In the final phase of the treatment which lasted 6 months, Kathy consolidated her gains though the use of three more dreams and stories. Feeling less responsible for causing the suffering in her family, she once again began to talk about the windows of sunshine times in her life and how to hold onto them. We both noticed when she inadvertently also included her current life as another one of those times in the sunshine. She was basking in the sunlight of her own life with her husband, children, work, and even close friends. She connected emotionally and sexually with her husband and was able to stand up for herself in many situations.
She came to the next session and reported the first of the three dreams which she called "The Fisherman Dream." In the dream, Kathy was near the ocean when two men asked her if she wanted the salmon they had caught. Kathy agreed to take the salmon since she knew this was a very special fish. In fact, she knew it was really not a fish at all. She could also see that it was starting to die from being out of the water for too long. Kathy searched for water to put the salmon into and finally found another fisherman who had a large fish tank. Kathy asked the fisherman if she could put the salmon in his tank, explaining that she thought it would die soon otherwise. The fisherman carefully considered this, examining the fish and then studying his tank to see how the fish could properly be taken care of. Kathy was relieved when the fisherman gently placed the fish in the corner on the bottom of the tank, though Kathy feared it might be too late and the fish might be too weak to regain its strength and will to survive. During the night Kathy went to the fish tank to see if the salmon had indeed been revived by the water. She was delighted to see that the fish had already transformed into a young woman wearing a flowing red dress and a peaceful smile. The beautiful woman with long blonde hair floated to the top of the water and motioned for Kathy to take her out. As Kathy took her in her arms, the woman said, "I think we went a little too far this time, didn't we." Then Kathy awakened.
As Kathy told me the dream, I immediately recognized the fish as her alive self and told her so. Before I could interpret the dream further, Kathy proceeded to read me a story she had written to interpret the dream. The fish was indeed Susie, her alive self, who had become indistinguishable and a replaceable robot after many years of believing she was destructively powerful and harmful to her family after so many years of their refusing to recover. Every time she felt she had harmed one of them with her achievements or powers, she would hide and become invisible so that she could please her parents and receive their love again. But time was passing and they were not recovering. Susie grew more and more invisible. Over time Susie was totally concealed. Her spirit was replaced by a more manageable one, possessing great self control and little inspiration. This new spirit functioned well and could experience feelings only by identifying with others. She could feel everyone's pain and joy but her own2E Despite these efforts to destroy her original spirit, however, that spirit could only be concealed. Under certain conditions that spirit would be revived and Susie's original spirit could be restored. In the dream it was Susie's husband and children who placed her, near death, in Kathy's arms. Kathy searched for and found someone to help protect this fragile being. Fortune directed Kathy to seek assistance from Polly who carefully searched out a safe space where Susie could slowly revive, undisturbed. As Kathy regularly visited the corner to look in on Susie, she discovered small yet significant changes. One day she heard Susie speak and saw her wearing a bright red dress. Each time Kathy visited, Susie was more conspicuous in her manner, dress, and speech. Kathy began to notice a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes. One day Kathy arrived for her visit with Susie and saw she was waiting for her at the door. Polly was gone and Susie's corner was empty. As Susie and Kathy left the room, Susie looked at Kathy with a sparkle of recognition in her eye and said with a giggle, "I think we went a little too far this time, didn't we." Kathy replied, "Yes, I think we did. We musn't do that again." I listened to Kathy's story with thorough enjoyment and pleasure. As the hour ended I merely said, "Well done!" Kathy smiled with great pride.
Kathy's second dream enabled her to work on grieving the mother she wished for but never really had. In the dream Kathy was at a football game with her husband and children. She went to the restroom and came out only to discover she was lost. Panicked, she looked everywhere until she exhausted herself. Frustrated and mad, she awakened in a sweat saying aloud, curiously, "Mother, I need you. I need you mother." She went back to sleep and dreamt she was searching desperately for her mother, crying, sobbing, when suddenly she discovered the solution. She called for a taxi cab. At that point she awakened laughing and felt much better.
Kathy interpreted the dream: "I wanted a mom, like me, to come and be concerned for me, for somebody out there to be really looking for me. But there was no mom. And I think it relates to my theme of waiting and waiting for mother to recover and come take care of me, waiting for Dan to return so we can all get taken care of. And I never witnessed any recovery from tragedies. And mother never felt for me - not even when my brother died. It was always her son who died, never my brother. And I think maybe the taxicab driver who came to help was you helping me to learn how to reach out to others who are available to me." That session Kathy cried a great deal and talked of what a deep sense of loss, sadness, and hurt she felt to have never felt sufficiently mothered.
Kathy's mourning of her mother came just a few weeks before a month-long visit by her mother, which was the most powerful visit of the treatment. Although Kathy sunk into the deepest depression of our work, the duration was brief and she recovered stronger than ever. It was actually Kathy's children's responses to their grandmother's mistreatment of them that was the final straw that propelled Kathy into appropriate confrontation and setting limits with her mother. The entire incident provided Kathy with undeniable evidence of her mother's maltreatment of Kathy and even Kathy's children. Although Kathy felt deep guilt for setting limits with her mother, Kathy also was able to mourn deeply the mother she never had.
