Example: For some considerable time I have been troubled by a nightmarish dream which is so realistic sometimes I think I am going to die. In my dream I have swallowed something which is literally choking me or is going to poison me. I wake up and rush down the stairs to the kitchen, spitting and choking, holding my throat and making all sorts of disturbing noises which frighten my wife. I have had this dream as many as five or six times a night. My doctor says it could be to do with the last war. I was a child then and my dad constantly had to wake me up to take us down to the shelter, sometimes as many as four times a night, and we were bombed out twice. I cannot recall having any fears about this at the time’ (Mr KT).
Abreaction is a re-experiencing of painful or traumatic events or situations. In many dreams it is obvious that the process underlying dreams is attempting to trigger an abreaction. This suggests the dream process, as Jung and Hadfield say, is a self-regulatory one in our psyche. In many cases where a person explores the feeling content of their dreams in a confident way, abreaction occurs. Although it has been given different names in recent years, such as primal therapy, rolfing, discharge, catharsis, abreaction is still a basic psychological healing process. Pans of our experience become repressed because there is an automatic reaction in us to avoid pain. Therefore painful experience may never be fully felt or understood at the time. Reliving them allows us to review and integrate vital information about ourselves. Frequently all the analysis in the world cannot relieve a neurotic pattern until the repressed emotion holding it in place is released and understood.
The strength with which we hold out against allowing our being to abreact spontaneously is seen in the above example. Mr KT is brought to the brink of reliving his very stressful childhood again and again. Yet he manages to avoid actual memory and, in particular, the experiencing of any childhood emotions and fears.
The opposite is shown in this account by Clive, who explored with me a dream about being shot in the arm in his father s shop. ‘For several hours I could find nothing about the dream. My mind simply wandered. But with help I persisted. Suddenly I seemed to break through, first to seeing how the shop was a place in which I have unconsciously experienced great emotional pain. My father was always criticising. Never a word of encouragement. Then I burst into powerful sobbing as I felt the pain of wanting my father to love me, instead of cnticising all the time, and help me grow into somebody capable of meeting life. And then, something I just had not wanted to see, the 30 years of my life I had wasted by avoiding any contact with authority. My father was the original authority in my life. I had cut off from him because of the lack of support, and I had done the same with school and other authority situations. But what a relief to understand myself, and to meet that young vulnerable boy I used to be. How I loved him and understood him/myself.’ abroad General: your feelings about that country.
If you have lived in that country: overall experience of that place. Were you happy there, lonely? What characteristics of the people did you take in?