Being Chased in a Dream
Dream " I was taking a vacation to Yosemite. My
wife and my kids were with me at first but after we set up camp I wandered off on my own
and found a waterfall. Something began to chase me and I tried to run back to the camp but
I couldn't find the camp and hid in behind a bush. I heard the footsteps and was
terrified. At first I thought it was a bear, but saw it carrying a gun and I ran, though I
was sure I was going to be shot. It felt like it knew where I was"
Being chased in a dream is very frightening for us all,
and very common. Children seem especially vulnerable to being chased in dreams by animals
and monsters. Adults are usually chased by dangerous men, but can also be chased by
animals and monsters. Dream researcher Patricia Garfield believes that chase dreams are
the most prevalent type of dream we have.
Taking these dreams metaphorically and asking ourselves
what large, uncontrollable events and situations in our life are like the dream can be
very revealing. The dream may be revealing out feeling threatened by some person in waking
life or by an inner emotion. Occasionally this dream is a replay of an actual event.
In waking life, large threatening things can't always be
confronted directly and we do the best we can with alternative routes. But pursuers in the
dream do less damage and so direct confrontation almost always brings about unexpected
transformation. When children have nightmares, we often ask them to draw the beast and
then put it in a cage or put a magic circle around it. One child who was pursued by a
monster in his closet did just this and he asked the monster, why are your chasing me?
When the little boy was asked what the Monster said back, it was "I'm lonely, and
just looking for a friend". Sometimes more than a magic circle and quick dialogue
seemed to be called for in adult chase scenes, but the idea is the same. This also put the
suggestion in our minds that the next time in a dream we are pursued, there are creative
options to fleeing. The Senoi tribe teach their children to confront the monsters in their
dreams, and to call for the help of heros and parents if it really gets too scary. Usually
the monster backs down. Once they do this, the children are taught to ask for a gift from
the beast. These techniques can be used by adults as well as children.
S. LaBerge & H. Rheingold, (1990). EXPLORING THE
OF LUCID DREAMING. Chapter 10, Overcoming Nightmares.
New York: Ballantine.
Wiseman, Anne Sayre (1986). Nightmare Help: A guide
for Parents and Teachers. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
Teeth Falling Out
Dream: "I was driving to work and my teeth began
falling out! At first I thought they were just loose, but soon I easily pushed them out
with my tongue. I was horrified and nearly wrecked the car. Then I woke up and my teeth
were fine, but I recalled the dream very vividly."
Many of us have been the victim of tooth-lose dreams and
have carried this concern into the morning. Here's a quote: "Tooth dreams are open to
many interpretations and have been handled successfully by very few of the modern dream
interpreters." This was written in the Second Century by the ancient interpreter,
Artemidorus. Even the Vedas and texts 2000 years BC talk about tooth dreams. So you can
see there is a long history of confusion. Freud and Jung explored the possibilities of
tooth loss and hysteria, but modern dream interpreters take a different approach that is
more direct. What, we can ask ourselves, do teeth do? They hold, cut, grasp and generally
are the first way we had to do these things. But then we lost our first set, just as we
were gaining in self-control and power. And yet, shortly thereafter, a new and larger
world and set of teeth appear! And so, if I have a tooth lose dream, I can ask myself, 1.
What parts of my world and life are slipping away? and 2. What new larger world will this
lead me too? Lose a tooth, gain a world!
Dream "Mr. Feldman is passing out a final exam. To
my horror I realize that I havent come to this class all semester and havent
any idea what the questions on the test mean."
Being unprepared for a test in a dream is quite common.
But only rarely do these dreams come about during a real test. Dreamworkers prefer to see
the dream test as a metaphor of our lives. Clearly they are emotional plays of not feeling
Gayle Delaney has noted that her clients who are lawyers
often have test dreams, and are often leading stressful lives. In other words, the dream
test might be seen as an expression of our feelings of fear related to being unprepared
for tasks and relationships in life. When the test dream occurs, we can then ask ourselves
what in our lives is like this, where are we feeling tested and unprepared, or where we
are expecting such a situation.
There are many variations of this dream, including not
being prepared, not being able to read the test questions, having our pencils and pens not
work, and realizing we skipped the class too many times. Sometimes we arrive too late for
the test or cant find the place where the test is being held. But these dreams are
also related to all kinds of dream where we have difficulty performing or recalling, such
as having to give a talk or forgetting ones lines in a play.
Dream expert Robert Van de Castle has noted that these
dreams are connected with having an inner critic that is paralyzing us. In other words,
the tasks are more about pleasing someone else than oneself. Once ones sense of self
is lost in a task, anxiety, boredom and other emotionally issues surface. Once we recover
our own path, these problems evaporate. This recovery of self composure can help us while
we are dreaming as well as in other waking test conditions. English dreamworker Ann
Faraday once confronted a teacher in a test dream, saying that if she could read the
questions, she would stay, but if not, she would leave the classroom. Later in the week at
a conference in her waking life, she told the audience that if she didnt know the
answers to their questions, she would just leave them. This greatly reduced her anxiety
about the lecture.
It is doubtful that in a society where standards of
behavior are expected that examination dreams would disappear completely. To view these
dreams as opportunities to re-examine our own values seems at this time the best path. I
just hope we are kind and fair examiners of ourselves.
Dream pioneer and researcher Patricia Garfield has noted
that we also often have the opposite of this kind of dream, where we do extremely well at
some task or performance, such as at an athletic event or giving a great piano recital.
