The Seminary Student -or- Girl Interrupted

Dreamer: Margaret

I had a very strange dream that took place early in the morning, about an hour before my alarm was going to go off. I dreamt that my right arm was either itching or hurting really badly. So I took a pair of scissors and cut my hand off. Even though my hand was detached it was still hanging there as if by some magnetic force and there was now space between my hand and wrist. I went to the hospital to see if they could put it back together and nobody came in to help me. I told people I simply cut myself because I was embarrassed to tell them that my entire hand was severed. The doctor never arrived and I woke up frustrated, wanting the dream to end.

I have never had a dream like this before. I am right handed. The night before my dream I was wrapping presents and accidentally slightly cut my thumb with a pair of scissors. I am a seminary student and am working at a church as an intern. I have just finished a quarter of school-work and writing challenging paper assignments.

I don't know why my dream was about my whole hand and why it was still there but extended from my wrist, with empty space in between. In other words I didn't lose my hand, it was still there only no longer part of me. I have not had any traumatic experiences unless you consider the rigors of academia traumatic.

Mr. Hagen's Reply: Girl Interrupted -or-How to Fight Loneliness

These are just some thoughts about your dream: you're looking for some help that never arrives, you intentionally inflict a serious injury to yourself, which in the real accident was far less serious than in the dream, indicating that the dream injury would seem to symbolize emotional self-harm and damage, you feel embarrassed about asking for help, you feel pain and frustration, and there is a space between your hand and your wrist.

The writing seems to be associated to your academic assignments. Perhaps you are feeling cut off emotionally from your work. Is your assignment devoid of emotion? Is your work cutting you off emotionally? Certainly the fact that you cut your hand off so it is no longer a part of you is of concern. It seems to indicate that you are in serious dramatic conflict with yourself. 

Here's another way to approach to understanding your dream. Do you fear that you are being indoctrinated at the seminary or at school? Most literary theorists believe that there are gaps in texts which, in your dream, may be symbolized by the gap between your hand and your wrist. These gaps are produced when a dominant ideology (patriarchal, capitalist, communist or other) is imposed on written text and therefore on the writer's and readers' minds.

The psychiatrist Armando R. Favazza Bodies Under Siege: Self Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry explores the idea that self-mutilation is an attempt at self-healing. The American psychiatrist Karl Menninger's Man Against Himself, discusses the topics of self-punishment, destructiveness and suicide. RR Ross and HB McKay Self Mutilation provided insights into the mutiliatory behaviours of teenage girls in a Canadian correctional institution.

From a popular film perspective your dream is similar to Girl Interrupted, based on the memoir of the same name by Sussanna Kaysen. The plot of the film, begins with Kaysen (played by Winona Ryder who does a star turn in the film) being admitted into a psychiatric hospital after an attempted suicide. Holden Caulfield, the character created by J.D. Salinger appears to experience similar problems, except from an adolescent male perspective. (You can read the interpretation Juvenile Dreams posted at the IIDR website to understand more.) The film appears to explore many of the themes that you also seem to be struggling with. On the sound track of the film, one of the songs Jeff Tweedy How to Fight Loneliness seems to fit the sentiment of your dream.

In Joanne Greenberg's autobiographical novel I Never Promised you a Rose Garden we can recognize the traumatizing effects of social reality on women's egos. What guiding metaphors and defence mechanisms does a woman use to construct her ego identity? They may be found in their dreams. From a feminist perspective Luce Irigaray's Speculum of the other Woman, Judith Butler's Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, and Catherine Belsey's Critical Practice provide view points to understand your dream.

The self mutilation image shown on the screen above is a self portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.  

Hope these thoughts are of help and provide some insight,
Mark H.

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