Hell is Other People -or- Alcoholics Anonymous

No Exit -or- The Devil in Disguise 

"Hell is other people" wrote Jean Paul Sartre in "No Exit", which features a tale of damned souls. From the literary, artistic, musical and psychotherapeutic perspectives, the devil has played a central role in the story telling of humanity. Dante in "Divine Comedy" met many damned souls while traveling through "hell". Goethe's "Faust" shows us a man who sold his soul to the devil. Freud (1) was indicted by some, for "making a deal with the devil" and "playing the devil's advocate". 

Guiseppe Tartini wrote the "Devil's Trill" (read dream interpretation) based on a dream that he had, in which the devil serenaded him with his divine musical abilities. In the dream interpretation "The Devil in Disguise" speaks of the demonic and evil forces projected onto women. 

There are many more dreams that speak about and discuss the social problem of evil and the devil. Here is another such dream; 

Sonja, 37 

I know my dream has to do with my struggle with my relationship with the Lord. Personally, I am an alcoholic who gets drunk approximately twice a week. Last night I dreamt I was being persecuted. I was being forced to follow someone I can only describe as the devil. Somehow though, the devil was someone I knew in real life. I wasn't the only person being persecuted. There was a long line of people before me.  I don't know their circumstances.  Still, as I stood in line, there were hoards of people surrounding me, all of who know every deep dark secret I've ever hid about myself. I was to be executed for my sins. Still, there was this person, my devil, that told me if I followed him I'd be ok. I wasn't fooled. I knew if I followed him I'd be damned.  If I followed him I'd be ok for as long as he allowed me. If I denied him, I knew I would die. Then I remembered my Jesus. I remembered what He stood for and died for. I knew that when I stopped and faced my devil and stood with Him that I would die for my stance too. I knew my earthly existence would end right then and there. I knew I would die. And I let it be so. 

Mr Hagen's Reply: Temptation of Christ -or- Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils 

"I have done that" says my memory. I could not have done that-says my pride and remains implacable. Finally-my memory gives up.  Friedrich Nietzsche 

Psalm 23 reads; "Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil". You are to be executed for your "sins" which you have kept hidden. Much like in Sartre's "No Exit", you are not alone and have plenty of company. These people evidently know, "every deep dark secret that you have hidden." In this sense, Scott Peck "People of the Lie", shows that people and society as a whole suffers from the deceptions of others and more importantly "self-deception" (and "bad faith"). 

Peck discusses a dream from "Angela" that he calls; "The Case of the Voodoo Dream", informing her at one point in the dialogue about the interpretation of the dream that; "wherever there is evil, there is a lie around." For Peck, evil in people is represented by a "brand of narcissism so total that they seem to lack, in whole or in part (the) this capacity of empathy." Many dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research speak of narcissistic problems, apathy and psychopathy

In your dream you know the devil as someone in your real life. You have "demonized" him because you feel he is attempting to deceive and lie to you. Yet you also seem to feel what Peck calls an interdependancy and symbiosis with this man. This psychological problem has also been called "co-dependancy" . In your dream you are left to choose the lesser of two evils (be damned or die). 

Said differently, what you appear to be saying is that you feel the ethical dilemna of "damned if you do and damned if your don't". You are not alone here as well, many dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website speak of being in ethical an "Double Bind" (read interpretation), or "Sophie's Choice", or "the prisoner dilemna" or "emotional blackmail" situation. All these people are faced with ethical and moral dilemnas, your's adds one more to the list, of those you refer to as being in the dream "line" up with you. 

If as you say that "dream has to do with my struggle with my relationship with the Lord.", then this psychological struggle seems focused around your own "dilemma", your secrets, your co-dependancy and your "alcoholism". Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual character building program which uses twelve steps. Many but not all have been helped by the program and its support system. Years ago, I saw a woman in psychotherapy whose husband literally drank himself to death. Needless to say her inner world of her thoughts, feelings and dreams were nightmaric and depressed to say the least.

The "Lords Prayer" asks for the moral strength to avoid temptations such as alcohol, and if you say that you "remembered" your Christ, then you also know that Christ was tempted by the devil as well. The idea that there is a spiritual battle of moral virtue (grace) and vice (sin) going on in individuals is given a literary voice by Prudentius in "Psychomachia" and Saint Augustine's "Confessions".

Perhaps on a few final notes, just as the porn addict in the dream interpretation "Confessions of a Porn Addict" demonizes women, so to, you seem to demonize men. One of the common denominators in both dreams is a moral and ethical problem seen time and again in many dreams, and most likely since the times of the fabled "Adam and Eve", namely the need to "diffuse responsibility". Someone else must be to blame, someone else must be guilty. In doing so, others can be sucessfully scapegoated. "Hell is Other people". From a popular music perspective, George Harrison sings his spiritual and non-religious exhaltation in "My Sweet Lord". 

  • 1. David Bakan, Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition
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