In the Bath with Putin

Aug 2, 2022

Dream from episode 224

Have you ever had a dream about a political figure? Maybe someone you admire and revere, or possibly someone you find odious and detestable. Political figures can carry powerful suggestions of split off or denied parts of ourselves. Sometimes we meet positive inner potentials even in images of our worst politicians.

Following is the transcript of the dream discussed in Episode 224 — The Way of Kabbalah: Ancient Map of the Psyche

Submit your dream for possible interpretation on the podcast.

Join us in Dream School to learn how to work with your own dreams.

Lisa 55:57

Today’s dream is from a woman who’s 46 years old and works in outdoor education and community projects and mentoring and soul guiding. And here’s the dream:

“I’m in Putin’s inner circle. It’s attached to some other business place that I’m working in. I’m wearing a suit. He’s got an office, like in a 1920s socialist apartment building with tall ceilings. It’s not particularly high security, and I’m in it. The place is a bit messy. Putin is thin; he looks like the younger Putin, not the rounder face. One we see on TV. He’s getting medication out of boxes, and I see they are statins, and I figure he’s got heart trouble. I take a seat on a sofa, and we’re talking; I’m thinking about how vulnerable he looks, like a nice man; actually. I’m sensing that he trusts me, we have a good easy rapport. I’m wondering whether he knows I’m queer and what he would make of that, given the state of LGBTQ rights in Russia. I figure out that there are two Putins, this real one behind the scenes and the one on TV. The one on TV has a body double, but the rest of the world doesn’t know that. I wonder how I’m going to keep this from the world and whether it will ever come out that I know him and how I would justify that to the media. I go to the bathroom off his office, and Putin’s bath is running. I gather that he is going to have a bath. I go back into the office, smoke a cigarette on the sofa, and we talk some more, and then I leave. I go to another room. I kiss my friend A repeatedly on the face, whose name I get wrong. She tells me her name is something else. It’s the first time I’ve heard her tell me the name that she says she is hers. I know her by at least two other names. I accidentally kiss her on the lips. The other friend B is there too, and then I realized that I have kissed B, not A. B asks me whether I’ve been smoking cannabis because there is a really strong smell on my breath. I think about the cigarette I smoked in Putin’s office and wonder how it could have left such a strong smell.

For context, she says, “the future feels unclear. I’m growing roots in a rural area. I moved to from a big city three years ago. I recently moved from a house share in a small town to living alone rurally. I have also been exploring forming an intentional community with others and this cycle of exploration is now coming to a close. I don’t know what the outcome of it will be. I don’t have clarity about my work situation. I’ve recently finished my involvement in supporting a course. I’m exploring other collaborations too. I attended an interview for a job last week, which I then withdrew as it wasn’t right. I’m wanting more structure in my life, some level of dependability. I am wanting good work life balance. I am wanting to root. I am not in an intimate relationship with anyone. Being queer and living rurally, this is difficult. I don’t know that I’m ready for a relationship, in any case. Two years ago, I ended a 10-year exclusive relationship and I’m considering whether other relationship models are possible for me. I am making the most of my solitude to do inner work. I am concerned that I have started smoking again. I am wanting to engage in some recovery work as I never really gave this my full attention.”

She says the feelings in the dream were “empathy with Putin, a good natural rapport between us, feeling confident and authentic around him. I felt liked by him and liked him back. Affection for my friend. A confusion over A’s name, surprise and self-consciousness of why my breath smelled of cannabis.” Finally she notes, “I have started smoking again recently. The dream landed on the morning of a hangover, and I normally don’t drink these days. But I’ve had it an uneasy relationship with alcohol in the past. The war in Ukraine is not abating and on the edge of my consciousness all the time. London pride just took place, and I didn’t do anything to celebrate. I used to wear suits and work in offices. But now I live rurally and work outdoors.

Joseph 1:00:25

Well, one lens that I’m tempted to lay on it is the classic compensatory dream that whenever we have an ego attitude, let’s say a fear or hatred, at that exact same moment comes into being a nodal point in the unconscious of courage and love and relatedness, and vice versa. So, I’m wondering if, because Putin right now has become a kind of international villain and the intensity with which the dreamer might be relating to that, particularly because it seems like she lives in Europe. The dream then gives her an experience of Putin being harmless and knowable, and ordinary and in a kind of calm, reciprocal relationship with the ego. That’s a way of letting go of some of the feelings of fear or horror that might be interfering with her psychological functioning. So, the dream will often give us the opposite experience to bring us to a middle ground, which will help us function better. This reminds me of dreams that I’ve had as well.

