Birth Trauma -or- Borderline Poetic of American National Identity

The Holding Environment -or- Psychological Trauma in Childhood 

Our birthdays are marked by the day we were born. I was born on September 1, just after 10 am by Caesarian section. As a consequence, my dreams most likely are somewhat different (no dream research studies that I know of have been completed) from those who were born experiencing natural birth. Shakespeare uses this birthing idea in "Macbeth", where the political antagonist Macduff who is "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb is the one to institute poetic justice.

While still a student, I worked in a child psychiatric clinic in St Gallen, Switzerland for over 1 ½ years where I saw, assessed and treated many children who were having psychological difficulties. Some of these children had difficulties with anxieties, some had difficulties with aggression, some were emotionally confused, while others had been traumatized by poor parenting. When I think of children, one of the theoretical models I often think about is the work of Donald Winnicott who introduced the psychological concept of the "holding environment" and "the just good enough" parent. The problem of parenting is evidenced in the dream interpretation posted at the IIDR website "Games Parents Play".

One of the children I had seen at the psychiatric clinic, gave me a wonderful gift one day, it was a simple drawing of illustrating his birth, for which he (age 5) had retained a conscious memory, perhaps because he continued dreaming about it? The drawing had a circle with a figure within the circle, the figure was then being shot out like a projectile out of the circle. Otto Rank a collaborator of Freud's coined the popular concept of the "birth trauma" as having an important influence on future psychological development. Most, if not all of us, have no conscious memory of our birth, birth trauma is most likely another reason why early childhood amnesia is so universal. Other dreams "Born Again Christian" (read interpretation) sent to the IIDR speak of "rebirth" experience in dreams.

The dream below sent to the IIDR can be viewed using Otto Rank's theory of "birth trauma" and Margaret Mahler's "separation-individuation" theory of development. An interpretation follows after the dream.

Jim, 19 American

Well, by coincidence of searching through the Askjeeves. com website, I stumbled upon the name Mark Hagen and his work into the study of dreams. I have thought about what my dreams mean and represent in the very same ways that Mr. Hagen does. Well anyway, I've had this dream only once but it has had a lasting affect on me.

DREAM from 2-19-04

"I found myself dreaming that I was Julius Caesar. I had just extended the borders of my empire to there fullest, but what is weird is that it is in modern times cause I had my jacket and jeans and shoes on. I was out in a pond working my ways through the weeds by swimming.

After finishing putting up my new border though this eerily familiar pond. I started to swim towards shore when all of a sudden the dam broke on the pond, and it must have been like the Hoover dam, cause the water rushed out at an amazing rate. I was being pulled towards the dam that had sprung open and panic started to creep over my body as I tried desperately to swim to shore, but to no avail I was being drawn nearer and nearer to my fate. My last chance was a point stuck out into the enormous pond, I tried desperately swimming towards it, but couldn't swim well cause of my clothes that I had on. I was pulled past the point and saw the water that was rushing over the broken dam, and could hear the thunderous noise it made as it fell from the top of the dam to the river or creek that was collecting it below. I was in a panic as a tried to swim through the clothes and the weeds that impeded me, but I wasn't going to make it so I woke myself up afraid to see what was going to come of me." 

Mr Hagen's Reply; Breaking of Hoover Dam-or-Political Panic of Youth Identity in America 

The fact that you are Julius Caesar, historically suggests that we are really in the literary, political and military realm of Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar". You may have read the story in high school English classes. Shakespeare we are told was concerned about the Elizabethan political parallels of his time with that of Julius Caesar's time. After Caesar was assassinated, civil war broke out, Shakespeare saw similar political events potentially unfolding in England. Much like Shakespeare gave Julius Caesar Elizabethan instead of Roman clothes to wear, you (playing Julius Caesar) are wearing (American, Levi Strauss type) "jeans".

