Dream Houses

by John A. Speyrer

It was not until I was in my late twenties that I began having dreams of houses. Some of the books I read, especially those of a psychoanalytic bent, mentioned that often house dreams were symbols of the dreamer's mother. Soon, the house dreams were occurring almost nightly.

Invariably, I was exploring a decaying house that I owned or wanted to purchase or perhaps just rambling inside and observing its contents. It was no coincidence that, in my early thirties, I began buying rental properties and as that was all I could afford, the houses were not in good condition.

The houses in my dreams were always dark, dank and decaying. Much later, in primal therapy their condition improved; indeed they eventually became impressively rich and opulent mansions. But earlier, as I wandered throughout these creations of my unconscious mind, I became upset as I had found rooms with extensive, unsuspected damage. I was always surprised when I found the upsettling damage. I was distraught because the damage was so severe that repair seemed hopelessly impossible. Often it was the roof, but usually the floor had the damage. There were such gaping holes in the floors that I could see the ground below. Even now, videos of recent hurricane damage in my home state of Louisiana makes me uncomfortable, but I don't know if others, besides the homeowners feel the sense of loss as I do. I have a difficult time imagining myself in their place. How would I cope?

Towards the back of the house where I lived as a child, the ground level gently sloped backwards towards the center of our large yard. [All of the houses in my early dreams were on blocks and therefore elevated above the ground.] Because of the height of the floor joists, it was a roomy and comfortable place to play, and, as a child, I spent time there during the semi-tropical summer days in south Louisiana. However, all of my memories of that location were not happy ones, as it was amongst the house pillars that I took refuge after a whipping I received from my father when I was, age 8 or 9 or perhaps younger.

My father owned a general merchandise store which was about a block from our house and the whipping took place in a meat market which was attached to the store. I was a tall, skinny kid, who had had a lifetime eating disorder except for candy, cake or other food that was sweet. My parents tried everything to induce me to eat the proper foods, but vegetables were simply too unappetizing. My taste buds insistently rejected all foods which were healthy for me.

One day, at the store, near dinner-time my father told me, "Don't eat or drink anything because it is almost mealtime." I must have been in a trance-state because the next thing I realized was that he had caught me drinking a bottle of pop. I had completely forgotten what he had told me, because he found me in the act; it obviously seemed to him that I had directly disobeyed him. He went outside and cut a small branch from a willow tree, returned to the empty meat market and said, "This will hurt me more than it will hurt you," as he proceeded with a mild whipping of my back. After only a few strikes it was over.

The only pain I had suffered was shame and humiliation. I did not and could not have explained that I had forgotten the order of no consumption of anything sweet. I went home with the half-consumed bottle of pop, and got rid of the evidence of the crime underneath the house and cried as I emptied the rest of the soda water between the tall house pillars. Even though the disobedience had been inadvertent, I was too ashamed to join my mother and father at the dinner table and remained underneath the house until I recuperated from my embarrassment.

That was the only time I had been physically struck by my father. I loved him and always loved him and when, as an infant in primal regressions, I had felt no love from my mother, I was able to sense his love for me as I pleaded with Daddy to protect me from her. I was never spanked by either parent and all conscious memories of my mother are completely beyond reproach.

However, all of my early primal regressions were about begging mama to love me and ultimately feeling so distraught when I finally realized during a crib primal that, no matter what I would do, there was nothing I could do to get her to love me. Janov calls that type of primal, 'prototypic.'

All of those traumas, concerning my mother, seemingly, were lying in wait awaiting exposure in the luminations of primal regressions. I remember sending her a telegram while stationed on the island of Okinawa while in military service in 1955. She saved the telegram and after she died, I took possession of it and still have it. In it I had sent birthday greetings to: "The best mother in the world." And it was so because all memories I have ever had of her, except primally triggered ones, were pleasant ones.

While in psychotherapy during the 1960s, my clinical psychologist once asked me to tell him about my mother. I could say anything I wanted to say, but I instantly became speechless, as waves of warmth arose from my feet and soon covered my entire body leaving me flustered and confused. The psychologist then asked that I talk about my father and I rattled on with equanimity. All the psychologist said after that experience was, "We'll have to get to your mother another way." However, he made no subsequent attempts. But, because of my emotional discomfort during that session, I knew a vein of therapeutic gold had been struck even though the digging had not been very deep.

I finally quit seeing the psychologist as nothing was happening. Why didn't he attempt to mine that vein? It would have been so productive. Obviously, he did not know how. At that time, Dr. Arthur Janov's, The Primal Scream, had just been recently written. And, I did not know what was supposed to happen to cure my anxiety and stomach pains and insomnia and bashfulness and reluctance to date. Reluctance to date? No, it was rather a fear of dating.

[At the time of the epiphany in the psychologist's office, I was 38 years old and still living at home. I had been asked by some, "Why are you still at home?" I always replied with the question, "Why leave?" explaining, "I get along well with my parents." Like many who were suffering the ills which Freud described, I figured I was a "victim" of the Oedipus Complex and that perhaps the solution was to move away. The very next day, I began such plans. I will let the reader analyze how my mother came to be symbolized by houses and why, in some, the normal desire to leave one's childhood home or one's parents may be lacking. In my case, however, it was not about Freud's famous or infamous, Oedipus complex! But my primal regressions could not have begun while living with my parents, so my departing was fortuitous.

That psychologist was merely one of many frogs to inhabit my swamp. Later, I was a patient of a medical hypnotist and his treatment worked for a while, but then there was another love object which triggered additional bouts of psychiatric symptoms. The unwelcomed result was that this new girlfriend erased all of the benefits of the hypnotist's efforts, as my banished symptoms returned with even added discomfort. The symptoms had become more severe because my protective defenses were being further lowered. The barricade that had been holding back the onslaught of those early hurts had become more difficult to re-build and like a New Orleans levee system which had become breached, the repressed primal force was becoming too powerful to contain.

Desperate for relief, I flew to London to see a famous Chinese acupuncturist but his needles did not help. Eventually, gestalt therapy combined with transactional analysis opened me up enough so that spontaneous feeling of my early infantile hurts began. I had read one of Arthur Janov books, The Anatomy of Mental Illness, but that hysterical Hollywood-type approach to treatment did not seen "real" so I was not interested. And besides that, I could not identify with any of Dr. Janov's case studies because I knew I had been a loved child.

Even after years and years of deeply felt primals, including an early surgery, a near drowning, and an incredible amount of time in birth re-livings, I continued to have dreams of my mother symbolized as a house. Eventually, the house dreams became less frequent as the spillover of my primal pain into my dreams was reduced from every night, to much less frequently. I did most of the work myself, but attended therapist-directed primal-oriented sessions whenever I had the opportunity. It has taken a long, long time. Indeed, it took over a decade (perhaps more) of regressive primalling before I had my first dream of my mother as a 'person' instead of as a 'house' or 'building.'

As my self primal therapy proceeded, the contents of my dreams went from houses being in serious states of disrepair, into the exteriors of well upkept gingerbread Victorian houses and finally into modern residences and elaborate buildings furnished with rich decor. Soon severe symptoms began to disappear and the dreams of houses needing repair houses turned into mansions and palaces, but complete cure continued to be evasive.

(to be continued)

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