The Alienist and the Patient

The Complementary Function of Dreams: A Preface

“The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that reestablishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium. That is what I call the complementary (or compensatory) role of dreams in our psychic make-up. It explains why people who have unrealistic ideas or too high an opinion of themselves, or who make grandiose plans out of proportion to their real capacities, have dreams of flying or falling. The dream compensates for the deficiencies of their personalities, and at the same time it warns them of the dangers in their present course. If the warnings of the dream are disregarded, real accidents may take their place”
(Carl G. Jung, Man and His Symbols, 1964. ISBN: 0-385-05221-9).

In the endeavor of therapeutic dream analysis, Jung states further: “The therapist must be guided by the patient’s own irrationalities.  Here we must follow nature as a guide, and what the doctor then does is less a question of treatment than of developing the creative possibilities latent in the patient himself” (Carl Jung, CW 16, par. 82).

This poem depicts an imaginary therapeutic dialogue  engagement between  an Alienist and a Patient.  It is conducted in verse form in two parts between the two characters, the Alienist (amplifying  the manifest contents of the patient’s dream) and the Patient, who recounts the latent aspects of his dream to the observing Alienist.

Alienist:  “ And how are you today, my friend.
                 What brings you to my couch?
                 Your countenance bespeaks of fear.
                 That shows a young man with much care.”

Patient:  “ A dream I had, it bothers me.
                 In it I seemed to be a roach.
                 Will you, dear sir, my dream attend.
                 Provide me with some chance to mend.”

 Alienist:   “Go on my son, tell me the rest.
                  You need to get it off your chest.
                  A dream itself is no bad thing.
                  Though some of it may seem so sad.”

Patient:   “ It happens in this dream I had,
I was alone in some strange castle.
I seemed to be an ancient king,
Wearing a hat adorned with tassel.

The robe I wore flowed to the ground.
Its hem had bells that made strange sound.
And as I strode from room to room,
I found myself beside a tomb.

Alarmed, I held my breath and stared.
What was this thing that now appeared,
Inviting me to look within,
As I laid shivering in my skin.

While I was quivering  in that room,
I saw myself transformed as groom.
The tomb became Pandora’s box,
Guarded, it seemed, with many locks.

Why am I here, what mean these things.
Why do I now have growing wings?
My wings became a royal cape,
Fastened, alas,  at my very nape.

Why, I can fly from here to there,
Or crawl , or walk — go anywhere.
Bemused at powers new to me,
I searched for mirrors just to see…

The transformation that occurred,
Leaving  me speechlesswithout a word.
The tassel swung from left to right.
I was some figure —  out of sight.

My robe with bells jingled salute.
I was transformed, the point is moot.
I braced myself to see the change,
Knowing, indeed,  that something strange…

Had just occurred without a word.
Was I transformed into a bird.
I knew the mirror could not lie.
Was I alive, or did I die?

I need to look, I need to see,
At surely what’s become of me.
The mirror cannot lie, I know,
Reflecting  what there is to show.

True, it reveals our outer selves,
Hiding  what within us delves.
Yet I must look to find what’s there.
One needs to know what may yet appear.

And so it was that I did look.
The sight I saw,  I now forsook.
Before me stood an elegant roach,
Adorned, it seemed, with golden brooch…

The brooch were eyes staring at me,
Brighter than some strange banshee —
A supernatural being —  some other Self,
More  magical than any old elf.

‘Twas hard for me to bear that sight.
How did I try, with all my might
To turn away and not to stare.
So terrible to me was that nightmare.

After a while, I closed my eyes.
To think of it now, that was very  wise.
It seems time passed before I woke.
Looking around,  I saw no cloak.

I was again the self I knew.
Yet there was something quite, quite new.
Grounded again, no wings to fly,
Still,  I could fly — soar to the sky.

The dream I have is strange to me.
Its images not making me free.
Am I awake, or still asleep,
Lost in some forest, oh so deep?

‘Tis strange indeed that dreams allow
Our waking selves to question how
We,  while sleeping, are still awake
Awake in dreams, for dreams own sake.

Experiencing odd things, it seems,
With oh, strange tales, quite filled with themes.
Confusing to our waking mind,
Wanting to get all thoughts aligned.

Aligned in ways that make some sense.
Hoping to gain some recompense.
Perchance, to know the Self within,
That we must fathomthick or thin.

