Symbols and symbolism

These are seen in night-dreams, in daydreams, in the stories made up by people, in the art, the drawings and paintings of people, and in the everyday behaviour of people.
In the psychoanalytic sense they occur in dreams, in myths, in fairy stories, in psychosis and in everyday life, as an expression of the unconscious, unconscious needs, fears and worries.
As for the latter I recall the young offender whom I studied in a young men's reformatory in Bordentown, PA, USA. All his offenses, robbing various places, could be seen as a symbolic attack on his father, doing to the shop owners, (whom he knew, I think and who were in some way similar to his father), what he would have liked to do, (or to have done), to his father.
See also the entry for 'Ruins', below, and the comment which follows it.
We can see such symbols, in the Freudian or Jungian, psychoanalytic sense, as generalisations or extensions of a narrower idea. For example the child may learn the symbolic (narrower or concrete sense, specific literal significance, of a particular door, (or better doorway) in his house, e.g.
the doorway between the lounge and the kitchen is a way to get from the lounge into the kitchen.
From this very concrete idea extensions of meaning can proceed in two directions
1. longitudinally, forwards in time, and in implication, as in t.r.a. the doorway is a means of getting to the kitchen, and of getting the opportunity to do what is done in this place, i.e. cook, prepare a meal, and getting whatever may be the benefits of this, more or less immediate, e.g. eat some food.
2. 'vertically'. Adding this dimension to the above we might get something like e.g.
going through any door means to go from one place to another, an opportunity to do whatever is done in the new place, and get whatever benefits accrue from that, either immediately, or more remotely.
So we get expressions like "There is a job opening, or opportunity, in our company" etc.
As for the vertical type of analysis we might have

       |                           |                         |
       |                           |                         |  
      vase                    flower pot                  vagina

The three items on the lower row are exemplars of the class of containers, (things that enclose or partly enclose spaces, into which other things can be placed or inserted), and one container, e.g. a vase, can symbolise another, e.g. a vagina.
At a greater level of elaboration we might have

                 Containers for growing things
     |                         |                            |
                               |                            |  
                          flower pot                       womb

Here the symbolising of a womb, by a flower pot, is even more apt.

Symbols have individual and universal aspects.

a. Individual. The precise meaning of a symbol must be ascertained from a knowledge of the individual person, using e.g. his associations to each element of the dream, or other piece of behaviour.
b. Universal. There are universal meanings, and this might be linked with Jung's idea of the collective or racial unconscious.
So it is possible to draw up dream dictionaries, containing standard interpretations.

A dictionary.

(As you look through these interpretations you will be struck by how ordinary and commonsense they are. This agrees with our comments regarding the nature of symbols, as discussed above)

Actor or actress
Perhaps you are only seeing your own or someone else's persona, the side the person shows to the world. Seeing yourself as an actor in the spotlight suggests a desire for publicity or a more public life. Such a dream can also suggest that you're acting out a role or perhaps 'putting on an act' for someone else.

Apples stand for wholeness and for knowledge. Apples on a tree may mean that your hope and hard work have born fruit.

Arms allow you to manipulate things in your environment. The same might be true in a dream. Seeing an arm suggests that you can manoeuvre or manipulate things in your dream environment. If you flap your arms, it may indicate a desire to fly in your dream.

You may feel that you are approaching a time when things will get emotionally cold, and emotional and intellectual growth will slow to a crawl, and achievements will be minimal etc.
(See Spring, Summer and Winter)

A means of getting from A to B, over an obstacle.
( See item 'river', in P.A. W.I.S.C. III )

Like the frog, this is a symbol of transformation, and for similar reasons, i.e. this insect goes through various stages in which it appears very different, i.e. an egg, a caterpillar, a chrysalis, and the final butterfly stage. Connected with this meaning is the use of this animal to represent the soul.

