Dreaming of One's Pleasures -or- Felisific Calculus of Narcisssism

The History of Sexuality -or- The Status Quo in the Global Village

Freud believed that humans were naturally "pleasure" seeking creatures. In terms of the history of dreaming, Michel Foucault "The Care of Self: Volume 3 of The History of Sexuality" discusses the work "Interpretation of Dreams" by Artemidorus which served as a practical dream encyclopedia of perennial philosophical and medical thinking about everyday ancient life. Foucault's first three chapters are devoted to the understanding of "dreaming of one's pleasures". 

Artemidorus sees the sexual dream as a social visual scene, one which is acting out "a game of superiority and inferiority." The dreamer is seen as a subject of social status and social stratification, in this sense "he" is either "winner or looser", "active or passive", "dominant or dominated", ‘on top' or ‘on the bottom'. "Decipherment of the oneiric (dream) allegory is carried out by analogy." Analogies serve to provide natural signs and symbols foretelling physical, psychological and financial health or illness. 

From a more modern perspective, the analogy that Artemidorus status quo game resembles is the "body politic" of the State. As such, the visual cultural scenes of role play, sexuality, pleasure, power (dominance) and the "status quo" are intimately connected. Alfred Adler would create a modern egocentric dream psychology surrounding the "superiority" and "inferiority"  status feeling complexes that Artemidorus had found operating in dreams almost 2000 years ago. Seen in this light, humans have historically been "status seekers". 

Seen from a different perspective the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham believed that humans use "felisific calculus" to compute the pleasure and the pain of individual behaviour and experiences. Bentham's theory is a fore-runner to the theory of "behavioural economics". Animal behavioural research can be seen as an animal-human analog in understanding innate and learned human behavioural economic calculus of pleasure and pain, reward and punishment. Status seen from an animal perspective is viewed as the "pecking order". 

Said again differently, people are innately motivated by "narcissisticself interest. Many of the dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website speak of a schizotypal spectrum found in the "culture of narcissism", psychopathy, cruelty and "malignant narcissism", while others speak of "narcissistic injuries and rage" and "mortification". Still others speak about the true and the false self and the "Schizotypal Masks of Sanity" (read dream interpretation). 

Here is a dream that attempts to deliver a positive psychological message; 

Alice, 53 American 

I am quite embarrassed to write about my dream and am more concerned with the end of the dream as it felt so real. 

I dreamed I had met a man (I am a woman) while going out and it led to sex.  When the man was on top of me, he started laughing and into his own pleasures. His manner frightened me and I thought I had woken myself up. In my state then, when I thought I was then awake, I looked at my ceiling and saw the shadow of the ceiling fan twirling very, very fast and felt what seemed to be, and felt so real, the body of someone sliding into bed with me, in my own bed, putting their body next to mine and cuddling up to me, like in a spooning position with their arm over mine. I think to comfort me, I am not sure. This felt so real, like someone was actually there, and I thought he was, because I had thought I had awakened already from my bad dream.......this scared me and I screamed and my scream actually did wake me and I can't get this "man's" touch that I felt off my mind...what could all of that mean and was the ending actually a dream or something else?  Bewildered.... 

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered -or- Touching False Awakenings 

There is no need to feel embarrassed, although I can understand why you might feel that way. In the first part of your dream, you say the man is "on top" and "into his own pleasures". This is a dream vision of the male dominant "status quo", one in which this man is interested only in his own male chauvinist "phallocentric" pleasures. The interpretation "Dreams, Cinema and Gender Ideology in the Mirror" discusses these patriarchal ideological types of dreams. Many of the dream interpretations posted at the IIDR speak of the psychological harms on both sides due to the patriarchal battle of the sexes. From a masculinity perspective Freud's "castration complex" amounts to the male's fear of women and the loss of virility and sexual dominance. 

Feminism is a social movement that advocates for women's rights and in this sense a different woman's consciousness and status quo in the face of patriarchy. The dream interpretation "Patriarchal Poetry and the Madwoman in the Attic" underscores the type of man you seem to dreaming of in the second part of your dream. 

In the second part of your dream, you believe much like in the film "Inception" that you are awake, yet you are still dreaming. This type of dreaming is called "false awakening". The question could be asked; what is the psychological and dramatic function of this false awakening? After the false awakening you say, "In my state then, when I thought I was awake"...then a man cuddled, comforted and held you. This part of the dream seems to be an analogy to your waking consciousness of your feelings and desires about the intimate "status quo" (which means "current state of affairs") between a man and woman. This part of the dream seems to be using the English dramatic idiom "wake up and smell the coffee". Stop dreaming "bad dreams" and being in bad intimate relationships, and wake up and do something positive to change your situation. 

Perhaps the first part of the dream is about your memory, feelings and experiences in past relationships with men. In this sense, the two parts of your dream may be a literary form of dramatic contrast, representing your need to find a "man" who will meet your needs, a man who can comfort you, a man who is not just interested in his own sexual gratification, a man who can psychologically and emotionally "touch" and hold you. The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott would most likely call the behavior of this man as one who provides a "holding environment". 

The dream may be a prime example of the cognitive-behavioural psychology of the contrast between the intimate feelings of "depression and elation", ("negative and positive contrast"). Understood in this sense, you thought that you had awakened, and then you experience a "real" man who offers you a different status quo of intimacy, paradoxically you respond with fear ("scared") and "screaming". Then you really wake up. Here then may be the psychological key to understanding the hermeneutic enigma of your dream. How are these awakening thoughts and feelings of intimacy supposed to be interpreted? Simply stated your fears are reinforcing the ongoing "status quo bias", it's sadly what has kept women and men in their social place for thousands of years.  

You say that you; "can't get this ‘man's' touch that I felt off my mind." From a popular music culture perspective, the song "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (watch music video) seems to fit the emotionally "cathartic" intimate touching sentiments of your dream, that seem to be lingering in your "mind's eye". 

Further Reading:

  • Vance Packard, "The Status Seekers"
  • Thomas Hobbes, "Body, Man and Citizen"
  • Jane K. Cowan, "DANCE and the Body Politic in Northern Greece"
  • Amy K. Kaminsky, "Reading the Body Politic: Feminist Criticism and Latin American Women Writers"
  • Antoine de Baecque "The Body Politic: Corporeal Metaphor in Revolutionary France, 1770-1800"
  • Nancy M. Henley, "Body Politics: Power, Sex & Nonverbal Communication"
  • Ashley Montagu, "Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin"
All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.