Lisa 1:02:36

Well, I’m noticing that Putin is kind likable, and that he’s got heart trouble. So, there’s some problem the dreamer is having with her heart. With the realm of feeling perhaps. I’m also really struck by the references to substance use and substance abuse in both the associations and in the dream. It makes me think that there’s really something here about that. So, she notes that B asks whether she’s been smoking cannabis. I wish I knew a little bit more about who B was, because B kind of calls her out and she didn’t say she’d been smoking weed. She said she’d been smoking a cigarette, but in fact, it must be cannabis, because B says, you have such a strong smell on your breath of cannabis. She even says, I think about the cigarette I smoked and wonder how it could have left such a strong smell. But it’s not a strong smell of nicotine or tobacco. It’s a strong smell of marijuana. She does note that she is wanting to engage in some recovery work as she has never given this her full attention, and that she’s had an uneasy relationship with alcohol.

I also find myself focusing on the on the context. Because when I read that paragraph, the future feels unclear. I’m growing roots in a rural area, there is so much ambivalence. There’s ambivalence about leaving the city, there’s ambivalence about living in the rural area. There’s wanting more structure, but maybe resisting more structure. So, I think that there’s a great deal of confusion, perhaps in the dreamer’s life and in the inner world. One of the things about Putin if we play that game that’s sometimes useful when looking at dreams is, if you didn’t know who Putin was, how would you describe him? If I knew nothing about Putin, how would you describe him? Described him for me in two sentences. And it might be something like, well, he’s an autocratic ruler. He’s a real tyrant. He’s bringing back autocratic rule to Russia. So in a sense, he is the principal of the father, and the father can either be ordering and logos in the positive sense, or in the negative sense that can tip over into being the tyrant. And I wonder if perhaps there hasn’t been enough order and stability in this dreamer’s life recently, and the psyche is using Putin as an image of what’s needed. But obviously not to the extent where it becomes tyrannical. But this is an image of that ordering principle, if you will.

Joseph 1:06:02

So, if we take that lens, which I like very much, that the ordering principle, the autocratic king, we could say, in a fairy tale. So, we might say, once upon a time, there was a king, who had heart trouble. So, that that gives us a certain kind of feeling, just as you were saying that the ordering principle, inside of the psyche is struggling. We could say heart trouble might mean that, quite frankly, there’s some difficulty around for the feeling function. There’s not enough feeling. We could go from that to say, literally, there’s not enough love, in the ordering principle as well. This also reminds me of the idea of the old king of the dying king, that the ordering principle that you were mentioning is sick, could be on the way out and that has lost its potency. Putin in the dream is thin and he’s frail, he’s not commanding, dangerously, the way he’s perceived in the outer world.

Lisa 1:07:14

Although she says he looks like the younger Putin. So, it might be that he’s on his way out or it might be that this is the, again, the benign version of this ordering principle. I’m curious about the bath. He’s about to have a bath, which would be a sort of image perhaps of solutio in the unconscious, or into the feeling realm. There is an invitation there. Is the dreamer meant to perhaps take a bath with Putin? But then she doesn’t and she comes out and she smokes a cigarette.

Joseph 1:08:01

I love that. That’s really great. I think this also points to something that can be confusing sometimes for the LGBTQ community as they relate to certain gender specific ideas and Jung’s philosophy. It’s not uncommon for a queer woman, for instance, to have a dream about a male figure. There might be an opportunity for a kind of conjoining of one kind or another, but the ego feels this isn’t right. To me, this isn’t, I don’t find this attractive I’m attracted to, to other women, or vice versa for gay men. So, the challenge can be to really develop the symbolic attitude, that the nothing in the dream is literal. It’s not literally Putin and it’s not literally a man for that matter. But the sense that the missed opportunity for the ego, and the ordering principle to get into the tub and like the Rosarium alchemical images, the King and Queen get into the tub naked and then this very elaborate alchemical process moves forward, where the ego and the order of principle would actually meld or merge with each other.

Lisa 1:09:34

My fantasy along those lines, Joseph, is that there’s this growing intimacy with Putin in the dream that leads up to her going into the bathroom, which is a very intimate space. She sees the water running. Perhaps there’s a sense that there is this invitation to get in the bath with Putin, but instead she doesn’t. So, she pulls away from that encounter, and then stupefies herself with the cigarette. So, the way that substance dependence or use is often about kind of numbing ourselves or escaping from something, not that it’s not appropriate to do sometimes. But if we’re doing it too much, then we’re choosing away from the tuning into ourselves. I wonder if that’s what happens here at the end of the dream, and that it’s B says, wait a minute, what are you doing? Why does your breath smell so much like cannabis?

