Sunday, May 15, 2011

Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?

The Dream: My friend Mary and I are in the back seat of a van. A man, with a child of about two years old, sits in the front. I notice the baby is driving, standing on the seat to reach the steering wheel. I am upset and concerned that the father allows his son to drive. I tell the father that I’m “not comfortable” with this baby driving the car. The father gets very angry at me. He talks about his own childhood, telling me how capable he was. He seems to feel his own capabilities were not recognized. I am surprised at his unreasonable outburst. I sit in stony silence, tightening my seat belt and suggesting to my friend that she do the same. Mary, a social worker, tries to engage the father in conversation, and afterward he takes over the driving.

Interpretation: I had been reading Bruno Bettelheim’s analysis of Hansel and Gretel, in which he looks at their actions as choices. For example, finding their way back home after their first expulsion is a regression: the children want to return to the babyish stage of life when parents give all and demand nothing. The mother, once she has expectations of her children, becomes a “witch” to them. The eating of her house symbolizes the children's infantile greediness: they eat their parents out of house and home.* From reading Bettelheim’s interpretations, my unconscious began to deal with the idea of my infantile self being in charge, in other words, with my being driven by the baby. When I protest my “adult,” who has a couple of unresolved childish issues of his own, responds with anger to my suggestion that he take control. Once this conflict is mediated by my social worker friend, who in waking life facilitates communication, a resolution can occur: the adult resumes his rightful place in the driver’s seat.

*Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, Vintage Books Edition, Random House, New York, May 2010, 208-217.

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