Garfield has observed that occasionally we seem to have a dream skill that bears no
resemblance to waking abilities, such as the woman who can't carry a tune dreaming she is
singing a magnificent opera aria. Such dreams might be seen as bringing the dreamers
attention to abilities in a symbolic or metaphorical way, as in her case "finding her
voice" in writing.
Naked in Public
Dream: "I went to get some extra milk and realized
while I was in the store that I was naked. I wondered how to get home barefooted. "
Being naked in public can be very embarrassing, but is
quite common in dreaming. There are many variations. Sometimes people see and make fun of
us. Other times we find it quite odd that we are naked and others dont even
seem to notice. This nakedness can be full nudity, or partial, such as being barefoot,
being in pajamas, or just having forgotten to wear a tie to the office.
Swiss analyst Carl Jung noticed this phenomenon over a
hundred years ago and felt that clothes were a metaphor for the public self (the
archetypal form he termed the "Persona"). From this view, the absence of clothes
requires that the dreamer look at how they present themselves to the world and how we feel
vulnerable. Some people feel vulnerable if they have not clothed themselves with
possessions, such as nice cars and jewelry. Others feel the need to clothe themselves in
academic degrees or with large insurance policies. Our personalities can also be worn like
clothing, and Jung felt these dreams allows us to explore the difference between our inner
and outer selves.
Contemporary dreamworker Ann Faraday suggests looking at
how we feel naked, revealed, vulnerable or exposed in our lives at the present time.
Sometimes the dream may reveal superficial nakedness, and other times it may be something
quite fundamental that is exposed, such as our morals or values. Gayle Delaney suggests
that to find out, we ask ourselves who is in the dream with us at the time, what everyone
is feeling and where in waking life this is similar.
There is an ancient Babylonian Myth about this kind of
dream, where a princess, to find her true self, must descend into the underworld. At each
level she descends, a piece of clothing or jewelry is removed, until she eventually stands
before the lord of the underworld fully naked. Naked dreams offer us much the same
Sex in Dreams
Usually sex in dreams is not something people bother to
interpret, since it is an inherently enjoyable act in itself that doesnt require
further attention. However, we often find ourselves in dreams sleeping with the most
unusual people, animals and monsters and this may stir up our curiosity about what dreams
and sex might mean in general.
Sex and dreams are very intimately connected
historically. A hundred years ago Sigmund Freud produced a book called The Interpretation
of Dreams which revealed, according to Freud, that all dreams were about sex.
* Many of
his followers saw that dreams did involve sexuality but werent convinced that this
was at the root of all dreams. Carl Jung, for example, felt that dreams were an attempt to
combine the conscious and unconscious elements of a person to create wholeness. That means
the dream takes all parts of our life and spins a story that moves us towards being better
people. Cooperation with this process could speed up the process. He saw the sex that
occurred in our dreams as an opportunity to examine the symbolism of fusing two parts of
our personality together that had previously been kept apart.
When people have sex with taboo others, such as straight
people with gays, or children with parents, or normal people with animals, the best
interpretations are not often literal. Feeling that this is just a secret desire only revealed
in dreams is a shallow interpretation. Rather the symbolic approach is called for.
Contemporary dreamworkers follow this symbolic path. If
I dream of sleeping with Sally, I can ask myself what characteristics of Sally I am trying
to fuse or add to myself? Is it her get up and go personality, or her ability to function
so well in crisis?
The same technique can work just as well in reverse.
Perhaps I dont like Sally and cant in waking life imagine having sex with her.
My dream of sleeping with her may reveal to me that I am becoming like Sally in ways I
dont want to, such as being overly self critical or getting out of control with
drugs. This symbolism is not really so removed from our use in everyday life of saying
"They are in bed together" when we talk about industrial mergers and political
partners in waking life. That is, it means they are connected in some deep and very
entwined ways. Likewise, we all know what it means when someone says, "Hes
trying to screw me!" Other times when we feel abused and intruded upon or ripped off,
we talk about how we were "raped."
Dream sex researcher, Gayle Delaney, notes that what men
and women want sexually in dreams can be quite different. Women tend to like dreams where
men are trying to please them, know how to do this and take their time. Men tend to like
sexual dreams where women are entirely uninhibited and eager to do anything. She further
suggests that we might watch our sexual dreams for new ideas and suggestions for improving
* "All dreams are about sex" is perhaps an
unfair assessment of Freuds book The Interpretation of Dreams. The book actually is
a fabulous exploration of the whole field of dreams. And for most of the book, Freud
argues that the meaning of a dream can only be found via free association. It was only
later that he began over simplify and insist that all dreams are disguised expressions of
the fulfillment of a repressed infantile sexual wishes. It should be noted that Freud
furthermore felt that infantile sexuality was more diffuse and something quite different
than adult sexuality. Thus the statement "All dreams are about sex" is talking
about something few of us would call sex. (Freud used the term "perverse
++ Delaney, Gayle (1995). Sensual Dreaming : How to
Understand and Interpret the Erotic Content of Your Dreams. Fawcett Books.
++Baylis, Janice Hinshaw (1997). Sex, Symbols and
Dreams. Seal Beach: Sun, Man, Moon.
++Freud, Sigmund (1900). The Interpretation of
++ Jung, Carl (1964). Man and His Symbols. Garden City,
New York: Doubleday & Co.
Falling and Dying
How often have you heard that if you fall and hit the
bottom of a cliff in a dream you will really die?
" I was falling and falling off a cliff down into a
deep canyon. I knew if I hit the bottom I would die."
We all get a little frightened when we loose control
over what is happening to us. The Hitting-Bottom theory is a popular folktale and all kids
seem to talk about this on the playground. But many, many people have hit and lived to
tell about. The falling dream itself is one of the most popular and early remembered of
all dreams. While some theories talk about falling having to do with how easily we used to
fall as children, and other theories talk about the falling indicating a fear of loss in
security or of a relationship. The best and most recent ideas take another approach.