Who is driving the car? Are you the driver or a passenger?
If you are a passenger there might be the suggestion that you are not in charge of the direction your life is going in. (Similarly for other vehicles)
A person who likes to spend a lot of time driving, perhaps as a job, might be unconsciously trying to prove to himself that he is in total charge of his life.

These are linked to role, occupation, job, what one does, possibly for a living but possibly also as a hobby. The clothes, or other accoutrements, may help us do the job or task properly, for practical reasons, so we have the work site hard hat, and maybe safety shoes, the motorcyclist's leathers and crash helmet, the nurse's uniform.
Clothes also can represent the mother, who dresses us when we are babies. Tight, constricting clothes, especially a tight neck or collar, can represent an overcontrolling, domineering mother, who restricts our freedom, a 'smother mother'.
As uniforms, clothes also have other functions, as a signal of who one is, what one's role is, what group one belongs to, a mark of group identity and belongingness.
(See uniforms)
(To be wearing no clothes, to be naked - see 'Nakedness/Nudity' below)

Imply dull and depressing times. A cloud can get in between you and the sun, and this can represent the situation of a sibling as a rival for the attention and affection of a parent, especially the father. Dark clouds can be threatening , signalling the possibility of rain = bad times coming. (See stuff on H.T.P. etc.)

To shit on something, is similar to using something, e.g. toilet paper to wipe your bottom after defecation, you only do this with something valueless, because after you have done it you cannot keep the paper or whatever, because of the smell, you have to flush it down the toilet. So the dreamer or actor-out is saying that the object is valueless and he wants to get rid of it, flush it away, eliminate it, along with the shit. See the example of the boy who left his excreta in various places in his bedroom at B.H.S. as a way of saying that he did not want to be a boarder, wanted to sleep at home, but was quite happy to attend the school as a day pupil.

The occurrence of this, as a real object, e.g. that you buy, or as an image, in story, dream, art work etc. might suggest that the person is seeking companionship, affection, or loyalty. Like cats might be a child substitute. If the dog bites, it might indicate a feeling of disloyalty. To hear dogs barking suggests a message or a warning from your unconscious.

A dolphin might be considered a messenger of the unconscious, since it lives in the sea. Perhaps the dolphin is a guide to the unconscious realms, and you are diving into the unconscious.

Equals an opening, or new opportunity. A closed door suggests that something is inaccessible or hidden. If a door is broken, there may be something hindering you from grasping the new opportunity. Look at the condition of the door, the materials it is made of, and any markings that appear on it, for clues about what lies behind a closed door. Expressions such as "to show someone the door", i.e wanting them to leave the room. Note the reference to a very typical t.r.a. response, presenting the person with an object = "use this object please", here "use the door, (open it), and use the doorway, (walk through it ").
(See above, and the material in the site on 'meaning of other objects')

For Freud these symbolise the male testicles, and stand for virility. For Jung these represent wholeness, fertility, and new life. Eggs can also represent unhatched ideas, or schemes or plans, which are gestating and being formed.


To be on fire is a symbol of sexual desire or passion, to be 'burning with desire'. Or fire can symbolise destruction, a purification, (see the etymology of this latter word, a funeral pyre, pyrotechnics, etc.) illumination and a spiritual rebirth.

Swimming fish symbolise exploration of the unconscious or that which lies below the surface. Freud has these as phallic symbols, and fish represent sexual desires. Jung believes that fish symbolise a spiritual quest or seeking.

These can symbolise the female genitals, especially a flower like the rose, (see this). In particular they can symbolise the condition of maidenhood, of virginity. Consider the custom wherein the new bride throws her bouquet, after the wedding ceremony, to any unmarried girls present, 'maidens' theoretically! This is supposed to occur just before her departure for the honeymoon, where she will have sex with her new husband. The throwing of the flowers indicates that her virginity is about to be yielded , (she is to be deflowered), and the pure state is 'left behind' with her maiden friends.      Flower
This can indicate a lack of clarity in some aspect of your life. It can also symbolise something hidden or something you are not seeing. But fog is usually short lived, and when it lifts you will gain a new sense of clarity. (See mist)

Frills, on clothes etc., are especially associated with females. As with flowers such as the rose, the complicated internal structure of the female genitals is suggested. Favourite colors for these frills, and the clothes themselves, for females, is pink or red, and the resemblance is then heightened.

