Chapter 5: Masturbation and Mana

This chapter focuses on just two dreams, both fairly lengthy, remarkably similar and yet diametrically opposed:

Dream #1:

I’m backstage, and have infiltrated a President Trump rally. He’s giving his usual boisterous speech to an adoring crowd. I’m on his right, crouched down, and I can see him through the wings. He has pulled out his penis and is masturbating during the speech behind the podium. The audience can’t see this, but the people backstage can. There’s another man in the wings near me who is a New York Times reporter. There’s also some Trump secret service guards. Trump masturbates throughout the speech and at the end ejaculates onto the speech. I take photos and video of this and I’m determined to post them on Facebook and Youtube. I’m worried about getting caught filming by the guards and stopped. I think it’s crucial that this is revealed to the public. Outside, I ask the reporter if he’s going to take the story to the New York Times. He’s unsure and says “I don’t know.” This is frustrating to me. He then runs off down the street. I get the impression he is going to go ahead and do it. I upload the videos to social media. I’m thinking surely this must be the thing that takes him down. 

I received the first dream, sent to me privately, by a dreamer whose therapist had heard of this dream project. The dreamer was interested in both the collective implications of the dream – and what it said about the dreamer’s own personal conflicts or “shadow” content. Viewed exclusively as a “personal” dream we might notice conflicted themes of exhibitionism, anxiety about exposure of “selfishness” and self-pleasure, ego-inflation, desire for dominance as well as internal moral sanction for “getting off” and basking in public adoration. Viewed as a collective dream it is significant that our national leader is the selected symbol of this masturbatory, exhibitionistic nation his message to the nation defiled as a mere prop for the discharge of his personal pleasure.

The second dream was posted on Twitter:

Dream #2

I had a wild dream last night… I was on my way somewhere when (a journalist) stopped me and handed me a printed booklet with an itinerary for the president’s visit, which he was covering, kind of undercover (not openly acting as himself, anyway) Inside was a hastily scribbled encouragement for me to join him; these events weren’t technically open to the public, but he said he’d vouch for me. When I got there, I understood why. You couldn’t see the shit that was going on without wanting someone to affirm what you saw. I forget most of what the president did; I mainly remember a lot of furtive whispering along the lines of “you just saw that too, right?” “yeah this is fuckin wild” while we sat across the room from him & his handlers. He refused to read anything; we watched him be handed a paper report that said the opposite of what he was being told aloud & nod as if everything was fine (which he would not have, if he’d read anything on the paper in front of him). We sat through one semi-public appearance in a hotel ballroom & watched him have a tantrum/leave because it wasn’t going exactly the way he wanted it to.

                  We were allowed into his “green room” where he was pacing back and forth, muttering about how people had no respect. He took off his suit jacket/dress shirt, fussing about the temperature. Underneath, he was wearing a t-shirt. At first I couldn’t make sense of the design on the shirt – a bottle? Then I realized it was an anti-masturbation shirt. He was wearing a shirt that had a cock and balls on it, but with a bow tied around in between the two, making the balls bulge out into what was stylized into looking like a mana potion bottle, captioned with something like “it keeps you strong!”

                  And I just started *losing my shit* that the president was wearing this fucking, dasharez0ne looking dick-and-balls as a mana potion anti-masturbation t-shirt, completely blowing my cover. The handlers rushed in to make him put on a shirt before someone could get a picture, and I was escorted out, but (the journalist) kept periodically texting me updates from inside, as the rules/restrictions for being present got increasingly unreasonable[i].

Here the dream author sees Donald Trump as courting dominance (it keeps you strong!) by retaining semen. Some athletes and performers refrain from masturbation with the belief, superstitious or not, that their powers and capacities will be diffused if their sexual energies are diminished before a big event. “Mana potion” as referred to in this dream is a highly caffeinated energy drink geared toward gamers, but the deeper archetypal notion of “mana” derives from Polynesisan and Pacific Island cultures – and refers to a kind of spiritual energy that is a source of personal power, authority and status.

But the mana-personality is a dominant of the collective unconscious, the well-known archetype of the mighty man in the form of hero, chief, magician, medicine-man, saint, the ruler of men and spirits, the friend of God. This masculine collective figure who now rises out of the dark background and takes possession of the conscious personality entails a psychic danger of a subtle nature for by inflating the conscious mind it can destroy everything that was gained… C. G. Jung, CW, Two Essay In Analytical Psychology, paragraph 377

Jung describes the psychological danger and dangerousness those who learn to exploit the primal “mana” energies of the unconscious without sufficient humility:

Possession by an archetype turns a man into a flat collective figure, a mask behind which he can no longer develop as a human being, but becomes increasingly stunted. One must therefore beware the danger of falling victim to the dominant of the mana-personality. The danger lies not only in becoming a father-mask, but in being overpowered by this mask when worn by another. ~ C. G. Jung, CW, Two Essay In Analytical Psychology, paragraph 390

In this dream Trump is not adored by the crowd but becomes enraged when an appearance does not unfold as he hoped. The dreamer describes it as an “anti-masturbation t-shirt”   and it is unclear if this dream-Trump is secretly (underneath his suit) launching an anti-masturbation campaign – to actively disrupt and forbid the self-pleasure of others, or if this is merely the hidden source of his mana-authority

Both dreams take place “back stage” and behind the scenes. Both dreams involve exposure to secrets otherwise hidden from public view (behind a podium, under a suit), both dreams involve reporters with cameras who may potentially record and release secret, damning information. Both dreamers seek some confirmation and collaboration with members of the media. Both dreamers feel overwhelmed and frightened by the knowledge they have gained, and fearful of having their “cover blown” and being exposed. Both dreams involve necessary information “leaking” to the collective public through secondary sources- in one, the dreamer is the source of the leaked information to social media and you tube, in the other – the dreamer is the recipient of information messaged to the outside world. Both dreams paint a picture of an administration “run amok” and pathological, and power-mad.

The presence of cameras in these dreams serve as an “observing ego” that records without judging what it has witnessed. There is an expectation that the press should function as an extension of this function – and report on what it has witnessed without censoring or editing reality. In the first dream the member of the press pool says he doesn’t know if he will report this information, although the dreamer suspects that he will eventually. In the second dream – journalists’ functions are disrupted by the administration’s increasingly unreasonable rules and regulations on freedom of the press. Either way, in both of these dreams -the press as the collective “observing ego” is disabled and it is unclear if it will function properly – by reporting the information to the body politic who will then administer a moral judgment and “take him down” And like their dream-egos, both dreamers felt compelled to share the dreams themselves with the wider public, just as they felt compelled, within the dream, to report on what they had witnessed.

The larger questions in these similar and opposite dreams call on each of us to examine the aspects of our personalities which gather (and abuse) power for its own sake, or for self-pleasure rather than in the service of mutuality or for the sake of the greater good.

 

[i] @quicksilvre

 

Chapter 4: Dreams of Incompetence and Cognitive Decline

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There has been a great deal of speculation about Trump’s mental and legal competency. News articles, op-ed writers and Ivy League professors analyze his impulsivity, and his compulsive lying. Speech analysts examine his verbal skills and idiosyncratic use of language for signs of decline or dementia.

Last night I dreamt that we were all forced to go to a Trump event and at the end we all got his autograph, but he misspelled Donald as Dinald on everyone’s poster of his face.[i]

Approximately thirty-six dreams in the collection elucidate themes of decline, dementia, incompetence, disinhibition and infantilization with regard to the current leader of the United States.

Last night I had a dream Donald Trump was singing the national anthem for some event and midway through completely forgot all the words then after he was done someone yelled “hey at least were standing up though, right?”[ii]

I had a dream that Donald trump bought everyone breakfast but didn’t get anyone’s breakfast order right[iii]

Certainly, these dreamers could be processing explicit concerns about the neurological health and cognitive functioning of the current president, but it is as likely that these dreamers, and the nation as a whole, are contending with deeper archetypal content. Jungian theorist Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig writes about the aging process, and the archetypes that are projected upon and activated in older people. Most of us are familiar with the archetype of the Wise Old Man, but Guggenbühl-Craig posits The Old Fool as a shadow aspect of the aging experience. The Old Fool, increasingly nostalgic, loses interest in contemporary technologies and modes of thinking.

Old people themselves are often unaware that they have lost contact with the collective psyche, with the collective conscious and unconscious. They think the young people have lost direction. One often hears older professors complain that students are disoriented, that they have lost all values.~ Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig, The Old Fool and the Corruption of Myth

The archetypal Demented Ruler, The Mad Emperor, or Wounded King of Arthurian legend, lives with a wound that never heals, and reins over a land that is likewise suffering and troubled.

When old people stay in power, it often means disaster. Power affects them like a drug: they no longer suffer from the fear of deterioration, from the fear of death and dying. Instead they turn into tyrants feeding on illusions. They lose the capacity to understand their own behavior, and since wisdom has been projected on to them anyway, nobody corrects or challenges them any more.     ~ Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig, The Old Fool and the Corruption of Myth

If, in the symbolic realm of myth dream and fairy-tale, the health of the ruler reflects the health of his kingdom, what do dreams of Trump in cognitive decline say about our unconscious diagnosis of the state of the nation and our country’s prognosis?

