Takin Care of Business -or- The Kafkaesque of Everyday Life

John, 33

The following is a general synopsis of a recurring dream that I have been having for at least 4 years. I know I have to be somewhere at a specific time to catch a taxi, a bus, but most commonly an airplane. For reasons beyond my control I am late getting started. I have to carry more than is easy for me to do. My steps are heavy and awkward. It is physically difficult for me to move and proceed, the closer I get to the station or gate. The location of the station or gate is always much further than I anticipated or that the signs suggest.  The difficulty getting to the right spot is almost insurmountable, like to the point of physical and emotional collapse. There is usually great anger, frustration, and terror (not indecision)  There are always specific situations items, people, and places which I can identify after I wake up.  This is an extremely debilitating wake-up as I feel terrified, shaken, and physically exhausted. I am usually perspiring heavily and thankful that I wake up in my own bed.
I have had dreams based on these circumstances at least 100 times. They seem to happen after I wake up in the middle of the night, say at 3AM or 4AM, then fall back asleep for 2-4 hours, but not always.

Mr Hagen's Reply; Locus of Emotional Control -or- Reason versus Feelings

"Control your emotion or it will control you".

Social Learning, Decision Making and Dream-work 

Recurring dreams are usually a sign of cognitive-emotional fixedness. Other dreams such as Groundhog Day and The Prisoner's Dream sent to the International Institute for Dream Research illustrate the problem. In your dream you seem to focus on reason versus feeling, you state; "For reasons beyond my control...". You seem to feel "great anger, frustration, and terror", when you sense you are not in self-control. Your rational decision making is not impaired, however your emotional responses in the dream can be explained by Dollard's frustration-aggression hypothesis. From a social psychological perspective Julian Rotter developed the concept of the "locus of control", conjoined with Martin Seligman's "learned helplessness model of depression", we can begin to understand that you are attempting to maintain self-control in the face of emotional uncertainty. 

Albert Bandura's social learning theory summarizes much of the preceding work mentioned above. Social learning is one of the main channels and functions of dreams and dream-work. The failure of efficacy of your self-defence mechanisms against the anxieties surrounding the loss of control are draining you both emotionally and physically, which is illustrated by your feelings of anger, frustration and terror. Noone can control everything, in doing so you are inviting narcissistic schizotypal reactions within yourself. Said another way these social learning ideas provide the foundation for a theory for understanding the dynamics of nightmaresFailure and the fear of failure are a nightmaric part of everyone's life. The only question is whether we learn from the error of our ways?

To dramatically illustrate decision making, risk and failure, the tragic image in the theatre above is the Shuttle Challenger before and after it exploded. Risk of life is always part of the behavioural equation in decision making processes, the decision to launch Challenger and the organizational and cultural failure to make safety of the crew the first priority led to their tragic loss and end (watch video of Challenger disaster).  

Cultural Metamorphosis -or- Takin Care of Business

The fact that you always awake from your dream in your bed and are thankful, makes it sound like your dream resembles Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. Kakfa's protagonist wakes up one morning from "uneasy dreams" in his bed to find that he had been transformed into a bug. The daily frustrations and anxieties of the day have been replayed in your dreams making them appear Kafkaesque.

From a popular culture perspective this archetypal personality conflict of logic and emotion was given voice by the Star Trek characters Mr Spock, who = logic and reason and Doctor McCoy who personifies emotional honesty and compassion. Such classic conflicts and arguments between Spock and McCoy were a regular staple of the Star Trek mythology (watch the episode Bread and Circuses in the jail and its mise en scene).

From a popular music perspective, Laura Branigan's Self Control fits the sentiment of your dream, as well listen to the humorous A Momentary loss of self control. From a different popular music perspective the Bangles Manic Monday (watch music video) fits the everyday life sentiment, action and visual graphic imagination of your dream. The music video's lyrics begin with the telling of a dream. From a more masculine perspective, Bachman Turner Overdrive's Takin Care of Business fits the sentiment of your dream.

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