A symbol of transformation. So the prince is turned into a frog, by a malevolent witch, or magician, and the frog turns back into a prince, when kissed by a girl. This obviously derives from the life cycle of a frog, which involves drastic changes in form, and function, and life style, and environment, metamorphosis, from frog spawn to tadpole, to adult frog.

A dream of a hand, (or hands), is open to numerous interpretations, depending on what the hand, (or hands) is doing and the surrounding circumstances. Relate this to our discussion of the interpretation of the meaning of the hand, in its various hand-shapes, and activities, e.g. as discussed in the article on the meaning of body parts, subsection = the hands, in the web psychology site.
This is a very natural, down to earth type, symbolism, like our n.r.a. and t.r.a. types, 'longitudinal' symbolism.
But in addition note here our theory about the hand as a symbol of a parent, of their face, as discussed in our web articles, "Looking at Hands, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5". This is a much more 'vertical' type of symbolism, more like the psychoanalytic type, but seems to be even more remote than these, pretty unfathomable. We have perhaps to think of the baby feeling his mother's face, as she holds him, to get a clue as to the kind of symbolism involved here.
The baby or child's hand, the palm, touches and feels the mother's face, so the feeling of the mother's face becomes associated with the palm of the hand she uses to feel it with.
We have to ask whether there is a typical hand shape used in h.r.b., and what it is. Does this lend support to this interpretation? On this view the type of symbolism involved is related to the type of hand symbolism in sign languages which is discussed under holding classifiers. A difference is that the person is not simply grasping an object, or imaginary object, (before using it), but feeling it. So we might think a better equivalent might be the common gesture to indicate a shapely woman or girl, as a 'mime' of running ones hands down her body in a sort of hour-glass shape.
The obscurity of the symbol might derive from these factors:-
i) the shape felt is complex, the human face, unlike something like a cup
ii) the child is feeling the object and so the hand shape may not be informative of the nature of the object felt, only of the process of feeling it, or the hand shape might be changing constantly.
iii) the symbol perhaps derives as much from tactile sensations arising in the palms of the hands, sensations of the warmth, softness, and smoothness of the mother's face, as from the shapes of the hands. We can see hand shapes, but we cannot see these tactile sensations. So all these factors do not make for an easily understood and transparent symbolism, that is evident to other people, not at the conscious level at least.
Question: do blind s.l.d. children engage in h.r.b. and h.d.b.?
The precise hand which the child uses in his tactile explorations might become especially associated with these ideas, but how early is hand dominance established? If, as might well be the case, the young child is quite ambidextrous, there might be little difference between the two hands, in terms of symbolism, arising in this way.
(See notes below)
(See arm)

A hat covers the head and can suggest that the person wearing it is concealing something, as in "keep it under your hat". Dreaming that you have a feather in your hat indicates achievement.

(See the discussion on the possible meanings of this body part in the web article on the meaning of body parts)
There we say that the hair, like clothes, can represent the mother, since she is the one who dresses us and takes care of our hair, when we are small. A less than tender mother may dress us roughly, and comb our hair in a less than gentle fashion. A tight fitting collar or neck, and a tight hair style might represent an over controlling mother, who limits our freedom. At a deeper level, this freedom might include sexual freedom, to give free expression to sexual drives. At the nursery level, this means the little girl's sexual interest in the father. The motivation of the mother, in limiting the little girl's freedom, is, in terms of her own deeper unconscious fears and desires, to prevent the father and daughter from breaking one of the great taboos, and similarly for the father, mother, and son triangle.
(See the material in 'the meaning of body parts' on the sites)

Can represent the person, the mind. The attic can represent the phantasy life of the person. The basement can represent the persons unconscious.

