World Dream Bank home - add a dream - newest - art gallery - sampler - dreams by title, subject, author, date, place, names

Sisters' Psychodrama

Dreamed (recurrently) before 1986 by Christine Downing

A woman--who is both my sister and my lover--and I have been living together for a long while but realize that our relationship is in serious trouble and that we need help. We have heard of a woman who specializes in family repair work. She uses her own version of a psychodrama that sounds somewhat like street theater, somewhat like television's People's Court--unconventional but reputedly effective.

We have tried other therapy without much success and are desperate. We decide to try her. From the outside, her place looks like a shabby delicatessen in a seedy neighborhood. We are reminded of a storefront church or a fortune-teller's den. The room we enter is full of neighborhood types who appear at home in this setting but are not at all "our kind of people." We are nervous, not sure we belong or how well this approach is likely to work for us.

Another couple is called on soon after we arrive. Everyone else, including us, sits and watches. Their work feels real and also productive. We are somewhat reassured (though we are puzzled by some half-heard mumbling about what good actors they are). The therapist is a middle-aged gypsy-like woman.

We discover that one of the men sitting in the audience with us is her husband. He is much older than she, a friendly, old-fashioned tobacco-chewing fellow. He chats with everyone in a way that provides a kind of running commentary on the therapy and seems to be responsible for keeping some kind of loose order among the observers. His presence, too, stimulates confidence.

Then it is our turn. My sister is called into the back room and soon appears on stage. I recognize the scene she is reenacting immediately. The setting is the East coast beach of our childhood summers. The scenery is stunningly convincing, as are the actors with whom she is playing in the sand. I am flooded with nostalgia, with memories of youthful happiness.

Suddenly I realize that my sister is no longer visible. I do not see her on the beach or in the water.

Her disappearance is frightfully familiar. I feel compelled to jump into what I know is just a stage scene. The old man and the other spectators sit unconcernedly in the shabby room, but I am very scared. I push my way onto the stage and discover how tawdry and ramshackle the setting really is. But my sister has truly disappeared.

There is a now-locked trapdoor on the stage floor into some dark and fearsome basement. Desolate, afraid, horrified, I turn around to protest, but everyone has vanished, though the room and its furnishings are still intact.

I head for home, preparing to undertake the arduous, complicated task of recovering her. I am aware of feeling deeply betrayed because I now realize that the gypsy woman is really the uptown psychologist we have been going to for a long while who knows all our secrets. And the old man is her husband whom we often see just before or after our session and of whom we have become quite fond. He, too, knows a lot about us-funny, casual little details about our growing up, not important enough ever to have been brought up in therapy. All that we both know is being used against us.

My sister, disappearing in the particular way that she has, seems all the more eerie because once long ago she and I had on the same night both dreamt of losing each other in just this way. Though we had never imagined it might actually happen, there is a strange fatedness about the use of so primal a fantasy to effect our separation.

Yet despite everything, there is nothing hopeless about our situation; it is simply a difficult, deeply testing challenge. I somehow know that I will recover her, my sister, my lover--when I really understand it all.


Discussing this and similar dreams in Psyche's Sisters, Christine notes that the sisters again and again find themselves together and suddenly separated:

I search for her, I wait trustingly for her to find me. I am not sure who is who; we seem to be continually exchanging places.
The dream implied to Christine that her soul task was now to examine the sister-bond to clarify her ties to women and to reconsider her innermost self. Christine asserted that many contemporary women have the need to explore the importance in their lives of same-sex sibling relationships and of woman-woman bonding. She remarked that the sister-sister relation has been largely ignored in modern psychology as well as classical mythology. She concludes that a depth psychology articulated from a feminist standpoint would more likely honor the significance and complexity of women's multiform relationships. As for her part, Christine seeks to "bring sisterhood out of obscurity and honor it with the reverence due a sacred mystery."

--Patricia Ariadne--(2006)


Reading this, I took for granted the close, even incestuous sibling bond Christine Downing describes, for my own dreams have always had that even across gender lines. Though Downing doesn't claim here she has shared/telepathic dreams with real sisters, only this dream-double--that is, she's remembering a dream within a dream! Interesting too, but different.

But this particular dream's plot (a psychodrama scene opens a hole in the floor trapping a loved one in the underworld of the dead needing rescue; and this was supposedly a shared/telepathic dream now come true)--shocks me, for it's a plot I actually shared or parallel-dreamed with my real-life friend Beryl. Compare our two dreams, Coffins, with Christine's dream above!

More dreams came, and more specific, as in Breast Bandit. I was reluctant to face they were warnings that Beryl sensed she was dying. But she was; after a long fight including two mastectomies, cancer killed her.

Some dreams like Christine Downing's are initiations into Women's Mysteries; but others warn of real danger, real loss. After losing Beryl, I wince at Patricia Ariadne's vague, Jungian, feel-good feminism. If this were my dream, I'd take a hard look at my therapist or relationship counselor, if any--the dream calls her traitorous, and accuses her whole circle of complicity in the betrayal. I learned the hard way to take dreams at their word unless a literal warning CAN'T fit the facts (say, the dreamer has no therapist or counselor.) Beryl and I dreamt of coffins and chopped-off breasts, meaning... coffins and chopped-off breasts.


SOURCE: Women Dreaming-into-Art: Seven Artists who Create from Dreams, by Patricia Ariadne, (2006, Galde Press), p. 19-21, reprinted from Psyche's Sisters by Christine Downing (1988, Harper & Row), p. 5-7. Passage untitled; I added title to aid searches.

LISTS AND LINKS: love - doubles & alter egos - siblings - incest - psychodrama - therapists - trust - oops! - lies - the underworld - violence? death? - Beryl & Wayan's parallel 1983 dreams: Coffins - telepathic/shared dreams inside a dream - dreams within dreams in general - gender issues - more Women Dreaming-into-Art - more Christine Downing: Abortion, Suicide, Rebirth

World Dream Bank homepage - Art gallery - New stuff - Introductory sampler, best dreams, best art - On dreamwork - Books
Indexes: Subject - Author - Date - Names - Places - Art media/styles
Titles: A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - IJ - KL - M - NO - PQ - R - Sa-Sh - Si-Sz - T - UV - WXYZ
Email: - Catalog of art, books, CDs - Behind the Curtain: FAQs, bio, site map - Kindred sites