Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Dream of Greensboro: Additional Thoughts

In a letter to my then treating psychiatrist, Suzanne M. Pitts, M.D., dated December 3, 1992, I offered an interpretation of a dream (The Dream of Greensboro) I had shortly before Thanksgiving 1992.

The following letter presents some additional thoughts about the dream.  As you can see thinking about the dream occupied my thoughts for at least three weeks.  The following letter refers to subsequent additions to the aforementioned letter dated December 3, 1992.  If I can find that revised version of the dream I will post it.

December 21, 1992
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Apartment 136
Washington, DC  20008

Dr. Suzanne M. Pitts
Dept. Psychiatry
GW University Medical Center
2150 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20037

Dear Dr. Pitts:

I respectfully submit some additional thoughts, or speculations, regarding a dream I related at our session on Tuesday December 1, 1992.

I have identified a dream of Freud’s published in The Interpretation of Dreams (designated “Father on his death-bed like Garibaldi”) that seems related to my dream.  Specifically, Freud’s dream together with the issues he raises in his analysis of the dream parallel themes in my dream, issues raised in the analysis of my dream, and seemingly unrelated issues raised in the series of letters I submitted to you in the weeks prior to my dream.

[The text of the Freud dream analysis, "Father on his death-bed like Garibaldi," is presented at the conclusion of this post.]

This communication is structured in the form of discussion points that indicate some of the key connections between (1) Freud’s dream and its analysis and (2) my dream and its analysis (and the apparent foreshadowing of the dream and its analysis in the series of letters that preceded the dream).

1.  Freud’s dream thought of a crowd of men in the Reichstag gathered around a man standing on a chair parallels my dream thought of the indistinct houses adjacent to the phallic school building.  Freud expressly describes the scene as indistinct, but also expressly ascribes an individual identity to the man standing on the chair.  The dream thought of the man standing on the chair is identified by Freud as his own father.  In my analysis of my dream, I identified the town of Greensboro as representing my father, with the school building representing my father’s penis. [These interpretations of my dream are presented in subsequent revisions to my letter to Dr. Pitts dated December 3, 1992.]

2.  Freud’s dream thought of his father transformed the father into a the political figure, Garibaldi.  This political identification parallels my identification of my father with Dr. Wiener who, as chairman of the George Washington University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry, holds a political position.  Of perhaps more than incidental interest is the fact that Raleigh, North Carolina, the birthplace of Dr. Strong, is the capital, or political center, of the state.  I had previously identified the school building in my dream as symbolizing the clothier Raleigh’s [on Connecticut Avenue, in downtown Washington, DC] and, by implication,  the capital city, Raleigh.  Thus, one key parallel between my dream and Freud’s dream is the image of an important political figure (in Freud’s dream, the figure Garibaldi; in my dream, the capital city, Raleigh) that “stands out in a crowd.”

[In the Dream of the Four Miltons one of my associations is to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state capital.  In The Dream of Milton's Successor one of the events of the previous day was my seeing former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh at a continuing legal education course on August 9, 1995.]

3.  Freud discusses the absurd element of his dream, noting that the dream gave a literal picture of a figure of speech.  (Freud’s dream thought of the man standing on a chair, or stool, symbolized the father who had passed a stool (fecal mass) post mortem.)  My dream also could be classified as an “absurd dream” in which a figure of speech was transformed into a dream image.  I previously noted how my father’s last words [to me] were depicted pictorially in the dream thoughts.  Specifically, my father’s statement [in a telephone conversation I had with him immediately before his heart surgery] that he had been shaved in preparation for surgery was represented in the dream image of Greensboro as being denuded of vegetation.  My dream had other absurd elements: the dream image of the town of Greensboro as being a representation of my toy train village, for example.  Freud explains absurdity in dreams as being due to the presence of “ridicule and derision” in the dream thoughts.  Freud interprets absurdity in dreams about the father as being a symbolic representation of the dreamer’s earliest infantile impulses against the father.  (Freud also remarks in a footnote in the “Rat Man” case history that the same mechanism is used in obsessional neuroses.)  Thus, the presence of absurd imagery in both my dream and Freud’s dream signifies ambivalence toward the father.

