I’ve never hit anyone that I can remember really. My brother is 2 and ½ years older than me which made fighting with him pointless growing up. I took on the role of peace maker in our family, always eager to avoid conflict. That translated into a pacific attitude in the school yard as well. All in all I was a wimp and found a way to navigate through life and get what I wanted or needed, more or less, without giving vent to the direct expression of anger or aggression.
Which is part of the reason I’m surprised to wake up this morning with skinned knuckles on my right hand, having punched my nightstand last night in an angry outburst. It was bound to happen sooner or later -- not that the nightstand had it coming but just that anger eventually will out, that is for all of us below the order of angels and saints. I’m sixty-two years old, so it’s been a long time coming.
But still why hit my nightstand – why make an inanimate object the target of my first punch?
In my dream I was actually swinging at myself. That makes some sense. It’s not all that different than hitting a nightstand or some other inanimate object inasmuch as when you hit yourself there’s far less risk of getting punched back. There is this counter-phobia at the root of my otherwise pacific demeanor.
My dream interpretation rests on the notion that other people (particularly seeming strangers) who appear in our dreams are usually stand-ins for parts of ourselves. Thus it was in my dream last night that I was minding my own business, sitting in an aisle seat on an airplane, and this stranger sauntered down the aisle, and without so much as a word, took the folded newspaper that I had placed in the pouch of the seatback in front of me. I felt a sudden surge of anger. Give it back, I demanded. You don’t need it, he replied, it’s just a movie review.
It’s just a movie, I said to myself, no need to pay any mind. But I did need it, I realized. I needed it more than anything else. And the next thing I knew I had taken a roundhouse right at the nightstand.
So there it is – my anger in stark relief, finally unleashed. I’m glad, at least, that I could admit the truth to myself in a dream. I am furious at myself for not writing – for taking away from myself the thing I most need in order to fly-right and feel whole in the world. Why am I blocked and no longer writing? Because some part of me came to the conclusion that my writing no longer mattered, to me or anyone else, that it was of no consequence, at least of no more consequence than yesterday’s discarded news. While this may very well be true, it nonetheless makes me fighting mad. And for the first time in my life I’ve landed a punch – it’s all the more notable because I also happen to be the target of my own fusillade.