Falling is very close to ...flying! By telling ourselves before we go to sleep that we
would prefer to fly than fall, we can often take control of the fall and turn the dream
into a flying dream, which is exhilarating in contrast to fear-filled. Both of these can
be converted into questions. 1. What in my life seems to be falling out of control? and 2.
How can I turn this out-of-control part from falling into flying? Often, like in the
dream, just being aware that you can is enough to make the switch from falling to flying.
Mechanical Things Dont
Dream: "I escape the men chasing me and find a
phone. I dial 911 but I get someone else. I try again and cant even get a dial
Dream: "Just as I pull in my drive way I put on the
breaks and they dont work! The steering isnt working correctly either and I
run the car into my porch."
We all seem to have trouble with mechanical things
working in our dreams this can be very frustrating. Carl Jung felt that dreams were
offering us an alternative path to our willful daytime attitudes. In this sense, dreams
where technology fails us offers us an alternative view to our usual control and
manipulation of the environment we must practice so diligently in waking life. Instead of
pushing and willing things around with our apparatuses and machines, we are forced in
mechanically challenged dreams to relate in other ways.
This mechanical problem is so well known that the
Lucidity Institute, which teaches people conscious dream control, use this fact to help
people recognize they are dreaming. They have a mask that flashes a red light when we are
in dream (REM) sleep. This light can also be controlled by pushing a button on the mask.
If you are not sure if you are dreaming, you just push the button and if you are dreaming,
the button is unlikely to work. This becomes a clue for the person to realize that it is a
Contemporary dreamworkers also like to look at what the
dream contraptions represent and how they function. My car, for example, functions as a
vehicle to get me around. As a representation of my self, I might think about my inner
things that get me around, such as my anger and my charm. If the breaks arent
working on my dream vehicle, perhaps Im driving my personal coping strategies of
anger and charm to the point of breaking and need something new.
A phone is a way to connect to others. If this
isnt working in a dream, I might be able to look at how I am connecting with myself
and the world.
The famous dreamworker Montague Ullman says the dreams
are metaphors in motion. Linda Magallon, another dreamworker, has phrased this more
clearly when she says that dreams are the mind in motion. The mind is a contraption at
times too, but it doesnt work like cars and telephones. When contraptions
arent working in dream it is very frustrating, but it is also an opportunity to see
how the most magnificent machine of all work.
Cant Find the Bathroom
Dream: "I can't find a place to urinate. I wander
all around looking for a bathroom. Finally I'm in an old tree house above the family
garage, and I urinate down into a hole in through the roof. "
Looking for a place to go is as frustrating in dreams as
it sometimes is in life. However, in waking life we usually don't look for deeper
Often when we have to urinate in a dream, we really do
have to urinate! But other times we have to urinate during sleep and don't dream about it
at all. So a second set of answers may be necessary. I think urination in dreams reveals a
part of the way the dreaming mind works in general as well. When the urge comes into the
dreaming mind, the mind deals with this request like all others, it begins to play with
it, to match it to earlier experiences that are similar and to unfold the metaphorical
aspects of the urge.
On the symbolic level, we can look at the dream images
of urination and deification in terms of getting rid of something that is causing us
pressure. And the thing we need to give up may not be social sanctioned in all quarters.
The famous dream worker Jeremy Taylor says that when he has dreams of urination, he goes
somewhere private and writes down on a piece of paper all the things he really wants to
do, being completely honest with himself and then burns the paper. This way we can allow
expression of the most noxious of our desires without making ourselves too vulnerable.
Exploration of the way we feel in these trapped
situations brings out many of the issues where we have poor options about the where and
how of the situation, but no choice about the thing itself. It must happen, it is going to
flow - and yet there is no good place for this to happen. The dream image gives us the
ability to visualize this kind of situation and to allow us to explore various ways of
moving with this tension that will, inevitable find expression in other forms in the
world. The key here, I feel, is not in finding a good place to urinate, but in learning
ways of being in the predicament itself. This is what Jung calls a real symbol as opposed
to a simple sign. A real symbol has the ability to hold the tension long enough for a
whole new paradigm of consciousness to emerge.
It might be useful to notice *where* this play unfolds.
Is it at work, at one's childhood home, the store, an unknown territory? As we become
comfortable working with one area, new idea and hope spring from this empowerment and can
create a fountain of - well, ideas.
and Defecation Dreams
Dream: " I'm waking down a country road. I am
covered with excrement and feel quite miserable. I come upon a farm, a kind of bed and
breakfast where a man and his daughter are outside. I approach them for mercy, to get a
room, and they run inside. "
Being vulnerable and exposed is always a messy and hard
situation. Though unpleasant at times, It is not uncommon to have dream about excrement.
The meaning varies from person to person, but some famous psychologists have suggested
some meanings that can be borrowed and if applied, used to enhance and improve our lives.
Freud, nearly a century ago, wrote the Interpretation of
Dreams and commented on how pooping and holding poop was the first ways we really get to
produce something and control that production. Thus, as our production in later life of
money is similar, dreams about poop may be about money. To approach this more broadly we
can look at Erik Erikson's stage of Industry vs Inferiority, were excrement may be seen as
our relationship with productivity in general. Are we constipated and full of it, or does
it, like Midas, cover us and soil everything we touch?
