no feelings for her, and it is done without even taking our clothes off. 

"So this new dream may be just a new version of that recurrent dream. For this cousin is the sister of the cousin with whom I have been making love to, without having any attraction towards, for the last six months." 

Now this recurrent dream we had subjected to analysis in a previous session and had concluded that it expressed hostility towards women, with the cousin representing his mother. The sexual act in it was less an expression of union (eros) and more an assertion of aggressive masculinity, with an intent to humiliate, the essence of which could be summed up in the phrase "I am screwing you." However the fear of getting too aggressive had watered down (repressed) the act by limiting it to just going through the motions of sex, without any feelings, and doing it without taking off clothes. 

We could not solve in the analysis of that earlier recurrent dream as to why this particular cousin was chosen by the dream-work to express his hostility towards women.  

The patient now claimed it was really the cousin in the current dream that was the object of his hostility and her sister had been replacing her because he must have been scared of expressing his hostility towards the one with whom he really had an ax to grind. 

"And what was your beef with her?"

"This cousin is 44 years old now. And I am 38 so she is 6 years older than me. Now when we were young, I was about 10, for almost a year I had to sleep in the same bed with her, because we were living with my aunt, her mother and there was not enough space in their house. I was afraid of the dark. I am afraid of the dark even now. As tough as I am, and fear nothing, I am still afraid of the dark. Even now I cannot fall asleep without the TV on, and my mother hates that - patient lives with his mother - and she comes to my room and cuts it off as soon as I fall asleep. 

"My cousin had a similar attitude towards me when we were sharing the bed. She would not let me keep the light on. And I would be so afraid of the dark I would go and be up against her and she would not like it. She thought so little of me she never faced me so it would always be like ever increasing 'spooning' as night would progress. I would often get erection and she would then push me away.    

"And that would make me so mad. Especially since I had no interest in her, for she was as ugly as her sister, so full of acne that I thought of her as pizza-face."

"Then why would you get erection?"

"Thats a good question. It must have been that I would fall asleep and then the erection would occur not because of her but because of the things I was exposed to during the day. I had access to playboy magazines, a lot of them, they were hidden in a closet, and Marvel Comics and there was one particular comic character, Linda Carter, the wonder woman, whose tight clothes and semi-nude body in pictures would get me so aroused.  So the excitement from those sexually exciting objects from the day I must have been transferring to the cousin who I found not at all unattractive because of sheer physical closeness as I would drift into sleep, where distinctions between one person and another kind of melts.

"In fact in the dream I do want to have an erection but not because of her and that is what I want her to know when she reaches out to check for erection that it is not for her but for others. Yet in my attempt for her not to feel my erection I think I am sabotaging my ability to have erection altogether and ruining my ability to make love normally. I grew up getting put down by my mother and all the women and girls that were always around me. I have so many cousins and aunts. And my inability to perform well as a man with women arises from this anger at them for treating me badly."

"How do you know this is the cause of your sexual difficulties?"

"I have been reading a lot lately about misogynists and there they tell you that they hate women because of bad relationships with their mothers. Verbally or physically abusive mother will turn you off towards all women."


Saturday, January 7, 2017

An exhibitionistic dream

A prolific dreamer brought this dream to the session.

I went to Susan and Gary's house. Gary was alive [In reality he passed away last part of the year]. I was surprised that he was alive. Gary said he would show Susan around and then left me alone. I put on one of his t-shirt and I was going to put on some underpants, but it was a pillowcase. Larry then said "Can't we leave you alone" and I said "probably not". Susan then came in. I felt embarrassed and humiliated.  I said I will wash everything and bring it back.

When asked for associations it turned out that the patient thirty years ago had dated Susan, but only a few times. His mother, whose strong influence had prevented him, despite being an exceptionally good artist and a highly intelligent man, from ever getting married, had put a block to his budding love for Susan through making a statement that one should go out only with someone who has a lot in common with oneself. Since Susan is Jewish and he a Catholic, he had given up on her.
He did admit, after some reflection, that this explanation is a superficial one and the real reason he did not pursue Susan further was because she was very popular when young and was going out with a number of boyfriends at the same time that she was dating him, and it was his fear of competition that had held him back. He rather defer in favor of others than face the dread of defeat. He was bullied as a child and has deep fear of other men who he rather placate than fight when confronted.  He has very little confidence in himself and admitted that his dreams are often about his bungling and making other mistakes at work and elsewhere inviting wrath of others. These inadequacies and lack of self confidence were interpreted to be symbolic representation of his lack of confidence in performing sexaully, turning him into a man who had never made love to anybody. "I am not good enough for anybody," is how he put it.
"You think you are at their house to resume your relationship with Susan now that Gary has passed away?"
"I no longer have interest in her. Yes I was interested in her when she was 18 but now I feel no attraction towards her. But you are the doctor."
The last sentence confirmed that my conjecture was right. The repressed wish could not be acknowledged but indirectly; imputing that he is not conscious of this rekindling of interest but I, as his doctor and with my superior medical knowledge, had guessed it correctly.
Gary said he would show Susan around and then left me alone could only be interpreted as wish fulfillment that Gary was exhibiting Susan and making her available. Leaving him alone perhaps alluded to his being permitted by Gary to pursue her but only in onanism not in actual physical contact.
Wearing of Gary's t-shirt and attempting to wear his underpants by pulling them up was interpreted to be his taking Gary's place with Susan.
"But why pillowcase?"
Patient said it was perhaps a wish to sleep in Gary's bed putting his head on his pillow.
I wondered if pillow was symbol of  female genitals, a place to rest head (penis) not unlike how the man's most restful place is inside the vagina (when making love) and finally in mother earth's womb (eternal rest).
Patient said the interpretation was quite likely correct and then added, "You know why I am pulling up the pillow case, because it is the opposite of pulling down the underpants."
Was it then 'reversal', a technique so often used by dreamwork to distort the true state of affairs, in this case to hide his pulling down the underpants, a preliminary step one must take before intercourse.
"Where is the humiliation part coming in from?"
Patient then confessed that he had hid this part of the dream when first telling it to me for it was so ridiculous.
The pillowcase came into the dream because it has no opening at the other end and so his legs could not go through and he was unable to pull it up higher than his knees and was thus forced to expose himself. It was this exposure/exhibitionism which was giving rise to the embarrassment and humiliation.
"How do the exchange of dialogues 'I cannot leave you alone' and 'probably not' add to the meaning of the dream?"
It is accusation by Gary that I cannot be trusted with his wife and I am agreeing with him. It is no different than how when I get really paranoid the security guards start appearing at the windows of my house  and how black cars follow me when I am on the road to keep a tab on me."
Patient all his life has slipped in and out of paranoia.
"Why are you promising them that you will wash the clothes and bring them back?"
"It is washing away the guilt of wishing to have sex with Susan. Though it hardly goes beyond my exposing myself." patient concluded the analysis of the dream.