To know what’s false, and what is real.
My mind is frizzled, my body frail.
A shadow walking on this earth.
Dreaming of what all life is worth.

Is life all nothing but a dream;
My pulse the movement of a stream.
Where begins my dream,  where does it end.
Can you, doctor, my thoughts amend?

Laden with thoughts on furrowed brow,
I sense there’s much, much more to know.
What means this dream, I ask you friend.
What does it, sir, to you portend?

Can you, I pray, my thoughts amend.
Remedy those thoughts which so offend.
Give me fresh hope to want to try …
Give me some promise that’s quite nigh.

Can you, doctor, remove my fear.
All the skeletons that dare appear.
Haunting, taunting, ever prancing.
Ever dancing without my wanting.

Can you, doctor, provide some light,
Remove the darkness from my sight,
Ease my angst to now take flight,
Cure me from this, my awesome plight?”

Alienist:  “Your dream symbols from some dark     cavern,
Deep within, display a pattern.
After weeks, some stay the same.
Repeated dreams do have some aim.

Asking you to pay attention.
To divine their real intention.
To redirect your outer focus.
To solve your problems, find their locus.

At ease my friend, this I commend.
Your dream portends you’re on the mend.
Their images provide you useful aid.
Embrace them boldly, ‘fore they fade.

Consider them as tools to use.
Not as enemies that, oh, abuse.
They’re tools divined for your welfare.
Showing paths you’re not yet aware

To lift you up to some place higher.
With newer skills you’ll sure require.
To know dream symbols are a treasure.
At our disposal —  and our pleasure.

Without our dreams, what would we be.
Certainly, not ever quite as free.
To dream with symbols offering measure,
Things to consider, at our leisure.

To know that we are more than flesh,
With heart and spirit that us enmesh;
To lift us to some greater height;
Ease distemper, make things right.

Dream symbols are no simple toy,
But sacred gifts to give us joy.
To offer comfort, ease our pain;
Enable us to find some gain.

For life’s pathways have curves and bends.
The choices made, on us depends.
Dream symbols, then, are our soul’s sign,
To straighten us,  keep us in line.

The castle is your soul, my friend.
And when you dream, there you ascend,
Finding  within a royal place—
A palace bound in inner space.

There, one is king, or one is queen…
The space  where every human being
Must store the Self that one calls gene;
Or genie — or some far fetched other…

That oh, alas, some really bother.
The hat you wore adorned with tassel,
Is just your mind — you need not baffle…
Crowned with desires you’ve had —

The very good and, yes, the bad.
Your flowing robes show all you’ve earned
From birth to death, ‘fore life’s adjourned.
The bells,  your accomplishments made…

Along with all the prices paid.
The tomb is just a stepping stone…
Stepping  you away from what’s been known,
Inviting you to what’s now shown

That life is more than outer image.
It is indeed a pilgrimage
For one to make from cultured savage,
Transforming  ego — one’s outer coverage…

To  take on wings and thus highlight
The soul’s desire and delight,
To elevate one to achieve,
Life’s  goals and purpose — not to deceive.

Yet this all fear, and hence your worry.
The pathways of life are oft a blurry.
We fret and shiver as if in some dither,
With uncertainty, going hither and thither.

Yet we’ve been told by sages of old.
In covenant written, not to scold:
There’s not a one ever so blind
 E’en to one’s Self, e’er so unkind…

As those who never ever can see,
What  they, indeed, potentially could be.
Taken to the limits and  with no bar,
The empowered soul becomes a star.

My solemn friend,  the dreams you’ve had,
Are really really nothing —  nothing  bad.
They portend to you, and yes — to me,
That if we truly, truly dare to see…

The lingering loving Self within,
Not fearing it as some evil djinn,
But embracing it with loving heart…
Therein the cures for you have start.

Our lives, my friend, can be renewed
Despite the pains that have ensued.
Become the master of your fate.
Play not the victim; it’s not too late.

Dreams are our allies of the dark,
Bearing new light to give us spark;
A phosphorus struck within the night,
To bring new brightness, give us light.

Embrace your dreams as pearls of gold,
Rarer than whatever is sold.
They play a helpful healing role,
As healers for an aching soul.

We all are broken, but our dreams,
Flowing like water, living streams,
To freshen our lives, brighten each soul,
Give us new start to make us whole.”

