Dr. von Franz, what are nightmares? Why do we have them?
Well, nightmares are substantial, vitally important dreams. They wake us up . with a cry; they are the electroshock Nature uses on us when Nature wants to wake us up. The word nightmare comes from mare, and the idea was that an evil ghost in the form of a black horse was riding you in the night, and so you woke up with a cry, completely exhausted.
The waking-up point of the dream means the bang with which the unconscious says, “Now, that is it, now attend to that!” And so the nightmare is really shock therapy. It wants to shock us out of a deep, unconscious sleepiness about some dangerous situation. When we have nightmares, it means we are in a psychological danger of some sort and much too sleepy and unaware of it. Then we have a nightmare to wake us up. The nightmare has a characteristic of a certain urgency, as if the unconscious would say, “Look here, that problem is urgent!”
For instance, there may be an incubus, a male oppressing the female partner, or, on the other hand, a succubus, a female draining the energy out of the male partner. If they are present, the sexual problem is urgent, has to be attended to, has to be made conscious. One cannot just push it aside and pretend it doesn’t exist.
The central female figure in this man’s dream is a succubus, a blood sucking vampire.
“The dream began very strangely when, out of the rain and the darkness, appears this very beautiful black Brazilian lady. She had on a woolen-it may have been a very dark green-woolen coat down to her ankles, very thick and heavy, and her hair was black and she was beautiful. Her hair and coat were wringing wet as the result of being out in the rain, but this didn’t seem to bother her. She came toward me, and stood in front of me. And at that moment in time something told me that I had met this woman before. In fact something hinted to me that maybe she was a vampire and not so beautiful as she appeared to be, so I was hesitant to do anything about her.
She smiled and beckoned me toward her. But I was resistant. Finally, she opened her coat. She had on a beautiful bikini, and her body was very black and beautiful and shiny in the rain. I was tempted and finally I went over and embraced her. I slipped my hand down inside her bikini and fondled her. Then I looked at her mouth and noticed that the two front teeth were missing, which gave me a clue that maybe she really was a vampire. But I wasn’t absolutely positive. Then she said, “John, I don’t want your hand, I want your penis. I want you to make love to me.” I said, “No way, no way,” because if l did that I’d be lost.
Once I entered into her, she would become a real vampire and then I’d be finished.
And so I decided to withdraw and resist the temptation. I moved backwards toward the door of my house. She is very angry at this, and somehow or other I seize hold of a screwdriver to protect myself. I want her to go away. I don’t want her around me, so I rattle her teeth with the screwdriver. At that point in time I notice that the side teeth have in fact grown and extend down over her lips. They are really fangs. In fact she really is a vampire. I wasn’t mistaken.
I am even more afraid. So I run into the house, and attempt to lock the door, but the door doesn’t seem to lock very well, and I don’t know whether I’m locking the door or I’m unlocking the door. Then something tells me that the mechanism of the door lock is faculty, and it suddenly hits me that no matter if I lock the door, this vampire has the ability of transforming itself from whatever person or to whatever place it wants. So there’s really no escape.”
This man obviously has developed what we call a tremendous mother fixation, and that amounts to having a very lofty image of a woman. Somewhere there’s an ideal woman image in his heart, and the dream tries to warn him by telling him his fantasy life, his sexual fantasy life, is sucking his blood and is going to destroy him because it is unrealistic.
Such men are not open to a permanent relationship with a woman. They experience it as a tie, as being devoured, as being pinned down to earth. He tries to defend himself in the dream by pushing a screwdriver into the mouth of the vampire. The screwdriver probably (excuse me for using the word) has to do with screwing. He thinks that he can escape the devouring mother via the vampire, that he can keep away from his neurotic estrangement from himself by screwing a lot of women. But that’s now how he can depotentiate the vampire .
The dream tries to tell him it’s a ghost which is haunting him because, actually, he’s haunted not by reality but by a fantasy which is draining his whole psychic energy. He has the impulse to dream about life and to make wishful fantasies about life, instead of living life. That’s why vampires and “Draculas” and creatures suck one’s blood. The blood is the emotional, active psyche in us, the affective psyche. After being sucked by a vampire, people have no activity left, or no life activity left. They just sink into passive, wishful dreams.
That is really the characteristic of most negative or split-off com plexes. If we reject or split off some complex of our psyche, then it begins to sap our energy secretly behind our back. It turns slowly into what is aptly represented by the image of the vampire, something which attacks us in the night and sucks all our blood. Then people feel that they simply don’t know what is happening to them. They come into analysis and they say, “I feel listless, I just feel tired, I just don’t want to do anything. I wake in the morning already depressed. Nothing means anything to me any more. I have no interest or anything. ” And then one finds that this vampire is a complex which has been split off so radically and so powerfully that it can only sap energy. It can no longer manifest in any other way.