The night before last I actually had a dream that Donald Trump came to a party I was having. Nobody would talk to him so I tried to be nice and introduced myself. He had horrible breath and immediately started lying about the most mundane things. He was clearly not well in my dream, like you could see a deadness growing behind his eyes. When someone finally asked me what I said to him, I just should my head and said “He’s very sick.”[iv]

Last night I dreamed that Trump said something insane and mindless it was clear he had dementia i don’t remember what just lots of stuttering then today the report gets released of his statements about Haiti and Nigeria and he trends on Twitter again just like the dream[v]

I had a dream that Donald Trump punched me in the face. He was living in my house and was throwing tantrums like my g-pa used to when he was dealing with dementia. He wasn’t getting his way so he punched me in the face to try to prove his point.[vi]

I had a dream last night that trump admitted his cognitive ability was declining and he needed to move into a memory care unit.[vii]

If the president is symbolic of the disturbances of our larger national and cultural challenges, how might our institutional and collective memory demonstrate a comparable decline? Certainly the news cycle and the attentions of social media seem to be rife with a kind of pathological forgetting. The emergence of the internet as archive, and our reliance on technology has transformed what we do and do not need to store in our individual memory files. Fairly recent pre-internet historical events, if a record has not been documented online seem to be forgotten entirely.

Infantilization, treating or characterizing an adult as if they were an infant, is a common theme in these collected dreams. Excusing, under-estimating, minimizing adult actions as if they were the harmless gestures of a baby or framing the president’s behavior as “childish”

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

~William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Accurately or not, the decline of older age has been historically, archetypally depicted as a kind of “second infancy.” Whether these dreams associate loss of inhibition and impulsivity with developmental immaturity or the regression of advanced age, there is the notion, – including in my own dream which began this project – that in our dreaming, a kind of childishness nearly exonerates the president from responsibility for his actions.

My friend texted me this morning saying she dreamed that Trump was a literal baby she had to take care of ~ Anonymous

Last night I had a weird dream about Donald Trump and Steve Bannon throwing teething biscuits and strained carrots at each other from two high chairs[viii].

Dreamt Donald Trump sat all alone in a playground, because no-one wanted to play with him. Offered him a cup of tea.[ix]

Dreams which depict the president as a “big baby”:

I dreamed last night that I applied a MASSIVE nicotine patch to Donald Trump’s back while he slumped over my knee like a giant, clammy baby.[x]

Last night’s dream. I had trapped Trump in one of those baby playpen/travel cot things and built a wall of chunky kitkats around it which I added to whenever he tried to speak. Analyse that!![xi]

I had a dream in which I was criticizing Trump with my best friend, then a giant-sized Trump appeared and started chasing me in a building. He was much taller than the ceiling and he literally made the sound of a crying toddler.[xii]

Dreams of deteriorating social inhibition activate the dreamer’s sense of disgust:

I had a dream I was holding a door shut so Donald Trump couldn’t get in and then I heard him fart really loudly[xiii]

i just remembered that i had a dream earlier where i walked in on donald trump doing a press conference but he was shirtless, orange, and eating full sticks of butter by the handful.[xiv]

Other dreamers seem to frame Trump’s incapacity either as an innate lack of intelligence, or a chosen commitment to ignorance – rather than as a sign of deterioration:

Unrelated, but I dreamed that I was watching a newscast of Donald Trump trying to add Africa to a map because he thought it wasn’t on there because he didn’t know geography, and I was almost late to class because I thought I was awake because it wasn’t too unrealistic tbh [xv]

But whether the president is viewed as incompetent due to age and disease or as a result of his characterological make-up – the consequences may still be felt to be life-threatening:

Had a dream where I was married to this weird white lady, had a heart attack at my wedding where Donald Trump performed surgery on me. I remember thinking “I can’t live like this. There is no way he did a good job.”[xvi]

 

 

____________________________________________________

[i] @celiacrisassy

[ii] @pcoyne3

[iii] @hippydest

[iv] @tilton_raccoon

[v] @fritz_gruber

[vi] @crclark51515

[vii] @SoozleMcDoozle

[viii] @HCwrites

[ix] @Dr_Milkyway

[x] @hugh_raine

[xi] @mardybum_73

[xii] @lyswenn

[xiii] @pennytbh

[xiv] @BridgetteLong_

[xv] @NerdyChineseBoy

[xvi] @davisabsolute

 

Chapter 3: Dreams of Humiliation and Hair

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An inflation, however, is always threatened with a counter-stroke from the unconscious, C. G. Jung, CW, Answer to Job

In the previous chapter we focused on the ego inflation that is associated and activated by Trumpism, Let’s recall that, for the purposes of this discussion, these are not dreams about Donald Trump as a man, but about the archetypes that he channels unconsciously (and also perhaps consciously and manipulatively) and that we as a nation project upon him.

            The experience of being “puffed up” beyond the bounds of fallible humanity is a universal, life-long challenge and brings specific gifts and dangers with it whenever it emerges. Flying too near the sun, reaching for elevations beyond our station always has psychological consequences in an individual psyche and in the community.

Icarus, the son of the famous craftsman Daedalus learned this fatal lesson: Daedalus crafted wax and feather wings to teach himself to fly. He warned Icarus, before his first lesson, not to fly too high – or the wings would melt, nor too low, which would weigh down the feathers with salt water and pull him into the sea, the middle course the only safe route. Icarus so exhilarated with the experience of flight, disregarded his father’s warnings, flying higher and higher, melting his wings. He fell into the sea and drowned.

Nature corrects our course and sets limits on our accomplishments and our failures just as the sea and atmosphere and the sun do. If our conscious ego becomes expanded and moves toward inflated imbalance, the pendulum of the unconscious swings toward deflation and humiliation. This chapter examines the themes that emerge in approximately fifty-seven dreams of humiliation and debasement.

Nemesis comes from the word nemo, which means to distribute, to attribute each one his rightful lot. Nemesis is a principle of natural justice by which everyone gets what he or she deserves. We cannot avoid seeing that there is such a principle in the unconscious, which has a curious way of exactly what one feels is somehow deserved. It is not justice in the human sense of the word, but there is an uncanny regulating force in nature which acts like justice and strikes one as being meaningful. ~ Marie Louise von Franz, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales

                  The unconscious response of the collective will move to bring the one who has been set too high back to earth by knocking the stuffing out of him in one form or another. The fifty-seven dreams of deflation in this collection express the desire for corrective, relieving humbling, as an inflated leader is brought low.

A figurehead seated on an elevated throne in the previous chapter is now depicted as a mere pretender with a paper crown:

I had a dream that the White House wouldn’t let Trump actually work so everyday he would just make himself a paper crown and go to the mall to get a Wetzel Pretzel and honestly, I would be ok with that.[i]

Hubris will inevitably be humiliated and deflated. Kings will be dethroned:

I had a dream last night that Trump was inside a porta-potty and I pushed it over[ii]

Laughter, mockery, public outlets for such as Roman Saturnalias, Italian Commedia Del Arte, the or Korean Talchum created sanctioned outlets for the general populace to mock and laugh at their national leaders, wealthy emperors, and grandiose aristocrats.

Last night I dreamt that I vandalized Donald Trump’s mansion. He had a surprisingly number of clown portraits[iii]

This ritual buffooning persists in the grotesque presidential rubber masks that are pressed and sold each year for Halloween and Purim, in the political sketches and impersonations on Saturday Night Live and in the remnants of the annual roast performed at the White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner. Ancient kings were bound to their beloved jesters, who pressed them to return to healthy humility by calling on them to laugh at their own folly.

Oh yeah, I had a weird dream where I was in some sort of celebratory dinner/meeting event with influential people around the world. Trump was also there. He made a joke, loudly so everyone could hear. All talking ceased. No-one laughed, so Trump was confused and exclaimed- “Why aren’t you laughing? It was a good joke!” But no-one cared and they just kept going with their original conversations. An odd dream for sure.[iv]

When the ruler refuses to laugh, he will still be laughed at, perhaps even more robustly – stripped of his grandeur just as Hans Christian Anderson’s emperor in his “magic” clothes.

I had a dream I convinced Donald Trump to wear hot pink skinny jeans. It was awesome.[v]

In The Third Reich of Dreams, Beradt reported a handful of dreams which focused on such mocking debasement amplifying the vulnerabilities of the leaders of the Third Reich, Goebbels’s clubfoot, or depicting Goering as a “fat swine” or dressed ridiculously:

Goering appeared in a brown leather jerkin, shooting a crossbow, which made me laugh out loud. All of a sudden, I was standing there next to him, wearing the same kind of jerkin and carrying the same kind of crossbow – how I got there I don’t know– and he made me his personal archer. ~ C. Beradt, The Third Reich of Dreams, p.117

But as we see in Beradt’s example, such jesting and “cutting down to size” carries with it the risk of making extremely dangerous potentialities seem manageable, palatable or even undetectable though drollery. A deadly poison mixed into a sugared spoonful of comedy.

