Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Dream, about Agency?

or what the Continuing Case course participants make of a dream.

A man in his mid thirties, a successful professional in a helping profession, has been working on trying to change about himself his ‘passivity” and there has come to light a hint of his resentment about having had to be so passive all his life, passive viz a viz his parents, and his parents viz a viz his grandparents. In an earlier session he had shared how ‘coming out’ years before to his mother about his homosexuality had sent her --two hours later-- to the hospital. The man brings to his male, heterosexual, therapist the following dream:

              I am at the funeral of my parents and I don’t feel connected to the loss of them,
              and I am worried that others will see that I am not sad, that I am disconnected
              from loss. My ex-boyfriend and my cousin are also at the funeral and the priest
              will not allow my cousin, because she is female, to sit with me, because women
              must sit separately from the men. I get the priest to allow my cousin to sit by me.

The patient then begins to talk about how, if his parents were dead, what he would do with all the money, items, and property he would inherit. He would sell what did not fit or what was a burden and keep only what was precious to him. Perhaps, with all the money, he would not have to work anymore.

One candidate noted in this dream the patient’s previous theme of exposure: others would know his thoughts and deficiencies, and the patient would feel shame. Funerals are about death, but this patient has felt enlivened by the therapy.

This dream could be what Kohut might consider a self-state dream, heralding a change in the patient’s capacity to be active: he asserts himself and gets the priest to allow his cousin to sit by him.

Does the priest represent his father? His strict grandfather who made the father acquiesce? The patient is able to get this traditional priest to make an exception for him. Does the patient feel, though, that he must emotionally kill off his parents if he is to be able to assert himself? Or must kill them off if he is to be with his own feminine selves (sit with his female cousin)? Or does the dream also speak to his fear of loss of relationship if he were to assert himself and, also, if he were to be with his feminine self? Is it a forward edge to be able to assert himself, free himself from his parents? Ideally, would we not wish intersubjectivity for him (to be himself while in relationship with others, that is, to have both agency and negotiated relationships)? And what about the oedipal aspect of a male authority figure keeping him away from the female relative?

A rich and lively discussion for the presenting candidate to add to his experience with the patient and this dream.

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