Mom is dead.

Here’s how I work with my own dreams.  Because I’ve done this for so long, my unconscious is usually very clear with me about what imagery to examine upon waking.  Often I am not moved to consider anything and I just appreciate that the human experience includes this magnificent opportunity to fly around the world of the infinite.  Then, usually about once a week, I move into wakefulness with a full dream, single image or particular scenario that calls to me.  I remember it vividly and it sticks in my consciousness like a small remnant of corn-on-the-cob that screams to be flossed out from between my teeth.

So last night was one of those nights where I remembered so many dreams, that when I woke up, there didn’t seem to be anything particular to land on.  It felt like I could remember every single dream I had with a clear evenness that didn’t push anything up to the surface to demand my attention.  However, I didn’t dismiss them entirely and as I took up the task of morning exercise, I allowed myself to ruminate on them and see what came up.

But rumination wasn’t enough.  I needed to turn to the very next tool for interpretation in the dreamer’s arsenal; calling forth more connection to the unconscious by sharing the dream with someone else.  Fortunately, I had a close friend nearby to do this with.  And what this looks like is less like a conversation and more of a recitation.  By telling my friend some of the dream images that were rolling around my waking consciousness, I was grounding the experience into the present and not allowing them to recede into the ethers as I stepped fully into my day.

A theme definitely emerged and it turned out to be very revealing.  The strongest image that percolated in my memory was that my mother had died in one of the dreams.  Dream-death is always about some measure of transformation; some aspect of the personality dies so that another, more advanced aspect can be born.  Since most human pain can be easily divided into Mother-Wound and Father-Wound, I wondered if there was anything in the dream that might connect to either my father directly, or to something that resonated with the masculine principle in general.

I found that image in the memory from one of my dreams of being in a tearful embrace with a man.  I recall very little about this image except that there was great love and acceptance and the unknown male figure in my dream was professing an enormous amount of relief at finally being able to accept the love he had for me and the ability to return that love to me in the form of this embrace.  So the father stuff was present too, but by now I sensed that the real juice lay in what had occurred with my mother.

That she had died in the dream was not enough.  I need another image to round out the experience and make some sense of it.  Halfway through my stationery bike ride, I had another flash of a dream that took place earlier in the night, when my mother was still alive, but suffering from some malady that was likely to (and indeed, later did) kill her.  She wrote out a letter to me expressing her love and acceptance of the man I turned out to be (notice that this is the same theme as with the embrace with the man).  However, in the note she referred to me as Mr. Michael Lennox.
Hmmm.  Mister.  That’s interesting, I thought.  Instead of Mike (as she usually calls me) she is using the very formal Mister, which is, essentially, inaccurate because the appropriate formal address for me is DOCTOR Michael Lennox.  I wasn’t annoyed by this in the dream, but I was hyper aware of this perceived slight.

So, here is a little about my own personal wounds.  If I were to break it down to its simplest expression, the wounds around my father are that I never felt truly loved by him.  With regard to my mother, it’s all about feeling a desperate need to prove myself to her.  In fact, it is conceivable to say that the fact that I got a doctorate in the first place is connected to that desire.

In order to get a bit deeper, I turned to one of the tried and true techniques of dream work; voice dialogue automatic handwriting.  This involves sitting down with a piece of paper and a pen, getting still and quiet and asking your unconscious to speak with you.  To do this, you must have a particular character aspect from a dream in mind with whom you wish to connect.  In this case it is my mother.  This is not my actual mother who is alive and well and living in New Jersey, but the mother-inside-my-psyche who lives in my dreams and happened to have died there last night.  You use your dominant hand to write out the questions, then switch the pen to your non-dominant hand and see what comes.  You just write without thinking.  You may just be amazed at what happens.  Here’s what came for me this morning.

Me: Ma, why did you call me Mr. instead of Dr.

Mom: Because I forgot.

Me: But Ma, I want you to be proud of me.

Mom: Oh my god, Mike, I am SO proud of you.

