“A Menagerie of Wild Animals in the Backyard.” A Dream Interpretation.

Dear Satya:

MonitorLizard-portland-psychotherapy-dreamsQ: I am in a house that is overrun by wild animals. I walk into a room, the nook just off the kitchen, and I see a Monitor Lizard buried head first in a big vase full of flowers and scummy water. He scurries up and out of the vase as I enter. Outside in the back, courtyard area, a couple of large cats are sitting, maybe a Lion and Cheetah. They were in and out of the house as well. My mom was there, along with other female family members. The animals did pose some danger to us, but there were wary of us as well. It occurred to me that they wanted water, that they were here looking for water. Is that why they had come in from the wild? I assumed that wild animals have ways of getting what they need in the wild, but not anymore, I guess. Not these days. As we stood looking over the yard from above, I wondered to my mom about filling up a kiddie pool with water for the animals. She suggested we do it tomorrow as trying to navigate around them at that moment would be dangerous. I felt for them, though. Tomorrow is a long ways off if they’re really thirsty.

A: Thank you, dreamer, for sending in this dream. You shared with me in writing that you woke up from this dream with the word “Menagerie” in your head, and that you hadn’t been entirely conscious of the meaning of that word: “a collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition.” This word, and the tone of its definition, may provide an interesting insight for us as we explore the rest of your dream. You also shared with me that you weren’t feeling physically well at the time of the dream and you wondered if there might be clues to that in the dream.

Indeed, the animal nature of your dream suggests reference to your own animal nature: your physical, instinctual self. The animals have come in from the wild and are invading your home. They’re thirsty. I immediately began wondering in exploring this dream why they’re thirsty, and what they (you) are thirsty for exactly. I wonder too what it means that they’re displaced. The realities of environmental degradation and global warming are bound to show up in the dreams of anyone living in the modern era (we’re consciously and unconsciously experiencing it), but the image should still also be looked at symbolically. The ever expanding cities and shrinking natural world has a psychological correlate for us all. In the modern era, psyche becomes heavily weighted towards the conscious, literal, rational mind and further distanced from the interconnected, mysterious realm of the universe in which we live. The modern psyche is raised to be narcissistic and sociopathic, with ever expanding egos and ever decreasing reverence for whatever it is that we can’t understand. But, whether we like it or not, the wild comes back to us. The grass grows up between the cracks of the concrete, the ants return just when you thought they were gone, and the winds and rain may bring a city to its knees with little warning. Is that what’s happening in your life? Your wild nature is demanding attention. It’s reclaiming territory and making its presence known.

I’ve written a few times about water in dreams, the absence of which makes a showing in your dream. Before exploring the deeper symbolic layers of Water, the first “interpretation” of this image might simply be that you’re thirsty. Really. This fact may be buried in your consciousness, something which you’re not terribly aware of and therefore shows up with your animal nature stating what it’s feeling: “I’m dehydrated.” Whether or not this could be a symptom of your sickness or of a tendency for you in general, I don’t know, but it’s a simple reading of the dream that might be valuable for you to explore. The unconscious inhabits all of us, our cells and our muscles, not just the dark reaches of our mind.

On a more symbolic level, I’m going to start by offering you what might seem like another simple statement (or a stoner’s attempt at profundity): Water is central to life. Without water, there would be no existence as we know it. Adult humans are nearly 60% water. Social centers have typically been built around major water resources, rivers or lakes or oceans. Fountains have been placed in the center of city landscapes and kingdoms. Water is central, literally and symbolically. So we know, instinctively, to bow to the water within us and outside of us. What might this mean for your dream? It may be that you’re feeling somewhat disconnected from life itself, that you’re needing to reconnect to the life force in some way, to your emotions (another aspect of water in dreams), and to the spiritual, soulful realm that gives life meaning. This could also be seen as the Yin aspect of life, the feminine, anima, source of life that animates material existence. This nod to the feminine seems to arise in particular with the mention of your mother and the female members of your family, a theme also echoed with the particular species of cats you mentioned.

The Monitor Lizard in the vase of water is curious to me, especially in that he is situated in “the nook just off the kitchen.” I’m curious here again about the way this dream may be orienting you towards very specific parts of your body. The kitchen tends to be correlated with the stomach in dream symbolism. The kitchen is the place where food is chopped and cooked and broken down, where the alchemy of food digestion begins. So the language around this lizard’s hiding place just make me wonder if there might be an illness or imbalance (not necessarily serious) associated with your liver perhaps, or spleen. I also wonder this because this particular animal is named from the Latin root word Monit, to warn. What, perhaps emotionally, might be stuck in one of the smaller organs near the stomach? You might explore Chinese medicine for some answers here, or visit a good practitioner. The image of the lizard in dreams can also be related to lineage; that from which we evolved. This might tie in again with the appearance of your mother and family in the dream and what you might be working through in your physical and psychic inheritance. Perhaps there is a lineage of disconnection from some emotional depths that you are working to heal. And, of course, perhaps you have personal associations to Monitor Lizards that are valuable for further insights into why this animal is there, off the nook of your kitchen.

Finally, to return to the word with which you awoke: Menagerie… Menagerie. The notion of captivity that defines that word is resonant to me in working this dream. It makes me wonder: are you feeling trapped? Are things feeling too controlled and confining in your life? Are you needing to be more wild? Ask yourself these questions. Spend some time really sitting with the notions. Is your life feeling as though you are in captivity and that your deepest self is not getting a chance to roam and be free? If there is an inkling that this might be true, see what you can do to rectify the situation. In your psychic landscape, you can transform the wilderness, bring the flow of water back to where it belongs, and encourage the animals to return to their natural environments where they want to be. In the future, hopefully in the near future, if you can bring more flow back into your life, your dreams will reflect these changes and it will be you who is visiting the animals, out in the wilds where they are most alive and free.

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


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  2. Wendy

    I had a somewhat similar dream. I woke during the dream, but the dream continued when I went back to sleep. I live in the country, but on a busy road, and have a number of outside pets and regularly see deer, turkey, raccoon, opossums, etc in my yard. I seldom use my front door, which faces the busy road. In my dream, I had opened my front door and there was a large bear about 10′ from the porch, sitting and staring at my house. I was a little afraid, but the bear seemed to pose no threat. An unfamiliar gray kitten ran from across the road, up to the bear. I was afraid for the kitten, but they touched noses. I looked out again and there was a large gorilla sitting beside the bear. Then, a lot of cats started coming into the yard, most I had never seen before, but some were my cats that had died and I was happy to see them. There was one cat that I didn’t recognize but felt very familiar and i was drawn to him. I wanted to save the cats from danger, so I went out and started bringing them inside the house. I woke about this time, but when I returned to sleep, the dream continued. The bear and gorilla still sitting there and I was gathering the cats, but some didn’t want to come in. Then I heard an animal scream and I looked over to the field and two deer where stomping on a cat, but it ran up a tree to safety. I went inside to get my phone to take a picture of the bear and gorilla, but I couldn’t find the camera icon. So I went back and got my camera, but the battery was dead. As I looked out again, a very large horse (probably 10′ tall) was just leaving my yard. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the horse because i was inside looking for a camera. Then I got my tablet to take a picture and awoke at that time.

  3. Anonymous

    From Malaysia: I had a strange dream. I was at my office and saw two monitor lizards climb the staircase to enter my office lobby. I told this to my friend and he took a white towel, covered those monitor lizards head, carried both the monitor lizard with his hand to send them outside of the office. However one of it bite him and he was screaming in pain. It kept on attacking my friend and he could not escape from the monitor lizard. I asked for help but no one come for help. It was raining heavily and I quickly took a chair to distract the monitor lizard, suddenly there was a fire. Both the lizards and my friend were caught in fire. My friend was almost left to dead and those lizard was still alive while their body was on fire. I just suddenly woke up. Please help me to interpret this dream.

  4. Eric

    I just woke up from a dream like this and needed to find an interpretation online. In my dream, it was as though all these animals were family pets. It also seemed like they might have gotten inside because the door was wide open. Either way, there was a large kangaroo in my house. I remember telling my dad about this and he, of course, didn’t believe me. At that point, I took him through the house and showed him not only the kangaroo, but the othe assortment of wild animals. These included a baby raccoon, snakes, tropical birds, and possums. There was also one last animal in particular that I had tried catching. I was way too afraid to hold this brown, mouse-like animal because it would show its sharp, bloody fangs whenever I would come close. On the other hand, my friend was able to hold this mini, furry creature in his hand. He would show me that there was no danger in holding the animal, but I refused. He took the animal outside to show my dad, who had a tool that shows the user the exact details of any animal in its sensor. I recall that the name of this animal is a ‘Crag’. So, I Google’d ‘crag animal’. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the animal that was in my dream. Lastly, I will say that I woke up extremely warm (probably from fear of the ‘Crag’) and was in physical pain in my actual body (soreness in my lower back).

  5. Nusrat Siddiqua

    I saw a dream at morning, i am take caring a baby boy, aged approximately under 1 year. He is sleeping in a room and i am gossiping in the down stairs. When i come in the room where baby is sleeping, i see a strange aminal attacking on the baby. The animal eating or attacking on the baby and the baby becomes a little black by during this incident. Then i caught that animal and beating. By that time i woke up.

  6. Amy

    I have a recurring dream that I realize that I have numerous female lions in my backyard and I’ve forgotten about them. They are starving and thirsty at the brink of death and I’m running around scared to death of them but trying to find things to feed them with. I wake up really upset and feels extremely guilty like the dream is telling me to feel bad about myself. It works! Anyone have any ideas about what this could mean??

    • satyabyock

      Hi Amy — no dream is ever telling you to feel bad about yourself. That is not their goal. My first guess is that your psyche is trying to encourage you towards getting in touch with your power… and that you’re neglecting your own powerful self in the world. Who are you taking care of when you should be taking care of yourself? Whose dreams are you supporting when you should be supporting your own dreams? When you let yourself down, you’re starving those lions… not just yourself.

  7. Tony

    My daughter’s and I all had the same exact dreams (multiple times) of several very large, animals in our backyard. The fact that none of us shared these dreams with each other until a year later when we were talking about dreams, is definitely unexplainable and something we as humans don’t understand. There is no way this is a quintessence. For three family members to all experience the same exact dreams, during the same time period, multiple times, without sharing, is pretty scary because we have no idea how this could have any explanation. These dreams definitely have a meaning, not sure what, and will most likely will never be understood.

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