When I wrote the last partial sentence, I burst out into loud uncontrollable sobbing. It took 15 minutes or so for me to regain control. I then meditated for half an hour, at Marcia's suggestion, and this dissipated the emotional turmoil.
I want to wrap up this blog with a few reflections.
I'm not sure what I was going to say after "self-denunciation", and it doesn't matter. This was the first time since the dream -- 24 hours of talking to Marcia and reflecting on it -- that this expression popped up, and it was the word that triggered my emotional melt down. It certainly reflects the way the dream was an attack on my confidence that I was the person I thought I was.
How to explain this? Why now? This has been an emotionally draining period and, of course, a few days ago I was physically miserable as well. Taken together this certainly made me vulnerable. But there are two other things. The pain med I am taking -- dilaudid -- lists as one of its "rare" side effects "abnormal dreams." This may be in play. But there is another, interesting, subconscious force screwing around with my symbolic universe: THE GOOD PLACE.
Marcia and I have been streaming The Good Place on Netflix. It's quite interesting if you have the patience to watch sufficient episodes to see how they build on each other in interesting, complex, layered ways. Individual episodes can come off mainly as silly. One of the many quirky aspects of the show is that nearly every episode includes a short, often interesting, mini-philosophy lecture on ethics. I especially liked the exposition of the "Trolly Problem" in an episode in season two. The "Good Place" is supposedly "Heaven"; the Bad Place, hell. Dead people go to one or other (mostly). At one point in the series, an official in the Bad Place is trying out a new way to torture people for eternity by designing each person's worst emotional nightmare. We had recently watched an episode in which this task was laid out. Well, if a Demon of the Underworld or Hell wanted to torture me for eternity, making me feel that the dream I had yesterday was Reality would be the way to do it. Perhaps the idea of The Good Place was buzzing around in my head and intersected my vulnerabilities, emotional exhaustion and the interactions of all the drugs I have taken.
I always try to see if I've learned anything from terrible experiences. Perhaps this experience is something like the mental experience of a psychotic break -- the paranoid feeling that everything you thought about other people is false, that everyone is out to get you. If this had pushed me over some tipping point where I came to believe that this horrible thought was true, that would make me crazy. The rapid breathing, gasping for air which I experienced in the emotional turmoil of the aftermath of the dream and my writing about the dream may be something like a panic attack. The most important thing, perhaps, is ironic: the horror and falseness of the dream's content revealed to me as nothing else could the centrality of love to meaning, for me anyway. I don't think a year ago I could have written the sentences above, "I have firmer beliefs in the love I experience in the world than in my critique of capitalism. If love is false, there is nothing, nothing." If someone had asked me if I agree with it, perhaps I would have said yes, but I would not have spontaneously said it.
One final thing: This is just a description of my experience. It has not shaken my beliefs in the web of love in which I live one bit. It is not a plea for reassurances.