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Merloo's Brothers

Dreamed 1943 and c.1946, by Joost Merloo, as told by Marc Ian Barasch

The Dutch psychiatrist and political scientist Joost Merloo coined the term "hidden communion" to describe these "heteropsychic" connections between people. His certainty on the subject came from his own wrenching experience.

In 1943, Merloo was on a troopship bound from New York to England. He awoke one night from a vivid dream in which he had heard his brothers calling for help. His anxiety was so powerful that he left his bunk to hunt through the dark and crowded hold for materials to write it down, convinced it meant they had fallen into Nazi hands.

Two years later, in liberated Holland, he located records confirming that on the date of his dream, Nazi soldiers had entered the institution where his two neurologically damaged brothers were housed and, after brutalizing them, had flung them into mobile death wagons to be gassed.

Dr. Merloo concluded that we each live in a sea of "unconscious and unobtrusive interaction" with our intimates. This, he conjectured, may even be a hidden source of our ego defenses. "We have thick skins," he wrote, to "continually ward off" the thoughts and feelings of others, which moment to moment "bombard us." Merloo's clinical findings suggest that such communications take place "under less pleasant conflict situations," in times of distress or danger: because people are "afraid to give up their illusion of autonomy, it takes the battering ram of emergency to punch through the hard shell of separation.

After the war, Merloo had another vivid dream about his dead brothers:

I am trying to find room in my bombed-out house for medical consultations. To make space, I eject my brothers from their former playroom by beating them pitilessly.
That morning, a long-awaited letter arrived from the Netherlands Red Cross. In it were the official details of his brothers' gruesome deaths. What intrigued Merloo was that, apart from heralding the arrival of the letter, his dream also contained psychological material that needed to be healed--specifically his "confusing, ambivalent" attitude toward his brothers. He had felt a childishly murderous hostility toward them when he was growing up, and these memories and the fact that he had escaped their terrible fate caused him recurrent feelings of guilt. He categorizes the "telepathic communication" about their deaths on the ship, and the dream coinciding with the Red Cross report, as "anxiety-allaying wish fulfillment: 'It is not I who wish to beat my brothers, but the Nazis. They killed them.'"

Merloo fearlessly touches upon the dark currents that run through all families.

SOURCE: Healing Dreams by Marc Ian Barasch, 2000

LISTS AND LINKS: family - siblings - disability - Hitler & the Nazis - war - violence - death - guilt - telepathy - ESP in general - Marc Ian Barasch - Merloo, Joost - The Netherlands

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