Another approach is that of Carl Jung's who saw
excrement as a metaphor for all the crap we have to work on. But it is a divine and sacred
crap, which he called "prima materia" after the alchemical base substance that
would eventually be transformed into a finer material. What this means psychologically is
that we get to look at all our crap, all the things that stand in the way of our living
empowered, whole and liberated lives. Thus the worse the excrement, the better the chance
to move on to higher ground, to make gold. To attempt to move to higher places without
having dealt with the crap means that no matter how high we go, we'll have that crap
lubricating our slide back down.
In Hinduism, there is a three faced version to Time,
assigned to Krishna(creation), Brahman (maintaining) and Shiva(Destruction) . We can use
this model for excrement dreams and ask ourselves three questions that shift consciousness
from fear to choice:
1. What are we holding on to from the past that we need
to release let go of?
2. What do we choose to sustain and keep despite the
3. What are we anticipating and reaching for in the
Generally speaking, working with excrement dreams then
show us how the Lotus blossoms from the mud.
Dreams in Black and White
There is no experimental proof I have seen of this, but
researchers agree that most dreams are in color. However, because the dream fades so
quickly after we awake, our memories of the dream are often recalled in gray tones.
Studies show that those who are in tune with color in waking life tend to remember more
color in dreams as well. It has also been noticed that those of us who grew up with black
& white TV have more black and white dreams.
When I was a kid, I heard someone talking about
black&white vs color dreams. I felt bad because I recalled most of my dreams in
b&w. That night I dreamt of thousands of iridescence lizards running along by my room.
I was really delighted and tried to collect as many a possible, commenting the whole time
about the color. This dream indicates satisfactorily to me that there is color *in* the
dream and its not just added afterwards. Try the following exercise: During the day,
notice at least once an hour the color of something, anything. My guess is that you will
start recalling more dreams in your sleep.
Dreamworkers will often use black and white dreams to
say "Perhaps this situation is black and white" or "You feel this is a
black and white situation?" Used in this way, it allows us to explore that we perhaps
are feeling a loss of options or the situation is very clear.
Cheating boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, and
Dream: " I was just getting back from the store
when I looked in my bedroom window and saw by boyfriend in bed with my best friend."
Dreams of cheating partners are very common and often
give us a jolt. Since we have all heard that dreams might predict the future or reveal
deeper meanings, the fear arises that our lovers might be cheating on us. Usually this is
unfounded. Here are some questions I ask myself:
1. How likely is this to be literally true? If it is
likely, I would confront my lover, not by saying I had caught her in a dream, but that I
had a dream about it and tell the lover my fears.
2. If its *not* likely, I would see the people in the
dreams as parts of myself. Carl Jung saw the act of sex as a symbol of union. So if my
wife Cassidy, who is a very thoughtful type, was in bed with my friend Bill, who is very
emotional, I might ask myself what would happen if I joined my own thoughtful side with my
As you can see, this technique works just as well for
myself. That is, if I dream I am cheating on my lover, but would never do this in waking
life, then it is an opportunity for me to join with some of the characteristics of the
dream lover. If Brenda is a hard working person and Im more of a happy go lucky guy,
I can use the dream to explore what it would be like to mix these qualities in my
These unexpected unions in dreams can lead some very
positive growth once we get over the belief that they might be literally true.
Abandoning the Baby
Dream " I had a dream that my baby wandered off
while I was washing the clothes, I had completely forgotten about her! I ran outside
looking everywhere but couldn't find her. My grandmother said (in waking life) this means
I'm going to have to watch my baby more closely, or she will get away. Now I'm going crazy
all the time looking and watching over her."
Being responsible for those under our care is always a
hard task, and there always seems to be someone who is better at and sometimes people who
are critical of our caretaking. This dream often happens to people who are the most
responsible in life, and have, in a sense *earned* the right to see a little farther than
most, even though we dont at first have any desire for this gift.
It is interesting that in mythology many of the heros
are first abandoned by the parents, on hillsides, in rivers, in caves and fields. What
this indicates to some is that our dream children are really metaphors of our higher self.
In other words, from the point of view of the dreaming mind, what is emerging is something
new and world shaking. What we are doing in losing our charges is neglecting it or
allowing it to develop on its own. The neglect then is self-neglect. How many projects,
for example, have I left abandoned on the hillside? How to give ourselves time for self
growth in the modern world is a real challenge.
This losing of those we care about, whether they are
babies, older relatives, friends or other people we love and are responsible for can be
used as a wake up call. After all, its hard to really find something and appreciate it
until we see that we might lose it.
Dreams Predicting the Future
"I dreamt last night that my long lost friend wrote
me a letter and the very next day I got a letter from this person!"
There are many testimonies and written examples of
dreams that seemed to predict future events. Some may have been due to coincidence, trick
memory, or an creative re-assembly of known information. A few laboratory studies have
been conducted on predictive dreams, as well as clairvoyant and telepathic dreams with
nothing conclusive. But then again, these kinds of dreams are difficult to study in a
laboratory setting. Some folks in the dream field feel that there is more telepathy going
on than we realize, and so we may hear more about this in the future. But at this time, it
seems that telepathic dreaming - and more specifically here, clairvoyant and
future-telling dreaming, is quite rare.
What usually happens is that dreams create a wide
variety of possible connections. Many of these connections turn out to be true. But more
of them dont. Quite a lot more of them dont. So many do not turn out true that
believing in telepathic dreaming is more a way of becoming superstitious than a path of
Another approach that sees dreams as forward looking
(Jung's teleological view) has led to a whole host of techniques that appreciate the
dreams ability to see vital *potential* paths for us and even warn us that certain of our
behaviors can lead to ruin & success, but this is not quite the same thing as warning
someone not to take a jet flight. It more like being aware that dreams about being
reckless are a kind of predictor that I may be behaving recklessly.