My mother has very severe Attention Deficit Disorder.  As such, I grew up with her having a lot of difficulty ever really focusing on me in a way that made me feel seen and validated.  She is also extremely forgetful; another quality that, as a child, left me wanting.  This wound in me is deep and has been exacerbated throughout my life in so many ways that are profound.  In fact, it is safe to say that I have created a life with a measure of visibility in it to help compensate for this wound.  Now my mother is a loving person and I’m no longer seven years old.  One of the things about this time in my life as I continue to expand my work in a more and more public way is to take on the role of witnessing my own life and seeking less and less the validation of others.

Now to put these dreams into the context of my life, it is important to note that I have spent the last three days in retreat in the place that I go to in order to get away from my day to day life and reconnect to myself and recharge my spiritual batteries.  This morning I am heading back into town, so last night would naturally reflect the integration that has been going on over this weekend during which some fairly powerful decisions were made and life changes put into place.  As these changes connect to expanding my life and my work, the dying of my mother in my dreams is likely connected to me allowing the part of me that desperately needs to be validated from the outside to be released on a deep level.

If there is a message here it is this:  There is very little separation between the dream world and the waking world if you let it.  The satisfaction of letting your dreams speak to you is potentially enormous and for me at least, when I allow this conversation between my conscious and my unconscious mind to flow with grace and ease, I find my waking life much more interesting and inviting; I am able to face the work I have chosen to do with discipline, curiosity and most importantly, enthusiasm.

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My nephew dreamed of exploring a mansion

My nephew Zachary is about to go off to college this fall.  Both he and his sister Sarah have been sharing their dreams with me since they were little.  This one seemed worth sharing with you all because it illustrates one of the primary tenets of dream symbolism (houses as self).  In addition, the timing of the dream and the context of some of the details in it connect so obviously with the journey of a young man leaving home and facing the college experience, it is a good example of how exploring a dream can reveal what the unconscious wants you to know.

There are so many rich symbols in this dream worth exploring.  For the sake of this article however, I am going to limit my interpretation to just one theme – otherwise it would be the length of a short term paper!  Here is his email to me:

Hey Uncle Mike,

I had a question about a [possibly reoccurring] dream. We have a family friend who is a doctor and lives a few towns away.  They live on some 14+ acres with a house that is nice but not excessive in size or decoration.

I remember having a dream a couple months back about a house (more like a mansion) that would be found in a place like Tuxedo Park (wealthy town in New York State). In the dream the house belongs to this family friend. Throughout this dream, I remember exploring and finding different hidden staircases and such around the house.  I only remember a few places in this house. One is a huge library (in which I’m never on the ground floor, I’m on some kind of balcony that runs the perimeter of the room with no staircase to the ground floor). One is an outside corner of the house (grey/tan stone, green grass and old windows: think old stone mansion). And the last is a large basement that looks like it could be on the back end of a cruise ship. Huge open space and a pool table are what come to mind right now (blue, green, gold, chrome and a bit of blue are the colors I remember. I remember running around this house a finding staircases going from the basement to the library or other places.

Last night I had a different version of this dream I guess. Same library same house but the basement was different. The basement was 2 floors instead of 1 and was completely empty. The walls were exposed cinderblock and the floors were empty. There was paint on the floor at the base of the walls but it wasn’t spilled. It looked like someone had tried to paint the floors with a paint roller but only did the edges of the room in like random strokes. This time I used the main staircase to get into the basement (but I still do not know how I got to those stairs). When I reached the lower level of the basement I noticed that there was water entering the basement. It wasn’t rising fast or dangerously but I know I thought it was because I remember feeling frightened and started heading for the staircase that led to the library. Next thing I know I’m in the library.

I know that in both of these dreams I was not exploring alone. I never saw who I was with but I knew someone or multiple people were with me. I did see other people in the dream though I can’t remember who I saw.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of this but I figured it would be worth asking you.

