In March 1990 I had a dream about my then treating psychiatrist, Stanley R. Palombo, M.D. that I later designated “The Dream of the Four Miltons.”
The dream was in two parts. A significant image in the first part of the dream was a swimming pool. A significant image in the second part was a birthday cake.
In the interpretation of dreams we look for overdetermination. Freud wrote in The Interpretation of Dreams that many features of dreams were usually “overdetermined,” in that they were caused by multiple factors in the life of the dreamer, from the “residue of the day” (superficial memories of recent life) to deeply repressed traumas and unconscious wishes, these being “potent thoughts”. Freud favored interpretations which accounted for such features not only once, but many times, in the context of various levels and complexes of the dreamer’s psyche. Overdetermination works in two directions: a single unconscious theme can give rise to various expressions in the manifest dream, or a single dream image can be the product of several unconscious themes.
Is it possible that at some level the seemingly unrelated images of swimming pool and birthday cake are related, the product of a single unconscious theme?
What if the two images both relate to the theme of birth? Perhaps the swimming pool reflects the amniotic fluid, while the birthday cake is a direct expression of the theme of birth. (The dream occurred on the evening of March 16, 1990, my niece’s 15th birthday.)
You may ask — so what? So we are dealing with the theme of birth, — what then? What is interesting is that my associations to the dream concern the founding of utopias: the founding of the State of Israel (a utopia conceived by the early Zionists); the city of Hershey, Pennsylvania (a model town founded by the candy manufacturer, Milton Hershey); and Pullman, Illinois (another model town founded by the railroad car manufacturer, George Pullman).
I direct your attention to the work of the psychoanalyst, Wilfred Bion. Bion argues that in every group, two groups are actually present: the work group, and the basic assumption group. The work group is that aspect of group functioning which has to do with the primary task of the group—what the group has formed to accomplish; will ‘keep the group anchored to a sophisticated and rational level of behavior.” The basic assumption group describes the tacit underlying assumptions on which the behavior of the group is based. Bion specifically identified three basic assumptions: dependency, fight-flight, and pairing. In pairing, the group has met for the purpose of reproduction—the basic assumption that two people can be met together for only one purpose, and that a sexual one’. Two people, regardless the sex of either, carry out the work of the group through their continued interaction. The remaining group members listen eagerly and attentively with a sense of relief and hopeful anticipation.
Is it possible that “The Dream of the Four Miltons” relates to my wish to unite sexually with my psychiatist, Dr. Palombo, in the hopes of procreation: the birth of a Utopia?
We can see a possible relationship between the pairing fantasy embodied in Bion’s theory, on the one hand, and the unconscious “secret sharer” fantasy.
The psychoanalyst B.C. Mayer has described the relationship between two creative people in which one influences the other; they write for each other and share an unconscious fantasy of creating together in a sublimated sexual act.
“The secret sharer fantasy is a narcissistic one in which the double often represents the mother of early infancy with whom one merges and creates. It is also Oedipal in that in fantasy the relationship spawns a product — unconsciously a baby. The Oedipal attachment might be of the negative or positive type.”
(In the following passage of my book Significant Moments is the theme of the lake the equivalent of the swimming pool in “The Dream of the Four Miltons?”