I’m not one to talk about dreams I’ve had, but last night Trump was wearing a shiny sequined dress and I had to tell him he looked better in it than Hillary and I feel like that’s worth mentioning.[vi]

As King Lear disintegrates into the madness of grandiosity his beloved Fool has no further function to serve in deflating a pompous ruler. Jest dies away, replaced with pity for the follies of a destructive and deluded dying king:

Last night I dreamt that I saved Donald Trump from his own media event. The crowd, a group of students, turned on Trump and his bodyguards were only half engaged. I was near the front. When the crowd turned, Trump’s bluster fell away to leave a frightened old man, hectored and alone. He cowered under a coat as I helped get him to his helicopter. The image that lingered was the raging crowd jostling a broken figure, a once proud and belligerent man trapped by the limitations of his age and stupidity.[vii]

Our unconscious may compensate for an intolerably imbalanced reality by transforming power into impotence.

I had a dream that Donald Trump was wandering around at my job without a Secret Service escort and everybody was just rolling their eyes and trying to pretend he wasn’t there[viii]

I had a dream that trump was like 3 feet tall and got super drunk and threw a beer bottle in the smith haven mall?? I took a video of course to show the news.[ix]

Nemesis: The Greek goddess of retribution who punishes all who have seemingly escaped the demands of human justice or received good fortune beyond their entitlement. The Dispenser of Dues. The Balancer of Life. The punisher of Narcissus. She operates in our collective psyche calling on the human species to bring low any who presume, who dare to claim the pedestal for themselves. A ten-foot throne reduced to twelve inches:

In March of 2016 I woke up around 3 am suddenly from a nightmare. I had been ushered into a small room with gold curtains. The room was full of gold statues of Trump. The pedestal was about 4 feet high with a likeness of Trump sitting on a throne about 1 feet high. Suddenly the statue on the left fell over knocking down the rest of the statues one by one. I knew that I didn’t want to touch any of the statues at all and was desperate to get out of the room. ~ Anonymous 

~~~~~~~

In the Old Testament, Samson loses his uncanny physical powers when Delilah shears his enchanted locks while he sleeps. The power of Trump’s brand is inseparable from his the strange thatch of straw-colored hair which sits atop his head. Nine dreams of debasement and humiliation focus specifically on the president’s hair.

“A man’s hair has denoted strength, virility, youth, sexiness, and potency, of which he can feel robbed by baldness” ~ The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images

Like an inverted Delilah, nine dream authors have shorn Trump in their sleep. In the next dream, the archetypal feminine – in the form of a chestnut mare – is the strong man’s downfall:

I attend an American rodeo show. During the interval Trump walks over to the middle of the stadium to address the audience. A beautiful chestnut mare with a single white star on her forehead breaks loose and races over to him. With her teeth she rips off Donald’s blonde wig and then carries it around the stadium, in her mouth, like a trophy.  Trump, at once, covers his head in shame and instructs his security men to get the hairpiece back; only they can’t catch the horse as she moves in a way they don’t understand. The audience is shocked. Many (including myself) begin to laugh nervously at first, then with more gusto. We can’t figure out whether this is part of the show or not. Trump knows there will be no comeback from this. He’s finished for good and is now a laughing stock. The entire dream took place in the stadium, which was a large circle. And aside from being an audience member, I took no other part in this dream. ~ Anonymous

A single mare – a domesticated, “broken” but powerful feminine animal instinct – is anointed by white star on her forehead as if she has been chosen to liberate the herd. She “breaks loose” and snatches Trump’s hairpiece with her sharp teeth, exposing him to public humiliation rendering him powerless. The dreamer watches, with some nervous pleasure, but does not participate in the action, watching the instinctive correction of the herd unfold from the back of the stadium.

Had a dream that I tried to rip Trump’s hair off.[x]

Dreams of stripping away artificial hair can be seen as a desire to simultaneously disempower the president and to expose the realities hidden from the world by extreme, even ridiculously artificial measures.

“Baldness can also signify punishment, degradation or a kind of dehumanization as in the traditional shaving of the heads of criminals.” ~ The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images

Those who snatch, steal, shave, and mock the president’s hair in their sleep may find themselves relieved and energized by their ability to wrest control over circumstances, to reveal and identify truths instinctively recognized – no matter how elaborate the attempted “come-over” or cover up

I love my father… I’m on the phone w/him and he says he had a dream the other night about trump being kidnapped. They didn’t want $ or gov’t control, they just shaved his head and sent him back to the WH bald.[xi]

I’d suggest that when so many dream of such empowered victories that an unconscious compensation for a feeling of powerlessness may be at play.

I had a dream I saw donald trump irl and my only though was “yeah there’s absolutely no way that hair is real”[xii]

Some feel grounded by their ability to discern reality through the artifice, while others are seemingly uneasy and disturbed after a glimpse of an unseemly truth behind the mask:

Had a dream I watched a topless Donald trump dye his hair in my bathroom whilst singing and it was weird and I’m scarred[xiii]

I had a Trump dream where he had a flaming head and hair. At least I think it was a dream.[xiv]

Control slips. Wigs are snatched. Truth will come out just as the roots of our hair reveal our true colors over time. And when we do lose control, when we are caught up in chaos and reactivity, we can find ourselves adrenalized, or in a state of panic as if our hair is on fire.

 

 

Note regarding endnotes: Twitter dreams are credited to their authors below. I have removed hyperlinks to prevent harassment. The @45dreamsproject twitter feed is available for perusal. It is possible that accounts/tweets that have been subsequently deleted or set to private were archived while the account status was active and public.

[i] @britthippie

[ii] @jamiebuilds

[iii] @call_me_tacos

[iv] @_Raake_

[v] @_jaybae__

[vi] @ClayDWestbrook

[vii] @Wardotron

[viii] @mcgee_gorgo

[ix] @hurb44

[x] @SwampKid_

[xi] @LoeKey9

[xii] @swaggermeister7

[xiii] @ellaksmith

[xiv] @bluemoonpaul

 

Chapter 2: Dreams of Hubris & Inflation

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I would suggest that we speak instead of “psychic inflation.” The term seems to me appropriate in so far as the state we are discussing involves an extension of the personality beyond individual limits, in other words, a state of being puffed up. In such a state a man fills a space, which normally he cannot fill. He can only fill it by appropriating to himself contents and qualities, which properly exist for them alone and should therefore remain outside our bounds. ~ C. G. Jung, CW The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious

 

In 2016, after the primaries and as the presidential election loomed on the horizon, a group of prominent Jungians urgently gathered a collection of essays “A Clear and Present Danger” to examine the role of narcissism in American society and the electoral process.

“We wish to reiterate that we are not proposing that Donald Trump suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, nor are we proposing he does not. Yet we wish to thank him and other candidates in the 2016 presidential election for the opportunity to take an honest look in the mirror and confront our individual and collective narcissism.” ~ Leonard Cruz, MD & Steven Buser, MD, editors, Clear and Present Danger 

There are other psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists who have been outspoken about their belief that Donald Trump is diagnosable, and who believe that diagnosis is a politically necessary gesture from the mental health community as part of their “duty to warn” regarding significant threats to public safety. Many mental health practitioners feel ethically bound by “The Goldwater Rule” – section 7 of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principals of Medical Ethics – which prohibits diagnosing anyone that the practitioner has not personally assessed. Still others express significant concern about using diagnosis as a political weapon that will be wielded by oppressors as surely as justice-seekers.

Narcissism in its extreme form is categorized diagnostically as a personality disorder – but the capacity to experience narcissistic injury, disruptions to our healthy narcissism or to be swept up into narcissistically inflated states are universal human experiences. Any time we feel invulnerable, unstoppable, or “larger than life”, any time we forget our limitations and feel nothing but our strengths, any time we draw on the energies that come with the approval of a collective “movement” or mob – we are experiencing some form of narcissistic inflation. But what is going on exactly when the “ego is inflated?” In simple terms, the personality claims “credit” or “ownership” of ideas, energies, accomplishments that they did not create or invent alone.

I just woke up. I had a dream that Trump took credit for ending the Boer War. It was a dream, right?[i]

 The purpose of this chapter is not to diagnose, but to examine the themes of grandiosity and inflation – as demonstrated by approximately twenty-three dreams in this collection- which are focused on the current president as a titular manifestation of our national hubris.

I dreamed I’d discovered that Trump had sent every bill to Congress on a platter bearing his portrait in crudité. And this was the game-changing secret that revealed how deeply weird and wrong everything has been & that I had to bring to the public. Luckily, it was just a dream![ii]

Like Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection, in this dream seems to suggest that the Trump administration is so infatuated with their leader’s imprint that his visage is served, raw, to Congress.

The phrase “everywhere I look I see myself” comes to mind as an apt description of how the narcissist approaches the world.”( ~ Kathryn Madden, PhD, The Hall of Mirrors; Narcissism and Celebrity in the World of Twitter and Reality TV, Clear and Present Danger, Leonard Cruz, MD & Steven Buser, MD, editors)

In subsequent dreams the presidential reflection is all encompassing, inescapable, imprinted everywhere, his face, his words, his name:

I had a dream that Donald Trump gifted me 20 books. But all 20 of them were either written BY him or ABOUT him. So I picked one up and threw it at his head whilst yelling at him[iii]

So I just had a dream that the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration was declared National Donald Trump Day and everyone was wearing MAGA shirts and hats[iv].

 I had a dream Trump invited me over for dinner and he showed me his room and the walls were full of portraits of himself and then he took me on a ride on his spacecraft[v]

had a dream last night that i was watching trump giving his state of the union address and the entire address was just ‘the star spangled banner’ but all the lyrics were ‘trump’[vi]

i dreamt Trump had changed the look of the US currency. It had a grotesque caricature of his face on it, and the motto was “Everyone Can Dream.” The news report said this “special currency” would be available in 15 countries in addition to the US.[vii]

I had a dream last night that Donald Trump blew up the entire city of Philadelphia to build a giant statue of himself.[viii]

Some dreamers translate the ego inflation of this administration in literal imagery. Here Trump is both puffed up and sainted:

I had a dream last night that I got a blow-up Donald Trump Santa for Christmas[ix]

Others depict the dangers of becoming power-drunk:

I had a weird dream that ended with me attending a Trump show with him getting progressively drunker. Right before I woke up he was mixing different types of taco seasoning to pour into a beer.[x]

According to psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, in optimal circumstances infantile narcissism transforms into mature love of others over the course of healthy development. When we have experienced injuries to our healthy narcissism, when we are starved of accurate mirroring and appropriate admiration – we are left hungry and profoundly dependent on “narcissistic supplies” extracted from others to shore up our unstable self-esteem. That “neediness” often makes others feel held captive and coerced into expressions of admiration:

I had a dream where Donald Trump’s keeps like a group of people in some secret like luxury RV somewhere held captive and like just comes by every now and then to like feed them and makes them listen to him and tell him he’s great[xi]

Several dreams explored the possibility of manipulating Trump’s apparent dependency on such narcissistic supplies by offering or withholding them in service of their own political agendas:

Omg I had a dream last night I was trying to convince Donald Trump to clean up his act. I tried to convince him that “everyone would love him” and his “ratings would skyrocket” if he started to act right.[xii]

I had a dream that Trump visited my house and we sat down to have a rational discussion about int’l affairs but first I had to compliment his negotiation & deal-making skills before he would listen to me about Syria and North Korea[xiii]

So in my dream China worked hard to reduce pollution, then taunted trump by boasting about it. Trump took it as a pissing contest, so three days later America and China had both spent billions to fix pollution better than the other and the world was a better place[xiv]

Other dreamers found their dream-egos fueling up with narcissistic supplies received from the president.

I had a dream last night that Donald Trump tipped me my biggest tip at work & told me nobody else believed in me like he did[xv]

i had a dream last night that i was being cheated on and for some reason i ran into donald trump and i was crying and i asked him for relationship advice and he just said i’m better than whoever made me cry and now i’m not mad at trump today?[xvi]

Compare such dreams to this one collected by Beradt in 1930’s Germany:

Goering himself came to inspect my office and gave me a satisfied nod. This unfortunately pleased me enormously, even though I was thinking what a fat swine he is. ~ Charlotte Beradt, The Third Reich of Dreams, p. 61

In the next dream: Trump is both elevated and enthroned as the world behind him erupts in flames:

I dreamed I was at a party where a wide red and gold carpet was rolled out for Trump and led to an elevated throne. No one could enter through the main door once the carpet was placed. The throne was set 10 feet above us. Through the back windows, I could see explosions. No one seemed bothered. There was something else that’s still fuzzy… I told Pence he was mentioned in the bible and to look up 1 Timothy 4. (I’m not familiar with that book.) And i remember telling Trump that his questions were attacks instead of constructive ways to gather information.[xvii]

The biblical text referenced by the dream challenges this inflation as hypocritical and “of the devil:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: ~ 1 Timothy 4:1-4 King James Version

Icarus ignored his vulnerability and flew too near the sun. Hubris may also manifest as an abject rejection of weakness, the refusal of any mirror that offers an unflattering image:

I had a dream I had to fit Trump for a suit at my job but he was in denial about his measurement[xviii]

Possessed by hubris we see ourselves as more than we are. Moreover, when we embrace ego-intoxication we also make ourselves susceptible to a subsequent collapse, an energetic and humiliating deflation that corrects our psychological imbalance and brings us low.