Please let me know what you think,

Zac

Houses in dreams connect to our sense of self.  This idea of being in a mansion in your dreams is a common experience and relates to the way in which our sense of who we are gets bigger and bigger as we move through life.  Exploring a mansion in your dream life is a sure sign that your sense of self is expanding in a very positive way and is a natural place for you to be in this year of your life where you put the chapter of childhood behind you and go off into the beginning of your life as an adult.

Libraries are filled with books and connect to the availability of knowledge and information.  I am fairly certain that this image is coming up for you because of the imminent change in your life that going to college represents; you are about to embark upon a journey where the symbolic library of your inner self will need to be accessible and utilizable.  Being stuck on the second floor with no apparent access to the rest of the house could indicate some fears around how difficult it might be to connect to your intellectual prowess and still manage to stay grounded in the rest of you.

The basement connects to what is down below the consciousness of our psyche.  Not so deep that you can’t access it, but below the surface of your day to day experience of yourself.  In the first dream, it is interesting to me that the basement has a lot of images that represent leisure time activities – a pool table, a cruise ship.  In the second, more recent dream (which I don’t need to point out is coming at a point when you are just weeks away from going to college) the basement reflects a level of being unfinished and sloppily attended to.  Additionally, it goes down to a deeper level of your consciousness (2 floors instead of 1).  The closer you get to the responsibilities to come, the more your unconscious is expressing the fears of not being quite ready.  The slow rising water might be the emotional expression of these fears; not overwhelming, but clearly there.  This is a good thing and is, in fact, necessary for you to face what is on its way to you with courage and fortitude.

You are not alone in the dream.  And you are not alone in your life.  Both as a symbolic expression of the aspects of yourself that you have to call upon (your innate intelligence, your desire to please, your willingness to push through difficult circumstances) and as the people in your life that will be there to support you that you haven’t even met yet – the new friends you will meet at school.

As you have more dreams like this (and I think you will likely have more) use them to understand how your journey is evolving.

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I dreamed of pulling shards of glass out of my tongue.

I received a text this morning from a friend:

“I had a dream of broken glass in my mouth and pulling large shards out of my tongue.  PS my dad just had massive stroke.”

It occurred to me that this short snippet of a dream and the accompanying information presented a good opportunity to illustrate two themes in dream work.

The first is the notion of association.  Whether the images in this dream connect in any obvious way to the relationship between the dreamer and his father, we can be absolutely certain that there is one.  How do we know this?  Well, the dreamer has told us so.  By including this piece of information in his text, the interpretation has already begun.  And whatever meaning we derive from examining the dream, we absolutely must connect it to issues that may exist between father and son at this time.

The second point I can illustrate is the way in which a symbol itself can be broken down to yield some interesting results.  In this dream, it is glass that intrigues me.  While most people might gloss over this image and go right to the juicy details of the shards of glass stuck in the dreamer’s tongue, I suspect that if we look at glass itself for a moment, we will get a distinction worthy of the effort it will take to get it.

Looking for the universal meaning is best done by examining the use or essence of the thing itself.  Since we don’t know what this particular glass was used for (it’s now in shards) let’s consider its essence.  Glass is a fine material that is made by heating sand to very high temperatures, changing the molecular structure into the transparent, brittle substance we are familiar with.  When it is broken, the sharp edges can be very dangerous indeed.

So now to the dream itself.  Any obstruction to the mouth in a dream is going to connect to issues of communication.  This dreamer is expressing dangerous obstacles associated with communication, things either said or unsaid.  My inclination is to go with unsaid and here’s why:  Sand is made up of small particles of rock.  Rocks are symbolically associated with memory; they contain the blueprints of the past through the study of geology.  Sand can be made into glass under the pressure of extreme heat.  It is possible that the shards of glass causing problems today may be the result of old ideas, heated up over a long period of time, transformed into glass.  And since we know his relationship with his father is key, it is safe to say that his exploration of what this dream is representing should be concentrated on those things that have been left unsaid that may be causing pain in the present.

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Do dreams connect to world events?

Our individual experiences in life are always connected to what is happening globally, although it is not always easy to identify how this is happening.  Dreams are one of the ways that we connect to the collective experience.  In fact, the basic foundation of modern dream work is predicated upon the existence of what Jung termed the Collective Unconscious – the realm of thought that is experienced by all human beings in the same way.