However, if you do dream of some lotto numbers, can you
send them in to me?
Auerbach, Loyd. Psychic Dreaming. NY: Warner Books,
Ullman, M., Krippner, S. & Vaughan, A. (1989 2nd
Ed.) Dream Telepathy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Pub.
Krippner, Stanley (1975). Song of the Siren. A
Unable to flee or diminished
Dream: "I had just turned the corner when I saw I
was still being chased. But my legs were frozen. Not cold, just stuck. It was kind of like
being in mud or having a magnet in the ground drain all my leg muscles."
Being paralyzed in some way in a dream is often
reported, as well as losing other faculties such as sight, sense of direction and other
capacities. These dreams are very frustrating for the dreamer and bring up all sorts of
fears and insecurities we have about being in control of ourselves, our lives and our
environment. There is no scientific explanation that is accepted by the whole dream
community, but some ideas have been suggested.
Every 90 minutes or so we enter REM sleep for about 20
minutes. If awaken from REM, a person is likely to report a dream. You can usually tell
when someone is in REM sleep because there eyes will be moving very rapidly back and
forth, hence it is called REM or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. During REM, the body is in a
state of slight paralysis. The brain is operating as it normally would, but all the
messages are stopped from traveling to many parts of the body.
Yet in dreams, we can sometimes be partially aware of
our surroundings outside the body. Alarm Clocks, cars going by and the kids playing in the
next room can all cause partial awakening. These events can be partially taken into the
dream, or incorporated in many unusual way.
The interesting thing about this incorporation is that
even though the event may have had nothing to do with the dreams initially, it can become
a significant part of the dream story.
Dreamworkers can take advantage of this by using
paralysis as a metaphor. They will ask the dream where and when in their lives they are
feeling stuck or paralyzed. The dream story occurring at the time can be used for cues.
Dreaming about being paralyzed at work, in a relationship, how to choose a career? Perhaps
you first talk about how you feel paralyzed and then assess if this feels like being
paralyzed in other parts of your life. Dreamworker Gayle Delaney suggests that if you can
find a parallel situation, it may be further helpful to imagine a way to mobilize yourself
to take appropriate actions and liberate yourself from ta fear or someone elses
control. Jungian dreamworkers feel this course of action is often indicated by the dream
itself. Close attention to the type of paralysis, the way it feels and how it functions
can be important. For example, how does the paralysis in the dream function to keep the
dreamer from fleeing a particular situation, or relieve them from moving on to a new
President Johnson, for example, used to have
paralyzation dreams during the Vietnam war. Once he was chained to a chair and had to
continue signing documents, another time he was lying immobile on a bed in a red room. As
the war continued, Johnson began having dreams of being unable swim across a river. He
wasnt paralyzed but swam in circles no matter what he tried. This dream helped lead
him to see his social programs would fail if he didnt leave office.
Dreams where we are paralyzed and otherwise unable to
reach our goal can be very frustrating, but also contain the possibilities of new
directions in life. A dreamworker Jeremy Taylor has said, these frustrating nightmares are
really one of our most precious gifts.
Animals in Dreams
While animal dreams are very common among younger
children, it is not uncommon for adults to have them as well.
The most popular idea is that the animal in the dream is
the animal in us. That is, our instincts and animal selves that we are not usually
conscious of in waking life emerge at night in dreams as natural animals that may be
similar. It is felt that the more problematic or sick the dream animal, the more likely we
are at odds with our own instinctual selves. Being able to recall the dream is a positive
sign that we are ready to work on this part of ourselves. The type of animal may also
indicate a path for finding a creative, positive & responsible way to channel our
If I had an animal dream of a sick eagle, for example I
would first come up with some metaphors to describe what "eagle" means to me -
attacker of snakes, protector of its nest, far seeing, fights in a non-human manner,
beautiful yet I fear being attacked, and so on. I might add to these personal associations
some cultural ones, like the American Eagle symbolism of protecting liberty and freedom,
or mythological images of the eagle, such as eagle as Father of the Gods, Zeus. If my
dream eagle was sick, I might look at how these symbols might manifest more in my life -
how I might protect my own children - or my own baby projects, or how I might soar above
the crowd. With children, this may give us a clue as to what aspects of impulse control
they are struggling with. As adults, we are offered a doorway into wider vision of living.
Other dreamworkers see the animal more like a totem or
shaman guide. In this sense, we don't assume that the animal is an image of our
unconscious drives, but is here to lead us into an unknown territory that can't be decided
upon before we go there. With this approach, we treat the dream animal like bird watchers
from behind a duck blind, carefully observing the nuance of the image of the dream animal,
how it looks in detail, how it moves, how it reacts. The key here is in how long we can
stay with the image and follow its lead.
Animals in dreams, no matter how problematic, offer us
an opportunity as guides to contact and explore both the parts of ourselves that we have
shut away and parts that we have never know.
Foulkes, David (1982). Children's Dreams:
Longitudinal Studies. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Hillman, James and McLean, Margot (1996). Dream Animals.
Floods & Natural Disasters
Dream :" The water from the ocean is rising and
threatening to flood the city I'm living in. There is this impending feeling of doom and
helplessness, like right before something really big is about to happen."
Impending doom, especially from elemental sources like
water, land and air are particulary disconcerting. These events inhabit not only the
physical world, but the world of imagination, religion, mythology and dreams.
Early people recognized water and watery things as
belonging to their own domain and this was know to the Greeks as the Realm of Poseidon,
Lord of Oceans, Earthquakes and other fluid movements that were seen to be what all the
land rested upon.
