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CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Conclusion

Richard Kradin Karnac Books ePub

The psyche is a symbolic organ whose referents span the spectrum from the personal to the collective. As it is not possible to penetrate a symbol fully, one can only intuit its implications. The idea of circumambulating a symbol captures the sense of what it means to look at a symbol from all possible directions, and then to look at it yet again. The limits of dream interpretation are imposed by the personal experience of the dreamer, whereas archetypal referents expand the dreamer’s collective awareness. In practice, I aim my interpretations at the intersection of these two domains, what I term the zone of individuation.

There is no single meaning that can or should be ascribed to a dream. Instead there is always a set of potential meanings, some of which will “feel” correct in the context of the treatment. Jung used to say that a dream interpretation was right if it evoked an “ah-ha” response from the dreamer. But in the final analysis, interpretations are largely based on their aesthetic appeal. Theoretical physicists and mathematicians rely on their skills, intuitions, experience, and sense of symmetry in determining whether a theorem should be accepted or rejected. In many respects, the same is true of dream interpretation.

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CHAPTER TWELVE: Out of Control

Richard Kradin Karnac Books ePub

A 28-year-old female physician in training reported the next dream. She came to treatment seeking help for a longstanding eating disorder that had developed when she was in high school. When I first saw Ellen, I thought I was watching a marionette. She did not appear to be ambulating by her own effort but instead appeared to be moved along by a set of invisible strings. Her movements were jerky and tightly controlled, when she entered and left the consulting room. As she sat across from me in my office, she scrutinized my facial expressions for evidence of approval or disapproval. Ellen had been in therapy in another state and had continued to talk to her previous therapist every day on the telephone for months, until her therapist wisely insisted that she find someone else to meet with in person. Her dream was reported in the second session.

I am in an empty auditorium. There is a grand piano in the hallway and I push it onto the stage. As I begin to play, the seats suddenly collapse on each other like dominoes and the sprinkler system turns on. There is water everywhere.

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CHAPTER FOUR: Approaching the Dream

Richard Kradin Karnac Books ePub

It is helpful to approach dreams systematically. When patients recognize that the analyst can effectively organize and interpret dreams, they gain increased confidence in the treatment. Dreams generally have a well-defined structure that contributes to their interpretability. Aristotle noted succinctly that dreams have a beginning, middle, and an end (Aristotle 1985). Jung (Jung 1952) suggested that dreams, like a play, can be divided into an exposition, (location, time and cast), a peripetaeia (plot development), a crisis (point of maximal tension), and a lysis (resolution).

In practice, patients will often ignore critical details in their reporting of dreams when they first begin working with them. If this continues, it may indicate resistance. After all, when we are truly interested in something, we tend to recall its features in detail. Until that state of mind is achieved with respect to dreams, it is common for the dreamer to report unrelated fragments of narrative that have little coherence. Consider the following dream narrative offered by an intelligent patient who repeatedly expressed doubts concerning the “objectivity” of psychoanalysis.

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CHAPTER SIX: Chains

Richard Kradin Karnac Books ePub

The following is the herald dream of a 46-year-old homosexual man, reported six months into the analysis. Ted was a well-groomed middle-aged man who appeared younger than his age. In the first sessions, he seemed anxious and defensive. He reported being unhappy in his heterosexual marriage and expressed an intense hatred of his employer. Despite his chronic disgruntle-ment, he quickly offered a series of reasons why he could do nothing to change his situation. His dream was as follows:

I am at the bottom of the ocean, wrapped in chains. In my right hand I hold a gold key that can open the lock and release the chains. But instead of opening them, I throw the key away.

Associations

“Nothing really comes to mind. I was watching a show about deep-sea diving on television the night before.”

Early in the treatment, it is important to explain to patients that dreams represent a language that is different from conventional discourse. The new patient should be helped to recognize that the information revealed by dreams is likely to assist in the treatment, and reassured that dream interpretation is not meant to be a source of shame. It is understandable that a new patient would be reluctant to participate in dream analysis, if it leads to embarrassment. As Jung noted, the ego invariably views its encounters with the unconscious as a defeat, because these detract from its sense of omnipotence. However, recognizing this expected decrease in self-esteem, it can generally be modulated by the analyst.

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CHAPTER SEVEN: The Cook

Richard Kradin Karnac Books ePub

This is the first dream brought by a 53-year-old woman whose chief complaint was difficulty getting along with her coworkers. Jill was an attractive middle-aged woman who might be described as “animated”. She reported this dream in the third session of the treatment.

I am four years old. I am standing in the kitchen of my parents’ house attempting to cook an egg. My parents are in one corner of the room and they are paying no attention to me. I am intent on cooking the egg. My parents disapprove. The egg breaks and flows down the side of the counter.

Associations

“This sounds like something I might have done. I was always trying to do things by myself that I was too young to accomplish.”

Although Jill’s associations to her dream were limited, I sensed that she was at ease working with imaginal material and that she displayed a degree of ego-objectivity that would help in building the therapeutic alliance.

Jill had previously been in treatment with another therapist for several years. She described her experience as pleasant but not very productive. It is advisable to determine a patient’s prior exposure to psychotherapy, and to inquire as to whether it was helpful, as well as to why and how it ended. At times, it may become apparent within the first sessions that the patient has prematurely left a previous treatment, in order to avoid working through unresolved issues, and might benefit by returning to it. However, I do not contact previous therapists unless this issue begs for resolution and then only with the patient’s express permission. Inquiries may reveal rigid negative transference responses that predictably will be repeated in the new treatment and that could lead to its premature disruption.

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