Fight Club -or- The Prisoner's Dream

I am writing this dream to you for my son who is currently in prison.  He has been having a lot of these dreams and just wants to understand the meaning of them.  He was in a gang and out of control.  The reason he is there is because he shot at a police officer.  He was sentenced to prison for 15 years. This is one of his dreams. Thank you for your time.

John, 24

I was at the "nest" on Lemond Road and I get into a fight with someone.  I had him on the flour with one hand choking him and stabbing him in the face with the other.  When I woke up...well, it was more like I faded into consciousness.

Hagen's Reply; The Gang -or- The Prisoner's Dream

The image found in the theatre above is known as the Prisoner's Dream by Moritz von Schwind.

As you say, your son; "was in a gang and out of control."

Your son was convicted of a crime and his dream also appears to be of a criminal nature. Self-control is one of the institutional foundations of our society (ie. the legal concept of a person/citizen) as well as for our personality. Those that do not show self-control and restraint usually but not always reap the consequences. I have always stated in therapy to my clients that they are the one's who have and make "choices".

The self-control theory of crime, can be seen as an extention of earlier work done by a variety of researchers, Herbert M. Lefcourt Locus of Control summed up the research field. Two particular theories stand out in relation to this dream, the first is the work of Albert Bandura's Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis and Social Learning Theory, I have found that Bandura's theories are born out in people's dreams time and again.

The theory of social learning can be applied to individual-peer groups interaction (as your son was, of interest we find him in his dream at the "nest"). In the extreme, such as in gangs, gangsters and cult groups, individuals can be brainwashed, to believe all sorts of delusional ideas. The peer group (or reference group) acting as role models, can exercise a great deal of influence on the individual, and is a dream research topic sorely in need of investigation. The second theory is the work of Erving Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behaviour, whose theories can be applied to your son's dream, in that he attacks and stabs the other person in the face. Goffman's Interaction Ritual discusses the concept of face-work as it relates to its' aggressive uses. There are other theories of crime that could be applied to criminal behaviours in general, I will leave those as a point of departure for a more in-depth article.

From a popular culture perspective, your son's dream brings to mind the film Fight Club (see video, 8 rules of Fight Club). On a final note your son states that, instead of waking up, he "faded into consciousness, which seems to suggest, that his unconscious ideation and behaviour as it relates to his conscious thoughts and feelings are continuous, meaning that they are the same. Said another way, what he is thinking and doing at night, he is thinking and doing during the day. Given the place he finds himself, perhaps that's a good thing if he wants to survive in prison for 15 years?

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