Psychologically, we rest on our emotional world. All the
reason in the world is useless when we panic, when we are furious, when we despair. To
move into that realm and not be drown is the work of a lifetime, the place to create a
To dream of an approaching tidal wave may indicate that
I have an apprehension about the emotions that are welling up inside of me -- I fear being
overwhelmed, or "drowning" in the feelings and being unable to control my world
and all I have achieved. Floods are also a mythic way to re-fresh and create something
new. Many mythic kingdoms were flooded and drowned by their gods to make way for something
new. The reason I am casting this in such mythic terms is due to the opportunity that
large scale doom and disaster dreams bring to us. Rudolf Otto coined the term
"Numious" and it means the terrifying, awe-inspiring, experience of the Sacred
Up Close. The feeling right before a major natural event can provoke this sense of wonder
and awe. Dreaming about floods affords us a channel into making some major changes in our
If I am dreaming about this watery doom, I am
also now conscious of this water and can learn to take the full impact & force
of my emotions. I can learn to "swim". As we become even more conscious, we can
even learn in dreams to breath water! This will often happen after the acceptance of a new
way of being occurs.
Remember that each elements realm is magnificently large
and holds a whole universe of meaning.
Siegel, Alan B. (1990). Dreams That Can Change Your
Life. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.
"Several years ago I kept having a dream of falling
in love and I was extremely happy, even when I woke up. I never did see the man's face.
Sometimes we even got married and had a whole dream life together, but I never saw his
The Faceless Lover is considered by many to be *THE*
story of women. It may best or most poetically be found in Apuleius' tale of "Eros
and Psyche". Psyche is the daughter of a king who must be wed to the dragon and is
left abandoned on the cliff side. The "Monster" is really the god Eros, who
knows if she ever looks at him directly the relationship will be over. (One just can't
look directly at gods, there are too beautiful and intense). Blindfolded, he takes her to
his castle and only comes to her in the dark, making a pact with her to never turn on the
light. Eventually she can no long resist and looks, and then the relationship is over for
a long time.
The Jungian psychologists say that when the faceless
lover comes to us in dreams, it is most profoundly seen as *part of ourselves* that we
desire most, and see as (often) the opposite sex. If we just go along with the game, we
continue to live in the rich castle of Eros and, according to the Jungians, endlessly
chase after these people in real life. Sometimes it works, but usually the pattern just
repeats and gets stale. It is said that eventually we either get tired of this game or
something tricky happens and we see the faceless lover directly. The common path of growth
is to see these figures *qualities* in ourselves and develop them. For example, I could
write a short series of qualities that come to mind that remind me of that person; Fast,
Handsome, Playful, Analytical, Self-Assured, or whatever, and then try to develop those
qualities in myself. Who, after all, can love me more intimately than my higher
Lover's in both dreams and life can bring up the love
and vitality needed to bring these qualities we once loved in others into our own
personality. There are some guides along the way.
The classic book on this is Animus and Anima
by Emma Jung (1957-1981) Dallas, TX: Spring Publications.
Two popular and very accessible books on this for men
*and* women are
HE: Understanding Masculine Psychology
(1974) Robert Johnson , New York: Harper and Row.
SHE: Understanding Feminine Psychology, By
Robert Johnson, New York: Harper and Row.
The Tale of Eros and Psyche is widely available. Some
versions with comment include the already mentioned SHE, The Golden
Ass by Marie-Louise von Franz and Amor & Psyche by Erich
Dream: "I was climbing up a ladder behind by
brother (I don't even have a brother in waking life!) to get to the top bunk bed and I put
a knife in his back. Even in the dream I was shocked by my behavior. I'm a very
non-violent person and was upset that this occurred, even in a dream!"
Find ourselves behaving in dreams like criminals is very
upsetting, even though it is quite common. For any upsetting experience, its often useful
to write the experience down in a journal as clearly and detailed as possible.
Though not an every day(night) experience, act of
killing and being killed in dreams is not unnormal, even among those who would never hurt
Dream workers find the most useful way to approach these
dreams is to first see that the deaths and slayings are not meant to be taken literally,
but rather symbolically. This becomes especially clear when we kill figures that don't
even exist in waking like. The image of death taken symbolically can mean many things, one
of which can be the death of an old attitude or personality trait or behavior pattern. In
this way the whole sense of the dream is reversed, and death becomes a doorway to a new
way of living. As you can see, the meanings shift according to who is being killed.
Killing our parents may be giving up values they gave us that no longer work for us, while
killing a sibling may be getting beyond relationships that involve useless rivalry and
competition. It is always interesting to note how *far away* the murdered figures are from
you, both physically or in terms of blood relations. An unknown person or distant cousin
may indicate that the personality trait or habit that is dying or being done away with is
rather distant from your core personality. Killing oneself or an intimate other offers the
opportunity to make key changes in your life or attitudes.
The key here is to approach the elements in the dream
metaphorically, and then to apply these metaphors to ourselves and our life. In this way
the most adverse dream conditions become our allies in personal growth & self
Suicide in Dreams
My friend had a dream and she killed herself in it. She
was sitting on a cliff at the Grand Canyon and threw herself off. She is a very up and
cheery person and I had no idea what to say when she told me this dream.
Suicide and Dreams
Of course, whenever we or our friends talk about
suicide, we need to act responsibly and even consider contacting a professional or call a
local suicide help line. However, death and suicide in dreams are not all that uncommon
and if there is no depression or despair noticeable in the waking person, the dreams are
best taken symbolically.
