Rudius Media recently added a new website to its canon, FourOuncestoFreedom.com. Written by Jeff and Stein, this site chronicles the lives of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) participants. Having new writers at the company is great for ShrinkTalk.Net. Not only do I move up the chain of seniority, but (and Jeff and Stein don't know this yet) I get to toilet paper their houses this Halloween and paddle them mercilessly in a horrific act of writers' hazing at the company Christmas party.
However, with fun and games comes great responsibility. Jeff's latest entry discusses a recurring dream that he is trying to understand at a deeper level. As we've learned, dream analysis is a highly speculative area of psychology and must be taken with a grain of salt. One dream can be interpreted ten different ways by ten different people, whether professional or laymen, and all of them can have merit. Or lack thereof. With that in mind, let's give it a go.
Freud said that dreams are the "royal road to the unconscious." In other words, what's going on in the deepest nether-regions of your brain will be exposed in your sleep, no matter how unpleasant the thoughts may be. Another way of thinking about this is that our brains are programmed to find meaning in everything that happens to us. We are designed to process information even when we do not want to. This is why we often have nightmares about bad things that happen to us. We often do our best to "put it behind us," to not think about it. Our brains have other plans and say "fine, if you won't think about it and process it now, I'll simply wait until you're asleep and defenseless. Then we'll party."
The problem with dreams is that they often aren't linear and sometimes aren't even coherent. They can be symbolic and open to interpretation. Here's a transcript of Jeff's dream as seen on his site along with his interpretation:
Once asleep it's rare that the thoughts of fighting stop there. Most nights I dream of fighting. Very rarely training, almost always fighting in some capacity, be it in a cage, ring, or bar. The locations and situations vary, as do the style of the fights. What doesn't change, at least not often, is the fact that I can never seem to strike with the ferocity I desire. It's like I'm swinging through molasses. What's worse is that in the dream I'm aware of it, but I can't change anything. Dreams should be an escape and I feel cheated, being overcome with these feelings of futility. I swing for the fences and kick like a mule but by the time I connect I might as well be wiping a smudge of mustard from his chin.
What would Freud say about this? Some low level research says this is a pretty common aspect of dreaming, not punching hard enough or running fast enough, though how common it is to dream it every night is another issue. Clearly I'm obsessed with fighting, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure that out.
On first glance I am certainly inclined to agree with him on his conclusion: the frequency of the dream shows his obsession and dedication to the sport, while the lack of punching power is symbolic of failure. Taken one level deeper, the frequency and failure reflects a lack of self-esteem because we simply need to be at least reasonably accomplished at what we truly care about if we want to feel good about ourselves.
However, one concept that many people do not consider is that the characters in dreams are not always who they seem. In other words, maybe Jeff is not Jeff in this dream. Could Jeff be the person being hit? The person able to take the punishment without a scratch on him? The guy who is watching his opponent punch and kick in vain? Perhaps Jeff's subconscious is too confident about fighting? If so his defense mechanisms might try to compensate for this arrogance by having Jeff act humbly and modestly in his conscious life without him realizing it. What complicates this further is that both interpretations could be true: he could be himself in some dreams and the opponent in others.
So what have we learned here? Not much unfortunately. Jeff is suffering from either an inferiority complex, a narcissistic disorder, or he's vacillating between the two at different points in his life. This is why I don't do dream analysis: it's stupid. That being said, Jeff will be getting a bill for this service. Believe me, it has many, many zeroes on it.