Ancient wisdom has said that the sins of the father are visited upon the children. This dream seems to be saying that the sins of the parent are perpetuated and passed down, over and over again.
The Dream: My mother-in-law, M, is experiencing some symptoms. Her mother sits her on top of a kitchen counter and cuts out her heart and lungs. M doesn't seem to experience the sort of pain one would expect from this. M and her mother, accompanied by M's daughter carrying the organs, board an ambulance and head for the hospital. The doctors put back the removed parts and explain to M's mother, who seems sweet and well meaning throughout, that this was the wrong thing to do; nevertheless, she clings to her belief that she did the right thing. Years later M is in an old folks' home where I visit her. She recounts this story, her eyes full of pain.
Although M herself has been a very difficult person and caused her family a lot of pain, I feel a new empathy for her and, while I can't overlook the effects her own bad behavior has had on her children, I now have compassion for what she went through and wonder if it might have been responsible for triggering her own cruelty.
Interpretation: Metaphorically the heart is the place of feeling; we often say that something is heartfelt, or that something broke our hearts. The lungs enable us to cry out. We yell at “the top of our lungs.” In this dream, the sweet mother inflicts serious damage unwittingly, unknowingly, convinced that she is doing the right thing. Worse than what she has done is her refusal to acknowledge that she was wrong. She clings to her beliefs about the correctness of her behavior, even in the face of clear evidence that she made a mistake, and these deeds travel down the generations from parent to child.
M is my avatar in this dream, and I begin to understand my own lapses as grounded in a time when I could not speak (yell out) to defend myself, and so I lost heart. I ignored and suppressed my pain, creating the possibility that I would someday blindly lash out at my own defenseless child. At the same time the dream warns me not to be too convinced of my own rectitude. The bright spot in the dream is my new found compassion, and the hope that it will enable me to forgive the guilty, and, at the same time, protect the defenseless.