~~~~~~~~

Note on endnotes: Twitter dreams are credited to their authors below. I have removed hyperlinks. The @45dreamsproject Twitter account remains available for perusal. It is possible that accounts/tweets that have subsequently been deleted or set to private were archived while their account status was active and public.

[i] @OPCGhost

[ii] @ragepath

[iii] @TheHawaiianGay_

[iv] @NJ_Austin

[v] @corporatestoney

[vi] @Justin_Tendo

[vii] @Steve_Espinola

[viii] @angelfleek

[ix] @Break_the_Blank

[x] @Koltreg

[xi] @Courtneyylovvee

[xii] @Chaseduh

[xiii] @IMMAkillem

[xiv] @Mauneman

[xv] @Elinhaaf

[xvi] @calibeyc

[xvii] @LadyT_TNT

[xviii] @CreoleBabyBritt

Chapter 1: About This Project

September 2016

It started with my own dream, as so many things do in my world, a month or so before the 2016 presidential election:

A friend, who has worked with various celebrities as a personal assistant and a dresser called: He was leaving town, and needed me to cover for him. “Its easy!” he said, “you just have to stop by and feed him – I’ve left everything out with a note!” He gave me an address that leads to the top floor of a six floor walk up apartment building.

                  When I arrived, I unlocked the door, unsure of who or what I would be feeding. The door opened into a family/television room – the curtains drawn, a large TV blaring on the wall. On the glass coffee table sat a large metal dog bowl. A bag of kibble sat near the door. And on the sofa, Donald Trump, in a large adult diaper, sat sleeping with his chin on his chest. I filled the bowl with nuggets and slid it toward him on the table. As I looked at him sleeping, I was filled with disgust, and then flooded with pity. He is obviously sick. Disabled. Infantile and senile. Feeble. Something was profoundly wrong with him. He then woke and without acknowledging me in any way, began gobbling the food, chewing loudly with his mouth open.

                  I decide that it would be too cruel to let him just starve to death, but at least he was contained – as he could never be able to walk up or down all those stairs. I did the bare minimum for him, only what I would offer to any stranger, any human being. I got him a cheap pre-paid flip phone for emergencies only. All his previous handlers abandoned him, he seems a debilitated pawn, whose delusions, phobias and bigotries were being exploited. Yet somehow despite his incompetence he was still able to head an effective, angry, divisive, xenophobic campaign.

I woke, both disturbed and confused by the dream. It seemed to confront me with the ways that it was easier for me to think of Trump and Trumpism as “sick” and “not responsible” for his actions. I suspected it was a dream that compensated for the conscious anger and horror I felt as I watched and took what action I could to push back against xenophobic campaign rhetoric and negotiated the daily barrage of lies.

I also noted the dream’s warning that my wish to be a good kind person kept the campaign regularly “fed.” The belief that he was “contained” and “feeble” and should be treated with the same basic concern as “any human being” in distress – seemed to provide the movement a with a life-line, and offered just enough assistance to allow his campaign to flourish.

I thought about how difficult it is to discern “sick” from “bad” – that the course of normal empathy seems to lean towards offering deviant behavior the benefit of a doubt, assuming that it emerges out of illness and suffering – eliciting pity and making excuses for “bad” and immoral behavior. The dream pressed me to confront my own complicity, my desire to consciously view Trumpism and the resurgence of right wing extremism as something aging, feeble, and powerless – nothing to take seriously. A wish to relax out of my own assertive impulses left me with an inability to confront regressive, propagandist messages. My dream-ego confronted me with an image of myself as someone who could unwittingly feed a virulent movement.

It was a dream of complicity, of the bonds of empathy and common humanity exploited. It was also a dream that revealed a desire to let my guard down, and the potential consequences. And certainly I was not the only one experiencing this bind as we headed toward an election that no one I knew imagined he could ever win. The comfortable certainty surrounding me frightened me even more.

When he won, I was not surprised.

