One of the most disturbing dreams that is not quite a nightmare, but certainly uncomfortable is dreams of debilitating rage. Those scenarios in which the dreamer is filled with so much anger toward a person or situation that it is impossible to actually process all of the force of that anger into words or even sound. The silent scream of rage in a dream is a fairly literal symbol representing just that: rage means rage.
Here is my definition of rage: Anger which is not stimulated by present circumstances but is rooted in past injuries. Rage does not need to be loud in order to be rage. Passive aggressive manipulation is just as raging as loosing one’s temper inappropriately. So, simply put, rage is any anger you experience that is more highly charged than the event that sparked it. And it is always connected to something in your past.
I was enraged in my dreams last night. What was wonderful about this otherwise unpleasant nighttime journey was how my rage (or rather my relationship with rage) has evolved over the years.
With apologies to my sister, I have to tell a little story about my childhood. When I was fourteen, my fifteen year old sister Kathy left our home and went to live with our father in upstate New York. While this was the best move for her, I was devastated. We had been very close and in some ways my connection with her was, in the isolation of my own painful adolescence, the one familial source of comfort and intimacy. My devastation landed in my unconscious mind as pure, blinding rage.
For the next several decades, I had recurring dreams of being so consumed by anger toward Kathy. Now, I knew that these dreams had nothing to do with my sister or our relationship; they had to do with primal feelings of rage associated with feeling abandoned. When something in my adult life triggered deep-seeded feelings of abandonment, I would have this rage dream in which I attempted to express my anger at the symbolic source (at that time, the character aspect of my sister) but would be so overcome with the enormity of it, I would be rendered, essentially, mute, soundlessly consumed by blinding rage.
But who was I really enraged at? My sister? No. Well, maybe a little. But the dreams were mine, not hers. Abandonment may be triggered by people in the outside world, but if you feel abandoned by anyone or anything, it starts within yourself. Over the years, I have learned how to sooth the frightened parts of myself that feel alone and I have strengthened my sense of self enough to know that I am never abandoned. Then, when people, places and things in my life don’t show up in the way that I want them to, I am not so knocked off balance.
In the past ten or fifteen years, I have noticed that I no longer have these dreams. And last night, I had a dream that I was indicative of all the work I have done to release myself from the grip that rage has had on me. In it, I was angry at someone in my life who I’ve only known for a few years. That alone indicates that we’re more in the realm of anger as opposed to rage. Further, I was only hampered by my inability to communicate when filled with the challenging feelings of anger. I could get my words out, but I had to take a breath in between each phrase and speak only a few words at a time. While this limited my ability to be fluidly expressive, I was still able to communicate what was causing me to be angry directly toward the source of that anger. So, while the anger in the moment was contained by the moment itself, the element of the experience that was hampering my ability to breath normally indicates that rage (or old, unresolved issues of anger) was still present.
When this occurs in your dreams, look to areas in your life where people places and things that are making you mad may just be stimulating old wounds. How much of your past is in your present? Your dreams will give you a clear snapshot of exactly where you are in this journey.