Grasping for an explanation in the beginning, the concept of repression was there for the taking. These events in my life were simply too bizarre, I had thought, and my puny human mind couldn’t take it in. The trauma was too great, and so I buried them in the catacomb beneath my consciousness, built a wall of fear between this horror and I. This wall had held for nearly a decade until it began to crack, bleeding out fragments of memory from the other side, finally flooding my consciousness. However shattered, scattered, and frustratingly incomplete they were, these memories were only delivered in this fashion out of my own unconscious mercy. My conscious inner strength, once built to a sufficient level, will render me capable of conjuring up the remaining memories for integration and I will finally bring my true, inner self to bathe in the eager light of my conscious awareness. I will finally know the truth and be whole again.
Alas, ’twas all fly-infested bullshit. This frightening fact I came to face early on in my journey through utter confusion, once the deeper message underlying the events of February first, 1995, struck me like a ton of shit-bricks from the heavens.
Hyped up that night, as so many nights, on caffeine so I would not be caught vulnerable in sleep, I eagerly read in my room until roughly four in the morning. Having grown increasingly restless, I decided to put my books away and do something else, and in the process submitted to the urge to just pace about my room to burn off some tension in an aimless daze. In so doing, and without realizing it, I went to push in the chair at my art desk. Whether it was due to my hyperconscious state or something else, I do not know, but I stopped myself just as I put my hands on the chair and just examined this urge that was rising up from within me. It seemed strangely extreme and desperate. I then closed my eyes not to examine it so much as become receptive to it, let it overtake me and reveal its motive in the process. Marinating my mind in awareness of the emotion, I slithered by way back to its roots.
Despite its brevity, it burst before my mind’s eye as a vivid, single-frame recollection saturated with emotional intensity. For a moment I saw myself again, in that damned loft bed I had when I was younger, looking down into the darkness of my room. I was filled with this tremendous, paralyzing fear. As I felt it surge through me, dominate me, I realized my younger eyes were fixated downward, down upon the chair pushed out from my desk. As with the desk, the chair was made out of stained wood. It had a cushion of black, brown and white yarn. I stared down at it with those horrific emotions swelling in me, strangling me as I tried to burn that image into my mind, brand it in my brain for use as a psychological bookmark, a beacon calling for conscious recollection. Determined not to forget what had just happened, I repeated to myself over and over the mantra, “You will remember, you will remember, you will remember…”
As I contemplated the strange memory, my mind suddenly brought back a strange behavior I’d enacted for years. Everywhere I went I had the compulsion to push in chairs. Whenever I had gone to bed I found it absolutely necessary to push in all chairs in the room before I even attempted to go to sleep. If I for some reason forgot, I would notice upon laying down and have to get up out of bed to push it in. Oftentimes I’d go as far as placing a chair outside in the hallway and closing my bedroom door, just so I didn’t have to look at it. I remember that my parents had questioned me about it and I never really had any good excuses to offer. In retrospect, it bothered and amazed me that I had never even thought twice about it.
Clearly it stemmed from this memory, but all I had to work with was a single-frame snapshot. Try as I might, I could not recall what it was that I had burned with such passion to remember, only that I had wanted so desperately to remember it. A bookmark I had made myself, sticking out of a locked diary that rightfully belonged to me. My frustration with trying to determine, much later on, what the focus on that chair was meant to suggest led me to wonder if my unconscious, for some unknown reason, was teasing me with no intention of ever providing the entire package.
It was not until I saw the connection with a dream I had only a little over a month later, on March 13th, that I was provided with some suggestion as to what the incident regarding the chair may have actually entailed. After I awoke, I wrote in my dream diary that my family and I had gone to the church that we had gone to when my Uncle Milton had died. As we were walking down some stone sidewalk outside the church, a strange woman approached me and offered me tortillas and bean dip. Then, evidently after taking her up on her offer, I remembered an incident in a hotel room that had the same loft bed and chair I used to have in my childhood room. While in this hotel room, I had seen or heard something that I was not meant to, and all I could recall regarding it is that it had something to do with the Doctor.