4.  Freud describes his “disrespectful thoughts” concerning his father.  Freud refers specifically to the dream image of the man standing on the stool as symbolizing the father having passed a stool (fecal mass) post mortem.  Perhaps significantly, Freud communicates his “disrespectful thoughts” by reference to an anecdote in which the psychological significance of the dream thought is revealed by the statements of third parties.  This may be an instance of Freud’s “deferral of authorship” of an unpleasant thought to a third party--an issue that I raised in the letter in connection with Freud’s authorship of Moses and Monotheism and Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study.  In the case of the Wilson study Freud deferred his "disrespectful thoughts” about the political father figure, Wilson, to his co-author and friend, William Bullitt, just as in his dream analysis he defers, by means of reference to an anecdote, to a friend the elucidation of a “disrespectful thought" concerning his own father.  Thus, my earlier letter about Freud’s and Bullitt’s authorship of the Wilson study appears to be related to Freud’s dream and possibly to my dream.  Freud’s fears of offending the memory of his father, as revealed in the method of presentation of his dream analysis, may be related to (1) Freud’s deferral of authorship to Bullitt to communicate disrespectful thoughts about Wilson and to (2) the fears of political retaliation that Freud experienced in connection with publication of the Wilson study and Moses.  Freud’s seemingly realistic fears of political retaliation in connection with the publication of Wilson and Moses might have encapsulated in disguised form Freud’s irrational fears associated with offending the memory of “the father.”  Further, one wonders whether Freud’s observations regarding absurd dream thoughts might shed some light on the significance and motivations underlying the implausible conclusions in Moses.  That is, might the speculations and conclusions in Moses be interpreted as a species of “absurd ‘dream-thoughts’” that conceal “ridicule and derision” of the father?)  [In Moses, Freud speculates that the prophet Moses was not a Hebrew at all, but rather the biological son of Pharaoh, and that the monotheistic religion offered by Moses to the Hebrews was actually a modification of the sun worship of Pharaoh Akhnaton.]

5.  Freud’s description of his offer of friendship to a contemporary (p. 464) in the context of this dream analysis seems significant.  Freud relates how he offered to be the friend of a contemporary, still attending secondary school, after the young man had lost his father.  Apparently, Freud sought a friendship based on a filial model rather than a fraternal model--a friendship in which Freud could replace the young man’s father and thereby serve the psychological satisfaction of identifying simultaneously with the role of father and the role of son (as distinguished from a friendship based on the equality of brothers).  One might offer the tentative hypothesis that an important difficulty in my interpersonal relations in a group situation where the interaction is fundamentally fraternal is my attempt to carve out friendships on a filial rather than a fraternal model.  Perhaps a paraphrase of Frederick Karl’s observations concerning Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent has some applicability here: With respect to my interpersonal relations, “what appear as lateral relations are really vertical.”  Significantly, Freud’s offer of friendship, as related in his dream analysis, parallels Freud’s friendship with William Bullitt, Freud’s co-author on the Wilson study.  In both cases Freud used the friend to communicate “disrespectful thoughts” about a father or father figure.  The analysis of friendship on a filial model is a central issue in Freud’s study of Wilson, in which Freud ascribes to Wilson the psychological need to identify simultaneously with the roles of father and son in his friendships with males, notably in Wilson’s friendship with Colonel House.

6.  Freud’s reference to a student at a secondary school suggests that Freud’s dream thought of the political leader on an elevated platform surrounded by a crowd may be related to the image of a teacher at the head of a classroom of students.  Such an interpretation would parallel my manifest dream image of the school and my dream thoughts of Jesse Raben as having attended that school.  The theme of the teacher surrounded by students may be overdetermined in my dream; it arises manifestly in connection with the thought of Jesse Raben as a student at the school, but also arises again symbolically as the image of the school that stood out among the crowd of houses (symbolizing a crowd of students).

7.  Freud relates that his dream may have been influenced by an actual incident in which an acute political crisis in Hungary in 1898-9 had been solved by the formation of a coalition government under Szell.  In resolving an acute political crisis, Szell acted as a political “savior and protector.”  Freud’s association , by implication, suggests Freud’s need for a psychological “savior and protector,” a theme that arises in the context of his friendship with Bullitt and Freud’s proffer of friendship to the student who had lost his father, as described in Freud’s dream analysis.  (The student’s bereavement represents a psychological crisis that Freud sought to resolve, which parallels Szell’s solution of Hungary’s political crisis.  In this instance Freud himself sought to serve as the student’s “savior and protector.”)

[In the letter to Dr. Pitts dated November 9, 1992 I associated the ideas of a "special protector," or Providence, and the idea of oral gratification.]