Symbol of aggression and the male sexual organ.
So the surgeon, like the butcher, might be expressing very aggressive and hostile impulses, albeit in a socially approved manner. As usually expressed the surgeon is sublimating these desires.

This is a place where experiments are conducted. Is the person dissatisfied with the present situation and experimenting with something new? The person might also be testing a relationship with someone.

This may indicate that you feel trapped in a situation or relationship and are looking for a way out. It may also refer to the intricacies of a spiritual journey.

In the Freudian interpretation, a lake is symbolic of the vagina. For Jung, lakes and other bodies of water stand for the unconscious or emotions.

Like any light, this represents illumination and suggests a search for the truth

Left or Right? This applies especially to parts of the body, especially the hands. The 'right' side, is of course associated in the mind with the 'correct' side, the 'proper' side, while the left is associated with quite negative ideas. Note the many derogatory terms associated with left handedness, 'sinister' etc. Note that the non-dominant hand, usually the left hand, is less skillful and weaker than the dominant one, usually the right. Also note the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for 'weak', or 'bad', is the sparrow. Such symbolism might be involved in our h.d.b.

Masks hide our appearance and our feelings from others, but the suggestion might be that you are hiding your emotions on a particular matter from yourself. If others are wearing masks, then you may think that someone is not being truthful.

A period of temporary uncertainty, where you can't see your path before you. (See Fog)

A mountain represents a challenge. If you are climbing the mountain you are working to achieve your goals. Think of the expression "he has a mountain to climb". Descending a mountain suggests that things are easier now; your success may have ensured your future

Why is one naked? This might be a precursor to sex, or sleep, or having a bath or a shower, or changing clothes. The meaning of the state of undress might be any of these.

An officer, whether military or police, represents an authority figure. Dreaming of an officer, especially if you don't know them, can suggest fear or wariness of authority figures, or a need for guidance from a person in authority.

An oven might represent a gestation period. It also symbolises the womb and feminine energy. A dream of an oven could relate to a pregnancy. We recall the expression "to have a bun in the oven", i.e. to be pregnant.
(See the incident involving Jenna W.)

The complicated structure of this, and its soft, moist, fleshy character, hidden inside a cavity, can symbolise the female genitals. In some languages their word for oyster is slang for the female genitals, e.g in Thai it is 'hawy'.

If a wall is being painted the act may suggest that something is being hidden or covered up. Painting at an easel may indicate that artistic or creative talents are ready to be expressed.

Since a photograph is an image of a person or object rather than the real thing, a dream of a photograph hints of deception. If you recognise a person in a dream photo, be careful in your dealings with the person and look for hidden meaning in the person's actions. To dream of having your own photograph made suggests that you may unwittingly be the cause of your own troubles

Police officers represent authority; they uphold the law. A dream of police may serve as a warning against breaking the law or bending rules. It might suggest a fear of punishment. Alternatively the dream may indicate a desire for justice and to punish wrongdoers in a matter of concern.
(see officer)

Constraint and restriction are implied. If you see yourself at work in a prison the dream might suggest that you have limited your creativity or that you feel it's difficult to escape your job for a better one.

To dream that you are stepping into a puddle may mean that trouble will follow a pleasurable, (possibly forbidden), experience. (Recall Nicholas D. and the puddles!)

A dream of a puppet might indicate that you are feeling manipulated in some aspect of your life. Alternatively, if you are behind the puppet, the dream may indicate that you are acting in a manipulative manner.
A puppeteer might be unconsciously motivated by a desire to control actual people, this interest and activity is a disguised expression of the desire; perhaps the person has very poor skills in getting real people to do what he wants.

Unpleasant, unsatisfying, depressing, sad and troubled times. Think of the expression, "Into every life a little rain must fall".