**********

I am a psychotherapist. I’ve kept a dream journal for my entire adult life and explored the dreams of my clients for twenty-five years. I think and write about dreams, my own and others, a lot. Like, every day. And that is not as common as it used to be before insurers began to determine the shape and structure and cost-effectiveness of the psychotherapeutic process. Nowadays, most cognitive-behavioral and other contemporary psychotherapy models ignore dream work entirely, and the graduate programs that I am aware of rarely mention or teach on the subject at all – beyond a cursory review of Freudian thought in most Intro to Psych courses.

Association versus Amplification

Freud and those whose models branch off of his tree see the function of dreaming as primarily wish fulfillment, and the coded and symbolic language of dreaming exists so that our sleep is not disturbed – as repressed incestuous, sexual and murderous wishes would be too disruptive, and guilt provoking if we were to dream of their fulfillment directly.

Freud’s “association” methods of dream exploration seemingly always led back to this core-content: on early caretakers and repressed aggressive and sexual impulses.

Client: “I dreamed of an enormous tree, it frightened me for no reason”

Therapist: “What do trees make you think of?”

C: “It made me think of fire wood”

T: “And what does fire wood bring to mind?

C: “A memory of chopping firewood with my father when I was little”

T: “Can you tell me more about that memory?”

C: “I was fearful of the axe, of how much bigger and stronger my father was, worried that I would never be as strong as he was when it was my turn and that I would harm myself or harm him somehow.”

In Freudian models, the associative chain of questions leads back to Oedipal castration anxieties and fantasies, a fearful jealous rivalry for parental love and attentions.

Jung diverged from Freud, suggesting that the trail of “associations” to any symbolic image at will likely always lead people to their childhood “complexes” injuries and anxieties around their primal attachments, their bodily integrity, and concerns around shame and sexuality.

With associative methods the dream symbol is simply the diving board that one leaps off of into the pool of our own conflicts and complexes. But Jung felt that Freud’s association method was incapable of leading clients to “anything new” or anything else other than a review of their most basic repressions and fixations.

For Jung, Freud’s method misses the richness and the value and healing potentials of symbolic dream content: A symbol is a symbol because it is complex, and cannot be reduced to a singular meaning, or even “boiled down” to categories as broad as either sex or aggression. Symbols, for Jung, always have a multiplicity of meanings.

Jung asserted a different method of exploring and expounding upon dream imagery that he called “amplification.” When working to “amplify” a dream image, the therapist doesn’t create a chain of “associative” questions that lead away from the symbol, but instead, the questions circle around the symbol itself to unpack its many potential meanings:

Client: “I dreamed of an enormous tree, it frightened me for no reason”

Therapist: “Can you tell me more about the tree?”

C: It made me think of firewood.

T: Was that a thought you had in the dream about the tree?

C: Maybe, yes, that it would be cut down at some point. Turned into something else.
T: Anything else about the tree?

C: The tree reminded me of one that I used to climb when I was a child.

T: What was similar about the dream tree?

C: It was an ash I think. Its leaves were just starting to turn yellow and a little red.

T: So it was autumn?

C: The leaves hadn’t started to fall yet; they were just starting to turn. Like summer had just ended.

T: Where were you in the dream? Were you in the tree… looking up at it…?

C: It was almost like I was watching a movie, I wasn’t near the tree, or in it. Its like I was watching a time-elapsed film about the seasons changing and the leaves turning.

T: Like watching the seasons shift from summer to fall in a time-elapsed way? Do you ever feel like that?

C: I get so caught up in the day to day I don’t always notice, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other – but yes, I think that was the upsetting thing – that I’m just letting life pass me by and I may be cut down one day.

T: Can you think of any stories or myths about trees that might shed light on the story of the tree in your dream? It reminded me a bit of The World Tree, Yggdrasil, from the Norse myths…

Compensation

The dream is a natural attempt to redress a lack of balance, and it changes the conscious attitude to such an extent that a state of equilibrium is restored. ~ C. G. Jung, Techniques of Attitude Change Conducive to World Peace (Memorandum to UNESCO) , CW, para 1391 loc 251238

The function of dreams in Jung’s view is not merely wish fulfillment – these unconscious productions compensate for our conscious stance – and as such, dreams can help to “round out the picture” and expand the narrow focused lens of day-to-day consciousness, and offer up information from both the personal and the collective unconscious to reveal what we are missing, what we have ignored, what we have erased, what we have denied and repressed.

I have done dream work long enough to never discount the uncanny aspects of our unconscious capacities to predict patterns, anticipate problems, or surface latent content – but nor do I “believe” that dreams are “magic” or that our unconscious is all knowing or even all benevolent. Dreams are full of symbols, which feel numinous and can have different meanings in different contexts; sometime the same dream can offer many different interpretive and meaningful narratives over the course of a lifetime. This is because symbolic content is inherently ambiguous and carries multiple meanings, including all their opposites and the possibility of meaninglessness.

Dreams may potentially offer us content that helps us find the fluid and ever changing thread of meaning over the course of our lives. But they are not “magic” or concretely prophetic – even when they may be accurately postulating about an unnoticed underlying pattern or a potential outcome. The messages of dreams are not to be simply “obeyed” as “the real underlying issue” – but we may benefit from contemplating these images and integrating them into our decision-making – or we are in danger of living a life too controlled by consciousness, perceiving only what shores up our preferred narratives and repressing content, sometimes even very essential content, that we find unsettling or disruptive.

We can become too one-sidedly aligned with “ego” and consciousness, or too one-sidedly enthralled with our “unconscious” lives. Either way we are susceptible to developing symptoms.  Dreams should not override the sober determinations of a healthy ego. But the information they offer can give us a fuller picture of ourselves and the environment, our pre-conscious awareness – details and “tells” that we may not have taken conscious note of in the moment, but are nevertheless stored and monitored by our unconscious perceptions.

As an example of what I mean by compensatory functions of a dream: a young adult shared a dream of a “hellish” or “demonic” version of his family with his therapist. Both the client and the therapist were initially baffled by the overtly negative dream, because in conscious life, the client’s attitude about their family was overtly, and “one-sidedly” positive although the young man struggled for independence from his family of origin. Dreams often attempt to round out such “one-sidedness” – and this dream was serving as a reminder that the client’s family had negative aspects, or that the client had some negative feelings about his family that were necessary for him to surface in order to set out on an independent life.

This is what I call the autonomy of the unconscious. The dream not only fails to obey our will but very often stands in flagrant opposition to our conscious intentions. The opposition need not always be so marked; sometimes the dream deviates only a little from the conscious attitude and introduces only slight modification, occasionally it may even coincide with conscious contents and tendencies. ~ C.G. Jung, On the Nature of Dreams, CW paragraph 545, loc 91414

In order to work constructively with dreams, we need some ability to tolerate uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, and paradox, and to not allow archetypal images to “inflate” the dreamer (or the interpreter) into states of hubris and certainty.

In 1991 ago Wim Wenders directed a film called Until the End of the World, in which a team of researchers were able to record their dreams at night and watch them the next day on screen. The characters became so enamored of their dream lives, that they did nothing else, but sleep and spend the day lost in the recreation of their forgotten dreams until they were forcibly rescued. Similarly, we can become “too enamored” by our unconscious, too “trusting” too literal in our obedience to its perceived “messages” – it is not omniscient, or even inherently benevolent. It is simply the view of the backside of our psyche that we cannot “see” with consciousness, except in reflections. It is simply the view from the far end of the swinging pendulum. The other side of the coin.

Compensation on the other hand, as the term implies, means balancing and comparing different data of points of view so as to produce an adjustment or a rectification. ~ C.G. Jung, On the Nature of Dreams, CW paragraph 545, loc 91422

There are times when we can “discover” solutions to dilemmas, solve problems and have “eurekas” via our dreams, as when our psyche passes forward some missing piece from the puzzle we have been trying to solve. We may pay attention to our dream lives, when we have reached some impasse in our lives and don’t understand how to proceed. “Incubating” dreams, asking the unconscious, or “the back of the brain” to chime in, deciding to “sleep on it” and see what solution the night may offer up – is often a useful intervention in and of itself.

Dream Amplification

Therapists and others who listen to dreams may offer up some of their associations and amplifications or mirror back some of the themes and images that they hear – but the work of interpreting the dream itself is always the dreamer’s prerogative. I try never to interpret a client’s dream for them, or suggest that my interpretation is anything other than a playful, exploratory exchange of ideas. Of the multitudes of meanings that such symbolic content offers up, only the dreamer can decide which message feels most essential in the present moment.

One simple method to expand our sense of felt meaning in our dreams is to contemplate every symbol, every character, every image in the dream as aspect, or a reflection of some part of the dreamer’s identity. For example: a straight man once told me about a dream where he was “wrestling” and physically fighting with a man he described in the dream as “his enraged boyfriend” in the lobby at his workplace. Upon waking he found the dream mildly unsettling because of the homoerotic implications of the dream but the feelings in the dream itself were focused on the anxious effort of restraining this “enraged boyfriend” from acting out destructively at his workplace.

