Pathos of Everyday Life-or-Suffering in the Global Village

Weltschmerz -or- Empathy and Sympathy

Today on our planet tens of millions may be suffering physical, psychological, and emotional pain. The German's have given a name to this suffering, they call it "Weltschmerz". Emil Durkheim in "Suicide" called it "anomie". The suffering may not be visible in the "everyday presentation of the self" of an individual's behaviour. Many walking wounded, hide behind masks, and personae that they have learned to wear. At night in the sanctuary of our dream world the true feeling self is revealed in our dreams.

In the ancient Greek world Socrates endured his suffering and a death sentence in the name of the right to philosophical freedom of speech. The suffering known as the "Passion of Christ" is a central theme in Christianity. In Buddhism, suffering also takes on a central role in their philosophy. The "pathetic" is intended to arouse our pity, sympathy and compassion. 

From a communication in everyday life perspective, "pathos" appeals to the listener and is one of three persuasive modes of influence. Pathos appeals to the sympathy and imagination of the viewer and listener, in hope of their "vicariously" understanding. Learning to recognize and share of thoughts and feelings is a psychosocial cornerstone of our emotional development of empathy

Such "vicarious learning" can be found in many dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research. These dreams speak with-in the context of a healthy to pathological emotional learning spectrum, from empathy to psychopathy

The dream below, we can see and hear the empathy ("I do love Bill"), however also  confusion and helplessness ("What does it mean") when watching her ex-boyfriend's suffering. Here is the dream; 

Victoria, 24 

I had a dream about my ex-boyfriend Bill.  He was lying in what looked like a hospital bed.  There was a gold ring lying on top of him in the bed.  At the head & foot of his bed there were to dark figures trying to penetrate the golden ring.  The figures did not succeed.  I do love John although we are not together.  He suffers from depression badly. What does this mean? 

Mr Hagen's Reply: Major Depression -or- The Battle between Light and Darkness 

"I got the one, the dream of horror! Dreams of blood, dreams of war! Rudest eyes have seen the fright Welcome to the eternal night!" Children Of Bodom "In the Shadows"

The fact that your boyfriend is in a hospital and suffers from depression, suggests that he is in a psychiatric ward. Whatever these "dark figures" are that you see at his head and the foot of his bed, they do not succeed in penetrating the gold ring. These dark figures most likely represent his illness and suffering that is attempting to reach the inner core of his personality. The dream has the feel of someone who has and "suffers" from a "major depression". Usually this means some sort of chemical imbalance in the brain that is affecting the psychophysical functioning of the mind and body. 

Julia Kristeva's book about melancholia, "Black Sun" seems to fit the psychological description of the "dark figures". From a Jungian perspective the dark figures might symbolize the alchemical "nigredo" and the "dark night of the soul". While the symbol of the gold ring represents the inner archetypal light. A psychological battle in visual thinking of symbolic light and darkness appears to be taking place. From the perspective of Ernst Bloch's "Principle of Hope" the psychological battle of health (light) and illness (darkness) being waged is one between ontological hope versus despair. 

Magic rings appear in Biblical lore and mythological tales such as "Lord of the Rings", "Ring of the Niebelungens", "Harry Potter" and in "1001 Arabian Nights" to name a few. The magic circle is a visual form of "sacred space", that provides sanctuary, the ancient Greeks called it the "temenos". While such stories of magic are enchanting, they are usually driven by "magical thinking". From clinical psychological perspective such magical visual thinking can turn pathological and irrational, and perhaps is the psychological root cause of his major depression.

From a popular culture perspective the Heavy Metal band Children of Bodom's song and lyrics "In the Shadows" conveys the sense of the "dark figures" and their poetic embodied sentiments. The film "A Single Man" features a George Falconer (Colin Firth) who wakes up one morning from a depressing and painful dream vision. He decides to end his life, after he has put all his affairs in order.


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