Usually seen after rainstorms in nature, their appearance in dreams may represent that favourable conditions will arise after a brief period of unpleasantness. Seeing a low-hanging rainbow over verdant trees may signify success in any endeavour.

This can symbolise an inner battle taking place, or it can relate to conflict in your daily life. Can you identify the issue? If so, weigh the two sides, negotiate and reach a settlement. Sometimes working with a third party, not involved in the dispute, can help.

This has similarities with the road, as a means of getting you from A to B. But there might be the added implication that one is being swept along a route, to an end result that one hasn't chosen for oneself and might not be entirely welcome.
A dream of floating down a river might indicate a lack of motivation. Are you allowing surrounding circumstances to direct your life rather than taking charge? In mythology a river might relate to death, (e.g. the river Styx), or the passing from one state to another.
(See also canal)

A road is a means of getting from one place to another. How are you traveling along the road, walking, driving etc.? What is the condition of the road in your dream? A smooth and straight road suggests the path ahead is easy. A road with dips and curves may indicate that you need to be aware, flexible and ready for change. A roadblock suggest that there are obstacles in your path and you need to make detours, solve problems, in order to reach your goal.
(See cars and other vehicles)

The complicated structure of the petals of this flower is very similar to the complicated structure of the labia of the female genitals, so it is easily used as a female sexual symbol. If, in addition, the rose is pink or red, the resemblance is even more complete. This perhaps accounts for the popularity of roses in general, and of pink or red roses in particular.
(See 'Flower')

To dream of riding a roundabout suggests that you are going round in circles and not making any progress in your endeavours.

To dream of rubbish suggests a need to get rid of old worn-out ideas or excess baggage in your life. Ask yourself if you are clinging to something or some condition that you no longer need.
Someone who enjoys their job as a dustman, or someone who gets great pleasure out of the process of sorting through possessions and throwing out the ones he thinks are useless, may be unconsciously motivated by this kind of symbolism.

To dream of something in ruins suggests the deterioration of some condition in your life. Keep in mind that when things fall apart an opportunity to rebuild inevitably appears.
An interest, possibly professional, in ruins in fact or fiction, might be interpreted along much the same lines. For example an archeologist might be manifesting any of the above personal concerns, as much as, or even more than, an intellectual interest in his subject.

This might represent the female genital and reproductive organs. It may also represent the unconscious or emotions.
A sailor might share the fascination many people have for the sea, a desire to return to the womb etc.

Scissors Is there something in your life you want to cut off? Scissors also indicate a need to 'cut it out'. The person with the scissors may be acting 'cuttingly'

Shoes are a means of moving ahead. Shiny new shoes might suggest that a journey is about to begin. Well-worn shoes, on the other hand, might indicate that one is weary of the journey or that it is near completion.

If you dream of smoke filling a room it suggests that a matter at hand is being obscured. On the other hand, if the smoke is clearing, clarity is imminent.

The shell of this represents protection. To go back into your shell means to retreat from open happy social relations with other people to a more withdrawn state. To come out of your shell means the opposite, to come out, to have the confidence in yourself and in your abilities, to express and reveal yourself, your personality, to others.
(See Sharon S's story)

A spider might represent something evil and malevolent, waiting to entrap the unwary victim, in a snare, a net, a web. The latter might be a web of lies, something that should link and hold together. So the skilful liar and manipulator must be clever enough, and have a good enough memory, so that the lies all form a coherent and unchanging system.
(See Glenda D's story)

The person might feel that he is approaching a time of good times, of emotional and sexual fulfilment and satisfaction, etc. He might be experiencing or approaching a period of mental and physical growth, of increasing achievements, etc.
(See Autumn, Summer, and Winter)

