Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts; compulsions are unwarranted, involuntary behaviors. Though different, they often go together, for compulsions pose as protection from the imagined bad consequences of obsessions. They tend to escalate, demanding more time and attention: spontaneity is sacrificed to schedule, desire surrenders to compliance, and aliveness is stifled by stiffness.
OCD’s insistence on “rightness” attempts to deny feelings, especially anger, neediness, and desire, displacing them onto rigid exercise routines, midnight phone scrolling, finicky dietary convictions, and other attempts to serve performance and perfection. Marie-Louise von Franz, Jung’s close collaborator, says, “Every content of the unconscious with which one is not properly related tends to obsess one, for it gets at us from behind…You can either be possessed by a content constellated in the unconscious, or you can have a relationship to it. The more one represses it; the more one is affected by it.” When the unconscious is denied, it turns to unwanted forms of expression.
Here’s the dream we analyze:
“I am standing in a field in winter. The earth is cold and hard. I have a simple, woven cloth wrapped around my head and am carrying a basket in the crook of my arm. I am in the field harvesting potatoes. I work slowly and methodically, moving up and down the rows, but at some point, I realize that the crops I am harvesting are upside down. The potatoes sit neatly atop the earth, and it is only when I pull them up that I can see all the green parts of the plant. This realization doesn’t phase me, and I continue to harvest. As I work, I am aware of a sense of great peace. I bend to pick up yet another potato and realize there is no resistance, for the potato has no stem, leaves, or roots. It is a solitary object. I stand and hold the potato in the palm of my hand. It is fairly small and somewhat paler than the rest. All of a sudden, the potato sprouts small white wings, which begin to flutter. The potato hovers above my hand for a few moments and then flies away. I watch it against the sky and am suddenly aware that the sky has become a brilliant blue, whereas, in the beginning of the dream, it was a heavy, pearly grey that threatened snow. I awake with a feeling of enormous well-being.”
Nancy J. Dougherty and Jacqueline J. West. The Matrix and Meaning of Character: An Archetypal and Developmental Approach. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0415403006/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_CWV9HCTBJT9N9CPJZN7N
Nancy McWilliams. Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1462543693/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_ZADS2EPQNM082KGVM76Z
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