A Time to Mourn -or- A Death Sentence

A Dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read. The Talmud

In Search of Lost Time -or- Lifetime in Dreams

Having begun my dream notebook on November 11, 1977 (Rememberance Day), it is closely related to Marcel Proust's, "In Search of Lost Time". We all have had dreams where time plays an important role. Often dreams of coming l...a...te unfold on our inner dream stage. As the saying goes; "you'll be late to your own funeral". The fear of time, is intimately associated to the fear of death. For me the psychiatric concept of one's "lifetime" is one that is relevant to myself, as well all those living on the planet. Lifetime was a concept developed by the psychiatrist Eugene Minkowski, who believed that psychopathology is entwined with our perceptions of time. My adult lifetime has been devoted to understand the total dream that washes over the planet and make the transpersonal dreaming process visible for all to understand.

I would like to present a dream out of Verena Kast's, "A Time to Mourn", that illustrates the problem of time found in a then 50 year old woman's dream.

Here is the dream; "I am at work in my own business, sitting in my office, and I am the manager (as in reality). I open a letter, which is sealed with an old fashioned seal. In the letter it says I am sentenced to death. I know that nothing can be done to change this. I am terribly shocked, and quickly begin to organize everything in the business, so that afterwards there will not be to much chaos. Suddenly I leaned back, appalled and think: 'You're going to die tomorrow, and you can think of nothing better to do than get the business affairs in order." I wake up filled with the fear of death and horrified at myself that I cannot make use of the time that remains to me."

Mr Hagen's Reply; Dream Allegory of Life and Death -or- Lifetime and Estate Planning

The dream appears to work on a number of dramatic levels, from a literary perspective it is a dream vision allegory of life, death, work and time.

One of the psychodramatic actions that the woman begins to undertake after reading the letter is to organize here business so that chaos can be avoided. There comes a time in everyone's life when estate planning becomes necessary. However, when the woman begins to take stock of what she is doing, she realizes that her actions will fatefully lead to a dead end. From a philosophical perspective the dream represents the living sense of existential aporia. It is easy to walk in the shoes (identify/emapthize) of this woman, who is evidently asking herself, how can I make better use of my existential time, than just investing all my energy and work in my business.

The dream has dramatized the fear of death and the need to make use of her time much differently than she has in the past. The woman's dream has strong literary connections to Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge who was visited in his dreams by a number of ghosts. Dicken's story underscores the transformative power of dreams to help to provide us with a synoptic perspective of our lifetime (past, present and future).

In the woman's dream, the fear of death plays a central social role, the medium by which the message of her death sentence is delivered to her office is via a letter, suggesting that the woman is an intellectually oriented old fashioned woman of letters. Ernest Becker, "The Denial of Death", believes that Western civilization is built upon the defense mechanisms that ease the fears of our mortality. In the dream, the existential death sentence has ironically overwhelmed all of this woman's past psychological work of building emotional and intellectual defense mechanisms against it. This dream illustrates how our mortality can force us and help us to reevaluate and reconsider our decisions of how to make use of the time that we have to live. The dream has motivated this woman to seek out therapy in search of re-interpretation of the existential meaning of life and an integrated sense of lifetime.


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