The ‘rose dream’ interpretation

The ‘rose dream’ interpretation We are not given any information in this Youtube video about what this dream means. Also, the analyst makes no interpretation of the material in the excerpt. However, the patient’s problem, his dream and his free associations point to a relatively clear psychoanalytic meaning. As well as demonstrating the use of dreams in therapy, this video also shows evidence of transference, resistance, the Oedipus complex, and the relationship between dreams and psychological symptoms.

Interpretation The young man comes to analysis to help him address a problem with women, which we could call a form of sexual inhibition. He doesn’t trust that women will find him interesting or attractive enough and is thus shy and reticent in approaching and establishing a viable sexual relationship with them. This is illustrated by the day residue of the dream, which is going out on a date that ends badly, with his date saying she does not feel well and going home.

In the dream he is alone in a cinema, watching a film called ‘Crimes of the heart’, which he hasn’t seen in reality. A few rows behind him is a woman wearing glasses, who smiles and waves flirtatiously at him, obviously sexually interested in him. He ignores her. As the show begins another man comes to sit in the same row as the patient. This man is a boorish slob, who puts his feet on the seat in front and proceeds to loudly stuff buttered popcorn in his mouth, spilling much of it over himself in the process. The patient tries to hand this man a napkin to clean himself up, but the man ignores him. Then this man and the woman behind them make eye contact and she starts flirting with him as she did with the patient. Unlike the patient, this man immediately climbs over the seats and goes to sit with the woman, and they start giggling and initiating some sort of sexual contact. At this point a threatening male usher, older than the patient, comes in and starts berating the patient and aggressively insisting that he leave, even though the patient is just sitting quietly. In recounting the dream, the patient suddenly recalls that the woman in the dream was holding a white rose.

The dream is clearly a heavily disguised unconscious response to the patient’s frustrated sexual wishes toward his date that night. In the dream he is the passive recipient of a woman’s sexual intentions, which he has projected onto her, leaving him seemingly innocent of sexual intent. This illustrates the conflict implicit in the problem that brings him to analysis – he consciously wants sexual contact with women but something unconscious holds him back, resulting in him being passive and feeling unconfident in his dealings with women. Why is he conflicted? The answer to this is suggested by the title of the film, which refers to ‘crimes of the heart.’ We might say that if this patient realizes his sexual wishes for contact with women then, for some reason, he believes he is committing a crime. He thus does not respond to the dream woman’s flirtatious invitation.

Who is the woman in his dream? The patient tells us she looked nothing like his date. There are three clues to her unconscious identity. Firstly, she is sitting behind him and, secondly, she wears glasses. The female analyst of course, also wears glasses and sits behind the patient as he lies on the couch. The patient provides a self-interpretation of the latter dream element, saying “I know what you’re going to say….”, before going on to link the analyst’s position behind him with the woman in the film. He then employs an obvious defence mechanism, when he protests that this woman cannot be the therapist because unlike the therapist, the dream woman is wearing glasses. The defence is denial, because he fails to see a piece of obvious reality when he comes into his session. Why is he being defensive? The answer lies in another defence mechanism employed in the dream, namely displacement or projection of his sexual wishes into the dream woman. We may conclude that the patient has sexual feelings for his therapist, but why would this be the case?

Here is where the third clue as to the dream woman’s identity becomes important. She is holding a rose, which is the name of his actual date. However, his associations to the word ‘rose’ go backward in time, to when he was about five (when the Oedipus Complex is at its height), as he recalls his mother’s rose garden. Although the patient does not speak about what else the image and texture of the rose reminds him of, we should entertain the possibility that the rose is also a symbol of female sexuality. Sexual wishes thus link his date, his therapist, and his mother. The patient is thus resistant to experiencing his sexual wishes toward his therapist because she is a transference figure, representing his mother, the first woman to elicit sexual feelings in him.

The dream is thus a transference dream about the patient’s forbidden Oedipal wishes toward his mother. Because he is so invested in repressing these wishes and the conflict associated with them, the reason for his sexual inhibition becomes obvious. To be a sexual male is to admit to incestuous wishes, which is intensely anxiety-provoking. But why is this the case? This is where the dream figure of the threatening male usher comes in. The usher, an older and aggressive man, confronts him and threatens to throw him out of the cinema. The usher represents the patient’s superego, punishing him for sexual wishes. However, as a threatening male, authority figure, the usher also represents the patient’s father, who is the sexual rival for his mother’s love. It is he the patient wishes to evict but, as this hated rival has been internalized as a part of the patient’s own mind, it is the internal father who now punishes the patient for his oedipal wishes.

The last piece of the dream puzzle is the man with the popcorn. Who is he? He is a rather obvious expression of the patient’s id, who indulges every appetite (oral and phallic) without any moral scruples or hesitation. He not only gets together with the dream woman (gratification of the patient’s sexual fantasy) but enjoys every libidinal satisfaction on the psychosexual developmental line. Eating popcorn is an obvious expression of an oral incorporative fantasy, but his messiness is also suggestive of anal expulsive wishes. This man thus represents polymorphous perversity in all of its manifestations, a perfect id symbol.

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