Jung says that an understanding of each dream requires a new theory of dream interpretation. I am suggesting here that each episode of a romantic love experience requires a new theory of psychoanalysis. This is what I call the phenomenological (unveiling) approach to treating the impact of romantic love on the psyche of the individual who is in psychotherapy or analysis.
Most dreams can be understood only in the context of the dreamer’s life. I suggest that the same is true when approaching each romantic love episode; each encounter between the lovers can be understood only in the context of each one’s life. We have all known of examples in which a short romantic encounter has had a lifelong impact on the individual.
When it comes to dreams, the understanding-in-context approach does not exclude the empirical fact that multiple meanings of some dreams continue to unfold throughout one’s life. The same can be said about romance: the meaning of each love relationship, no matter how long or how short, will continue to unfold in the individual’s life.
While in the throes of a passionate romance, the lovers, although technically awake, might as well be in the midst of a turbulent dream. As we know, the ego’s actions in a dream state are usually one-sided, and the same could be said about the ego in love. If we were to act in conscious life as we sometimes do in our dreams, we could cause damage to ourselves and those around us.
The same can be said about the lovers who are oblivious to the impact of their actions and decisions on themselves and those around them. The lovers’ outlooks and conclusions are usually distorted and lack the clarity of an objective witness. That is the kind of objectivity that the therapist can bring to the person in love, akin to what we do in interpreting our patient’s dreams: we help the dreamer to relativize the ego’s actions and perceptions in the dream. We should do the same for the person in love who is in therapy.
Recurring dreams usually point to a complex in the psyche that is demanding the light of consciousness. For some lovers we might be able to say something similar: the recurrence of romantic love could be a demand that consciousness be brought to whatever underlying complexes might be present in the psyche of the individual. Complexes around vulnerability to abandonment are not uncommon. On the other hand, a romantic love experience might be the harbinger of a message inviting the lover to move towards a more universal or mystical love.
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Robert Moradi, M.D. is a Jungian Analyst and psychiatrist in private practice in Santa Monica, California. In addition to his clinical practice, he teaches at the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, UCLA School of Medicine, and at the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center.More Posts by Robert Moradi