As Jeremy Taylor, the world renowned Dream Worker, says
"No matter how distressing these images are during the dream, they are almost
certainly symbolic pictures of ways in which I am growing and changing, ways in which my
life energies are being redirected from old attitudes, perceptions, and self-images."
Taylor has had several decades of experience and his ideas are based on Carl Jung's work,
which elaborates how the dreaming mind is always working towards healing and wholeness.
The key symbols here are Death and the Self. When death
is seen literally, the focus is on the loss and absence, but when taken metaphorically,
the emphasis is on loss of the old to make way for the new. Death, in this sense, is the
great transformation. If someone distant in our dream dies, we often say that
characteristic in our personality is changing. If *we* die in a dream, it may indicate a
radical change in the core self, and this could manifest itself in personality, attitude,
behavior or other actions.
Dream: "While running from a mugger I began to fly!
I found I could control the flying and began flying all around the city, then out above
the countryside. I thought I might be able to fly to the moon. "
Dream flying advocate Linda Magallon has found that
flying in dreams is the number one fun activity that people like to do dreaming, when they
realize that they can. Because there are so many kinds of flying and reasons for flying,
there also many different meanings. As a matter of fact, author and dream historian
Anthony Shafton found over twenty four explanations of flying in dreams by contemporary
These ranged from Freud's idea that it is a
reconstruction of the joy of being tossed as a child by adults to Alan Hobson's theory
that it is the result of neuron firings from brain stem to Walter Bonime's feeling that it
represents the person's desire to responsibility and limitations of nature. Who is right?
The most self empowering answer seems to be the one that you can choose that will satisfy
both the need for the answer to fit and at the same time carry you forward in life.
The first president of the Association for the Study of
Dreams, Gayle Delaney, has noted that dream flying can easily lead to another wonderful
dream activity, dream lucidity. Once you realize that you are flying, it may occur to your
that is not something one can do in waking reality. Ah, hah -- so this must be a dream! At
the point you become lucid (aware you are dreaming while you are dreaming) you then have
some really fun options with dream flying. Some people like to test their skill, seeing
high or low, how fast or slow they can fly. Others like to visit far away places or see
This dream sport is so popular, there is even a on-line
club devoted to flying and other activities in dreaming called the Fly-by-Night
Dream: "I was just about to get in my car when I
noticed my purse with my keys was missing. I was sure I had it right with me and began to
panic that someone had my wallet and keys."
Its frustrating enough when we lose our essentials in
waking life, why do we have to go through this again once we go to sleep? The old
assumption was that since it is our dream, we are punishing ourselves in some way. This
would be followed by the observation that good people punish themselves more than bad
people, so it shows a strong and good conscious to be punishing yourself in a dream.
Hardly solace to the dreamer. Swiss Psychoanalyst Carl Jung took another path, asking more
what is going on when these and other tricky things happened. He noted that in all
religions there is often a trick, loss or theft right before a person gains a great gift
or piece of wisdom. The Native Americans had a names for this tricky character, often
called Coyote. Jung simple called this the Trickster. We dont always see the
trickster in the dream, but we can often feel his effect. He steals something visible and
returns something invisible. When something essential in our lives appears to be missing,
we gain a perspective that we wouldnt achieve on our own. Who, for example, would
lose their own keys or allow a wallet to be stolen? Thus we are thrown into a situation
larger than our usual selves would chose and must draw upon resources out of the depth of
anxiety and fear.
Contemporary dreamworkers like to ask, "What are we
really losing, and where in life are we feeling robbed?" For example, if I lose my
wallet, I might say that Ive lost my social identity. Where in my life do I feel a
loss of identity?
Jeremy Taylor notes that the common lose-the-baby dream
can be seen as classic dream of losing and finding oneself and ones highest values.
That is, the baby may be seen as the archetypal Child
who is being neglected or whose time has come. In these
instances, it may be productive to set aside time for oneself.
of Houses and Other Possessions
"I just couldnt believe that my house had
burned down while I was at work. I kept going through the ashen rooms looking to see if
anything had survived this fire and found an old book from my childhood about Robin
Losing personal possessions in destructive acts is
somewhat akin to having them stolen. When they are stolen, we look for the thief and call
for the police. When they are destroyed, we abandon hope of finding them again and have to
deal more directly with the lose. In theft, the sense of justice is related to the social
level, but with destruction it is more elemental. We ask, "Why me?". And as
Dream therapist Alan Siegel has noted when a friend or neighbors house or
possessions are destroyed instead of our own, we often feel guilty and ask "Why not
me?" (Survivors guilt).
Contemporary dreamworkers like to ask, "What did
this possession represent to us and how would its absence change my life? " For
example, if I lose my car, I might say that Ive lost my main vehicle. Metaphorically
this vehicle might be anger, manipulation, charm or looks. What might it mean if I lost my
charm or favorite way of getting what I want and need?
With a house, we can ask similar questions and perhaps
larger questions. What was the house really holding for me? What was the life I live that
this house holds?
If this is too large a question, we might see the dream
house as our inner personality, and ask how our personality sometimes burns itself up, or
gets flooded, or just disappears when we need it most.
Whatever approach you use to exploring the meaning of
lost and destroyed property, be sure to note the feelings that come with this loss. There
is likely to be hurt and anger, feeling of being victimized and other complex feelings.
Dont ignore these just because it was a dream and not really true. You may be
feeling angry or victimized about some other aspect of your life that is best represented
by the dream house.
New Rooms, Houses, Places
Dream: "Im in a kind of orphanage and several
of us go down a hallway and find a door that we have never seen before. I open the door
and find a room full of treasure, its like an Egyptian tomb. I feel quite amazed that
Ive never seen this room before and feel exhilarated. "
Find new things is often a delightful experience and one
of the fun things about being human. This delight is often found in dreams as well. Though
we can find things we wish we hadnt, usually the experience is a positive one.
Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung saw houses in dreams as
representing our personality. Finding new rooms would be like finding new parts of our
personality. Jungian psychiatrist James Hall suggests that we can further look at what
kind of room has been discovered or is being explored and have this reveal more about the
part of our personality at play. Kitchens might be a place where raw material is turned
into nurturing substances. Bathrooms might mean we are dealing with elimination or letting
go. To find out for yourself, describe how the room in your dream best functions, how it
works for the whole house or the inhabitants. Is the room a place to wash dirty laundry,
an attic to put away things we no longer use or a living room where everyone can meet and
interact on an equal basis?
Dreamworker Gayle Delaney feels these dreams come when
we are opening up to new possibilities and ready to make changes in our life. These new
possibilities may make themselves know to us in our dreams right before they happen in
Dream: "I was so happy that Jack Nickelson had
invited me to his private party. I saw him across the swimming pool getting the dinner
ready and was very proud when he called me over and other people saw this."
Encountering famous people in dreams is a popular dream
theme. Movie stars, great teachers, world leaders and even famous ancient history heros
can appear in our dreams. These are usually very pleasant dreams and the dreamer often
feels the glow of being "star struck" or chosen. Dreamworkers like to ask the
dreamer what qualities these stars have (smart, popular, emotional) and then ask if the
dreamer wants these qualities themselves. If you can dream it, then you can more easily
More globally, dreaming of famous people may be a way of
expressing larger social and cultural issues and being in contact with these larger
feeling. When Princess Diana died, many people around the world had dreams about her who
never met her. She represented and carried larger values and brought these to the
publics attention. Concerns about what would happen to these values after her
passing were being explored by the individual dreams about her. She dreamt: "I saw
Diane get out of a black limousine and walk towards me with a bouquet of flowers. I was
shocked to see her and asked her what she was doing here, that everyone thought she was
dead. She handed me one of the flowers and said she had to return. She got back into the
car and was driven away. I cried after I woke up. I knew the bouquet was the gift she had
given to the world. No one person could carry the whole bouquet now, but each of us had to
hold up our own part of it. "
Drowning, quicksand and mud
"I thought I could swim back to shore, but I
cant seem to say afloat as waves keep swirling me underwater. Finally I am so far
down I realize I will never get to the surface in time and wake up."
Dreamers often find themselves helpless in water,
quicksand and mud. The situation is often just annoying, but sometimes feels
life-threatening. The general dreamwork approach is to see this as a metaphor of where in
life we ourselves feel helpless and out of control. That is, what pools and lakes are we
swimming around in that feel out of control? Sometimes it may be our job or relationships,
other times our whole life.
But why water and not some other form of being out of
control like a car or plane, which can also occur? Dreamworker Ann Faraday sees these
water as a symbol of emotions and the unconscious. She feels that drowning is more of an
metaphor of our fear of feelings being out of control than behavior or thoughts. Damned up
feelings during the day may break out and flood at night. Others simple see the water as
the "sea of difficulties" that we all face.
Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung often saw water as a
metaphor for the unconscious. Small pools might be like the personal unconscious, or the
things we dont really want to face and so control us in everyday life. Larger lakes
might be issues that effect the whole family or society. The ocean would represent issues
that effect all humankind.
For Patricia Garfield, drowning dreams usually mean,
"I feel overwhelmed by this situation," "My emotions are swamping
me.". She further recommends that if we become lucid or conscious in our dreams, we
may learn to do unexpected dream maneuvers, such as breathing water. This is a skill that
dreamers can learn and is reported as being very exhilarating.
Books on How to Interpret Your Dreams:
Delaney, Gayle (1988 revised edition).Breakthrough
Dreaming; How to Tap the Power of Your
24-Hour Mind Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group,
Gayle teaches people how to conduct a Dream
Interview, which allows a person to quickly understand a dream of ones own or
another without forcing interpretations on them.
Shafton, Anthony (1995). Dream Reader: Contemporary
Approaches to the Understanding of Dreams . Albany, NY: Suny Press.
A very deep analysis of different approaches to
understanding dreams and the schools from which they evolved.
Faraday, Ann (1973, 1986) Dream Power, Berkley Pub.
A very popular book which covers many
contemporary approaches and has now been republished as The Dream Game.
Garfield, Patricia (1974, 1985) Creative Dreaming,
A classic book which has taught many people how
to work and appreciate dreams.
Reed, Henry (1991) Dream Solutions: Using Your Dreams To
Change Your Life, New World Library.
Techniques on writing and interpreting dreams
from a pioneer in the field.
Reed, Henry(1985). Getting Help form your Dreams.
Virginai Beach, VA: Inner Vision Publishing Co.
Taylor, Jeremy (1983) Dream Work: Techniques For
Discovering the Creative Power of Dreams, Paulist Press.
Taylor takes the difficult language of Carl Jung
and provides a profound but easy to use approach to dream interpretation.
Ullman, Montague & Zimmerman, Nan (1979, 1985)
Working With Dreams, J. P. Tarcher.
This book is especially good for those interested
in group dreamwork.
Williams, Strephon K. (1980) Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork
Manual, rev. ed., Journey Press
Williams once ran an institute on dreamwork and
has collected his many years of techniques and practices giving the reader a wide variety
to choose from.
Wiseman, Ann S. (1989) Nightmare Help, Ten Speed
This book is designed for children and for adults
working with children.
For a more complete listing look at the DreamGate Dream Bibs