Here is a dream that illustrates this concept so well, I wanted to share it.  A client of mine presented a dream in which she was suffering from a severe headache.  In order to have some relief, she rinsed her head with cool water and found that there was black dye in her hair.  She came upon a woman and asked for some help in cleaning off the dye, but the woman replied that she couldn’t get the equipment working properly and would be unable to wash her hair at this time.

On the personal level, this dream is reflecting the dreamer’s current struggles with health issues and depression.  The headache could represent her ongoing negative thoughts, with the black hair dye connecting to the outward expression of these negative thoughts.  In examining this dream, we decided that asking the woman for help was indicative of her desire to turn toward the feminine principle for relief – holistic healing and the mind-body connection as opposed to relying strictly on Western medicine.  The fact that the equipment was not operable was a clear indication that the moment for relief was not yet at hand, which was certainly accurate in terms of her waking-life condition.

The personal dream work satisfied us both and helped my client reach a sense of surrender to her plight that day.  This was no easy task as her level of discomfort was great, but the dream did it’s work and she felt shifted as a result of our conversation. 

However, while we were working on the dream, I was struck by what to me was a very obvious connection between the timing of this dream and a world event that had happened the day before the dream appeared.  As this is one of my most intuitive clients, I didn’t have to wonder whether I should broach the subject; she did it for me and suggested that we look at how her current experience might also be reflecting things going on in the collective.  We had only to turn to news of current events to make the connection.

She had this dream the night after BP installed the cap on the damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico.  There was not yet enough information to know whether this fix was going to work and the measure of efficacy was going to connect directly to how much pressure was going to be exerted on the integrity of the well.  The cap on the well could be symbolically connected to the head.  The pressure buildup beneath the cap could certainly cause a symbolic headache.  The black dye was such an overt symbolism of the impact of spilled oil, we both found the image a bit humorous.  The fact that the equipment was not yet ready to clean off this black dye (spilled oil) was certainly applicable to the hope that the cap would work coupled with the knowledge that the impact of the oil would take a long time to clean up.  There was no doubt for us both; the dream was reflecting both her personal journey and what was happening in the world at that very moment.

Now, not every dream is going to exhibit this connection quite so directly.  However, I share it with you to encourage a more enthusiastic exploration of the Collective Unconscious and how it might be operating in your dream life every day!

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Lysol, nudity and little people: What does my dream mean?

Every once in a while, a friend will call or email me a dream they’ve had.  Sometimes it’s because the dream feels disturbing or important and they want to gain more insight and self awareness by considering it.  And sometimes, it’s just because it’s weird and fun.  This is one of those.

Brent shared this dream: I was assaulted naked by a group of people armed with Lysol cans, covered from head to toe in Lysol then ran all over desperately trying to find someone to wash me off to no avail, as my skin become redder and more irritated. Some how I thought that the midget actor Verne Troyer was the only one who could save me..

And here is how I responded:  Lysol represents the (false) need to protect us from microorganisms by killing them off with poison. It was a product born out of the fear instilled in the zeitgeist when science discovered pathogens that caused disease. Most bacterial and other microorganisms are important parts of our interactive living exchange, but corporate America would say that 1) you are in danger and 2) we can protect you from that danger and 3) Oh, did we mention that our protection is poisonous???

The group represent an old thought paradigm based on fear that there is something wrong with you, especially visible when you are vulnerably exposed (e.g. naked).  Think of the religious background you come from and other “group mentalities” that would view you as diseased or dangerous and in need of cleansing.

You are naked, so you are not only vulnerable, but exposed (loosely connecting the imagery to sexuality and certainly to sensuality). So this judgmental “group” that lives inside you is the fearful notion that you must be thoroughly cleansed so that they will be protected from hidden, invisible dangers that are EVERYWHERE (from head to toe) and sure to be contagious.

