Complex-PTSD Dream – Introduction
Let’s first define Complex-PTSD or complex post-traumatic stress disorder – Complex-PTSD, also known as complex trauma, is a proposed diagnostic term for a set of symptoms resulting from ‘prolonged’ stress of a social and/or interpersonal nature, especially in the context of interpersonal dependence. Subjects displaying traits associated with Complex-PTSD include victims of ‘chronic maltreatment’ by caregivers, as well as hostages, prisoners of war, concentration camp survivors, survivors of some religious cults, and a parent or guardian with narcissistic personality disorder, whether in the grandiose or covert forms. (From Wikipedia)
The Struggle within the Unconscious Intensifies – This dream is a classic battle with the shadow figure – good versus evil – in the attempt to pull things together the self-destructive force becomes more resistant to change. One evil character even chops off my head in this dream. Complex-PTSD does make for interesting dreams. This dream is, also, a good example of one that has a typical four-stage format with a 1) beginning which sets the place or location, 2) then a scenario to depict the problem, 3) an attempt to resolve and 4) a resolution.
The Dream – Complex-PTSD
Beginning – Patsy’s Farm – My Mother’s First Cousin
Once again, the setting is a family party at my mother’s first cousin’s, Patsy, house. I arrive at the party in my car, and another person arrives at the same time (it was actually Steve Buscemi in the dream) who I felt had malicious intentions. I was afraid he had a shotgun. But he gets out of his car without a gun and I think maybe he is okay, but I am still apprehensive and keep an eye on him.
Music with Live Swing Band
I am inside the house saying “Hi” to relatives, Patsy and her husband. I hear live ‘swing band’ music from the 1940’s coming from the rear of the house and head toward it – I pass a large, pool/Jacuzzi in the living room, and then there is an orchestra pit with about a 12-man orchestra and conductor. The conductor is very animated pointing to each musician pronouncedly as their parts came up. They were professional musicians. (This orchestra part of the dream was in black and white.)
Gas Station Ruins Beautiful Setting
I went outside and walked around the farm going through fields, talking with a few cousins. In the front of the house, there was now a gas station and a fast food place. I think it is pretty tacky to have ruined this beautiful place for commercial purposes, but to say something positive I just comment to one cousin it must be nice to roll out of bed for breakfast in the morning.
I go back into the house and I am looking out the front window, I notice the “malicious” character is going into his vehicle which is now an RV. I become suspicious again. Some children go into the RV and I fear he is going in for his shotgun, but the kids come out with presents – so I relax for a bit but keep watching.
The Problem – Just As I Suspected – The Shotgun Appears
Suddenly, just as I suspected, the “malicious” guy comes out of his RV with a shotgun. I warn Patsy and everyone immediately; nobody seemed to know what to do. I tell Patsy to get her guns, but she tells me that they do not have any guns. I assumed they did, that was my plan of action in the event my suspicions were correct. We are now in imminent danger.
The ‘Evil’ Character
I walk through the back of the house and go into the kitchen. There is a gang of evil characters in the kitchen. One is a particularly “evil” character, he has a sinister, malevolent look. His henchmen are holding a young guy down over a counter and the “evil” character has a machete.
At first, I think they must just be playing around, and I hear one of the enforcers telling the captive not to worry, that he will not feel a thing. Suddenly, the evil character just chops the guy’s head off. I am stunned, there is no undoing this act, I thought they were just trying to scare the guy. Then the evil one picks up the head and puts it in the refrigerator.
I head towards the back door making sure not to make eye contact with this “evil” character. Making eye contact with him would make me a target for his animosity which seemed to be toward everything in life. Going through the back door, I pass the parents of this character coming in with groceries. I hear the mother’s horrified reaction as she opens the refrigerator.
The Garden of the Mindless
I enter the garden on the side of the house – older couples are walking around the garden as if nothing is happening. I am incredulous. They were all wearing Sunday clothes from the late 1960’s and early 70’s, polyester and pastels. The garden was perfect with closely trimmed shrubs and little white picket fences surrounding each flower bed. No one was reacting to what was going on.
I hear Patsy scream; “He is shooting the children”. Suddenly, I realize my children are there. I realize that I have to take action individually, the rest of the people around me seem incapable of acting jointly.
“The Showdown” – Taking Individual Responsibility
This last segment of the dream includes both the attempt to resolve the conflict and the resolution, for the resolution is part of an ongoing process.
