The patient, on the couch. The doctor behind seated in a chair.
PATIENT: I pulled and pulled, and the elephant didn’t move. Doctor Hoch, have you ever pulled an elephant?
DOCTOR: What? No, no
PATIENT: Then you can’t imagine how strong those beasts are
DOCTOR: I didn’t know they sold elephants at Macy’s. The advertising says they sell everything, but …
PATIENT: What do you say? Elephants at Macy’s?
DOCTOR: I thought you told me you were a dependent at Macy’s
PATIENT: Affirmative. Section of shoes for men
DOCTOR: So you are not in the elephant section
PATIENT: There’s no elephant section at Macy’s. Do you want to buy an elephant? I don’t recommend it, Dr. Hoch. You can’t imagine how strong these animals are
DOCTOR: Yes, yes, I can imagine it. I have seen illustrations of elephants. I even saw a movie once …
PATIENT: Ah, but it’s not the same as having personal experience. I pulled and pulled and the elephant did not move. And I’m a strong guy, doctor. Look, look at these muscles.
DOCTOR: But where did you pull the elephant? Excuse me, but I’m lost …
PATIENT: In the dream, doctor! I was telling you about the dream I had the other night
DOCTOR: Oh, Goodness! Sure, I got it. Excuse me, I missed the transition from reality to dreamland. So you dreamed that you were pulling an elephant
PATIENT: I pulled and pulled, and the elephant didn’t move
DOCTOR: Hum, it could be interpreted that there is something in your life that you would like to remove, but it’s so ingrained that you can not succeed. Am I right? Think about it
The patient remains meditative for a moment.
PATIENT: Well, there’s a sideboard in the dining room that instead of being useful, it gets in the way
DOCTOR: I don’t mean a piece of furniture, an object, but something subjective: a feeling, an obsessive thought maybe …
PATIENT: I understand.
DOCTOR: A feeling of anger, for example. Or frustration. In the last session you told me that you would have liked to be a train driver
PATIENT: No, no, that was another dream
DOCTOR: But I thought that dream connected to a wish of yours
PATIENT: No, no, it’s like the elephant. I have never considered being an elephant guide. It’s just a dream, Dr. Hoch
DOCTOR: I already told you, Ralph, that dreams reveal things that we don’t know about ourselves
PATIENT: Do you imply that I want to become an elephant guide?
DOCTOR: I was thinking about the train
PATIENT: Ah, the train driver!
DOCTOR: Maybe your job at Macy’s doesn’t fulfill your aspirations …
PATIENT: Oh, I’m fine at Macy’s, Dr. Hoch. I wouldn’t change it for any other job. Do you know we have bonus?
DOCTOR: Let’s go back to the dream…
PATIENT: Oh, yes, the elephant. I ended up totally soaked in sweat. You don’t know how heavy those animals are. I pulled and pulled and …
DOCTOR: You were pulling a rope?
PATIENT: A rope, of course, yes, a thick rope tied to the leg of the elephant.
DOCTOR: What do you think the elephant can represent?
PATIENT: I don’t know. Do you think it represents something? I rather think it’s what it is, an elephant …
DOCTOR: We’ve talked about this other times, Ralph. The interpretation of dreams is the most direct path to the knowledge of the subconscious. That’s why I insist so much that, apart from your daily vicissitudes, you tell me what you dream at night. For example, the train machine that you dreamed the other time. Why would you dream of a train machine if it had no meaning for you?
PATIENT: Do you think my subconscious wants to be a train driver?
DOCTOR: Well, you just told me you’re very happy with your job at Macy’s
PATIENT: Of course. The work is more rested than that of a train driver. Not to mention an elephant guide. I ended up soaked in sweat, I tell you. I pulled and pulled, and the elephant didn’t move one inch. Not an inch, Dr. Hoch
DOCTOR: Did you end up sweating in the dream or in reality?
PATIENT: In the dream, doctor! I repeat that the elephant did not happen in reality. It’s just a dream that I had
DOCTOR: Yeah, I know. But dreams are sometimes lived so intensely that they affect reality. Haven’t you ever had a nightmare?
PATIENT: Does it seem like a little nightmare to have to pull an elephant that doesn’t want to move?
DOCTOR: Oh, then we’re talking about a nightmare!
PATIENT: Of course. I assure you that it’s not pleasant to pull an immobile elephant.
DOCTOR: I imagine it must be frustrating
PATIENT: One pulls and pulls and …
DOCTOR: Do you have any frustration in your life? Would you define yourself as a frustrated man?
PATIENT: I never thought about it.
The Doctor gets up while asking his patient to think about it during the week so theycan talk about it in the next session. They say goodbye with a handshake.
That night Doctor Hoch dreamed that he was pulling an elephant. He pulled and pulled but the elephant remained motionless. When he woke up in the morning, he was soaked in sweat. While showering, he remembered that the elephant of his dream had his patient’s face.