Q: It is summer, I am looking for my child, slightly panicked by the fact that I can’t find her. Then I find my child in the water, she had been attacked by an evil fish. A yellow dolphin kills the big fish and saves the child. Then, my child is lost again. When I find her, she walks out of the water towards me on the shore, accompanied by a huge lion. My instinct is that I want to protect her from the lion, but my little girl says that I don’t have to protect her cause the lion is peaceful. She says “you just don’t understand it!”
A: Wow, this is a powerful dream, and one that holds some clear directions for your life. I’ve mentioned lions before in exploring the dreams of readers, one of which mirrors your dream rather closely: a lion walks out of the ocean towards the dreamer standing on the shore. I’d encourage you to read that interpretation about major life transitions, as well as the recent interpretation I wrote on a dream in which a bear chases the dreamer. I also mention lions there, a common correlate of bears in dreams. The gist there, important for you, is that what we cannot consciously accept as parts of ourselves appear as animal forces in dreams, trying to approach us in sometimes unexpected ways.
Your dream begins with your having lost your child. There are a couple of ways that we could approach an understanding of this image: we could understand it as representing your daughter literally or as representing your inner child and your childhood self. As we cannot explore this dream together, I am going to go ahead and assume the latter and explore your dream from that angle. Part of your childhood is lost in the unconscious, and it is a part of yourself that you are struggling to claim. Being in relationship with your daughter is probably eliciting memories of your own childhood, stimulating emotions and experiences long ago buried by aging and forgetting. You are diving into those waters now, beginning to swim around to resurrect feelings that have been lost for years.
In the first stage of the dream, your daughter has been attacked by what you call an evil fish. Again, my instinct here says that this is exclusively about your childhood (whereas the second stage is more about current times). In simple dream parlance, fish are emotions. When we dream of going fishing, for instance, it is an indication that we are beginning to pull emotions out of the unconscious and into our conscious awareness. With your dream of an evil fish, my guess is that you endured some very difficult things in childhood, perhaps actual attacks yourself, and are still attempting to reconcile those experiences. Perhaps it was big, difficult emotions that you didn’t know what to do with. Or perhaps it was a physical trauma of some kind. Either way, someone protected you, a savior of sorts. Thank goodness. This is the yellow dolphin, what might also be seen as a golden mammal, a more evolved, loving counter to the danger of the emotions and experiences that threatened to envelope you. Now, you are re-exploring some of this material again.
What I know of you is that you are a man, and that your daughter is six years old. I would ask you to explore what happened to you when you were six. How are you resisting the integration of those experiences into your life now? This is not something that can be intellectually understood, it is primal, emotional material that can only be faced, felt, wrestled with physically and emotionally, and reintegrated into your life and identity.
Your daughter is not scared of this lion, and my guess is that in waking life she is teaching you to accept the more primal layers of yourself. Somehow, being around a child, with her less intellectualized, jaded approach to life, is opening up your acceptance of your own deep existence. Listen to your daughter: Don’t be afraid of it!
I am going to take a huge leap here, based on some understanding of lions in dreams, and suggest that you are now wrestling with questions of sexuality and your sexual desires. Sexual feelings in childhood are extremely confusing and hard to understand. There is typically little support for children to sort through what is happening in their bodies and emotional lives around big feelings and desires. But as an adult, you have an opportunity to really engage those innate aspects of yourself and not be afraid of them. They do not have the same potential of devouring you as they did when you were younger. Even though it remains quite taboo to acknowledge it, sexual feelings start very early in human beings. Most people are not given proper tools for exploring, accepting, and safely expressing their own desires and sexuality.
Again, this is just a hunch. The lion could also represent long buried anger that is coming out of the unconscious and seeking to regain contact with you. Explore for yourself what it means. And remember to listen to your dream-daughter. She knows what’s good for you. Do not run and do not attack it. If anything, let yourself be attacked and devoured. These parts of yourself need not remain buried and drowned any longer. Once you accept them, as your daughter suggests, the lion energy and power latent within you will again be yours to use.
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
Q: I’m in England and I’m walking through an old industrial area full of brick buildings. It’s early in the morning and I’m holding a number of shopping bags full of new clothes. I walk into a warehouse and find a large number of people sitting around drinking wine, as if from medieval times. They’re about to have a feast and I see that the main course is a great white shark. There’s a huge shark hanging from the ceiling, it’s still kind of alive, and gory. On the table, there are different kinds of cooked shark meat and people are piling it onto their plate. In another part of the room, there’s a cauldron of shark meat, bubbling.
A: Whoa! Girl! This is quite the archetypal dream! There is a profoundly timeless quality to this dream that beautifully presents the myth-making, storytelling, artistic quality of psyche. You can’t make this kind of imagery up, and it could seemingly be drawn from the dreamworld at any point in history.
Last week, I discussed the motif of being stung or bitten by an animal in a dream, and I almost commented in contrast on another major animal motif that your dream so starkly presents: that is, when an individual is eating a wild animal not typically found at the table (bear meat is a common version). The cooking and ingesting of a wild animal suggests a very engaged attempt to wrestle with something in your personality and in your history (as represented by the medieval nature of this dream). A feast is taking place in your inner world. Something from the depths has been brought to consciousness and is being taken in, consumed, digested, and deeply integrated. It is a time of celebration.
So why is it this particular animal that is so powerfully represented in this dream? The shark swims deep in the cold ocean waters, representing something found deep within our unconscious (perhaps from things stored away in childhood or from difficult events). Many things swim in the ocean, however, and certainly do not represent the same things. Were a dolphin to appear in a dream, for instance, the emotional resonance might be more joyful: one might ask what playful, kind energy in you has been buried out of reach? But the Great White shark is a powerful, fierce animal that many fear. Its nature as the King of the ocean might represent a father complex, whereas the whale commonly represents something in the unconscious to do with the mother. It could also represent emotions once buried deep from events in your life in which you felt in danger or threatened, feelings stuffed away because they couldn’t be consciously expressed at the time.
Is it anger? Fury? Fear? Power? This part of you and your past has come up from the depths, into consciousness. It is now on land, in a human environment, and is being cooked and feasted upon. The beautiful alchemical symbol of the cauldron in your dream reiterates this theme of integration. The act of cooking is preparation for digestion: things that were once separate are broken down, boiled together, mixed with water, cooked by fire, and prepared for full integration into our bodies.
Not surprisingly, you reported to me that you had a dream a few months back in which a shark was chasing you and you were terrified. This is how we see personal evolution represented in the dream world. Your relationship to this shark energy in your life has changed radically. Now, you’re ingesting its power and its fierce strength. You are no longer separate from the power that the shark represents, nor subject any longer to its terrorizing in your daily life. The girl from your past has stepped into a timeless archetypal realm and has been welcomed to a banquet. And how symbolic that she’s carrying new clothes! The way you present yourself to the world and they way you’re seen by others is changing as a result of this integration. Revel – like those at the banquet – in this transformation at hand.
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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