Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for December 14th, 2010

The Recurring Dream

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on December 14, 2010

     Maryann, fifty-five, married with three grown children, says with horrible distress in her voice, “I had this dream last night. I think I have had this dream ten or twenty times in my life and each time I wake up in a sweat and I don’t know what to do about it. ” I wonder about the content of the dream, but I hesitate to ask that directly. Maryann continues “In my dream I get pregnant. I know I am pregnant but I drink a lot of alcohol and then I wake up the next morning, in the dream, and I feel horribly, horribly guilty and confused. I can’t figure out why I drank knowing I was pregnant. I can’t stand to live with the guilt of carrying this baby to term and wondering what, if anything, I did to this innocent child’s brain. I tried so hard to get pregnant in the dream, that I am just amazed with myself that I could sabotage the experience by my drinking.” Maryann seems to be chastising herself as she describes the dream. It feels to me that the dream is a platform for her to express her self-hatred, but I don’t say that yet. “What do you think is going on?” I ask, wondering if we are going to come to the same conclusions. “”I don’t know,” she says. “I think that with my children grown, I feel empty inside, and yet at the same time, I don’t want to fill the space with another child.” I feel surprised by her interpretation of her dream. Like in my earlier post,, Maryann’s dream allows her to express her internal world in a way that would be more difficult if she could not frame it within the context of a dream. “In other words, your recurring dream expresses your ambivalence towards engaging with a new baby. Maybe a baby is not an actual baby, but a new project, a new focus for your life.” I say, expanding on Maryann’s understanding of her dream. “Well, it does not feel like ambivalence. It feels like I am a horribly stupid and foolish person to knowingly destroy a baby that I wanted so much.” Maryann says with utter contempt for herself. “It sounds like you are feeling guilty about something, and this guilt is very deep, hence your recurring dream,” I say, stating the obvious, but wanting to open up an exploration of her guilt. “I think I could have been a better parent. I think I could have been more patient with my kids. I feel really bad about that.” Maryann states, as tears roll down her face. “Tell me more,” I say, wanting to understand her better, and hoping that with self-understanding will come forgiveness. “I was working full-time. I had a very stressful job and when I came home I often yelled at my kids because I was frustrated with work,” she says with a feeling of terrible regret. “We have to stop,” I say, but I think we should keep talking about this. Your repeating dream mandates that.” I say, confirming that a recurring dream, even more than one powerful dream, is a good clue to a meaningful theme in Maryann’s internal world.

Posted in Dreams, Musings | 2 Comments »

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