The first peculiar thing that struck me about the dream was that despite his old age, my great Uncle Milton was alive and well, living in Pennsylvania at the time of the dream, and would not pass away until years later. Such a church could not, then, exist. The objective inaccuracy of my dream-context memories does not end with my uncle and the church, either; no such hotel room existed, of course, bearing the furniture from my childhood room. Presuming for the moment that there is indeed meaning behind dreams: why did my unconscious elect the church and hotel settings for the false memories?
In dreams, a default setting might be provided by a generic room in an unknown house or building, but in some cases, particularly when a dream emphasizes a specific locale, it appears to me to have symbolic significance. When the room or building draws attention to itself or suggests a definite location, especially when that location was otherwise unnecessary information given the narrative, these might serve as red flags calling fourth a closely-scrutinizing inner eye.
Houses function as symbols of the conscious personality, at least in my case, and basements and secret passageways or rooms often denote the unconscious aspects of the conscious personality. Churches are, of course, generally associated with worship and faith, and despite the early state of semi-atheism I was in at the time and my negative view of churches, the church in the dream did seem to convey a sense of solemn spirituality — solemn no doubt due to the associations with it and my uncle’s death. If we are to presume that the church functions in a sense related to houses, which are symbols of the conscious personality, perhaps the church references the true, inner self or soul, or the Self, as Jung would have called it. It may represent our spirituality or our genetic, social and psychological roots.
As for the strange woman, motherly in the sense that she was providing nourishment for me outside of a church, she would be seen through the Jungian eye as a manifestation of the more divine qualities of my anima, the feminine aspect of the male personality, which typically acts as a guide to the unconscious. In this particular dream, she evidently did so by means of offering up food, reminiscent of the Alice in Wonderland “eat me” scene. Why the tortillas and bean dip specifically, however? My immediate reactions show associations with celebration, such as a party of some sort. Though I have always had a certain fondness for Mexican food for as long as I can remember, I recall no memorable incident involving this food specifically.
Dreams don’t only seem to draw off of personal events in one’s life, however, but subtler things that consciousness might be apt to overlook — such as the associations spawned by our idioms, popular phrases, expressions, figures of speech and so on. This angle seems to make the most sense, given the results: corn makes me think of the ear, given the whole “ear of corn” phrasing, and beans make me think of “spilling ones beans,” or telling a secret. After eating the tortillas and bean dip, I recalled an incident where I heard (“ear” of corn) something I was not supposed to hear, or saw something I was not supposed to see. In either case, what I had overheard was evidently a secret: the act of someone spilling their beans. It may be a stretch, perhaps into left field, but those are the only associations out of the few I can consciously conjure that seem to make any sense.
After my snack, I evidently imploded into a memory regarding an incident that occurred in a hotel room that, strangely, had the loft bed and chair from my childhood bedroom. The setting of a hotel room does not suggest furniture from my old bedroom, nor does my furniture conjure from default anything remotely resembling a hotel room. This leads me to believe that these specific elements were conjoined in the dream for a specific reason, perhaps one that can only be discerned by analyzing the conjoined elements separately and then trying to find some relation between them at their roots, despite the seeming absurdity of their mutual presence on the surface.
