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|Night Visions - Page 4|
After talking and letting the feelings in these dreams emerge, Bregman goes for the core. "Did you have issues with your father about being accepted?" he asks. Was Kamenetz tied to his mother? he inquires. Who won the family battles? His mother? Then Bregman adds: "And you lost. You lost your father."
"Boom," says Kamenetz. "I'd been opened up like a cheap safe and all my cash was on the table." As they work together, Kamenetz reacts to his father "as he had in life—with aloofness, distance and criticism," and later, with a "thunder-burst" of "rage." Eventually, he dreams that the walls of his house are collapsing all around him. He comes out like a little boy and cries, "Dad, it's a disaster!" Then he adds, "I called out from my heart for his help and he appeared like magic and saved the day."
This dream work renews Kamenetz's feelings of tenderness for his father; it softens and sweetens him toward his dad in the last years of his life. This is the sort of change any therapist longs to accomplish with a patient. And it's all coached by an uncredentialed ex-postman in rural Vermont who's short on words, but long on a kind of genius when it comes to dream conjuring and deeply felt interpretation.
Now, it's fair to ask: do we need dreams to do this kind of psychological work? Don't most therapists these days help clients move past their old wounds into some new relationship with their loved ones and into a larger life, all without recourse to entering the unconscious and reliving dreams? Absolutely. Still, to each his own, and I suspect that Kamenetz—a tough nut to crack, with all his verbal defenses—needed someone as commanding and inarticulate as Bregman to help him move past his formidable learning and verbal dexterity. It often happens that we're changed by encounters with our opposites.