Joseph 1:10:45

And if we think of cannabis, as part of the whole canon of sedating drugs, medications, that that also kind of puts us backwards in time. The seduction of becoming younger than we are, more passive than we would be naturally. So, I’m wondering if also, on that same line, that Putin’s running the bath, they’re both in the bathtub, there is this opportunity for intimacy and then it’s at that point, that the ego then leaves, or is almost compelled to leave, because of the implications of what might happen next and then she, as you said, retreats into the cannabis, but also retreats to the familiar relationship to the feminine as the primary. So, when she says in the context that her future feels unclear, it’s not quite structured that her own plans, her own ability to organize and lead herself into whatever the next campaign is, for her life is part of this trouble staying close to the inner male figure? And when things get uncomfortable, going back to the familiar female figures inside of her.

Lisa 1:12:15

Yeah, I really liked that, Joseph, and it brings up for me, it’s worth talking about the fact that it’s Putin, because it does show something that I think dreams do a lot. Dreams will take whatever is on hand and throw it into the mix in ways that are really surprising and so, people have all kinds of dreams about political figures. And it usually doesn’t really mean what it means in the outer world. However, this is Putin, and it makes me wonder if there isn’t a deep ambivalence toward this inner ordering principle, that the dreamer perhaps has struggled with her whole life. My fantasy about it is that being ordered and regular and disciplined is something with which she has struggled. I’m just making it up.

Joseph 1:13:09

Sure, and again, if we think of Putin in the outer world right now, he’s in that war making place. So, part of what could be offered here is that the ego is being offered access to her own ferocity, her own ability to go to war with her addictive impulses. To go to war in order to fight for whatever the next career is. It’s deeply moving to her, or to fight to get wherever she needs. War as a metaphor, of course, can be more useful than when it’s literalized. We do have to often go to war with ourselves in order to get things to move along in a constructive way.

Joseph 1:14:05

The last thing I mentioned is that just she’s 46. So, she’s moving into midlife, and she’s moving through a midlife process. So, some of these things, I think, also are attributable to the pressure inside of all of us to advance and to make good on our unlived life for the second half of life. Which is as you said, least some may require a relationship to these Putin energies inside of her.

To learn how to work with your dreams, join us in Dream School

Submit your dream for possible interpretation on the podcast!


  1. James

    This is and old age struggle between sex and desire. And and addiction and responsibility. Putin represents something old and tyrannical and Youthful and heartbroken. With heart trouble representing age in one sense and Youth in his thin body, in another. He represents youthful unfinished business.with the running bath and the invitation for erotic encounters which will not have happy endings and is one thread. The cigarette on the couch, turning into a fling with an old lover turning into an unlooked for encounter with an old friend who calls her out for cannabis on the breath clarifies the trouble. The eros of drug addiction and the tyranny of it. What begins as a nice young man is really the ruthless tyrant. And ironically she always known that. (Dont we all?) I grew up in rural Canada. And a little like Las Vegas what happens there stays there. She wants excitement. Rural Life although with with few possibilities has the power of anonymity. And with it the heightened possibility of tyranny of addiction.

  2. Bernadette Halbrook

    I had a dream about our governor (California) Gavin Newsom..He is extremely good looking, and I support his political format: very liberal. Yet there is an aspect of him that I see as ‘smarmy’. In the dream I am in a lake & am drowning. Newsom is there for a video cast. He sees me struggling & finds a long pole that I grab onto. With some struggle, he slowly pulls me in. He pulls me up & has his staff bring me towels. He asks about me & is very solicitous. He gets me something hot to drink & keeps me next to him. I feel so attached to him. Suddenly he needs to prepare for his video cast, and he assigns me to a staff member. I sit on the sidelines, watching his video cast & waiting for him to approach me afterwards. But he doesn’t. He looks right through me, and then walks away. I feel devastated.

  3. Bernadette Halbrook

    I am a 70 year old woman, struggling to cope with the reality of aging and what it means to be vital at this point in my life. Around the time of the dream, I was also grappling with my husband’s lack of interest in me: both physical and in general: paying attention to me, and never telling me that I am attractive.

  4. victoria siegel

    His only friend is an enemy. Cigarettes. Putin. His pleasures must be hidden. As if his soul has been sent to Siberia for reeducation His pleasures cause him inner sickness. In life he feels the condemnation of his sexuality. He is so ashamed of the cigarettes his unconscious transforms it into cannibas. The room screams with a smell pointing it’s finger. Is he old or young? Gay or straight? Fit for human community or just for the gulag? Cannot find comfort in any identity. Yet inside is his human, needful heart.


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