Your current sensibility understands that this approach is actually dangerous and irritating, but the damage is already done. The only one who could save you now is Verne – he represents that part of you that is 1) small, but ultimately powerful (like a spiritual truth) and 2) different from the status quo (spiritual thoughts that may separate you from others in a group-think sort of way, but that actually know the truth in ways that group- or race-consciousness does not) and 3) willing to take great risks despite his perceived limitations.

Insight and self awareness is available in all our dreams – even when we think they’re just weird and fun.

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Does this dream make me look fat?

“What does my dream mean” and “Does this dream mean anything?” are the questions I am frequently asked.  Here is an example from my own life that describes how a dream that seems at first to be meaningless is actually helping me have a better experience in life.

As I’ve concentrated on my writing and other work, I’ve neglected my body a bit.  I’m still very healthy and in relatively good shape, but part of my spiritual practice definitely connects with the care of my physicality both with regard to nutrition and exercise.  This is the last area of true resistance in my life right now; it has been very difficult for me to find a level of discipline in any kind of a daily exercise routine in the past two years.

That has just begun to change of late and I have been incorporating rigorous exercise back into my life for the past week.  Those first few weeks are both the most difficult and the most crucial.  As of the moment that I’m writing this, I still seem to be motivated, having gone to the gym this morning.  I look to my dreams to tell me whether I am fully ready to step into this commitment, or if I’m just kidding myself and that another period of sloth is just around the corner.

In asking my dreams to give me some clarity on this issue, I awoke this morning a little confused.  I could not remember any specific dream imagery, but I was filled with a rather strange notion that was definitely a residual from wherever I had spent my nocturnal wanderings.  And what I woke up with was this overwhelming need to make sure I was getting enough potassium.

The sense of this was very, very specific.  I needed potassium.  Now, my diet is pretty good; well balanced and generally healthy.  I am certainly getting enough potassium.  So what could this mean on a symbolic level?  I turned to Wikipedia for some help and looked up potassium.

It turns out that potassium is very connected to brain cells communicating with each other, fluid balance in the cells themselves and the proper working of muscle cells and their ability to contract and release effectively.  If this doesn’t connect to exercise, I’ll eat my hat.  Or my banana.  Which brings me to another post-dream experience.

It is a known fact that jump-starting your metabolism by ingesting some sort of food as soon as you wake up is one of the best ways to tell your body to burn calories.  I generally have a bad habit of not eating for several hours into my day, which really limits achieving my weight loss goals.  When I glanced at the contents of my refrigerator while getting the creamer for my morning coffee, I saw that last banana sitting on the shelf.  I thought, “banana.”  Then, “potassium.”  Then I put it together that if I ate the banana and then went to the gym, I’d not only be getting the exercise I need, but my body would be all the more prepared to work at its most effective.

Soon, I’ll have the body of my dreams!

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Why do I always dream my husband is cheating on me?

Why do I always dream my husband is cheating on me?  It is one of the most frequently asked questions and is usually accompanied by a bit of anxiety on the behalf of the one asking.  And it’s not just the husbands out there; plenty of wives are cheating in dream land as well.

Having an affair is the ultimate betrayal and the cause of great fear amongst all sorts of couples.  It is natural to have some measure of insecurity within a relationship and the idea that your partner might step out on you is this fear taken to its furthest manifestation.  Your primary relationship may or may not be subject to an actual affair, but in the language of symbolism, this dream has little to do with infidelity and a lot to do with getting your needs met.

Asking for what you need in a relationship is tough work.  Wishing that you partner could read your mind is common – in fact many people expect that their partners can and should be able to know what to do in any given situation and may punish each other when this does not occur.  A dream of cheating may be pointing to a moment in your primary relationship when you may not feel like your needs are being met.

Below is an excerpt from Dream Sight; the term Infidelity/Affair.

Infidelity/Affair:  A circuitous route to meeting needs.  Avoidance.

There is no intimacy need that cannot be met in a primary relationship.  Going outside of a marriage or partnership for sex or affection is a way of meeting a primal need by a roundabout way.  Simultaneously, there is an avoidance of some underlying problem that is not being addressed.  Therefore this image represents both a circuitous route to connection and avoidance of confrontation.

