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Slochower, J. (2015). An Erotic Dream, an Erotic Collision. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:87-104.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:87-104

III: Clinical use of Dreams

An Erotic Dream, an Erotic Collision

Joyce Slochower, Ph.D.

About two years into a four-times-weekly analysis, my patient Emily reported the following dream:

I'm at some kind of big affair in a large building. You're there too. I wait until you're alone and come up to you, put my arms around you, my head on you. It feels safe, intimate. Then I kiss you on the mouth, a long, sexual kiss. I wake up having an orgasm.

Emily reported the dream with pleasure. She felt that the explicit sexuality between us was a sign that our relationship was becoming richer and deeper. Emily was well aware that the analytic frame precluded sexual action; she certainly did not expect me to engage with her physically, but rather, to resonate with her wishes, to enjoy the idea of a sexual liaison.

This erotic dream marked a new phase in a long analysis. It broke open and complicated what had been a rather rigidly organized, idealized transference-countertransference dynamic. Laying bare the underlying dissonant dynamics that resided beneath the surface, the dream explicitly moved a “one-person” process focused on Emily's needs, anxieties, and fantasies into the intersubjective realm. In this essay I explore how that dream and the work it stimulated opened relational space and moved things beyond impasse.

Emily had come for treatment because of an acute depression that had begun shortly after her mother's death. An only child from an upper-class Protestant family, Emily described a cavernous home, a multitude of servants, but a very lonely life with little parental involvement. Emily described her mother as stiff and critical, her father as preoccupied—both distant and tantalizing. He sporadically made warm contact with Emily, only to withdraw unpredictably, leaving her feeling unworthy and bad. By adolescence, Emily had withdrawn into sullen, defensive independence while harboring an urgent need for emotional contact that she felt was rarely met.

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