Socialized Medicine -or- Health Care Reform in the Global Village

As a Canadian, I enjoy and am entitled to "universal health care". Although there have been some recent changes in the United States, health care for its citizens is differently organized, which more often than not, has a negative psychological effect on the dreams of those citizens who are unable to pay for quality health care. Below is one such dream turned American nightmare.

Elinore, 48, American

"In my dream I'm in a hospital bed. There are 4 or 5 people in beds in the same room. My Mom is waiting with me, in a recliner next to me. I was supposed to have back surgery, but it was not done. Mom is angry with the doctor who came to tell me, but who didn't do the surgery. Mom demands to speak to the Operating Room doctor. My last memory was going down to the Operating Room anesthetized. The doctor in the room calls the Operating Room doctor. He keeps trying to get a time the doctor will come to explain. The Operating Room doctor won't give a time, but the doctor in the room keeps pushing, looking at a big clock in the room. It is not resolved. I'm in the hospital room hooked up to an IV, walking around the room. My Mom is disgusted with me. I am trying to unhook my IV, which has become wrapped around another person's bed. It finally detaches and I walk to my bed, starting to pass out. A nurse comes in and helps me into bed. Another nurse brings a tray of food, but what I want isn't on it. I remember feeling upset. The Operating Room doctor now comes in, but my Mom is gone. He tells me surgery was not done because I was wearing a sanitary pad. I felt there was an inference of dirtiness and disease. I felt ashamed and was glad Mom was not there. I did not have my period, but I HAD to wear the pad. I remember trying to think of a reason to explain to the doctor: discharge? leaking urine? Then I went back to sleep in the hospital bed. A dog jumped in with me and bit through the tubing on the IV.

I've not done this before. However, lately I am having some very vivid and strange dreams. I can tell you that I am becoming disabled at 48 years old, that my husband committed suicide 19 years ago, and that both my parents were gone at that time. I can also tell you that I was sexually abused, starting at around 18 months of age. I have no children, but am currently very concerned about my niece and nephew. They are 19 and 21. They are into scenes with multiple sex partners. One is into alcohol and the other into the rave scene with the use of the drug ecstasy. My sister does not know. I won't tell her because her children need someone who loves them that they can trust and talk to. I no longer work though I used to work two jobs. I am applying for permanent disability. I understand that it can take up to three years to get. Meantime, I have no income and I am very scared, when I allow myself to think about it. If I think about it too much, it paralyzes me. Also, I am going to school to become a Spiritual Director - my faith is very important to me."

Mr Hagen's Reply; American Body Politic -or- General Hospital and the Kafkaesque

Your dream is closely associated to what has been labeled the Kafkaesque. Kafkaesque is an adjective used is situations real or fictional that reminds us of the writing of Franz Kafka specifically "The Trial" and its sequel "The Castle". The essential literary ingredient is the nightmarish sense of the loss of one's identity and helplessness in the face of a vast and often sinister impersonal "red tape" of bureaucracy. It occurs to me, that idea that the surgery was not completed in the dream because you were wearing a sanitary pad may be idiomatically associated to the popular off-Broadway theatre production The Vagina Monologues. One of the monologues is called My Angry Vagina, which rants about the such things found in your dream (tampons). Other dream interpretations such as Mysteries of Femininity found in the woman's section of the IIDR website, can be seen and heard as further monologues.

Your dream represents everything about what has gone wrong with the American Dream, turning it into the American Nightmare. The hospital, as a symbol of a social institution, represents and represents the health care system and the American "Body Politic". Dreams provide a way to "read" the medical and mental health symptoms of mind and body. In your dream, your body needs an operation. The body may be a literal representation of your physical body or it may represent your psychological ego and emotional state. Body parts are also symbolic (i.e. convey meaning) and metaphoric. The "spine" is often a metaphor for courage (versus helplessness/powerlessness), for instance. Have you lost your courage and hope in the face of all the psychological problems you are confronting?

In regard to your niece and nephew, you give voice to the nightmare of social problems that have not been addressed or resolved, problems such as drugs, education, disability, sexual abuse, stigmatization and mental illnesses such as suicidal depression and social alienation. All these problems have been discussed at the International Institute for Dream research website. The hospital can be viewed as a community symbol of health, both physical as well as mental. A community's mental health is very dependant on its ability to effectively deal with anxiety, danger and threats to its members. If not consequently dealt with, pathological anxiety symptoms such as panic, hysteria, and phobias are the logical outcome. Seen in this light your dream represents feelings of depersonalization and demoralization towards mental health authorities who are helpless in the face of all these communal problems.

The American Sociological Imagination -or- Time is Money 

Now to your dream: you seek help and support. The doctor doesn't give you a time for the operation, but instead he keeps "looking at a big clock in the room." For him the guiding metaphor is obvious, time seems to be the equivalent of money. That your mother is disgusted with you and the excuse given to you that the surgery was not done because you were wearing a sanitary pad, may be viewed as stigmatization. The hospital did not provide the service it should, but blamed the failure on you. You feel victimized, you feel shame, in the sense you feel that what is happening is "victim blaming". This is similar to the prejudice towards those without money, insurance, jobs and so on, in the American Body Politic.

The sociologist C. Wright Mills The Sociological Imagination had appealed to social scientists to make connections between "private troubles" and "public issues". As a student I had already taken this suggestion to heart. Applying it to dreams, we would be able to hear and see often repressed medical vital signs of the private troubles of individuals and communities. Many of the interpretations found at the IIDR website such as rape, abuse, crime, divorce, drug addictions, abortion, pornography, and so on discuss these medical and mental health related problems that are found in our dreams. Making these social issues visible to the Public has been a major aim of the International Institute for Dream Research. 

Your dream represents the "Politics of the American Dream" and is therefore indicative of the political unconscious of the American nation. Hopefully the social problems you speak of will be addressed by your political representatives, Republican or Democrat, who are elected to deal with issues such as social security, Medicare, mental illness, hate crimes, and prejudice. Taken one step further, building a sane global medical and mental health movement is imperative for human survival in the 21st century. Leadership to secure a global dream vision of a brighter and more socially peaceful future is needed.

Postscript: This dream was posted prior to the 2008 election. The Obama administration has achieved some health care reform.


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