The Vision In A Dream; A Psychoanalytic Interpretation

“What fools these mortals be.” ~Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Navigating the labyrinth of life sometimes allows the opportunity for one to encounter unconventional beings or what Puck in a ‘Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ called ‘shadows’; a conscienceless person who seems unable to turn away from his or her own selfish conscious desires and runs amuck in the ‘hood‘, as in neighborhood. When we encounter such individuals a stage can sometimes be set in which the players, all seem to wear a mask, and, the true identity of the guilty party, unbeknownst to the authentic players of the game, game play become a series of tedious unveiling until the guilty party or parties are discovered, the person(s) responsible for the turning of the screws and cogs of game play. Dealing with people requires a certain aptitude for discernment.

Take for example the scene from the 1999 major motion film, ‘A Midsummer Night‘s Dream,’ in the Shakesperean play where Titania, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, utters this line upon waking from her dream, “Me thought I was enamored with an ass.” Unfortunately, Love can be a game, as Life can be a game of strategic operations, cunning, and veiled intentions. I know first hand because I encounter some of these types of people all the time. They are your everyday people and they are your not so everyday people, like Donald Trump, and my world seems full of them. People with questionable moral integrity, and although films like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ may entertain us as they are light and comical, people do and can really get hurt from characters who belong to these realms of questionable morals .

Brief Insight To Character Disorders

There are levels to psychopathy, graded increments which comprise this genre of mental illness. Some psychopathic individuals do not pose a real threat to society and they can function within the borders of civilized society relatively successfully, playing outside the code of established laws. Studies conducted on prison inmates classified felons into two separate categories; Highly Functioning (HF), and Lower-Functioning(LF). The difference between these two groups were their IQ levels. HF group used more sophisticated language communication and had higher intelligence levels, where the LF were less sophisticated in their language operations and intelligence. Found within each of these groups were the variant forms of psychopathy (see Theodore Millon and Roger Davis’ “Ten Sub-Types of Psychopathy”).

The psychopathic brain is neurologically different than the brains of normal individuals. Normal individuals who can experience the range of emotion; love, sympathy, caring, joy etc. can process sight words that are suppose to illicit emotions. Words like; mother, puppy, kitten, and toddler/infant are all processed differently for people who suffer from forms of psychopathy. Words that are suppose to generate sentiment or feelings are processed like an algebraic expression, a problem to be solved.

Worlds of Illusion and Fantasy

Encountering and falling victim to a unconventional ‘spirit’ can leave one feeling like they were part of a dream, an unreal fantasy.  In ’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ the playing field is tilted toward the advantage of the ’spirits’ that inhabit the wood. They hold the power to do and undo the magic they wield, and all humans are at their mercy. Likewise, in life, playing fields are sometimes, most times, tilted toward the ruling party’s or individual’s favor and they can wield their power over others in unconventional and sometimes cruel ways. In Shakespeare’s play, Bottom, who was literally turned into a donkey, an ass, by a mischievous wielding spell casting spirit, wakes from his dream, in a state of confusion, unable to explain and process what he had just experienced speaks the following monologue:

“I’ve had a most rare vision. I’ve had a dream. Past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Me thought I was, but there is no man who can tell what. Me thought I was…….Me thought I had…….Man is but a patched fool if he would offer to say what me thought I had . . . The eye of man has not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report but my dream was…..I’ll get me to quince to write a ballad of this dream. It should be called Bottom’s…… Dream….. cause it hath no Bottom. I will sing it at the later end of a play before the Duke. Her adventure to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.”

At the beginning of this clip you can catch a glimpse of Bottom, who was portrayed by Kevin Kline, dressed in his ass costume Bottom’s Waking Most Rare Vision.

At the end of the play in Puck’s final monologue, he speaks a formal apology for the mischievous events of the evening with the following verse:

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
And, as I am an honest Puck.
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all,
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.”

It should be noted that shadows, spirits, souls, or numinous are terms that could be used interchangeably when dealing with the area of psychoanalysis that deals with a person’s identity, that is uncovering their true nature in who they truly are. The numinous experience means transcendent experience, human experience that is imbued with a feeling of something holy, divine, or mystical. Spiritual experience, however, is not usually a psychotherapeutic topic, except with reference to delusions or psychoses. Whether it should be or not depends on one’s worldview and philosophy, but it is clear that Carl Jung gave religion and spirituality the highest value. He sometimes described the goals of psychotherapy specifically in religious terms. “The goal is transformation,” he once said, “….the only criterion of which is the disappearance of ego hood, which is a Buddhist concept; or, when describing the experience of the Self, an analytic goal that is also a God-concept, “Yet not I live, but Christ liveth in me,” which is Christian doctrine from St. Paul. It begins with the turning away from one‘s own selfish, self motivated drives and adhering to more Christian values and virtues in service to others. It is the very philosophy found in principle based leadership training, and one that many forms of religious instruction impart on their students.

Another interesting comparison one can make is the Shakespearean line ‘Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue’, which means to now escape the lie of the illusion and the fantasy they accidentally created, and the transition in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit from the section “Lordship and Bondage” to “The Freedom of Self-Consciousness: Stoicism, Skepticism, and the Unhappy Consciousness” comparing of course the psychic life of power and the forms of subjection that take place as a consequence of early childhood events; as in ‘coming under a spell’ and the clever trick the Lord plays on the Bondsman and the therapeutic use of psychoanalytic dialogue.

Trailer clip for the 1999 motion film ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (an exceptionally produced film and one worth watching).


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