If you discover an infidelity in a dream, you may want to consider areas in your life where you are avoiding taking care of your self.  If you are engaged in an affair, you might need to examine your life circumstances for signs of being manipulative or indirect in getting your needs met.  As getting caught is always reflective of an unconscious desire to effect a change, being discovered as being unfaithful could indicate a desire to shift some area of your life.

Always be willing to look at issues of responsibility when this dream image appears: where in your life are you not allowing yourself to be accountable for your actions?  If the dream involves details of constructing an affair, you may want to examine how genuine you are being in terms of expressing and manifesting your desires in life, both relationally and otherwise.  Where in your life are you being authentic?  How might you be betraying your own needs?

It is safe to assume that this image in a dream indicates a theme of intimacy issues in your waking life, no matter what the marital state of the dreamer.  This may have literal implications if you are actually involved in an affair or believe your partner to be.

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I always dream of being in a tunnel.

Last week, I was giving a talk on nightmares and people in the audience were having a blast trying to outdo each other with the intensity of their dream images.  There is nothing like the vast landscape of the dream world with which to play “I can top that!”  There was scenario after scenario, each scarier than the other and the laughter of recognition as this group of individuals appreciated the variety of their dream experiences.

After ten or so minutes of this, one man sheepishly raised his hand.  Almost apologetically, he said, “It doesn’t matter what I dream about or where I am, but I am constantly finding myself crawling out of a tunnel that closes in on me toward the exit, to the point where I have to squeeze myself out.”  He went on to explain that he could be going from one room to another, or from outside going into a building (or inside one going out) but that he always seems to find himself trapped in some sort of narrow passage.  Panic sets in, but just as the tunnel closes, he always manages to get through.

This dream is about transitions and changes in the dreamer’s life.  Since he has had it many times throughout his life, it has become a very effective way for his unconscious to use the dream life to help him process the fears and challenges that come up when life is reflecting a big change.

A tunnel brings people from one location to another.  In this way, a dream about being in a tunnel is going to symbolize the process of transformation that is occurring when you leave a destination behind and have not yet arrived where you think you are heading to.  What is important to consider is that a tunnel is not an organic way of getting to one’s destination; it is a man made structure.  The change that is taking place when a tunnel becomes the symbolic representation of that change is one that must be planned, engineered and then executed.

As an example, this dream might come up the dreamer himself must actually construct how he is going to change his life, as opposed to a change when all that really needs to happen is for time to pass, or for someone else to make a decision.  Tunnels are also underground, so the transition in life that this dream represents are associated with things you want to keep hidden and out of sight – to occur below the surface so they don’t interfere with life on the ground above.  The danger therein is that you could be crushed or squeezed as whatever transition you are undergoing is coming to a close – I am reminded of the phrase “it’s always darkest before the dawn,” in the way that as you go through a big change, the longer and harder you have to work, it is always toward the end that you think you can’t take any more and feel the most squeezed.  This is where the anxiety and panic come in.

It is important to notice with this dream that you always get through…just like in life.  We are often terrified by change, feel we want to hide the impact of what is going on, keep our challenges below the surface of other people’s ability to see what’s going on and that we have to work so long on something, we might not make it all the way to our destiny.  But we do.  This dream probably helps you balance out the stress so you can wake up each day and face the next part of the tunnel you are making your way through.

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Dream Interpretation ~ Nightmares Dissected

A nightmare is essentially like any dream, mixing familiar and unfamiliar imagery, offering non-sequitors, fragmented stories, and replaying scenes of real life.  What make a dream a nightmare are simply the feelings and sensations that accompany it.  Dreams are compensatory by nature.  They help us restore balance to our emotions.  Life can be scary and dreams that leave us frightened are part of what helps us wake up and face life again with a clean slate.

