He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently
he sees us from the way we see ourselves.
― Carl Jung
The Cosmic Night
It had been a while since I was sitting in Martin Wallace's office. I sought him out in university when I experienced panic attacks after a car accident in which my friend died. That was a stressful time and Martin helped me through it.
I never expected to be back again, but here I was.
"Well Ethan, it's been awhile. I hear you have quite a successful marketing career. So, how can I help you?"
"I had a successful marketing career, Dr. Wallace, but my partnership with Greg Chartwell ended badly and I've left the agency under a cloud. Apparently, I'm the victim of a smear campaign that poisoned my relationship with Greg and he thought it best we part ways."
The older man looked genuinely concerned. "I'm sorry to hear that, Ethan. I can sympathize with what you're probably going through at the moment and I'll be glad to offer whatever support I can. What specifically brought you here today?"
"Night terrors," I whispered, "Well that and a general loss of confidence and episodes of fear and anxiety that have really unnerved me."
Wallace glanced out the window at the Toronto skyline, seemingly deep in thought. "I can see why being the victim of a smear campaign could result in these types of feelings, but you've dealt with night terrors before―can you give me more details about what you experienced?"
"Actually it was only one incident so far, but seeing as I had a history of this type of thing I wanted to get ahead of it. It really shook me up because it was so real."
"Take your time," he encouraged, "and try to provide as much detail as you can recall."
I nodded and started in. "I was feeling isolated and rejected after leaving the agency. All my former colleagues shunned me except one, Trish Simpson, and she phoned because I left some personal effects at the agency that she offered to drop off because she lived nearby."
"Were you encouraged one of your colleagues reached out to you?"
"I felt conflicted. Her attitude seemed business-like, but when she got to my condo things changed. She seemed genuinely sympathetic and actually hurt when I misread her motives. She asked if I were planning a wrongful dismissal suit and I told her to tell Greg there were no hard feelings and I was moving on."
Wallace looked at me intently. "I see. Go on."
"She looked distraught and her chin was quivering and so I tried to console her and we ended up kissing. I don't know how it happened―I was mortified and apologized saying I didn't mean to offend her. She was insulted I was rejecting her when I had affairs with other women at the agency. I tried to tell her that was in the past and I changed, but she left in a huff."
"I'm sure that was quite upsetting."
"It was upsetting because we only had limited social interaction prior to this. I was surprised and shocked at her response and at mine as well―it was a totally impulsive move I instantly regretted, but she saw it as rejection."
"So, when did the night terror occur?"
"It happened later that night. I drank quite a bit of booze to calm me down but I guess my nerves were frayed because I heard strange noises in the condo that seemed spooky. I finally decided to go to bed but couldn't sleep, so I took an Ambien and then when I finally drifted off, it happened."
"So you mixed alcohol with a sleeping pill and fell into a deep sleep?"
"Yes," I croaked, picturing the scene again in my mind. "I awoke because I heard a noise and thought someone entered my room. I actually felt the mattress compress, but when I tried to turn around and see who it was, I felt powerless. I fought against the panic and lethargy and eventually broke free and sat up... and stared into Trish's leering face. It was horrific."
"What happened then?"
"The image dissolved into pixels but the sheets were compressed into the outline of a woman's form and I could smell Trish's perfume. I got out of bed, made a tea and fell asleep on the sofa chair and somehow got through the night."
Wallace nodded sympathetically.
"I can help you deal with these experiences, Ethan. You know we all have a shadow self and sometimes it's manifested in nightmares through psychological projection. The sinister figures that terrorize us in dreams can be parts of our shadow that we reject, but when you come to terms with these traits, you will no longer feel you're fighting monsters."
"So, are you saying that I think I've overcome my past failings, but I secretly despise them and project those traits onto others?"
"Something like that. It takes time to achieve self acceptance. For the time being. we'll meet regularly and work through these things. Meanwhile, I'll write you a scrip for a medication that will help you deal with the night terrors―we'll start with a mild benzodiazepine. But let me caution you―no self-medication with alcohol. Agreed?"
"Agreed," I nodded.
I left Martin Wallace's office feeling reassured and hopeful I was on the right track.
I almost felt embarrassed that I may have overreacted to what Beatrice referred to as a career change. Perhaps it was all as simple as that.
One thing for certain―I didn't ever want to go through an experience like that again, feeling paralyzed and under attack. Hopefully, consulting a psychiatrist and confronting my inner demons would enable me to get my life back on track.