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Desertion and disintegration in an adolescent dream odyssey

The Letter, Issue 36, Spring 2006, Pages 94 - 102


Marie Walshe

This paper is based upon a case study presented to the Child Analysis Group. The work with this child proceeded through a series of dreams, some of which were quite evocative and disturbing at times. I believe that the paper may be interesting in light of the group's work and because of the quality of her dreams. Children often present the most wonderful dreams, which they recount with an innocence that reflects their total engagement with the work. They do not seek to challenge a perceived Master's position as the adult weekend-supplement-reader may do. Instead, the child's dream speaks the true language of the unconscious. The child's dreams culminated in a repeating nightmare whose horror made her fear going to sleep. These final sessions were extremely difficult, until the nightmare could be interpreted and its unconscious symbolism unlocked. The anxiety of this one-way imperative transmission required to be tolerated, its urgency respected as the fuel that impelled the work of the session, until the messenger could hear, at last, her own message.

Maria[1] was thirteen years old when referred to me by a teacher who felt her problems owed more to emotional instability than an intellectual disability. She is the third of four siblings: two older brothers and a younger sister. Maria's father deserted his family four years ago, moving in with a neighbouring widow and her daughters. Mother's family had frowned on the marriage from the outset and so were not there to support her initially when Father deserted her. However, when Mother abandoned the children also and developed a serious drink problem the maternal grandmother and aunt intervened to help her recover. She has returned to work and curtailed her drinking but she has never recovered the same level of engagement with her children. Her husband remains the object cause of her desire and she has objectified herself in her submission to his every whim. Each demand resonates with the power of Mother's desire to be the object of his desire.

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