Freud made popular the idea that various objects, by virtue of their appearance and function, could stand symbolically for other objects, usually sexual. When a woman dreamed about cleaning her house, for instance, she might be expressing feelings she had about her own body. The house symbolizes her body. Freud, in fact, wrote a book, “The interpretation of Dreams,” which centered largely on this idea (as opposed to the popular idea promulgated by Joseph in the bible that dreams could foretell the future.) There are “universal symbols,” according to Freud and Carl Jung. These are recognized by everyone as having a same particular meaning. An object such as a gun, which has the general shape of the male organ and occasionally discharges bullets, so closely resembles the shape and function of a penis that everyone can appreciate that relationship, at least unconsciously. The gun, representing the penis, is said to be a phallic symbol. Freud then went overboard and described other universal symbols, such as paper and wood that stood in dreams for the familiar genitalia. I think this connection is invisible to anyone who was not Sigmund Freud.
Another obvious phallic symbol is the snake. Men and women may dream from time to time uncomfortably about snakes. Some women are especially afraid of snakes, maybe because snakes symbolizes a penis, which is scary to some women. Maybe not. Maybe these women have an underlying fear of being bitten.
What I have noticed, to my surprise initially, is that women rarely sit directly on public toilet seats, while men rarely hesitate to do so. Women are instructed by their mothers, it seems, to hover over the toilet seat, rather than sit on it. Issues of cleanliness cannot explain the fact that they do not pass on this idea to their sons. I can’t help wondering if women are more skittish on toilet seats than men because in the nether region of the body women have an extra concavity and might, on some level, be worried about the prospect of something going in rather than coming out. In support of this idea, I once had a patient who was phobic for snakes who had dreamed specifically of a snake entering her vagina. This fanciful idea seems to have the potential of becoming real under certain circumstances.
According to the New York Times of a few days ago, there are reports of huge snakes taking possession of family toilets. According to The Times, a woman in Bangkok was… “using the toilet in her downstairs bathroom in July when she felt a sharp bite on her thigh. She jumped up to see a scene straight out of a nightmare, an 8 foot python emerging from the toilet.” The woman rushed to the hospital. She was bleeding heavily and bore the tooth marks of the snake.
There is always something new to worry about. No longer can I affirm that sitting on a toilet seat is not dangerous, even for a woman. I am used to saying “you can’t catch anything from a toilet seat,” and that much is still true, but I can no longer pretend that a sneak snake attack is impossible, at least not in Bangkok.
I think it is possible to consider the snake’s point of view in this unfortunate incident. No doubt a cesspool is not the natural habitat of a python. It probably fell in during the rainy season when they try to reach high ground and start meandering all over the neighborhood. The pipe may have been the only hope for the python to escape. Imagine the desperate python having to put up with everything coming down his way from the toilet. No wonder the python was mad enough to bite.
I don’t consider myself an expert on pythons although I have had some experience with one individual. My son-in-law, Warren, had a number of exotic pets before my daughter married him and set him straight. One was a python. I remember trying to cozy up to the snake. The snake made a feeble attempt to squeeze me, but I had to grab hold of him tightly or he would let go and fall to the floor with a thump. As I remember though, the snake never showed any interest in winding his way into the bathroom, perhaps because of the komodo dragon that lived in the tub. Actually, the only dangerous animal that lived in the apartment was some sort of snapping frog that would take a chomp on you if you came too close.
A cure. Having had no experience with patients that have been bitten on the behind by a snake, I do not venture to suggest any sort of specific treatment, other than the usual treatment for a snake phobia, described in my book, “Rising Above Fear.” That is, exposure therapy.
But I do have some thoughts about treating the snake problem. Drano. I vaguely remember from my childhood someone trying to dislodge the cockroaches that lived in the kitchen sink with Drano. I’m sure a bottle or two of Drano sloshed into the toilet will deter any but the most determined snake. Although, of course, I would expect that snake to get even angrier than it was before.
I am sort of a stay-at- home person. When I think of going to the Far East, I think of mosquitoes, which are much more deadly than snakes. But now I will think of snakes also. (c) Fredric Neuman, Author of “Superpowers.”