I offered this question for consideration: “What do you think of the dream, if you consider that your angry boyfriend is actually an aspect of yourself?” – He was quickly able to identify all sorts of split off anger and frustration that he was worried he might destructively act out at work. We then talked about the ways that his angry inner “boy friend” was protective of him, not wanting to see the dreamer kicked around at work by disrespectful co-workers, and we began to explore ways in which the relationship between his conscious identity, and his unconscious self-protective anger could work together more explicitly and cooperatively.

As we become more accepting and aware of our unconscious “shadow selves” and the repressions that lurk and linger in our personal unconscious, our dreams often open up to deeper questions about our relationships and embeddedness within the world around us.

For a bigger more complex dream – a dream that seems very specifically focused on our relationships to family, community, or country – or for a very rich, or persistent dream: it can be helpful to break down the dreams components for amplification as Jung himself did:

Dramatis Personae: Identify and “amplify” the various characters and entities in the dream. In the example we used earlier – the characters were a large tree, and the dreamer.

Locale: Where is the dream set: in a desert? At sea? At work? In a bedroom? In a place from childhood? A crowed bus? – This provides information about the external environment that the dream might be responding to, or about the subjective experience of our inner landscape. The location of the dreamer in our example, was set at a distance from the tree – as if watching the life of a tree unfold on a screen. This speaks to some “overview” or possibly some alienation between the subject and the object of the dream – consciousness and the unconscious are not in the same place or looking at the problem from the same point of view.

Exposition/representation of the problem: A “movie” of a large tree through out the seasons, filmed in compressed time, fills the dreamer with a sense of unease.

Turning Point /the possibility of a catastrophe: The tree may be chopped down at some point. The leaves are starting to “turn” and will soon fall.

Conclusion/compensation or solution: The client watches remotely as the seasons of life unfold.

Mood tone: Anxious. Unsettled.

Dream ego: This is always an important component. Where is the dreamer’s POV? Sometimes in our dreams we are “not ourselves” but our perspective looks out of another character’s eyes: “I wasn’t myself in the dream, I was this dirty little homeless girl.” Where, in whom, is the dream-ego located? Who is the dream’s narrator? Someone caught up in the story seeing only once piece of the action who will be surprised by events? Or does the dream unfold with the dreamer watching from on high, an audience member, or a disembodied watcher? Does the dreamer need to integrate a wider perspective, or is there a specific self-state experience that has been overlooked? Has the dream has placed the dreamer in someone else’s shoes? A dream of standing by and watching two men wrestling in a lobby may offer the dreamer a very different perspective than a dream in which the dream-ego is embroiled directly in the wrestling match fighting for the upper hand.

Dreams about our relationships, dreams about family members and intimate connections and relationships that have penetrated our inner sphere may be simultaneously about our “personal unconscious” as well as a dream with some “collective” function for the family or the friendship or the community that they refer to:

Here is a quick example: I once had a dream, as my husband and I were facing some challenging and high-stakes decisions about our children’s educational environment. We sensed may be failing them, and we hoped to avert a larger problem down the road:

We were in Brooklyn looking out over the East River. I saw a storm approaching in the far distance, behind the Statue of Liberty. I pointed it out to my husband who agreed that it was a bad one, but was more willing to wait and see if it was heading in our direction a little longer before taking action. My instinct was to bolt immediately – grabbing my husband’s hand and pulling him along with me as I raced in the opposite direction from the storm, when suddenly I was yanked to a halt – I looked behind my and my husband had pulled into a giant shell, like a thousand pound tortoise and I could no longer pull him with me to safety.

This dream was hugely useful to me, as it showed me that my own sense of alarm and hyper-vigilance was actually likely to marshal my husbands “defenses” and cause him to “turtle in” – putting us in opposition to each other, even though consciously we were in agreement. I would need to tolerate assessing the situation a little longer than I felt comfortable with, and not “pull” my husband into my reaction. We were able to talk about the dream and negotiate a strategy that respected both of our instincts and work in concert together, with his assessing the “troubles” we were seeing on the horizon, while I did some reconnaissance and research about the school settings we might be able to “flee” to.

We sometimes interpret and dismiss dreams without too much exploration based simply on the emotion in the dream, or the emotion they had upon waking from the dream: But many dreams feel “frightening” upon waking for no obvious reason, except perhaps to call our attention to them and to wake us up sufficiently to remember them. Often when you distinguish between the feeling in the dream itself and the feeling upon waking, the prevalent emotional tone of the dream is very different.

We may dismiss dreams as “just anxiety dreams” or as “random” when we feel a little emotionally flooded by the dream, and it prevents us from hearing the dream’s “narrative.” A client recently shared what they first described as “a typical anxiety dream, nothing interesting” – but when I pressed them to discuss the details – its imagery proved very useful: The dreamer was in a math class, trying to copy and solve problems on the board which were quickly erased, too quickly erased for the dreamer to solve the problem in the way that they knew how. This mirrored a series of emotional decisions the client faced, that they had been unable to make based on lists of cognitively comparing and contrasting the decision’s “plusses and minuses” This was a decision that needed to factor in the client’s “irrational” emotional wishes and desires – maybe even requiring them to shout out their best guesses and hunches – the dilemma was impossible for the dreamer to solve in the “usual” way.

September 2001

In September of 2001 I enrolled in a post-graduate psychoanalytic program (with special permissions as a non-matriculated student) in my first class on Jungian thought.

Through my graduate and post-graduate studies I had immersed myself in Freud, Klein, Winnicott, Fairbairn, Rogers, Mahler, Kohut, Bion, Lacan, Sullivan, Searles and their interpreters and followers and apostates. Ego psychology, object-relations, self-psychology. The modern group analysis theorists, some of the existentialists and logotherapists, the contemporary relational analysts, and the intersubjectivists.

Due, perhaps to my contrarian and introverted nature and my hunger for independent study, I identify with many therapeutic tribes and belong to none. (And likewise there is no theoretical “school” of thought that would claim me as one of their own.) I realized, at some point along the way – that all of my teachers and training had assiduously avoided Jung. As usual, I developed a particular interest in what had been omitted.

I’d read some Jung on my own, but in incoherent patches, and I had no clear overview of his general organizing themes. I arrived on the morning of August 28th, eager to dig in – and promptly ordered all the books on the syllabus and got started on our initial assignment: Keeping a daily dream journal of all of our own dreams, and the dreams of our clients.

The next week we read aloud from our journals: Strangely, there were many dreams within dreams: of kamikaze jets flying down the streets of the city, of giant tornadoes coming “from the east” which destroyed tall buildings killing hundreds of people, dreams of four bombs dropped from the sky – the fourth one failing to detonate. Our personal and clinical journals contained surprisingly similar themes and images: lost pilots, building explosions and collapses, one dream of turning over the Tower card from the tarot deck.

The third week of class wasn’t merely cancelled – all thoughts of it were obliterated by the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.

Perhaps any random sample of dreams reported at any given time would contain similar imagery. And in the weeks that followed we monitored our own dreams and the dreams of our clients as we recovered from shock and fear and grief and found ourselves living in a new and previously unimaginable reality.

I don’t deny the statistical realities of probability or chance. But I haven’t been privy to a similar thematic thread of since. And I would brace myself if I was. I don’t claim that this is science. Nor do I believe it to be magic. I remain agnostic as to the ultimate causes or explanations for such synchronistic and unconscious experiences.

But, to the degree that the function of dreaming remains mysterious, and unknown, perhaps we can only approach such mysteries with faith in our capacity to seek out and create meaning in the face of chaos. And to learn how our dream lives, whatever their origin or function, can serve to deepen our connections to each other and the world around us.

December 2017

As I commuted to work on the train, I remembered my dream of Trumpism before the election, and recorded a new one I had the night before. In the intervening year between Trump dreams, I had been in treatment for a uniquely rare cancer which had left my sense of priority and purpose in disarray, and had left me feeling unsure how I could live in service to my values with a chronic cancer:

I am campaigning against Donald Trump- and I am not afraid of him in the slightest. I see him for what he is and can name that out loud. He leaves me taunting phone messages which seem stupid and childish to me. I will be speaking out tomorrow against him and plan to annihilate him with the truth. I am not scared about what he might do to me because I have nothing to lose.

Are we even responsible for the opinions our dreams hold? Are they our “true” opinions or merely an unconscious one? Are we full of real or fake news? Can dreams puff us up and fill us with grandiosity? Might our dreams be call or a warning from something real in our psyches that we have not yet faced? I knew that I was not the only one who had dreamed of this president and the forces he represents in the American psyche over the past year. I thought of the dreams of clients’ that I had listened to since 2016, and in the harrowing year that followed, the dreams of family members and friends. I thought of the themes and patterns that I had born witness to before and after 9/11, and Jung’s writing on similar notions:

As far back as 1918 I published a paper in which I called the attention of my contemporaries to astounding development in the German edition of the collective unconscious. I had caught hold of certain collective dreams of Germans which convinced me that they portrayed the beginning of a national regression analogous to the regression of a frightened and helpless individual, becoming first infantile and then primitive or archaic. I saw Nietzsche’s “blond beast” looming up with all that it implies” ~ C.G. Jung, Psychology and National Problems, CW, loc 250564

I remembered a book – one I had only heard tell of in post-graduate classes – with a chapter by the (in)famous child analyst Bruno Bettelheim, about the collected dreams of German’s in the years before World War 2. I took out my phone and googled, learning quickly that Bettelheim had only written the “afterward” – the book, and the collection itself – The Third Reich of Dreams: Nightmares of a Nation 1933 – 1939, was the work of a Jewish woman, a journalist named Charlotte Beradt, who had started the project to contexualize her own nightmares of a mounting fascist movement, collecting over three hundred dreams of Jews and resistors and those who were silenced by terror and surveillance and those who would succumb and become Nazis and converted collaborators.