At first, I think about getting on the roof and jumping the “malicious” character from above. Then, I decide to move around the back of the house and am coming up the other side of the house. The “malicious” character has his back turned to me, walking toward the front with his shotgun. I am creeping up behind him frantically looking for a weapon. I am looking for a ‘hoe’ or some farming implement, trying to figure out the best way to strike him with a hoe, then I switch to looking for a lead pipe to bludgeon him over the head with. I am coming right up on him without a weapon, hoping that he does not turn around – when the dream ends.
Interpretation of Dream – Complex-PTSD makes ‘Individuation’ Difficult
First, let’s begin the interpretation with the definition of ‘Individuation’: In Jungian psychology, also called analytical psychology, individuation is the process in which the individual self-develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious – seen as a developmental psychic process during which innate elements of personality, the components of the immature psyche, and the experiences of the person’s life become integrated over time into a well-functioning whole. (From Wikipedia)(Additional definition at end of interpretation)
Beginning – Repetitive Location – Cousin Patsy’s Farm
The setting once again is where many of my dreams have taken place, at the house and farm of my mother’s first cousin. I believe this because I felt the cousin, Patsy, was for me, she accepted me, did not judge me in a negative light. Perhaps, Patsy is in the dream to represent the anima force depicting that I am finally beginning to accept myself. This was also the location of the dreams: 1) Connecting with Humanity and 2) Taking Control of My Life w/ T-Rex.
I passed a large Jacuzzi after I greeted Patsy and her husband. Since water usually represents emotions, and a Jacuzzi normally has warm water, I assume this represents the warm emotions I felt coming from Patsy and her husband when I was at their farm. In the dream, ‘Connecting with Humanity’, I was, also, at their farm and dove into a pond there, and had a sense of belonging and connecting with humanity after diving in.
Arrival of the Self-Destructive Aspect of Unconscious
The “malicious” Buscemi character arrives at the same time. This is a shadow aspect of myself, so, of course, we would arrive at the same time. The shadow, in this case, is a self-destructive aspect of myself. He is really coming to the party to kill or destroy me – this negative force knows I have been struggling hard to be successful, and this negative, self-destructive shadow figure wants to put an end to that. The part of my mind that controls the dream put Buscemi in the dream because the negative, self-destructive force is a real force that exists within me and is alive and well, it has to be dealt with to progress with individuation. Most of my self-destructive force now takes part in the form of procrastination and not dealing with things that I should, like taxes! I am no longer suicidal on a physical level, but on an emotional or spiritual level, it is a struggle with these strong oppositional figures roaming about.
In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” may refer to (1) an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one’s personality, the shadow is largely negative, or (2) the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. (From Wikipedia – full definition at end)
Dreams Represent of Current Emotional Status
For the most part, dreams act out the dreamer’s current state of emotional affairs – the point which the dreamer has reached at that particular time in their life. The dream will often start out in earlier periods of life, and then move to a more current state of the emotions of the dreamer that fit into the same pattern as the emotional theme of the dream.
The question is, “
What causes someone to turn their anger and rage inward, against themselves?
This self-destructive force was created for the most part from the negativity and rage that came from my father. Basically, he passed his Complex_PTSD down, probably through a combination of epigenetics and environmental circumstances. He seemed jealous, perhaps, because he came from an extremely poor background with an alcoholic father and a mother who was severely depressed.
Because of his drive and intelligence, I had a relatively easy life in comparison, plus a mother who doted on her children. He started throwing his rage attacks on me when I was 5, he had already beaten my brother severely enough to cause my mother to threaten to leave. Then add his combat experience in WWII and his alcoholism and things get complex fairly quick – leading to Complex_PTSD.
Epigenetics studies genetic effects not encoded in the DNA sequence of an organism, hence the prefix epi- (Greek: επί– over, outside of, around). Such effects on cellular and physiological phenotypic traits may result from external or environmentalfactors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells express genes. These alterations may or may not be heritable, although the use of the term epigenetic to describe processes that are heritable is controversial. (from Wikipedia)
“Oedipus, is that you?”
There is another possibility for my father’s negativity towards my brother and myself. My father was a very good musician and his swing band started to take off in the mid- 1950s– I can remember being at a nightclub/dance hall called “The Nightingale” in Northern Virginia when I was about 4-years-old. I can remember dancing to the swing band music and all the band’s wives were cheering me on.