Would you give an example of how a split-off complex might operate in a person’s life?
Think, for instance, of a nun who says that she has sacrificed her sexual desires to Christ. She has no sexual fantasies or any sexual feelings toward men. But, in fact, she has just cut off her whole sexual personality. Or, for instance, people very often cut off certain gifts. They may have a gift for music, but since their creativity means hard work, they decide, “My musicality is not significant enough to develop. I’m giving up playing the piano because it will never lead anywhere.” And with that decision they cut it off. But there is something in that person which wants to express itself in music, and that split-off energy becomes a vampire.
Aggression can also be completely split off. People then simply decide they have no affects, that they are not annoyed by anything. Feeling types do that. They like a harmonious surrounding, so even if their children and their partners annoy them madly, they just assume that they are not angry, that it doesn’t matter. They have a pardoning attitude, but, in fact, like every normal human being they are raving furious. However, they just don’t want to have that fury, and they succeed in cutting it off.
Would you describe the roots of a split-off mother complex in a man’s unconscious? What causes a man’s feminine side to develop so negatively?
A strong mother complex develops when the mother has been the more impressive parent. She may not be the more impressive personality in reality, but the boy might have been more impressed by the mother than the father or, perhaps, more connected to the mother than to the father.
You can see this happen in a family in which there are several boys, yet only one of them develops a strong mother complex. He reacted more to the mother from the very beginning. Perhaps he was similar to her or felt closer to her for some reason and therefore was more impressed and influenced by the mother. If he is impressed positively, he develops a positive mother complex, or, if he is impressed negatively, a negative mother complex. Now, it is important to inderstand that every man has a mother complex, either negative or positive; so it is nothing pathological. It’s merely a characteristic of how a man has reacted to his parents, which precipitates the way he will react to the opposite sex. What we are dealing with in this dream is a very strong mother complex.
Now, the devouring mother on the personal level may be demonstrated by the fact that many women are over caring for their sons and try to keep them back from life. They begin by being anxious, “Don’t do that. It’s dangerous. Don’t go out to play with the boys. You could fall and wound yourself or get hit over the head.” They also have trouble when their sons begin to date girls. They say, “I very much
want you to marry and I’ll be very glad if you do, but that one-that girl you bring home now-no, no, she is not the right girl for you. ” They try to keep the boys too much in their clutches. That is the foreground of a woman who exaggerates her maternal, protective qualities.
Dr. von Franz, would you describe a man’s subjective, inner experience of the devouring mother complex? How does he experience his feminine side within himself?
Generally she appears in men as an element of romantic, unreal, mostly sexual fantasies. You see her, for instance, in puberty when young men are very active, and then suddenly they become passive and dreamy. It’s as if they are not there. Their performance in school goes down tremendously, and one has the feeling, “Where has that young man gone?” He is up to the neck, so to speak, in daydreaming sexual fantasies. At that age it is a normal transition, but if a man gets stuck indulging in wishful sexual fantasies, he literally falls into the hands of the vampire or, psychologically, the devouring mother. He loses his capacity to take his own life in hand. He loses his willpower. He loses all his male efficiency and just daydreams all the time about women and their curves and would-be romantic adventures. He lives an unreal life.
Once I saw a man, forty-three years old, who had never approached a woman. He was still living with his mother. I asked him, “What on earth are you doing with your sexuality?” He gave a secretive smile and didn’t confess, but I knew he just masturbated wildly every night. Then he dreamt that he was living an ordinary life in the daytime, but at nighttime he was living on a luscious island where he had wild sexual adventures with women. That was the fantasy world into which he had disappeared. In a primitive tribe, one would say such a man had been bewitched. He is bewitched.
How does a man whose femininity is locked in the mother complex experience women in outer life?
If a man has too close a tie to his mother, especially a positive one, then he tends to idealize women. He sees in every woman the Beatrice of Dante, so to speak, or the Virgin Mary, and then such men cannot approach women with their lower parts, with sexuality, and in ordinary human life. Or they have a split anima situation: they admire a very unapproachable, lofty, beautiful girl from afar and satisfy their sexual desires with prostitutes. They cannot bring the two together. One can say that love involves these two extreme opposite elements. On the one side, a romantic spiritual ideal; on the other, a biological drive for the procreation of the race, something very much on the animal level. And these opposites somehow belong together in a relationship. But a man who has never freed himself from the mother cannot put the princess and the bitch together, so to speak.
For such a man, an outer relationship with a woman can work as long as it is an adventure or a love affair and the woman fills out his needs and fantasies. The trouble begins if he marries her and has to live with her in everyday life. There is no human being; there is no warmth. There is no possibility of a human relationship.