I felt, suddenly and certainly that I needed to start actively collecting dreams. Before my train pulled into Penn Station I had opened a blog and started a Twitter account to gather dreams for what I was calling The 45 Dreams Project.

Methods

The first blog post read as follows:

Can we not see how a whole nation is reviving an archaic symbol, yes even archaic religious forms, and how this mass emotion is influencing and revolutionizing the life of the individual in a catastrophic manner?

~ C. G. Jung, The Concept of the Collective Unconscious

“I am a writer and a psychotherapist interested in gathering, organizing, archiving – and eventually writing about – our collective dreams about the current political era.

What guidance does our psyche offer?

How does the individual and collective unconscious respond to the strain of this moment in history?

If you would like to share your dream in a unpublished comment please do. All dreams will then be stripped of identifying information before they are published.

Let’s listen in and see if we can hear the wisdom of the collective unconscious:”

I got client permissions for the dreams that I heard over the past year and posted them anonymously at the blog. I began searching Twitter using the terms: “dreamed Trump,” and “had a dream Trump” and retweeting them at the @45dreamsproject twitter feed.

Within the week I was contacted by an online new outlet called “The Outline” who published an article titled: “The World’s Worst Dream Journal” and aired a podcast interview with me about the patterns that were already emerging and my goals for the project. This certainly helped spread the word, and soon people were tagging me, emailing, and communicating through the blog about dreams they had featuring the 45th president of the United States. Some heard of the project from friends and social media contacts, some were told by their therapists after sharing their dreams in therapy.

I ordered myself an expensive out of print copy of Beradt’s book and began reading. I was as struck by the similarities of the dreams I was finding, as I was by the divergences between our era and the rise of the Third Reich.

And daily, via Twitter, people were publicly posting fistfuls of dreams about Donald Trump, to collect and retweet. I collected dreams from December 2017 through May 2018 as the collection reached over 3,000 dreams. There was no reason to stop at this number other than it felt to me to be just about as much as I could bear without becoming completely overwhelmed.

I have gathered no personal data about any of these dreamers. I know nothing about their age, race, gender, political affiliations, location or personal histories. On Twitter, people often post publicly with handles that often do not include their names, behind avatars which obscure any identifying details. There is no way for me to say for certain who these dreamers are – and I have done no further investigation – beyond the self-identifications contained in the dreams themselves. The twitter handles for dreams collected from twitter will be found in the end notes of each chapter. The dreams shared with me in other forms or sent to the blog will be credited only to “Anonymous”

There is also no way to verify if these dreams are real or not, or written for effect or for a laugh. There is no way to know how these dreams have been edited or shaped consciously or unconsciously by the dreamer. Whether these are images shaped by the unconscious processes of dreaming or the unconscious aspects of fabrication, daydream, fantasy, storytelling, myth-making or art, I accept them and consider them as consciously edited unconscious productions (our dream recall and reporting is shaped and edited by conscious choices as well)

I have removed dreams from the “collection” that used racial epithets, including the “N-word (ending either with “–er”, or “–a”) or that used any extreme derogatory language toward any group of people. For the purposes of this writing, I have edited these dreams lightly – removing out extraneous information such as “Today I had a dream that I hit Trump with a trout [and then I met Amy for Chinese food]” I have removed personal names and twitter handles of others that the dreamer may have referred to or tagged unless they are celebrities or public personas who serve a symbolic function in the dream. I have also “unrolled” twitter threads of multiple 280 character tweets into cohesive paragraphs. All of the twitter dreams are available in their original form for anyone to peruse at the twitter account.

The dreams at the blog are all posted and available as well. There are a few dreams – that were communicated to me verbally that I put directly into the collection, as well as my own dreams and dreams of my family members.

This is not a formal research study, there are no statistical regressions or calculations other than simply counting the number of dreams and sorting them by theme. I have used no research technology other than social media and a calculator.

I archived the @45dreamsproject twitter feed, copied and pasted all the dreams from twitter and from the blog into a Word document – and started sorting:

This is a collection. And I have sorted it as a collector does, somewhat arbitrarily and idiosyncratically: by type, by mood, by theme, by function. All the Aliens together. The Mother’s over here. The Resistors in this pile. The Admirers over there. A stack of Broken Taboos. A heap of Nuclear Holocaust.

It took many months of reading and re-reading these dreams, long and sleepy work, confusing work – work that made my head spin as I wandered through the strange images and distortions of the night-symbol-scape of our unconscious politics.

Big Dreams and Collective Dreams 

Jung talks about “big dreams” and “little dreams” – little dreams being those of the moment and of temporal and primarily individual meaning. Like the small, instinctive adjustments in the tiller and the sails that keep our boat on course, many “little” dreams serve their compensatory function so effectively, making micro-adjustments in our personal moods and perspectives while we are sleeping that there is no need to even recall them, sometimes they are forgotten even when we are making a concerted attempt to remember.

Large dramatic changes in the course of life or shifts in our immediate or larger environment require that we consciously prepare and change tack – and mobilize ourselves to make major adjustments. Our dream life often senses the changing winds before consciousness does: Like a boat captain who yells out “Ready about!” to warn the crew to negotiate the dangers of a swinging boom and a snapping sail.

“Big dreams” are dreams that “feel meaningful” and important. We may experience them during big changes of life, or big external or “transpersonal” events and crises. They often contain mythic themes and primordial images – which Jung calls “archetypes” common to all of humanity, or to our specific culture or community. Such dreams are often filled with images we recognize from popular culture, from metaphors in common use, or from fairytale or scriptures. Big dreams seem to address our shared problems with themes drawn from our shared stories. Sometimes such big dreams are about our individual relationship to the larger community, or the service that is required of us to fulfill our sensed obligation the “collective” and larger society.

The dream uses collective figures because it has to express an eternal human problem that repeats itself endlessly, not just a disturbance of personal balance. ~ C. G. Jung, On the Nature of Dreams, CW, para 556

Sometimes the bee is consumed by the risks and challenges of its individualized task. Sometimes the bee is preoccupied by the challenges facing the hive. When the hive is in crisis each bee within it is in crises too. One of the ways we might recognize such big dreams that are from and for “the hive” is that we often feel compelled to share them.

Wherever collective material prevails under normal conditions it produces important dreams… You find the same thing in the Greek and Roman civilizations, where such dreams were reported to the Areopagus or to the Senate ~ C. G. Jung, On the Psychogenesis of Schizophrenia, CW paragraph 525 loc 29793

In Charlotte Beradt’s perspective, such dreams about our collective social and political circumstances are as recognizable as any other image of cartoon or stereotype:

These dreams adopt forms and guises which are no more complicated than the ones used in caricature or political satire and the masks they assume are just as transparent as those worn at carnivals.  ~ C. Beradt, The Third Reich of Dreams, p. 16

How to Understand This Project

I would not dare to interpret any of these dreams, even for the dreamers that reached out to me specifically asking for “interpretations.” Just as I try to never tell a client what their dreams mean, but to help them find their own way through the many layers of meaning that their dream provides.

So difficult is it to understand a dream that for a long time I have made it a rule, when someone tell me a dream and asks for my opinion, to say first of all to myself: “I have no idea what this dream means.” After that I can begin to examine the dream. ~ C. G Jung, On the Nature of Dreams, CW loc. 91329

Don’t read the subsequent chapters in this project looking for concrete interpretations, for directive advice, or for answers. I can say absolutely nothing about the layers of deeply personal idiosyncratic, individual meaning that are embedded in each of these dreams. I know nothing of these dreamer’s personal lives, and the personal truths wound through these dreams are for the dreamer alone to unlock.

No interpretation can be undertaken without the dreamer. The words composing a dream-narrative have not just one meaning, but many meanings. ~ C. G Jung, On the Nature of Dreams, CW  para 538 loc. 91364

But these are not only individual dreams. They are dreams shared with the community, for the community’s sake. I can only hope to open the conversation up with deeper questions, as I do in the therapy office. My intention is to give these dreams space to amplify each other, and to point out archetypal amplifications as I see them. Dreams do not define us, individually or as a group they merely show us what is hard for us to see about ourselves. There is nothing definitive here.