Much like in the Roman Empire, America with the war in Afganistan and Iraq has extended its military influence in the global village to the fullest. The economic deficit racked up at the expense of the American taxpayer is enormous and a burden for future generations to carry. Reflecting in historical retrospect, in the future many American's will ask whether this "militarism" was worth it, and was the government telling the truth when the war with Iraq was undertaken. Most of all the American taxpayer was left to foot the bill, leaving those with vested interests in the political conflicts most likely much wealthier. President Eisenhauer in his farewell address to the nation had warned of the influence of the American "military-industrial complex".   

The political reality is that in the wake of 9/11, civil liberties in America were curtailed, with the justification of the "war on terror". Other dreams such as "Land of the Free?" (read interpretation) sent to the IIDR underscore the psychological problem. Even with President Bush's departure in early 2009, the political "culture war" problems in America and the "global village" continue to exist. Read the IIDR dream interpretation "The Culture Wars" of the modern history of this psychological type of political war.

Marshall McLuhan and Quinton Fiore's "War and Peace in the Global Village" provide a technological and literary epochal perspective of the historical cycles of war. These political identity conflicts can be viewed and personified by the cultural animistic ideas of "hawks" and "doves", who not only exist in the Middle East or America. The dreams of political hardliners have existed since time immemorial. It could be argued that Socrates and Christ were condemned to death by the hawks, the hardliners. Although I am not a Christian, it begs the question, is this why Christ stated that "the meek shall inherit the earth".

Turning to the panic you feel when Hoover's Dam breaks. In 1931 President Hoover commissioned what is now known as the "Hoover Dam" as a public works project to promote economic recovery. Hoover was defeated in the 1932 election by Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he could not stem the tide of the "Great Depression". The fact that the Dam's water breaks is similar to the water breaking at birth. Otto Rank believed that birth trauma was the primary cause of anxiety neurosis, in the case of your dream "panic". Rank believed that there were two prototypes of fear, "the fear of living" and the "fear of dying". The American anthropologist Ernest Becker would discuss and re-work the existential problems of fear (that Rank also discusses) in "Denial of Death". 

While it could be argued that this 2004 dream was about the Homeland security real fears about America's infrastructure (ie. Hoover Dam) being attacked by terrorists, I believe that the dream is more about what Samual P. Huntington is poetically talking about in "Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity" (2004). The modern American poetic problems in national identity was shaken by 9/11 can be politically traced to the assassination of John K. Kennedy and the administration of President Johnson, whose cultural vision of a "Great Society" failed. I believe the poetic failure was and continues to be caused by deep political visual culture divisions in the American Dream, leaving many "high and dry", to experience the Great American Nightmare. 

The fact that in the dream the "borders" of the Empire have been extended may be an allusion to American political geography and "borderline personality conflict" on a national scale. Tomislav Z. Longinovic "borderline culture: Politics of Identity in Four Twentieth-Century Slavic Novels", transforms the ideas of borderline personality disorders and relates them to poetry, politics, ontology and Slavic identity. Using Longonovic's ontological poetic ideas of the development of individual and national identity, we can see the dark side of American "borderline poetic" in many dreams received by the IIDR (read IIDR article "The Stuff that American Dreams are Made Of").  

The child's physical birth is not the same as the child's psychological birth. I was able to witness with reverence my daughter's psychological birth in my dreams. This "psychological birth" is discussed by Margaret Mahler in "The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant". Using Margaret Mahler's theory of psychological development as a foundation, Eli Sagan "At the Dawn of Tyranny: The Origins of Individualism, Political Oppression and the State" discusses a political and cultural theory of social development based on Mahler's separation-individuation process. Dreams provide pragmatic access to mapping the cultural nature of the separation-individuation process, visual culture and politics of nations in the "global village". The dream interpretation "Inside the Third Reich of Dreams -or- Hitler's Mein Kampf" underscores a depth psychological understanding of political indoctrination and oppression of a people and a nation.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.