A means of getting from A to B. Particularly a means of getting from one floor level to another, e.g. from the downstairs to the upstairs, and so to the rooms which are upstairs, and the chance to do whatever is usually done in those rooms, e.g. sleep, in ones bedroom. Climbing a stairway in a dream can mean that you are on your way to achieving a goal.
Freud has this as a symbol of sexual intercourse, you work getting up the stairs, get more and more out of breath, and at the top, you enjoy the consummation, the climax, you ejaculate. (This could even be linked with the fact that one of the things an adult often might do upstairs, in the bedroom, in bed, is have sex.)
Descending a staircase or falling down one might indicate a fall in prestige or economic status.
To sit on a step suggests you are pausing in your everyday life with its challenges to consider where things stand

Suggests the person is experiencing good times, receiving love, affection and attention etc.
(See 'Winter, Spring, and Autumn')

Occurrence of images of the sun, in dreams, stories, drawings, paintings, and real life, following Jung's idea of synchronicity, is usually fortuitous. The sun is the symbol of light, warmth and energy. The sun also symbolises the father or the masculine principal. Ask "If the sun were a person who could it be?" Is the sun nice and warm, (kindly and loving), or too hot, (too emotional, too angry and aggressive)?
(See stuff on H.T.P.)

Suggests the person is immersed in an exploration of emotional matters or the unconscious

Teeth are what you use to bite. If you lose your bite you lose power. Symbol of aggression.

A train symbolises a journey. Look at the other elements in the dream to understand the nature of your journey. If the train isn't moving the dream might be suggesting some impediment in your life. If you can't find your luggage the dream might indicate that you are concerned that you're not ready for this journey. If the train is derailed this signifies that you are off track, that your plans are not working, that you are not going where you wanted to, to where you intended to go, that things have got out of control, and you may be headed for disaster. Travelling on the wrong train may indicate your journey is in need of correction.

A dream of a treasure may suggest a hidden talent or hidden abilities that you can now unearth. It could indicate latent psychic abilities

This is a symbol for a person, especially the person who imagines it, or dreams it, or writes about it, or draws it, (or deals with trees on a realistic, professional basis? *) The physical surroundings of the tree, the physical weather, etc., also represent the environment of the person, especially the psychological and social environment.
* In which case we might look at the type of tree the person is especially interested in perhaps, etc.
(See articles on the H.T.P. etc)

A way of getting from A to B, a link between two conditions, or states of mind.
Freud sees this as a vagina, and a train entering the tunnel represents sexual intercourse.

Literally gives protection from adverse weather conditions, and by extension of meaning could represent protection from adverse conditions in general, e.g. social circumstances.

A dream in which you urinate may simply indicate that you need to wake up and go to the toilet. Symbolically the dream may indicate a desire to eliminate something from your life, something that you don't want, something you think is useless and disgusting.

To dream of a vampire may indicate that someone is draining energy from you or taking advantage of you. The message is to guard against people who take too much of your time or energy. To dream of battling or putting a stake in a vampire suggests a positive outcome versus someone with harmful intentions.

A dream in which someone or something is veiled suggests that you are hiding something or something is being hidden from you.

To vomit in a dream may be a dramatic eexpression of a need to rid something or someone from your life.
(See Urination, Defecation)

Waking up from sleep
This might mean waking up to some fact, realising something. It could mean specifically becoming sexually aware, maturing into adult sexuality.

If you are washing something in a dream you may be attempting to cleanse or purify yourself. If a stain won't come out the dream may relate to concern about something from your past connected with feelings of guilt.
The hand-washing obsessive compulsive neurotic is a well known case of this phenomenon in actual waking life, "Out, out, damned spot!" (But this is not such a great example because Lady Macbeth was, of course sleep-walking when she uttered these words and only went through the motions of hand-washing)

A dream of water can relate to the emotions or the unconscious. From a Freudian perspective water relates to sexual matters, usually the female genitalia.
(See Lake, Ocean, River and Waves.)

For example sword, gun etc. Symbol for the penis, the male genital.

Dreaming of weeds suggests that something needs to be weeded out from your life. An overgrown garden might signify that something is being neglected in your life.