As a temporary residence (or “ego”), the hotel room might represent a transitory state, thus echoing the theme of death associated with the church: as a last rite of one’s life, it would be, along with birth, one of the two most major states of transition during life. When the hotel room in a dream serves as the meeting place for two or more parties, however, it would seem to instead (or additionally) represent a neutral location where neither party is on the other’s turf. The hotel room, if you believe popular culture, serves this purpose for exclusively illicit activities, such as covert meet-ups between criminals, where deals between paid killers and their employers take place. The hotel room is where cheating asshole husbands meet up with the women they’re using as their secret side project or rented product to exhaust their junk’s spunk for seed-spraying. It’s where people hold people for ransom, where people hide when they’re on the run. More than just some ordinary room made out of wood and serving as a pit-stop for the traveler, it serves as the all-purpose, wooden segue of the underground. Whenever I read the dream again, my mind’s eye receives a flash of the dark and shadowy hotel room from the dream, and it seems to reflect these associations of hotel rooms as secret meeting places for covert activities. To me, it almost seemed like a scene out of a mobster movie, or when secret government agents are threatening a witness.
This only serves to reflect what I had recalled going on within the room between the Doctor and I: namely, that I had seen or heard things that I was not meant to. This was the same impression I had gotten in my first flashback experience in both the portion involving the presumably real memory and the end, which seemed to serve as a screen memory: he was trying to distract me from things going on behind him. This dream, however, offers no clear answer as to what might have been heard or seen in that hotel room. Strangely, however, the dream did specify that the room had the old loft bed from my youth, as well as the chair that had surfaced in a flashback the previous month. Why those specific items, as opposed to generic ones? Out of all possible choices, why did the dark of my mind elect to weave these elements together into a dream?
I had looked down at the chair from my loft bed in the chair flashback, which could indicate the dream was referencing that incident. With respect to me having seen or heard something involving the Doctor that I was not supposed to, however, the dream seems to be at the same time referencing the incident depicted in the Doctor flashback. The dream could be suggesting that both flashbacks were of the same incident: they had found me under the bed, taken me away, and then placed me back in my bedroom, paralyzed as I struggled to remember it all by chanting affirmations to myself.
Shortly after the chair flashback, I thought that perhaps I could trigger the rest of the memory. My youngest sister had inherited that chair from me and within days I examined it, but seeing it, smelling it, even running my fingers across the wood and fabric brought back nothing to me. All I could recall was laying in bed, swelling with fear and staring down at that chair pushed out from that desk on the opposite wall of my old room as I chanted to myself that I would remember.
Now I made a conscious effort to leave chairs pushed out. It was amazing how difficult it was. Whatever had happened to me that night on my bunk bed had followed me around ever since. I’d stared so intensely at that chair and chanted over and over to myself to remember, and had been so fearful at the time, that I came to associate the intense, negative emotions with the event (whatever it was) with the image of the chair pushed out from the desk. The level of effort I put fourth in burning the image of that chair into my mind, the sense of effort that the image of the chair permitted me to recall, the overwhelming degree of fear I felt coursing through my body and which came to embody that image of the chair as a consequence — it was nothing less than a real event of an incredibly horrible and highly unusual quality, I felt certain of it. Still, I accepted the fact that for all I knew the chair may have just been a convenient prop which had little to nothing to do with what it was I wished to remember, however. It may have just been an attempt at making a familiar object stand out like a sore thumb, acting as a trigger which would later make the memory of the object and the projections of that fear act as a signpost readily accessible to consciousness.
The real question behind my act of staring at that chair and repeating my mantra, “you will remember, you will remember,” over and over is, of course, just why on earth I felt so certain that I would forget whatever it was I wanted to remember in the first place — a certainty that burned so strong in me at the time that I felt the desperate need to create a visual, emotionally-laden bookmark for the memory in a desperate, determined effort to circumvent the amnesia. In other words, this didn’t sound like dissociation or repression at all, at least not as a natural, psychological mechanism. What suddenly became clear to me was that these memories had instead been locked up inside of me by some external force and, as the incident with the chair strongly implied, evidently against my wishes to the contrary. It was not that my unconscious was teasing me with the briefest previews of truths it was hiding from me, like some cat torturing a mouse. Instead, my unconscious seemed to be trying to wear down the boundaries between us to deliver these memories, doing all it could to bridge the chasm by pushing them through a post-hypnotic wall placed between us ten years before by what I could only conceive as a malicious external force.