Also, around this time, I remember taking an airplane trip to Pittsburg, PA to visit my Great Aunt Margaret. Years later, I was to discover that the reason for this trip was that my mother had left my father for a short period because he had an affair with a band groupie. My mother would not go back to him unless he gave up the music world and stuck to his engineering. So, essentially, he was forced to give up the life he really wanted to live for the sake of holding the family together. Possibly, he held a resentment toward my brother and myself for having to give this lifestyle up – this lifestyle, I assume, really made him feel alive, plus he was at a stage where the alcohol still worked for him. My mother viewed the band as the source of his alcoholism and playing around. My father was still dealing with a very bad case of PTSD and the early stages of alcoholism.
The Rage Begins – and so does Complex-PTSD
It was shortly after this that the rage attacks began. One attack being when I had asked my father to teach me how to play the piano at about age 5. I answered a question with an answer he did not find acceptable, and he instantly exploded into rage. It was an innocent answer of a 5-year-old, I could not have anticipated that response, the rage came out of nowhere. I never touched the piano again.
The Shadow Creatures Appear to Perpetuate Complex-PTSD
This and other such occasions caused me to basically withhold any creative acts, I assume out of fear that such things might cause another eruption. So, essentially, I decided, subconsciously, to not create. And through procrastination, being in oblivion and tuning out, I seemed to have mastered this quite well in my earlier years. However, as I began to grapple with these issues in my early 20’s, the work seemed to have stirred up this shadow figure who had a lot to say about the matter, so he shows up to the party with his shotgun to destroy my attempt to recover and make progress on the road toward individuation.
Also, because my brother and myself showed no creative talent early on, my father acted very negatively toward us. So, essentially he created a condition (fear of showing any creative talent) and then condemned us for having it. This does have a tendency to play with one’s mind.
Physical Aspect of Complex-PTSD
To add to this twisting of one’s mind, I developed a very sensitive stomach when I was young and would often throw up in the morning before school, at restaurant’s; after I ate, the site of food would suddenly be nauseating and I had to leave immediately or else. After several years of this, I was put in the hospital for tests.
This was the early 1960’s when they seemed to be in the dark ages of mental health. I remember the doctors conferring in the room with my parent’s present coming to the consensus that it was in my head. Well, essentially they were right about the source, however, they inferred that I was making it up to get attention.
The following night I was still in the hospital and since I was on a ‘soft’ diet, I was given soft boiled eggs to eat. However, the eggs were not even cooked half way – they were gross and to look at them made me gag. I asked the nurse if they could cook them a little more, and she said “No” because I was on a soft diet. I was ten and did not know what a soft diet really meant, but the nurse should have. My father showed up, and I am whining about having to eat these raw eggs. Once again, instant rage, he slapped me across the face and said I should be grateful while relaying a war story about how he was starving during the war. One of the guys he was with during The Battle of the Bulge with found a chicken, but everyone fought over it and he did not get any. Then he just left the hospital. Not a word was spoken about it again. Once again, a condition that he created (atmosphere of intense fear) and I was rejected by him for having the nervous stomach. I believe this type of rage combined with the injustice creates these self-destructive defense mechanisms in the mind of a young child. That was 50 years ago, and this negative force still roams my mind, so the effect is long-term.
Creation of Complex-PTSD Cycle
My own anger and rage against this were turned inward, because there was no way to express it, other than my own rage which only made my father’s rage worse. Depression is said to be ‘anger turned inward’. Depression stifles one’s creativity. This can begin a downward spiral. Stuffing emotion leads to a suppression of life or creativity, which leads to increased depression, etc. To keep the emotions suppressed (a survival technique) an enforcer is created by the mind to keep everything in check. Resistance to creativity is enforced with procrastination or rage coming to the surface when I would put effort toward a creative or constructive endeavor. Although I have made a lot of progress over four decades, the resistance is still there, just not as strong anymore. Also, I am aware of this self-destructive impulse within myself. That is why the dream ego, myself in the dream, is aware of the ‘malicious’ character at the beginning of the dream.
Resistance Toward Progress or Individuation
An example of the early resistance would be trying to read something, and have to reread a paragraph 4 or 5 times still not really comprehending. Getting through school is rather difficult with this condition – a slow process, particularly when you add attention deficit. Now, thanks to therapy and Adderall, I only have to read things about 3 times, but I understand it thoroughly by that time which is a big improvement.
I came to believe that what people were rejecting was something inherent in me, it couldn’t be my dad – he was the war hero, the musician and NASA scientist/inventor. Everyone seemed to look up to him, but it was my mother’s cousin Patsy who said to me on a visit to the West Coast that she was surprised I turned out as well as I had considering the father I had. I just assumed everyone saw him in this heroic, important role and did not see or know about the reality of it all. I had another cousin that said essentially the same thing; he had lived in our house for 3 years and witnessed and experienced the insanity.