A great many of the images that populate children’s nightmares arrive there via the media children experience.  This has created the notion that scary movies will “give you nightmares”—and they certainly can.  You watch Snow White with your kids and that night they dream about the Wicked Queen.  One of your children wakes up in the middle of the night crying; you find out that they were dreaming about the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.  This is not a new phenomenon; one can imagine the children a hundred and twenty-five years ago waking from nightmares after having read the latest short story from Edgar Allen Poe. But certainly the images offered to our children these days—both their graphicness and their frequency—cause nightmares of increasing ferocity.

Nightmares often share characteristics. They are all of common breed. Often there is a sense of danger in an otherwise idyllic setting.  Sometimes, there is a clear villain and they feel they are in danger of some kind.  Often, the sense of terror is what your child remembers without being able to report on any specific imagery.  Whatever the case, the power in the nightmare is its ability to represent the scary side of life.

We need this symbolic representation of the dark.  Despite our insistence that life should be all ease and goodness, it really shouldn’t be. A world without fear would be a very destructive place for our psyches.  Fear teaches us, helps us grow—it is foundational, one of the necessary elements of being alive.  The only way to live free of fear’s domination is to possess healthy mechanisms that help you to deal with fear and express it rather than repress it. Nightmares are one such healthy mechanism, allowing us to express fear in a very practical and effective manner.

They do their job well, and can be so effective that they stay with us for a long time. A friend of mine, Emanuel, a forty-one year old man who grew up in New York and Los Angeles, still remembers a nightmare from his childhood.  When he was about twelve, he dreamed of being a passenger in his father’s car.  They drove through his neighborhood on a cloudy fall day.  When he looked out the window, dead people were sprawled on the lawns of the houses they passed. As he shared his dream, a surprising thing happened.  Dozens of details flooded his memory. He began to recall more and more of the dream, and was shocked at how much he could actually remember.  His unconscious opened up, and poured vivid details back to him. He said he felt as though the dream had just occurred.

He remembered being at a party before leaving in the car with his father. He recalled the layout of the house, its roundness, its large, spiral staircases surrounded by balconies of varying size and shape.  After climbing the stairs, he went out onto one of the balconies, where blood began dripping from somewhere above. He remembered running to the floor above, where he found the source of the dripping blood was, in fact, a decapitated head.

After remembering these additional details, Emanuel now had more pieces of the puzzle.   He recalled walking through the neighborhood, staring long, gated driveways that led to mansions hidden by hedges and trees.  The dead bodies on the lawns were the security guards, and there was no one else around.  Alone, he remembered his father had gone up to one of the houses to see if they could find out what was going on.  Standing on the street, he saw a woman dressed only in a black negligee ride past on a bicycle.  He described her as a prostitute and added that she seemed very out of place.

That’s a lot of detail, all resting in his unconscious for thirty years, waiting for a moment to be let out again.  What can we make of this?   Well, let’s start with a little interpretation.  Without knowing exactly what was going on with Emanuel when he had the dream, we can’t be too precise about what to make of it.  But given that he says he was about twelve when he had it, we know that we are talking about the period of time just prior to adolescence.  Given that, there are two images that stand out:  the decapitated head and the prostitute on the bike.  This could very well connect to the intense thoughts that preoccupy most adolescents, sexual feelings exposed and out of place, could be symbolically represented by the bike-riding whore. These thoughts might just be too much to bear, hence the decapitated head.

There are more themes being expressed in this dream as we look at some of the other imagery.  Houses often represent our sense of self in dreams, and in this dream, the houses are not visible, conjuring thoughts of not being ready to show one’s self to the world.  The security guards protect these homes and have been killed, further emphasizing a sense of vulnerability.
But why did this dream stay with this dreamer for so long?  The human mind is still more mystery than mastery, but I can surmise that there is some very important function that dark, scary images provide for us.  They give us the hooks on which we hang the coats of our fears and uncertainties, so that we can approach life with confidence and self-assurance.  And just like waking life experiences that stay prominent in our memory, so can the traces of long ago dreams last well into adulthood.  By staying with him so long, Emanuel was certainly able to gain some insight into his childhood experience by examining this dream several decades after it occurred.

Dr. Michael Lennox

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