Week 4: Sunil

Max is at the kitchen table. He tells Paul he is not hungry that morning. Paul asks if he fell behind in homework from being in Baltimore. Paul helps him with his homework -- the Pythagorean Theorem, A2 + B2 = C2. Max leaves for school.

Sunil comes in. He shows Paul a package of birth control pills - he tells Paul he found them in Julia’s study. She is very private abut that room -- keeps it very clean and organized. Arun only allowed in there when he brings her cappuccino. All week Julia has been on the phone about one of her authors. He went into the study looking for this genius manuscript she had been talking about all week. Paul asks if he thought of asking Julia if he could read it. He says no and Paul says yet he still felt compelled to look for it. Paul asks if Sunil has considered she and Arun decided not to have more children.. Sunil reminds him that Arun says he wants another son and that he was to move to the basement when a baby comes. Paul observes that this aspect of their private life upsets him. He suggests to Sunil that this is their private business. Sunil gets angry and shouts he is his father and it is his family too. How could he not be concerned? The pills were not in the medicine chest but hidden in a drawer in her study. Sunil says the only reason she could be taking them is to keep from becoming pregnant. When he thinks of Ethan, the author, his heart starts racing and he is angry. Sunil says he thought Paul would be pleased he is angry.

Sunil tells a dream -- there was a dark coated animal lying by the sea and was dying. A goat or a dog. A cliff there and it looks like the animal had fallen a great distance. He poked the animal with a stick and he didn’t know if he was trying to hurt or revive it. And the sea was rising and he felt like he was losing time. Then he was back at his son’s house in the back yard and digging a hole frantically and trying to put the dead animal in the hole but it was dark. He then realized he had already put something in the hole and he knew it was very important to him. Arun is coming toward him and he had the feeling he had done something terribly wrong. He couldn’t fall back to sleep. He went to his son’s room. They sleep turned away from each other, he says. Arun snores loudly but Julia, she sleeps easily.  Paul asks how long he watched them. About 15 minutes. Then he could not get back to sleep.

Paul asks for associations to the  animal in the dream. Dark coat and difficulty breathing. Paul says like Arun, he had difficulty breathing in his sleep. Paul points out he referred to the animal as a she. He asks if he had the dream the night he found the pills and Sunil says yes. Sunil smokes. Paul asks about the time. Sunil says there is never enough. He puts out the cigarette. He says smoking makes him calm. He says he started smoking in university. He had followed Malini out of the library and saw her light a cigarette, he decided he had to learn to smoke. She looked very sophisticated smoking. He says he could watch her smoke all day.  She was from a lower caste -- he says the caste system was devised to keep social order. Paul asks if he knew she was of a lower caste. He said yes but it made no difference -- he wanted to spend every minute of his life with her. Paul asks if they were intimate. Sunil looks ashamed and slightly nods and says he should not have been. She ended their relationship. He agreed to meet her on the steps of the library but she told him she was leaving. They argued and she walked away wearing his coat. That was the last time he saw her. Paul reflects that this is not how he told it last week, that it wasn’t that he had made a great sacrifice. He asks if he tried to see her again. Paul says he believes that the part of him that loved Malini is deeply hidden. Then Sunil tells Paul that she threw herself from the bridge and drowned. When they found her body she was still wearing his jacket.  There were heavy stones in her pocket. Paul says he is very sorry for the pain that he still carries with him. Sunil seems surprised at that. The police spoke to him, there was a brief investigation because his name was in the lining of the jacket. Nothing came of the investigation and he graduated soon after and then married. So he carried it alone for 32 years. Paul goes back to the dream -= the animal fell and Malini fell from a bridge. Paul says the way he describes how it was with Malini it reminds him of how it was with Arun and Julia when they came to India. The way Julia and Arun relate reminds him of his intimacy with Malini. And maybe that is why he feels so conflicted in relating to Julia. He says it is more and more difficult living in Julia’s house. Is there anything we can discuss that would improve that, Paul asks? Sunil says nothing can be done. And gets ready to go. Paul urges him to call him if he continues to have disturbing thoughts or dreams. He suggests he not go into Julia’s study again. Sunil thanks him and leaves.


I am curious about the meaning of the interaction at the very beginning between Paul and Max. Paul, we know, is worried about being displaced by Steve with his children, and we know Max has been in Baltimore for the weekend. I may be reaching too far but the Pythagorean Theorem is about the area of a right triangle. And Paul is in a couple of triangles with Max -- Paul, Max, Kate; Paul, Max, Steve. We’ll have to see how that unfolds.

The depth of the conflicted feelings Sunil has about Julia become clearer each week. Notice again this week that as talk turns to how Sunil feels about Julia, he smokes. And he tells us smoking calms him. So we can reasonably assume he reaches for them in therapy when he want to calm down, damp his feelings. Sunil is convinced Julia is having an affair. And there is tremendous emotion in his suspicions. Yes, he is concerned for his son, but this goes beyond that, it seems to me, into feelings he himself has for Julia. Every week we hear of some new way Sunil has spied on her. This week that he seems to have searched her study and watched her and Arun sleeping. Julia’s unease about the way Sunil looks at her seems very well founded.

The dream reveals a great deal. Jungians often speak of animals in dreams as representing cut off instinctual or emotional aspects of ourselves. So here we have a dead or seriously wounded goat or dog that Sunil pokes with a stick and then tried to bury. And the animal is female. And if we consider the dream to be commenting on the events of the day, we know it comes the night he discovers the birth control pills. So it seems to pull together Sunil’s feelings about Julia, Malini and his own denied erotic desires. He doesn’t know whether he wants to help the animal or kill it, as indeed he is deeply ambivalent about the feelings he has that have surfaced from his long ago relationship with Malini. And we also have the connection that Paul drew to the animal’s fall from the cliff and Malini’s suicide. We don’t knowmuch about what happened exactly that led Malini to break off their relationship -- could she have gotten pregnant? Or had Sunil’s mother or father found out about her and said or done something? We don’t know and we don’t know if Sunil does either. What we do know is that Sunil tried to bury the desires he felt for her and settled into his arranged marriage. And now being around Julia and Arun, they are surfacing again. It is his own desire he finds he has buried in the hole that he is digging for the animal. Or that is what I see in the dream.

Paul is clearly concerned about the intensity of feeling that Sunil showed in this session, We know about his growing anger. And now the disturbing dream, his odd behavior after the dream - certainly standing and watching Arun and Julia sleep for 15 minutes is at least odd and also somewhat concerning. His suggestion to Sunil that he can call Paul if he has more disturbing dreams or thoughts seems to me to be a good thing to offer at this point.


© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.