8.  One might speculate as to an oral component of Freud’s dream, an aspect of the dream that Freud overlooks in his analysis.  The possible oral component is revealed in possible word play on the geographic name “Hungary.”  The German word for Hungary, Ungarn, is phonetically related to the German word for hunger, Hunger.  Freud expressly raises the issue of alimentary symbolism in his discussion of the word Stuhl (meaning both chair and fecal mass).  A possible oral component of Freud’s dream may constitute the missing (repressed?) part of an alimentary symmetry, with only the anal component revealed in Freud’s analysis.  Erikson’s observation in Young Man Luther is called to mind.  “During childhood when man’s ego is most of all a body ego, composed of all pleasures and tensions experienced in major body regions, the alimentary process assumes in phantasy the character of a model of the self, nourished and poisoned, assimilating [Ungarn/hunger?] and eliminating [Stuhl] not only substances, but also good and bad influences.”  The notion of an “alimentary symmetry” is raised by my own dream.  My analysis expressly emphasized the dream’s oral aspects, specifically, the theme of oral frustration.  Yet the analysis overlooked a possibly important anal image (just as Freud may have overlooked the oral component of his dream).  My dream thought concerning the need to find the “business district” may have been an anal allusion, with “business district” implicitly raising the issue of the exchange of money (fecal masses).

[In The Dream of the Blue Oxford the witness in the O.J. Simpson preliminary hearing, Steven Schwab, describes his walking his dog and, at a certain point, talks about the dog taking care of "his business."  My watching the TV broadcast of the Schwab testimony was one of the "events of the previous day."]

Assuming that the entire town of Greensboro symbolized my father’s body, with the school building representing my father’s penis, the dream thought of the “business district” may have symbolized my father’s anal region.  Perhaps significantly, the business district in my dream image resembled the business district in Moorestown, New Jersey, where my sister and brother-in-law live, which seems to parallel my conscious attribution of an anal fixation to my brother-in-law.

9.  The following observations concerning Freud’s footnote on p. 464, though of dubious importance, are nonetheless worthy of note.  Freud’s reference to the “Lied von der Glocke” ( Song of the Bell [or Clock]) may parallel the theme of the passage of time that figures prominently in my dream, and which is revealed in the recurring theme of periodicity.

[The post on My Daily Struggles that presents the original dream analysis of the Dream of Greensboro contains a striking coincidence.  I included a YouTube video on that post of a portion of Act I of Wagner's opera Parsifal.  At 12:17 on the video there is the sounding of bells of the Temple of the Grail.  (The bells had a special importance for Wagner, who had the instruments specially manufactured.)]

Note also the structure of the literary work cited by Freud: text by Schiller and epilogue by Schiller’s friend, Goethe.  The structure of the cited work mirrors the structure of the Wilson study, with the text by Bullitt and the introduction by Bullitt’s friend, Freud.  Further observe how Freud associates the work of the two friends, Schiller and Goethe, to his relationship with his father, which is consistent with the hypothesis that Freud viewed his father as a friend and, by implication, that Freud viewed his male friends as substitutes for his father.  Perhaps one might say that in the case of Freud, what appear as vertical relations are really lateral, and what appear as lateral relations are really vertical.

10.  Freud observes that ‘if there is no mention in the dream of the fact that the dead man is dead, the dreamer is equating himself with him: he is dreaming of his own death.”  My father’s death is not revealed in the manifest content of my dream.  Applying Freud’s rule of interpretation, we may say that my dream symbolizes my concerns regarding my own death.

[Note that the Dream of Greensboro in late November 1992 coincided exactly with the expiration of my extended unemployment compensation following my job termination by Akin Gump.  At the time of the dream I was consumed by financial concerns.]

Thank you very much.  Happy Holidays!


Gary Freedman


From Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams:

“Father on his death-bed like Garibaldi”

Here is another example of the same kind from my own dreams (I lost my father in the year 1896):

After his death, my father has played a part in the political life of the Magyars, and has united them into a political whole; and here I see, indistinctly, a little picture: a number of men, as though in the Reichstag; a man is standing on one or two chairs; there are others round about him. I remember that on his deathbed he looked so like Garibaldi, and I am glad that this promise has really come true.

Certainly this is absurd enough. It was dreamed at the time when the Hungarians were in a state of anarchy, owing to Parliamentary obstruction, and were passing through the crisis from which Koloman Szell subsequently delivered them. The trivial circumstance that the scenes beheld in dreams consist of such little pictures is not without significance for the elucidation of this element. The customary visual dream-representations of our thoughts present images that impress us as being life-size; my dream-picture, however, is the reproduction of a wood-cut inserted in the text of an illustrated history of Austria, representing Maria Theresa in the Reichstag of Pressburg- the famous scene of Moriamur pro rege nostro. * Like Maria Theresa, my father, in my dream, is surrounded by the multitude; but he is standing on one or two chairs (Stuhlen), and is thus, like a Stuhlrichter (presiding judge). (He has united them; here the intermediary is the phrase: "We shall need no judge.") Those of us who stood about my father's death-bed did actually notice that he looked very like Garibaldi. He had a post-mortem rise of temperature; his cheeks shone redder and redder... involuntarily we continue: "And behind him, in unsubstantial (radiance), lay that which subdues us all- the common fate."