Shortly after that visit, Kathy had the final dream of the treatment. It was a dream addressing her concerns regarding how much responsibility to take for other people's suffering in life. Kathy had been exploring her historic role in times of other people's pain. Her immediate instinct was to trade places with them and take away their pain by absorbing it into herself. She realized how such a position assumed that she was more capable of dealing with pain than the person suffering; and furthermore, that she was not only less important than they were, but also more deserving to suffer than they. Now she wanted to find some other position. That night she had "The Dream of the Four Women."
In the dream, Kathy is talking to a friend whose wife has left on a trip2E Kathy suddenly has a horrifying vision of danger. Kathy sees the man's young wife with a petite, older woman and a large Germanic woman. The Germanic woman, shouting and hostile, is shoving them toward some unknown destination. Suddenly, the Germanic woman becomes angry with the older woman, picks her up and throws her against the wall, laughing cruelly as the old woman collapses in the corner. The wife rushes toward the older woman pleading and crying to help. The older woman calmly speaks with a reassuring voice saying, "I'm okay. Don't worry about me." The wife calms down. The Germanic woman then kicks the old woman and shoves her forward while grabbing the wife and pulling her along. They arrive at an elevator and when they enter it, they notice a pregnant woman huddled on the floor bleeding. The Germanic woman goes into a rage, kicking the pregnant woman over and over. The insanity and terror are overwhelming. The wife tries to rescue her, pleading for the woman to stop. Once again, the old woman reassures the wife that it will be alright, advising her to remain calm and unafraid. The old woman can see much more in time and space than the wife can. She tells the wife that the pregnant woman cannot feel the physical pain any longer. Hearing that infuriates the Germanic woman who charges at the old woman, slapping her and knocking her about. Between blows, the old woman tells the wife that it is only her body that is being brutalized and that she is no longer in her body, but is watching this and she is alright. The wife begins to understand and feels herself breath more calmly. She begins to see something much larger than the elevator and the immediate lives of these four women and the unborn child. She feels her fear release its grip on her and leave her. The old woman knows what is happening and smiles. As all the wife's fear and panic escape her, it seems to be absorbed by the Germanic woman who looks wild with terror. She grabs the old woman and stuffs her between the door and the wall of the elevator. As the old woman disappears, she smiles reassuredly at the wife. Kathy awakens.
Kathy felt profoundly relieved by the dream and was eager to explain to me why. She had begun to view her life as a "weaving." She said that with an overall picture of the whole weaving, the torture and physical pain of a particular moment can be survived. Pain and torture are like a knot in the weaving that's difficult but can be gotten through if the whole weaving is kept in sight. This perspective gave her comfort and faith that she could recover from a loss. All her life, whenever someone she loved was in pain, she felt the only way to comfort them was be to trade places with them. Trading places seemed to be the solution because she could handle the pain better and because she deserved to suffer more than they.
Although Kathy identified with all four women in the dream, the greatest relief came from the wise woman's saying, "People recover from physical pain or else their bodies take over and make them not feel." Kathy heard the wise woman telling her not to trade places with anyone and also not to intervene when bad things happen. Kathy said, "The wise woman teaches me I mustn't trade places with anyone or even be so presumptuous as to assume I could do their suffering better for them. We're all on a path. Each path is a thread in the weaving and each person must stay on their own path. I tortured myself to take my mother's place - a penance - a promise I made after the abortions to never for a single day forget what I had done and how overwhelmingly painful it was." I joined Kathy at this point adding further parallels of her trading places with those who suffered - like her near-drowning at age seven after Dan's death, perhaps trying to trade places with him - also with the abortions, perhaps she was trying to trade places with mother. She agreed and added that it also accounts for her practicing that one of her children will die.
As the treatment came to a close, Kathy reviewed her progress with great pride. She was no longer trading places with people who suffer. She was no longer taking responsibility for everyone. She was proud to have written letters to both mother and father telling them important aspects of her relationship to them and setting limits with each of them. She spoke of revitalized relationships with many friends. She grew closer than ever with her husband and also with her children at the same time.
She came to our last session with a small bottle of champagne, two glasses, and a card. The card described her futile attempt to summarize all of her progress. She wrote, "In lieu of examples and evidence, I can simply thank you and assure myself that you know all that we have accomplished. But as I read my notes, I realized how many different metaphors I have used to help me tell my story. At first the task was a puzzle, then a book, and finally a weaving. There was Susie, the sand, the replaceable robot, the red dress, the spotlight, the neck brace, and of course, the pregnant woman, the Germanic woman, and the wise woman. You've done a wonderful job of keeping track of all of this. I once said how frustrated I've been throughout my life, feeling as though the people around me just didn't get the joke. Well, you did get the joke and what a rewarding thing that has been for me. I guess we're at the end of my old dreams. I've made it to the shore without my brother. The taxi driver has picked me up and taken me home, despite my mother. The sand still flows through my fingers, but there is an infinite amount of sand left to flow. And Susie is giggling as we leave the room saying, 'I think we went a little too far this time, didn't we?' Yes, I think we did. But you know it's been interesting. You will be with me always in your many forms: the helpful swimmer, the taxi driver, the fisherman, and even the old woman giving me the tools to not lose Susie again. As I look back over the past two and a half years, I recall with renewed interest the words of the Grateful Dead: 'What a long, strange trip it's been.' Thank you."