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Japanese Myth, Buddhist Legend, and the Structural Analysis of Clinical Dreams

The Letter, Issue 37, Summer 2006, Pages 93 - 113


JAPANESE MYTH, BUDDHIST LEGEND, AND THE STRUCTURAL

ANALYSIS OF CLINICAL DREAMS IN RELATION TO THE MOURNING PROCESS[1]*

Kazushige Shingu


Introduction

The act of eating is of great significance in the process of mourning. This point, the first of two upon which this paper relies, is reflected in myth, Buddhism, and psychoanalysis. In psychoanalysis, Freud viewed the act of eating as a stage of identification lying at the root of melancholia.[2] Karl Abraham, a direct disciple of Freud, placed particular theoretical and clinical emphasis on this understanding; according to Abraham, the mourning process includes three phases: anal expulsion, oral introjection, and metabolic reconstruction.[3]

The second point is that myth and dream share a homological kinship. The two domains have long been compared in terms of similarities of content, but structural analysis reveals a close formal relationship as well.

In this paper I introduce a Japanese myth and two Buddhist legends, each of which represents the process of mourning in relation to eating. I then discuss two clinical cases concerning eating disorders that occurred during processes of mourning for an aborted child, with particular attention to the dream analysis the cases entailed. In this way I wish to elaborate on the structural homology between myth and dream, which will be shown to be rooted in the mourning process as conceptualized by Freud and Abraham.

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