Images of physical dismemberment are often used in fairy tales, dreams, and art to depict psychological fragmentation, numbing and other forms of disconnection. Such cut-offs, dissociations, and splits may be related to earlier relational trauma, and constitute defenses against experiences perceived as too overwhelming for consciousness to absorb or even acknowledge. Experience can be dissociated, or dismembered, behaviorally, emotionally, bodily, and by denying memory or knowledge of events. Jungian Analyst Donald Kalsched posits an inner dynamic that is both protective and persecutory. Such understandings can point the way to a healing process of re-membering those parts that have been cut off, thereby giving disowned feelings and experiences a fully felt place in consciousness.
Here’s the dream we discuss:
“In this dream, I remember being in a building that reminded me of a hospital or perhaps an asylum. It was very clinical looking (i.e. lots of steel and glass, white and silver walls / trim, people in smocks or scrubs). I was walking up a small stairway and looked through a doorway to see blood and body parts on the ground in front of me. Somehow I know that it was two separate bodies, but I do not know who they belonged to. When I saw the body parts, I was anxious and had to stop myself from passing out inside the dream because I had a feeling that whoever did that to the bodies could be nearby. As I gathered myself, I began to walk away from the bodies very calmly to avoid drawing attention to myself. As I walked away I saw a man, probably in his fifties or sixties, also a stranger, carrying a silver platter with more body parts. As I passed him, he said hello and smiled as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I then ran out of the building and vaguely remember running through a maze that had been set up on a basketball court until I was outside the building in a small grass field. The building was made of brick and seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It had that look that many academic buildings have on college campuses.”
Kalsched, Donald. The Inner World of Trauma, Routledge, 1996.
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book, Harper, 2008.
Little, Margaret. Psychotic Anxieties and Containment: An Analysis with Donald Winnicott.
Henderson,Joseph L., and Dyane N. Sherwood.Transformation of the Psyche, Routledge, 2003.
For an image of The Golden Head
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash