Category: Biology

“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.

“Yuck! My Poop was Gray like Clay!” A Dream Interpretation.

Dear Satya:

Q: I am on the toilet at my house, and I’m pooping. It is hard to get out and a firm consistency. When I am done, I look at it and see that it is like rubber. It’s gray and firm. Out of curiosity, or perhaps incredulity, I reach out and feel it. It is, after all, pretty strange to poop rubber, and I need to test it by feel to make sure. I reach in and pulled out a large piece and squished it between my hands. It wasn’t disgusting or repulsive. The feeling I had was more of fascination and wonder. I continued to “play” with it, squeezing it apart, and looking to see if I was poop at all, or something else. It was definitely poop-ish, because there was a little brown in it. It was important to me to figure out what it was, and how it had come from my body. After playing with it, I looked around and saw gray splatter marks around me on a white wall. I had made a mess somehow. It didn’t smell at all, and I was in no way grossed out, just a bizarre and curious feeling. 

A: Thank you for writing, and for sharing this dream! You would not believe how frequently people have poop dreams and wonder what they mean, embarrassed to have dreamt something so strange and socially awkward. But if my blog statistics are any indication, people are dreaming with this theme pretty frequently and are quite curious to know what it’s all about. Thank you for sharing your dream here so we can explore these symbols a bit more in depth.

As you know, I have written one dream interpretation about poop already. In that interpretation, I reviewed the ways in which our physical digestive systems can reflect our psychic digestive systems, both in the waking world and in our dream lives. If you’re constipated in life, eastern medicine has long known that it may reflect that you’re also emotionally jammed-up. (Our bodies and minds are undivided, the western world has just somehow lost touch with that.) The way we relate to our poop in dreams can also reflect the ways we relate to our psychic processing. For instance, if we’re disgusted with the dark matter of the body, we may also be disgusted with the dark qualities of our emotional lives.

In this dream, you’re actually quite curious about what is coming out of you. You’re a woman on the brink of turning 30, and you’ve been deeply immersed in some painful relationship issues, financial issues, old familial health, and family patterns.  You are also an artist, something which shows up prominently in your dream in that you relate the texture and color of your dream-poop with the erasers you use when you draw. You explained that in waking life you smoosh these erasers like clay to make them clean, integrating the dirty parts with the clean eraser again. This association points us straight towards your creative being, which is an important aspect of dreams about defecation that I did not explore in the last interpretation.

Many traditional cultures believe(d) that everything that comes out of the human body is endowed with power. Modern culture has an opposite perspective: anything that comes out of the human body is disgusting and should be quickly discarded. But anyone who has been around a child knows that poop holds tremendous fascination in early life. Toddlers will proclaim proudly: “Mommy, I pooped!” Which is to say, “Mommy! I made something!” Poop is the first thing that we create as people. There is power in producing something within our own bodies and then bringing it out into the world. It may just be waste to our cognitive minds, but it is also a remarkable process taking place within our physical systems. And it is waste from our bodies that provides soil for new growth to take place in the future.

I would explore for yourself what is trying to come out of you, in your life and emotional processing, in order to complete one cycle of life and begin a new cycle of creative growth. How are you working on transitioning into a new phase? And what is needed to make this gray substance of your dreams a more natural material for fertile growth?

The colors in this dream are quite interesting. The white of walls can connote purity, or a kind of emptiness; a state of quasi-perfection that is also rather sterile. In your dream, these white walls are being splattered with gray matter. Things are getting messed-up, probably in a good way, in the same way that the blood in an old dream interpretation was invigorating the space with new life. You know this is your “shit” so to speak, but it’s also something else.

What’s interesting in this description of “gray matter” is that it leads me to an association with literal gray matter in your body, a form of neural tissue in the central nervous system and brain that is responsible for the processing and integration of sensory information. This tissue is known for its gray-brown color, just like you describe the material in your dream. It is also rubbery in nature being part of the brain and spinal column.

Gray matter in the brain develops primarily in childhood and teenage years. If there’s abuse and trauma in those years, gray matter can be diminished and the individual’s overall emotional functioning and executive decision making capacity can be hampered. Because of some of these developmental stages of growth, when chaos interrupts healthy growth, it can leave people feeling somewhat cursed or stuck in what feels like patterns that won’t end. You wrote me with descriptions of the highly emotional situations you’ve been dealing with lately. At first, I struggled to see how this was reflected in your dream because the images have more sterile, dull aspects. There’s not an abundance of chaos showing up, but almost its opposite. But I think I understand this all more now through this image of the gray matter. You describe a chaotic childhood and also lineage of addiction, and you have a feeling that your relationships tend to be more emotional than most. You’re also clearly trying hard to sort through your life. In waking life, you pay attention to your physical health as best as you can, and you’re working on sorting through how to deeply manifest who you are, but you’re stuck. As your dream reflects, you’re trying to release things but “it’s hard to get out.”

Okay, so where does this leave us?

Remember that the brain is plastic. That means that the brain is not a static organ, it is constantly transforming, as you are. Damage incurred in our lives can be healed. And as the yogic path has known for millennia, you have the capacity to heal yourself. Do not despair. Certain practices of mindfulness and study can increase the amount of gray matter in your brain, changes which reflect and support your capacity to slow decision making as well as reactivity.

The past can be erased, so to speak, by the integration and digestion of what happened. It it not a matter of simply forgetting or ignoring things. Just as a piece of a food cannot be left undigested in our stomachs without making us sick, life experiences that are not processed will only fester or irritate us. Once our experiences are deeply digested, however, their nutrients are distributed throughout our systems and the waste can be healthily discarded. What is left is fertile soil for new growth. This may take consistent attention and inward focus to manifest, requiring that you learn about yourself as a unique being.

With love of yourself and deep forgiveness, take an interest in your emotional life and your lineage, as you have taken an interest in your physical health in the past. Mine it for its lessons. Do not focus exclusively on the present experiences, but allow yourself the space and time to explore your history. Write your story. Examine your personal myth. Get to know yourself. I think you will find overtime that your digestion and emotional processing will take on a more easy quality to them. As you’re able to provide yourself the space for deep personal awareness, supporting your life force (as well as your literal blood to cleanse and flow easily), your dreams will begin to reflect more abundance and richness, as will your life. Images evolve just as we do, and with the right kind of love and focus, you will see that your dreams will transform and you will be able to manifest the life you seek.

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.