Metaphor of Swing Band represents Accomplishment
The ‘swing band’ in the dream represents ‘putting something together’, being accomplished at something. My father had a similar band, as I mentioned earlier, called ‘The Music Makers’ in the early 50’ therefore, the dream switched to black and white which all films were of that era, an interesting touch. The reason the conductor’s movements were so pronounced was that my roommate, who is an operatic singer, explained the job of a conductor in great detail to me a day or two before the dream. It became clear to me the discipline and knowledge that was necessary to perform at this level. The conductor has to know the composition of each type of instrument in an orchestra, plus be aware of exactly when each section comes in and fades out. That is a lot of information to stuff into one head. So, the band represents the creative aspect of my father, something that the “malicious” aspect of myself appears to resent because my father did not or could not pass his talents down because of his anger and rage. He would literally start to become angry whenever I would inquire about any knowledge he had – therefore my brother, sister and myself really learned nothing from him. Everyone just kept their distance from him. I once had to pull a knife on him to get him to stop beating my sister, he ran off, this too was never mentioned again.
I Don’t Want to Mess with This Guy – The ‘Evil’ One
The ‘evil’ character in the kitchen is my extremely destructive aspect, and as a victim, I am portrayed as the guy who gets his head chopped off – he did kind of look like me when I was young and this extremely destructive aspect did destroy my youth. The ‘evil’ one is the character that can imagine suicide or homicide in a flash of extreme stress. (See dream Rage, Revenge and Suicidal Ideation for more details)
The ‘evil’ character puts the head in the refrigerator, a la Jeffery Dahmer, perhaps to represent the way I hang onto my resentments for future enjoyment, a snack for later, to re-live the rage which gives a feeling of power through fantasizing revenge. As false as it is, try to convince the guys in my head. This dream character alone qualifies me as having Complex-PTSD.
The Garden of the Mindless – Aren’t the Flowers Lovely
All of the characters walking around the garden on the side of the house I see as basically a metaphor for an inability to act, either through procrastination or just ignoring my problems hoping they will just disappear. The imagery is of older couples dressed in the late 60’s early 70’s when my parent’s generation basically ‘tuned out’ many major world problems. They were concerned about keeping their lawns and gardens manicured and neatly trimmed while we tore an entire country apart in Vietnam, and tried to ignore problems like education, poverty, and racism in our own country. Lady Bird Johnson was concerned with her “Beautification of Washington, D.C. Program” which was planting flowers in traffic circles, etc. in D.C. while we dropped tons of napalm on the peasants of Vietnam – so, this represents a common theme played out individually and on a mass scale.
Apparently, I am not the only one with these characters running around my head, I am just aware of it. And, it is through this consciousness of these various aspects that I can actually get control of my own behavior which leads to being able to create and accomplish goals in life. (See dream Taking Control of My Life – starring T-Rex)
Individuation – “Showdown with the Shadow”
Finally, in the dream, I decide to take action independently – waiting for others to lead or depending on group action is not going to cut it. So, like with my website and writing a book, I am the one that has to believe it can be done and that my projects are important enough to spend the time and effort to accomplish. There is no one that has to approve, encourage or support me – it is up to me to make things happen. If I want to change things, make a difference in my life and the lives of others, I have to do what I feel must be done and face my own demons. No one else can do that last part.
So, in the final part of the dream, I go around the back of the house and creep up on the ‘malicious’ character from behind. He is armed but has his back toward me, as I frantically search for a farming implement to use as a weapon.
Perhaps, the weapon is my pen, by journalizing and interpreting the dreams, the ‘malicious’ one will lose his power as he is exposed. The ‘hoe’ is a creative tool on the farm, and the pen is for writing. And, in consciousness, I have the weapon, but he is the one who sneaks up from behind in reality.
What About The ‘Evil’ One
I don’t know what to do about the evil one, I am not quite ready to take him on yet. For now, I will just concentrate on Mr. Buscemi, he is in my sights.
Dreams = Internal ‘Global Positioning System’ for Emotional Status
Dreams do not, for the most part, predict what is going to happen, however, they offer a fairly accurate assessment of where the dreamer is currently in their emotional life (Like an internal GPS). This dream ends with me attempting to do away with one of the self-destructive aspects of myself – that I am struggling to get control of these shadow forces. However, as this character is still alive at the end of the dream, the destructive force still is alive – and appears especially strong as the ‘evil’ one. I am coming up on the ‘malicious’ character, but he does have that shotgun. I am going to take this as a good sign, that I am making progress and just hope the s.o.b. does not turn around!