I hope readers will read these dreams and keep a few questions at the back of mind:

  • What might dreams like this balance out in our waking political life?
  • If this dream were the readers’ dream, what might it mean?
  • If we are each all the characters in the dream, the heroic ones, the cowardly ones, the villains, what might the dream tell us about our internal and external conflicts as a nation?
  • Does this dream anger, amuse, frighten, reassure or disturb? Why?
  • What might the environment of the dream indicate about our political environment?
  • What effect does it have to see these dreams clustered by theme?
  • What are the messages in these dreams that we need to integrate into our collective, conscious life?
  • What archetypal amplifications and themes from myth, fairy tale, scripture, turns of phrase, pop-culture narratives – come to mind?

These are obviously the questions that I sat with as I worked on this project – but these are in no way “my” dreams – they have all been given over to a public space to be contemplated in community.

Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot defined fractals as they occur in nature in the following way: “A fractal is a shape made of parts similar to the whole in some way.” I encourage the reader to consider these dreams as fractals, mirroring a whole that they are just a small piece of. These are big dreams. These are our dreams. We are all the heroes and villains of these dreams.

We must all open our eyes to the shadow who looms behind contemporary man. We have no need to hold up the devils’ mask before the Germans. The facts speak a plainer language and anyone who does not understand it is simply beyond help. As to what should be done about this terrifying apparition, everyone must work this out for himself. It is indeed no small matter to know of one’s own guilt, and one’s own evil, and there is certainly nothing to be gained from losing sight of ones’ shadow. ~ C. G. Jung, Vol. 10, Civilization in Transition, para 440, loc 129705 

Just as each of us holds a fiercely glorious individual lens on our lives – we may only see our way through our collective fate when we hold all of our individual pieces up together, to assemble each piece of our partial truth into a larger picture. What might these dreams tell us about all of us and each of us?

If the whole is to change, the individual must change himself.

~ C. G Jung, On Marginalia on Contemporary Events, CW  para 1378 loc. 271107

 

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45 Dreams 12/18

 

I dream we have a wood burner and everyone is getting something for the fire in a kind of ritualistic way – my son (15) hands me a effigy of Trump that he made for the fire – a babygro stuffed with something, a cloth head added with orange felt tip hair, and a crome bar as a post to give it a backbone. I am ambivalent about burning it, its a well made model, and the crome won’t burn and the materials its made with might be toxic. However using it as an effigy to stick pins in will probably bring bad karma.

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In one, Trump had made it illegal for Americans to leave the U.S. and I had to trade sexual favors to get a fake foreign passport.

In another, I was being forced to marry Paul Ryan. (Not a Trump dream directly, but closely related, and I had it right around the time of the inauguration.) I was disgusted at the idea of being tied to him, and I knew that he was using this as a means of controlling me/silencing me – but I was also sort of turned on by how dominating and disdainful he was being. Woke up very embarrassed.

Last one: I dreamed that a drunk driver killed Trump by ramming him with his car and knocking him off a kind of parapet. I was a bartender in the dream, and had kicked the drunk driver out of my bar because he was behaving belligerently toward the other customers. This made me feel responsible for Trump’s death, and the dream ended with me leaving town in an attempt to evade the FBI, who I assumed were coming for me.

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As a U.S. Army veteran, I had to participate in a couple of Memorial Day Parades. I dreamed that Trump got his military parade, but it was a huge number of of light infantry units that immediately stormed all government buildings and arrested all management employees after the parade.

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Watched a muslim mother and her son be interviewed by a border agent. She wore two hijabs but took off only one. The woman was well spoken and pleasant, she had a warm air about her. At the end of the interview her son took out handy wipes and cleaned the seat his mother sat in(I knew this had an impact on the final decision). The border agent smiled and said they passed the interview. Then I am watch a recording on my iPhone: the woman says she won’t criticize Trump because she lives in America and he’s her president now.

45 dreams – Initial Outline:

After collecting and sorting 3,000 + Twitter dreams of Donald Trump I have a rough outline for the project. Next step is to sort through the “long form” dreams here on the blog  and add them to the discussion. I had imagined this to be an article, but I have resigned myself to the reality that is likely a book.

OUTLINE/CATEGORIES/CHAPTERS:

 

  1. Grandiosity/Hubris/Inflation
  2. Debasement/Deflation
    1. Incompetence
    2. Hair
    3. Dementia
    4. Disgust
  1. Infantilization
  2. Management/Handling
  3. Marketplace
    1. Food
    2. Fast Food
    3. Walmart
  1. Infiltration/Contamination
    1. Daily Life
    2. Church
    3. Work/Employment/Boss
    4. Sports
    5. School
    6. Resisting contamination
  1. Violated Norms and Taboos
    1. Crime and Arrest
    2. Psychopathy
    3. Against Nature
    4. Aliens
    5. Pee
  1. Propaganda
    1. Re-education
    2. Double-speak
    3. Pan-opticon
  1. Undoing
    1. Impeachment
    2. Arrest
    3. Resignation
    4. Death
  1. Sex
    1. Sexual Abuse
    2. Misogyny
    3. Seduction
    4. Mothers
  1. Community/Familial Discord/Polarization
    1. Family
    2. Community
    3. Fathers (subset)
  1. Nuclear War/Apocalypse
  2. Authoritarianism
    1. Dystopia
    2. Breakdown/Disaster
  1. Approval/Identification
    1. Fathers (subset)
  1. Visions/Prophesies
  2. Bots
  3. Social Media
  4. Unconscious Alliance/Collaboration
    1. Shadow content
    2. Identification
    3. Perks/Privileges/Benefits
    4. Relatives and relations
  1. Performance
    1. Reality show
    2. Entertainment
    3. De-realization/Unreality
  1. Miscellaneous
  2. Resistance
    1. Violence
    2. Mythic themes
  1. Persecution and Purge
    1. Retaliation/Revenge
    2. Internment/Kidnapping
    3. Impotence
  1. Racism/White Nationalism
    1. Genocide
  1. 2020
  2. Reparation/Repair

 

45 Dreams 6/2018


I’m backstage, and have infiltrated a President Trump rally. He’s giving his usual boisterous speech to an adoring crowd. I’m on his right, crouched down, and I can see him through the wings. He has pulled out his penis and is masturbating during the speech behind the podium. The audience can’t see this, but the people backstage can. There’s another man in the wings near me who is a New York Times reporter. There’s also some Trump secret service guards. Trump masturbates throughout the speech and at the end ejaculates onto the speech. I take photos and video of this and I’m determined to post them on Facebook and Youtube. I’m worried about getting caught filming by the guards and stopped. I think it’s crucial that this is revealed to the public. Outside, I ask the reporter if he’s going to take the story to the New York Times. He’s unsure and says “I don’t know.” This is frustrating to me. He then runs off down the street. I get the impression he is going to go ahead and do it. I upload the videos to social media. I’m thinking surely this must be the thing that takes him down. 
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I dreamt about Melania Trump was in the hospital–which she was–but the true reason wasn’t what was released to the public. I knew the real reason because I was her treating physician. Melania had an unexpected unplanned pregnancy and wanted to terminate the pregnancy. Her husband saw this fetus as the harbinger of good luck and his supremacy and his ability to make America great. She saw the fetus as an unwanted burden of a husband that doesn’t love her. I agreed to terminate the pregnancy for her and agreed to protect her privacy by releasing that she had undergone a routine kidney procedure.

45 Dreams 5/2018

I’m in a restaurant at a big table with some friends and Donald Trump and a couple of his people. He’s obnoxious, talking shit and then he gets out a big knife. He’s vaguely threatening me so I grab onto the knife to show I’m not afraid. We grapple. I have more force but my positioning across the table from him is awkward. Plus, he has the handle. I push the blade close to him and then he lifts it to his forehead and presses it in, drawing a horizontal bead of blood, a few inches long, on his third eye. He makes it look like I did it. I say aloud, “I didn’t do that.” I’m aware I could get into very big trouble. We have to move. My party goes to the host and asks for a table of 12. The restaurant is busy and we’ll have to wait. I notice some of the female waiters are full bodied and naked. They are both protesting and imitating Trump. We get our table and Trump is at it again. I sit as far away from him as I can, on the diagonal, him on one corner, me opposite.

 

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I am running for president against Donald Trump- and I am not afraid of him in the slightest. I see him for what he is as can name that out loud. He leaves me taunting phone messages which see stupid and childish to me. I will be speaking out tomorrow against him and plan to annihilate him with the truth. I am not scared about what he might do to me because I have nothing to lose.

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I am in Montana or someplace very rural with Chris Pratt, and our kids and families. Chris Pratt and I are becoming great friends. He has spent all of his money, he lives with his parents.

At some point, in a lodge, I have a temper tantrum about Trump, and the evening becomes very uncomfortable – I’ve yelled out that NYC NJ, and California pay more to the federal government than they receive, and they therefore provide all of the “fly over states” with resources. That the mid-west is the one in a goddamn bubble.