Friday, June 01, 2007

Dream: A Cutting Remark

Entry for 31 May 2007:

Dream: I am at an event for a politician, I think it is Michael Dukakis (unsuccessful US Presidential candidate from the 1980’s). There is some kind of dialogue among a group of us. He says something reasonably clever, but I immediately come back with something much more clever, which is also a nasty put-down. There is moment of astonished silence, as if no one can believe that I have said this. I had expected him to give back as good as I gave, but suddenly he seems to deflate, wounded by what I’ve said. In the moment I spoke I felt a kind of spiteful power, but now I just feel bad. I try to do his job for him, explaining that I am from California, where we have no manners and are uncivilized, uncouth creatures, who sometimes say things that are offensive to people from Massachusetts and the East. But this, too, falls flat, and I am aware that everyone is looking at me. I feel intensely embarrassed and disturbed at my behavior.

Emotion scheme analysis:
I. Emotion scheme nucleus (felt emotion): Spiteful power/glee, changing to troubled embarassment (see end of analysis for more)

II. Perceptual-memory elements (also: intentionality; associations):
-Sensations: I’m aware of the room, with small desks like a classroom and people sitting in them; the politician, the suit he is wearing, the look of shock on his face after I have spoken, the way he seems to deflate; then I feel the eyes of the others there boring into me.
-Current life situation: I am under a lot of pressure, with an overwhelming amount of work to do. Last night I found myself getting more and more cranky as I worked through yet another pile of accumulated email. I had to hold myself back from writing a snotty email to the person organizing my University Ethics Submission who thought there was a problem with the fact that one of my appendices contained a 1999 research manual that listed me as being at the University of Toledo. I was cranky and short with Mick over proposed changes in the MSc course. Elke and I had an email exchange in which she expressed what I took to be annoyance with how I had handled something and I expressed frustration with the situation, again holding myself back from being cranky; at one point I almost literally had to bite my tongue to keep myself from going around the same frustrated circle again. I had an image of us each sitting up late, our partners elsewhere or busy (Diane is in America; Dave I assumed [incorrectly it turned out!] had gone done to London for an event today), struggling with the load of lonely, unceasing work.
-Associations/references: Other times when I had gotten myself in trouble for speaking impulsively and hurtfully to others, from childhood to my previous job. Why Michael Dukakis? I don’t know; maybe remembering the presidential debates he was in, how he seemed a combination of assertive and vulnerable; today I have the impression that he is seen as smart but ineffectual.
III. Bodily/expressive elements:
-Likely facial expression: I picture a smug smile on my face as I speak, then eyes wide with surprise at the reaction to what I’ve said, turning to a frown.
-Bodily sensations: A feeling of power and energy; then a sinking in my stomach, a kind of sick feeling.
IV. Cognitive/symbolic elements (e.g., metaphors, propositions, identities)
-Propositions: I’m a spiteful, abusive person who doesn’t care about others. My anger is dangerous to others and must be controlled.
-Metaphors: Vicious beast; words as weapons
-Identity: Negative identity; dreaded self: abuser
V. Action tendency/wish (also lessons, directions for action):
-BodilyAction/Action tendency: Express my self, show off, show that I am up for verbal sparring; then, defend myself from others’ judgment of me; finally, just hide, be invisible
-Wish/fear: Wish: To be admired vs. fear: to be judged negatively. Wish: escape negative judgment vs. fear: trapped.
-Lessons: Something is out of balance in my life at the moment, and needs attention or else others and I will be hurt.
VI: Further understanding of primary emotions as result of preceding exploration: Fear of losing caring, supportive relationships around me, being rejected/excluded (this is an old, i.e., primary maladaptie emotion response). Emotion response sequence: Fear that I can’t keep up leads to showing off, disdain, judging/putting others down, which leads to feeling guilty, rejected etc.

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