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Further definition of Individuation: (From Wikipedia)
According to Jungian psychology, individuation (German: Individuation) is a process of psychological integration. “In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated [from other human beings]; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.”
“The symbols of the individuation process . . . mark its stages like milestones, prominent among them for Jungians being the shadow, the wise old man . . . and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman.” Thus, “There is often a movement from dealing with the persona at the start . . . to the ego at the second stage, to the shadow as the third stage, to the anima or animus, to the Self as the final stage. (From Wikipedia)
Individuation is a process of transformation whereby the personal and collective unconscious are brought into consciousness (e.g., by means of dreams, active imagination, or free association) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche. Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically.
In addition to Jung’s theory of complexes, his theory of the individuation process forms conceptions of an unconscious filled with mythic images, a non-sexual libido, the general types of extraversion and introversion, the compensatory and prospective functions of dreams, and the synthetic and constructive approaches to fantasy formation and utilization. (From Wikipedia)
Carl Jung stated the shadow to be the unknown dark side of the personality. According to Jung, the shadow, in being instinctive and irrational, is prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognised as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Jung writes that if these projections remain hidden, “The projection-making factor (the Shadow archetype) then has a free hand and can realize its object–if it has one–or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power.” These projections insulate and harm individuals by acting as a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world.
From one perspective, ‘the shadow…is roughly equivalent to the whole of the Freudian unconscious’; and Jung himself asserted that ‘the result of the Freudian method of elucidation is a minute elaboration of man’s shadow-side unexampled in any previous age’.
Jung also believed that “in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity“; so that for some, it may be, ‘the dark side of his being, his sinister shadow…represents the true spirit of life as against the arid scholar.’
References for Complex_PTSD
- Cook, A., et. al.,(2005) Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents,Psychiatric Annals, 35:5, pp-398
- Walker, Pete (2013-12-13). C From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781492871842.
References for Individuation
- = 4) Jung, C.G. Psychological Types. Collected Works, vol. 6, par. 757.
- Jung, C.G. (1962). Symbols of Transformation: An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia (vol. 2). New York: Harper & Brothers.
- Jung, C.G. (Shamdasani, S). (2009). The Red Book, p. 208, par. 3. Verona, Italy: Mondadori Printing.
- Jung quoted in J. Jacobi, Complex, Archetype, Symbol (London 1959) p. 113-114.
References References for Epigenetics
- Spector, Tim (2012). Identically Different: Why You Can Change Your Genes. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 8.
Just over ten years ago researchers found that the diets of pregnant mothers could alter the behaviour of genes in their children and that these changes could last a lifetime and then be passed on in turn to their children. The genes were literally being switched on or off by a new mechanism we call epigenetics – meaning in Greek ‘around the gene’. Contrary to traditional genetic dogma, these changes could be transferred to the next generation. In this case, the mothers just happened to be rats, but recent similar findings in humans have created a revolution in our thinking.
- Carey N. (2011): Epigenetics revolution: How modern biology is rewriting our understanding of genetics, disease, and inheritance. Icon Books, London, ISBN 978-1-84831-315-6; ISBN 978-1-84831-316-3.
- Moore, David S. (2015). The Developing Genome: An Introduction to Behavioral Epigenetics(1st ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199922345.
- “Epigenetics”. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- Ledford H (2008). “Disputed definitions”. Nature. 455 (7216): 1023–8. doi:10.1038/4551023a. PMID 18948925.
References for Shadow Definition (from Wikipedia)
- Young-Eisendrath, P. and Dawson, T. (1997). The Cambridge Companion to Jung., Cambridge University Press, p. 319
- Jung, C.G. (1938). “Psychology and Religion.” In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131
- Jung, C.G. (1952). “Answer to Job.” In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.12
- S. A. Diamond – article published April 20, 2012 by Psychology Today [Retrieved 2015-11-01]
- Dr G. Wyn Roberts, Dr A. Machon – Appreciative Healthcare Practice: A guide to compassionate, person-centred care (c.f. p.71) published by M&K Update Ltd, 8 Jul 2015 ISBN 1907830936 [Retrieved 2015-11-01]
- Jung, C.G. (1951). “Phenomenology of the Self” In The Portable Jung. P.147
- Anthony Stevens, On Jung (London 1990) p. 43
- C. G. Jung, The Practice of Psychotherapy (London 1993) p. 63
- Kaufman, C. Three-Dimensional Villains: Finding Your Character’s Shadow 
- C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London 1983) p. 262