Daniel had never been popular. He didn’t try to fit in with his peers and gravitated towards outsiders. He had always been a strikingly beautiful child, but once he hit adolescence he styled his hair in a buzz cut and dressed exclusively in black, baggy clothes with chunky black army boots, always untied. He also always wore a collection of silver skull jewelry, with an earring, rings, and necklace all featuring the same motif. Despite this somewhat angry look, Daniel wasn’t unhappy. He had his own strong sense of identity and felt in control of his life. That all changed when at the age of 14, Daniel made aliyah together with his family.
Daniel’s father was only in Israel with the family for a few days every month. The rest of the time he was running a barely successful business back in the U.K. Neither Daniel nor his mother or older sister spoke Hebrew, and they struggled to adapt to life in Israel. Having never had much interest in integrating even before the move, Daniel became even more isolated in Israel. He wasn’t in touch with anyone from his former life, stayed away from everyone at his new school as much as he could, and spent more and more time online. He began to browse the dark web late at night, and accidentally stumbled across two graphic and deeply disturbing videos that ran on a loop in his head for months afterward. As time went by, Daniel developed a new taste for cigarettes and started showing signs of depression and increasingly self-destructive behavior. Eventually, his mother brought him to Kav L’Noar, even though Daniel was deeply against the idea of talking to a therapist.
The therapist tried everything to draw him out, but Daniel was completely resistant. He insisted that he had nothing to say about his life, his family, or his feelings. He said that he had no opinions about anything, no interest in anything, no aspirations for anything. It was like speaking to a very polite brick wall. Finally, the therapist asked Daniel if he could remember any of his dreams- and at last, Daniel nodded and began to speak. He described a recurrent nightmare in which he was sitting on a plane with his family, and in the middle of the flight he realized that there was no pilot but it was too late, there was nothing he could do. Dreams often provide a window into what we’re feeling without us even knowing. Now, Daniel had just shared with the therapist an insight into his family life making it clear that he felt that there was no one in control. His father away, his mother struggling to hold things together, a plane without a pilot.
Another time, Daniel told the therapist about a dream in which their plane had crashed into a jungle full of ferocious animals and his family had been eaten alive. There had been a terror attack in the news, and Daniel himself interpreted his dream as being about terrorists who were like wild animals. Planes are very common in the dreams of immigrants because they represent the transition from the familiar world to the yet to be discovered, a process that can be deeply frightening. After a few more sessions, Daniel was still dreaming about a plane, but this time it had landed in the middle of a forest. He was lying on a sofa inside the plane and his family had wandered off. This calmer dream reflected the progress that Daniel was making in the therapy. Later on, Daniel’s dreams stopped featuring planes altogether. He was with his family on an island and they were building a house together. He was doing a lot better.
The dreams provided a framework for Daniel and the therapist to build a real connection and gave Daniel the means to access what he was truly going through. Being able to understand his own feelings, and finding a way to communicate them to someone who both understood and cared made a huge difference. The therapist continued helping Daniel get to a more stable and positive place for another six months. Even after they finished, Daniel still called the therapist every so often, and one time he even described his latest dream, just like in their very first sessions.