Q: I am in an academic setting, like a boarding school, and I am not allowed to leave. My mom is there. Two authority figures (at least one of whom was a man) are telling me that they are removing my eye. I am protesting and showing them that I already gave a tooth. They are very adamant and even my mom is saying that I have to do it. I’m furious and frustrated in the dream and continue to argue with them to the point where I am weeping and screaming.
A: Whew! This dream is quite upsetting! I feel chills when I read it, and can imagine you waking-up nervous and terrified. What do those people want from you??
Exploring this dream with you provided a reminder of what’s laying just below the surface of our awareness. We let ourselves acknowledge some of what we’re experiencing in our day-to-day lives, and a lot of the rest of what happens we choose to avoid or aren’t able to fully integrate. You initially shrugged and laughed when you shared this dream: “I think it’s about my student loan debt,” you told me. Hrm. I had my doubts. The emotions in this dream are far too strong to associate with the stress of student loans, unless you anticipate you’ll be on the street soon as a result.
What does resonate with the stress of student loans, however, is the feeling of being owned by someone else because of what they expect from you. The feeling that you are obligated to continue giving of yourself, despite having given a lot already. How does that ring true for you in other ways? When we discussed this, deep waves of emotion began to come to the surface. Things began to sink in for you. You’re a new mother, and between your beloved baby and your husband and the expectations at home, you’re being pulled in a million different directions. There’s a sense of infantilization, of imprisonment. Just take a moment to imagine the feeling of being in a boarding school today and being unable to leave! Just that opening feels a bit like a horror film. Then the dream continues, and you wake up crying and pleading for the authority figures to stop. The injustice of what is being asked of you is palpable.
You did not anticipate feeling so emotional after sharing the dream. As we talked more about what’s been going on in your life, some of the stress shifted into the truer, softer emotions underneath. Emotions that haven’t had much chance to be felt or seen will build-up and “harden.” In the same way that your shoulder may tighten due to stress, thoughts and emotions that aren’t integrated fully can begin to form a knot, a psychic complex, showing-up as characters in your dreams. Exploring the images from dreams can start to loosen-up those knots and allow the emotions caught within them to release.
I asked you about the appearance of your mom in the dream. Why her? As the lone familiar figure in your dream, her presence is likely to be particularly telling. We explored the history of her marriage to your dad and what similar themes may be getting activated for you now. You know some of the history of what was happening in their relationship when you were a baby. Are there feelings of carrying too much of the weight at home? Feelings of losing your independence? You nodded. Much of your former life as a single woman feels unrecognizable at the moment. We discussed this, and discussed what you’ve had to give-up.
There is a great deal of symbolism within the particular images of giving up a tooth, and forcibly losing an eye. These are big ones! As I’ve explored previously, losing a tooth in a dream can point to major life changes (we know those are present), and losing an eye can point to a sense of disorientation, of being rendered blind. You might feel that your ability to vision, to dream, to imagine a new life is being stolen from you. Your imagination, your artful creative side may feel rather distant at the moment. These images also point to the familiar Talmudic saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” pointing to notions of equal justice. It makes me wonder further, is there a sense of your needing to atone for something? Maybe a latent guilt that should be explored? Or does it suggest Gandhi’s response, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” maybe pointing to battles with your husband that will only hurt you both? These questions take us down another path, but there’s much here left to explore.
My advice? Don’t shirk the emotions around what’s happening in your life right now. Do your best to feel what’s happening these days, even if there’s not much time for it and it seems unimportant to do so. You may not be able to fully control events these days (I’m not sure we ever are), but the way they’re affecting you is real. Talk with your mom about her emotions when she was in this phase of life. Explore, even when it feels silly, your own emotions around what’s happening at home. Allow yourself to feel sad versus just getting mad and frustrated. The loss you’re experiencing is real. The adjustments to this new phase are big. Allow yourself to really listen to the softer layers of what’s going on inside your chest, and behind your eyes. You might be surprised that it will soften the actual events and communication at home as well.
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Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. For more information about therapy services in Portland, visit: www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com