There is also an archetypal background to this which is shown in fairy tales by the motif of the princess locked in the tower. In one of the most famous, the princess Rapunzel is imprisoned by a witch. It’s the mother figure behind the scene which brings forth the constellation. And when this happens, both lovers cannot meet on earth. Only when Rapunzel has come down to earth from her tower and the prince has wandered around in the desert in misery and pain can they finally meet.
I think nowadays movies touch many of these essential psychological facts and replace fairy-tale telling and myth telling of former times. Movies are our modern form of myths and fairy tales, and therefore movies which tell about the inner world, as fairy tales do, are attractive to the public, because we really need myths to have an orientation toward, a mapping out of, the dream world or the unconscious.
In past time there were the innumerable myths of vampires which fascinated people. These tales were retold all over the world. In China, for instance, there are a whole host of ghost stories in which a man
meets a fox, and then the fox turns out to be really the ghost of the dead, who turns up again as a beautifully made-up girl. He has a marvelous life with her until one day he discovers that she is an evil demon. She is a skeleton. And then sometimes it ends badly. She pulls him into death, or, with the help of priests and magicians, he frees himself from the demon. In the Swiss Alps, also, we have stories about cow herdsmen who live high up in the mountains for the whole summer without having women. Every night the Doggeli, a female ghost, comes invisibly to the door and rides them all the night so that they have dreams of sexual pollution. In the morning they wake up completely exhausted and can hardly move. They are overwhelmed, so to speak, by sexual fantasies and by the unlived life.
You know, men very often experience that same energy drain in their relation to an institution. They feel split. They are tom between their feelings of security in an unfulfilling ;ob and their desire to leave the company and pursue their own creative energies in life. Many do not leave, however, because they are unable to sacrifice the material rewards afforded by the corporation. Will a man with a mother fixation carry that mode of relationship over into other aspects of his life? Can the devouring mother complex also be projected onto a collective institution?
Yes, wherever there is an institution, people tend to become infantile and wish to suck that institution for money, to ask for loans and stipends, to use it as benevolent mother. The universities are even called-or they were in the past called-alma mater, the benevolent mother. I think one element of the devouring mother archetype is what one could call inertia. All big institutions have the tendency toward a certain inertia. They are not flexible, and therefore they are, so to speak, material blocks, situations which are just so, and men who have a mother complex feel content and well in that situation. So the mother, the devouring mother, can be easily projected onto a plant, or a big organization, or an institute or university or even a country. Some even have feminine names and in former times were often represented as a fat woman. America is still represented by a fat woman. But at least she’s holding up a light. That’s making it a bit better.
Are you suggesting that the era. of the mother is coming to an end? It seems to me that like the man who was unable to leave his mother’s home, we are now being forced to separate from the security of our traditional modes of relationship to search for new means of relating with each other. It’s as if mankind collectively is going through an initiation rite. What do you see as the underlying cause of this upheaval in human relations?
Well, I would say that the panicky feeling produced by the threat of an nuclear war, combined with the sudden realization of the problems of pollution, has created a basic change in our attitude toward relation ship, mainly perhaps in the young people, but I think my generation as well.
Humanity is fully aware of the fact that we will have to change out way of life in some fundamental way. There is still a lot of quarreling and discussing how and why and in what form and so on, but I think everybody agrees that we have to find some way to peacefully live together and not destroy each other by a nuclear war and that we have to deal differently with nature than we have done up till now. Also, we have to change our too rational mode of life. In the book by Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy; you see what we are going through, that everywhere there is a parallel change of attitude which the Germans call a Zeitgeist, a spirit of the age.
In history, this type of change is well known. For instance, if you look at the art of the thirteenth century as compared to Renaissance art, you see how much the spirit of the time had changed in those few hundred years. Suddenly, as if collectively, the whole of mankind had a different outlook. In the medieval art, everything is concentrated on the divine. There is little perspective, practically no landscape. There’s no representation of animals, trees, and worldly things. And then, in the Renaissance, suddenly there is a switch to discovering nature, the human body, and the perspective of space. That is only one very striking change which everybody knows in retrospect, but such a striking change seems to me to be constellated again today.
That’s why keenly interested, intellectual people cannot avoid asking the question, “What is the change of our time? What is our situation?” Especially under the threat of a nuclear war, which preoccupies practically everybody’s mind, there is a kind of desperate look at the sky: “What does it mean? How could we change? What is coming?” This kind of anxiety is everywhere.
We are still living in an age, at the end of an age, where the opposites, Jupiter and Saturn, good and evil, spirit and instinctive physical drive, are in great opposition. We are torn apart by opposites, which in political terms would amount to having a war at any minute. We have even on one side of the Iron Curtain an anti-Christian principle ruling, and on the other side officially still, a Christian outlook ruling. So the Iron Curtain is dividing Jupiter and Saturn, so to speak. That’s only the earthly image of what is happening on a much deeper level in the human psyche of every individual. ~The Way of the Dream, Page 87-97