You feel that outside pressure is being put on you to change something about yourself. Which way is the wind blowing, left to right or right to left? Who could the wind be for you, if it was a person? (who is putting the pressure on you?) Typical possibilities, for a child, include parents pressuring the child to work hard at school, go to university, get a good job, e.g. the old doctor, lawyer crap, etc. How strong is the wind, a gentle breeze, a gale or what? Is the wind warm, hot or cold, i.e. does the pressure seem benevolent, or angry, or malevolent?

In young children's house drawings this architectural feature can represent a persons eye
It might also represent the feeling that one is merely a passive onlooker, a spectator, and not an active, dynamic and involved participant in life.

You feel that you are going through a time of cold, of a lack of love, etc A time of lack of growth, and lack of increase in achievements etc
(See Summer, Autumn, and Winter)

Note 1
When we're talking about the use of body parts as symbolic objects, h.r.b., or h.d.b., we should also recall the discussion of how one part of the body can represent another part of the same person's body. See the incident involving Aza J. We might think that one part of a particular body zone, might be a more natural symbol for a different part of the same body zone, than for a different zone. Such zones might be divided in terms of acceptable to be touched, by people in different relationships with the person, e.g.
same sex friend can pat you on the back
male teacher can stroke a girl's lower leg, or foot, or her arm, or face, or back, or shoulders etc., but not her upper leg, thigh, buttocks, genitals, or breasts. These restrictions are much more applicable to the adult than the child, who may be quite sexually interested in the adult, and would not object to some mutual genital feeling, or even initiate it, (S.M.) and even actual sexual intercourse, (S.C.?)
parent can wipe your bottom, if you're a baby
lover can feel your penis, or your vagina and so on.
So Aza J. used her thigh as a symbol for her back. It might be thought that this is straying somewhat into an erogenous zone, but obviously for her this was not the case.
Another way, or a supplementary way, of looking at this is to divide the areas of the body into functional areas.
So for example we might have
distance sensory organs, ears, eyes
motor organs for manual, fine motor activities, the arms and hands
motor organs for locomotion, the legs and feet
motor organs for speech, the teeth, tongue and lips
organs for sexual activities, the penis, vagina, clitoris
eliminatory organs, to get rid of waste, the penis, urethra, anus

Note 2.
It has been asserted that the obsessive-compulsive is a special kind of neurotic, this is a disorder which can sometimes be as close to psychosis as it is to neurosis. For the obsessive-compulsive we might say that the distinction between symbol and reality is not clear. As with a dreamer, or a psychotic, or a very young child, unconscious mental processes or 'id' processes are very prominent. So, for example, if the individual feels his hands are dirty, this is no mere symbol for guilt but is the same thing as being guilty. To wash ones hands is more than a symbol for cleansing oneself and removing guilt but an action which perhaps might actually remove the guilt, along with the dirt. (Also note here that we are not talking about guilt feelings but the condition of guilt itself) Obsessive-compulsives, partly for this reason, are notoriously difficult to treat. But the obsessive-compulsive is not completely convinced of the efficacy of his actions, and there is a part of him which realises their true symbolic nature; for this reason he is compelled to repeat them again and again.

Note 3.
We have to add to one of our articles on h.r.b. this point. Does the presence of a third party, in the triggering process add an important element? The Oedipal - Elektra situation is a triangular one, between the child, the parent of the same sex, and the parent of the opposite sex. So it might well be that our hostile h.r.b. is even more likely to occur if the triggering situation is also made of these three elements, or parallels anyway, for example, child, same sex parent figure, and opposite sex parent figure. The phenomenon is perhaps even more likely to happen when the child has a very good, affectionate relationship with the opposite sex parent figure, and a poor one with the same sex parent figure. One tends to think of the observer, e.g. me as witnessing these episodes of h.r.b., as only an observer, but of course here the observer is also observed and his presence, known to the child, and quite possibly he has a role to play in the phenomenon.

© John and Ian Locking