Friday, April 14, 2006

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of...

Last night I had the strangest dream. I dreamt I was on the shore of a rushing river and on its opposite side, I could see and even hear several of my coworkers laughing and having a great time on a beautiful, sandy beach. They kept calling to me to swim across the river and join them…somehow in the dream I knew that was how they had gotten to the beach. By crossing the river. I was standing in what appeared to be a very muddy and disgusting muck on my side of the river and, the longer I stood still in one place, the deeper I sank in the mire.

I kept yelling out to one of my coworkers in particular, “You know I can’t swim that. I have MS”, and she would just laugh and wave her arm in the air, signaling me to come across. Suddenly I realized I didn’t have any arms and I began to panic. How was I even going to free myself from the muddy muck I was standing in let alone try to paddle my way across a roaring river? I stood still, feeling myself sink deeper and deeper into the mud, until I awoke with a start.

As I slowly reoriented myself and my consciousness back into reality, I lay in bed contemplating the meaning of my dream. I have a couple of theories why I dreamt this and I’ll share them with you now. But first, I must take a moment to explain my basis of dream analysis theory…it is a mixture of several theoretical beliefs that work for me!

Viennese Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud first developed the theory about the role of the unconscious on the individual. Freud believed the dream worked on two levels. A straightforward level showed events in dreams as remembered. However in the latent level, objects and actions in the dreams symbolize sexual and aggressive feelings and ideas that are repressed. He further went on to stated that there had been three great disillusions in human history: Galileo's discovery that we were not the center of the universe, Darwin's discovery that we were not the crown of creation, and his own discovery that we are not in control of our own minds. One of Freud's most important theories is that psychoanalysis of the dream allows us to uncover emotions that are buried in our unconscious in disguise. That dreams represent the 'peepholes' of our minds.

Freud said that most dreams are wish fulfillments, and that an important part of these wishes are the result of repressed sexual desires, desires that can scare us so much that our dreams turn into nightmares. He concluded that dreams are divided into wishful dreams, anxiety dreams, and punishment dreams. Punishment dreams are in fact also fulfillment of wishes, though not of wishes of the instinctual impulses but of those of the critical, censoring, and punishing agency in our controlling minds.

Now, frankly I think Freud was a bit of a crack head in many of his theories, particularly when they were about women and sex. If you recall, he’s the one who invented the term “hysteria” which comes from the Latin word “hyster”, meaning uterus. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out he was talking solely about women here, since you fellas don’t have this organ! But I DO believe his contribution in the area of discovering the workings of the unconscious mind were important.

Carl Jung, a student of Freud, took his theories one step further. Dr. Jung believed dream content used symbolic language. He proposed that a dream expresses collective racial unconscious memories and instincts shared by all people. These are basic ideas that are themselves symbols. These include the hero, monster, mother, father, mandala, sacrifice, and the mask. Dreams also indicate the way to self-actualization. Jungian therapy in fact deals extensively with dreams and fantasies. So in dreams it protects the sleeper from the effects of a realization of these wishes. The dream taps into the desire for wish fulfillment when the controlling ego is relaxed during sleep.

Now that’s a whole lot of mumbo jumbo psychobabble, but I felt it is important background before explaining MY rational for my earlier morning dream. And if nothing else, you have just received your first Psychology 101 lesson! Of course I forgot to include the behaviorist theory, which many of you may agree with even more: behaviorist psychologists refuse to place any meaning on dreams, since they cannot be studied directly and scientifically!

So with that said, let me move on to my interpretation of my dream! I believe my dream symbolized the great fear I have that Multiple Sclerosis will render me “stuck in the mud” if you will, and Iwill somehow find it impossible to “swim across the river” and join my coworkers there.

It IS true. One of my greatest fears is becoming disabled to the point I can no longer go to work or support myself with employment. Being off work during this latest relapse has allowed that fear to raise its ugly head and roar in the conscious and unconscious areas of my mind. I don’t “do” recuperation well. I don’t “do” lying around and resting well. And I generally am a “doer”.

It is a struggle for me to allow myself the necessary time for my body to heal itself, especially during an unknown period like a relapse. If only relapses came with a time limit guarantee! They sure would be easier to deal with knowing there was an end in sight.

On a good day, which lately has been a rare event, I can see past the illness and know I will not always feel this way. I will not always need to be home lying around and resting. I will eventually return to the job I enjoy and most likely have several more years of gainful employment.

But my dream has been a significant jolt to my psyche today, reminding me I must also face my demons and dragons and identify them for what they really are…feeling afraid. And because fear is just that, a feeling, it still remains something that is “optional”. I can choose to feel afraid or I can choose to feel relaxed and content. And I can also choose to take whatever actions may be necessary to insure my job security. (This, spoken like a true behaviorist…which I am not!)

Hmmm….with that said, maybe I WILL try to take a nap later today and explore what other unconscious ideas may be lurking around in my holey brain!

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