About this poem

This poem emerged from a free-form stream-of-consciousness writing where the poet, alone in his study, simply wrote whatever popped up in his mind and which begged him for an audience to be heard at the instance. The writing went on continuously, furiously throughout the late evening into the dawn of early morning, without any effort at editing (which came later), reflecting only the urgency of the imagination that flowed from within, pleading, asking only to be heard. The only editorial changes made subsequent to the immediate composition of this poem, was to transform the narrative format of the poem into a four-line verse format for the purpose of easier reading and overall comprehension. This was not too difficult to accomplish, since the poem was already composed poetically as a quatrain, in rhymed meter. May you, dear readers, receive this message at the solemn invitation of our inner-laden psychological world that pleads with urgency for us to pay attention to its relentless intentions, desirous of elevating us to the greater good that is inherent in all of us. Postscript: Some readers of this composition have informed me that, at its surface, this poem is reminiscent of Franz Kafka’s 1915 publication of his novella, “Metamorphosis” ( in German, “Die Verwandlung”), concerning the nightmarish transformation of the protagonist salesman, Gregor Samsa, into a monstrous vermin (in German, an “ungeheures Ungeziefer,” typically perceived in English translation as a cockroach. My initial response to that comment, is that the world of dreams, in general, and of the Jungian hypothesized collective unconscious, specifically, is laden with archetypal themes that are readily available to all who are receptively open to the machinations of the subterranean world of the human soul. I have therefore amended the poem by adding a quotation from the eminent Swiss analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, as a preface that serves as a commentary on the complementary function of dreams. May we all be happily therapeutically transformed by the complementary function of our dreams. 

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Written on October 07, 2021

Submitted by karlcfolkes on October 07, 2021

Modified by karlcfolkes on July 01, 2023

9:44 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 9,657
Words 1,945
Stanzas 58
Stanza Lengths 1, 2, 1, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Karl Constantine FOLKES

Retired educator of Jamaican ancestry with a lifelong interest in composing poetry dealing particularly with the metaphysics of self-reflection; completed a dissertation in Children’s Literature in 1991 at New York University entitled: An Analysis of Wilhelm Grimm’s “Dear Mili” Employing Von Franzian Methodological Processes of Analytical Psychology. The subject of the dissertation concerned the process of Individuation. more…

All Karl Constantine FOLKES poems | Karl Constantine FOLKES Books

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Discuss the poem "The Alienist and the Patient" with the community...

  • karlcfolkes
    I thank you all for your valuable support.
    LikeReply7 months ago
  • e.moroz209
    Congratulations - this is an Epic poem of profound proportions! Your imagery and depth of insight and rhythmical tones are masterful and I commend you on your work!! Well done !!
    LikeReply 17 months ago
  • AIDA
    Wow! This poem is an incredible exploration of the deeper meaning behind dreams and how they can reveal insights into our inner selves. The imagery is beautifully crafted and the conversation between the alienist and patient is engrossing. The way the poem seamlessly weaves together elements of psychology, philosophy, and spirituality is truly impressive. The message of the poem is incredibly inspiring - to embrace our dreams as a tool for self-discovery and to not be afraid to fully explore the depths of our own psyche. This is a truly captivating and uplifting work of art! 
    LikeReply11 months ago
  • kali_p
    What I find most fascinating about this poem is the fact that it seems so well thought out and planned, as if the story were developed and analyzed before having ever been written. But to read your comments below the poem describing how in fact it was written in a free form consciousness is just fascinating. It is almost as if you were ‘dreaming while awake’ while writing this poem, thoughts free-flowing, analyzing your awakened dream as you go…from the castle of a soul to your flowing robes of all that you’ve earned… how very interesting. I have actually always posed a question, my whole life… what if our dreams were in fact reality and our ‘reality’ were but dreams….what would the consequences of this be? How would we react? I suppose I don’t have an answer for that question but as you said best, “life is more than outer image, it is indeed a pilgrimage.”. And do we continue to travel, even to our death, our tombs but a stepping stone to whatever may be next. Very deep and thought provoking work of art you have written. Bravo. 
    LikeReply1 year ago
    • kali_p
      and *so* we continue…
      LikeReply1 year ago


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Who wrote the poem ״Invictus״?
  • A. Sylvia Plath
  • B. William Ernest Henley
  • C. Oscar Wilde
  • D. Thomas Hardy