Q: I’m in an underground room, all white and I’m making a horror movie. A scruffy hippy in his 30s is playing an innocent little girl who I’m chopping up and burying in a white bathtub. I have a big bowl of pasta sauce I’m using for blood. I have work appointments and I need to get upstairs for them, so I’m telling her to wait in the bathtub so we can keep doing the movie when I get back. I look in the tub and next to where the girl is shoved into the tub there are many flower bulbs growing. I see them working to make their way to the surface. I have a change of heart, upon seeing them. I feel hope, like spring is coming. I put the lid on, leave the room, and start walking up the stairs to my appointments. Halfway up the stairs I think, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I turn around and go back to the room, open the door, and the little girl is standing inside the door. I tell her we can stop and not finish the movie. I feel relieved and I start cleaning the pasta sauce splatters off the surfaces of the room.
A: It’s a blood bath! Or so it seems. That symbolic phrase denotes slaughter, a theme that is repeated throughout your dream. You are filming a horror movie and (forgive the gruesome repetition) chopping up the little girl. But… this slaughter is not real, it’s just a movie: the blood is pasta sauce, the girl is unharmed, and you can put the whole thing on pause as needed. The realization that this is only a pseudo nightmare suggests to me that you already have a good handle on what this inner turmoil has meant for you. You can look at it through a separate lens. It also seems, however, that your inner life has had to take a back seat to your work life for a while (note that you try to “put a lid on it” as you head to your appointments). But things are shifting now. As you are climbing the stairs, an image that suggests you’re gaining consciousness around this issue, you stop short and state clearly: “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Thank goodness.
You’ve been in a state of emotional fragmentation (dismemberment) but you are moving towards new growth and wholeness (spring and the little girl standing up in the doorway). Things have undoubtedly been difficult lately, and your role as the director of the horror film suggests that your conscious mind has believed it was her duty to be hard on you. Your ego self was directing the torture of your inner child. Your conscious mind has been putting your vulnerable parts through the wringer. But you’ve had a definite change of heart. You don’t need to do that anymore. You’ve developed some self-empathy where it may have been lacking. A new time is dawning. Spring is on the way.
The images in this dream are really quite remarkable in their archetypal and alchemical progression. The mythological motifs that appear are worth further exploration to shed light on this dream, your own personal myth. For starters, the descent into the basement where there is a little girl and a scruffy man, as well as the motif of the return of spring, point to the myth of Persephone in which Hades abducts the newly matured young woman and takes her to the underworld. Despite the abduction and suffering that Persephone and her mother Demeter undergo, this story reflects the growth of a young woman into an independent person, away from her more psychically binding relationship with her mother. She is stolen into the depths, but she finds growth and union there as well. This myth is also a wonderful reminder of the cyclical nature of our inner lives. It can be helpful to remember that, when things are hard, new growth will follow: year after year, the frost of winter melts and spring arrives. Descents into the underworld are a natural part of human psychology and from those periods of life we can find new growth. Out of the blood, you see flower bulbs growing.
Another parallel story is the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Fitcher’s Bird, in which a new bride discovers the dismembered and bloody bodies of her sisters in a tub behind a locked door. (Yikes!) Ultimately, this young woman saves herself and her once chopped-up sisters, putting them back together again and bringing them back to life. It is a story of the redemption of feminine power and strength, and it’s a story that can represent the conscious transition of a woman into a new level of psychic independence. As there is no mother in the beginning of this story, it has also been interpreted as recovering a self-care instinct for women without proper mothering in childhood.
There is a great deal in your dream that also reflects the alchemical stages of development: the colors red and white, the blood, the dismemberment, and spring. Like stages in Kundalini yoga and other systems of enlightenment, alchemical imagery reflects psychic progression and growth. The goal of alchemy, like the work with the unconscious, is to turn non-valuable matter into gold: to turn the stuff of life into greater consciousness. We could explore the alchemical themes in this dream for ages, but to keep things brief here, I’ll share a quote from Jung with you which suggests the real power and benefit of this bloody scene in this all white room: “…In this state of ‘whiteness’ one does not live in the true sense of the word, it is a sort of abstract, ideal state. In order to make it come alive it must have ‘blood,’ it must have what the alchemists call the rubedo, the ‘redness’ of life… Blood alone can reanimate a glorious state of consciousness” (as quoted in Edinger, Anatomy of Psyche, p.147).
A new phase of creativity and life is dawning, my dear. All the images point in that direction. There is blood, life force, an image also synonymous in alchemical language with fire, heat, passion, energy. You are also moving upstairs from the depths. The girl is whole again. Flowers are growing. And you state that you are ready. Some youthful, vulnerable part of you is now free to move forward and integrate into your consciousness. There is so much more for you to explore, should you choose to do so. How old is that girl, for instance? What was happening at that stage in your life? And what about that scruffy hippy? Who does he remind you of? But regardless of how deeply you continue to explore these images for yourself, I feel confident that you’re emerging from what sounds like a difficult period. Trust it. Spring is coming.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a Jungian 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. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com