Dreams are often unexpressed or suppressed feelings in the human psyche. They may be situations that are too threatening to accept and hidden fears that, when uncensored, come out during sleep. One such dream occurred to an octogenarian who had been the object of recent cataract surgery. She had been extremely apprehensive before the procedure and concerned that she would possibly be blind through an error or glitch on the part of the surgeon. Blindness and rejection were interspersed in her mind, death being the ultimate outcome. A number of nights after the “successful” procedure the following dream occurred. It had been a fairly uneventful late fall gray day with many incomplete tasks that postponed sleep and discomfort to the woman. After struggling with wakefulness and overwhelmed concerns about her unfinished expectations of herself, she “dozed off.” Her dream was very vivid. So much so that when she was in her hypnagogic state, she arose and told two young students not to disturb her in the middle of the night but to save their concerns about their studies and make an appointment in her office to express their concerns. In the dream it was near Passover, and the subject was watching her mother clean meticulously and with unusual exertion throughout the house. The dreamer felt remorse, especially after her mother was loudly displeased with her lack of assistance. The subject picked up the cleaning utensils to assist her parent, and as she did so somehow a drop of poison fell into her eye and destroyed her vision. There was also a toilet scene where she could not eliminate because two of her students refused to allow her to visit the bathroom to eliminate and instead insisted on expressing their needs to see them at once. At that point, the dreamer left her bed to tell them to arrange an appointment with her. The dreamer was standing outside of her bed when she felt certain that the two interlopers had disappeared.
dream was the outcome of the dreamer's history.
She could not possibly complete the multiple tasks and expectations that
confronted her. She feared that her
inability to complete all that awaited her were impossible and would jeopardize
her and she would lose her status, her position, her income, and her very
identity. The dreamer's childhood had been an exceptionally frightening one,
since she was a survivor of the holocaust. Her father left Nazi Germany fourteen
months before her mother and her two siblings were able to escape
by night and fog and join their impoverished father in the United States.
Her mother, who was a brilliant woman who had managed to integrate their
final escape, had become very distressed and suffered from anxiety and
depression while doing hard menial labor on her arrival.
She had been minimized and fluctuated with protectiveness and great
expectations from her two young daughters.
The middle child attempted to help her as much as she could, while the
older one withdrew, and the youngest needed much assistance since he was only
two when he arrived in the “promised land.”
The responsibilities were felt most by the middle child, the object of
the dream described above. What
is described is clearly understandable
under the circumstances. She had
taken on too much, was humanly incapable of all the expectations that she had of
herself and her surroundings; she was punished because she could not achieve
what she felt were her family's expectations of her and her self imposed
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.