COMMENTARY

Why Do We Dream?

Robert A. Berezin, MD

Disclosures

May 18, 2018

Facing the Ogre

In scene 2 of the dream, Eddie surmounted the humiliation and enacted his true inner aggression toward Mother. Now, instead of being the humiliated, terrified, impotent one, Eddie rose up and turned the tables. He chose fight over flight.

Through the dream plot, Eddie digested the professor's humiliation by doing to his ogre-mother what he couldn't do in real life. He killed the relentlessly cruel monster. This reversed and dissipated his anxiety state. The argument with the professor had triggered this inner context. The drama of sadistic mother and maso-sadistic Eddie was inside all along. The dream gave form to this inner drama as the context for doing the work of detoxifying the day's conflict.

In the dream, Eddie triumphed in the fight, and the conflict was resolved. The murder reversed Eddie's feeling of impotence that came from his failed attempts to defeat his ogre-mother. There are times when a dream may fail to undo the anxiety. In this case, Eddie would have had a nightmare, an anxiety dream, which did occur frequently.

The dream creation of the broomstick as the murder weapon was drawn from 2 "feeling" sources: Eddie, when troubled as a child, used to climb his grandmother's apple tree, where he would use a broomstick to knock down ripe apples that he couldn't reach . The broomstick Eddie had used in the apple tree was stored as a positive memory image. It resonated with feelings of competence, courage, and triumph. The murder-by-broomstick was an image of a violent penetration.

In this story, the impotent humiliation was reversed and Eddie's anxiety abated. We can see that the image creation of the ogre came from Eddie's limbic system, where it created a scary monster. In like fashion, the apple tree had gnarled branches. The gnarled limbs "dripping with vines" was a nice touch created by Eddie's limbic image-ination.

Eddie's dream was remembered because of the blur between trance states. It actually did its work in the dark. It would have successfully relieved his anxiety state had it not been remembered. The dream was not just a repeated remembrance, but a new and alive play in the living moment. This story used activated memory to give form to an internal drama drawn from Eddie's formative past that utilized the inner story of Eddie and his mother. It didn't just spring from nowhere. It was already there, organized in his brain mappings.

As such, it turned out to be useful in his psychotherapy, because it gave us a window into his inner drama, and his internal characters and their problematic relationships. But this was not its purpose. (The collision between Eddie's REM consciousness and waking consciousness might not be so confusing if humans were more like dolphins. In their sleep adaptation, only half of their brain sleeps at a time. The other half is awake. It would be interesting to know how dolphin dreams coexist with dolphin waking reality.)

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