By: Suzanne Maiden, M.A., LPC
I recently saw Leonardo diCaprio’s latest movie, Inception. Although this movie does not feed the audience the plot, e.g., you really have to pay attention, it was worth the energy. Whoever wrote the screen play knows a thing or two about dreams. Someone did their homework.
As a practicing psychotherapist, I encourage patients to share their dream content. And, I am the first therapist in the country (I’m pretty sure…) to be federally funded to facilitate Dream Analysis groups with convicted felons – people in recovery from substance abuse. It’s cooler than cool. I love what I do. I get shivers and my arm hairs stand at attention when someone presents their dream and they have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Because I know that the dream spotlights critical information for that person. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
Two thoughts that I want to share regarding the movie Inception. First, it accurately portrayed the concept of projection. For example, when we dream of someone – it seldom is that person. Our psyche uses their image to underscore that inner part of ourself. It’s called a projection. Inception beautifully illustrated this when the main character, played by Leonardo diCaprio, was teaching a young intern, played by Ellen Page, about dreams. The intern was observing her own dream and saw many other people – she assumed the people were separate people vs. split-off pieces of herself. diCaprio’s character explained: “It’s just a projection – all of those other people are YOU… Those are your projections.”
Second, the movie showed how extensive our defense mechanisms are and how difficult it is to break through them. Each of us has layers and layers of Ego defenses we created to protect us. Psyche is very smart and seeks survival. When we are emotionally wounded, psyche creates a type of scar – an emotional ‘thickening’. Defense mechanisms aren’t bad – they serve an important role in helping us survive pain-filled emotional trauma. However, just like too much physical scar tissue can make an area inflexible, emotional ‘scar tissue’ can too. When we become too rigid, we break under stress vs. sway with it. Inception illustrated this when the characters tried to break into another’s unconscious via a dream – and encountered an enormous, impenetrable, complete with armed guards structure. This fortress is a perfect metaphor for our highly guarded Ego defenses.
If you’re interested in mind-bender plot with fast action and dream analysis 101 – see Inception.