* [We die for our king.] I have forgotten in what author I found a reference to a dream which was overrun with unusually small figures, the source of which proved to be one of the engravings of Jacques Callot, which the dreamer had examined during the day. These engravings contain an enormous number of very small figures; a whole series of them deals with the horrors of the Thirty Years War.

This uplifting of our thoughts prepares us for the fact that we shall have to deal with this common fate. The post-mortem rise in temperature corresponds to the words after his death in the dream- content. The most agonizing of his afflictions had been a complete paralysis of the intestines (obstruction) during the last few weeks of his life. All sorts of disrespectful thoughts associate themselves with this. One of my contemporaries, who lost his father while still at the Gymnasium- upon which occasion I was profoundly moved, and tendered him my friendship- once told me, derisively, of the distress of a relative whose father had died in the street, and had been brought home, when it appeared, upon undressing the corpse, that at the moment of death, or post- mortem, an evacuation of the bowels (Stuhlentleerung) had taken place. The daughter was deeply distressed by this circumstance, because this ugly detail would inevitably spoil her memory of her father. We have now penetrated to the wish that is embodied in this dream. To stand after one's death before one's children great and undefiled: who would not wish that? What now has become of the absurdity of this dream? The appearance of absurdity was due only to the fact that a perfectly permissible figure of speech, in which we are accustomed to ignore any absurdity that may exist as between its components, has been faithfully represented in the dream. Here again we can hardly deny that the appearance of absurdity is desired and has been purposely produced.

The frequency with which dead persons appear in our dreams as living and active and associating with us has evoked undue astonishment, and some curious explanations, which afford conspicuous proof of our misunderstanding of dreams. And yet the explanation of these dreams is close at hand. How often it happens that we say to ourselves: "If my father were still alive, what would he say to this?" The dream can express this if in no other way than by his presence in a definite situation. Thus, for instance, a young man whose grandfather has left him a great inheritance dreams that the old man is alive, and calls his grandson to account, reproaching him for his lavish expenditure. What we regard as an objection to the dream on account of our better knowledge that the man is already dead, is in reality the consoling thought that the dead man does not need to learn the truth, or satisfaction over the fact that he can no longer have a say in the matter.

Another form of absurdity found in dreams of deceased relatives does not express scorn and derision; it serves to express the extremest repudiation, the representation of a suppressed thought which one would like to believe the very last thing one would think of. Dreams of this kind appear to be capable of solution only if we remember that a dream makes no distinction between desire and reality. For example, a man who nursed his father during his last illness, and who felt his death very keenly, dreamed some time afterwards the following senseless dream: His father was again living, and conversing with him as usual, but (and this was the remarkable thing) he had nevertheless died, though he did not know it. This dream is intelligible if, after he had nevertheless died, we insert in consequence of the dreamer's wish, and if after but he did not know it, we add that the dreamer had entertained this wish. While nursing him, the son had often wished that his father was dead; that is, he had had the really compassionate thought that it would be a good thing if death would at last put an end to his sufferings. While he was mourning his father's death, even this compassionate wish became an unconscious reproach, as though it had really contributed to shorten the sick man's life. By the awakening of the earliest infantile feelings against his father, it became possible to express this reproach as a dream; and it was precisely because of the extreme antithesis between the dream-instigator and the day-thoughts that this dream had to assume so absurd a form. *

* Cf. "Formulations regarding the Two Principles in Mental Functioning," Collected Papers, IV.

As a general thing, the dreams of a deceased person of whom the dreamer has been fond confront the interpreter with difficult problems, the solution of which is not always satisfying. The reason for this may be sought in the especially pronounced ambivalence of feeling which controls the relation of the dreamer to the dead person. In such dreams it is quite usual for the deceased person to be treated at first as living; then it suddenly appears that he is dead; and in the continuation of the dream he is once more living. This has a confusing effect. I at last divined that this alternation of death and life is intended to represent the indifference of the dreamer ("It is all one to me whether he is alive or dead"). This indifference, of course, is not real, but wished; its purpose is to help the dreamer to deny his very intense and often contradictory emotional attitudes, and so it becomes the dream-representation of his ambivalence. For other dreams in which one meets with deceased persons the following rule will often be a guide: If in the dream the dreamer is not reminded that the dead person is dead, he sets himself on a par with the dead; he dreams of his own death. The sudden realization or astonishment in the dream ("but he has long been dead!") is a protest against this identification, and rejects the meaning that the dreamer is dead. But I will admit that I feel that dream-interpretation is far from having elicited all the secrets of dreams having this content.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

According to Dr. Pitts I was psychotic when I wrote this letter: the letter should reflect the mood-congruent psychotic features of loose associations and flights of ideas.

I didn't start taking lithium for my bipolar disorder till early 1993. The illness later underwent a spontaneous (and miraculous) remission.